The Protector of the Night Spirits
Flames shot from the side of the plane where it had been hit, sparks glittering and exploding like stars. They trailed behind like the tail of a comet as Delia Caldwell steered the plane toward freedom. She thought it was freedom she was barreling toward, anyway. Hoped it was. The thick, choking smoke hanging over the city made it hard to see anything but the bright fires burning. Wizard fire didn’t burn like human fire. The inferno wouldn’t die out until the wizards who’d started them were dead.
Delia clutched the wheel tighter as she felt the plane shudder and lurch, jolting her in her seat. The creatures perched on the wings of the biplane didn’t move at all. They used magic to stay in place as they fled the ruins of Lyman City. She had no such protection.
She rubbed her goggles with her forearm, clearing the haze of soot from them as she steered, the weak light from the lanterns hanging off the wings too little to pierce the gloom. She coughed, a low, barking cough that made her lungs ache. Wizard fire smelled of cinnamon, but not the warm, comforting smell of the baked goods her mother made. It was harsh, filling her nose and mouth with a dry bitter sensation and scorching her lungs.
A streak of wizard fire shot past the plane and fear bloomed through her body as she pushed the throttle of the plane as far as it would go. The fuel gauge had been dropping steadily and she had no idea if they would make it to the outskirts of the city in time to land.
She closed her eyes for a brief second as the plane shuddered. She wasn’t supposed to be here leading a rag-tag army of fantastic creatures and piloting a clockwork plane. She had no magic, no official training. She should have been in bed at home grumbling about her mother waking her up for school. Her mother and brother were safe at home in the country, far from the chaos of Lyman City.
Delia wished she could go straight there and hide under the covers like a small child, but the wizards might be able to trace them there and she couldn’t lead them to her family. She would have to find a place to land, then a safe hiding spot for her and the creatures. With Lyman City in ruins, hope was rapidly dwindling. She swallowed back tears, knowing she needed to be brave. She didn’t feel brave though. Just small and scared.
She rubbed at the goggles again; dread churning in her stomach as she tried to calculate where they were. The plan made another alarming lurch as something fell from the side and she hoped it was nothing vital. “Come on plane, you can do it,” she coaxed. “Just a little further.”
The engines whined in protest and she felt despair settle over her as they began to lose altitude. “No, no, no,” she chanted. “Please, no.”
Through the choking smoke, a beam of light pierced the darkness around them, blinding her for a moment. She blinked and it took a moment for her eyes to adjust. They broke through the haze, warm golden light washing over the tiny plane and its occupants. A cheer went up from the creatures perched on the wings and they sent up little sparks of blue light as their joy spilled out of their bodies. Over the blur of the propeller blades, Delia caught a glimpse of green and she nearly wept with happiness at the sight of trees. As she cleared the last of the fog hanging over the city, she saw the woods and fields surrounding it.
Despair leeched away, replaced by practical concerns. She eyed the fuel gauge again. In the months since the war began, she’d grown adept at calculating how far she could make it and she scanned the surrounding area for a field. Her heart leapt as she spotted a potential area in the distance. A strange cluster of trees in the rough shape of a star stood out like a beacon and she almost wept with relief again. It oriented her, telling her they were on the North West side of the city. The field to the right of the trees was long enough to land in and there was a safe house they could reach on foot.
Delia had been making these runs for months now, ferrying the magical creatures to safety before the wizards could steal them and turn them into mindless drones for their own dark uses. She’d lost track of how many runs she’d made and the number of creatures she’d saved, but she felt a surge of triumph as she guided the nose of the plane toward the field.
She wasn’t magic, and she certainly wasn’t going to win the war on her own, but she had her part to play. As much as she longed for her quiet, safe home, Delia had purpose now.
Rich, buttery yellow light filled the sky as she eased the plane down, bracing herself for the bumpy landing.
Another successful night as The Protector of the Night Spirits.
This was a fun prompt and it was nice to have a chance to stretch my brain a bit and do something different this week. We loosened the word count for this prompt and mine was 868 words.
Please visit the flash fic group on Facebook and check out the links to the other authors’ flash fics for this week!
I look forward to seeing you next Monday!