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Elina Roupas

Out there, the city was getting ready to eat itself alive. I stroked his

feathered coat, brilliantly coloured in mahoganies, purples and

yellows. I glanced at the city below, ignited by the warm, comforting

flow of fire in the streets. Sensing apprehension, he looked in my

direction. His deep, blue eyes shone like sapphires. His head tilted

back into my hand as I stroked him, expressing his affection. I lifted

myself onto the broadest part of his back, gently straddling his

muscular figure. “This isn’t safe for you” I told him. With his

wingbeats and steps synchronised, he used our elevation to his

advantage and dropped off the perch.

First, there was panic. There’s always panic. The buildings came

closer, streets became wider and the madness that unfurled below

became clearer. The realisation dawned on me that I was going to

die a horrible, painful death. And then, he spread his wings. I

screamed, almost certain that no one could hear me. Looking below,

there were fires. There were clouds. There was a war. Way below,

they started firing. The cracks burst through the streets, I could

hear them all the way up in the air. I clasped onto his plumage in

fear, as he abruptly plunged downwards, as if we had reached a place

devoid of air. He let out a piercing screech and flung his head

backwards as the iron arrow pierced his body. The sky started to

tumble. Or was I the one tumbling? I was the one tumbling. I tried

to get up, but putting pressure on my arm was a bad idea. My wrist

had likely broken in the fall. I eagerly looked up at the sky as he

barely escaped, susceptible to the iron. I remembered the city

getting closer and closer, and hitting something. Then, my body

realised I was in pain. Lots of pain. The impact had probably been

somewhere around my stomach. I coughed up blood.

“The flying lady of Destronne,” the Urchin Lord said. That was

his name, he had taken great pains to inform me. “And what brings

her highness to our humble street? What brought you swooping

down with your majestic grace, to care for the poor and the

mistreated?” He held a worn wooden ruler in his hand, and he

raised my chin with its tip. Urchin Lord raised on hand, and the

surrounding crowd fell silent again. He brought out a large iron

stake, and handed it over to one of the Urchin children. The boy

grinned from ear to ear as he accepted the stake in both hands, and

held it reverentially. “I know about the phoenix Ada,” the Urchin

Lord taunted. Fear became a weight on my ribs and a dull ache in

my eyes, an unwillingness for my mouth to lift past neutral. I used