Angari smoothed his wing feathers, brushing his hands casually over their five-foot length. The rocky ledge on which he sat was a drab green with soft moss its only ornamentation. The man, unaware that Angari had watched him appear in a sparkle of light behind a stone outcropping, now stood before him. He was using his mouth to form words, though Angari could clearly understand his thoughts without physical expression.
“Can you tell me the name of this place?” The sound was guttural and harsh.
“It is called Spring Hollow,” Angari answered, letting his words take the same form the stranger had used.
“Spring Hollow. Is that the name of the planet or a country?”
Angari crossed his feet and assumed a casual air. “The planet is Windfallow. Do you have a reason for asking? Do you not live nearby?”
“No, I come from a great distance. I am interested in learning about the people who live here.” The man – Angari assumed he was human- was a few hands taller than Angari, who had been caught in a slightly smaller version of himself. “Are all the people who live here, uh, winged, like yourself?” The stranger tried to appear unperturbed at the appearance of a humanoid dressed in silky, iridescent leggings and tunic with wings that surely had a span as wide as the creature was tall. A head of bright yellow curls topped a tanned, well-proportioned body.
“No. Some of us have wings and some do not. You seem to know very little about us. Did you say you were from a far place?”
Brasker decided to trust his instincts and level with the native. “Yes, I do come from a far place and it is not this world. We fly through space in a big ship called Outrider, and explore any planet we find that might support life. Your world registered on our machines as one of those. Do you mind that we are visiting here?
“No, as long as you come in peace and do not stay long. But why do you come here and what is your purpose?”
“As I said before, we explore planets that have the possibility of sustaining life. Yours registered as one of that type and so we chanced a landing.”
Angari noted the use of the pronoun, ‘we’, but did not comment on it. Instead, he tendered an invitation to the man. “While you are here, would you like to meet some of our people, perhaps the King and Queen of Lower Windfallow?”
“Yes, I’d like that. By the way, my name is Lieutenant Brasker. And your name is…?”
“Angari. Follow me, please.” The winged man turned to a path through the flower-studded meadow.
The landscape was bathed in brilliant sunlight causing the lieutenant to don sunglasses. The climate control, built into his close-fitting uniform, kept him cool in the warm air. He dropped back a few steps and touched the comlink on his tunic. “Brasker to Outrider. Do you read me?” He spoke sotto voice, hoping the creature ahead could not hear
“Captain here, Lieutenant Brasker, report.” The Captain’s voice came through the implant just behind Brasker’s ear.
“I’ve landed on a planet called Windfallow and met a humanoid native named Angari. He’s taking me to meet some of the people. It appears to be an agrarian culture, but this guy has wings. And the scancom doesn’t pick him up at all. Haven’t seen any animals so far; the vegetation resembles that of earth with a blue tinge. We are speaking Galactic standard. At least I’m hearing standard. The man – or whatever he is – is friendly, stands about 1.5 meters, and I’ve told him we’re from another world. That OK?
“Guess it’ll have to be. Proceed, Lieutenant. We will track you from here. Keep your comlink open. Outrider out.”
(After a walk through the countryside and an overnight stay at the palace, Brasker is ready to leave…)
True to his word, Angari was waiting outside his room when he woke from a sound, pleasant sleep. Breakfast was a simple meal with the King, Queen and their three small children– and Angari, of course. The food was served by more of the winged men and women who then sat down to eat with the others.
“I certainly hope the ship is getting all these scancom readings!” Brasker thought to himself. “I want to know what’s going on here!”
“Would you like me to walk with you to your ship?” Angari offered, carefully keeping a smile from his face.
“If you can just go with me to the place where we first met, I’ll go on from there,” Brasker answered. “I’ll be fine.”
Angari nodded and they took leave of their royal hosts
When the two reached the parting of the ways, Brasker shook Angari’s hand. It felt like a common enough hand; firm, slightly roughened by the elements.
“Will you be returning to visit us again, Lt. Brasker?” Angari asked.
“As far as I know now, we will not be returning. This planet seems to have a good blend of citizens and we would not want to bring an imbalance to your population.”
“Very well, I shall bid you farewell,” said Angari, bowing. But before he turned away, he paused. “May I ask you a question Lt. Brasker?”
“Of course,” the spaceman turned back.
“Do you believe in the One who made the universe through which you travel?”
The Lt., who was frequently razzed about his stubborn belief in a transcendent God, smiled. “I certainly do, Angari. I certainly do!” He raised his hand in a salute. “I almost hope we meet again, friend.”
Lt. Brasker walked on around the bend and the winged creature turned back toward Skye. Just before Brasker disappeared from sight, he pointed the scancom once more at Angari. “Still no reading. Hmmm, the One who made the universe. Wings…” He shrugged his shoulders and walked on, tapping the comlink. “Brasker to beam up!”
Angari saw the sparkling cylinder of light and, breathing a sigh of relief, sat back down on the moss-covered rock through which there now peeked the shine of Emerald. Two tiger cubs appeared out of the bushes and rubbed against his legs while squirrels and rabbits hopped to the sparkling stone beside him. Fragrant blossoms drifted in the air from the ever-blooming trees and several tiny creatures lit on his shoulders. On closer inspection, however, one noticed that these were tiny winged people. They laughed and sang in their chiming voices, pulling at Angari’s hair and coaxing him to come back to Skye with them.
“Ok, let’s go!” Angari laughed. “You were very cooperative and very careful!” Suddenly he was as tiny as they were and the whole retinue winked out and reappeared over Skye. Here, the castle was shining with a refracted light that, had he been allowed to see it, would have blinded Brasker as the sun caught the facets of amethyst, ruby and diamond. They swooped inside where translucent walls allowed the rich sunlight to fall in tiny rainbows over the amber floors and strike fire from the rich, faceted crystal saucers and goblets.
The Queen was just coming into the main hall with a circlet of minuscule Alari ornamenting her snowy hair. Angari assumed full stature, something short of seven feet, and bowed before her. “Come, Angari, and let us discuss what you learned of the stranger.” The Queen smiled at him.
“And, what he did not learn of us!” Angari offered the Queen his arm as they walked into the garden.