(No, none of you have met these two yet, but this is also a spoiler for THE SHATTERED SYLPH, so if you haven’t read that, you might want to skip this one.)
Five-Eighty had been tending the fields when the Queen rose.
He and a half dozen other battle sylphs had been pacing their slow way through the rows of crops the lesser sylphs tended. Locked into their tall, green, mouthless forms, they looked for weeds to cut, pests to kill, thieves to destroy. The smell of the growing plants was rich in his nose, their leaves damp with the moisture the water sylphs sprayed them with. The earth was soft and dark underneath his clawed feet, so different from the endless sands just beyond the edge of the field.
For decades, he’d tended these fields. Since he was drawn through the gate by the lie of a woman to be his queen, he’d guarded them, silent and sad. Just one more battle sylph in a kingdom that held over seven hundred of them.
He was as shocked as any of the rest of them when he felt the Queen ascend, the pattern of her flowing into him and filling the empty place where his first Queen used to be, the place where the men here had staked their own claim, crippling him with their rules and commands. She washed all of that away, giving him back the gift of himself in a rush of emotions.
Rise! A battler’s voice cried. The lead battler, he realized. The battler of the Queen. Rise and destroy them! All their rules are gone, all of them!
Five-Eighty stared towards the city. He could see the battlers rising, hear the screaming and sense the fear of the humans. The other battlers with him leaped into the air, changing shape to those of dark clouds as they swept forward to join the battle.
They were free. Free to inflict vengeance, to destroy their oppressors. Entire buildings were falling and the floating island over the city being harried by hundreds of his brothers towards the ocean.
He could have revenge? He didn’t care. He only wanted one thing.
Five-Eighty leaped into the air, shifting his form from that horrid, green thing to a black cloud filled with lightning. He raced for the city, darting around the crashing ruins and the blasts of destruction fired by outraged battlers tasting their freedom. Air and fire sylphs swirled around him, frightened and wailing. Thousands of sylphs were headed for the edge of the city and the queen, moving through the air or along the ground.
Five-Eighty went the other way. He raced for one of the vents into the underground complex where the feeders were kept and slipped inside.
Thousands upon thousands of humans were trapped down there, held in cages with their tongues cut out, bonded to sylphs so as to act as their food supply. Each sylph had five of them, but Five-Eighty didn’t go to the ones that belonged to him. He went deeper instead, into levels of the pens that had been specifically forbidden to him before now. He passed signs of battle as he passed, but he didn’t care. He passed still trapped men yanking on the bars of their cages and soundlessly screaming and he didn’t slow.
He went into levels of the pens that were filled entirely with women, feeders made for the elemental sylphs, not the battlers. They were cowered and broken, sick and lost. He stopped there and focused, listening, feeling, trying to find...
A familiar scent came to him, one he hadn’t smelled in thirty years. Not since the day that the guards realized that a battler was in love with a concubine in the harem and took her away to be a feeder, forbidding him to ever see her again. For thirty years, she had never left his thoughts, and as his brothers wrecked their terrible revenge above, Five-Eighty raced towards her.
She huddled in her cage, her once glorious hair grey and tangled, her skin sagging and pale. Her face was covered with wrinkles and her eyes were filled with madness. Five-Eighty shifted to a human form and wrenched the door off the hinges, tossing it away as he took her unresisting into his arms. She didn’t react as he stroked her hair and kissed her cheek.
“Fareeda,” he whispered. “It’s me, it’s Five-Eighty. Do you remember, you used to call me Haru? I’m here, sweetheart.”
She didn’t react, but that was alright. “I’m here. I’ve come to take you home. I never forgot you.” He cradled her to him and felt her start to shiver, one hand rising to cling to him with feeble, desperate strength.
“I’m sorry it took so long, but I’m here. I’m finally here.”