Of course I had to be the first one to congratulate her when they landed. It was only right. And I was so proud of her accomplishment I could almost burst. Of course she could do it!
“Oh my goodness! Oh my goodness! I was so afraid I’d never learn! I was so scared I’d never get it right!”
Really? My cool, serene, unruffled best female friend in the world was being that hard on herself and not letting it show in the slightest? “I never doubted you for an instant, not even a fraction of a click.” My fears were not the same as my doubts. I had fearful imaginings but they weren’t doubts exactly. They were just fears.
They helped Ky out of the harness, checking it all the way, which I appreciated since I’d be wearing it next. I couldn’t help but notice that she was not the slender, tiny column of Aitza that was so popular the last few generations. The damp, soft leathers clung to her every curve and I remembered them from her bathing costume.
I’d promised both Surya and Tanifas to not castigate myself if I saw a beautiful person that lifted my heart and my genitals at the same time. It was hard to not feel ashamed, though. Her curves made me catch my breath and think back to our goodbye night.
I… perhaps… well, perhaps she would like to have dinner with just me rather than the whole court? With a proper chaperon of course but just the two of us? I knew I was blushing madly and grinning fit to split my face both at the same time.
She smiled back and it was the same as when we were on the road… or planning my campaign… or at too many boring parties. She made everything more fun.
“I’m glad you believed in me so,” she said, as her attendant whisked a light cloak over her… I could only call her curves luscious. Aitza’s clothing is designed to be beautiful and completely concealing and neutral. I’d not noticed the dressing tent off to one side, pinned down hard against the wind up here. Ky wasn’t letting herself be spirited away to be properly and decorously re-dressed.
I don’t want her to watch in case… when… I make a fool of myself. I want her to watch because having her there makes me happy. I don’t want her to watch because I become a fumble-fingered moron in front of her. I want her to watch because she’d cheer me on whatever I did. I guess I’m thinking about it too much.
Since I’d not had a lot of time to keep up my practice in flying that I’d begun to learn on Haiu Menshir I ran through my launch checklist out loud, and added the relay checklist to that.
“Ah, Minis… You just forgot. ‘Seat grappling glove’, Eminaias said, quietly.
“Oh? Oh yes. Thank you.” I tightened the wrist tie of the special glove for grasping the cable so it wouldn’t get yanked off my hand somehow. I drew my attention away from thoughts of Ky in wet bathing garments and damp flying leathers and paid better heed to what I was supposed to be doing.
The river below the Rim was a deep blue, the foam thundering down out of the rock face below a clear, filtered blue/green. It's a matter of pride to the city that the water coming out of the city is as clean, or cleaner than the water flowing in. It must be free of debris as well, since the thousands of bore-holes it comes out of, through the wall, are all less than my hand-width in size.
The outer Rim walls on either side of that cataract were lush green all year, even when the sun was hottest, like this late in the day, in high summer. The heat made the water haze shimmer blue, blurring the edge between water and sky, misting the distances, the roads on either side of the river, down to Fispur shining white between the shadows of traffic moving to and from the port. It was hot enough that I was glad of the shade of the moyawa.
“Remember,” Sawas said after we’ve done our enshachik. “Let the cable come to you. If you grab, you’ll probably yank and make it harder for Emin to keep his height. If you unhook too soon, you’ll end up swimming. And try not to bounce around down there. The cables could get tangled and throw the three of us into the water and that’s more dangerous because someone could get caught underwater.”
“Let it come to me, don’t grab, don’t yank, don’t overbalance. Nice and smooth and don’t unhook too soon. Nice and smooth, don’t bounce or jerk,” I repeated. My heart pounded in my chest like I was beginning Obedience. He gave me an encouraging thump on the shoulder and we walked to the launch platform.
“And you know already, Minis, I’ll just repeat. This isn’t a beach start. There’s one hayel of a roshaushau off this cliff sometimes. Once we are committed to go… don’t stop, don’t balk, or you could kill us both. Got it?”
I nodded. “Once we start, we go.”
The wood of the launch shelf boomed underfoot, showing how hollow it was underneath. The cliff was already behind us. “Ready?” Sawas checked to see where Eminaias was, above. We were close enough I could feel his nod. “One, Two, Go!”
Four running steps, the edge of the platform flashed under my left toe as the upwind snatched us into the air and we were rising, as if all the governors were taken off one of the new laefetas, the whole crowd below dwindling to doll-size in only a few heartbeats. The circling, pummelling wind beat ineffectually at us before the rising one lifted us over the danger.
The first time I missed the cable catch entire and we had to work our way back up to height. Let it come to you… don’t grab. I thought as Sawas set to hurl me a second time. I thumbed the ratchet and began lowering myself. The crank had a slight give to it that was enough to put your heart in your throat every turn, just part of the mechanism. I dangled down far enough to feel as though I was detached entirely from the world, like a thistle seed hanging from its spreading tuft.
The winds buffeted me up, dropped me on my cord, I spread my arms out to not get spun around as I waited for the cable to appear and Sawas to tip us so the catch hook on the front of his wing would direct it straight to me. If it all went perfectly the weight would carry it back straight into my grappling glove.
To relay one had to lie on one’s back and lower one’s self, since you couldn’t switch cables on the back of your own harness. It was unnerving to turn and lower yourself on a cable that felt as thin as if it were woven of hair.
There. The cable smacked right into my hand and I remembered not to yank it toward me, let the wind blow it into me so I could snap the hook onto my harness at my chest.
He’s going low and slow so if I blow it it’ll be all right… however dangerous it feels. They said I’d yell if I went in… that everybody does…
Click, clack. I snapped the hook on and spun the lock wheel, or tried to. It hadn’t seated and the snap opened. I was still locked tight to Sawas’s cable. I wasn’t going to… Wha--- Somehow I’d managed to unsnap the other hook as well while I tried to fix the first, the cable jerked in my hand, whipped up and away from reaching fingertips and I fell.
I couldn’t help it. As I watched Sawas’s wing seem to drop away from me as I dropped away from him, my gut clenched and my lungs as well and I yelled.