A/N: This little scene was inspired by Mogget telling Sabriel about the Abhorsen who had built the Paperwing. According to him, she "had no children" and "was a great weather-witch and could work the winds". I found myself wondering who this woman was, and I hope you like her.
Disclaimer: I do not own Ancelstierre, the Old Kingdom, or anything within – that all belongs to Garth Nix. All that I can confidently call my own is Rosael's name, and it's not a very original one at that.
"What is that?"
Rosael straightened up slowly, meeting a large pair of brilliant green eyes. A small white cat stared at her insolently, tail swinging.
The dark-haired woman gave a conspiratorial smile. "That, Mogget, is our newest means of transportation."
The cat regarded the craft balanced on the wooden platform with aloof fastidiousness. Rosael admitted that it was not much to look at. In fact, it resembled nothing so much as a canoe with wings, all made from flimsy laminated paper. This rather depressing result had been acquired from many nights of hard work, meticulously fashioning the slim, light frame and soaking thick sheets of paper in a pungent resin. And all through this process, she had woven magic into her handiwork so that Charter marks now flowed over the shining surface. She had just finished attaching the wings, and although it was not quite finished, it was serviceable.
Mogget had jumped inside, and was inspecting her latest invention with critical eyes. "This boat will capsize as soon as you cast off," he mewed scornfully.
Rosael gave a long-suffering sigh. "It is not a boat, O omniscient one."
The green cat-eyes flicked from her face to the fifty-foot drop down to the thundering water below. She could practically see him make the connection. "Oh, no." Mogget leapt delicately back out onto the wooden platform. "No, you are not going to do it."
"I suppose you'll stop me?" Rosael asked, arching an eyebrow.
"It is my duty to serve the Abhorsen. What good is that if she's lying at the bottom of a waterfall?"
The Abhorsen gave a confident smile. "It'll work, Mogget. This invention will work, I know it."
The cat wrinkled his delicate pink nose. "I see. Like your spring-loaded spear worked last summer against the Mordicant?"
Rosael blushed, something that she did easily, but otherwise deigned to ignore the smug comment. She turned back to the paper craft and placed her hand gently on the fuselage. "It's ready," she said with quiet conviction. "I have laboured for years on this, ever since I first arrived at the House." She glanced over at her companion, and grinned suddenly. "Want to go for a ride?"
"I'd rather not."
"Oh, come on!" She scooped Mogget up and deposited him inside the cockpit, clambering in after him. "It'll be fun! Where's your sense of adventure?"
"On the ground, where it belongs," the cat grumbled, creeping up her arm and draping himself around her neck like a white fluffy collar. "If you die, what do you expect me to do?" His green eyes sharpened cunningly. "You have no children."
Rosael did not answer immediately. She had ruined her one chance for happiness long ago. Her work was her life now – banishing the Dead and constructing her inventions. "My cousin has a son," she said finally.
Mogget snorted. "Jorael? He is much too naïve for the job. He doesn't even know that evil exists in the world."
"Still, he is a very powerful Charter mage. As for his naivety, he will have you to guide him." Rosael peered out over the edge of the platform at the white foaming water. "Now that we've settled the matter of my will, are we ready to go?"
"No." Mogget gave a disdainful sniff. "Paper wings. What a ridiculous idea!"
Paper… wings…. Paperwing. Rosael smiled at the name. She pursed her lips, and whistled a merry trill ending in one long, bright note. A shudder ran down the whole craft, and an alarmed Mogget dug his claws into her shoulders. The Paperwing was poised on the brink of the platform, practically humming with energy. "Ready?" Rosael asked, then without waiting for an answer, she let loose another clear whistle.
The wind rose behind them out of nowhere, and the Paperwing sprang forward eagerly – only to drop several feet.
Rosael clung precariously to the sides of the craft, and Mogget's claws were drawing blood from her neck. The river was rushing up to meet them, and the Paperwing's nose was angled straight down in a terrifying dive. Rosael licked her dry lips, and managed to send out another call. The winds levelled out, billowing up from under them, and the Paperwing shot through the spray of the waterfall, out over the valley and into the open sky.
"See?" cried Rosael, thrilling to the flight. "I told you it would work!"
"Idiot!" Mogget screeched, fur standing on end. "If it wasn't for your power as a weather-witch, we'd both be swimming right now!"
Rosael's only retort was to laugh. They flew over meadows and forests that surged like oceans of green and gold. She wondered what they looked like to the people working on the farms below – probably like some large, predatory bird. She rather liked the idea.
The sun was setting when the Paperwing returned to the Abhorsen's House. Mogget spotted the problem an instant before she did. "I hate to ruin your agreeable mood," he said dryly, "but where are we to land?"
"Ah." She was silent for a few seconds. "I hadn't thought of that." The launching platform was too small for her to try a gliding landing. She whistled a soft note, and the Paperwing banked gently, allowing her time to think as they circled the House.
After the eighth circuit, Mogget asked, "Well?"
"I'm thinking!" Rosael snapped, a blush rising to her cheeks at being caught so ill-prepared. "I'll have to figure out a Charter spell to allow a soft drop-landing, which will let us use the platform I built on the Eastern wall."
"Clever idea," Mogget answered sardonically. "Of course, all of the books of Charter marks are a few hundred feet below us, in the study."
She rolled her eyes, but knew better than to be drawn into a verbal sparring match with the cat. "We'll just have to try to orchestrate a drop-landing," she said reasonably. "If I combine my control of the Paperwing and the wind, we should be able to do it."
"About one chance in three."
"I see." Mogget gazed down at the platform, which was about the size of a postage-stamp from their point of view. "Well, what are you waiting for? Absurd ideas never stopped you before."
Rosael grinned, and let loose a piercing whistle. The Paperwing drifted slowly lower and lower. She guided the craft in, and just as it was gliding over the platform, she whistled an abrupt high note. A strong headwind sprang up, which effectively stopped them in mid-air, jarring their bodies against the cockpit frame. With no lift, the Paperwing dropped unceremoniously onto the platform with a loud bang.
As soon as they had touched down Mogget launched himself, bell tinkling, over the side and onto solid ground. Rosael climbed out more slowly, stretching her stiff limbs. "I think I should make some comfortable seats for this thing", she groaned, rubbing her bruised backside.
Mogget gave a soft hiss. "Before you start adding luxury features, maybe you should look up some of those Charter marks," he said pertly. "And you could try working on your launch, too."
"You're right", the Abhorsen admitted. "Travel by air isn't very well-explored. But when I find out how to control it – think, Mogget! Think of what you could do in a Paperwing! I bet the Clayr would want a few, as well as the Regent…"
She was lost in pleasant thoughts while descending the steps from the wall. First, she would need to research those Charter marks to come up with a satisfactory launch and landing; second, she would put in some decent seats. Everything else could come later. Maybe she'd paint the Paperwing, to resemble a hawk or a falcon – it would certainly look less ridiculous, perhaps even presentable.
Rosael smiled as she entered the house and accepted a mug of tea from a sending. If she could not leave her blood in the long line of future Abhorsens, perhaps this child of her own could serve them in the years to come. She had a lot of work to do, but she was young, and time was on her side.
So, what did you think? Please tell me – it only takes a few seconds to review, and they make me happy! Do your good deed for the day.