A/N: A quote by Mogget regarding the Paperwing: "The Abhorsen who made it once flew it to the sea and back, in a single afternoon."
I was overwhelmed by the positive responses I got for "First Flight", and also by how much people liked Rosael. I love her too, so I have finally decided to write a sequel of sorts. I toyed briefly with calling it "Second Flight", but in this one Rosael is much more experienced at flying the Paperwing – thank goodness.
Disclaimer: I do not own Ancelstierre, the Old Kingdom, or anything within – that all belongs to Garth Nix. Rosael's name, though quite unimaginative, is mine.
A tall woman with dark hair was striding through the Eastern Courtyard of the Abhorsen's House. Swinging from her hand were a burlap sack and an empty waterskin. She hummed tunelessly as she walked, and the glassy look of her eyes indicated that she was lost in thought and far away.
"Where are you going?"
Rosael jumped and whirled around. The sack and waterskin were sent flying as she half-drew her sword. Finding the courtyard devoid of enemies, she stopped and then glared at the little white cat sitting primly on the flagstones. "Mogget, don't do that," she said with exasperation, sheathing her sword and bending to pick up the articles she had dropped.
The cat innocently cocked his head to one side. "Don't do what?"
The woman rolled her eyes. "You know what I mean." She turned and carried on walking.
The cat trotted after her, as relentless as a pale shadow. "You haven't answered my question."
Rosael let out an exaggerated sigh. "Do I really have to tell you everything?" she asked over her shoulder as she rapidly mounted the steps up the Eastern wall, taking them two at a time.
Mogget hopped daintily after her. "You're going for a joyride in that absurd flying contraption again," he accused, wrinkling his pink nose to show his disdain for such an idea. But the Abhorsen was busy jogging up the steps and did not bother to look back at him.
"Paperwing, Mogget," she said with the air of someone repeating an old argument for the thousandth time. "It's called the Paperwing. And I'm not taking it out for a thrilling ride this time. This is serious business."
"Your concept of business and mine tend to differ greatly."
They had reached the top of the wall where Rosael had constructed a jury-rigged wooden platform. Six sendings were already waiting at the Paperwing's side, and stood back at the Abhorsen's approach. Rosael had painted it blue and silver, and she paused for a moment to admire the effect with the sunlight glinting off the curvature of the craft.
A woman and a boy stood nearby, and the woman smiled at Rosael. "So you decided to show up after all, cousin?"
"You know me," said the Abhorsen with a grin. "I can't turn down a challenge. Especially on my home ground." She walked over to the Paperwing and pitched the empty sack and the waterskin over the side, which the sendings hurried to stow away more securely. "Here are the terms again," said Rosael. She peered up at the sun, shading her eyes with one pale hand. "It is past noon. If I return before sundown – which I surely will, by the way – I win the money."
Her cousin pointed west. "You will need to land before the sun touches the horizon. And don't forget to go all the way to the sea and back."
"Of course." Rosael gave a confident smile and turned to her cousin's son who happened to be her own apprentice. "Watch carefully, Jorael. An Abhorsen must be ready to defend his or her honour at any occasion."
The boy smirked. "Even if it means winning money from family members?"
"Especially if that's the case."
"I knew it!" Rosael looked down at Mogget, who lashed his tail in annoyance. "This is your business? A trivial wager? Shouldn't you be doing something actually useful with your time, like –"
"The Clayr haven't Seen hide nor hair of Kerrigor," Rosael interrupted impatiently, angry at the guilty flush that came to her cheeks. "Now will you stop talking for a moment and let me win this wager?" She clambered into the Paperwing, pausing to slide her ever-present sword and scabbard into a receptacle beside her. She settled back into the leather seat, squirming around until she was comfortable.
To her utter surprise Mogget jumped in after her – his first time since their memorable test flight. The cat gave her a frank look. "I want to be there when you fail," he explained with a purr.
Rosael chose to ignore him and signalled to the sendings. They took hold of the Paperwing, three to a side, and braced themselves. She pursed her lips to whistle high and clear, and a gentle wind rose behind them, growing steadily stronger. She paused to take another breath before letting out a lively trill. The craft quivered with sudden life and the blue and silver paint streamed over the surface in shining rivulets. Rosael finished with a single clear note, and a golden Charter mark floated to the prow. The painted yellow eyes blinked and came alive.
The Paperwing was eager to take flight and strained against the sendings. Rosael winked at her cousin and apprentice, and shouted, "Now!" In an instant they were airborne, soaring up into the clear blue sky. Rosael looked over her shoulder and waved cheerily at the two rapidly-shrinking figures.
The Abhorsen directed the Paperwing due east, straight as an arrow, and Mogget's green eyes gazed up at her from the bottom of the cockpit. "Well, your launch has improved," he commented dryly. "I didn't much fancy that dead-drop you used before."
"Thanks," Rosael said with an easy smile. "I think I've gotten the hang of flying this thing. My foolish cousin doesn't believe me, though, and if I want to win that money I've got to make it to the sea and back before sunset. And that means we'll have to go faster." She tossed her head; her black hair was not long enough to tie back from her face, and kept straying infuriatingly into her eyes.
The cat narrowed his eyes. "How much faster?"
The Abhorsen gave what she thought was a dangerous grin. "Oh, just you watch."
Mogget snorted. "Charter preserve us…"
Quite unfazed, Rosael licked her lips and whistled a low note, feeling the wind behind them growing even stronger. She gradually increased the pitch until the patches of cloud streaming below them seemed to melt together. Air was stinging Rosael's face and tears leaked from the corners of her eyes. "How's this?" she yelled over the shrieking wind. Either Mogget could not hear her, or he ignored her. Rosael did not mind; the cat was an annoyance at best, and at worst he could be an Abhorsen's nightmare incarnate. She stretched her legs out and leaned back to enjoy the ride.
Two hours later they had still not reached the sea. Rosael was starting to feel nervous, although she wasn't about to admit it aloud. She bit her lip, calculating the distance they had already covered and wondering just how far she could push the Paperwing. She ran a gentle hand over the fuselage, feeling the spells that soaked the laminated paper, and swiftly made her decision.
The woman pursed her lips to whistle, but they were dry and cracked from the chafing wind. She tasted blood as she licked them, and tried again. This time a single bright note caused the Paperwing to surge forward with new energy, and they zipped through the air with such speed that Rosael had to turn her head to the side in order to breathe. She hesitated for a split second before whistling higher still, and felt her body being pressed back against the seat. She peered over the side, and the ground far beneath them was a blur of green and brown. On either side of her head she could see and feel the wings of the craft starting to vibrate with the strain. Rosael's control was being pushed to the very limit. Reaching out with one hand she touched the side of the craft. Golden Charter marks flowed between them as she connected with the Paperwing, sharing in its feelings of wild exhilaration. The thrill of flight overtook her and she was electrified with joy. This was living.
She had conveniently forgotten Mogget, but now he made his presence known by clawing his way up her arm to bellow in her ear: "Slow down before you kill yourself, you foolish woman!" Rosael merely laughed. She knew that the Paperwing loved this feeling as much as she did, and that it wouldn't let anything hurt her.
Suddenly they were flying over a shining expanse of water. Rosael reluctantly let the wind die down, and felt the Paperwing's disappointment along with her own. They circled back and drifted lower to land in a skidding spray of golden sand. Rosael whistled softly between her teeth and the Paperwing's eyes flickered shut; the Charter marks faded away and the paint became dull once more.
The Abhorsen climbed out of the craft and stretched her cramped muscles, then plucked out the burlap sack and empty waterskin. The beach was deserted, and the only sounds were the gentle washing of waves, the whistle of a light breeze, and the faint cry of seabirds.
"What are those for?" Mogget's white face peeped over the edge of the cockpit, his tiny paws nestled under his furry chin. All previous signs of panic were now gone from his eyes, and he appeared as imperturbable as usual – albeit somewhat ruffled.
"I need to collect evidence." The Abhorsen strolled over the beach and down to the rolling surf, bending to fill the waterskin. The foamy waves sloshed over her boots as she strolled along the tide line, and as she walked Rosael gathered shells and seaweed, tossing them into the sack.
When she wandered back to the Paperwing she saw that Mogget has wasted no time. He was perched by the edge of a tide pool gorging on minnows. Rosael rolled up her sleeve and plunged her arm into the cold water, pulling out a small starfish to add to the sack. "Done," she said in triumph. "This should convince them. Let's go back to the House." She watched in amusement as Mogget padded over the beach, pausing every so often to shake grit from his paws. "What's wrong?" she asked him. "Got sand in your fur?"
"This little trip to the seaside was your marvellous idea," he spat, and flicked his ear in annoyance. With Mogget back in the Paperwing, Rosael grabbed the craft and spun it right around. She shoved it into the water, jumping in as it bobbed out to sea. At her whistle the Paperwing awoke, and she called up a powerful wind that skimmed them along the tops of the frothy waves before sweeping them back up into the air.
On the way back to the House Rosael was jubilant, and she could sense the Paperwing's excitement too. In a fit of high spirits they played with the wind. The Abhorsen's weatherwork and the Paperwing's will combined as they went into a series of twirling dives. Rosael ignored Mogget's shrieked objections, and after performing a string of loop-the-loops they spun in a tight vortex, the world tilting crazily beneath them. The straps were digging painfully into Rosael's shoulders, but the look of mingled fury, terror, and nausea on Mogget's face was well worth it.
It was over an hour before sunset when they glided down to the battlements for a graceful landing. Rosael could see her cousin and young Jorael waiting for them. The Paperwing had barely skidded to a stop when she leaped out, triumphantly brandishing her waterskin and burlap sack. "I did it!" she exclaimed happily. "See? Evidence! I won!"
Her cousin crossed her arms. "I'm not sure if I believe you, Rosael. That was much too fast."
The Abhorsen promptly upended the sack, and a shower of sand, tangled seaweed, and broken shells littered the platform. The starfish landed with a wet thud. "There! What do you say to that, O doubter of mine?"
"You could have stored it away somewhere beforehand."
Rosael shook the waterskin under her cousin's nose as Jorael watched his elders in amusement. "I took this saltwater from the sea mere hours ago."
The other woman uncorked the flask and gingerly tasted the brackish water. "Maybe, cousin. But I still don't quite believe you."
A sudden commotion caused them all to turn around: Mogget was staggering out of the Paperwing. Sand covered his usually-immaculate paws, and his fur was looking very windswept. The cat seemed to be having trouble keeping his footing, and wobbled unsteadily over the platform. His green eyes suddenly went as round as marbles, and he lurched past and vomited all over the wall. Rosael wrinkled her nose at the fishy smell that wafted over.
Jorael's mouth was hanging open in astonishment, but Rosael's cousin was looking amused and slightly revolted. "Um – did you have a nice flight?" she asked, her gaze not leaving the cat.
"Oh yes," said the Abhorsen, as cheerful as ever. "I had a really good time. And Mogget enjoyed it too – didn't you, Mogget?" She was answered by a hacking cough. Rosael shook her head sadly. "Perhaps it was the spinning that did it…"
The cat looked up from being sick and fixed her with a piercing glare. "You… fly… stupid… never… Paperwing… mad…. Blleeeaaarrgghh!"
Rosael exchanged disgusted looks with young Jorael. For a few seconds more her cousin stared at the very ill and sandy Mogget, before reaching into her pocket and dutifully handing over the money. "All right, Rosael. I think I believe you now."
A/N: I've started to notice a disturbing frequency of bad things happening to Mogget whenever I write about him, and this has got to be one of the cruellest things I've ever done! What can I say? Anyway, let me know what you thought. I love hearing from you guys.