"Do you want to hear a story?"
Deryn tore her eyes away from the ground to gaze up at her father.
"What?" she asked.
"You heard me Deryn," he smiled, his white blonde hair billowing in the wind, "I asked if you would you like to hear a story."
"Okay, I guess," the girl stammered, and then went back to looking over the side of the basket.
Deryn had thought she was ready for this, thought that she was immune to heights from a lifetime climbing onto rooftops. But what she hadn't expected the ground to slip away so quickly. Da probably noticed she was a bit nervous, which was dead embarrassing seeing how excited she was for him to take her up for the first time. Her fingers were wrapped around the ropes in a death grip, and her wide eyes did not stray from the passing scenery below. They were awfully high up.
"Once upon a time there was a little girl who lived alone with her wicked mother," Da began, his slow powerful voice seeming to silence the roar of the wind. "She had long blonde hair that trailed on the ground, and over time became brown with filth."
Deryn rolled her eyes, knowing this was a jab at her own hair getting darker when she went too long without bathing.
"Every day the girl's mother would send her out to dig in the fields and the girl always came back tired and miserable from the work. One day, however, the girl found a nugget of gold in the dirt."
Deryn looked up at him again.
"She just found it?" the girl said skeptically.
"Yes," Da said, "Now hush. The girl wanted to take the gold home to her mother, but the moment she uncovered it a herd of stallions pranced down from the sky. The largest stallion went right up to the girl, and ate the nugget of gold-"
"A horse ate the gold?" Deryn exclaimed, then was silenced under the glare of her father.
"The other horses began to paw at the ground, and they dug up gold as well. Each one ate a nugget of gold, then lifted its head to sing into the wind. The song they sung was so beautiful, that the girl almost lifted into the air with delight. When the stallions finished their song, they pranced away into the sky. For the first time, the girl went home with happiness in her heart.
"Every day after that the girl would return happily to the field to watch the stallions eat the gold. Every day she heard them sing their golden song, and every day she returned home happy and content. Her mother, who had noticed the strange behavior, became suspicious. The next day the mother followed her daughter into the field and witnessed the stallions eating the gold. Unlike her daughter, the mother's heart was too cruel and heavy to hear the beautiful song. That night, the mother went out to the field and dug up all the gold for herself. That next day the daughter waited for the stallions, but with no gold to feed on they did not come or sing their lovely song."
"What happened to the mother?" Deryn asked, her grip on the rope loosening.
"The mother took the gold and traveled far away, leaving her daughter alone in the field. The girl could not live without the stallion's golden song, so she scrubbed at her hair until it was bright and blonde again. Then she cut it off and presented it to the sky.
"Sure enough, the stallions came prancing down from the sky, and ate the girl's hair like a handful of hay. The stallions began to sing, and this song was the most beautiful the girl had ever heard. It was so beautiful that it transformed the stallions into silver wind, prancing freely across the sky. The girl mounted the wind made from the stallion's song, and together they flew away into the sky, singing that beautiful song into the air for all the world to hear."
Da was silent for a time, finally Deryn asked.
"What happened to her?"
"No one knows," he said, "The girl was never seen or heard from again. But they say that if you listen, you can hear the golden song's melody woven into the whispers of the wind."
Deryn screwed up her face.
"Da, is this a true story?"
"I think so. But if you don't believe me, try and listen for the golden song."
Closing her eyes, Deryn stuck her head out over the basket, and listened to the howling winds. Her grip on the rope was light now, relaxed, and on her face there was the faintest suggestion of a smile.
"That's very sweet Artemis," Ma said later that night when they went home "But you shouldn't lead her on like that, getting her to listen to something she'll never hear."
Artemis looked over at Deryn, her face stuck out the window as it had been ever since they came home. She still wore that smile as the breeze billowed through her hair.
"No Maggie," Artemis said, "I think she can already hear it."
This is a bit of a story within a story. In the revamped fairy tale, "The Goose Girl" there is a scene in which the protagonist is surrounded by her friends and she tells them all a story about gold-eating horses that turn into wind when they sing. I thought of Deryn at that part (cutting her hair, having a not-so-perfect relationship with her mother and so on) and thought it would be a cute way to explain her love of flying. IDK if this is some obscure fairytale, but I read it in the book first. I am not Scott Westerfeld or Shannon Hale, and neither Leviathan or the Goose girl belong to me.