A young eagle undertakes a harrowing first flight.
I'm sure we have all secretly dreamed of flying, soaring above the whole world to declare, "Hey, I can actually see my house from here!" I myself am captivated by the idea of flight, to have the ability to truly going wherever your heart desired. To me, flight means freedom, and freedom is always compelling to pursue. In that sense, I suppose no one is freer than the eagle.
The land before the fledgling eagle sang with the roar of the buffeting winds, beckoning it to ride on the rushing currents. The mountains rose gray and green in the blue haze of their summits, jagged and unruly as the untamed world of the sky. The eagle clawed restlessly at the nest of twigs, grass, and branches beneath it, its wild heart sighing at the relentless tug of the wind. Its wings flapped and fluttered impatiently, and the promise of the flight was almost too great to bear.
Nothing could stir the storm of emotions that willed it to follow the breeze and let it carry his wings. Gleefully, he screeched, and the cry echoed far and wide through the mountain ranges. The eagle was of a free spirit, one of the land and air and clouds. His wide, golden eyes were sharp and wired for the never-ending mountainous sprawl before him, and he felt only a fierce desire to soar among the ancient, looming peaks and add his breath of wingbeats to the scream of wind that swept through their endless paths and deep chasms.
He was young and arrogant and had yet to learn of the dangers that awaited him, but the unrelenting call of the mountains awoke nothing but courage in his fiery soul. The rolling hills in the far, far distance were pale and misty, an unknown place full of wonders to be explored and understood, a whole world waiting for the eagle to arrive in a flurry of dark feathers and gleaming talons.
The eagle's nurturing parents had not returned, and perhaps never would, but it was no such matter to fret over. It was past time to begin roaming beyond the nest. Even so, the eagle was anxious. Would the wind be enough to carry him? Would he be able to swoop among the rugged, towering peaks and breathe their frosty breath? Would he—
A powerful gust of wind pounded into the fledgling's back, sending him lurching on his two feet. His wings flapped in alarm, fighting against the air to propel himself away from the sheer drop that lay ahead. All the courage fled the eagle just then, and he turned to make for the center of the nest, where it would be safer. As though the mountains were impatient with him, they sent another billowing rush of their breath into him, smacking him dead in the belly. Screeching in surprise, the fledgling spread his wings wide once again as fear of falling overtook him. The wind took up his feathers and sent him flying backward, straight over the edge of the precipitous drop. The breath left the eagle's gut and a wave of fear filled him from the tip of his beak to the point of his talons.
The sensation of falling held a grasp of icy terror briefly over the fledgling's body, but when he realized the jagged foot of the mountain of which he had spent his days was fast approaching, he began throwing his wings wildly against the air, struggling to find a way to return the wind to his belly. Instinct told him he would find no way to ride it if he faced it with his back. His wings must find the gust somehow, and fast.
He lashed out at the air with his long black claws, throwing his body this way and that. The fledgling tried to flap his wings, but they could not break the hold of the wind pummeling his back. Despair washed over the young flyer, but he continued fighting, his eyes watering from the sting of air as it whipped across his face.
His tail feathers gave a twitch, and suddenly the eagle found his whole body twirling in the sky. He willed it to go still, and the spinning stopped. He twitched it once more, and the whirling began anew. The eagle flapped his wings madly once more, pumping them against the air. The world was turning itself right around, but it gave him a frightening view of the harsh, sharp rock. Towering gray stone rose to surround him, closing him in, sending him hurtling to his doom.
The eagle swung his tail feathers aside, and he lurched unsteadily right-side up. His wings buffeted against the wind, inexperienced and wild. The fledgling knew he had to go up, but he wasn't certain how to do so. He drew his tail feathers downward, and his wings flew up, sending waves of rolling wind against his stomach. It was a strange feeling, but it seemed to be halting his descent. The rock had stopped rushing toward him, but that did not mean it was moving away. Twisting paths of jagged stone hurried to meet him just ahead.
Beating his wings, the bald eagle struggled to ascend, clawing at the air for purchase. He threw his tail feathers about and found himself climbing higher and higher into the blue mist of the mountains. Even so, he would not be high enough to miss the oncoming madness of weathered rock that lay ahead. He straightened his body with a flick of his tail, aligning it with the current of wind. The air curled under his wing feathers, lifting him, carrying him. His fear had vanished, leaving only a cold determination in the fledgling. His wings were as one, flapping together, and his tail feathers buffeted in the breeze, guiding him through the air.
He faced the rocks with confidence and steeled himself to any thoughts of failure. He would make it through the mountains, prove that he was ready to live as a true eagle, one of the wind and stone and sky. The fledgling tilted his tail feathers left and shouldered to the right of a bend of jutting mountain rocks. He flicked it to the right and glided left around a protruding ledge, his wing feathers brushing the cold stone as he whisked past. The maze of rock before him did little to deter him.
He followed the rush of air through the winding trails, his razor eyesight lending fresh perspective to the land around him. The thundering roar of a waterfall caught his hearing, and as he swooped round jagged rock spires, he could feel the cold spray beading against his wings and back. The final obstacle before the eagle was two faces of stone, both pressing close to one another and leaving a small, narrow gap between them. The fledgling trained his sharp golden eyes on the gap, calculating its width and the dexterity of his body.
He had to do this; the mountains would see him through. But, just now, it was up to the eagle himself to conquer the gap. He beat his wings powerfully, the wind throwing him closer and closer to his final test as a flyer. He sucked in a breath and angled his body vertically, lining it up with the narrow opening of the gap. His tail feathers held firm, stilling him against the wind current.
He closed his eyes upon passing between the two stone faces, feeling the rock close around him in its deep black shadow. The air whistled faintly, flowing swiftly through the gap, and the eagle willed himself to follow after it. He tensed upon feeling the rock rake against his back, but then the uptake of wind swirled around him again from all sides, and the fledgling knew he was free.
His eyes flew open and before him unraveled a green valley. Upon righting himself, the air took him again, lifting him up and assuring him a safe position within the sky. The eagle, his heart soaring with triumph and the freedom before him, pumped his wings, circling the length of the valley with all the speed and strength in his muscles.
Mountains crowded around on all sides, but they left a bowl-like space between them. Grass flowed like water, rippling against the breeze, and lakes shimmered a deep blue in the afternoon sunlight. Trees rustled and swished in the wind, their thick bodies creaking with the disturbance. The eagle flew above it all, twirling about in the air and reveling in the freedom of flight. He swung left and right, his wings tilting and folding as he dived, soared, and glided.
A whole new world awaited him in the skies, calling him by name as the wind flew across the land.