Hardgrip looked up, wiped his beak and snorted derisively.
“You are too young to join the ranks of the Windlords, brother. Your success has deceived you. Being Swiftest in the Mountains alone will not win you that title?”
Widewing turned his head.
“Are you jealous, brother? Eat less and fly more, then you will be as strong as I. No! It is my destiny to follow my father’s path, and none shall turn me from it!”
“But your brother speaks truth, my son.” said a gentler voice behind him. “It is a worthy goal, but even your father, proud Highpeak, sought counsel....”
“I do not despise your counsel, mother. You raised me to be Swiftest in the Mountains. But now I fly alone and cast off craven counsels. Silversong the Fair shall be my mate when I return. Farewell!”
“Then farewell, my son!” She lowered her head. “May the great Wind Spirit bear you upward.”
“Strong wings need no wind!” Soon he was merely a moving speck in the rising sun.
“Folly!” muttered Hardgrip. “The Tempest season comes upon us.”
“He has his father’s confidence, but not yet his wisdom.” sighed his mother.
Widewing reached Testing Peak, within view of Windlord’s Crag.
There it stood before him, dwarfing all other peaks: the Great Summit.
A windlord soon joined him.
“Hail, Widewing, son of Highpeak! Your father was my greatest windmate, and we grieve at his fall. But are you not too young to attempt the Summit? The season of tempests draws near also.”
“Hail, Windlord Strongfeather! I, the Swiftest in the Mountains, am ready for the attempts, and will conquer before the storms come.”
“Very well. Do you need guidance?”
“I need no guidance, windlord.”
“Then go! May the Wind Spirit bear you upward.”
Widewing leapt off the ledge.
Day after day, he doggedly strove upward, rested, then upward again. At last, darkness forced him to return to Resting Cave for the next day’s attempt.
One day, he felt strange stirrings in the air and he heard Strongfeather calling from below. He ignored both, for he could just see his goal, the Summit, before it was wreathed in fast-moving cloud.
Suddenly he was enveloped in howling darkness. The first tempest!
Desperately, he soared downward, hoping to outrun the storm and find shelter. He had already expended too much strength to use his wings effectively.
A sudden updraft made him lose balance as the shrieking storm reached out ghostly hands to take him. Another gust took him and threw him against the mountain. Feathers scattered as he dazedly plummeted toward Resting Cave. He had just enough feathers to break his fall. He lay in an unconscious heap.
“I have failed. I am not worthy to be Highpeak’s son, mother.”
He hid his head under a shattered wing. He was slowly regaining strength and plumage in Healing Cave.
“Yet you attempted, my son. Your father also first failed because he placed his confidence in his strength, rather than upon the Wind Spirit.”
Widewing at last began to listen to wise counsel, but still lacked the motivation to ever try again, until a surprise visitor came.
“Hail, Silversong the Fair! Do you honour a fool with your presence? Surely Darkwing, my rival, may now claim you.”
“Darkwing shall never be my mate. Do not demean yourself, for I know you. We have been wingmates since our first flights together. You are destined to soar over the Summit, and my song shall soar with you.”
This sustained him through all the recovery period.
“You have returned for the attempt again, Widewing. Will you now accept guidance?”
“I do accept it, Windlord Strongfeather.”
Soon he had learned to ride with the winds rather than striving against them. He learned to listen for the whisper of the Spirit Wind and disciplined himself to trust in Him.
An idea awoke.
The Tempest season was drawing near again as he made his final attempts. He rode the updrafts and made much greater progress.
Suddenly, that dreaded darkness approached. A storm had come unseasonably early.
But now Widewing was ready, and he listened for the whisper in the wind. To Strongfeather’s horror, his pupil flew toward the storm rather than seeking shelter.
Then the great updraft before the storm came. Widewing caught it and soared, higher than ever before – over the storm and over the Summit.
Silversong’s voice seemed to come from the depths.
“Hail, Windlord Widewing, rider of the tempest!”
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