Lynwen Cadellith hurriedly tugged a silver piece of jewelry onto her leg. Its crystal tassels made a twinkling noise as she stood. She grabbed a transparent sash a shade lighter than her baby blue skin, tied it on, and ran down the stairs to get some breakfast.
Her father, Cadel Lydrentine, was pacing next to the fireplace, as he always did in the mornings. Lynwen sighed. No doubt he was thinking about her mother, Morwyn. She had left when Lynwen was too young to remember, and Cadel had never forgiven himself for wedding her. She used to be his everything...until he found out the real reason why she married him. Morwyn had wanted his money. Cadel was a low-ranking noble, and she was only middle class.
Desiring a rich husband, she ran into him one night while at a university party. He became smitten with her and she led him on until they were married. But after a while she grew greedier, and after Lynwen was born, she found a richer man and left Cadel heartbroken with a young baby girl to care for.
"Father?" Lynwen tapped him on the shoulder.
"What, my darling?" He turned around to face her, his fog-pupiled eyes showing the sadness he felt inside. His voice was heavy and melancholy.
"I..." She never knew what to say to him. "I love you, ok?"
"I love you too, dearest." The hint of happiness that flickered at the corners of his mouth was enough to satisfy his daughter, who had grabbed a cloudfruit and begun to eat. "You have dance practice today, correct?"
"Yes, sir." Lynwen replied, deciding she wanted a fihra bar for breakfast. The breadlike substance melted in her mouth as she took a bite. "After school. I hope you don't mind that I'll be gone a while."
"Take your time." Cadel resumed his sleepless pacing, and Lynwen watched for a bit. She worried for him. But she would talk to him later, after practice.
"See you later!" The earthen expression for goodbye was one of her favorites. Grabbing a bag, she waved and walked out the door. She didn't wait for a return gesture. The clouds she stepped onto caressed her feet like silk, and she wiggled her toes a bit to sink lower. But not too low. Falling through the cloud could cost her her life.
She passed a few Sun Workers hard at work making the ground transparent so the sun would shine down on the earth below. It was the Weatherworking Organisation's job to provide variety of weather on earth, and they were doing a nice job. Lynwen pressed a button on her brooch and let the see-through screen project in front of her. A few swipes and she could see the weather schedule. No snow today. Good. She pressed the button again and the screen disappeared.
She didn't want to sit through another demonstration of how to transfer snow from your hands to the clouds. In her district, snow was rare. You were lucky if it even hailed.
"Lynwen, hi!" Zephyrine Osianira, her best friend in the whole wide, white expanse of Aracelis, slowed her pace so Lynwen could catch up. "You're lucky today. I have to miss dance."
"Really? Why?" Lynwen asked. Her unusually dark-haired classmate gave her a pained smile.
"It's gonna be windy this afternoon. So I have invisibility training." The three swirls that formed Zephyrine's pupil seemed darker than usual. "After Wind Class."
"I think you mean SHHHHAFFFHHGAAHHHNNSSS Class." Lynwen said with a giggle. Aracelis's native language, a complex tongue that sounded like what humans called the wind, had adopted the name over time. Nonetheless, its actual name still sounded ridiculous, and meant something like 'Alternative Way of Speaking.'
"Why do we have to take weather courses, anyway? It's not like we're planning on becoming Weatherworkers or anything." Zephyrine pouted.
"It's for your own good, I guess." Lynwen said. "So you don't cause another natural disaster."
"If you're referring to what happened at my coming-of-age ceremony, I'll let you know that I was in complete control of the situation."
"Yeah, if you call accidentally creating a massive tornado complete control."
Laughing, the two young Aracellans approached their Career Prep school, ready to face the day ahead.
"Good luck with the invisibility!" Lynwen waved goodbye to Zephyrine and went to join her fellow dancers, who were warming up.
"You have fun while I go and be bored for at least a century!" Zephyrine stuck her tongue out at her friend before she was ushered off to the school's Weather Training Station.
Lynwen smiled to herself. Zephyrine could be annoying, but was still the best friend she'd ever had.
"Lynwen, hi!" A male dancer named Rhys Aethelith cheerfully greeted her. "Zeph's on Weather Duty, isn't she?"
"Yup." Sitting down, Lynwen started to stretch.
"Ailwyn and Elas are out too." Rhys extended a leg behind him and held the position. "Once we're done with warm-ups we're going to go to that large flat area over by the edge of the clouds. It's an optimal stage."
"Isn't that dangerous? Y'know, being by the edge and all?" Lynwen asked, doing a straddle split and touching her right leg.
"Yeah, but all of our usual rehearsal spots are taken."
"Well, I do like a bit of danger. Plus, it's not like my father is going to care."
"Great! Let's go, then!" Rhys put his leg back down and clapped a few times to get the dance troupe's attention. "Hey, we're going to move locations. Follow me!"
Lynwen scrambled to get up. "I'm not done stretching!"
"You can finish once we get there!" Rhys laughed, helping her up onto her feet. "Trust me, this is gonna be cool."
He lead the troupe to the spot he had talked about, a clearing maybe five minutes away from the school. There was a general consensus that they should practice the big group dance first, and then break for a quick snack. After that they would practice solo dances.
"Places!" Rhys clapped twice, the signal for 'be ready'. Dancers scuttled into their positions, and he held up a finger. "Lemme get the music ready."
He pressed a button on his cape-clasp to bring up the digital screen, then tapped the music note in the bottom right corner. Selecting the song, he got into his place and pressed play.
Lynwen was a bit frustrated with him for not letting her finish stretching like he said he would, but the thought was eventually lost in the graceful, athletic movements of the dance. The scarf she held fluttered as she twirled and leapt in synchronization with the other dancers.
"Good run! Let's take a break!" Rhys pressed the stop button as the next song, his own solo music, began to play. "We brought some flavored vapor and some crystalized nemmo root."
"I'm allergic to nemmo root." A dancer in the back piped up.
"Well...uh...I don't know what to tell you."
The dancer looked dejected. Rhys put on a huge grin. "Nah, I'm kidding! I got some fresh sarahel for you!"
Snack time went as expected: the girls sat and talked, and the guys ended up throwing nemmo root at each other. After they let their food digest, the troupe split up into groups of three to practice their solos.
Lynwen was stuck with Neela Caslantith and Padraig Hibernintine, who were more caught up in each other's deep blue eyes than with dancing. She couldn't help but wonder how they got into the troupe in the first place, as they'd been seeing one another for almost 100 years. They kissed. Lynwen began to feel uncomfortable. So, she decided to dance by herself.
She started her music and got lost in the rhythm of her steps, each one carefully executed. It felt good to wave the light scarf above her head and feel her sash brush across her leotard.
She leapt just as the song reached its climax...and just when a strong gust of wind blew from the direction of the Weather Training Station. It knocked her over, and she realized that she was dangerously close to the edge of the cloud. The wind continued to push her back, and she lost her footing.
Falling was not a sensation she liked. Screaming, she could feel her body struggling to keep itself together.
The cries of the dancers who had seen her fall faded into the distance, and she could only watch as Aracelis turned from a city into a simple white blob in the sky. She hoped she wasn't over water. If she was to die, she didn't want to dissolve into nothing.
She recalled a lesson from Career Prep School: "If you do fall, locate a slope or slide of some kind. It might save your life."
As the world below came into view, she flipped around so she could scan the area. No slides, no slopes. But what is that?
A white, puffy castle sat inside a fenced in area. Clouds? Here?
She shifted around awkwardly in midair until she was positioned to fall onto the castle. She landed.
The impact knocked her out.