“Sudal, verl of Prasuza clan, come forward!” His father’s voice rang through the room, and it fell silent, not even a rustle of fabric to break the solemn rite.
The knowledge he’d experienced his first flight solo gave him the patience for the ceremony that had been drilled into him since before his memories began. Sudal took a step forward and extended his arms and his newly-hardened wings. In contrast to the pure white of his formal garments, his sails were a stark red in the moonlight and the shiny black ribs gleamed.
Already sore from his secret flight, Sudal’s muscles protested as he worked to keep his wings open, the outer edges sweeping past his fingertips, but he would not hurry. He might resent his role as a clan verl, but he would not shame his father or himself by any public deficit in his expected duties.
His rebellion was internalized, and all the more bitter for being unvoiced.
Once Sudal reached the well he stopped and bowed low. The moon’s reflection shone inside the great stone bowl, and the wind from the open windows ruffled the surface. Sudal dipped the tips of his ribs, painting the hooked claws with the holy fluid blessed by the light of their protectors. “I come before the assembled clan newly changed, prepared to take my place among their ranks.”
He turned and faced the throng, locking his gaze on the chamber doors. From behind him, his father addressed the assembled clan.
“This man has come to be counted as one of the clan’s adults. What say you?”
It was foregone conclusion, but he held his breath until their throats swelled with a single shout that echoed off the high ceiling. “Worthy.”
He slowly sank into a low bow, holding the pose for the count of three, and then rose.
“The ceremony will be held tomorrow upon the rise of the full moon.”