A response to T.S. Bazelli's "Author Aerobics: Action Challenge" posted in her blog, Ink Stained. The Challenge: Write an action scene (1000 words or less). The theme "light".
Caen and Aoife's reprieve ended the night the starship arrived. The ship exhaled a hill-long fusion tail whose reflections flickered in Grian Cloch's crystal mountains waking Caen and the rest of the natives in the foraging party high on Caonach Buaic, the Mossy Peak. The harmonies of the fusion drive vibrated the crystal to shake the portaledge supporting their cots.
Domh Cogar, the native's leader, kneeled on his cot bowing his head to the starship. "Blessed be the sun god. We have awaited you as the prophecies foretold."
The four other natives -- youths born to these rocky crags so confident that they, like Domh Cogar, free solo climbed _Caonach Buaic_ -- bowed their heads. The rope holding the portaledge against the crystal rubbed against the knife-sharp edges of one of the crystals and one of the twisted three strands frayed, rocking the portaledge.
Caen squeezed a hand into one of the carven handholds. "We must go, warn the others." Warn Aoife that the Imperial dogs had come.
Domh Cogar and the natives bent double until their necks rested on their knees. Ignoring Caen.
Caen shook Domh's shoulder. "They are not gods."
Domh Cogar's eyes pierced like an Eaglehunter reflecting the light flashing within the crystals. "Says the little man who has lost his wings."
Another strand of the portaledge snapped rocking their supports and one of the native's cots slipped between the slats careening against the crystal cliff. The native bounded in a full-length leap to cling to a facet. He twisted to face the descending ship, his chin bowed.
Caen remembered his wings that had burned when he had descended too fast. Unlike the Imperial soldiers, Aoife and Caen had left their ship in orbit and descended in gliders so as not to disturb this harsh world. Even before the natives had given them new names, they had been ecological. Live and let live, but that wasn't the way of the Empire. "The cliff will shatter."
"The Sun God will protect his emissary."
Aoife could have convinced Domh Cogar to flee. They loved her, everyone loved her, even the Imperials who'd spared her life instead of the execution. But Caen was not Aoife. He looked at Domh Cogar a final time, probably the last time of his life, and latched his diamond slide onto the cable dipping down and away from their perch. He slid across the canyons between the crystal peaks.
Three quarters of the way across, the cable buckled. The steel cable's tension dropped as a pop announced the shear that toppled Caonach Buaic. Caen's weight pulled the cable downwards, towards the sulfur clouds, as he stopped sliding forwards. He locked the brakes on the diamond slide and watched the pink-tinged facets rushed towards him as he swung downwards. Light from the fusion tail reflected like a fluttering of Grian Cloch's heart.
Caen smashed against the cliff, the world fading to blackness. He blinked his eyes, surprised to taste blood. He hung from his harness hooked into the diamond slider whose brake had held. Dipping his hand in chalk, Caen felt the pitch to find the handholds and jerked himself up hand over hand as his muscles tired. Free soloing, like the natives. He found a grace he'd never had before.
The Imperial ship neared, shaking this lesser peak. They wouldn't find a place to land on this planet. But they could finish Aoife's execution without landing.
Caen reached the anchor where the cable had led to Caonach Buaic. Another cable led away, further from the imperials. Caen slid away as frost from the cable coated his fingers.
After fifteen cable runs and a two league run along boards hugging the sheer cliffs, Caen entered the native's camp. Aoife sat with her legs crossed outside her tent. The nose of Aoife's glider peeked out from behind her tent and behind that a tarp covered a broken shape that looked like a cairn.
"They have come," said Caen. He saw that she had known and waited for him.
Aoife rose with the flickering light painting her cheeks with dirty shadows. "It is time to go."
"You must go without me." Caen knew her glider worked. She should leave him, save her life.
"No." Aoife pulled at the silken tarp beside her glider. Caen's glider with patched wings caught the sparkles of light from the crystal around them. "We will go."