Gazing at the world from the cliffs edge, Avian felt at peace. Everything looks smaller when you are standing high above it. Problems seem to shrink until the only thing you feel is the cool wind on your face and the warmth of the sun. That was one of the reasons why Avian loved flying so much. The sun was beginning to set shrouding the earth in a blanket of red and gold. The tops of the nearby mountains were reflecting the suns light appearing as lanterns to guide Avian northward towards home.
It was time to get back from a long day out on patrol and Avian was tired. His plane, a single seater biplane, was perched near the cliffs edge. He always made this his last stop during patrol to soak up a few last peaceful moments before going home. He walked up to the plane’s propeller and gave it a good turn to start the engine. The engine putted and the plane rattled. No more than a few seconds and the engine was roaring with life.
Before climbing into his seat, Avian removed the sword and sheath from his belt and secured them to the fuselage at his side. Knights were given short swords because of the limited room inside the cockpit. He put on his flight goggles, tightened the scarf around his neck, and with a release of the break he headed towards the grassy field on which he gained speed and lifted off into the sky.
The earth shrank below him as he headed into the clouds. It was growing colder with the coming of night. Avian hunkered down as low as he could get inside of his open-air cockpit. Nothing protecting him from the elements other than the clothes on his back and the paper-thin fabric covering the biplane’s wooden frame. It wasn’t long before the lanterns lighting the airfield below came into view. Avian’s plane landed just as the last few rays of sun set beneath the horizon.
“Drakesbane! Drakesbane has returned!” shouted those on watch.
It was always a welcomed sight to see a knight return from patrol, but especially Avian. He was a quadruple ace. A symbol was added to the fuselage for every drake brought down. Avian had shot down twenty-two confirmed drakes, an achievement most knights don’t live long enough to earn. Hence his title and the name of his aircraft, Drakesbane. His watch captain waited for him as the plane settled to a stop. With a few sputters the engine shut off. Avian removed his flight goggles and leather helmet.
“Nothing tonight Avian?” asked the watch captain.
“No. Nothing captain.”
Not surprising. The enemy was regrouping. The loss of a dragon had to be a heavy blow to Magnus and his army. Avian understood loss, but he also understood the need for vengeance. Avian hopped out of the plane and reattached the sword to his belt.
The squadron mechanics buzzed about the aircraft taking note of its condition, as well as refueling it to be ready in a moment’s notice. The plane was equipped with two forward facing machine guns mounted in front of the cockpit. No shots were fired today making the mechanic’s job of getting Drakesbane battle worthy again easier.
“Alright. Just make sure you brief Seraph on anything notable before he takes off on his patrol. I don’t want any surprises tonight. Got it?”
“I got it captain. No surprises.”
“Good. Now go get some rest. Things are quiet now, but they won’t be quiet for long. Take advantage of this time Avian.”
“Oh! And for god sakes…” said the captain as he flicked Avian a coin, “…get yourself something to drink!”
It seemed like everyone was buying him drinks these days. But Avian didn’t want more drinks, he just wanted his father back.
Seraph was in the hanger looking over his plane one more time before heading out for the night. Unlike Avian’s plane, which was painted primarily green and black with an aluminum cowling up front, Seraph’s plane was painted boldly. The forward end was painted red, the midsection striped and the tail end black. It looked as if he rode upon fire with the smoke trailing in the sky. In fact, despite being best friends they were quite opposite from each other with nearly everything. Avian was always level headed and calculated and Seraph was always fiery and impulsive, but together in the sky they become unstoppable.
“How’s she looking?” asked Avian regarding the aircraft.
Seraph looked up from inspecting the engine.
“Hey! She’s ready for action. Maybe I’ll get the chance to tie it up with you. I just need one more confirmed drake to get my quadruple ace.”
The squadron required proof for a pilot to claim a kill. This was done by getting confirmation from another source; either from a witness or by locating the downed beast at the coordinates given by the pilot. Otherwise, pilots flying solo could claim whatever they wanted.
“Easy now Seraph.” said Avian. “It’s quiet tonight. I don’t want you going out there looking for trouble and bringing it back here.”
“Look for trouble?” Seraph was amused. “Have you seen this thing?” He pointed to his biplane. “If there’s trouble out there, it’ll find ME!”
They laughed. Why even bother. Seraph’s going to do whatever he wants to anyway. Thought Avian. Seraph was briefed on the events and findings during Avian’s patrol. After which they said their goodbyes and Seraph set out with his machine into the night.
The night watch was the most dangerous for patrols because knights in the air fly in almost total darkness. Their primary mission is to fly between different airfields, search the ground below for enemy movement, and to deliver important messages. Pilots at night fly the most direct route possible keeping an eye on the horizon. They keep a constant lookout for lights, structures, and landscapes that would confirm the right path. Seeing the light from an airfield’s lantern is always a welcomed sign.