The legends of the wing-taker sects remain as stories to scare the young and the nervy. Legend relates that it was Peldastiquo himself who took the last pair of wings from the last bird, and that he arranged that henceforth members of the sect should wear a mask imprinted with the facial image of that extinguished ancient species. And though it is not known whether Peldastiquo himself used it – despite the attempts of artists of later centuries to show him in the throes of smiting the last bird with it – the blade of the Peldastiquon was named after this species against whom we had used the weapon over long centuries – the ophidia. The sword which bore the ophidian name had long since passed into disuse, revived only by myth and dramatisation, but in its time it was said to be sharp enough to cut the substantial flesh of even the toughest of those wild reptilian birds, and light enough to wield at speed and with great control. The metal was the colour of mercury, the weight was akin to steel’s and in its diamond hardness it resembled titanium. A lattice work handle allowed the Peldastiquon to achieve the best claw purchase on the weapon; the blade was shaped like a snake in flight, its sinuous edge a lacerating wave. Catch flesh with the leading part of the ophidia’s wave, and it was cut away; catch a limb with the depth of the curve and it was as if the blade doubled, clossing around gristle and bone with a scissoring motion.
With symbolic intent, a later largely ceremonial sword modelled on this early bird-killer was named after our sworn inter-planetary enemies the Cintilars.
The Peldastiquon killed off bird species successively and mercilessly, deaf to naturalist protests. They had taken their wings as trophies, but the wing-taking lust still raged. Unchecked by legislature or populace – both of whom feared to oppose them – the Peldastiquon finally brought about a birdless world. After that there was only one species left whose wings they could take. Their own. Not that they had waited until the ceremonial slaughter of the last bird had taken place. They developed their taste for Badezon wing-taking long before the last mournful swoop of an escaping bird against the sky was witnessed.
Legend also says that on the day of judgement it will be the resurrected Peldastiquo who will with a giant ophidia scythe the mountains of Badezon in two, opening up the furnaces below for the molten liquid of destruction to pour forth and burn up the forests, boil away the lakes. On that day those Badezon who can still fly will hover above the raging fire and bubbling lava until exhaustion takes hold, and one by one the last of our species will drop to their deaths. (Legend has of course been surpassed by the subsequent technological developments that made leaving our planet possible, but the mythic horror remains, for what good would the life of Badezon explorer be without a home planet to which one day he or she can return?)
Grounded on Earth, increasingly I suspected that the Peldastiquon ophidia was the blade that had taken my wings. In my darkest moments Chan could not reach me and in my wingless state I believed it was worse to live on so than to die. The wingless were in all respects deficient. They were deprived of the practical means upon which living in the Badezon world depended; and, believe me, the symbolic weight of their loss was greater still.