Ingmar pulled sharp on the control lever and clenched her teeth as the lathe and canvas wings braked hard against the wind. “It is only my imagination… the sinew isn’t snapping and it WILL hold,” she told herself fervently. This was her longest test flight yet, taking off from a lumbering, lurching sprint down to climb over the dense canopy of East Wood and then circle out in a widening spiral. In the several hours she’d been airborne Ingmar had made hasty comparisons and corrections to several charts of the archipelago ring, soared low over the brown and lavender crowns of the fungal forest in the Mirelands, and was now arching over the outskirts of the glorious, hive-like web of Alpha Polis’ avenues. “Its so… beautiful,” her teeth chattered in the cold high air as she followed the lines of what she assumed must be Mercatoria Boulevard and looked for the bronze and azure spires that were the hallmark of Alpha House. Alpha House, home to the greatest geniuses of ‘Polis, the farthest seeing inventors and, for the past hundred years or more, the finishing school for the most powerful statesmen in the Chambers of Governance. Alpha House, where the original designers of the Ornithopter Ingmar now piloted were most likely quartering the sky with telescopes and looking glasses, trying to find her and follow her progress. Ingmar shifted her weight against the clumsy blocks of wood that served as her rudder controls while twisting the axis gear firmly. The Ornithopter waved its right wing in salute while the left ceased its breaking action. Ingmar turned her head to estimate the required turn for her new course and held her breath as she banked sharply to tighten her long, lazy spiral. She’d been up, flying through the air like a bird, for hours now. She’d have to return to the testing grounds before dusk, but it was so difficult to let go of this unique honour. She sighted the large clearing in the East Wood, many miles away - days away if she had to travel on the ground! - and stabilized her course. Her arms fought the controls and gears to level the craft, and the shuddering lurches as the fabric and lathe frame settled into its new path once again made her curse the weight restrictions that prevented any sufficient padding. The constant creaking, cracking, and flapping settled into a new rhythm as she turned the axis gear again and pressed hard with her toes to control the tail of the craft… descending gently in powered flight. Ingmar was perhaps two hundred paces in height above the canopy of East Wood when she wound the throttle spring back in a steady, practiced motion and heard the horrifying snap of sinew breaking. A strip of the tough cord flailed in spastic panic against the armature of the wing axis joint for a moment before being thrown free and slapping her in the face as it abandoned her and her now crippled craft. “Mage’s Luck!” Ingmar shouted as she tried desperately to lock the wings into glide position with only the strength of her own arms. “Mage’s Luck! I was on my approach to land!” The wings locked, but only partially in position for a glide, and Ingmar lifted her knees close to her chest, hugging them tight as she braced for the impact. It was over in the space of a few painful seconds, branches slamming into her craft - angry fists of nature. The delicate cloth and lathe wings were destroyed and buried in the tops of multiple trees. Ingmar clung tightly to the ruined fuselage with her arms as she tried to find a footing on a branch. “If I can just make it down without breaking my leg or my neck… it should only be a short walk through the Wood… I can return to camp by dawn… Oh I hope someone saw me go down…” Ingmar never had time to wonder if the cracking, splintering noise came from the tree or the dead Ornithopter before she hit the ground. Her breath, and consciousness, left her in an instant, with her boots and elbows deep in the leaf mulch of the forest floor.