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Le Sentiment de Vivre

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She dreams that she is flying. Her massive bulk glides high above a blue-green sea flecked with intermittent islands, their white-sand beaches standing out like starlight pricks against a darkening sky. She feels the sunlight as energy, absorbed through her membranous skin; she feels the breeze and the currents enveloping her lithe form, weaving around and about the cilia that move of their own accord, extending sensation outwards, seeking an updraft and wafting her higher. She glories in it, feeling each fresh breath of air as a caress.

She is her own world here above the world, protecting the life that shelters within her, upon her, throughout herthe life that becomes ultimately indistinguishable from her, a set of moving parts in a much larger whole. She gladly enfolds these smaller flecks and portions of the grander life she feels teeming beyond her in all directions, brought back to her in the nectar tang of her hives, the beaks and claws of her flocks, the treads of the beasts and men upon her spine. To them she is all, the air and the land, scorning fire, spurning the sea, reveling in the flight.

Deryn wakes up into her own body and she feels, for a moment, so distressingly small, so solitary and disconnected and incomplete, like she’s lost a limb in battle. She checks, and they’re all there, but she can’t shake the sense that she is missing something, that she is no longer whole.

She tells Alek about it later. She doesn’t know why she does it—maybe she expects him to call her daft, to laugh at the crazy dreams of a midshipman of the Royal Air Service, to make her feel silly enough about the vision that she’ll manage to forget it.

He doesn’t laugh. Instead he says, “The French have a phrase to describe the fencer's feeling that his sword is another part of his body. Le sentiment du fer. Volger says all the best fencers have it.” He shrugs. “I don’t know if I feel that way about fencing—but sometimes, when I’m behind the saunters, it’s like that. Like I’ve strapped on some grand other body. All that power...” The expression in his eyes is distant, and she knows that he is remembering the last time he felt like that, immersed within a larger-than-life mass of metal and gears and bellowing steam. She was there, too, fighting at the base of the Tesla cannon outside Istanbul. Only she remembers mostly the terror, and the burning, and it's obvious he's chosen to remember that control.

He shakes his head. “But if I can feel like that about a walker, I don’t see why you can’t feel that way about the Leviathan. You are a part of its—what is the word?—ecosystem.”

He smiles at himself for remembering and puts a hand on her shoulder, a gesture of support, and she smiles back at him because for the first time since waking up from the dream, she feels whole.