Lord of the Sticks – The Monksville Chronicles (16/124)

Birds of Prey

Two beings inhabit The Dome.
They are Barciro and The Wikler.

Lord of The Sticks

The great shine casts high noon over the still waters of Mother Monksville. The osprey, eyes heavy, twires from the edge of The Sticks.

His branch is a thick one, the ancient bleached wood sturdy and embellished with talon gashes from base to tip. The tree itself isn’t all that impressive – it’s not the tallest spire in The Sticks nor the tallest spire bordering The Sticks, but Lord Hilaetos perches here for a reason: the courtyard of his keep seems to have been invaded.

Unfortunately, this is nothing out of the ordinary – a large flock of hawks with a thirst for blood so strong it turned their tailfeathers scarlet took up residence along the Wanaque River a few cycles back when food was still plentiful; whoever it is that gives them orders has been sending more and more scouts to Monksville with each passing shinecycle, and each passing shinecycle they’re chased back from whence they came. To repeat the same exact course of action endlessly while expecting different results is the very definition of insanity, the mark of a mind left to wander blindly down a rabbit’s hole to seek refuge from a looming flood, and yet the hawks still fly. A very questionable decision, to say the least.

As is the hawks’ settling of the Wanaque River in the first place; even now, however many cycles it is after the hawks originally tried and failed to bring their estranged flock to roost in The Sticks, the osprey cannot figure it out. Hilaetos himself is a fish eater, and a damned good one at that – he’s not known as the Sea Hawk for his ‘munkie sac’ing abilities – as are the pair eagles and the gulls; as for the vultures? They’ll eat anything, living or dead. In truth they prefer the deader meats – they get some kind of odd spiritual thrill out of stuffing their shine-bleached beaks with a days-old rancid carcass, regardless if that putrid carcass has been left to marinate in Monksville’s lifeblood or to sizzle in the rays of the great shine. It is a disgusting way to live a life, as hideous to watch as it is downright blasphemous to so much as think about, but The Vultress is a mystic; if Hilaetos were to learn that flagrant hexes were not thrown on each and every one of her flockers with every rise of the moon, he’d fall off the branch his talons now cling to. The hawks are like the nocturne witch doctor, they seek out landwalkers who feel confident enough to dash across open land without the cover of the canopy; they cannot catch fish from the water, they probably couldn’t even catch a beached fish, and if they did? Hilaetos doubts they would have any idea what to do with it.

A gentle breeze blows across The Basin, stirring the waters ever so slightly. Small waves slap against the soggy base of Hilaetos’s tree. He spans his eagle’s wings to revel in the sensation of the wind through his feathers. It’s similar to a giant running its fingers through its hair, he has to imagine, except the wind feels much, much better, especially when it makes the regal black flecks of his snowdrift belly dance like giants in a river valley.

As the wind dies down the osprey keeps his wings spanned, golden eyes glued to his target. A bass – likely a bumbling largemouth, as the smallmouth bass are far too intelligent to travel up the Northern Leg into The Basin – fancies itself a surfaceswimmer.

The channel opens, ‘The fool likely wishes to warm himself, to bask under the rays of high noon. A poor fool indeed, but one with fair timing,’ then closes again. The osprey flaps his wings twice and shrieks war into the open air before him. Splinters whirl in the wind as he takes flight. The branch doesn’t shake a bit.

Hilaetos swiftly gains altitude and stiffens his wings, catching a heated thermal and riding it in a vast circle around The Basin, even crossing over into the Northern Leg momentarily, and then he circles ‘round again. This maneuver is not done for the osprey’s sake – he spotted the lakebreather plainly from his perch, sticking out like a red fox in a green berry bush, and the dead-eyed thing hasn’t moved a feather’s width – but for the sake of that which he circles. The Lord of The Sticks’s courtyard has been invaded this balmy autumn afternoon, but not by any hawks, not yet at least; a sole giant, perched in his little mobile island, floats in The Basin on this day.

Lord Hilaetos completes his second circle and shrieks again, breaking The Giant from his fishcatching trance. He watches the osprey dive, sharp talons lurched before his beak and wings tightening into a vicious triangle as it approaches the line between atmosphere and Reservoir. Then, the bird breaks the surface and submerges itself completely; a moment later it rises from the water like a dipper duck and takes to the air with an unlucky bass – smallmouth, by the look of it – skewered in its talons. The Giant nearly drops his pole into the lake – never before has he seen a bird dive with such effortless grace, with such merciless killer instinct. He’s in awe, he can’t take his eyes away.

Lord Hilaetos returns to his talon-scored perch and pins his prey to the wood, shrieking a final time to assert his dominance over the kingdom. Let the giant float on his little island, he’s as harmless as a wingless goose.

Dead scales drift on the wind like slimy snowflakes in winter on their return to Mother Monksville; the bass’s skeleton, not picked clean by the most lenient of vultric standards, is not afforded the same courtesy. A sly seagull swoops in and snatches it out of the air before the lake’s surface is disturbed. With the slain lakebreather stuffed between her yellow beak, the seagull squawks gratitude. She’s long gone before the osprey nods his head solemnly, closing his eyes as he does so. Ospreys have a white head, like a bald eagle, with a brown band of feathers wrapped around at eye level like the mask of a raccoon – that has nothing to do with the story, small giants, it’s simply very beautiful and rarely seen and I felt the need to describe it for you. Blissful shinerays hit his back and Hilaetos is warmed from both sides, out- and in-.

A giant floating in a hollow log, a surfaceborne bass, and a balmy, hawkless afternoon – ’tis a strange day in The Sticks indeed. Another gentle gust of wind ruffles the osprey’s feathers, but he does not span his wings – all in the vicinity of Monksville know perfectly well who holds perch over The Basin, over the entirety of the Northern Leg. After that grand showing, the osprey’s mere presence alone is enough to dissuade any ‘munkie business, and so the Lord of the Sticks simply perches there, golden eyes a’twire, belly full of succulent bassmeat.

This has been the first subchapter of the second chapter of The Monksville Chronicles. Here is everything you need to know about it:

The Monksville Chronicles

I’ve written a few other books, too. Click here to see the list.

The Hillside Commons has a Facebook page. Here’s that.

If you’re there, hypothetical reader, thank you for being there. From this day on, we move forever forward~

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