Birds of Prey
Two beings inhabit The Dome.
They are Barciro and The Wikler.
The flight is short. They pass many vultures perched on the shores and in the trees beside gulls and smallbirds alike. Not a single denizen floats upon the surface of the Res’, though Lord Hilaetos does not notice. The Vultress is the center of his attention.
The Vultress lands upon the shoreline tree first, near the base of the branch, not far off from a hole about the size of a gull’s beak. The branch wobbles wildly under her weight. Lord Hilaetos lands closer to the stick end of this branch. It doesn’t move, doesn’t budge a feather’s width. Hilaetos attributes this to grace; The Vultress attributes this to weakness of spirit.
The channel opens up narrow and The Vultress sends first.
‘Tell me, osprey: where would you go were you cast away from The Sticks?’
‘To the Northern Leg, of course, where Birds of Prey reign supreme.’
‘Birds of Prey reign supreme the world over, Hilaetos, but your sentiment is taken. And where will you go when my flock chases you from the Northern Leg?’
Hilaetos clicks his beak once, then, ‘They would not, Vultress.’
Not so much as a blink of her gray-brown eyes. ‘You do not really mean to test me, osprey. Surely you must know better.’
The osprey clicks his beak again and adjusts his grip on the thin branch, but not his footing. Not now. ‘Indeed I do; I merely mean to state that, were your vulture flock to attempt to chase me from the skies of my birthright, I would be killed in my retaliation.’ After a moment of intense eye contact, ‘And I would not be the only one.’
‘Tis now The Vultress who clicks her beak, the ivory tone a sharp contrast to that of the osprey’s onyx maw. The channel closes and they perch in solitude for more than a passing moment; when high noon is long gone, the channel opens again, wide as the Southern Expanse.
‘Fret not, Lord Hilaetos, as those residing in The Sticks shall hold their roost until Monskville either dries or fills past the peaks of the mountains.’
The channel then narrows and Lord Hilaetos feels the presence of The Vultress cleaner than he ever has before. They’re the only two in the channel, though eye contact remains broken, never established in the first place.
‘I shall tell you a tale, Lord Hilaetos, a tale you’ve never heard and a tale you’ll not repeat. When you came to this valley you found only my flock, and we welcomed you to The Sticks with shine-warmed wings.’
‘More than was afforded to the pair eagles,’ the osprey sends slyly.
‘And more than you deserved, that much is clear to me now.’
‘And what of the owl and the gulls, then? Did you give them the warm welcome you so kindly offered me, or did you attempt to pluck the feathers from their skin so your flock could win an easy meal?’
‘The gulls predated all wingflapping denizens of this Reservoir, Hilaetos. ‘Twas Lúaloch who brought my flock to where we now nest.’
‘Of course, the owl. How apt of mystics to look out for one another.’
A sinister hiss escapes the beak of The Vultress. ‘The witch doctor deserves to be worshiped by the likes of you, Sea Hawk, and don’t mistake that moniker as a gentle endearment. Any comparison to the hawks escaping my featherless head carries with it the dead weight of shame and disgust. You’re best to approach Lúaloch with respect later this eve’ when you answer his summons, Hilaetos; the channel opens wide at night.’
‘The channel opens on its own accord, as far as I am aware… unless you’d like to correct me, High Vultress?’
The Vultress sends nothing, but considers the osprey. Even considers looking him in the eye. Then, ‘I did not have you fly out here with me to be convinced that you deserve purification, Lord Hilaetos.’
‘Then why?!’ followed by a challenging shriek. The vultures perched along North Cove’s edge all turn their heads at this, but none take flight. Not yet.
‘It’s a wonder you perch in the same tree every night, Hilaetos, though I don’t even know you capable of that much. I came to tell you a tale and a tale I will tell you; whether I finish telling this tale or drop your lifeless body down into the Reservoir to be consumed by whatever it is that curses these holy waters is your–’
‘Nothing curses the waters, you–’
The osprey dips his beak into his flecked plumage.
‘I shall send you the tale of the vulture flock’s coming to Monksville, Hilaetos, and you’ll receive it very well. We once flocked over a mysterious faraway land, a barren forest of pines dominated by darkness where a devilish creature flapped its batlike wings and tore the throats from any giants to meet it between the trees.’
The osprey gulps. This shall be a long story.
This has been the fifth subchapter of the second chapter of The Monksville Chronicles. Here is everything you need to know about it:
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