Birds of Prey
Two beings inhabit The Dome.
They are Barciro and The Wikler.
‘He won’t hold perch for long, you know,’ sent from high above the canopy of The Crater. The squirrelhorde buzzes below, throwing a crass crinkle into the air, a crinkle the hawks pretend not to notice more for their own sake than for that of the squirrels.
‘You seem to think it so, brother,’ Mousetalon returns, intently averting his eyes from the buzzing buffet below, ‘yet here we are doing his bidding.’
‘I’d hardly call this doing his bidding. Shall we move up along the leg? I can’t stand being in the air above those rodents, the smell is too much. I might dive and blow the entire operation if I have to keep bathing in it like this.’
The brothers hawk flap up through the Northern Leg. There’s not a terrible lot of activity going on today; a few seagulls flutter here and there, a vulture or two sits on the shore and tries to find meat on a pile of bones that dried out at least a cycle ago, a lakebreather will occasionally pop up to the surface before disappearing, almost as if it was pulled into the depths by a senseless monster.
‘King Beuto said to turn back at North Cove, didn’t he?’
‘He did,’ sends Scartail. ‘What of it?’
‘I believe we’ve gone too far, brother. I see North Cove right up ahead, we must have passed it on our way down. Why have we gone against the wishes of our king?’
‘Because he’s less of a king and more of an old child who has no idea what it means to lead a flock. Have you forgotten?’
‘No, brother, starpools no,’ Mousetalon sends, his eyes smiling. ‘I just love to be reminded.’
When the brothers hawk reach the cove they descend from high altitudes and perch on a specific branch of a specific shoreline tree. It wobbles under their weight, the movement garnering stares from the vultures and gulls perched along the shore. Up in the clouds, even with their sharp hawk eyes, they didn’t see any feathered denizens squirming about; now that they’re close to the action, they realize their mistake. Threatening hisses and low, warbly squawks are whispered back and forth. A flock of many smallbirds takes for the skies.
The channel narrows to the length of a branch. ‘We’re being stared at, Scartail.’
‘I see that, brother, and sense their presence too; what would you have me do about it?’ with tones of irritation and hanger.
‘I wouldn’t have you do anything, per se…’ he sends, then trails off as the branch wobbles again.
The brothers hawk look to the end of their branch to find a beefy turkey buzzard perched there, its sleek black talons splitting the tree’s bark with the intensity of the thing’s grip. It stares at them with its dark, soulless eyes, two bottomless pits, like a black bear gouged its ugly head and broke the claws off in the sockets when he was done. Another vulture lands near the base of the branch and three gulls circle from above as if stalking dead prey.
‘Brother,’ Mousetalon sends quietly, as if he believed the other wingflappers might be dipping into the channel. ‘I believe we’ve been made.’
The pair vultures hiss in haunting unison. The gulls holler a mighty squeal before diving like the Birds of Prey they wish they were. The brothers hawk take off at the last moment, narrowly dodging the two flanking gulls and rejoicing at the muffled hoots of the center one trying to unstick its beak from the branch. No matter how badly they crave it, they cannot look back to see the hilarity ensue; a large black cloud emerges in the sky and casts its inky shadow upon the hawks, but it’s not a cloud at all. It’s the vultures, the turkey vultures! They must have half their entire flock up there, the fiends are blocking out the great shine!
The brothers hawk dive close to the Res’s surface and extend their wings at the last moment, catching a warm thermal and propelling themselves across the Southern Expanse out of the shadow of the buzzards. Bombastic honks blast from all around as the shores grow farther and farther apart and the beavers’ dam draws near. Their pace does not slow yet the shadow of the black buzzard flock catches them, engulfing them in its darkness. Then, the feathers fly – one after another the turkey vultures dive, wings tight, talons clamped beneath their thick tails, ivory beaks forward like the antlers on a charging buck whitetail, and one by one they all miss their mark. Some break and regain altitude while others plummet directly into the Reservoir, too full of shame and grief for failing to embody the will of their Vultress. They cannot go back to her if these hawks live, they’d rather end their lives right here and now. Those meek ones who try swimming do not struggle in the water very long; they’re pulled under and snapped up in a grisly, sharptoothed maw, the maw of a raging false god. The maw of a beast.
The cloud dissipates when the hawks clear Lure Cove, but they don’t dump an iota of their speed. They’ll return to their king the Snake Eater, oh yes, they’ll return to him with all the information he could ever need, but not yet. First, they shall go to the Wanaque Reservoir. First, they shall eat their fill and then some more, and they shan’t be saving even a scrap of fur for the queen.
This has been the eighth subchapter of the second chapter of The Monksville Chronicles. Here is everything you need to know about it:
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