Birds of Prey
Two beings inhabit The Dome.
They are Barciro and The Wikler.
The brothers hawk eat exceptionally well down below in the neutral zone that is the Wanaque Reservoir, staying clear of Monksville all day, just as The Vultress believed they would. Still, she felt it appropriate to make perch on this branch, the very branch they landed on before her flock chased them off in case their return is as stealthy as their entry was.
That is to say, the decoys fooled no one.
She meant to perch here until shineset and that’s just what she did, but time passes slowly when one waits for nothing to happen, more slowly than a tortoise climbing up a hill – so she had the osprey tag along, and to pass the time, she wove him the sinewy yarn (well, a version of it) of where her vulture flock originated, how they came to Monksville (‘twas called The Crescent Moon Valley when they first arrived), and how High Lúaloch, the wise owl witch doctor, not only found her through the channel, not only welcomed her scrawny and malnourished flock, but how he taught them the purpose of their life.
‘Bones,’ he sent on that day, to an audience of wide-eyed buzzards. ‘Bones make the plants grow. Bones feed the crops the giants plant in the wide fields abundant in this valley you now call home. The bones of any creature will do – mouse, vole, even smallbirds, though they’re much harder to catch; that is my purpose, my new friends, to convert the living to bones and deposit them in the dirt so the crops may grow.’
The owl made a demonstration that night, giving his spectators the show of a lifetime – silent flight, a most incredible trick. The owl had the vultures shut their eyes and then he took off, making no less than seven passes, some coming within a mere feather’s width of the bald, sensitive heads of the vulture flock, all to the awareness of none. Halfway through the fifth pass one of them sent, ‘Is he go’n’a go yet or what?’ and the wise old owl couldn’t help but wish he had the capacity to laugh. Then again, a laugh would have blown his cover, and while five silent passes may be enough to satiate most wingflappers, the witch doctor needed to complete those extra two. He had something to prove; whether that was to himself or the vulture flock was unclear in the moment, but he knew he had to prove it, and prove it he did. The most shocking part: when he had them open their eyes, the flock was greeted by the sight of a dead mouse clenched in the owl’s curved beak. He then consumed it in front of them, and later on in that night which lasted longer than most, he released a plump pellet from his posterior and, given how the vulture flock consumes dead meat on a daily basis, asked one to break his produce apart with its talons and see for themselves what lied inside. So one brave vulture stepped up and did just that, and what did he find? Bones. A complete skeleton relieved of meat and hide as if picked clean by one of the vultures themselves.
‘My body takes in living creatures and strips them of all I may need, then deposits the rest upon the Earth. The bones in my pellets, when discovered by the giants, are always stamped into the ground and buried next to their crop fields, and the crops fed by my poo always rear the largest fruits. Everything is a cycle, my dear new friends,’ he sent, his large eyes smiling, his mighty horns pointed skywards like little mountains protruding from his head. ‘The small rodents are born in the fields, live off the crops planted in the fields, die in the fields, then feed the crops they once lived off. We are much alike, vulture flock, we both pick our carcasses clean; we both complete the cycle of life for other denizens. The only difference is I come in before they’ve perished; you flock come in after the deed’s been done. You perform a service for the Earth that most don’t dare think of, and it’s a beautiful service indeed.’
He gave them the official word of welcome then, and told the flock of a prime nesting ground in the northern end of the river valley where the jungle encroached down the slope around the last stretch of the Wanaque River. Perhaps he told them of this location because he knew of the heron and he didn’t want competition in the way of crawdad slaying, or perhaps he was simply happy to have the company of another mystic in the valley. Regardless, the very next day the flock came upon the slain carcass of a whitetail deer. It was totally intact, aside from what appeared to be a mink-sized burrow into its guts and a cavity at the burrow’s end, but that didn’t perturb them. The first Rite of Renewal was performed that day, and though the owl slept when it happened, he witnessed it in his dream from the perspective of a jay who happened to be flying by. The Vultress visited him that night and did not sleep, nor did the owl hunt; they merely shared in the channel and discussed their theories of where life came from, where one might go after passing through the great transition, why the giants naturally know to care for the land. ‘Twas a lovely and mystical night, one The Vultress still remembers clearly even all these cycles later.
‘His horns were a bit pointier back then,’ The Vultress reflects pleasantly, though Hilaetos could not care less if he tried. ‘They’ve dulled with age, though his mind has only grown sharper.’
[to be cont’d]
This has been the beginning of the ninth subchapter of the second chapter of The Monksville Chronicles. Here is everything you need to know about it:
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