Birds of Prey
Two beings inhabit The Dome.
They are Barciro and The Wikler.
The Great Transition
‘Jemcis, my queen,’ sends Mousetalon upon landing on the plateau. Scartail joins him shortly after and bows low, his beak a feather’s width from the rock.
‘Scouts,’ Queen Jemcis sends, solitary in her nest. The Wanaque River babbles below, the sound of its undulating flow soothing to the ears of the tired hawks. ‘What report do you have for me?’
The brothers hawk look to each other from the sides of their sepia eyes, never facing away from their queen. She roosts alone in her nest this evening and their king is nowhere to be found. A peculiar energy grips the air, they can all feel it, though one pretends not to. Another hawk circles above, a hawk with shoulders feathered as its tail should be.
‘Where is King Beuto?’
The queen sends nothing, she merely gazes down at her scouts with eyes half-shut, appearing sleepy, but the scouts know better. The queen eats well daily, better than the brothers hawk ate today – she’s ample energy for an attack, and if it comes – when it comes – it shall come suddenly and unprovoked. A shriek echoes from above, driving peculiarity into graveness.
‘The vultures and gulls perch sneakily beneath the canopy,’ sends Scartail. His brother looks to him warily and turns back to see the queen staring at him with eyes that strike like lightning. ‘When soaring in the clouds we didn’t see much, the Res’ appeared empty and barren. But when we swooped low and took perch in North Cove, we saw them – they perch on the shoreline and in the trees which grow there. They likely appear as invisible to the surfaceswimming lakebreathers as they did to us.’
The hawk queen turns her head to face Scartail with a look that drives a tremor through his bones. He wants to look to his brother for comfort, support, anything, but he simply cannot.
‘You landed in North Cove?’
‘Yes, High Queen Jemcis, w–’
‘And were you spotted?’
The brothers hawk taste fear writhing in their beaks. They swallow it in awkward unison, making a loud gulp.
Mousetalon is the one to send. ‘We were, High Queen Jemcis, and we were pursued by buzzard and gull alike. They made attempts at our lives but we outmaneuvered them easily enough. We were followed into the Southern Expanse, but as we neared the beavers’ dam they relented their pursuit.’
Jemcis processes this, peering skywards as she does. She makes no attempt to hide this peering. ‘And then you returned?’
Another side-eyed glance goes shared by the brothers hawk. The blood of the red-tailed queen boils.
‘Enough stalling, send it!’
‘We made a detour, my queen,’ sends Scartail, ‘to the forests of the wildlands, far past where the giants settle. The food is ample there and the skies are unguarded, it seems to be a land of splendor. We could likely flock there today without retribution if we move swiftly enough. The opportunity may nev–’
‘You disobeyed me, then.’ The queen peers to the sky again and the channel closes for a moment, or rather it narrows. The brothers hawk, more aware of the change than oblivious to it, splay their flight feathers in a show of nervous aggression. It’s a poor show, one not taken kindly by their queen.
‘With all due respect,’ once his feathers have flattened, ‘’twas not you who gave our orders. I ask again, where is King Beuto, my queen?’
The hawk above shrieks again, and though they can’t see it, Hawk King Laentus wears a dirty smirk beneath his blood red eyes. This should answer their question – should have answered it before it was asked, surely – but these are red-tailed hawks, and they are cultier than other Birds of Prey. They do not associate with wingflappers of other flocks, not even with other hawk flocks (well, save for one red-tail foreigner, one who demands sacrifices be made in her name); they are not very worldly and they are not very wise, and so they stay oblivious to their new king circling in the sky.
It’s now High Queen Jemcis who smirks dirtily, and the brothers hawk begin to hear the message. To drive it home, she sends, ‘The old Snake Eater has passed through the great transition, and not long after he sent you off.’
The hawk scouts go still upon receiving this thought, their blood growing chilled as the evening does the same. For a moment – a long, breathless moment – neither send a thing. They merely perch there on that flat-topped rock, that plateaued crag hanging high above the source of the Monksville and Wanaque Reservoirs, as their brains spin and a bleak ooze of mourning puts weight in their hearts. They did not love King Beuto, the old king didn’t even love himself, but he led them from the impoverished hell that was Green Turtle Pond. Though the food supply around the river is short in current cycles, it was not always like this. Beuto brought them from starvation into splendor, even though that splendor did not last long; he deserves to be mourned. He deserves a ceremony to see him off, at the very least. A vultric Rite of Renewal, mayhap, but that could never happen. Would never happen. Not after what happened before the hawks flocked Green Turtle Pond.
The extended silence puts Jemcis on edge. She lifts from the nest and flaps wing twice – once to go airborne and once to soften her landing. Between those flaps, she executes a swift glide and roll with her talons drawn and clips the wing of Mousetalon. The scout hawk is pushed back but lands on one knee – Scartail doesn’t dare look, even as his brother begins to chwirk in pain. Above, the circling hawk watches as the last fragment of daylight is swallowed up by the encroaching starpool. He watches it all with eyes as hungry as the bottomless pit in his chest.
As if nothing happened, Jemcis sends, ‘So, they have guards stationed across the Northern Leg in positions hidden to the flying eye, guards primed to pursue… how did you return?’
‘Via the Wanaque River, my queen,’ Scartail sends, his talons clenched tightly. White streaks are scored into the crag. ‘Just as instructed.’
‘And you were not chased?’
‘We heard a battle scream, likely from the bald eagles, but there was another shriek.’
The hawk queen waits patiently, her eyes wide.
‘It was not the call of a vulture, of that much I am sure. Couldn’t have been a gull either; those white-winged rats may flock with the Birds of Prey, but they are of Lake in nature. They cannot make our calls.’
The channel is quiet for a long moment. Mousetalon summons all of his strength to straighten his bent leg and stands up tall. A small trickle of blood drips down from his shoulder and stains the crag with rust. Then, Jemcis sends once more.
‘You’ve gathered very useful information for our flock, boys. Despite your full bellies and lack of an offering for your queen, I graciously thank you both. Now, begone; the king and I have much planning to do.’
‘The king?’ Scartail sends, his tone bewildered. ‘But, my queen, you said King Beu–’
A terrible war shriek from above provides Scartail his explanation. The channel closes as the scouts fly away. Mousetalon’s wingflap is a hobble and nothing else.
Snake Eater High Laentus swoops low and lands in the nest beside his queen, his scarlet shoulder feathers fluffed from the high-altitude crosswinds he rode like a leaf on a wave. The channel opens narrow and they share many thoughts. The fate of Monksville’s avian kingdom is sealed.
This has been the thirteenth subchapter of the second chapter of The Monksville Chronicles. Here is everything you need to know about it:
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