Birds of Prey
Two beings inhabit The Dome.
They are Barciro and The Wikler.
Green Turtle Pond
The osprey meets the owl at North Cove. They land upon the branch scored by talons and the beak of an ambitious seagull, the very branch upon which The Vultress told her stories many times earlier in the day. The night’s chill seizes the air as the two Birds of Prey stare intently into one another’s eyes, one another’s souls, neither backing down, neither relinquishing dominance, neither so much as blinking a single eye. Then, the witch doctor balances on one taloned foot, spans his wings wide, and swivels his head ‘round and ‘round, releasing a series of ethereal hoots. The osprey submits, bending his legs in a bow.
‘High Lord Hilaetos,’ sends the witch doctor, returning to mortal perch.
‘High Lúaloch,’ sends the osprey, holding his bow.
A bright sliver of moon emerges from behind the tall snowcapped mountain, painting the lake a ghostly silver.
‘What reason have you for your quarrel with the keep you perch and serve, Lord Hilaetos? Is The Sticks not vast enough for your liking? Do you have nowhere to roost?’
‘The Sticks is a grand keep, Lúaloch, and The Basin a spectacular courtyard. I’m very grateful for my position on this lake, you know it to be true; my quarrel is not with any of Monksville’s kingdoms, especially not my own, but with those who lie outside the jungle in which I roost at night.’
‘The hawks of the scarlet tails, yes,’ Lúaloch sends, bobbing his head in a nod. ‘They’ve outgrown their home along the river which feeds our lake, it seems.’
‘Not so, witch doctor.’
Lúaloch waits for the osprey to expound, but the Sea Hawk seems content with his statement. ‘Then why do they flock to our waters, Lord Hilaetos?’
At this ridiculous remark, from a flapper of wing so exalted as Monksville’s screeching nocturne no less, the osprey cannot help but roll his tired eyes. Lúaloch waits patiently on the branch, getting ready to swivel his head again if need be.
‘These waters are not ours, High Lúaloch, you know it as well as I do. We occupy these trees on borrowed time; sooner or later we shall all perish, none know that better than you. Our lives are sustained on the death of lesser beings, and I don’t mean to change that in the slightest – nothing brings me joy like snagging a lakebreather and emerging from the water in the fashion of High Dopper – but our position here is not guaranteed.’
The owl closes his eye of blurred sight and looks the osprey up and down with the other. ‘You seem different to me tonight, Lord Hilaetos, changed in your mind. These notions you send of, these are thoughts I’ve received from The Vultress. What brought you to these conclusions?’
‘I suppose I’ve always felt this way, High Lúaloch, ever since the day of my hatching. To eat we must first kill, and when we are killed it’s done unto us so something larger may eat as well. Whether that something larger be a proud wingflapper, a hairy landwalker, the slimiest of lakebreathers, or even the Mother Monksville herself, our death sustains the life of another. It is so because a higher intelligence makes it so.’
Lúaloch nods in patient understanding but fails to see where this is going; so much is apparent in his stare, as blank as the look on any ‘munkie’s face.
‘We exclude the hawks from our flocking grounds for what reason, their flock is large in number? They’ve been meaning to roost here since many and many’a cycle ago, and no matter how many of them are chased off, they keep coming back. Something is bringing them here, do you not see? Perhaps it is foolish to fly against the wind.’
The screeching nocturne cannot sigh, so he droops his horns instead. As the landscape darkens around Lord Hilaetos, it only grows clearer in the eyes of the owl.
‘You speak so surely on matters of which you know nothing about, Lord Hilaetos. I do admire your conviction and envy your confidence, but I am afraid I must break both. There are things you do not know about the hawk flock and the vulture flock, a certain history you’d do very well to learn.’
The osprey sends, ‘I’m all ears,’ and fails to fight the temptation to chwirk at the irony; although, if birds were to communicate with sounds in the physical realm like the doting landwalkers, perhaps the wind would blow differently. Perhaps things would be better.
Or perhaps they would be worse.
‘Long ago, before the giants herded to the valley, I was the lone resident of what now is The Sticks. The ‘munkies ran rampant and the squirrels nested in the trees as Birds of Prey do now. I had a hollow, similar to my home near Muskellunge Cove, but not as grand, not as deep. During that time, the vultures flocked to Green Turtle Pond and held perch there, much like they do in The Sticks now. But that all changed when the hawk flock arrived.
‘A mighty creature, a reptilian goliath with a shell of armor and jaws that could split a tree trunk lived at the bottom of that pond. It did not have a name, not one The Vultress could find – she probed his mind from time to time, shared the channel with the turtle, but it rarely sent any thought. Didn’t seem to receive any, either, although that much is impossible to know. The pond belonged to the turtle and the vultures were its guests, and they knew it beyond truth. Other turtles occupied this pond with the behemoth, turtles of smaller shell and more tepid temper, turtles that would sooner eat of the coontail stalks which sprout from the pond’s floor than so much as nibble on the leg of another denizen. The only rule was to refrain from consuming the smaller turtles, and the vulture flock obeyed – only after they perished would the vultures pick the carcasses, and from the behemoth’s single rule The Vultress’s religion has its roots. Her flockers fell into it immediately, grateful for an explanation for why they, unlike most other flappers of wing, crave the taste of rancid deaded meat. They lived together in harmony for many cycles, the vultures and the turtles, engaging in a certain kind of symbiosis that neither I nor The Vultress have seen since.’
The osprey wonders, privately, when the witch doctor would have seen any symbiosis between other species, for he’s not left the spread of Monksville once since the osprey himself arrived.
[to be cont’d]
This has been the beginning of the fourteenth subchapter of the second chapter of The Monksville Chronicles. Here is everything you need to know about it:
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~