They hold watch over The Beast.
It came from within The Gleam.
The ice capping Monksville is thin and brittle; above, the clouds are dark and full. The wind howls with the ferocity of a rabid wolf, but the snow does not fall. Not yet.
With a gimpy wing, a hanging beak, and a broken leg which dangles and swings like a dead twig attached only by the fibres of its bark, the captain of the dayguard flaps haphazardly to the edge of The Sticks. His flight is erratic, pained, uncontrolled, he dips and rises like a lost feather carried by the wind; as he approaches his branch, he fears he will fall short of making perch. Behind him the croons and squawks of his gullflock clash with the raging war shrieks of the Red Hawk Flock. They have invaded The Sticks; judgement day has come to The Basin in full form. The channel is gaping open, swollen from the heat of the battle even on this, the coldest day since the Monksville Reservoir’s first winter.
‘They’re here, they’ve really come,’ Choridae sends to nobird in particular. ‘I must find Lord Hilaetos, he must be warned before it is too late.’
He approaches the branch and tries to make perch, but his left wing is badly clipped. Choridae comes within a beak’s reach of the branch then plummets, having just enough time to send a thought of apology and gratitude to his Lord of The Sticks before he shatters the flimsy ice and joins his many brethren in the metaphorical belly of the beast. Little does the gull Choridae know there lurks a real beast beneath the surface, The Beast, who awaits his fall eagerly, its monstrous maw stretched open, its jagged razor teeth fiending for the taste of yet another denizen’s soul. Its hunger will never cease, its thirst for blood will never be quenched, and the unfeeling pit in its center will never be filled.
Lysander swoops in with blinding speed and catches the gull on his back. The Beast howls with rage, then all thoughts are consumed by the buzz. It ventures deep into The Sticks, eyes bloodshot and fins whipping, and begins to feast on the fallen.
Above the freezing water Lysandra waits on a fallen tree caught by two others, suspended there like a bridge built by giants. The gull hops off the eagle’s back and tries to gain his bearings, but then hobbles and teeters near the edge. Lysander catches him with a spanned brown wing and guides him back to the center of the log. It’s then that the eagles notice the red gash spanning the gull’s belly – the male eagle is rendered thoughtless, unable to send a single sentiment.
Lysandra, on the other wing, manages just fine. She slowly approaches him with tears freezing as they stream down her white face feathers, sending, ‘Highest Choridae, what happened to you?’
‘It’s the damned hawks,’ Choridae sends as a steady shiver takes him. ‘The Red Hawk Flock, they’ve come. We tried to fight, high pair eagles, believe me we did, all of us. The young, the old, even I – as their captain I had every chance to escape when the feathers began to fly, I gave my orders and I had safe passage to the Northern Leg, but I stayed. I stayed and fought, I was among the first wave to respond to the assault, I had to defend my flock, but… there were too many. Are too many. The dayguard doesn’t stand a chance. Where… where is…’
Choridae’s pale eyes begin to flutter and his head nods back and forth. The pair eagles shriek in unison, bringing their friend back to the forefront.
‘Where is Lord Hilaetos? They’ve come for him, surely that’s why they’re here. We must warn him, before it’s too late!’
The eagles look gravely to one another with a bitter kind of realization in their eyes. Then, from the mind of Lysander, ‘Worry not, Highest Choridae, we shall find the Sea Hawk. You’ve done well today, your work is complete – save yourself and take flight, do not stop until you reach the Southern Expanse.’
‘The Southern Expanse?’ Choridae sends doubtfully. ‘But those waters belong to the Birds of Lake, I cannot–’
‘You can and you must,’ Lysandra firmly sends. She bends low and gently caresses Choridae’s little head with her own. ‘Find the vulture flock, they will take care of you and provide shelter. We shall join you in due time.’
‘High pair eagles, what do you mean to do?’
The eagles look to one another again with those same grave hazel eyes, but not in realization. They look to one another now with a sad kind of certainty and knowing, an acceptance of a fate which has long been flapping their way.
‘We mean to join you as soon as we can, Choridae,’ sends Lysander. An orchestra of wild shrieks and kee-awws batter the ears of all those perched in The Sticks. ‘Yes, just as soon as we can. That is my promise.’
With his promise made, Lysander spans his mighty wings and takes flight to the treeline beyond the grassy eastern shores of The Basin. Lysandra looks into the pale yellow eyes of Choridae and sends no thought; there is no need for such formalities, not now. She helps the captain of the dayguard to his feet, placing the tip of one wing under his lacerated belly to steady him, and watches him take off. The flight is a totter at best, but he makes it to the giants’ footbridge well enough. As soon as the whites of his tailfeathers (and the red flowing over them) disappear under the bridge, she flaps wing to join Lysander in roost.
Far behind Lysandra, three hawks follow in triangle formation, their talons all smeared a deeper scarlet than their tails. Snowflakes begin to fall from the stormclouds.
This has been the first subchapter of the third chapter of The Monksville Chronicles. Here is everything you need to know about it:
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If you’re there, hypothetical reader, thank you for being there. From this day on, we move forever forward~