One such group is the Guild of the Feathers. Most of them are survivors of curses that turned into birds, so who better to help you than someone who has been there already and survived?
Flocked updates Sundays and is divided into volumes:
Ch1-60 - Vol1: "The Guild of the Feathers" Missing Princesses, Legendary Birds, and a possibly Immortal Sorcerer are all jobs the Guild is hired to contend with, but the greater challenge may be facing their own troubled pasts.
Ch61-current - Vol2: "Chain of Wings" - The guild members are more determined than ever to learn about curses to deal with the lingering remnants of their own. But a witch, who trades in curses, would rather study them first hand. Show Less
Cyril the Cygnus
Chapter 1 - Cyril the Cygnus
“And so we are clear on the terms of this job?” The King, a man of who had seen more days in a throne than out in a field, but whose eyes were still sharp as a hawk's, peered down at the man kneeling in front of him. “You and yours shall have three nights to resolve the curse afflicting my sweet daughters and go home with favor, or else forfeit your reward and...”
“We are clear, your Majesty.” The man hazarded a guess it was time to raise his gaze. He met the hawk-eyes of the king, who narrowed them further, then nodded. The supplicant rose to his feet.
He was of no great height, but his presence made him as imposing as someone who was. His sandy blond hair, short, made a fashionable statement along with the slightly pointed goatee on his chin. Eyes were of a pale blue, lacking the usual intensity of that color. Most of the man's body hid behind a cloak of a rich red color that bespoke nobility as well as denoted an experience with arms. It was speckled with dried mud near the bottom. Several clasps, fastened near the neck, held the left side firmly in place, but allowed the right side to flap open as the man needed. He did so, revealing a brown and red leather vest and an empty scabbard underneath. With a sweep of the arm out of the cloak, he bowed his head with his arm extended to the side. It was not a unique bow, but far removed from the kingdoms that typically used it.
“I was initially going to submit a Call to the Order of Champions, but they can take a while to respond, so I decided to chance it and ask one of these new Guilds to help me out. My daughters are precious to me, more precious than any of my other possessions. I need this curse stopped as soon as possible."
“We feel the same way, Your Majesty,” he replied. It was true, he and the members of his Guild of the Feathers all had reasons to detest curses. However, he doubted he could find any individual who would say they enjoyed having been subject to one.
“I chose your guild, out of the three, because I like that you yourself are a nobleman, is that not correct, Sir Cyril?” The ornated champion said it was. The King continued. “I like that. While I am certain the other two guilds are capable as well, it feels better knowing I have a fellow noble on the case. Are any others in your guild nobles?”
“One other, sir. Oleg is a prince like myself. Our other two members have both been raised at court.” It was only partially true, but Cyril needed to seal this deal. “I know that for many, choosing to Call on a guild feels uncomfortable. They are used to the Order of Champions. I assure you, as I myself am an ornated Champion, I will ensure the same quality of handling your family's curse. Possibly even better.”
“Yes, true. You would know what it is like to be under a curse, better than anyone, would you not?” The King stroked his beard. “After all, it is true that you are the same Cyril, Prince of Rhine, who was once cursed yourself. Is the tale I have heard about your curse and what it left you true?”
Cyril shifted his weight, tucking his arm back under his cloak. “Without knowing the exact tale you heard, I cannot fully say. I can confirm that I am that Prince and that my family. So you understand why helping those under curses is what I have sworn to do. Yet, I assure you that I am more than just what you may have heard. My story does not end there.”
“Excellent. I think that settles it. As long as that other matter is acceptable to you and yours, then we are agreed. I tire of wishing luck to Agents of the Order of Champions, Sir Cyril. But I tire more of worrying over the health and safety of my children. They are innocent and I intend to keep them way, at any cost. I hope you and your team are up for this task and shan’t disappoint me.”
“Nor shall we, Your Majesty,” Cyril declared, and to himself thought, we can't afford to.
The evening found Cyril sitting forward in an elegant chair that was designed more for opulence than comfort, in a foyer outside the East Wing apartments that belonged to the King's twelve daughters. For months now, each night the princesses, despite being locked into their rooms with none entering nor exiting all night and no sounds emanating from the chambers, somehow spend the whole night active. Yet they recall nothing in the morning about what had happened. No one knew how or why. It was a job, and it was the Guild's nature to take the jobs, complete them, and return home to await the next job. This job just had higher stakes.
A grandfather clock opposite him chimed nine. Almost at once a procession began to file in. Two guards in uniforms that were more ostentatious than functional led the line. Behind them were the twelve princesses, in a kaleidoscope of colors in their dresses – full of bustles and pleats and a couple diaphanous trains. They appeared to get older as the line progressed, and their faces bore various shades of nervous anticipation. Behind the eldest daughter, dark hair done up in a striking but garish style, came the King and two further guards.
The lead two guards entered the girls' apartment and the rest paused outside. The guards exited and nodded to their King. He in turn kissed each daughter on the forehead before they entered their chambers. Once all were inside, the King closed the doors personally and locked them. The key he handed to Cyril with a look of deadly severity. He and the guards then strode away, leaving Cyril to the quiet of the atrium.
Half an hour later the girl's nurse came up to him.
“Sir, I have brought you some water in case you might get thirsty during your vigil.” She said, casting a concerned eye at the door.
Cyril snaked his right arm out from under the cloak, took the glass, and thanked her. “It can't be easy for you to be away from them.” He smiled warmly to her. It was a look he genuinely felt, but was unsure of how to display on his face.
“No, sir, it isn't. I hadn't spent a night apart from them since young Viola was born. Aye, if only I had figured out what had happened to them when all this began. I failed the King, and he isn't quick to forgive.”
“Do you have any thoughts as to what is happening to them? Why every night they exhaust themselves, and ruin their shoes without making a sound and with no recollection?”
She pulled her head back at the statement. He figured no one had ever asked her for her opinion before, based on how the King seemed to treat people around him.
“I, I really do not. That is why I was forced to... I'm sorry sir. Please, do what you can.” Bowing her head with a sigh, she made towards the servants staircase behind a nearby hidden door.
Cyril raised the glass to his lips, but a new sound pulled his mind away. In a tree just outside the open window at the end of the foyer, a tiny bird's newly arrived weight bent a branch underneath her. Cyril walked up to the window and extended his hand. The bird, a pitta whose feathers glistened in seven colors in the candle light, happily flew to it and perched on his palm.
“Anything?” He asked. Inwardly, he braced himself for her response.
Excusing this one, no windows open on the third floor, Cyril.
The words were truly just chirps and tweets, but old magic within Cyril translated them. The curses the two of them shared, had one benefit, the power to understand the speech of birds, although for Cyril now it only allowed him to understand cursed birds.
“Signs of anyone else on the floor?”
The bird cocked her head to the side. Cyril sighed. He forgot sometimes that, despite her nature, Taree had the least magical sense of any of their Guild.
“Continue to keep watch outside for me, for as long as you are able. Then go and check in with Torias and Oleg. I want everyone on the same page in case I don't solve this tonight and one of them tries tomorrow night.” Cyril had to appreciate any help he could get from Taree, normally a strictly diurnal creature. Taree nodded and flew back out the window; Cyril resumed his chair and was alone with his thoughts.
Waiting like this was usually the worst. He had spent too much of his life, waiting for things to happen. A year in hiding from his step-mother. Three years of watching his sister from a distance, hoping she could save him. Two years of waiting for someone to bring him good news about his condition before giving up. He left home some seven years ago, deciding that what he needed was to stop waiting and take action. Looking up at the clock, he wondered when something would finally happen.
At precisely 10:30, it finally did. A large amount of chattering sounds, the kind Cyril exclusively associated with a large group of women talking at once, came from inside the front room just beyond the locked door. And then a creak and a thud, of something large hitting the floor.
The voices abated just before he had the key pulled out and the door opened. What he found inside was an empty room with an open trapdoor in the middle. He ran to it and peered inside. A stone stairwell descended deeply, a real architectural miracle since directly below this room was the grand ballroom.
As narrow as it was, he would need more mobility. With the confidence that no one was around to see, Cyril undid the clasp of the cloak and quickly unfurled it around his body clockwise, dropping it at his feet. This act revealed his condition, the last remaining shard from his broken curse. From his left shoulder hung loosely a large white swan wing instead of an arm. Thusly unencumbered, he descended the stairs. He touched the joint of shoulder and wing with his eyes closed and a hum to himself before descending.
The stone steps wound down for half a kilometer, and distantly down the echoing flight, he could hear the princesses's voices again. The bottom of the stairs entered into an enormous cavern chamber, larger than Cyril had thought possible. It seemed to stretch for miles. And in the first part of it, where the stairs emerged, a petrified forest.
“Strange curse. Are they forced to walk all night through this forest? Is that what wears their shoes?” He smiled to himself. This, this running through the unknown, was what he loved most about the job. Calls to Agents of the Order almost always had a lengthy list of unknowns that tickled the adventurer in his heart. Even if his main reason to take jobs was to help people, he couldn't deny that the mysteries were part of why he did this.
No less than a hundred meters into the forest, the path widened out as a pair of empty armors stood guard. Cyril slowed down, he had seen this kind of enchantment before. They would not let anyone pass who did not meet criteria set by their master.
“Whosoever approaches: Name thyself.” Sensing his approach, the Sentinels had turned towards him. They had also shifted their arms in their smooth, yet non-organic, way to rest on the hilts of their swords. If he failed to answer, or to answer truthfully they would dispatch him.
“I am Cyril. Agent of the Order of Champions and the Guild of the Feathers.” He gripped his winged shoulder with his good hand and used the one magic within him. With a grunt of discomfort, the wing detached from his body. Feathers began to glow, and flurry off into the air before disappearing, while others collapsed and condensed into a beautiful sword. Ghastly green fires flickered in the Sentinel's eye sockets as they appraised him.
“Thou who bear the mark of Caim are permitted to pass.” With that said, they turned back to their original position.
“Mark of Caim?” Cyril repeated to himself, confused. Realizing he had already wasted enough time, he took off running, sword still in hand.
Moving as quickly as he could, Cyril tried to catch up with the Princesses. By the time he caught sight of them, they had emerged from the forest onto a lake shore. A petrified wood dock jutted into the water where twelve boats were moored. Each had a man with regal, yet outdated, garb and a masquerade mask waiting. The men lifted one princess each into their boat just as Cyril broke free of the tree line. By the time he began walking up the dock, they had shoved off and were well on their way across the lake, to the distant island with a palace of bronze.
With no other boats, and only one arm, Cyril had no chance of following them.
“Shan’t disappoint, I said...”