Flocked JP 30
Ryan Watt
(11 reviews)
Once Upon A Time... kingdoms in trouble had to wait for a wandering hero to come along and save the ... Show More
Adventure, Comedy, Cross-Genre, Fantasy, High Fantasy
Fairy Tale, Guild, Magic, birds, curses, Champions

King Hunt

Once upon a time, the morning sun rose over a farmer’s house. Inside, a wife asked her husband, “How are the crops looking?” The husband replied, “Fine, fine,” annoyed at her asking. He had done little to prepare for the harvest, which would be here soon. He knew he should, he simply couldn’t be bothered. Still, he marched out to the field, and wondered how long until he could take a break to eat his lunch. A voice broke his thoughts. “Hello, there. I see you are disinclined to work again today.” He looked up. It was a large buzzard, sitting on the tree just above his crops.
              The three peahens stood in a ring around a strange orb, clear with a blue green tint, and a large peacock feather eye suspended in the center. It glittered and dazzled on its pedestal. Oleg watched transfixed. He could feel the aether flowing between Akuti, Bahua, and Chetna and the orb. Eventually, the orb lifted and began to spin rapidly, throwing off blue sparks.
“The Centeye is one of the relics provided to us by Fai Hera, may she ever rest,” Arjun said. He stood on Oleg’s right, watching the proceedings. “An ancestor of mine decreed long ago that only the peahens may use it, and bound many powers of the Adytum to that. It was one way we tried to balance our powers.”
“Its nature is prophecy, you said?” Oleg asked.
“Not prophecy. Vision. It is said to be fashioned from one of Argus’s ever watchful eyes. It allows them to try to view things external to the Adytum, to see threats from outside.”
As they conversed, the spinning slowed down greatly and the orb dropped back into place.
Did it work? Taree chirped from Oleg’s left shoulder.
“No. It still will not show us the Buzzard King,” Bahula sighed, eyes still closed.
“Why is this one being so well shielded from our gaze?” Chetna asked. “It does not make sense? We can see demons when they threaten us. We can see animals that wander near to us.”
“Perhaps…” Oleg began, but stopped himself. Arjun turned his head and looked at Oleg, compelling him to continue. “Perhaps he is not a threat any longer? Maybe we did successfully deter him?” Even as he said it, Oleg did not believe the words. He had seen, he had heard, the Buzzard’s declarations. This wasn’t over.
Maybe he isn’t a big enough threat? Taree offered.
“Oh, I like that idea,” Cyril said. He stood on the other side of the room. Friday perched on his shoulder. The parrot-spirit had recovered well in the last two days, but was preferring to remain in his bird form. “But I doubt it is true.”
The three peahens broke their circle and stepped down from the platform on Arjun’s side. They were in the top room of a tower on the northern side of the adytum, on the outskirts of what Oleg considered to be the city. This top room, open on most of the sides to the night air, must have symbolic connection to seeing, which is why they used it for the Centeye.
Arjun groaned. “We must continue fortifying then. I do not like the idea that Kanika believes this struggle shall make us stronger, however, I will not prove her wrong by not protecting us.”
“If he attacks again,” Cyril said, walking around the raised platform to join the rest of the group, “we will need more aerial support. More archers, or those who can cast spells skyward. That was where we were weakest when we attacked him before.”
I still say we need to take the fight to him, Friday declared.
But we do not know where he is! Taree countered.
“A group of guards returned from his nest last night,” Akuti said. “They found it empty. The pool of dark magic gone.”
“A most troubling thought,” Chetna added.
Cyril inhaled a deep breathed, nearly whistling through his nose. “Then we shall have to start scouting for him.”
“Do not worry, Taree, we will all be scouting, not only you,” he smiled down at her.
That’s not what I was going to- I have an idea. To go and find us some aerial support. May I?
Oleg still did not like the idea of Taree heading out on her own, but she was proving more and more capable, so he held his tongue from trying to invite himself along.
“Permission granted. Please, be careful though.”
I will, she said. It sounded almost like she was annoyed at the thought that she wouldn’t be, despite her past trips. She was growing up, Oleg realized, with a smile.
“In the meantime, I think Oleg and I should head to the village again. See if there have been any new sightings or reports of Buzzard King.”
“Go with the blessings of our mistress, Sir Cyril,” Arjun said, Oleg noting the resolute, yet concerned face he wore.
              The village of Alharabe showed more life as Cyril and Oleg hiked back into it the next morning. The market was full of people, selling and buying with no sign of stress or fear. A child cried, but due to a broken doll, and not from terror from the skies.
“Quite the change,” Oleg said. It was clear he didn’t trust it.
“Something doesn’t add up, does it?” Cyril asked. Oleg shook his head, and readjusted the strap of the bow slung over his back.
“They are acting like they aren’t under assault from a devil bird,” Oleg said.
“They are acting like that, because the alternative is cowering in fear forever.”
The boys turned. Anthona walked up to them with a basket full of food. Her brother stood next to her.
“How are you feeling?”
“Better. Mother wanted me to rest more, but like everyone else here, I need to fight back in any way I can, and this is what I chose. One step at a time, you know?” She stopped speaking and looked back and forth between the two rescuers and the ground. “So, what brings you back to our village?”
“Well, we are trying to track down your kidnapper,” Cyril said plainly, not sure how she would take the answer. “We thought maybe there would be reports or rumors going around town.”
She twisted her head slightly. “Thank you, but you do not have to. Valdas is staying in town for the rest of the week to make sure he doesn’t return for me.”
“For which we are glad,” Oleg said, stepping forward before Cyril could say anything. “We trust him to do that better than we could. We need to track him down to ensure he cannot complete his plan to eradicate a fae court.”
“Anty, please,” the brother said, looking up at her. “Can’t we help them?”
“Yes, of course, we can,” she bowed her head. “I shall take you to the mayor. He is meeting with Valdas now.”
She led them through the streets, past the meeting hall they had first met the townfolks in a few days earlier, and up to a simple, two-story building near it. She left them with an aide in the front room. The mayor agreed to meet them within a few minutes, and they were ushered into a small office space, furnished more with parchments than furniture. Valdas rose from his chair as they entered.
Cyril made introductions, and explained to the pair their mission.
“Noble of you,” Valdas said. “Have you decided you will slay the beast when you encounter it?”
“I have not. I do not know what end will come of this Call yet, other than keeping my clients safe,” Cyril bristled. Valdas had a point. He did not have any better of an idea what would stop the Buzzard King from attacking the Court of Refuge, aside from killing him.
“I admire your commitment to help,” the mayor said. “However, shouldn’t the protection of the fae lay in the hands of the fae? Are there no other Courts to assist them?”
“We are happy to help on our own trajectory,” Oleg explained. Something about his tone told Cyril he had an idea, but did not want to share it.
“Then how can we assist you?” the mayor said, clearly hoping to end this meeting quickly. Why he was willing to help hire one guild, but to not assist another guild for free?
“Have there been any reports of the Buzzard King in the last few days?”
“Not a one. This is the longest stretch between sightings of him we have had yet,” the mayor answered.
“Valdas, as you are staying around, would you be willing to help us try to track him down?” Cyril asked.
Valdas laughed. “If I were still assigned to slay the beast, I would accompany you, for sure. However, that would be because I would need your help to track it down.”
“Us?” Cyril exclaimed.
“Of course! Who better to track down a bird than the Guild of Feathers, right?”
Cyril and Oleg exchanged a glace. Oleg shrugged, as if to say he had a point.
“Thank you,” Cyril said, preparing to stand up.
“Oh, one last thing? More of a personal request,” Oleg said quickly. “Segura is much closer to Port Lyr than the other threshold we have been using from the adytum. Is there a way we can post a message back to our headquarters to let our colleagues know how we are doing?”
The mayor agreed, with a weary sigh and began to explain how to reach the post office, while Cyril wondered what Oleg was thinking.
              A day later, the pair came to a stop as they walked through the farm fields outside of the town. They scanned the skies around, but possibly due to the high sun, but likely due to there being nothing there, they saw nothing. They continued walking.
“So, what was in the letter you wrote?” Cyril asked.
“Mostly the same as the last one I wrote them, but I added a plea for them to deliver.”
“A plea?”
Oleg nodded. “Yes. To Pansy Reeva. To see if maybe she could convince her Fai to help us.”
“How would they even be able to help us?”
Oleg shrugged. “Dawn reaches here too, right? There might be a way. It’s worth a try. Besides, if it works, it might be another way to help Arjun strengthen his people, by forging ties to another Court.”
“Clever,” Cyril said. He wondered what Arjun would say to that. He could see the King being annoyed that they were courting another Court behind his back. However, if anyone in the guild could successfully convince a Fai to help, it would be Oleg. And this one had already been so helpful to Torias and Viktor.”
As they continued to walk, they passed several farms. One famer, working hard on his field, rose and waved at them as they passed. If it weren’t for the looming threat of a demonic bird, Cyril would have enjoyed this peaceful walk in a quiet countryside.
“So where do you look for a Buzzard King who has fled his home?” Cyril asked. “I suspect his needs would be to secure a new roost, and to secure hunting grounds. Open fields like this, or the forests ahead, might make a good spot for the later.”
“Keep in mind he may also be looking to find another woman to marry him and complete his transformation.”
“I know the idea sounds… out there, even for our lives, but does his idea have… merit?”
“It is an interesting theory, I agree, if unsettling,” Oleg agreed. “If I was back at the Akademia, this would have been something I would have researched for longer than any of my mentors would have liked. If true that simply loving a being enough were all it took to cause such transformation… well, then maybe my siblings would have a much easier time than I expected. And like he said, there is precedence. Not just those cases he mentioned.”
“What cases are you thinking of?”
“Well, for starters, most of our curses. My father embracing my mother resolved her curse. Your sister and Torias’s, completing huge tasks to resolve your curses. Joringel fetching that flower and bringing it, a token of love, to Jorinda. What if love really were the catalyst for ending bird curses?”
“Now that is a theory I could support! But would it work for broken curses? What about Taree?”
“There are a lot of ifs. This is just something I have been musing over for a few days. There is a relevant chapter in that book of curses we lifted from Koschei. It talks about the Curse’s Sigil, its core. I plan to reread it when I return.”
Cyril looked to the sky again. Less because he thought he might see the Buzzard King circling, but more because he wanted to try and take his mind off of the glimmer of hope this gave him. While he liked the idea that love might somehow cure him of his wing, how could anyone fall in love with him while he bore such a deformity. “Let’s try the forest.”
They walked at a quicker clip until they entered the forest, grateful for some shade.
“Vultures circle, looking for dead things to eat.” Oleg offered this bit of information without context.
“So, we either need to find a dead thing to attract his attention, or kill something to do so,” Cyril said.
“Killing something seems a little extreme, and unfair to whatever we would kill, but it could work. I’d rather suggest we get to higher ground. Maybe we can spot him better.”
Cyril liked anything that put off the decision of whether to kill something or not. So far, he had been proud of the fact that the guild had not killed any of their adversaries. People had died, but none by their hands. He had killed people, before he joined the Order, and between joining and forming the Guild. They had been necessary. Duels to the death. He had saved lives doing it, and would do it again, but he hated it. He wanted to find other ways. He wanted there to be another way here with the Buzzard King.
“There,” Oleg said, pointing. They had climbed up high enough on a hill to get a good look down across the forest and over the plains.
A vulture, light brown and white circled over a small valley. Circling was not quite right. While most vultures Cyril had seen moved with the air currents, coasting to conserve energy on long flights to find food, this one seemed to be moving erratically. It changed suddenly to a different direction, would circle a little, then suddenly fly straight higher or lower.
“What is he doing?” Cyril asked. “Assuming it is him.”
“Has the same feel of magic to him, I checked. Size is about right, though I have less of a sense of scale from here.”
“Can you fire an arrow from here? Draw his attention?”
Oleg looked askance at Cyril and nodded. He unslung his fae bow and drew an arrow from the air. He let it fly, clearly on a trajectory to pass in front of the buzzard. Cyril said a silent word to the powers to not let the vulture change path again suddenly.
The powers must have heard. The arrow flew true, bursting in a small light show a few meters in front of the vulture. It screamed and looked around. It began to swoop towards them as soon as it saw them.
“Now what?” Oleg said, preparing to generate another arrow.
“Let’s find out,” Cyril said, drawing his sword.
Log in to add a comment or review for this chapter Chapter updated on: 6/4/2017 3:26:13 PM
  • J.A. Waters commented on :
    7/4/2017 1:20:09 PM
    Farmer dude, you should know better than to talk to buzzards. Because one you maybe need to go inside and rest because you're hallucinating, or two you live in a magical ... Show More
    • Ryan Watt Yeah, this is going to be a bit of victim blaming here, but Farmer dude kind of asked for all this trouble in his life. Dude is not bad, but far from a good person.
      7/4/2017 5:09:49 PM
  • Jennifer Flath commented on :
    6/14/2017 11:19:15 PM
    So many things are almost happening but not quite. I don't even know what to be most hopeful or concerned about. I expect Taree to come through with the win, though. Always Taree.
    • Ryan Watt It's definitely a lot of set up here, to be sure. But necessary. Taree's idea is good, but will it actually help?
      6/14/2017 11:26:38 PM
    • Jennifer Flath Of course it will! Don't pretend like Taree doesn't win all the things.
      6/15/2017 4:37:24 AM