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

Next Steps

              Torias stood frozen, watching his friend pinned to the ground by a giant beast, half lion and half eagle. He needed to act. He needed to move. He wanted to. But he did not know what he could do against such a creature, with only a dagger. Nor could Jorinda’s clubs, or Kess’s cunning, hope to overpower him.
“Torias, what do we do?” Jorinda said. She threw a club while waiting for him to answer. It smacked the back of the griffon’s head. He merely turned around and clacked his beak like a laugh.
“I will deal with you all in a minute. I have been hungrily awaiting this moment for an age. Do you know how tiring it is to eat the same fish guts every day… from a bucket.” He leaned in and sniffed Viktor hard. “I thought about eating you out of that bucket, but I’d rather not wait any longer.”
Torias didn’t wait any longer either. He ran, picking up the dagger that Viktor’s mother had taken from him and charged the Griffon. He had no hope of defeating it, but he couldn’t let Viktor die. He had brought the group here, he was responsible for them. He plunged the knife into the base of the tail, deciding that maybe severing it would cause the creature balance issues.
Rascal bucked. He tried to swat Torias away with the tail, but howled out in pain instead.
“Viktor, you obnoxious moron! Fight!” Torias shouted, avoiding the tail. He drew out his other dagger and plunged it into the tendons at the base of the nearest leonine foot.
“Torias, save yourself!”
“Not what we do,” Torias grunted back. He had to light a fire in Viktor, the one that had been slowly dying over the last few months. “We help you save yourself. Now get to it already unless you want us to die here too.”
Rascal kicked with his rear legs, putting more of his weight on his front, which further pinned Viktor down. He groaned under the pressure.
“What do you expect me to do?!” Viktor cried out.
“I expect you to taste spectacularly,” Rascal said, not losing any focus from Viktor while trying to swat away the pests behind him.
“Shut up, you vile monster!” Viktor said, starting to struggle.
“That’s it, Viktor! Vial!” Torias said, cheering at the thought.
“What? But? Oh!” Viktor’s fingers could only barely reach his pocket. As the others continued to attack the rear, and the griffon’s eyes remained locked on his face, he slid the tiny bottle from his pocket and popped off the cork top. His hand trembled, but his strong muscles pushed back enough on the eagle feet that Viktor was able to make a short toss of the vial. The water of death splashed against the griffon’s stomach. Some of it dripped or fell onto Viktor’s leg as well, where it seared and burned him. But most of it soaked into the fur and feathers of his attacker.
The eagle leg on his left side jerked up in immediate reaction to the pain. Viktor swung that arm over to the right, punching and shoving the other eagle leg off his right side. He rolled away and scrambled to his feet. He could see his mother, unconscious still, sprawled out on the floor.
His anger grew: At the beast who twisted his mother, at his mother for putting him through all this, at himself for not killing the beast the first chance he had. Viktor limped as fast as he could while his side ached and burned, over to Rascal’s chains.
Viktor picked them up and swung them over his head like a rope lasso. He swung, and the chain wrapped around the griffon’s neck. He ran and leaped onto the griffon’s back, and grabbed the far end of the chain. He pulled the chain taut.
“That’s working, Viktor! Keep at it,” Kess said.
Rascal tried to buck Viktor off of him, but the pain in his belly was too great. He collapsed onto it and tried to roll over, but his movements were growing slower. Viktor pulled the chain tighter. It took another minute, but the griffon eventually ceased moving.
Still, he waited another minute longer, to make sure he wasn’t faking. Viktor then practically fell off the beast’s body and stumbled over to the others.
“Come on, let’s go,” he told the others as he bent over, groaning, to pick up his mother.
He carried her in his arms upstairs and to her bedroom. He lay her down on it before finally giving in to touch his side. The water of death had done a number. His skin where it touched had turned black.
“We need to get that looked at by Fai Eostre,” Kess said, perched on the footboard of the bed.
“No, it’s fine.”
“No questioning,” Torias said, placing as firm a hand as he could on his friend’s shoulders. “You are doing this.”
“The Call is over, Torias,” Viktor said, shrugging the hand off.
Torias grabbed the shoulder again and spun Viktor around before he could brace himself. He threw a fist, smashing it against Viktor’s face. “Since you only seem to get things when someone knocks it into your head: You are coming with us back to Lady Sunday. Consider this part of your payment to the guild. Understood?”
Torias hated taking charge like this, but it had to be done. He had to be the one to do it.
“Fine,” Viktor said. He turned to leave. As he did, his mother began to wake up.
“Vitazko?” she moaned.
“Do not call me that anymore…” he started to walk away, but stopped. “The house is yours now. Goodbye, mother.”
He left the house, with the guild trio following him. Without another word he mounted his horse. The others mounted the second. Each mount made a slight noise before taking off, riding off towards the dawn.
              The ground crunched under Oleg’s shoes as he and the others hiked up to the Threshold. The area looked barren, nearly more barren than the area outside the Threshold had been before the battle.
Several fae worked at trying to heal the ground, with spells, and planting of powerful sproutlings. Some were trying to introduce a glowing worm of some sort to the soil.
Near the portal, Fai Arjun stood, in the middle of his own magical working. Oleg stopped walking and waited for him to finish.
Is this how he re… retethers? Taree asked from Oleg’s shoulder, the one his bow was not slung over.
“Impressive,” Friday said.
The portal vanished. A moment later, it reappeared. Arjun’s shoulders slumped and he turned to the others.
“There, it is done. Prince Lago, you are sure your Lady shall not mind?”
The rabbit fae shook his head. “Far from it. She welcomes you to the neighborhood, and hopes this might help you re-establish your Court’s connections. Where have you tethered it?”
“For now, it seems to be in a canyon? I suggest someone fly out first, to make sure it is safe for the others.”
I will! Taree volunteered, flying out before anyone could say otherwise. She returned a half a minute later. It is safe to walk through. It’s far enough from the canyon. And I know the area. Shouldn’t be too hard to get home!
“Excellent. Juma, I am counting on you,” Arjun said to the parrot fae. “As my new ambassador, your first task will be to establish a new mortal peafowl colony in that area. After that, we will be establishing one in Guadiana, but only after I can form a Sixth Threshold.”
“I must ride then,” Prince Lago said. He mounted his horse. The others in his group had departed the day before. He rode through the Threshold without another word.
“Why not establish one there first? In Guadiana?” Oleg asked suddenly. He was excited to know that an Adytum like this would be so close, but he felt guilty for wanting that.
“For too many reasons to name right now,” Arjun said, smiling. He stumbled slightly, though tried to hide it. Oleg swooped over to brace Arjun with his hand. The Fai set his own hand on Oleg’s shoulder in response. Oleg realized he must have depleted his resources, moving the Threshold while the land around it was still damaged.
“We should be going,” Cyril said. Oleg suspected he realized the same thing and was trying to find a diplomatic way out. He approached Arjun and the pair shook hands. Taree nodded from Cyril’s shoulder and Arjun bowed to her.
“Fai Arjun, thank you for your hospitality.” Safiya bowed to him as well with a hand gesture Oleg assumed must be fae tradition. He tried to memorize it. “I would like to accept your offer to keep working on my weaving here, but for now I will remain in the mortal world with them.”
“Our doors will always be open to you, sister Safiya.”
She exited. This left only Oleg.
“Thank you, Mister Oleg, for everything. I hope you too will return.” Arjun bowed to him, which startled Oleg. He had never seen a monarch bow first. Oleg reciprocated it.
“I would like that too,” he said, stumbling a little over the words. “Thank you, too, for everything.” He readjusted the bow on his shoulder, and headed quickly through the portal.
On the other side, he could smell the sea air. It was far crisper and clearer than he remembered, or than the air in the Adytum had been. He wondered how the area inside the Threshold would be once the connection was strengthened.
As they walked, he caught up and walked beside Safiya. “I am surprised you did not want to stay?”
Safiya bowed her head and flushed a little, but she smiled a little as well. “It would be nice to live with my kind again. But that place is not my next step. It is a false migration. A, uh, how to explain. It is like you are flying towards a place you know, only to realize your instincts were wrong and you are way off course. I know now that is not my path. Maybe someday. But for now, I would like to keep following the path I was on before. To find a way back to my own Court. Kanika is out there somewhere, and that is where I need to go next.”
“Then I have a favor to ask of you,” Oleg said, feeling a wave of embarrassment surge up over him. “Will, will you continue to teach me, as you have been this last year. I came to Port Lyr to find a mentor in hopes of eventually learning a way to resolve these broken curses. I have gotten off my path too, in some ways. I think I could learn a lot about different kinds of magic from you.”
“Oleg… I… I would be honored.”
The embarrassment burned only a little longer in his face, before just warmth remained.
              A pair of fae healers hovered on either side of Victor. They seemed to talk by means of a series of bursts of light, both from their hands, and their throats. They spoke to each other, and then to their mistress, who murmured, bowed her head, and excused them.
“Well?” Viktor said, putting back on his shirt. Jorinda was looking away, blushing.
“I am afraid the Water of Death has already done its work and shortened your life. It will not kill you, but you will be unlikely to live longer than another ten years.”
“I see,” Viktor said. “Well… I guess I will have to make the best of those years.”
“My lady, I am returned,” Prince Lago said, mounting the stairs. “The mission was a- oh, my apologies…”
She nodded and smiled to her ambassador, and pointed him to go and stand nearby and wait. She returned her focus to Viktor.
“And how will you make the best of those years?”
“I… I am not sure. I think, maybe I will try to help other people with their problems with such beasts as those I have fought.”
Torias stepped in. “In that case, might I suggest the Knights of the Fish? They are a guild like ours that specializes in hunting. I could put in a good word to their members. I… know one of them, and Cyril knows their leader.”  Torias did not like the idea that his friend was doomed to die. He felt partially like it was his fault for not stepping in sooner during the fight, or having a better plan.
“Yes, I think I would like that,” Viktor said. “But first, can I come back to the Guild and get a drink. I find I am mighty thirsty after all of this Griffon fighting.”
Torias looked to Lady Eostre, who smiled and nodded.
“Thank you, for everything Lady.” Torias bowed, unsure still of what else to do.
“You’ve come a long way, Torias. You’ve taken a major step towards your future. However, the path will become more difficult from here. She is still out there, as are other dangers you are not yet aware of. But keep walking, and you and the rest of your guild will arrive there, I have no doubt.”
Torias bowed again, not sure what else to do or say, and led the others out of the tower.
              After several days on the move, the flock had finally come to rest for a day or two. Many of the souls entrapped within the close to one hundred avian bodies had grown quieter and quieter over the last few months. Ustinya tried to engage some in conversation, but most merely whimpered, or seemed to have become hollow.
Still, she had to keep trying. As long as she kept trying, it meant she was holding on to some aspect of her humanity. She would also list all of her family, and the members of the court, and the members of their families. Any human she could think of. She always started with her brother and his friends. She tried to keep her thoughts internal, lest their captor overhear her, but she was sure sometimes words slipped out.
Oleg. Cyril. Torias. Taree. Satu. Kess. Jorinda. Aloyna. Ermolai. Father. Mother.
The air in the cavern grew cold. She had made her perch near the entrance, for hope of some light, but the wind was fierce when it blew in. It grew worse as a large shape flew in.
It was a bird, that she knew, but not like the rest of them, that she also knew. Much larger than any of her fellow curse victims. She thought it might be some kind of vulture, but with mostly white, and cream brown feathers. It landed near the captors.
“Who are you?” the woman said. Her long black hair bore a few streaks of white. Her coat like dress looked worn, but still clean, despite the endless walking.
“I am your Master’s son,” the vulture sniped back. Ustinya did not like his voice, nor that it came from a bird’s body. It was too unnatural.
“Why have you come here?” the Master said. His tone could crack stone in fright. She could just see his eyes gleaming.
“I have come to join you, at long last, father.”
“I did not send for you.”

“No, but I am ready. I have been mastering my powers. You will be proud of me fat-“
The Master swiped a hand through the air and the vulture spoke no more. “Enough. You are here. Be here if you must. But on my terms. You will join the Flock until I have use of you.”
The Master stood up from the fire and stepped closer to the rest of them. Ustinya prayed he would not turn his gaze on me. She knew he had not harmed them yet, but did not know how long that would continue.
“Rest well, my children. We fly again in the morning.” He returned to the fire and sat down on the same large rock.
Ustinya shivered, but no longer from the cold. She started her list all over again. Oleg. Cyril. Torias. Taree. Satu.
              “Jorinda, Jorinda!” Cyril called out. He shook the young woman as gently as he could until at last his words or actions reached her and she snapped out of her dream.
“What? Huh? Cyril? Cyril!” She jumped to her feet. “Welcome back!” She threw her arms around him, then caught herself and stepped back.
“Are you alright? Another dream?”
She looked away and nodded. “The aviary is no longer in motion. They are in a cave. Someone new was there though. A vulture? I could not see more.”

“A vulture?” Oleg said. “Do… do you want to talk about it?”
She shook her head, stopped, and then began to nod, before ultimately shaking it again. “I should. But give me a few minutes. I did not mean to sleep. I do not know what came over me. Can you help me finish getting ready for opening?”
“When you are ready, I would like to talk too. For now, I need to go and write a very long set of reports to the Order. Better to leave out your dream until you are ready for me to include them.”  Cyril smiled at her and headed upstairs.
He entered the Guild Hall and found it mostly as expected. On the main desk there was an unexpected stack of papers next to the stack of letters. The papers included several tales on Calls, from Torias. This surprised him more than them taking on Calls. He was tempted to read them first, but decided he shouldn’t put off on the report about the Court of Refuge, the kidnapped girls, and the fight against the Buzzard King. The Order needed to know about him, especially if he was somehow tied to Jorinda’s dreams of the Aviary.
He pulled out a parchment and a quill. Before he could begin the first word, someone cleared their throat. Cyril looked up to see Satu standing in the doorway.
“Cyril. Welcome home.”
“Thank you. Seems you all have been busy.”
“We have. There is a tale from me in there too. I can tell you about it, but first, I have something else to tell you. Do you have time? It is… important.”
“Certainly. Please.” He gestured to the seat, and a drop of ink fell on the parchment.
Satu closed the door, which made Cyril more worried than he otherwise would have been. She walked to the desk and pulled over a seat. After sitting, she looked at her folded hands for a minute.
“You may recall, one night I told you that I am careful with what information I share about myself, because I do not know what piece of information will be the pebble that triggers an avalanche. Well… Cyril, I have a story to tell you. A tale long untold. I tell it to you now, because… the avalanche is beginning.”
Log in to add a comment or review for this chapter Chapter updated on: 7/30/2017 4:05:14 PM
  • Jennifer Flath commented on :
    8/23/2017 11:39:53 PM
    What an ending. Everything came together, but mainly things are worse than before. I'm excited to get more on the trouble these people-birds are in and Satu's drama.
    • Ryan Watt Jorinda's dream. Did I write Satu? Hope not. Jorinda's having dreams. Satu does take the focus next volume, but Jorinda's dreams will propel a few things forward.
      8/23/2017 11:57:08 PM
    • Jennifer Flath You ended with Satu sitting down to have a heart to heart with Cyril. That's what I was referencing.
      8/23/2017 11:59:33 PM
    • Ryan Watt Must have been really tired from work. Read "Birds are in Satu's dreams."
      8/24/2017 5:21:31 AM