Pirree was there like a falcon. I didn’t know he could fly that fast. He was beating at the farmer with his claws and wings.
Sirril was just lying there on the ground.
I flew down. And what did I do?
I grabbed the chicken. That’s what she came for right? I could help her with that. Later I would sometimes tell myself I did it to distract the farmer, but really? I had no reason. I just grabbed it. Food. Instinct. Fucking instinct.
And Sirril was still lying there. And the farmer beat her again. And Pirree was flying around him until she was bleeding and bleeding and bleeding. And there was blood on her face and in her hair and her feathers were soaked in it and the claws were drenched in chicken blood, and when Pirree came to the cliffs above that fucking farm, she was dead.
I had a chicken, and my big sis was fucking dead.
Pirree opened his mouth. I knew what he was going to say. So I tore off a chicken leg and dumped the rest in front of him. Then I took off with just that fucking leg that Sirril had died for.
Do you have any idea how much tears sting when you fly top speed at top altitude? I wish we were like other animals. They don’t cry. But we’re not. We’re Folk. We’re Kindred. And the Gods made it so we can cry. And I just lost my fucking sister and Pirree hated me.
I cried. And it stung. And I cried more, I could barely see where I was going.
Lucky thing there’s not much in the way between two mountain peaks, right?
I landed on Raven’s Hee, near the mage’s nest. He was busy making a council man pretty. I could see it was a councillor – he had shiny dwarven bracelets around both ankles. Probably enchanted stuff. Something to keep him nice looking, or good speed, or something like that. I don’t know.
The body mage finished his job and the councillor flew off. He had some really cute black tail markings – but a councillor is way above my station, and I just raided a farm and my fucking sister just died, so I wasn’t really looking for a mate. I tiptoed over to the mage’s nest and dropped the chickenleg. My stomach rumbled. Maybe it hadn’t noticed that I was in a really bad shape right now.
“Thanks,” the body mage said. “Want me to start up on the next session? You could really use it.”
As if not everyone already had told me this. Including my fucking dead sister. “Yes, please,” I said. “But just the haircut.” I couldn’t afford more.
I flew home afterwards. Even though I knew Pirree would be there. Even though I knew what he was going to say. And he did. “Coward,” he called me. And a lot of other true things. I tried defending myself. I said, “if you’d been closer and helped, maybe she would have lived. We could have used an extra lookout. But you were so noble. You didn’t want any part of this, you said!”
I said, “with a better territory and nest we wouldn’t have needed to raid farms,” but he threw my own words back at me.
“‘Best meal I caught with my own two feet,’ wasn’t that it? Duck wasn’t good enough for you. Our sister just died so you could pretty up!”
That wasn’t fair. She had wanted it too – and Pirree had told me I needed to get clean. But it still stung. Still my fault.
“You don’t deserve a better nest,” he said. He was right about that. I didn’t.
“I bet you didn’t even Memorize it for the council.”
He was wrong about that. I didn’t have to Memorize like mum and dad taught us. The whole scene was etched into my brain. Every clang of shovel on skull. Every crunch of bone shattering. Every fucking drop of blood on my sisters face. Even the third eyelid stupidly coming out to protect her eyes. As if that stupid bird feature could protect her against the fucking metal shovel.
The Memory Keeper at the council would be able to find every detail in my head. Including the fact that I’d been a fucking coward and left my sister to die.
Pirree has a sharp tongue. Mine isn’t. Some time in that argument I got so fed up that I slashed at him with my claws instead.
I didn’t connect, thankfully. But he did retreat. Before flying off to sleep in a tree, he said, “the council will be convening at Isenhigh Rock to decide the Marri-dale nest, come next full small-moon. It’s a good place – but it doesn’t have – you know – chickens.”
Fuck him. I’d take it anyway. He can inherit the family nest.
By the time the council convened, I and Pirree were nesting together again, but we weren’t talking. Well, sometimes I said, “here is a mouse,” and then he’d say, “eat it,” and then I’d have to eat my own peace offering and we’d still not talk to each other.
He never offered me anything, and I didn’t expect it.
We flew in silence to the council, and perched on the outside of the assembled council members, Memory Keepers and assorted full adults, at Isenhigh Rock. They discussed a lot of things, most of them boring. Pirree tried to ask an adult to propose a farm-raid ban to the council, but they shook him off. She said they’d discuss it about once a generation, and then decide that what a raider does is on his own head.
And so when Sirril’s death came up, and Pirree urged for a ban again, they let me off the hook. Tragic accident of the hunt, they said. No blame, they said. No fucking blame? I can do that for them. I wake up every morning to the sound of the fucking shovel.
But at least noone else was going to punish me. I stayed long enough to hear that noone was in line for the Marri-dale nest and grounds, so I said, “I’ll take it then,” and then I flew. Might as well be me, and I’m pretty sure Pirree was thrilled to see my tail.
Of course I should have stayed and listened to the boring adults. Next morning the cute councillor landed on my new, nice, own nest and told me to leave.
“Why? There were no inheritors!”
“There’s a breeding couple up from Bluevale that needs it. She’ll be laying any day.”
“No, this is full! There’s no space for breeders here, the territory is half the size of something useful,” I said. I’d checked the edges before going to sleep. I had begun to understand why the previous owners maybe had tried going for the human settlements. There was fish in the river for sure, but it was also a dangerous rapid, and not something to loose your balance or your head trying to catch.
“The council has decided. You are still a juvenile, and you will obey the will of your elders.”
“You don’t understand. There is not prey for them and chicks. I’m unmated, I can scrape by here. Let me have it!”
He hissed at me. Large wings, spread tail. I tried not to be intimidated, but there’s fucking instincts and I got scared and I really, really wanted this little nook in the forest for my own, and so I hissed back.
At a councilmember maybe fifteen years older than me, with the whole fucking council behind him.
He bared his claws.
I slashed at him with mine.
And fuck, I connected. Sheer fucking luck against someone way more experienced than me. Sheer fucking bad luck that I hit a councilmember, and he starts bleeding.
And he bleeds.
And it’s like Sirril only a half mooncycle ago, but it’s not a shovel this time. It’s my claws that hit and connected and tore his major throat artery, and he screamed and shrieked and it echoed across the whole fucking Marri-dale and up the cliffs and across the Marrilit rivers and I’m sure the humans in the town heard him, and I just stood there in shock.
“I’ll get the body mage,” I whispered.
“I’ll get you fixed!”
“Please, don’t die.”
But he did, and I just killed a fucking councilmember and the whole council would know, because the Memory Keeper would rip it from my brain and I don’t know what they would do to me, but they would probably kill me, and so I took off.
I flew up, up, up. Over the Grey mountains. I shot across the great grass fields without a tree in sight. I didn’t stop to rest, I didn’t stop to eat.
Until I fell with exhaustion, and I didn’t notice the humans who came closer than I’d seen them since the day the farmer and the shovel bashed my sister to death. I didn’t notice their traps, their ropes, their cages.
And that’s how I ended here, a cage-pet to a human in Tamospar.
Fucking daughter of a dog-formed demon snipped my flight feathers. Unfortunately for her, I have figured out how to manipulate the cage lock with my claws, and even clipped, I can still flap my way up to the door handles. Unfortunately for me, although Tamospar is a small town the way the Tsik flies, I’m ground-bound and will probably get caught before I reach the edges. If I don’t starve first.
If I kill my owner, maybe they will shoot me. Maybe Sirril will find some rest then.