Mace Black, Page 412-416 by Wolfenshire ()
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Mace Black, Page 412-416
Koael tossed another piece of meat off to his side. “They’re beautiful creatures, aren’t they?”
Kabath mumbled something unintelligible. The old tiger insisted on taking a nap twice each morning and twice each afternoon. The journey to the World Bridge was taking forever.
“Oh look, there’s the one with the white feather.” Koael waited for it to land and tossed a piece of meat to it. “You don’t want to confuse it with a white necked raven, those have shorter tail feathers. The one with the white feather is a common raven. Some people say a raven with a single white feather is good luck.”
“Hmgh, I’m sure that’s fascinating, I’m trying to nap,” mumbled Kabath.
“I know all about ravens,” said Koael. “They’re my House bird.”
Kabath rolled over with annoyed expression. “Really? I wouldn’t have guessed.”
Koael chuckled. “Grumpy tiger.”
Another raven stole the piece of meat intended for the white feathered raven. The white feathered raven cawed in anger at the thief and hopped closer to Koael, hoping for another piece of meat to be thrown. Koael laid a piece of meat on the ground next to him. The white feathered raven hopped closer, twisting its head suspiciously at Koael. The other ravens also eyed the meat with envy, but weren’t brave enough to get too close to their surprise benefactor providing an unexpected meal. The white feathered raven took the risk and made a run for the piece of meat, grabbed it, and hopped away to gobble its treat.
“I think it’s a she,” said Koael.
Kabath opened one eye. “How can you tell?”
“It’s really hard, male and female ravens are almost identical, but the male is just slightly larger.”
“So, pretty much the same as a Darai,” said Kabath. “I haven’t a clue how you Darai can tell each other apart, you all look the same to me.”
Koael laughed. “That’s okay, most other species can’t tell us apart because we’re not mammals and our reproductive organs are on the inside, and Darai females don’t have mammary glands. So yeah, the male and female Darai look alike.”
Kabath stood and stretched. “Do you ever get confused and make a mistake?”
Koael rolled his eyes. “I hope not, wouldn’t that be embarrassing. How far away is the World Bridge now?”
“We’ll be there tomorrow,” replied Kabath.
“Ouch, hey you little beggar,” said Koael.
Kabath turned his head toward Koael. “Huh? I didn’t do anything.”
“Not you,” said Koael. “That white feathered raven is pecking at me, she wants some more meat.”
Koael dropped the last pieces of meat on his chest. The white feathered raven hopped up on Koael, swiveled its head, and gobbled the meat. The other ravens cawed their disappointment.
“I think she’s gloating to the other ravens because she’s my favorite,” said Koael.
Kabath walked casually towards Koael. The white feathered raven hopped down to the other side of Koael and peeked over the top of Koael, then cawed angrily at Kabath.
“Aww, she’s protecting me,” said Koael. “She’s telling the big bad tiger to get away.”
Kabath took a deep breath and opened his mouth to roar.
“Don’t you dare scare her, she’s my friend,” said Koael.
Kabath let his breath out and shrugged. The bird continued to caw at Kabath until he turned away and kicked some dirt on Koael and the bird.
Koael jumped up brushing dirt off while the white feathered raven shook dirt from its wings. “Oh yeah, big tough tiger, pick on a kid and a little bird.”
The white feathered raven beat its wings and headed to the sky. Koael ran to catch up with Kabath and walked beside him. “Bully,” said Koael.
“You interrupted my nap time, live with it,” growled Kabath.
The forest path wound around the mountain and down into a valley. A mist grew and hugged the ground and the trees became larger – primordial. Creeper vines as thick as a Daiami’s thigh hung from nearly every tree. Koael saw a spider’s web spun between two trees – he didn’t see the spider it belonged to, and hoped never would. Kabath sniffed at the air and crouched to the ground. “Get on my back, and keep your mouth shut.”
Koael climbed into the saddle and settled himself. He looked up at the sky, the white feathered raven flew in lazy circles above. Koael smiled, it was a good sign that the white feathered raven was following. Kabath’s muscles tensed and he walked more cautious now. Koael saw a group of six Sherata ahead coming towards them.
Kabath twisted his head to look at Koael from one eye. “If something happens to me, do not go to the trees as you have been taught. There are things there that would feed on you for months. It will better for you to remain on the ground and accept a quick ending.”
Koael closed his eyes and willed his mind to calm. “Those tigers ahead are not friendly?”
“They are not,” said Kabath. “They would not risk confronting Batheba, but me, I cannot be certain.”
Koael threw his leg over the saddle and dropped back to the ground. “I don’t need Batheba or you to protect me. I only need you to show me where the World Bridge is. Stay here, I’ll deal with this.”
Kabath’s face showed his doubt. “I know Sern is strong, but he only faced one Sherata, you will be facing six, and they won’t make the same mistake twice.”
“Stay here, old tiger,” said Koael, “and learn why the Temple Ravens have a triple danger mark around our ranch on the Crystal Map.”
Koael strolled forward with purpose towards the approaching Sherata tigers. The tigers spread out, blocking the path and growled.
“You’re not the one we’re looking for,” said one of the tigers. He had one eye closed. “The one with the filthy Lesser Sherata never came back over the World Bridge. He is a coward without Batheba to protect him, but you’ll be a good start. I’m going to rip you apart, little bird.”
Koael held one hand out towards the tiger, and with the other he drew his dagger.”
“I know your night trick,” said the tiger. “That magic will not work on me twice.”
“The dark of night is only one magic we possess, there are others,” said Koael. “Let us pass, or suffer the humiliation of twice being defeated by a little bird.”
The tiger roared and charged at Koael. Koael knew calling the night would do no good, the tiger had one eye closed to ensure it was acclimated to the dark and would not be temporarily blinded. Jasai and his brothers had practiced extensively with the dark of night tattoo, but Koael had taken an interest in another tattoo and had practiced with that one instead. Often, at night, time seemed to move slower, because it did.
Koael concentrated on that tattoo and dark flames erupted from an hourglass shaped tattoo. The tiger in front of him froze in mid-stride, the wind ceased, the white feathered raven circling in the sky above hung motionless in the air, and the world became silent. He wouldn’t be able to hold night-time for long, he would have to hurry. He rushed past the frozen tiger and ran his dagger across the tiger’s flank, then moved among the other tigers, also leaving a slash across each of their flanks.
He felt the strain of expending so much energy. He wouldn’t be able to do this again for several hours. He hurried to the other side of the tigers and turned to face them. The dark flame on his arm died and the world resumed. The attacking tiger found its prey missing and whipped its head from side to side searching for Koael.
“There is a slash across each of your flanks,” said Koael. The tigers turned to face him. “My dagger is coated with a powerful poison. You do not have much time before you are writhing on the ground and dying in terrible pain. There is a red berry in the forest beyond. The leaves of that bush have an oily sheen, this is how you know it is the correct berry bush. If you eat those leaves, you will throw up, but in doing so you will purge the poison from your blood. So, waste your time trying to catch me, or flee to the forest and hope you find the plant in time.”
Each of the tigers turned their heads to look at the cut on their flanks, then nearly as one, they turned and ran past Kabath to search for the antidote to the poison. Kabath turned to watch the fleeing tigers, then came to stand next to Koael.
“I did not know you poisoned your dagger,” said Kabath.
“I didn’t,” replied Koael. “The poison is in the leaves of the plant they went to eat.”
Kabath’s eyes widened. “It was a con?”
“Of course it was, I’m a Temple Raven.
“Will the poison kill them?” asked Kabath.
“Yes, and very painfully. They’ve attack a Temple Raven twice, now an example has to be made to ensure it doesn’t happen again.”
Kabath shook his head. “I was starting to think you were like Sern, but you are not, you are a killer.”
Koael shrugged. “Sern always wanted to be doctor, and Roael wanted to be a Rescue Raven, Boae’s a soldier, and Jasai, she only joined the Temple because her family couldn’t afford to send her to the Jackdaw School of Science, but me, I told you, I just want to be an ordinary regular raven.”
“I misunderstood what you meant by a normal raven,” said Kabath. “What you mean is an assassin, like Moeth, but…you said you wanted to farm?”
“Well yeah, Moeth is a farmer also,” said Koael. “She has a farm hidden somewhere on Darai that she grows the plants she makes her poisons from, I would love to see it.”
Kabath shook his head. “I’m not doing this, I may be a petty conman, but I’m not a murderer. “You’re right, you don’t need me to protect you. Follow this path, it will take you to the World Bridge, I’ll meet you there.”
“Where are you going?”
“I’m going to stop them from eating that plant.”
“They’ll go after Gaevin if they can’t get to us,” said Koael.
“Gaevin is well protected,” said Kabath. “I’ll be back, but only because I want to see Sern and make sure he’s okay. After we get back, I want nothing more to do with you.”
“You know, Moeth is an assassin, do you also hate her this much?” asked Koael.
“No, but she hasn’t tried to involve me in the murder of six Sherata tigers.” Kabath turned and ran after the fleeing tigers.
“Gosh, I’m not the bad guy here,” Koael told the empty road. “They were going to kill me, I was only defending myself.” Koael looked up at the circling white feathered raven. “Are you still my friend?”
The white feathered raven swooped down and landed on the road. “Cwaw, bad guy.”
Koael laughed. “I am not…hey, awesome, you’re one of those ravens that can mimic sounds, usually only ravens raised as pets can do that. Were you someone’s pet, is that why you’re so friendly? Hey, do you want to come with me?” Koael crouched down and held his hand out.
The raven hopped across the ground and jumped up on Koael’s arm. He carefully raised his arm up to his shoulder. The bird jumped across to Koael’s shoulder and settled itself. “Cwaw, bad guy.”
Koael stroked the bird’s neck. “You need to learn something new to say.”
“Cwaw, bad guy.”
“We’ll work on it,” said Koael.
Image Comments (10)
That's a Raven. I'm afraid you've caused an international incident between Raven Province and Crow Province. A Temple Raven has been dispatched to escort you to re-education training at the Raven Temple. Talon dagger will be provided for your convenience.