The Wings Fly Again
Now on to our story.
(What follows is a fictional account.)
The Birds of the Basin, Part 4: The Marabou
The four northerners blinked.
Demoiselle the beautiful crane eyed the Frigatebird from the south.
Saddlebill the jealous stork rolled his eyes and lifted his striped beak in the air in disgust.
Shoebill the grumpy other stork grumbled and complained as he went.
The Blue-Footed Booby clumsily wobbled along, armor clinking with every step.
After the crash with Al, the four northern Talen Guard had flown with Frigatebird up to the middle levels of Talpost. The Albatross had been carried off in a large sling by the southern Guard that found them.
They came to rest on a wide balcony, Blue completely fumbling his landing. There they were joined by more of the southern Guard.
A large portal opened into a tall, ornately carved hallway that resounded with the clacking of their dozen taloned feet quickly moving through it. The hallway went one for some time, with different partitions marked at intervals by a pair of sharp columns of razor-like stonework that looked like giant talons.
At last they reached an antechamber with a magnificent pair of staircases. The stairs had this illusory appearance, as if they spiraled up in just a way that could make your body feel as though it were moving even while being still.
Small, arched windows lined the sides of the alabaster white walls along the stairs. Down the center, the railings had poles topped with a variety of southern birds in golden statuette form.
“Nice place,” Bill said, taking his eyes from Demoiselle back to the Frigatebird, then back to Demoiselle.
“I like it,” replied the southerner. “Call me Frigate, by the way. I’m at your service while you’re here. Anything you need while at Talpost, don’t hesitate to ask, got it?”
“Thanks very kind of you,” cooed the crane. Bill shook his head.
“Can I get a plate of pollyworms and a glass of water?” demanded Shoe.
“Oh, and can I get some shrimp boats?” Blue squeaked excitedly.
“Uh, you can ask the cook for that,” Frigate managed. “Uh, I meant more like things that a Talen Commander can do for you.” He motioned one wing towards his commander’s badge on his chest plate.
“Oh, I see,” Blue yipped. “So you command the kitchen staff, huh?”
“No, I don’t, I,” Frigate began.
He was cut off by Shoe, “Ignore Blue, he does that. Uh, he’s read so many books his brain actually overloads and skips a beat sometimes. Don’t mind him.”
Blue nodded along in agreement. Shoe covered his eyes with his wing and shook his head.
“In any case,” Frigate picked up, “I’ve got your back while you’re here. You know, I haven’t seen many northerners in a while. Long while. Don’t many come down here.”
The large bird’s dialect became more noticeable as he talked. There was a quaint charm and masculinity about it, but was also coarse and unusual.
Demoiselle noticed and all but batted her eyes at the southern bird.
“Yea, ok, well, it’s good to have new friends. In the South,” Saddlebill tried. “Thanks for, uh, inviting, uh, leading the way. You know Demoiselle and I have been through a lot together…”
Demoiselle blushed and chided Saddlebill, “Stop. We’ve been work colleagues for some time. We have been through some wild cases in our time. But tell me, Frigate, I want to know more about you. Where are you from originally? What’s it like in the South? How do you stay in such great shape? I’m sorry, that’s probably too many questions at once…”
Frigate perked up and smiled, flexing one of his wings in attempt to show his muscles. “That’s ok, Dem,” his familiar use of her short name sounded like gravel to Bill’s ears, “I work out ten times a week. Daily regimen keeps me fit and for my line of work it seems like a no brainer to be built tough. No offense there, my friend, we all have different strengths. I’m sure yours is well hidden,” he said, gesturing with placating hands towards Saddlebill, who scowled at the comment.
“I am not out of shape,” replied Bill in frustration. “I just happen to be of a breed of bird that is more lithe. I am actually quite fit for my species, thank you, and I work out just as much as you.”
“Bill, you do…” Demoiselle was saying before being cut off.
“Lithe?” snickered Frigate. “I don’t know what that means, but it sounds like thin and that’s what you are. Anyways, it’s not meant as offense, my friend. Just small talk, right?”
Frigate nudged Bill with the elbow of his wing.
Bill glared back and said nothing.
“So, is our pilot going to be alright?” Demoiselle said, changing the subject.
“Yes,” answered Frigate. “He’s being brought to the infirmary now. They’ll take good care of him. Ah, at last.”
As he said this he walked towards the stairs and lifted a wing in anticipation of someone. Following his gaze revealed an odd pair of birds walking towards them.
There was a stout and sturdy Hornbill Stork, coated in heavy mail, who seemed to move from his belt line. He shook his hips back and forth with each step, proudly displaying his hammer hanging at his side.
Next to him was yet another stork, The Marabou. He was a legend, even in the north. His life had been filled with successes in all his enterprises and now he was the Governor of Talpost. He was very old and moved much slower than the Hornbill. Yet he had an air of wisdom and grace his companion lacked.
“Welcome,” The Marabou greeted. “This is Hornbill, my Chief Defense Advisor.”
“Hi,” was all the Hornbill said.
“First,” began The Marabou, “let me say how grateful I am that you are here. I’m sure you are aware that we have a situation with the Rage Fest which is currently being waged on the other side of this cliff face from us in the Mogra Yute Basin. We have called upon you to assist us in placating the strife between our two neighbors, the Forram bull men and the Targen tiger peoples.”
“Though we were expecting a bit more help from our northern allies,” complained the Hornbill. “Typical. Can’t spare an extra nothing.”
“Hey, I don’t like your attitude,” Shoe retorted. “Say that a little closer to my face.”
“Gentlebirds!” The Marabou intervened calmly. “Let’s not waste time on civilities. We have work to do. The festival games are getting more rowdy and threatening the peace in the Basin. A precarious peace we Tal have worked hard to maintain for many decades. The games are supposed to calm the tension. But this year tensions are rising instead. I fear war could result if our two neighboring nations cannot settle down. I am hoping that you can step in and do just that. Settle things down. Do whatever it takes without a fight and without causing a stir. Do you understand me?”
“Yes, your Grace, understood,” Saddlebill said. “But I do have one question. It sounds to me like the south has contended with these politics for some time. So why do you need us? Can’t you just send local representatives to resolve this?”
“In the past we have held sway with our neighbors, but not as of now. They blame us for their current troubles,” The Marabou sighed. “It’s a long story. But when they see us approach, they immediately get guarded and antagonistic towards us. We are hoping that when they see you in your northern colors, they won’t have any negative attachments to you. They may listen to you if you go to them as concerned outsiders.”
“Possible,” Demoiselle mused. “To me this sounds like a stretch.”
“Please,” The Marabou whispered. “We are at a critical juncture. The horns of war are ready to blare throughout the Basin. You’re our only hope. We need to settle the issue of the champion’s prize. He must have something worthy of choosing that is better than seeking glory for their country.”
“Because the glory would be, what, war?” Shoe muttered.
“Precisely,” The Marabou enunciated. “If the champion maintains the kind of rage these games have been fueling, he may choose to repay that anger in battle. It won’t matter which side begins the fighting, because others will follow and both nations will plunge into a war as dominoes that fall one after the other. But the dominoes will instead be the bodies of bulls and tigers strewn about the basin floor, never to compete in another Rage Fest again.”
“Wow, dramatic, isn’t he?” Shoe commented as if he couldn’t be heard.
“Yea, I love a good show,” Blue added. “But I’m a little confused.”
“It’s ok, Blue,” said Shoe. “All he’s saying is the winner might start a war, then the whole Basin will be fighting and there will be lots of casualties. But he just said it more poetic-like.”
“Oh, ok, thanks Shoe,” said Blue.
“So the stakes are high after all,” Demoiselle said. “I wish the Great Blue Heron could hear all of this.”
“Don’t worry, Dem, it’s all going to work out for us. Just remember, we’ve got these two,” said Saddlebill, thumbing a wing towards Shoebill and the booby named Blue.
Stay tuned next week for the Rage Fest
Thanks for reading.
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Blessings to you,