The Lone Roost Upon the Ramparts
“We don’t have contact with Lord Klau yet. This is not good news. He’s in range of our communications but he’s just not responding, Narr and the lads fear the worst. I just hope we can help.”
-Personal Note: Marshal Verner-
Avisland: Outside the Corvus Castrum.
Goldfuast waited as a loud trumpet echoed off.
Right on queue.
Gold ducked beneath a log on the edge of the swampy forest outside the slope before the castle. He had just traversed by the setting sun and now night had gained and he needed to move.
Fearing his cover was blown, he hid fast. He pulled the Keeper out of the way of the main road and had it lay down in the thicker vegetation. Gold caught the sound of claws. Claws on pavement in particular.
Keepers from Roost, they’re escorting a caravan.
A Tribe Arbit caravan had arrived and it’s guards were positioned at the front. Arbiters handled shipments, diplomacy, negotiations, and greatly aided the judges of Roost in court matters. They each had a tribe Roost escort and Goldfuast knew their rounds on this particular Caravan. He approached the caravan in blind spots from the rear after tying his bird up with some feed to keep it happy and quiet.
Gold sprinted undercover to the rear of the group and stashed himself with the supplies in one of the metal wagons. The keeper pulling it was very comfortable around the smell of Roost officers and took no mind of him.
The castle’s metal gate arched above him as the Tribe Arbit convoy neared the foul doors. The Crow Castle was a very grim place in the evening. The scout organizations used it as an HQ but it was becoming clear. The scouts and Raben were one and the same. They had always been here and scouts were purely a clan with the public face.
Gold spotted three guards at the gatehouse and a few more on the walls. A black helmet under their cowls depicted them as vultures on the ramparts. They swung open their drawbridge with a rattling of rusting chains and the great echo of the gate lowering. The great murders of crows swarmed the gate as Rabenites approached the caravan.
Dozens of birds let loose a torrent of noise.
I'm lucky they hadn't drawn any attention from the larger birds, these were merely common crows. And where the crows followed, there must be a Wren.
The Roost guard on duty pulled back and moved out around the castle. They didn’t even enter with the Arbiters. And then it struck him, even his own assigners never sent a Roost patrol into the castle itself. The Arbiters claimed that foreigners would setter in the ruins and trade with Arbiters as long as Roost stayed away. The Corvus Castrum was a foreigner’s sanctuary as well. That is probably because Raben would deal with them. Or the misdeed was carried out by Raben in the first place.
A quick inspection passed over Gold as he climbed into a sack with the strings in hand pulling them closed and tight. After a few minutes, more steps outside indicated a closer inspection and a catalog of goods. Gold could just barely see through the bag in the late hour thanks to the lantern at the rear of the cart.
A dark uniformed individual stepped into the back of the cart and Gold sprung his trap. The Rabenite securing the items looked at the sack to see the seal loosen and a plated fist emerged out. The guard’s hands reached to block but they buckled under the force of Gold’s strike. The metal gloves found purchase into the Rabenite’s jaw, and a follow up knocked him out. Gold sacrificed armor for speed but did not sacrifice strike force. The Rabenite’s helmet didn’t cover the bottom of his chin and Gold rang it like a bell. The rising strike could have punched him out of his boots as his feet left the ground and he collapsed down.
Gold was virtually never without his gruesome gauntlets. Heavy plated finger and hand guards with over lapping plates making them heavy, blunt, and extremely useful.
After a groan the guard was still and would wake with an intense migraine at best. The blow had sent him to the floor and Gold acted quick. Pulling the helmet from his head and taking his robe and cloak. Gold disguised himself in a moment. He bound the guard's mouth and stuffed him the the cloth sack.
From the wagon, Goldfuast exited out in the garments of the Natives. A cloak of black feathers was covering his arms from the cap the guard had been wearing to the knuckle blades. It was a little tight. Then the robe was just thrown over his gear. Gold’s yellow feathers were just under the black and purple trimmed jacket, which he had already coated in a sealant to hide his allegiance. They were hidden very carefully.
Gold waited as the cart moved into the inner walls of the castle. The inner walls were just as crumbled as the outside. Until a wide door opened in the floor to reveal a ramp and a tunnel. As the caravan of traders and negotiators moved to the guest rooms and warehouse areas, Gold slipped away.
Gold followed a tunnel for an age. He’d opened a single door and it stretched on for what seemed like forever.
And from behind him, two Rabenites rushed to him.
“Hey, the New Bird is throwing a real fight right now. If you’re on duty, get down there now, we want extra security around Frem of the Warden Tribe.” The Rabeness shouted and dragged a light grip at Gold’s arm. Pulling him with them to follow.
“Right,” Said Gold as he ran alongside them.
“We’re almost there. She’s being lead to the machine right now. He also have word that a Roostman might try and break in. He’s not the main concern. If the New bird gets loose in this hall people are going to get hurt. This whole issue will blow over if she gets through this. She’s almost a Rabeness, she’s so close.” Said the Tribesman accompanying the Rabeness.
“Where are we keeping her?” Gold asked.
“A hatch room, last one before the fork.” She was referring to the split at the end of the hall Gold could make out just at the farthest end of the hall.
Gold chambers an arm and releases a blow from his metal glove right into the Rabeness’s side with two more blows to the head. The fist sent the girl into the wall with a great clamor. She wasn’t wearing her helmet and she slid to the floor. The Tribesman turned and shouted at him.
“What? Alida?” He distanced himself from Gold and readied his weapons. “What are you doing?” He shouted as he freed two pairs of blades from his arms. His long flowing sleeves of feathers concealed his hands and he threw eight blades in succession. A few twists and spins kept him a difficult target but most of them missed and only two were caught in Gold’s armor. The rest he back pedaled to avoid. the two that connected were just lodged in him. No real damage.
The Rabenite swung at Gold. Gold allowed the blade to connect on his shoulder and grabbed his hand. Then he continued to break his wrist. He cried out just before Gold griped his neck and slammed him into the wall. After the struggle ended Gold rushed down the hall.
He heard a second struggle and freed a long knife from his uniform. The rattle of chains across marble. The pale floor echoed out and cried to Gold. He moved down the hall and stumbled upon his target. A Rabenite and a Rabeness were dragging a black-haired girl down the hall.
Her hair changed. It’s her. Her feathers came in to. It’s not too late. They can’t finish the process.
Gold rushed down the hall and the two escorts scrambled to flee and hide. They don’t want a clean fight obviously. The lights behind Gold and ahead of Gold went dark.
“Wren! Wren it’s me. Don’t worry I’m here.” Gold shouted. “I have a way out. We have to hurry.” Gold rushed to her and freed the chains.
“Gold? Goldfuast? I’m so cold please. Hold me. I was so scared! It was... too much.” Wren sobbed and cried out. “Hold me please Gold.”
“I’m here.” Gold reached down and lifted her up in his giant arms. The metal gloves were gentle and delicate with her smaller form despite his immense physical build. His hands were disciplined. Smashing and tearing but also protective and caring.
Her lips lunged for his out of instinct.
“What?” Gold moved his face away. “Wren stop.” Red flags rose. “What are you doing Wren?”
“Gold please, you’re perfect when you’re still Gold. Hold still for me.” She lunged again. But Gold dropped her down. Gold was speechless.
“Oh, we can’t embrace together if I’m over here. And those Rabenites are still here Gold. I’m scared.” Her voice changed to a mimicry and mockery of a damsel; extra high pitched and full of an uncharacteristic sarcasm.
“Something’s wrong with you Wren. You’re not right. I came here to save you. You’re in danger.” Gold took a few steps away from Wren.
“I’m not Wren, I can’t be. Wren had friends. Wren wasn’t into you.”
She started to talk with attitude and eventually anger.
“You were never her love, but you can be. I’m lonely Gold. I’m cold.” She rose from the floor. Her black feathers unfurled out and puffed up. They’ve grown from her wrists to the edges of her shoulders and her sides. “Wren could never do such terrible things like this… No, it’s not me Gold!” Wren shouted half to herself and half at Gold. “Good-bye Gold!” At that instant two sprays of blood spurted from her eyes. Crimson stains were dyed on to her eye lids.
Wren was no more. Now the tears rolled down her face tainted by the red stains.
Wren lept at Gold with inhuman speed. She freed the knife at his side and thrust it at his neck. Gold’s hand stopped the blade at his palm. It pierced directly through a chink in the glove. The blade was still caught on the other side.
Gold winced and with a grunt squeezed the knife with his hand.
With a shout, he raised his hand striking her. The last thing he imagined he’d do in a rescue.
The metal gauntlet lashed and swung toward her but was deflected by her right hand pushing off his strikes. Wren jabbed him in the arm releasing his grip on her knife as she pulled the blade free from his palm and brought it down again. Gold angled his metal glove to swat the blade diverting it from him.
The knife was knocked directly from her grasp. With a shout of frustration Wren raised her hand and brought her fist down at Gold’s chest. There was a crack as Wrens knuckles bled. She’d punched the iron plate under gold’s cloak. Wren began to scramble off him for the knife.
Wren had grown in strength and had enough speed to match a physically gifted member of the Roost Tribe with nothing but a knife.
She had sent her fist directly into an area with armor. But her normal strength would not be able to hurt Gold like it did. Her hand was mangled in the strike, and she raised her other hand again and struck his side again. Like a cannonball, this swing made Gold cringe. He bashed her back with his glove catching her cheek and drawing blood, which only sent her further into madness. Goldfuast could tell from the pain and the sound that several of his ribs were broken despite the breaking injury to her own hands.
Wren grabbed the knife as a black hand seized her. The razor claws lifted her from under the arm. She’s braced against the wall of the hall and the knife dropped from her grasp.
The blades in their savior's hands were uncomfortably close to cutting her. The claw could kill her in a single incision. But the skill and grace at which these hands moved were much like a machine’s cold ability.
“I almost had him!” Wren shouted as a black masked figure leaned over and placed a black bag over her head. And another Rabenite pinned her arms.
The a roost agent returned to the hall and established security. Dozens of Rabenites and Rabenesses arrived at the scene appalled and stunned. The Corvus Castrum had been infiltrated by a Roostman of all people.
“Lord Folter told me to lower security along the perimeter. He was aware of your movement Roostman. I’m not sure if that was a blessing or a curse. Seeing your predicament, I’d call it a blessing. You’ve learned a valuable lesson about your friend here. Do you know what that would be?” A slight accent poked through the mask.
Gold could only watch and wince through the pain.
“There is no way some Robin Girl could do that to a Roostman. You’re a Rooster. You get the slightest injury of your pride and you’re fluffing your feathers all over the place. Look at her Rooster!” The Agent pointed with his bladed hand at Wren. “That’s no Robin. That’s a Raben. We did this to make sure that the cut on your hand wasn’t on her mother's neck. And that the broken ribs weren’t aimed at her father.”
Verza stepped towards Goldfuast from behind and looked down at him. Her hands reach down for the knife. She scooped it up and turned to address Gold. “New birds have no control over their actions, you twit. We didn’t want to attack your patrol when we did but you gave us no choice. You’re lucky she was resilient. She could have killed you and all your men. She’s not going to be the same. You would have brought her under your wing and he would go for your throats. She just tried to kill her friend, she stabbed you, she struck your side there. Ow. Okay, you need to get that looked at.” Verza calmed down. "Unfortunately the doctor is busy at the moment. He needs to work on the New bird's knuckles. Then he needs to strain out some chemicals from the New Bird's body that are driving her mad."
“Verza, take this Roostman to our medics. Call a Robin surgeon here. Your husband is at the machine right now, yes?” The agent said as he slung Wren over his shoulder after binding her arms and legs with the aid of reinforcements.
“Yes, Frem has the machine ready for her. Thanks for the help Volker” She replied.
“Good," Agent Volker activated his helmet with a switch on the side connected to a radio. Now the rest of you get a room ready. We have a new bird joining your clans soon. I know we’re all dying for this recruit to be setting up her home right next to ours.”
“Don’t we just love new neighbors? If sarcasm could smell, then Volker’s comment reeked so foully that the crowd dispersed with tight teeth and cringing expressions.