"It was a trap, Narr was jumped but our squad was quick. We threw off a Marshal and three other operatives. these were Rabenites of Warden and the Scout clans. Only after the Raven's caught the smell did we find Klau. He was adorned in his armor. What was left of it. The suit was Cataphract armor. So heavy an internal machine did most of it's movement. But he was dead with the very people we would have interrogated."
-Personal Note: Marshal Verner-
Avisland: The Corvus Castrum, Medical Wing Two.
Gold sat in a medical room very unlike Verloren's. Machinery and equipment were in cabinets.The door to his room opened soundlessly. Gold was already awake but meditating peacefully. A practice drilled into him from his earliest days. Two members of Raben, a Rabenite and a Rabeness walked to the center of his medical room. One was his height but the Rabeness was significantly shorter. She was the first to break the quite and it was truly shattered. She spoke through her solid black helmet mask.
“A Roostmen! I don’t see them up close as much as I used to. I like to stalk you guys. Better to ask forgiveness than permission. The hyperactive Rabeness began to laugh at Gold. “Well, what do you have to say for yourself, rooster?” The girl rested her hands on her hips like a mother scolding a child.
When compared to Gold’s massive Roost frame, she was thinner, but not scrawny, just very short.
Her hand flickers around the hilt of a knife.
"You're not intrested in starting another fight are you?" He was not intimidated easily nor did he really care. His right hand was handcuffed but they would have killed him if it was their plan, and seeing the dots, he was calm.
“Nadel, that’s enough.” The second voice begins the interrogation. A softer voiced man, slightly older than Goldfuast and the Rabeness but not by much.
“Sorry,” She leaned close to Gold. “I’ll cut to the chase, you me, we sneak back into town some time. You sound tough, and this castle is so boring. If we hit up the town, I can get crazier than that new bird.” Nadel jested. “I know a few places.”
I’m wise to their game. One is rational, one is erratic and dangerous. One produces a calm, the other chaos. They try to force some reaction or atmosphere to make me uncomfortable or otherwise confused.
Gold confessed just to speed up this process. “I was unaware of the nature a Raben feathering takes. I’d never witnessed one before obviously, you’re a secret organization. You just made a public appearance though, so I apologize for that. That would be my fault.” Gold had to humble himself to continue. “I’m not a natural Roost tribesman. I implanted in. I’m not as stable as the rest of the tribe and I’ve been trying to prove my place. My symptoms were showing up this week. We get overprotective in the Roost Tribe, but more so for me. I implanted in, it makes the side effects worse. I saw Wren’s capture. I know she isn’t a thing to be had, and I don’t even want her… not like that. I’m a shepherd guarding a flock. It wasn’t right to see her flown off like plunder.” Gold lowered his head in his bed. “I had to act. because I’d already lost friends before.”
“That clears up my first concern for a Roostman like you: you’re single. Bingo! Now we can really get somewhere. How about that…” Nadel scrunched her brow at him obviously bothered. Gold ignored her antics. “Oh, you thought the new bird was a riot, I’m twice as fun. So spill something I’d like to hear!” There was a fury in her voice. A rage she couldn’t control.”
“Nadel…” The man said to remind her of her place in the conversation.
“What’s wrong with you?” Gold shouted at her in an anger built from principle and stubbornness. The next emotion to appear on Nadel’s countenance was fear, only under her mask. It struck her in her chest as if her soul was being stalked by a guilt or an accusation. It worked its way to her eyes as she shuddered.
And that’s where Gold saw it. Nadel gazed at Goldfuast; both Nadel and Gold hesitated to speak any further. Guilt racked them both as breath came heavy and hearts gathered weight.
Nadel: that her lost love would speak so harshly to her, and Gold on account of his viciousness to his secret beloved. Goldfuast’s eyes soften from a poker face to nostalgic fantasy, and then to a pity filled expression.
“What happened to you? I know you… I knew who you were. It can’t be. You had the Raben’s Mark too Pavise?”
“No, I’m Nadel-” Her breathing got tense. “I’m Nadel Corvus Damon. Of the Fate clan. Not some stupid girl from Bedded, who couldn’t even see the light of day with her family!” She screamed at Gold and shudders.
“You know my name too, Pavise! You’ve been trying to forget, haven’t you?”
“G-Goldfuast!” Her voice rose in pitch and lost it's anger suddenly. Nadel was flustered and her feathers were fidgeting nervously.
“I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean it. Oh, I’m so sorry!” Nadel said in a rushed tone. She starts to laugh. “Gold, ha! Oh this is rich.” She tried to save face but fails. A tear escapes her, a joyful and embarrassed tear. As she saw his wounds and removes her mask she revealed her eyes like bloody pools.
“What’s up Nadel? What’s wrong?” Her partner asked.
“No, this is Goldfuast, he’s a friend. And old friend. An old lover almost.” A second tear hit her eye like a bullet. She nearly whimpered. “He came here for the new bird. Wow, only this Roostman could have the balls for a move like this. This Roostman... Rides to the rescue of his flack but not to the one he treasured.”
Nadel was blushing hard as her feathers puffed back and got sleek. They give her form a slimmer image. Obviously the person inside her wanted Gold’s attention. Her body instantly looked sleeker and tried to appeal to Gold’s sensory. She wore a black and purple cape over a tank top of the same colors. The cape shadowing her steps combined with an arrogant posture landed her with an authoritative stance and an unignorable presence despite Gold previous attempts to filter. Now her feathers were soft and slender with fanning at the ends of her jaw and around her eyes. Like two delicate fans on the side of her head. The tank top revealed her waves of black feathers and the ebb and flow of her feather design.
“Pavise...” Gold remembered her face through under her red eyes and her black hair.
“Little Gold and Wren would sneak over to Bedded and let her out of her tunnel to live with them. Until she died. Here she is now, in the spitting image of the girl that vanished, under a new name. With a change of hair and eyes.”
“Good to see you too Pavise.”
“I’m not dead, so I guess that’s news for you isn’t it. And Raben is news for you to apparently. How's Wren?” She relaxed before sitting down on Gold’s bed beside him. “You need a promotion, very badly.” She rested a hand on his shoulder. “Seriously, the High Guardsmen get a whole lesson on Raben and our… protocols. I bet you’re getting giddy just thinking about those laws and rules you Rooster.”
“Very funny. Roost jokes I get it. Same old Pavise.” Gold was more confused than fearful or hopeful. Meanwhile Nadel’s partner just sat in the corner on a padded black bench.
"Your tribe is the better group to ask about Wren. She put me in here in the first place."
“You know those mysterious disappearances you get called for?” She asks, “Just Raben Featherings. Wait Wren did that!” She vocally double takes.
“What? yes, I though your whole tribe was all about this kind of thing.”
"Oh hell, she's a Rabeness! And the next recruit would go to the Fates!" She squealed. "Gold, me and Wren are going to be tribe sisters!"
"I can imagine, only her parents last saw her with you so they might be quick to blame but we might have to let them in on it. A few new rules are going around the faking deaths thing. So we might be able to visit.”
The door opened again behind her. A tall and iron clad figure strode in.
“Where is he?” A pronounced tone was emitted from a masked filter. His form loomed above Nadel and her partner. His armor was thick and eight blades hang from his knuckles. His gloves of steel nearly pushed the door off it's hinges. His metal steps shuddered the marble floor, stressing it's strength. The weight of his armor was so great he couldn't carry the burden on his body. An electric machine moved the legs and arms of the machine to his controls.
“Back off Shrieklich.” Nadel rushed from Gold’s side to stand in-between the ominous knight and the crippled Goldfuast. “He suffered the side effects of his implants. He rode all the way to the Corvus Castrum on his keeper and Folter pitied this fool and let him have a taste of Raben’s newest recruit. He knows his place my lord.” Nadel interceded for Gold. “To maim him or mark him would only bring shame upon us. He knows he was bested by our least trained recruit. Crippling him yourself is beneath you. He deserves it and you do not deserve such a mundane chore.”
“Send this fool back to his post. If I see you again Rooster, it will be my hand and my blades in your side. Get this filth out of my keep!” Schrieklich said as he stormed out. His voice was coarse and dry. He spoke a drought, a mixture of whispy wind and grinding gravel in the throat.
There was a quiet as Shrieklich’s footsteps faded from the Rabeness’s advanced hearing. Nadel’s partner sighed in relief. “That’s a scary man, that is.”
“We best get you out. That’s the warden clan Nacht Knight: Shrieklich. More of a brute than anything noble, and maybe a bit as crazed as me. He feathered in the middle of a raid with Roost back during an old war. He was just like you. Born and raised a Roostman, before he could implant, they were under attack. Then boom, Raben’s mark. Always hits early. Before he knew what happened, he’d killed his entire squad and all the mutants and fiends who came over the mountain. He has no friends, no family and wants to put as many people as he can in the ground.”
“The sooner I get out of here, the sooner I can leave your tribe to its knife work.” Gold said in a semi-insult.
“Listen you yellow-feathered meat head. The Rabenesses of Raben are a sister hood. Wren, or whoever she changes her name to, will be welcomed in with open arms. She’ll find her place; she’ll earn her ranks. It’s in her blood, Gold. As much as being a Roostman is in yours, oh wait, it isn’t.”
Nadel went too far and she knew it. “Gold. Forget you heard that.” She turns to her partner. “You have the charge armed, right?” She asks.
“Yes, Nadel. You won’t need it though; I’ve seen you do much worse than this without hurting anyone. You’re fine.” He answers.
“Thank you. For the record Gold, I still revert back to what wren just went through. Just a side effect.” She ended before sitting quietly in front of Gold. They arranged for a bed on thick all terrain wheels to be pulled up to his room.
“This might be a tad overkill. Am I going to see combat in a medical guerny?” Gold asked.
“No but we’re transporting you from the air, back to your outpost.” Nadel’s partner said.
They wheeled him out of the medical room and back down the infamously long halls of the Corvus Castrum
“So what now, am I even welcome back at my Tribe for this? There will be a tribunal, the courts will want me for something. We’re a tribe of laws Pavise.” Gold said.
“Nah, your Lord Kaiser and our Lord Folter worked something out. You’re likely due for a major promotion to get pasted two Rabenites, and fight a new bird. But you also scrapped with a marshal I hear. They’ll need Rooster’s like you.”
“Why does everyone call us Roosters?” Gold groaned for Nadel’s remark, and to the pain from Wren.
“Because you cover all your gear with shiny gold flakes. Ride around on giant birds, not like our birds, but birds that look like big chickens, and you stride triumphantly with trumpets where ever you go. Almost forgot, acting all macho is really coming on as a big rooster puffing up their feathers to save the day."
"So, you ride black birds, move in murders and wear claws."
"We Rabens' own it. We move in Murders of crows, and we have talons. Of course, once you have these things on your hand you can’t even imagine life without them. They’re so useful.”
“Like old times Gold."
Annoyed at her remark but understanding, he got to the underlying truth with his frustration breaking.
“We didn’t know what to do after you left Pavise! Wren and I just went our own ways. You think you’re the only one who got hurt? You tore us into a thousand pieces and scattered them to the wind. But now I know you’re alive. And I’m happy with you. You’re in Raben but you’re alive. I forgive you of this entire situation, you had no role in what happened. And if Raben didn’t take you when they did, me and Wren might be dead.”
“Thanks Gold, but you’re right on that one, I’d probably have killed you in a few minutes. I took someone’s eye out by accident after I had Raben’s mark and feathered. Anyways, let’s get your gurney to your transport.”
Gold was placed in a large harness, built into a stretcher. To Gold, it felt like a coffin on tires that branched out like a four-wheel vehicle into the corners of the bed.
They steer him down to the bird quarters. The great Ravens croaked out calls and got flustered in the perches hanging dozens of feet in the air with in massive iron domes underground.
“Sorry, they don’t like Roostmen.” Hundreds of trees grew towards the wire ceiling and the ground was painted with the occasional pile drop of bird dung. The building surpassed most structures in Nest Reacher. And was only rivaled on the continent of Avisland by a few structures.
Gold and Nadel merely waltz down the hall and into a giant room. The Corvus Castrum was winding city in its own right. Complete with electricity, running water, plumbing and massive bird facilities of every sort.
Two of the bird’s pecked each other before separating to their own quarters in the large domed room. Several stories high and nearly a half mile across, the dome was a towering sight, buried underground at first glance, but it’s a natural cavern; an old sink hole long dried up. Bedded had it augmented with a hatch on the ceiling and environmental designs by Robin in secret for the taming of the ravens which started back several hundred years ago.
The jungle canopy was unlike the pine forests above. The species of trees didn’t exist above the surface. Forested perching flora was perfect for the giant birds. But worthless when the other trees above were better suited for the climate and more productive for food.
“This is the bird box, the Murder Dome, the bird brain domain, we have fun here. Used to be a big old cave, but a awhile back we had it re-purposed, we gave anything that bore fruit to the elite of Robin, but the strong limbs are here for the birds. Not much variety anymore, the birds ate the seeds to the other trees, now only these old ones sprout off shoots.” Nadel introduced Gold in his stretcher to the thousands of birds flying under the gigantic dome.
“Pavise, will Wren be all right?” Gold asked trying to ignore the birds circling him.
“Those are two names we don’t like hearing Gold. She’s a Rabeness now. Her name and my name changed, like your father and mother before you, our names are added upon when we feather. You implanted so you didn’t have to. But Wren is gone. And Pavise…well. Am I the same person you once knew? Look at me.”
Gold took a moment to study exactly how much she’d changed. Row upon row of feathers covered most of her. She wore a purple tank top, beneath were feathers on her neck, growing up to her chin and much of her face. Rows and layers traveled all the way up her neck. A fan of sorts was flexed. The feathers on her arms were longer than any of the Raben's Gold had seen. The feathers on her legs were smaller. Just more on the back of them. Then Gold caught a shimmer in her hands. She was wearing a glove of talons. Four large blades hung from her fingers reinforced at her knuckles. Occasionally she would scratch the blades together in a sharpening act, even making a few sparks for the fun of it. While she stood waiting for her bird to fly over to her. They were silent for a moment.
“You can change your temperament, and you can feather into whatever tribe you want to. You might not be Pavise under that. But you’re the same girl who would look for light. The same girl who was so desperate to get into that light that she’d run away from Bedded and towards the forests to gallivant around with a Robin girl and a Roostman. The trouble you got me into back then, the stuff I had to turn a blind eye to. I don’t care who you are now ‘Nadel,’ you’re alive. And that’s enough for me.” Gold answered her.
“Whoa!” A giant bird interrupted him as it flapped its enormous wings. “That’s… a big bird.”
Nadel leaned down to Gold’s face. Her eyes were wide open staring down at his. Her small nose went to his right as her lips connected with his and her arms moved to his chest.
Bust as quick as she was in his face she was gone. She escaped off. She rode his surprise and his doubts. His face is blank but not confused or disturbed but pleasant, as if this were merely an odd dream.
This is the second time a Rabeness has tried this. Do they have something in the water? This can’t be normal… Pavise… oh Pavise I was such a fool. I gallivanted after Wren’s peril when I should have been by your side from the beginning.
It’s a face he trusted and the person who belongs to it was dear. The thought of her emotions as a guise lingered but this face in front of him, while secretive and obviously erratic, isn’t corrupt. It hadn’t even been twenty-four hours. But Gold knew she was not the sort to betray him or his emotions. Not to inflict harm at least, but Gold was sure she has something very amusing planned in time.
“I never got to taste those lips Gold, when I was Pavise. And I bet your fantasies just got a lot more vivid.” She smiled and ran her bladed fingers through her hair. “I liked watching your patrols long ago. You’re a good Roostman. And we Ravens don’t bite… Actually those ones will so don’t look them in the eyes, but I was being metaphorical. Hell, even I’d probably cut you if you bothered me, just forget it. I was trying to be wordy. Long story short: Open your barracks window tomorrow night, we need to… talk but it’s not my fault if we make more sounds than words, I get bored around here.” Nadel blushed and tied her saddle off a rack and onto the bird. She threw two straps over the bird and links three chains to Gold’s harness.
In three pulls and one lock, Gold was strapped to the bird as it began to hop and gain speed towards a hatch in the ceiling. Sunlight from the dawn moved in and the Great Ravens lept and soared around them.
“What are you doing Pavise?” Gold was virtually paralyzed from his medication and the pain in his side. “No, I have two keepers outside, don’t leave them here!” Gold was panicking for an excuse to avoid take off. The wind was gaining and blasted Gold’s short brown hair with his yellow feathers.
“Rooster really are flightless birds. I’m betting the new bird made the same sound you’re about to make. Ha ha, don’t worry about your keepers, your high guardsmen fetched them for you.”
The Dome contained a large passage that only those of the Raben tribe knew how to open, the Bedded tribe destroyed the public designs, and only a single copy remained in archive. A special signal on Nadel’s helmet activated the doors.
Gold’s teeth were clenched and he screamed periodically as the Raven dived or spiraled after it cleared the hatch into the morning mountain air. A chill rippled through the three of them. Nadel was enjoying herself, mostly at the sight of Gold in an artificial distress and wished she could just spiral on into the air with Gold. Never coming back. But she held her head and released a peaceful sigh.
“I’m just never the same girl when I’m on the ground. If I had my own wings, I’d never touch the ground again.” She huffed. Her feathers were flustered around Gold and even Gold was catching glimpses of her furious flying as his harness spun and swung about. What stopped his yell was the glare from Nadel’s hand. Tribe Raben doesn’t wear reflective material. It’s her hands. Her metal blades were out again. The glove was flexing and the blades were rubbing together. She’d worn the blade though the into the steel from grinding them together.
She’s different. Underneath the skin, she’s flesh and bone, the same Pavise, but something is unhinged up top. A screw is loose; a marble missing. She’s driven by something. I’ve broken up rivalries before all over Nest Reacher, I’ve seen men hate each other. Old feuds, revenge, this is the same thing. Something has her goat. But she can’t hide it for long. She wants to lash out.
Gold finally built the strength to look down and under him, the valley was laid out. Like a bowl full of green.
The great raven casted a deep shadow as it loomed like a vulture in it's peak altitude. A graceful descent ensued and Gold convulsed with a queasy feeling growing.
“Hang tight Gold. I’ll set you down by your outpost. Remember, keep your window open, tomorrow. Remember that.” Nadel dived low and released the slack on Gold’s harness for his bed tied to the bird.
“Whoa, don’t do that Pavise, Nadel, stop it. Don’t.” The bird arched up as the bed on wheels was released. It collided with the ground in a mixture of a crunch and a clash. The device wasn’t rickety before but it was now as it tries to eat the momentum. Nadel’s timing couldn’t have been better. The bed rolled with Gold yelling his lungs out as the medical restraints kept Gold a prisoner to it's speed. The guards of the Roost Post saw him careening at high speed. It rolled to a stop on the main road leading right to the gate. The raven was silent in flight and the only noise in the whole forest was Goldfuast's yells.
“It’s Goldfuast. He’s back! He fell right out of the sky.” A guard yelled from the watch tower. “Those foreigners just dropped him right off.”