Dee and Hex.
"Lord Klau was dead, his armor had scorch marks. Very intense scorch marks. Four metal points went straight into his torso and both of his arms were burned. The smell was awful. We went to our filtration on our helmets instantly. But our investigation had to pause. More Ravens were soaring above us. And our helmet communicators were working again."
-Personal Note: Marshal Verner
Avisland: Robin Territory, Northern Clan.
Mafic and Felsic stopped and left me in the hallway after a brief word. Their helmets beeped then they were gone.
But as they disappeared out of sight, Verza seemed to manifest from another random door in the wall.
“Verloren, I had to see to something. The twins called me, it’s good to see you. You ready for some good clothes?”
“Oh, hello Verza.” I said casually. Trying to look passed her rather unpleasant abilities and involvement with my abduction. “Is this Dee’s room?”
“Yes indeed, looks like you found your way here. Come on in.”
It was more like a locker mixed with a Robin operating table than a proper room. Needles and hooks hang from holes in smooth plates fixed above my head. But I was told it’s a tailor's room. Another panel on a wall indicated massive rows of storage, and behind a door with a glass wall, dozens of rows continued back with storage racks, filing, and equipment.
“It’s a good call by Frem.” Verza said as we walked in. She was no so talkative as she was but she was certainly genuine with her mood. She was very happy I was here even if she didn't express it with deliberate body language or the precise words. My best friends have always done that. I could read someone and know that I was welcome, anticipated, disliked, or unfamiliar.
My new senses had gone mad in the itchy Robin clothes I wore. I had feathers now. I’d never itched before in those clothes since the feathering. It was everywhere. My body was just much more sensitive, and I’d already managed to put a rip in my sleeves. The material wasn’t weak either, I just didn’t know my own strength.
My hands, arms, breasts, neck, and waist were itching and twitching in discomfort, as if my clothing were trying to strangle me. And Verza told me if I got feathers down between the legs I would need unique uniforms over the normal attire. My first guess would be skirts and robes. But I did see a Rabeness with a gown as I was lead to the room. Not everyone has the same amount of feather coverage. Robin typically had them on the arms and the back of the legs, but besides that, only rare individuals had more.
And of course, the only color’s raben worked with were purple and black. Occasionally they had some camouflage or casual clothing from the Macaw Tribe. We passed a few Rabenites in full camouflage who gave us a wave while we walked into the room.
“Oh Dee!” A woman walked over with the skin tone of a hazelnut. Her hair rolled down her back in dreads and her clothing betrayed a sleek and nimble artist. Greens, reds and purples adorned her gear and her But she was petite. with Verza hugging her with a lean.
“Verza? You brought the new bird.” She said with a smile. Her hair was aged from her black hair at the roots to shadowed silver near the ends. The room was painted a pale white but well-lit from the electric beams in the ceiling. The shadows were in seashell shapes across the walls.
One hand was at her side while another was holding a door across from us to glance at her new tribe sister. “Does she have the right room? Ha, I’m just kidding, you’re in the best spot for a new bird.” Her hand on the door was gripping a four talon blade that clacked on the surface. Her left hand tapped her wrist and the four blades on her fingers linked back to her knuckles.
“Yes! That’s me, sorry, still getting used to the new name. Loren for short works I guess.”
“I’m Orchidee Raben Ghoul of the Scout clan. Just Dee if the old tongue doesn’t roll. You’re from Robin?” Her voice rang like a sincere and loving grandmother’s. She wore no armor or even a visor.
“It’s good to meet you.”
“The same, dear. Now I was from the Macaw tribe, and I never gave up my sowing hobby, and I’m the head of the armory. I’ll need some measurements from you and I’ll need my tools.” She wondered the room tapping on the walls. Each wall rotated into several blade racks, metal plates, helmet hangers, and rows of chains, rolls of leather, silk, cotton, furs, wool, and dyes of several vivid colors. She removed her blade claws and replaced them with a unique glove.
“Oh, I need all this?”
“No dear, most of that is for marshals. But you’ll need the basics. Fifteen outfits for casual and work. Seven of each and a promotional piece. That makes fifteen, plus a few home life outfits, undergarments, and nightwear as well.”
“Wow. Will I need that many? I don’t want to abuse your hospitality; I can do with less. I don’t want to over use the Tribes materials.” I try and refuse the extremeness of the gift. Robin clothes were durable and ten outfits were more than plenty considering our boots, leather, and head gear were the highest quality. But as I begin to notice, they were not meant to survive a Raben wearer.
“No way dear. This might last you three days until you know your strength. I’ve had birds rip up dozens of pieces, master pieces, never the regular browsers, always the new birds.”
“Ah, I forget about that. I’m stronger now.”
“Yes,” She says quietly as she unwound measuring tape from a roll in her gloves. This glove had smaller blades; sharper and shorter. Her fingers contained a needle on a thin metal system with her little finger as a hook..
Verza had been smiling as she watched.
“Okay, I’ll hand over your first uniform, and try and change into it. Leave me some cloth to repair if you can.” She handed me a new style of bra and undergarments. Our silk makers in Robin have worked with the Macaw tribe on these before; a high flexibility design. She asked me to stand on a wide platform and pull a circular curtain around me.
I undress and I rip my old clothes in half in the attempt. “Sorry.”
“No worries, you won’t be wearing those rags again. It’s not personal, your old stuff was made to keep good for years, the stuff you have now is made for comfort. It’s not a luxury, it’s necessity. You would have been a twitching mess in the field.”
I tried the underwear, but it’s in pieces after a slight pull. It was just so frail, it tore like it was hardly holding itself together.
“You’re right, this might take a few goes.” She tossed a second pair over the curtain. I catch it and delicately try and get my legs in it. Another rip and the top was the same. On the third try I get the bottom on, and I need a fourth try for the bra. It couldn’t have been fragile. It was cloth. I’m just ripping them like dried leaves after heat. They might as well blow away in the wind.
“I didn’t hear a snap, and I didn’t hear a rip. So now you can take a look in the mirror and help me pick out your favorites.” She pulled the curtain up but now the room had been surrounded by mirrors. I’m bombarded by this woman in the mirrors, feathers surround her arms with more on her left, her red eyes were part scared and part relieved and the feathers had expanded out in her panic at the mirrors. Her feathers stretched to her neck from the tops of her hand. They moved up the arm, around the chin, the neck, and spread down my sides until the reach my calves.
Jet black rows would move with every muscle and they had an elegance to them that even my mother’s brown feathers didn’t have.
Dee had new racks of clothes next.
“Here.” She handed me a singlet, I only ripped it twice this time, only when getting it passed my feet. It’s comfortable but merely a start. It’s barely clothing.
“It looks good. It feels so nice. So much better. but I could catch a cold in this.”
“Now we’re on day to day things. What you have now will be a good thing. It’s comfy with or without feathers. This gets a bit more uniform but you’ll like the feel. Silk interior with a leather guard.” She reached for a thick pair of silk stockings with two bands latched on to them. A metal plate was fixed to the surface providing shin guard armor.
Next was a top and I tried so desperately to not rip them and I almost succeeded this time. I finally got them on and she patiently waits. A leather vest over a comfortable shirt. A sense of ease was the objective and Dee knew what she was doing.
“It’s loose on me, is it supposed to be? I’ve never worn vests like this before.”
“That’s why I’m here Verloren. Can I call you Loren, that’s alright?” She took it off me carefully and her glove sliced at it. Several holes have been made in her claws like the eyes of needles. She stitches the leather and winds it tight with her metal stabbers slithering through the tanned fabrics and leathers. She handed it back and it zipped on snug. I button two spots behind the curtain. I caught the mirror again when I finished. It doesn’t rub the feathers wrong and it feels like I could run a marathon in this cut. I hoped they didn’t want that for real.
“You look perfect. I’ll move along now. I’ll have three pairs of this made up, and I’ll have another style too, this one is only good for the summer and we’re in fall right now, winter’s coming and you’ll need to be warmer out. Our coats do good but if you need something special just ask. But you can’t fly around with just your vests and shirts. Try these.”
She handed me another item. Thick snow pants and a long scarf. She handed me a long black coat with purple borders next. It fitted outside the vest and the back of it flowed into a cape with two flaps that hung off the back and a hood installed that could flip over a helmet.
I was wearing a vest, tailored to my exact shape, a form fitting singlet under it with leggings, knee guards, shin guards, elbow pads, a black cloak, and Dee motions two more racks of gear to lower down.
“I can’t thank you enough. I can’t say I don’t look the part.” A little in shock myself.
“You’re not Raben yet. Every bird has their claws. Now listen up because this is a sacred rite. Every bird has their talons. Four blades built into the knuckles with retracting properties. But we craft three sets for each recruit.”
“Oh, those things scare me, do I really need a pair?” Those talons haunted me a bit. Something so sharp and so potentially deadly was worn so casually in Raben. The knives got under my skin..
“No, girl, no. These can save your life, or the lives of who knows how many people in the Avisland as a whole, or just in Nest Reacher. They are also good for modifying. Like mine. Let me see your hand.” I stretched it out and she began to meticulously measure it with her clawed hand.
“Just a moment.” She opened a special drawer and begins to fiddle with straps on a metal box and comes back with a harness and eight thin blades, the points are sharp but too thin and extra light. “Four for each hand. Your first pair are for scratching and slitting open. You’ll only use one claw until you’re an expert.”
She attached it on and tightened it to a firmness like my own skin. I could honestly forget it was there.
“Whoa!” I flexed my hand and the blades shimmered with a inky light.
“We have three different kinds of points: the traditional talons like the one you have on, all about the thrust or the slash. After that is what we call the “Punch” style. It’s a four-pointed thrusting claw. Four stiletto points.”
She showed me an example.
“And next are the grasping talons. Most of us can vice something with ours and shred it into several pieces when they’re sharpened. You grab an apple, grasp and it’s sliced into four pieces. The blades are on the inside of the hand.”
I nodded and took what I could in.
“But we have a fourth kind. They’re special so they’re only Nacht Knight weapons, the King Fisher is a single blade, one equally deadly thrusting blade and slicing weapon, only it’s a bit more fragile. And it is expected you modify and maintain your tools at all times.”
Dee fiddled with four of the knives and configured several blades.
“Almost forgot, we also have the vulture. You won’t want to use them to fight, but they have a needle tip for medicinal and poisonous things. If you watch these tubes that run along this type. You can give painkillers, medicine, or stimulants to our tribe in the field. And you can also poison something unaware, drive it berserk, or poke something wounded to move on. I’m sure you’re very familiar with medical practices from Robin correct?”
“I was a Robin but I don’t’ want to kill anything with these things, it can’t be right.”
“I understand Loren. Our job is surprisingly like your old one dear.” Dee said.
“How so?” I asked unconvinced.
“We provide for Avisland, not food of course but something we desperately needed. A secret body guard, an informant network, and a counter intelligence all in one. Yes we go after the corrupt in the inner circles of the tribes. No, we do not kill unjustly. We warn them, we send a commission to the heads of the Robin, Roost, Talon, Macaw, Bramble, Bedded, and our own here at Raben. Only after an agreement, we act.”
I take a moment to look at the claw she fastened on to my other hand.
“Okay, I just don’t think I’ll ever be ready for something like this.” The blades moved with my fingers. I bat the air and the whistle of the metal played with every motion. these were sharp beyond anything.
“You won’t but you’ll figure it out. I did.” She opened one last cabinet. “These things are crucial. Your standards: Combat knife, your Revolver, your visor helm, and your boots. Every Rabeness has these. Someone can walk you through the mask here and someone will get you started on training with the claws and the knife.”
“Okay, what’s a revolver?” I asked. I see it but don’t understand it. It’s a fire pipe like my father’s but way more sophisticated. It has a windmill shaped the handle and the pipe. “Is it like a dart gun? A firing pipe?”
“Well, this thing is packed with a metal dart, indeed. Nothing inside right now. But you won’t touch this until you start training. We call them Revos.”
“Okay, I’m not touching that.” The thing looked cold. It looked crueler than the claws on my hand.
“That’s right. Because you don’t know how this works yet. But we train for days on this thing, And I even know several people from roost who picked these things up and mastered them in a few weeks. SOme learn much faster than others. But I guess your squad can teach you and get you some targets to practice on.
She did weapon maintenance and cleaned it dissembled it then reassembled it.
"Keep it in this box here until you’re out in the field, it’s harmless right now, no darts, no metal pieces, no shots. And try this mask on please. Just don’t forget, if you fear your weapons you will probably die. You need to trust them.”
I tried the helmet I saw everyone using. It’s soft inside and it would have to be in order to touch our faces without bugging us or our feathers. I see out the glass like a window. I see six little lights on the top right and a faint grid.
“You have four buttons on each side of the mask by the ear, each set does the same thing so if you’re right or left handed it won’t matter. We have two buttons under the chin and the back of the head, just under a hatch. Those will unlock the helmet. And it will lock on it fifteen seconds once activated. It will feel weird at first but then it will sit just right.”
“I saw so many people using these, can you talk to people with it? Does it send messages?” I ask. Mafic and felsic knew they had orders as if from thin air. This might have been the reason.
“Yes, but only with your clan, or your team when you start working.” She answered. “Here it should be snug, no?” The device clicked around my neck and I jumped. But it loosened and stayed at a perfect tightness.
“Does the visor block your peripherals? It shouldn’t but if it does we have other types.”
“No it’s fine.”
“Good, good, let’s get more gear for you. I have two pairs for you here, and you’d be hard pressed to break these.” Dee said. She brought rows of little metal clips. Dozens of tiny plates. She starts placing the metal pieces in to a complex rib cage of armor and along a few areas. In six minutes of holding still she had both of my legs in the metal and my arms with an entire body armor set hastened on. It attached to my other gear like a puzzle. It was all made to with synergy in mind.
“Now let’s test it.” Her arm coiled back and thrusts right at my center. She lashed out with a fist! I’m knocked from the pedestal but toppled on to my feet. The metal gear stopped strike.
“Perfect, it’s a perfect fit!” Dee was squealing “Oh! It looks so good, you’re all set.”
“Did you have to knock me over like that?”
“Yes, because if the armor was faulty, then it’s best we know that now where we can patch you, better than outside where someone or something will take advantage of that.”
“I get that, but you could have just hit the armor before it was on me.” I reminded her.
“That’s no fun though, I like the gamble. And I knew one thing ahead of time.” She boxed up the outfits that we’ve picked out and got a large package ready. “My talons are dull. And i’m too old for fighting. I’ll have a friend of mine bring the equipment and clothes to your new room.
Verza finally spoke. “Dee, I’ll need an extra pair of claws. your last pair of blades worked so well, I’ll need the blades hooked.” Verza requested. “I won’t need them now, but I just got a mission and I can be back latter to pick them up.
Dee looked back to me. “You need the New bird?”
“No, she’ll head back to her clan.” Verza answered. “Um, Verloren, keep that gear on because we might want to get your bird today.”
Dee took a moment to sharpen and fiddle with her claws, then moved the curtain and the mirrors into the ceiling. They folded and made tiles and the drawers pushed back into the wall.
“Alright Loren, have you had a bite to eat?” Dee asked
We never did get food. And my stomach had been struggling through all this stress. I could go for breakfast right now.
The door opened in about a minute and the Rabeness from before came in. Trish.
“Verloren! All kitted out, perfect. How are you doing?” Trish said with a smile and enthusiasm.
Dee gave an old laugh, “You two will be great friends, She’s just like you Trish.”
“We’re getting her bird already right now. Oh, she’ll love her, they’re young right now, it’s the best time to start training. But they have their flying feathers.” Said Trish.
“So I get a bird? I don’t want to fly. One of those things had me and it looked hungry yesterday, when it grabbed me and flew into the sky.”
“Oh, well I need to talk to a marshal about that later, those birds are on a diet. If they’re hungry it means a feeding wasn’t arranged right. But if you want to be a productive Rabeness, you need a bird. Feed it, name it, teach it some good words. Your name, its name, and some commands and they’re perfectly safe.”
“They respond to words? Like keepers?” I asked.
“Wow, Keepers are stupid compared to Avarice, my bird.” Verza said. “Mr. Nachtperle Avarice. Very proper. That’s Night Pearl the Greedy, in the old tongue. I trained him how you’re about to train yours. Let’s hurry, it’s one of the best things about Raben.”
“Um, can we not? I don’t know where my room is, I haven’t eaten anything for a while.” I tried to make excuses with a grain of truth.
“Good, flying on a full stomach is not a good idea if you’re new. Come on, new bird. I can bring food to you when you have your bird.” Verza and Trish rushed me out of the room and into the stretching hallway. Dee paused us.
“It’s best you hold still. Verza, a murder is heading out.” Dee said as she leaned towards the wall. “Make some room Loren.”
I leaned back just to see eight flickers in the light. They move so fast I can’t even count them. Their armor was thicker and their capes were wider and longer than mine. They sprinted down the narrow corridor and blasted through a special hatch at the end of the hall.
Two were ringed in chains and hooks twirling about their cloaked forms. Another two were covered in cloaks of feathers, striding with their claws at their sides.
“Alright, so we’re organized into squads of about four. Verloren, your squad will be Trish here, and two others. We’ve arranged for you to go with a few of my friends as well.”
We walked for a few passages and ended up at a colossal dome. Wire ceiling, heaters, cooling units, and hundreds of trees into a half mile long room of artificial land.
“Okay, follow me. Bye Dee! Thanks for seeing her off.” Verza waved as she pulled me into the forested enclosure.
Dee grinned. “Any time you two. Try not to rip anything with the birds, they have claws and beaks, oh hell I’m going to be busy.”
The air smelled like the birds and like pine. The trees here were the types that grew like the ones above: interwoven branches and running growths. The complete tangle of limbs and needles locked the forest together and the birds soaring among the shadows made easy nests.
“Take this Verloren.” Verza tosses me a shiny plate. “The birds are juveniles and these animals are not tame. You should bewitch them to put it simply. They still love shiny things. They might be a new breed but they’re still bird brains.” We walk to a long and dead tree near to the entrance. Two great ravens dived over us and I ducked for cover. They were silent.
Verza just stood over me.
“If you act like food, they’re going to try and eat you. Too late. Good thing you kept your claw on, you’re going to need it. The Juvenile see’s you, yup thats hee. Back of the dome, it’s coming in fast girl. Show them who’s boss Verloren!” Verza shouted to me as she ran away towards the entrance and the way out as she waited under cover.
Black claws descend and I barely had time to scream as black talons grasped at me and the bird pinned me to the floor. The armor stopped it and I back handed the bird’s face.
My blades thrusted at the bird’s leg and latched in. It’s beak croaked out and lunges to me. It’s beak slid off the helmet mask and failed to even scratch me. The bird’s left eye was red like mine and a tilt of its head caused the bird to stare at me with one eye from the side of its head as it panicked with reality. I was not food. I was in fact it’s better and would prove it.
I gripped into the bird’s legs and in reaction to the sharpness in its leg the talons ceased their clench and let me go. It tired to fly away but as it landed on the tree it collapsed on its hurt leg.
Verza yelled to me. “You know animal first aid Verloren, go help it out. You got to show it you’re friendly and I’ll you two a bite to eat.”
I ran it down under the tree at an intense speed. I had never ran so fast in my life and I moved my head directly to it’s eye. After a struggle the bird tried to regain flight. It faltered in its final attempt to gain altitude as it collapsed again.
“Hey, you get no pity from me you crazy thing!” I shouted at the bird. “You started it!” It cawed and croaked a few sounds and gave a slight hiss when I got at its leg.
Trish followed me. “Good work new bird.” She threw it a fully grown bull frog. “They like these. Verloren will have one for you in a minute. You can feed her and care for her and she’ll like you a bit more.”
“You and your killer birds! The thing tried to eat me!” I shouted at her.
“You had something shiny.” Trish tried to justify the bird with a joke. “Let the bird have it, then care for it. It is very young.” Trish said.
The bird gots flustered and flapped it’s giant wings. I was nearly thrown off and quickly plunge my claws into the ground to stay up.
“Really! Care for it? It wanted to eat me.
“But it won’t when you are done. And you managed to catch our Nest’s female. We had three Juveniles, two were male, but the females aren’t as loud and smell much nicer. You’re lucky.” Trish put a positive spin on the bird.
“I also brought you some first aid in case the bird had its way with you.”
“How considerate... Getting my flesh picked clean by these things and oh joy a first aid kit?” I’m getting more irritable as Trish binds my leg in medical tape. She uses her claws to cut it and ties it on.
“You’re hungry, Where is Verza with the food? Whatever, wash and bind your bird’s cut too.” Trish was wearing an outfit mirroring Verza’s only Trish has a black handle with a long scabbard on her back. It was a sword. ALmost like Roost tribe swords.
“You weren’t kidding?”
“No, do you have a name for it?”
“Well, she’s stupid! And mean!” I give the bird a angry glare. Its eyes don’t show hunger or savagery, but a fear, a confusion and a helplessness. I know that feeling too well. I’ve raise birds and the big ones just panic when things go wrong.
“She’s kind of pretty. I must admit it. She’s nothing like the animals I raised in Robin.” The Great raven was beautiful, a beauty and a sinister creature I respected now. “Hex.”
“I love it. You figured her out didn’t you.”
“Yeah, she’s a complete witch. But I know she’s going to grow on me.” I slowly approached the bird again. I rested my claw glove hand on its good leg. It’s massive eye was just watching mine. I caught some tape from Trish and begin to wrap up the bird’s leg after pouring water. Surely it’s could be raised around humans. I watched other bird Keepers for the Roost tribe. Then turned out just fine.
Her feathers were heaving up and down, and in and out, as she gave a purr. She knew the tape was good it was soaking in a pain killer.
“Miss Verloren?” Trish interrupts my observations with my new bird.
“ I just got a message from the Fate Clan for you. We have a meeting with your new Clan and your parents. Tomorrow at noon. Two Nacht Knights will show you your real quarters and invite your parents over for a meal with the clan.”
“Slow down! I can visit my parents?”
“Yes sister.” Said Trish.
“Okay, Are they going to recognize me?”
“Probably not at first. But your voice and your face haven’t really changed. And they should love who you are now as much as who you were.” Trish held’s my hand. “Unless they don’t.” Then she laughed.
“I have a bruise from my bird here where it pinned me.” I looked over at Hex. “I blame you for this!” The bird started to flap it’s wings and it called out.
“Yeah, blah, blah, caw, caw. That’s enough out of you Hex.” I sighed. “What do I do about bird brain?”
“You’ll stay the night here with her, give her food and feed her slow, then she’ll bond with you. She needs to trust you now. Give her lots of eye contact and try and teach her your name. Reward that behavior with these and she’ll have it down today.”
She handed me dead smelly bull frogs for Hex. And Verza arrived with four more bull frogs and three boxes of food.
“I’m in a tribe of bird brains…”