The Robin Tribe
“The Robin tribe uses machinery provided by The Bedded Tribe to work the fields. They also act as the trained personnel for medical work and several are under vow to keep any operation, surgery, or treatment. But Robin offers us an issue. They have vast swaths of land the roam in. Maintained land mind you.
There are no wild trees or rampant vegetation to shelter our operatives. We are forced to the ground were
-Personal Note: Marshal Verner-
Avisland: Robin Territory, Northern Clan.
“This is it, Wren! This is it!” My father called out at the air. Emerald corn stalks swayed gently behind him. “After tomorrow, your Mom and I are empty nesters.” He spoke from his seat in his tractor.
The strange tightness of my neck did not complement the tightness matching it on my arms. The neck's discomfort was nervousness. The second constricting notion was becoming more of an itch and was on was my wrists. The ceremonial sashes were very unpleasant and I swear they were on too tight. I had never heard of an itching this miserable,
I picked at my sash around my wrists much to my father’s annoyance. We rested for a few minutes on the farm trail on our plot. The plot was one of hundreds dotting the valleys on the mountains. Mountain snow caps melting from the summer sun had rich run off and the crops were nearing their harvest time as fall arrived. A few choice crops were finished and stored but a few larger yields were coming soon. We’d gotten to a few early growths but most of our work right now was preparation. We dodged frost for most of the season which was fortunate. The fruit was either canned, bottled, or fermented with the choice crops sent to Macaw for public use and preparation before they spoiled. It was a tedious and ordinary year like always. The same happened to the greens that we harvested as well.
“Don’t tear it off yet dear, you need to keep that covered.” My father said. He motioned his rich and vibrant arm to his wrist. “Just wait girl, I know there’s more than one scary story behind them but provoking fate isn’t so smart just a day from the feathering. right now any sunlight exposure can cause sever sunburns. The reaction you're waiting for is under the skin, patience, Wren, patience.”
His own wrists were clad in brown and tan feathers in a uniform layer. I was always envious of them, but I wouldn’t be for long. I just needed one more day.
Father was well meaning and suffered from speaking his mind when he probably shouldn’t but I was never sure if that was a character quirk of his or just a dad thing.
“Sorry. It just itches so badly. Did yours itch like this?” I scratched at the sash again.
“No honey, seriously don’t pull on the sash. I know you’re nervous so just don’t forget, you’ll have feathers soon. Don’t let anxiety make you fret. But no matter what, you keep that sash on. When we get back home I’ll have your mother rebind it and wash it for you. I still need to finish a little more work before I’m done. You can tell her I’ll bring her home the butter and the eggs for some baking.”
“Oh, my mistake! I think I know why you’re itching. I just remembered; we keep the sashes on because right now sunlight exposure can cause serious damage right now. Its sensitive isn’t it?”
“Very.” I gave him an exaggerated groan.
My usual annoyance was not my arms. It was the path we took every day. We never did anything different. The primitive tractor took the same path on the same road in the same groves in the road from the sheer number of laps we had driven from the barns and the warehouses.
Robin natives like myself were often filling in the tracks with more material after a few months as a testimony to the monotony.
“I just remembered your uncle had itching. Keep out of the light if you think that might help the skin gets sensitive.”
To distract myself from the insatiable itch I tried talking over the hissing burn I felt on my wrists to my shoulder. Maybe just distractions could keep my mind off it.
“I know you want me to implant but it’s risky.” I called him out on his dream. He would never ask but I know his dream is for me to stay.
“Aw, no, I don’t want you to implant. If it were safer, I would encourage it but the side effects are never pleasant. Just ask your friend Goldfaust, great fellow but he'll come down on the smallest slight since he stayed in Roost.” He said. "You have an eye for Gold?" He asked.
"You remember Pavis dad, he's still torn up. He's a friend, and she was a friend. It wouldn't be good for either of us." I replied.
He wouldn't have too much time to ask questions anymore. “Alright, sorry I asked I only have moments before you'll head out. I'll keep it positive for you. You should leave on a good note. You need to leave and I just have to get my head around it.” My father said breaking eye contact and admitting something he didn't believe. He didn't think I should go, that simple. He wasn't speaking his heart because it was selfish and he knew it.
“Where do you want to end up? Wait now, don’t tell your mom. We both know you’re not supposed to have a favorite tribe but you can tell me.” He asked and persuaded with the foolishness and shenanigans reserved to brothers and fathers. He wiped his brow with a cloth. His hair was graying only slightly as was his short beard. We had the same color of hair. A rich brown that lacked the vibrant gold of an acorn but not the dark tones soil.
“Is it too much to ask for the Arbiters?” I lamented, I had a one out of six chance of entering that tribe but it was at the foremost center of my dreams.
Father looked surprised. “Well no, but I never though they’d be your first wish. Wait, that makes a lot of sense, you have been practicing your debates with your mother. Huh... I imagined you in Bramble. And I know your mom secretly hopes for you to feather into Roost but I don’t see it yet.”
“I don’t know, I could be a strong roost woman.” I said, happy to distract him from my personal hopes and dreams. Banter over possible me's was better than addressing who I am.
Father laughed. “I don’t doubt it but I do forget Roost puts on quite a bit of muscle through the mutations. Wearing armor all day, riding around. You would see real combat though. Mom said her family was always at the borders or dealing with creatures that wandered too close to the border. But worst of all, there were frequent reports of cloaked scouts from outside the land. Something is always spying on us.”
“Well, mom is just fine and she came from Roost. I’ll do just fine where ever I end up. The only thing I’m not wanting is Tribe Bedded.”
"Bury those lips Wren," an idiom among the tribes. "My sister, your aunt is a Beddedite. She's a Tunnel Runner no less. They're very respected."
I shrugged, at least in my worst case scenario I wouldn't be alone.
Avisland resting in the mountains got white winters, cool springs, and hot summers. And this fall would be my ascension from the Robin tribe. Born a Robin Native, I didn’t have the mutations for the medical work or the same for farming. Only natives that receive brown feathers grow the Robin mutations. So running the tractors and the machines was all I did. I got proper first aid training through and I could set dislocations. Stitching, binding, bracing, and swabbing were always allocated to the Natives. But mom was one of the finest surgeons in the tribe. I had a great deal of skill in pharmacy training and administering medication.
I was expected to take these skills with me to my next tribe and I would raise kids in that tribe with skills to carry to the next. so all the tribes would circulate their talent. This had an alliance effect of sorts where no one tribe could ever abandon another. If Robin were cut short, our doctors wouldn't be able to aid in child birth, decease or injuries. Plus the lack of farming would see the tribes starve to death in a haste.
But without Roost tribe security and military judicial laws and practices would see injustice run rampant as well as foreign attackers.
I imagined patrolling the farmlands on the back of a bipedal mount. We raised keepers for the Roost tribe, great flightless war birds to charge their enemies, and to move their heavy armored officers to and fro.
My father brought me back to reality once again. I still had the last little details of my old work to finish. Dad never really needed my help today, but he wanted as much time as he could I imagine.
“So one of the repellent devices needs a refill or the birds will be on it. The ravens are already picking about. It’s only been an hour and it should have activated already. To me this reeks. We have a surplus of repellent heads but it’s by the hatch in the middle of the field. If the tribe can’t meet the quota you know problems start up and I swear we just fixed it before. Oh that was two fields over.” He said as we hopped down off our tractors. And ravens can really chew into our quality.
"It was the first fall rains. They must have clogged them up with sediments." I replied.
Dad folded his arms, the feathers on them fluffed up. Mood and posture displayed emotions through his feathers. Ruffled and erratic feathers were typically agitation while smoother quills would be calm and relaxed along with dozens of other arrangements and positions along our arms.
Most feathers go from the wrists and hands to the shoulders, with some having feathers moving up to chins and on backs. Others are nearly completely covered.
“We refilled the device two days ago as well. Did tribe Bedded give us an old model?” I asked as I hopped down.
“They wish, the container might just be loose too, thats always a possibility. That does happen all the time. The pipe that leads to it is an older one and the nozzle is new. You go check it out. I have the trigger so when you get it adjusted I’ll spray the crows once you’re clear. Just be a good way off, alright Wren? We wouldn’t want you coming home smelly like a skunk.”
I walked out into the corn field. We grew it out from a few flat locations in the mountains. The cultivation of the crops were essential to Avisland. Our realms were defined by our territory, guarded and sustained by crafts and a response force. But food production moved all these things the control of said food surplus keeps various kinds of power centralized. Roost becomes invaluable in their own way, Bedded's technology is critical at all times. It was this mutual reliance that prompted Roost's legal force to dictate that no tribe were to grow foods without Robin's oversight, and no tribe surplus should exceed a certain amount without Robin's authority.
Speaking of food, the tricky part about the corn this time of year was the density, we hadn’t cut it yet so visibility was next to nothing once I got into the field. Good thing the pipe ran along the ground. The scent sprayer was mounted on a pole hanging over the crops and a little tube wound it's way up the pole but had become detached.
My sash stopped itching there.
The jog through the stocks had my blood flowing. It was just an odd itch after all. Now they just felt tight for some reason.
And surely father would never know if I took a glance. It was feeling hot under the sash, much more than before.
I peeled back the edge of the cloth. Just an stretch. Not even an inch. It was more of a wrinkle in the fabric than taking it off.
I saw my own expectations and fantasies for a second. The taboo undone at last. I saw my potential and my destiny.
“Blue feathers, blue feathers, blue, please blue." I whispered to myself.
It looked like oil. I’d been sweating and the sashes never helped but this was different. It was a black sticky oil and it was everywhere. I looked like a I plunged my arm into tractor oil. Sticky, greasy, filth coated my wrists to the end of my arm. It was coming from my pores. i gripped my wrist and it was worse.
Dark strands sprouted from my skin just after. Little wispy hairs were growing rapidly but the very wind ripped them into the breeze. from the first long strands came the first quills. They grew as black as burnt grass stalks in the wind on a pale dead hill. Stunned and disgusted by the oily blotch on my arms, I stepped backward. I lost balance at the sight. The black feathers twisted in my blurring tunnel vision they unfurled like a fern's early unraveling tendrils shaping into luscious leaves.
I was in a full retreat backwards never losing my pursuer. My pursuer was myself and my foolishness. I heard the corn stalks shifting. Dad was coming, he couldn’t see this, the sash on the ground, black feathers, my curiosity and pitiful temptation. I opened Pandora's box.
“You alright girl?” He yelled out.
“Don’t come over here! Don’t!” The steps continued though.
“Wren it’s okay! I’ll stay put. Just tell me you’re okay.” He shouted back.
Found and frantic, I was frozen. I couldn’t walk back to him now. I disobeyed, now I was trying to hide it. Only in my confusion and shock did I notice: the stepping and shifting corn rows hadn’t stopped.
He must have been getting closer.
“I told you don’t come near me!” I shouted. As a hand grasped my neck in a cold clench. A black grasp from the greenery. A hand shoved me down with speed.
“Raben Confirmation!” A voice echoed over the field and directly in my ears. The tone was painfully cast. “Black feathers, pull back! We have her!”
“Wren! Who’s there!” Dad yelled started towards me again, and he resumed his search for me faster this time.
What was a foreigner doing in our land? And why were blades around my neck? The sudden cold spreading around my neck stopped my resistance. Anything to stop those claws from applying pressure.
“What’s going on? Help! Dad! Dad!” I screamed. Light reflected off her fingers, black metal blades stretched out from a contraption on her arm and the stopped near my eye.
A voice rang from inside her helmet. “Verza come in! Is the Roost patrol moving through our escape path still an issue? What are your orders?”
“Wren!” I heard father shout. He smashed a button on the pipe on the ground. And rushed out with his machete. My attacker stopped to talk strategy with her helmet and her blade retracted. I don’t know how long dad would take but they planned to move.
I felt the claw lose tension, and the blades retracted. I kicked back and stood up. My attacker let loose a screech from the helmet she wore which sent my ears ringing and my vision shaking. I rushed the stranger and shoved her back. She was trained obviously.
Her first instinct was to break her fall and she did so on a professional level... or would have if it hadn't have rained recently. She leaned her neck forward to protect her head as she landed and tried to rebound in an instant but the mud below her back sucked all rebounding momentum.
I had my moment and I seized it. I screamed for my father but I couldn't hear my own voice as my lips were trembling.
I made a run for my dad following the pipe along the ground back through the immature ears of corn. The another came from the greenery just behind me. The two were back on my heels at full speed but this was home territory and I knew my way through the fields.
While following the pipe, I broke off from that trail. My feet were striking mud and my my arms and lungs were pumping at full force. I had followed the pipe to give them a prediction of my further movements. A deviation from the expectation would send them running the wrong direction. Or so I though.
The sapping soil stole my speed with the mud. The bright blue sky was switching places with the brown and green ocean of a farm. I couldn’t think straight or see what was where. They would have me in a moment. No, they already had me. i had tripped and didn't even feel it in the adrenaline rush.
A ringing clamor echoed from all around me as black chains appeared in my peripherals. With a last twist, the chains were flung in patterns spinning at me. The intricate design of metal links proved nightmarish.
The net closed quickly and its whirling links snagging my left foot and my right arm, my slick arms were bound under iron. The visor wearing sneak was joined by another as they reached out with taloned claws to reel me in.
“Help!” I screamed as my face was dragged back towards the claws.
“Wren!” He emerged from the stalks. “Get away from her!” He rushed out with a machete.
The two had me reeled in and grabbed me under my arms. One took a wide knife to my neck. The bottom of their helmets opened to reveal their mouths.
“Drop the blade Robin. She belongs to Raben now!” Black feathers surrounded their cheeks and their chins. Beautiful, dark, polished, sleek rainbows were pronounced from green to purple in their oiled feathery necks and their arm feathers. Like a polluted puddle poured across their plumage. But their eyes were still veiled beneath their visors, only red stains and patterns were drawn across their lower faces.
Father shouted in frustration and anger. I had never seen him like this. He threw down his blade when he saw their blades around me. But they wasted no effort in rushing him with a third operative from the bushes. He fumbled down as they planted his machete right in front of his head inches from his face.
“I’m sorry Robin, this is most unfortunate, but we’re authorized and will proceed with our orders. We were bluffing Robin, we would never kill her. Keep quiet and you will see her again if she survives initiation. We're here for your protection.” Said the shrouded operative.
Reality drew the curtains away. I wasn’t going to be rescued.
“We are here to save her and to save you from her. But we are not sure if she’ll survive. Pray and hope she returns from this.” They said to father as I was dragged away with a muffle and bound in a tangle of chains. I watched my father shrink as the corn stalks built up and there was nothing left but the foreigners and my black feathers stealing me away. Then came a red haze across my eyes. I had blood trickling from my left eye, then my right. I was bleeding even though no blade struck me and no object was dashed against me.
And looking down at myself, my own arms had blurred with my attacker's in a oily fusion. They too had black feathers in abundance.