The Dark Marshals
The mission goes well, our vanguard was very effective and the target will approach the Corvus Castrum from the sky. Verza has volunteered for the new bird's training and to monitor her. Verza's husband is a medical expert as well. He’s specialized in feathering body chemistry. As a formality, another squad has taken our observation position while we can report back to our knights. Two recruits from Robin is unheard of but not impossible and we should be prepared regardless. An absence could mean everything. No squad wants to deal with the Raben mark twice in the same season.”
-Personal Note: Marshal Verner-
Avisland: Robin Territory, Northern Roost Barracks.
Gold patted down his gold feathers and pulled leather plates over his arms. The most recent patrol had come in from their rounds and had suspicions on their last route. Something in the woods spooked their keepers. With a strap fastened, he attached metal plates to the other regions of his armor. With his banner secured, lance ready, and his armor tightened, he climbed atop Razor.
Keepers are standard for Roostmen; Large bipedal birds with good balance and breed for high stress situations. Their beaks are nasty when they get in close. Their claws are also extremely unforgiving.
“Form up!” Feathers and talons rushed forward at the call of the commander. “Two by six!” Golden armor patterns mustered and men and women mounted their feathered steeds.
“A foreign force alerted a Robin and he sounded an alarm. You are a first response team, you will move in with versatile equipment and assess the threat, if advantageous, engage. Have a runner prepared to relay back a contact report and a second runner to relay reinforcement and medical requests.” A commander shouted. "Rumor has it, they've abducted a Robin Native."
Gold’s short blond hair went into his helm as his a dozen of the guards aligned with him. His bird Razor screeched as it entered the light outside the stable. Wind sliced his cheeks and the rush of air though his feathered arms flickered in the light like dried grass in an intense summer. The feathers moved like a yellow ocean, and issued the vibrancy of molten gold in the dark.
“Goldfuast!” Shouted a shorter man on the back of another steed.
“What is it Stark?” Gold asked back.
Stark’s feathered mount advanced out of rank to Gold’s side. The gigantic bird was armor plated like the rider and the beak was plated with sharped metal. All the cavalry ran awkwardly at best, being flightless birds, but they ran strong and with incredible balance despite the strange rhythm. Despite the heavy load of an armored Roostman on their backs, the running avian Keeper could reach scary speeds that made even their rider's uncomfortable without training or acclimation to such speeds.
The birds ran in a convoy with their scaled legs and wings flapping like ancient ostriches, only significantly stronger, larger, and bred for mounted war.
“What do you think it is Gold?”
“I think it's brigands, the wasteland gets a little tense and competition heats up. It was like this last year. If it were fiends then we’d have sirens from all along the boarder, they mass migrate from the north and east. This is an isolated incident Stark, form back up and we can send a messenger back when we have visual contact. Plus they went for Robin. Robin doesn’t have serious gear, they have medical supplies and food. Its worth so much more than weapons to someone outside the valley.” Said Gold as Stark reduced speed and rearranged himself with the formation. "Outsiders always find themselves with weapons."
A loud crack and a blast surrounded the patrol. “Halt!” Gold commanded from the front. A billowing cloud of smoke grew from the road in front of them. It was too close. A device of some sort had just exploded.
“Stark, be ready to send Avery back, we have contact. We don’t have a visual.”
The wind flowing through his feathers stopped. The bird mounts froze in their tracks as their talons ceased their advance. Being unable to fly, they ran fast like horses but were resilient and viciously trained.
“Sir, the Keepers smell blood!” Said Stark. “Shields up Roost!”
The Roostmen and women dismounted and freed their shields from their backs and drew swords. There lances functioned on the charge but fell short in a scrap. A formation would be useful but it would never be fast enough. Gold’s metal gauntlets shined before the cloud of smoke’s shadow.
“Goldfaust! In the woods, just there," a squad mate pointed out. A glimpse of black feathers flew in a rush as a swarm of crows moved to a figure in the leaves who escaped under the cover.
“What was that?” Said Stark.
He clenched a spear instead of the usual sword, the white blade on it's end caught the sun.
“Move forward guards, it's a distraction. Move Forward!” Gold commanded as the squad deployed. “Draw swords!”
They moved through the smoke, calling the bluff, and were met with black visors. Two strangers were holding Wren Koko, a Robin native. They were dragging her into the woods while a few men in black cloaks started to scatter.
Before The Roost patrol could speak a woman stood infront of them. “Guards of Roost, go back to your coups you roosters. Any further and your clumsy shiny chicken feet will foul up an entire operation!” The standing abductor shouted with a laugh.
“You are a foreigner with a citizen of Avisland and will unhand her immediately. Leave now and we will not pursue you. This is your warning.” Gold announced.
The stubborn woman in the black visor was garbed in a dark cloak, a black and slim helmet, and leather armor with dark purple trims.
“Are you done? You Roost guards are a oh so noble. The name is Verza Kass. You pursue us or this Girl any farther and we will defend ourselves.” She said. “The Robin is ours now, send your birds back to the coup and look after your fat hens. The fox got this one first.” She raised her hands, and to the surprise of the Guards, sparks were slashed away from her metal talons. She had four knuckle blades attached to her arms.
These sparks ignited a portion of the smoke near the Roostmen sending a blaze of fire outwards at them. There were two divses the whole time. One was for cover and the the other was for a flash. Their birds a made a startled jump but started to hiss and squawk. Then Roost troops had to leap back as the flame burnt out as quickly as it had appeared. It was used purely to startle them.
The Roost Guard advanced forward and a signal from Verza had blotted them out in a second smoke cloud. This one was even thicker than the last device. The foreign men on the flanks threw a burning bag into the center and the guards were blinded in the haze that only expanded while the operatives shrunk back to the forests.
Only Gold broke ranks and rushed clear from the blinding gloom of the cloud. The same cloud even appeared to be chasing him as slipped out. It was swelling so quickly he risked being fogged up again. Coughing, he got free from the trap. The forest was no place for the cavalry so he continued on foot, hoping he could still move at speed.
The farmland was behind him and the dense pines in were in front of him. He crept into the wood with diligence. His senses kept him alert to his foe ahead of his as he shuffled through ferns under the exterior woods around the farm.
With subtle motions, he striped most of the heavy plates off his armor to hide himself and reduce his visibility. But speed would decide the day today and he knew they were too fast already. He could remove a great deal of his armor, but even with his bulk lessened the mail and a few plates couldn't be removed easily.
His hand pushed pine branches out of his way quietly but his palm returned warm and iron scented. Fresh blood coated the lines on his palm. He paused and looked about. Small foot prints, scraps from someones feet, and drips of blood. The pine scented woods adopted the new smell and Gold’s highly developed hunting skills led him through the woods. The tribe of Roost was famed for their tracking among other things. But Gold knew this scent and feared this scent.
It was Wren Koko's blood.
The footprints ahead of him were obscured and black feathers were leaving a trail as more and more crows came into view. They perched on the trees around him but didn't flutter away as he advanced. They just watched.
Meanwhile, his guard-force behind him sent a a runner back for reinforcements and followed into the woods with significantly less grace than Goldfuast did. They began to scatter as they moved out. And despite their senses, they were less disciplined than Gold and ended up only following in vaguely the same direction rather than directly pursuing their foes.
It was finally after a minute when he found his prize. Wren Koko, held below a massive and imposing creature, surrounded by arches of interwoven pine trees, with blood flowed from her eyes and two red streaks were left down her cheeks. Her chains had been switched for ropes and cables to harness her to something.
It had her in its claws and atop it rode an officer. He was not equipped with camouflage or a cape. Clad in armor to rival Gold’s previous arrangement. He carried a sword at his side and a small-arm of sorts. His face was beneath his visor and two women were below him on the ground. The two turned to face him and drew blades.
What the officer was sitting atop was the main concern. A raven, larger than any bird Gold had ever seen, with a red eye in its left with a black eye on its right, it tilted it's head as he approached.
The creature detected Gold with its bizarre eyes. A black bird of stupendous proportions beat its wings and gave an ear ringing croak. The agents took their chance. They darted at him swinging fists. They held back with their blades on purpose. One of them could have pulled their small arm and been done with it.
With his sword he parried at great cost receiving a glance of their wrist plate against his under mail, and one of them slipped his knife away from his side and threw it away as they retreated... He failed to see the chains on their arms until one of his legs was hoisted up and he fell from six feet, bruising his back.
He caught a last glimpse of Wren again as the bird gained ever more height. She had smuggled something, and she was cutting at her bonds.
Gold ran towards them again. Textbook Roost technique, luring away danger from the civilians. As Gold drew near, two more of the dark agents arrived to stop him. Four against one was bad but it bought the civilian time as he brought more attention to himself.
Her ropes were sliced through quietly and the bird screeched as she slipped out of it's claws. She landed against a tree and climbed down it from the back. The bird only held the ropes she was tied with. So the weight slipping away made the rider and the creature flinch with the recoil as the bird's wings were trying to ascend
Gold’s own escape moment was sacrificed as the attackers moved about. A dart whizzed past him. And he rolled under a fallen pine tree getting a sheet of spider webs over his helm.
“Mafic! No poison darts, nonlethal force! They have Robin medical aid but no chances! Watch it!” The one called Verza Kass shouted at her operative.
“It was nonlethal. We need him down.” She shouted back.
A great croak echoed out again but this time a second creature swooped low and snatched at prey in the woods. Wren was seized below her arms again but this time she was hoisted off the ground and carried above the canopy with unnatural speed. Verza climbed a tree quickly and leaped to the belly of the bird and began to tie Wren up in a chain harness as the second massive bird was perched snapping the weaker branches around it.
"Sorry girl, I'd use ropes but you got loose from those already, Chain it is." Verza said as she tightened the bonds and looped the chains to bird hanging from them with Wren too. After a moment in the air, she judged them secure and remounted the bird's back.
The black feathered rider and creature were already making for the open skies.
“Wren!” Gold shouted throwing his helmet down in disbelief and despair.
“Put that dramatic hat back on roostman, you’ve earned yourself a duel.” A new voice sailed on the wind returning under the wings of the first black bird. The armored man dismounted and the stepped out to challenge him.
“I’m an agent of Raben, The Marshal of this squad. You've seen to much, I'm going to restrain you than you are going to have some stern words with your High Guardsman. Kaiser is not going to be pleased with you.” The voice rolled from the adversary. Male and middle aged, and older than Gold perhaps. The man stood just under Gold’s height and carried two coils of chain around his wrists.
His visor was like his companion’s but Goldfaust had learned to identify commanders. His posture, stature, and tone gave him away. He also had a much larger glove on his left hand. Sharp blades were attached to the knuckles and they were freshly sharpened. If he was not an officer than he was at least a veteran of some sort. But this glove had blades on the inside of the glove and the outside. The inner palm and the fingers were fixed to curved daggers with bracing on three fingers and the thumb.
“Not happening,” Said Gold as his sword was struck from his hand. A knee flew up with a jump and Gold was knocked to the ground. His jaw screaming and his head spinning. The battle cry turned to a groan. A plated black heel flew down but Gold rolled away only for the lightning recoil of a black chain to tangle around his helmet on the floor. With a whirl the helmet left the ground and acted like a chained ball arching and spinning towards him.
He stumbled but slumped over after his eyes wouldn’t open at his command. In a belligerent rush Gold charged again. This time Gold was tripped and then fell towards a tree. Two chains were swung around the tree twice and he was latched to lock at the end. This left Gold tied to the tree.
“Roostmen...” Gold’s ears worked as if they were underwater. “You did your duty. Hold back on this one.”