A Parliament of Owls
The Fenghuang pass over the citadel of Peringath, the plains of Iskol, and pass into the Felhind woods with swiftness and majesty. A nearly intangible, warm glitter passes off their wings as they travel, making it appear as though they were bolts of fire. They travel up and over trees till they near the peak of the Wellik Mountains. The two giant aviaries land on a steep emerald hill, littered with massive stones. Keatoph and Ophni dismount and move to stand on the rocks.
It is a mystery to Keatoph how these stones found their home on this hill instead of tumbling down to the earth below. All the same, he is grateful that they provide a level place for them to stand.
“I have never seen the Fenghuang before,” the young warrior admits to his elvish comrade. He looks at the birds. “They are beautiful.”
“Yes,” Ophni agrees, “they are the King of birds, and the composition of all birds into one.”
“That description sounds frightening,” our young warrior remarks, “and yet, they are beautiful.”
“Yes,” Ophni affirms again.
“You sound as if you were as surprised by their rescuing us as I am.”
“Well,” she pauses, still gazing at the creatures. They crane their necks to look back at the heroes. “I am. The cry for aid I sent out through my stave was for help in general. I did not expect the Lords of the birds to make a personal visit. In elf legend, they usually only have dealings with well established royalty.”
“Huh,” Keatoph answers.
Both Fenghuang pause the conversation by screeching loudly in unison. It echoes across the mountain. The pine trees in view begin to rustle around them.
After a moment, groups of owls begin to pass into view. They glide to the rocks surrounding Keatoph and Opni. Along with them, an old man with a staff comes, limping his way out to the adventurers. His hair is longest at his beard. His satchel has twigs sticking out of it. His clothes are reminiscent of the old arcane order.
“Greetings, Keatoph,” he smiles wide, his cheeks nearly closing his eyes. He sits down using one of the rocks near them as a chair. “Who is your friend?”
“I’m sorry,” the young warrior answers hesitantly. “Do I know you?”
“No. I suppose not,” he reasons with a frown. “But I know you,” he adds, smiling again. “My name is Igleer, the green, if you will.”
“Nice to meet you, Igleer,” our protagonist answers. “I am Keatoph, as you know, and this is Ophni. I suppose you had something to do with the Fenghuang saving us?”
“Something,” he admits, grinning sharply. “But we are getting ahead of ourselves. First of all, welcome to the parliament of owls.” At this, all of the owls flutter their wings and cry together. “I hate to taint such a glorious meeting, such as this, but I am afraid before the nice may commence, you must come under trial.”
“Under trial?” Keatoph restates quizzically.
“Yes...” Igleer affirms.
“By what governance?”
“Well isn’t it obvious?” the green wizard laughs, looking at the Fenghuang. The owls laugh with him. “By the Kingdom of the birds. Now, Ophni dear,” he turns his attention to the elf. “Would you mind letting us sort this all out?”
She courtesies at the fenghuang and turns to Keatoph. “The elves have a strong alliance with the creatures of the woodland realm. I cannot break it.”
“I understand,” he tells her.
She passes into the woods, beyond the eyes of the owls. Keatoph turns his attention to Igleer.
“What am I on trial for?” The Fenghuang stare at him.
“They are concerned that you are at fault for Grifkar’s destruction of Felhind and the surrounding areas.”
“At fault?” Keatoph confounds. “I alone have been given rights by King Hesfall to put this madness to an end.”
“Hesfall is not the King!” Igleer yells, somewhat less jolly than he has been. “You are.”
Keatoph stares at him.
“No.” He says after a moment. “You are mistaken.”
“How old were you, Keatoph, when you came under Hesfall’s care?”
“I was three.”
“And that was twenty-one years ago,” Igleer tells him, pointing his index finger into the air. He grabs some berries from his pouch and eats them. “Hungry?”
“Very well. Yes, twenty-one years ago. That makes you twenty four, one year past the age Kings assume the throne.”
“That was under the Old Kingdom.”
“My boy,” Igleer says in a tone twice as quiet as the one he has been using. Concern riddles his eyes. “Do you remember nothing?”
“Of the Old King? Of course. My father, King Hesfall, had many dealings with him. I know I knew them as well.”
“No, no, no,” Igleer butts in. “Your Father, King Loden, had many dealings with Hesfall, who was merely a Jarl back then. He took you in when your parents passed and promised to make sure you were ready when the time came.”
Keatoph gazes critically at the old wizard.
“That is a strong accusation to be stated so lightly,” the young warrior points out. “What proof do you have?”
“I am wearing robes of the arcane order, my boy,” he laughs, tugging on his garment.
“You could have stolen that off a corpse.”
“I interpret birds,” Igleer insists. He turns to look at the Fenghuang and chirps a lengthy message to them. At his statement, the owls laugh long and hard.
“Okay,” Keatoph replies, recognizing the point. “I need time to evaluate these claims further.”
“I understand completely,” Igleer smiles. He points his finger up at one of the Fenghuang. “She, however, does not.”
Keatoph cannot help but smirk at the strangeness of it all.
“Basically, Keatoph, they have quite the dilemma for you,” the green mage tells him. “They insist that you rally your forces and end this madness, or, they will forsake their alliance with man. All aid to the human kingdom’s from the aviary will thus end.”
“But I’m not the King!” Keatoph insists.
“But you are. Or at least, you can be. I maintain my pledge to the house of Fayrwahl, and I am not alone in doing so. Not everyone has forgotten you, Keatoph. You are not alone.”
“I don’t want to be king.”
“And I don’t want to be the crazy old forest man who talks to birds!” Igleer jeers back. “I used to have communications not just with the owls, but with the bunnies, and even the trees. The arcane order had a whole network of magic available. Some of us went to other kingdoms to keep that power, but I did not. I stayed.” The old man gazes at Keatoph. “I stayed, because it is my duty. I stayed because I gave my word to your father, to your mother,” he pauses. “And to you.”
Keatoph finds that he believes the green wizard and is moved by his loyalty. He has never experienced much of it.
“You don’t even know me,” Keatoph admires.
“I know what you stand for. If you were wicked, my pledge does not forbid me to strike you down.”
“Do you know how many times I’ve failed?”
“Keatoph, my boy. It is about direction, not perfection. Now, what do you say? Will you do your duty or should I and the birds say goodbye forever?”
“I will do my duty,” Keatoph tells him, half surprised he is committing to this. “But when this is over, I reserve my right to step down.”
“As long as you provide a good replacement,” Igleer answers.
“Very good.” The wizard hops up from the rock nimbly. “There is another arcane wizard, south and west from here. He lives in the village of Dardek. He is still loyal. Find him and he will give you what you need to start this expedition.”
“Okay, I will.” At this the birds cheer and Keatoph is left smiling.
“Good luck, Keatoph,” Igleer tells him. “When the time comes again to march on Peringath, I will be with you.”
With this our young hero is released from the court. He finds Ophni and they begin their journey to Dardek. Keatoph begins his journey to become king.
Read chapter one here.