So it appears that the rabid dogs have already been put down, thanks be to Irunae. That will be one less item on this wretched “honey-do” list of ours that is swiftly growing interminable.
It’s also the one piece of pleasant news I’ve heard in a while, and I start to relax on Daba’s shoulder as we traipse through the forest, picking through my feathers for little insect snacks.
Oh how the mighty have fallen. In the past it was all spice-mulled honey wine, thin buttery cheddar cheese waffles, tiny cakes of fruit and almond milk, roasted garlic chickpeas with olives, and plums so rich they almost bled.
Now it’s bugs, seeds, and mostly rotting flesh. I disgust myself.
At first, I tried to deny my new, strange little regurgitating stomach its desires. Now I soar at the scent of a festering stoat, a putrefying badger, or a bloated stag on the roadside. I can even tell the difference between them all at this point, as I might once have known the difference between an Amontillado and a Puerto Fino.
Just like right now, what I smell is…a distinct…sort of…let’s see…mixed with the blood there’s a whiff of…cotton fabric? Denim? Strange. Perhaps tobacco, too, and shucks of corn, with…oh yes, it’s stronger now as we get closer to it, that smell of…
Humans! Yes. Dead people! Excellent! I’m so great. Yay Declan.
But no one ever says “Yay Declan” to my supreme olfactory skills, of course, because they never do anyway and also because by this point they have all stopped moving and are having some kind of serious conversation, which I suppose I should have been paying attention to. Apparently something has gone awry up ahead. There’s a lot that I missed – something about how all the trees are yellow here, Daba sensing death, or the undead, perhaps, and Bartak picking up on some toxicity in the area, but I only really start paying attention once Daba drops my name into the conversation.
“We could send Declan up ahead to look and report back.”
But Ilios cuts in: “It’s probably not safe for him.”
Right. Good. Exactly. Obviously unsafe.
“He can fly; he’ll stay up high,” she replies, pointing to my wings. I start to panic.
“Someone could shoot him.”
Yes indeed someone could shoot me DABA WHAT ARE YOU DOING.
She squints. “He just looks like a reg’lar raven, though…”
Well, that stings. I thought I’d cultivated a certain je ne sais quoi with the distinguished way I carried myself in this sassy little body, but apparently –
“…so how’ll they know he’s not just an everyday, normal bird? Why would they even take note of him?”
“They can probably sense magic, and he certainly is,” says Vilig, just in the nick of time.
Thank you, Vilig. I crane my head slightly in his direction to acknowledge my gratitude. That seems to have finally shut Daba’s ridiculously elongated beak about THAT asinine plan, so they start to craft another, one which blissfully does NOT involve me:
Daba is going to use her handy-dandy Message spell, and Vilig – who can, I just learned, hide from the undead, which is also handy-dandy – will creep into the thicket and whisper back to Daba what he sees there. Then we will respond accordingly.
Bravely he saunters into the brush – good luck, fellow elf, and my savior! – and it’s not long before I can see from the change in Daba’s face that she’s hearing back from him. She then takes what feels like an involuntary step back, which is never a positive sign.
“What are you hearing from him?” asks Bartak.
She looks at him, then casts a sideways glance through the uncertain blackness of her periphery at me.
“Some corpses up ahead. Look like farmers.”
That explains the corn and denim.
But I don’t think she’s done.
“…and eatin’ on em’s five dogs.”
For the second time in ten minutes, I think, oh dear.
“Undead dogs. Undead, rabid dogs.”
I sigh a little crowish sigh and stare off into the thicket.
Well, shit. So much for that.