The Bird

by Hexlocke

“There’s that flying rat,” Nerus realized with rage. “Mounted atop Gespili 4, moon of Hindron. He stares with his dead black eyes. Why does he taunt me? Has he not been annoyed by my attempts to shoo him away? Does he not fear for his life? Perhaps I have not been forceful enough. It is time we end our game once and for all, bird.” He took off his helmet and placed it to the side.
Nerus drew his sword for the first time in a long time. It’s weight became a pleasant surprise. He had not truly had a reason to use it for violence since his role the Peleasian War. “No matter. If it was good enough to kill Peleasians then it will be good enough for a stupid bird.” He twirled the weapon around as he had learned so long ago. A display of martial prowess meant to inspire allies and strike fear into enemies. The sound of his blade cutting through air brought him back to his youth. He remembered the knights training in the courtyard with their own swords. He remembered how stricken he was with their display. How he wanted to be just like them, and how he eventually did.
He chuckled to himself ,”I feel ridiculous doing this for a bird. Still, the peace must be maintained.” He marched forward with sword in hand, his stance made him ready to strike at a moments hesitation.
The bird just watched.
“I’m sorry it came to this, friend”
He lunged at where the bird was perched. With a mighty yell he stabbed at him with his sword, but his blade found only the metal beam holding up Gespili 4. The bird gave out a series of coos as if laughing at that the guard.
Nerus himself was not as entertained. While only subtle he could see a light dent in the beam he struck. Even an error so small would see him thrown out of his position. Slowly he realized the metal clang it made and immediately looked around while holding his sword down. The sound seemed to echo into the distance. He quickly stepped away from Solarium and tried to pretend he was at his post the whole time. The last thing he needed was some nosy attendant, or worse, one of the Queen’s meddlesome children.
The bird began walking down the beam and pecking at the indent. In between pecks it would look at the guard and give a series of coos that can only be described as laughter.
“Shut up you damn bird! Shut up I say!”
But the bird either did not listen or did not care. It did not cease its’ fun with the guard’s rage.
“You’ve seen your last sunrise, bird.” Nerus spoke between grimaced teeth. He began to think how he could get to the bird. If the ground approach couldn’t work, perhaps he would try from a more level playing field. If only he could get on top of the Unylan Star…
With that, he sheathed his sword and began to climb the cage of the star. He remembered back to all that time long ago when he would climb the towers just next to the courtyard to watch the knights. He was a skilled climber back then. His footing was more clumsy but his approach was still solid. Despite his armor, he made it to the last hand hold that would let him get to the top. Upon looking up, he saw the beady eyes of his nemesis.
“Shit!”
Nerus tumbled to the floor in surprise and landing on his back with a very clanky thud on the floor. The fall didn’t hurt nearly as much as his ego. He had lost to a bird. Twice. The bird knew it too. Fluttering around in the air with coos and caws, the bird circled the downed guard. Had this been the Peleasian War, Nerus would have thought the bird was coming in for the final blow.
The guard had no more words, only the feeling of rage as it pulsed throughout his body. His head grew hot and he could feel his pulse. He stood up and drew his sword and began swinging empty swings at the bird. With every swing he forgot his guard duties, where he was located, or even who might have been. With every swing, the bird laughed and laughed at the guard in order to drive him mad. The bird began diving at the guard, taunting him further. Weaving through his strikes with grace.
Rage had hardened Nerus resolve. While he had forgotten his surroundings, rage had led him down the path of intense focus. He could not fight the bird as if were a soldier. The bird did not play by the same rules and neither should he. He changed his stance a bit, something the bird would be to joyous to notice. Nerus made a light swing causing the bird to veer to his left, where he wanted him.
Nerus remembered back to his courtyard watching days. His own father was absent and he begged for attention from the men he looked up to. From atop the tower he watched from he would chuck things at the knights. At first, the goal was to see how much he could do without attracting attention to himself. Getting them distracted at first but hopefully not realizing where these, mostly stones, keep coming from. Later he would go on to aim at the knights themselves, craving the attention it got him. He had excellent aim for the time but was terrible at running. They eventually caught him. Instead of anger, although they surely felt that, they offered him a trial of being their aid. He took it, which would lead him to becoming a knight.
The bird flew exactly where he needed him to. As Nerus turned to follow his movements, he stepped forward with his left foot and pulled back his sword over his head with both hands. He knew he didn’t have time to let the bird turn around or it might see it coming. Nerus swung his sword over his head and released it. It flew from his hands and spiraled toward the bird. As the bird turned, the sword struck its side just above the wing and sunk deeply into the bird before exiting the other side. The sword and both halves of the bird flew into the wall behind them, sword making a loud clank as it struck the floor.
The Nerus was overjoyed and triumphantly yelled “I got you you bastard! Wooh! You think you’re crafty like those dirty Peleasian’s but you still fall for the same tricks.” Nerus had a joy in his step as he went to pick up his blade from corner of the room. He passed by the birds body and picked up his blade. There was little in the way of blood on it. Pigeons apparently have too much blood.
As he turned around he looked at the body of the pigeon as it slowly changed. Nerus rubbed his eyes in disbelief before looking again. The body grew longer and the wings formed into arms. Feathers formed into clothes and jewellry. The figure had transformed into a headless human corpse. Slowly, Nerus leaned down to investigate. The body was of a woman, although perhaps not fully grown. She wore robes that bore the marks of mages, and what appeared to be a spellbook bound on her left hip. While clearly a mage of a sort, her attire was not like the ordinary students of magic. There was a hint of finery. She wore much in the way of jewelry but all of it was overshadowed by one of her necklaces bearing a large triangular amulet bearing the Diadem, icon of the Queen.
It was the Queen’s eldest daughter.
Panic flashed through Nerus. His eyes darted around in disbelief, but his mind knew what had happened. He thought what he could possibly say to anyone, let alone a court. As if this would even go to trial. No one would believe he didn’t know. He looked behind him at the severed head and felt sick. Nerus knew his life was over.
He began to weep aloud. He neither heard the guard yelling up the stairs to change shift, nor did he hear them arrive.