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The Hunting of a Blackbird - A Short Story
"Grab the bloody thie- No! Take the left road! No, not you! You! The manling over ther-" The officer hardly had enough time to finish expressing his orders before he let out a furious howl as red liquid exploded in front of him, a glint of silver pressed into his right eye. And pressed into his right eye it was, for the Blackbird had unrivalled aim and was unlikely to ever miss his mark, which, quite conveniently, was the officer's right eye. He certainly hadn't begun to.
"GET HIM! GET HIM!" The maimed officer began screeching, evidently outraged by the 'lack of respect' shown to 'high-ranking soldiers' of the 'Almighty Lord of Banseck, oh how generous you are, we would never turn from you!'. Ridiculous, the Blackbird mused, bolting towards the open gate. More than half of his oh-so-loyal army have sold themselves as mercenaries already. Pitiful, weak-minded snouts.
Without halting, he cut through the lines of confused soldiers like they were merely vines looped around the giant willows of the eastern woods; a place he knew rather well, for it was where he dwelled the most when he wasn't out creating mayhem within the midst of royal armies who had been responsible for the death of his parents and caused the ruins of their humble town behind the hills of Terlay. How he hated them - Their pledges to bring peace and how they revoked that when they were part of the biggest army around.
Anguished cries clouded his ears, but he willed them to be ignorant to those pain-filled sounds, and focused solely on getting out of the Lord's castle alive; with his 'loot' of course. Even after four years, his hometown and its habitants were still rebuilding, and if it wasn't for the Blackbird's constant thievery and the bringing home of a few silver pieces every other day, his neighbours would still be laying in the mud with the chickens and goats like they had to do for several long months after those bloody royal armies came about. Never again, he thought fiercely to himself. I'll never let those dribbling swine-heads near them again.
The gate had stayed open, to the Blackbird's delight, though the soldiers were already working hard to get it closed. There was a large fraction of the troops standing guard in a line directly in front of the gate, but he had no doubt that he could get past them with ease.
"STOP RIGHT THERE!" A voice screeched the the left of him; a voice that he paid no heed to. "STOP! GET BACK HERE YOU LUMP OF MOUSE-GUTS! I SWEAR BY THE LAND OF GAELIAHR, YOUR HEAD WILL BE MOUNTED ON A SPIKE OF THE TALLEST TOWER WHETHER IT BE THIS OR NOT! BAH!"
Still, the Blackbird paid no heed, but instead flew past the gate with such speed that the soldiers standing guard in the defensive line didn't even see him squeeze past them and become a shadow in the twilight, flying away from the small stone castle that he had thrown into confusion in the dead of night. The curses shouted by the commanding officer could be heard for miles around.
- - - - -
It was early in the morning - before dawn it seemed - and the birds were already chirping far too loudly for Vanice to be able to sleep. Oh well, she wasn't likely to fall asleep soon anyway. No, she had stayed awake all throughout the night, worrying about her brother Lammet and his newest plot to steal some silver from the treasure coffin of the Lord of Banseck. It was the smallest walled city in a hundred mile radius, and the village had been ransacked by thieves three days after winter had ended. They needed to get money to them immediately, and so a spontaneous plot to loot silver from the Lord of Banseck popped into Lammet's head; a plan that he had carried out the very evening.
Why didn't he allow me to come with him? Vanice continued cursing herself and everything, for that was the only question she had been thinking about all night. They had always done such things together; the tiny, unnoticeable Hummingbird who could worm herself into the most secure of rooms, and the infamous Blackbird whose aim and sword-fighting could not be challenged. They always carried out all of their plans together. So what was so different about this one?
Vanice's heart leapt at the sound of her brother's voice quietly calling for her in the darkness of the leather-roofed tent. She scrambled up, reaching for their one oil-lamp and lit it, spreading a faint, flickering glow in the tent. He's alright! She mentally cheered as she saw him unscathed, holding up a small bag of silver pieces with a satisfied twinkle in his eye. His golden-amber eyes; fiery when provoked, but always had an intelligent look to them. Very much like a blackbird.
"Lammet!" Vanice cried out to him quietly. "What took you so long? It's almost dawn!"
It probably was dawn, but she didn't bother to add that part. It never took him this long to carry out a mission, alone or not.
"There were a few . . . Difficulties." The man replied simply, carefully removing his mask of blackbird feathers, each and every one hand-picked from feathers that the blackbirds dropped in the eastern forest. "They sent the hounds from one of the doghouses near the border. Thank goodness they don't like swimming in cold river water."
"Thank goodness indeed." Vanice replied almost absent-mindedly, placing the feather mask on the log that sat near the entrance of the tent. "We leave for the Earl of Balmerd's tomorrow, an hour after sunset. I'm coming with you this time." Balmerd was a rather formidable empire; one of the biggest in the land of Gaeliahr. They had only picked at the Earl's silver once, and it had been difficult getting in and out of the large castle alive. After that, they chose to stay off their tails for awhile.
Lammet nodded. "Of course. But you have to promise me one thing."
Vanice nodded, urging him to go on as she took the bag of silver from him and strode to the entrance, ready to ride to the town that needed them.
"If I get too injured, something more than a gash in the arm, you have to leave me."
Vanice halted, and turned with an incredulous expression etched onto her face. "What?"
Lammet repeated his words seriously, a very serious expression on his serious face, letting Vanice know that he was, indeed, very serious. "Please. If I can't fend for myself, you must let me go, and run for your life."
Vanice nodded numbly, for she knew what he was implying. He might be taken away from her in the next two days, and he wouldn't let her go with him. She hated the idea of that, but the town needed her, and she had to carry on without her dear brother who had been with her for so long. But who was to say he would go the next night? They had done this sort of thing for two years now, and they hadn't once been captured, nor injured very seriously.
Vanice left the tent that morning, thoughts jumbling up her mind and threatening to make her insane as she crossed the east woods to deliver the stolen money to one of the elders in the town. She couldn't lose her brother. Not now.
- - - - -
The Hummingbird flew up the wall at an alarming pace, almost invisible against the dark rock of the battlements. She needed no hook, only her hands in her bare-fingered gloves and her feet in her leather boots, both of which found stable nooks and crannies with ease. She arrived at the top of the battlements quickly, and immediately knocked out two men who were passing along that particular section of the wall, using the hilt of her knife against the base of their neck.
"Idiots." She mumbled under her breath. They hadn't even bothered to wear a gorget.
She didn't dwell on this long, but made her way to the tower specifically for the controls of the gate, making sure to keep out of sight whenever another patrol passed her. They'd find the two other guards soon enough. The thought brought a faint smile to her face as she reached the gate tower.
Be ready, Lammet.
- - - - -
The Blackbird snuck in, as discreet as he could be whilst sneaking past a gate which had opened for no reason. It wouldn't matter; the Hummingbird would've taken care of that problem anyway. He ran towards the Keep, keeping himself hidden from some of the patrols that strolled about the streets in the evening. Lights were still on, mostly candlelight by the window that spread light onto the streets below, making it brighter than the Blackbird would've liked. Nevertheless, he continued on, knowing nobody would be able to see him in his black attire, his hair darker than his dyed clothing and his face covered in soot.
He reached the Keep without any problems, and waited in the shadows for the small sally port that led into the courtyard to open. After a moment or two, the gates made a slight creaking noise and lifted slightly, giving him enough space to duck under the metal bars and make his way in.
"Any trouble?" A familiar voice hissed out at him from the shadows.
"Nay." The Blackbird replied before gesturing for the Hummingbird to follow him. She complied, and together, they made their way past the courtyard and to the Balmerdian's treasure room.
"You know the plan - Get into the room, and I'll keep watch outside." He whispered as they neared the designated room. The Hummingbird merely nodded, just as the guards at the door caught sight of them and hissed to each other in alarm.
"Get them!" One of them cried out after the initial shock. The others obeyed at once, lunging towards the man with slightly hesitant footing, their spears and swords pointed towards the thief.
The Blackbird nodded to the Hummingbird as he unsheathed his longsword, ready to fend off the soldiers for however long he needed to. She disappeared just as one guard attempted to deliver the first blow. The Blackbird parried the strike, and lashed out with his own sword, the blood already pumping in his ears. He would attempt to keep from killing them unless necessary; that was what he had agreed on when discussing plans with his sister.
The Blackbird parried and dealt blows, none of his opponents' weapons managing to touch his twisting frame. The Hummingbird came out at last, but none of the guards noticed her as she crept up behind them, her knife a blur. Two soldiers slumped over unconscious, just as the Blackbird hit the third over the head with the flat of his own sword.
Relieved, he gestured for his sister to follow him, to which she obeyed without question, and followed him down the hall. They ran and turned corridors, narrowly dodging unsuspecting patrols until they found an entrance to the courtyard. Not the same entrance they left the courtyard, but an entrance nonetheless.
The Blackbird cautiously crept to the edge of the door, listening carefully for the soft chink that the soldiers' armour made every time they moved. Satisfied that he had heard nothing, he moved forward with his sister trailing behind him as silently as he. They edged around the courtyard along the wall and came to the sally port again; the unguarded sally port, just as the Hummingbird had left it.
Gratified that his partner-in-crime had knocked the guards out long enough, the Blackbird entered the room beside it to open up the gates . . .
. . . Only to find ten soldiers crammed into it, looking downwards at their unconscious comrades.
Without hesitation, the Blackbird swung at the nearest soldier's neck, easily lopping his head off with a wet crunch. He had stabbed another in the stomach by the time the majority had been alerted by his presence.
"Get him! Get the scoundrel!" The Blackbird heard someone cry. The call was faint compared to the din of the swords clashing against one another as the soldiers set to work even before the order was made.
Dancing about, the Blackbird managed to parry or dodge each blow directed at himself, and dealt his own blows with a thundering force. Even after he had felled half of his opponents, he was still striking and twisting with the same energy and force as before.
Alas, even though he could strike down any one of these soldiers alone, he was still outnumbered, and his sister, the Hummingbird, was a just moment too late.
- - - - -
"Leave!" The Blackbird yelled to her when she appeared at the doorway, her mouth curled in horror and despair at the sight of her brother pressing his back into the wall for balance, attempting to fend off the last two soldiers. He would've easily defeated them in normal circumstances, but this wasn't a normal circumstance. He was soaked head to toe in red - that much she could tell even if he was dressed in black - the beautiful feather-mask matted down with the thick liquid that dripped off his nose and chin.
But no, the blood wasn't what horrified her so much.
He had a large tear in his left sleeve, with an equally large gash underneath it from his elbow to his wrist, glistening red in the faint light. Didn't he say not to worry about that? No, that wasn't what horrified her, either. His right leg had been hacked off his knee, probably why he was leaning against the wall, his mouth set in a grimace. For some reason, that didn't make her as fearful as it should've.
"Leave!" He cried out again, this time with a more desperate tone to it.
That was why. She had to leave him. She couldn't bring him back home safely; not with an injury so serious. He would fight until he died, and she couldn't stay with him during his last moments. The Hummingbird would never rob with the Blackbird again.
She wanted to rush forward and help him, she wanted to lug him out of the castle and bring him back to the east woods - to their little leather-roofed tent that had kept them warm and dry for so long. But that would never happen. She had promised him that she would turn and leave if he was so badly injured. He wouldn't make it to the river! She had to keep the promise she made him. Oh, why did he make her promise him such a thing?
"Goodbye dear Blackbird," She whispered to him ever so silently. She gave him one last look - a look of remorse and promise - before turning from the scene. Turning from him for the very last time. "Goodbye Lammet."
Then she fled. She fled the castle with the ease she entered with, nobody noticing her as they all rushed to finish off her brother. She fled to the east woods with a clear vision but a mourning heart. It would never be the Blackbird and the Hummingbird again, however much she wanted it to be.
- - - - -
And so the Hummingbird lived on, robbing without her brother, the Blackbird, and continued to do so after her hometown had been repaired. She continued robbing rich lords as if she was trying to reminiscent the years she robbed with her dearest brother, and as if she could fill the little hole in her heart with the many silver pieces she stole from the rich. Songs were written about her by the travelling and court minstrels - even though the latter had been heavily forbidden to do so - but they, the songs, were never complete without the Blackbird.
The Blackbird and his sister's longing for him to return.
The Blackbird who was no longer hunted, but had been shot and killed.
- - - - -
Okay, first of all, this is like my first time posting a story in Creative Corner and I'm not likely to post anymore content involving a specific bird. I only wrote this a while ago because I was bored off my head. It may have some grammatical errors because I've barely gone back to edit it, and there's the fact that it may be absolute bullcrap and have nothing to do with GGE, but oh well, enjoy.
Um . . . I don't have enough titles. I must brainstorm!
@au1 ~ graceL.H.E - Level 70 - Storm Cloaks - The Terrible
@en1 ~ InsaneDuckling - Level 70 - New Vision - The Terrible
One of those weird old players who became all sentimental after leaving the game before they could see dear old Empire rot away even more.