043 Those Who Watch the Sky- 43


43 – Children thrust Into the Sky 1

Above the city of Foothold fireworks blossomed in thunderous blooms of color and light illuminating the night sky. The streets from the widest avenues and plazas to the more common narrow footpaths and minute alleyways were awash in festive lights strung up all throughout the city. Under that light the people danced and drank celebrating the height of summer. Bards gathered in crowded plazas letting songs reverberate out into the festive mood of the city. All of this watched rather somberly by Melody who had no one to share the experience with.

Perched upon a guardrail overlooking a plaza from some rooftop accessed from a street side stairwell, the harpy had the seating area all to herself. Even if someone had been seated upon any of the benches surrounding the tiny lawn upon the rooftop she would not have noticed as she stared longingly up to the cathedral of the Cardinal Church resting upon the hilltop that overlooked the city.

“I can’t believe we actually were all together without me being a secret and yet we still couldn’t enjoy a festival together…”

Sighing sadly Melody wallowed in her self-pity not sure of what to do. The aroma of meats wafting up from temporary food stalls in every street corner left her stomach rumbling, but she was not in the emotional state to want any. She was alone again during a festival, but unlike in the eight years that she had known Link and Elliot, she was not hiding out of the lights watching them enjoying themselves with the villagers of Cross. Instead she was the one in the city unable to see her friends who could not partake. Her mind drifting from her lonely childhood experiences with festivals to earlier that day when Balgun had informed her of Elliot’s inability to meet her for the festival drew forth another sigh from her. A response from the narrow stairwell behind her told her that she was no longer alone, but she did not know if she wanted the company of the one who spoke.

“That’s a fine sigh you’ve let out there Mouse. I rather thought a bubbly girl like yerself would ‘ave been more into this type o’ thin’.”

Squeezing his girth up the stairwell, Boulder popped out onto the rooftop courtyard carrying any manner of festival goods and a tankard of ale. Melody only looked back at him long enough to acknowledge that it was him before turning her gaze back up to the cathedral. Another sigh escaped her and Boulder leaned up against the railing to her right. Without looking at her he somehow managed to get a hand on a large haunch of meat wrapped around a large bone and held it out to her without dropping anything else in his current possession.

“It ain’t much for company Mouse, but it’ll at least quiet that racket yer gut is fussin’ on about.”

“Thanks…”

Demonstrating spectacular balance and strength, Melody took the haunch of meat from Boulder by the bone and bit into it from where she perched. There was no joy in her consumption of the meat and a concerned look washed across Boulder’s face.

“We’ve known each other for more ‘an a couple of tendays now Mouse an’ I have t’ say I’ve never seen ye like this. I rather thought that gnome sharin’ the wellbein’ of yer friends with you had actually put an even bigger spring yer step. Seein’ ye like this has me honestly at a loss.”

“Sorry Boulder… It’s just… Link and Elliot are my world. Before them I was little more than the monster most people think I am, wandering around just looking for a meal so I didn’t die. They gave me so much and made me the person I am, but… Well, I don’t blame them. Two little kids couldn’t have ever convinced the people of Cross that I wasn’t a monster, so I’ve never been to a festival with them before. I knew Link couldn’t be here, but Elliot turning me down… I always thought we were closer than that… but this is the second time now since we’ve left Cross…”

“Min’ me for spitin’ on yer friends Mouse, but that pretty boy doesn’t sound like great friend material. ‘E sounds like a real piece of work ye’d be better off not associatin’ with.”

“Things weren’t always like this though. When we left Cross he came charging through a flood of the bad things that fell from the Foreigner city and fought an out of control metal person just because he was worried for me.”

Her voicing cracking as she spoke, Melody tightened her grip on the bone in one talon and the railing beneath her as her emotions threatened to overwhelm her. Boulder wasn’t one for really comforting people but something about Melody made him want to try. He wasn’t sure if it was the time they spent together, the drink, or something else but didn’t worry about it as he awkwardly tried to console the harpy.

“Coulda been the Foreigner bastard that messed ‘im up. ‘E’s also a lad to my understandin’ obsessed with that other girl ye been on about Mouse. Ye may be ‘is friend but if ‘e chose the other girl over ye, well jealousy could been stirrin’ down below somewhere an’ the Foreigner twisted that changing ‘is relations with ye.”

“Or it could have been the Cardinal Church. Whew! Have you been drinking or something Boulder

The uninvited third party to Boulder and Melody’s heart to heart lost all traces of the serious tone in their voice as they got a whiff of the cloud of alcohol wafting off of Boulder. Boulder smiled toothily as he and Melody looked back to see Bird gagging in a most undignified way as he tried to wave away the stench with one hand while protecting his nose with the other.

“What’s the matter Bird. Not used to the smells of a festival.”

“You’ll have to forgive me for being appalled, my work keeps me up through all hours of the day and night, so I have a preference for the aroma of coffee over most things. The reek of alcohol is enough to nearly knock me out so no, I’m not fond of the smell of a festival if that is all it smells like.”

Bird was obviously agitated by the stench and his eyes were watering something fierce in response to it. That was not all that was agitating him and Melody could tell. Not in a particularly good mood as it was and Bird being the one who had been the person who took her into Foothold allowing her to be separated from Link and Elliot, Melody showed Bird no sympathy as she addressed him.

“So, what do you want from Boulder and me. We hunt monsters as Sa·B·ers and do bandit hunting jobs otherwise, so I don’t see what a member of Choir wants with us.”

“Do you even know what a Choir agent does girl”

“I read a lot and Boulder has been teaching me a lot too.”

Replying with a face that told Melody her answer was anything but, Bird managed to make the harpy pout. Growing annoyed Melody irritably provided a more thorough answer.

“Choir makes sure people don’t do dumb thing’s with technology and tempt the Foreigners to kill everyone. Boulder and I don’t interact with anything beyond what is here in the city and that bandits use though so you don’t have a reason to talk to us.”

“Well, beyond Boulder being one of my informants in most cases. But otherwise you’re right. Choir’s responsibility is to make sure that technology, including magic research, doesn’t lead down a path that could enrage the Foreigners. It’s only been five hundred since we last ticked them off, so it’d be real nice if that didn’t happen again. Church records and archeological findings may show mankind has survived that a few times, but I’d really rather it not happen again while I’m alive at least.”

“Hard to take ye seriously Bird with ye coverin’ yer face like that.”

“Do you mind not making fun of me Boulder?”

“Hard to when ye’re being so entertainin’ to look at.”

Boulder offered Bird an amused toothy grin and earned an equally amusing flat look in response. Much as Boulder could have laughed at Bird in that moment though he instead grew more businesslike.

“Mouse is right though Bird. Ye typically don’t show yer face without a good reason, and hearin’ that ye don’t like festivals it’s hard to think that yer hear for anythin’ but a job. So get to the point and get out o’ ‘ere already. Ye got another job for ol’ Boulder Shrew or is this about the current one?”

“The latter actually. I don’t need you watching the girl anymore.”

“Well aint that nice t’ ‘ear Mouse? Ye an’ I can stop worryin’ about this bastard doggin’ us any longer. What a relief that is.”

“I’m afraid you’re getting the wrong idea there Boulder.”

“Eh?”

Boulder’s bravado fell away and he leveled Bird with a scrutinizing look. Returning his hands to his pocket Bird began to cross the small rooftop ignoring Boulder’s look and trying to ignore the stench of alcohol. With his eyes still watering it was hard to take what he had to seriously though.

“The thing is Boulder, your both out of a job and no longer needed. If you recall, I hired you to take the girl in so that way I could keep her in Foothold for the sake of my investigation into how they turned on the dam. I honestly kind of stopped needing you a while ago if not for owing Balgun who already got answers from the girly who turned it and the Dolmen the kids were using on.”

“That’s soundin’ mighty disrespectful of ye Bird. I might ‘ave to charge ye extra for the trouble.”

Squaring up to challenge the approaching icaran man, Boulder felt further disrespected as Bird instead walked up to Melody. He did not completely ignore Boulder and offered the chimeric man a shrug in consolation.

“Eh. It is what it is with my work being what it is. Your welcome to send me the bill whenever you’re ready and I’ll make sure you get compensated for your efforts. Right now though, I’ve got business with this kid.”

“If you already have your answers, why I do I matter?”

“Because between Balgun asking favors and a job of mine really becoming a pain in the rear you’re the one I need to see.”

“That didn’t sound like much of an answer Bird. Mouse deserves as much respect as me so ye better clean that up fer ‘er.”

“I’ll get to it, but first I’ve got to do a little ceremony of sorts. Could you hop down and face me kid?”

Melody offered Bird a suspicious look instead of obliging his request until Boulder offered her a nod signaling it should be fine. Staring at him for a moment just to be sure that he had, Melody eventually hopped off of the railing and spun around to face Bird. She had to look up quite a bit though as he was taller than Elliot who was easily taller than Link who she only could match in height if she stood with her knees and ankles straight. Still, she did not like being looked down on by Bird and lifted her haunch of meat to her face and took a bite enticing Bird to sigh heavily.

“Could you maybe get rid of the food.”

“I’ll hold it for ye Mouse.”

Extending a hand to take Melody’s meat from her, Boulder took it when she offered it to him at his request. Having both talons free she stood on both feet at her full height and faced Bird trying not to pout about him getting his way. He could tell that he was getting on her nerves and pulled his right hand from his pocket to rub the back of his head. The gesture drew a suspicious look from Boulder who knew that Bird typically performed that motion with his left hand, but he forced himself to remain quiet. Bird meanwhile sighed as he addressed Melody.

“Look, believe it or not but this pretty important. So important that even though I doubt you’ll start liking me anytime you’ll be thanking me later. That or Balgun for twisting some people’s arms behind their backs. Honestly, that sorcerer is nothing but trouble and I should have never called him in. Whatever. It doesn’t matter now. Now I just need to do whatever I can to clean up this mess and finish my job. To that end…”

Bringing his hand out from around his head, Bird brought it down and pressed his index and middle fingers into melody’s left breast. The harpy turned bright red at his touch and would have instinctually kicked him away except for the feeling of a metal object between his fingers and her breast. Looking down she was greeted by the sight of her custom leotard suddenly transforming.

“Huh Wait! What What’s going on No~! Don’t! Link made this for me!”

Withdrawing his fingers from Melody’s breast and shoving his hand back into his pocket, Bird stepped back as the harpy danced around in a panic watching her clothes transform. The white leotard with the mock turtleneck turned black in color and developed a V-shaped neckline and sprouted a white, half shirt, false collar. From the collar a black necktie twirled out from around Melody’s neck and tucked itself into her leotard as a pair of flaps folded shut concealing the front of the garment behind a faux waistcoat with lapels and the tri-cross of the Cardinal Church emblazoned upon a shield shaped badge upon her left breast.

It was not quite the same as Bird’s attire of white shirt and black trousers under a cream-colored jacket with the same badge upon the left breast, but Boulder recognized the appearance immediately. His mouth falling open he dropped everything he was carrying and stared first dumbstruck at Melody and then Bird. Bird seemed a bit confused himself and pulled his left hand from his pocket to rub the back of his head as he spoke.

“Not quite what I expected, but I guess it’ll do. Judging off of Boulder’s reaction it’s recognizable all the same so I guess it doesn’t matter. Anyway Mouse, you’re the first Sa·B·er in a long to be inducted in the field like this, but welcome to Choir.”

With her attire having finished transforming Melody was free to again pay attention to Bird. She really couldn’t help herself either as his words confused her as much as they did Boulder and she turned a dumbfounded look of her own onto the Choir agent.

“Huh–

~ We were children and so naïve.
We dreamed of chasing the sky and following the Foreigners to whatever adventures followed.
We were so unprepared when that city crashed into our home.
We were so unprepared to cross the face of Icarus alone.
We were so unprepared for what it meant to be Sa·B·ers.
We were so ignorant that we could have never been prepared to be thrust forth as we were. ~



Copyright © Joshua D Tarwater

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