Samantha Lee’s Picture Choice: 2
Title: Thunderbird Eggs
Normal people exercise a certain degree of caution when dealing with thunderbirds. What's a thunderbird you ask? Well, first, let me just lament the fact that clearly your education has been sorely neglected. Second, a thunderbird is a type of Low Fae able to shift between two forms; a giant bird of prey and a more human one. I say "more" human because while their faces are lovely enough, their physiques shapely enough, they still tend to have peacock-like tails and beaked masks, sometimes tipped back to sit atop their heads, but ever present nonetheless. Not exactly subtle. I know what you're thinking; bird people don't sound all that scary. Did I mention these are bird people that feed off the electrical energy generated by storms? And that they can actually use that energy to generate lightning of their own, every bit as powerful as Mother Nature's? Oh, how about the little matter of their having vindictive and wrathful natures? Yeah, they're not exactly of the Big Bird or Happy Feet persuasion.
My cousin, Fi, is not normal; I'm not even sure she's sane. Thunderbirds give even Noble Fae pause and what does my cousin do? She provokes them. For fun. Regularly.
Take last week. The Thunderbirds were all up in arms over one of their eggs being stolen. They live in flocks, you understand, and once every five centuries the females lay their eggs and, if they're very lucky, seven decades later the clutch will hatch. Needless to say the flock's more than a little protective of their impending brood and the loss of even a single egg does not go over well. Last time someone was dumb enough to steal a Thunderbird egg, the flock razed large parts of Egypt into oblivion. I did say they were wrathful, didn't I? Stealing from Thunderbirds is not something to be undertaken lightly.
On the positive side, Thunderbirds are a very honourable breed, almost devoutly so. Consequently, before going out and essentially declaring war on the whole of humanity, they have to first pay a courtesy call to their Court and ceremoniously petition for the Queen's support. It also helps that the Queen's response to her subjects going out and making messes she'll eventually need to clean up is...proportionately violent and twice as absolute. When dealing with the Fae Royals, normal people don't just exercise caution, they actively work to avoid it at all costs.
Which brings us to my cousin and the Thunderbirds. Allow me to set the scene. My cousin is a small, slim woman. Her straight, carefully layered hair is blood red except for its snow white bangs and her eyes change colour to reflect the sky. She wears emo glasses. On this particular day, she was wearing a dark red gown with scenes from The Princess Bride embroidered in silver on the bodice and skirt hem. She sat curled up on her throne, this one a tangle of black thorns cupping a giant white cushion in a style similar to a moon chair, set up on a dais. The Court was unusually empty when the Thunderbirds made their entrance, a large contingent of them bursting through the double doors and dramatically marching up to stand only a few feet from the dais.
Fi, who'd been reading The Chronicles of Narnia, didn't even glance up. "No. The Thunderbirds are not going to go on the hunt. You're going to return to your roost and if so much as a feather leaves your territory, I really destroy your clutch myself."
The leader, a female with blonde hair and white feathers, hissed. "We are not like you, your majesty," she spat. "We do not abandon our kin."
Fi turned her page. "For an egg, not a life but merely its potential, you would have me tear this country apart, jeopardizing our already uneasy relationship with the mortals. You would have me divert energy and resources away from the war, possibly playing into your thief's plans to distract us from our goals there. For one egg, one potential life, you would have me risk however many immortal lives it takes to retrieve it. Am I to abandon others, others to whom my aide is already actively pledged, in order to keep the faith with you?"
"You made Vows," the Thunderbird reminded. "You made promises."
"Yes, I did. As did you. None of mine, however, condemn me to the whims of my people. I do not take orders from you, little bird, nor do I jump at your command. Far from it. The shape and timing of the help I give you is mine to choose, not yours, and do you know why?"
When the Thunderbird said nothing, Fi finally looked up, her eyes blazing with a maelstrom of stars. "It is because it is I, not you, who sees the bigger picture, who knows what else is going on, who knows who else is seeking help. Shall I find your egg, the basilisk's chick, or the djinn's bottle? Who takes priority? Who waits? Will what I decide today effect tomorrow? A year from now? Ah, but then you forget, just like everyone else, you forget what we are."
The Thunderbirds took a collective step back, a rare sight that I'm certain cost their pride much. Their leader cleared her throat. "And what are we?"
Fi closed her book and rose to her feet. "You are one. From pixie to giant, Noble to serf, you are all connected, all bound, linked together like the strands of a spider web, and I, little bird, am the spider. You belong to me. All of you. Including your egg, the basilisk's chick, or the djinn's bottle. My Seeker's already been dispatched to retrieve them. Your egg will be returned to you in due course so, I repeat, go back to your roost. Next time, knock and show me the respect due my station. Otherwise, we'll be having roast Thunderbird that night."
The Thunderbirds bowed and left. The next day the flock flew over the Court, each bird letting loose a dead rodent of one kind or another to land in the Court's front yard. Fi thought it amusing. Not normal, as I said.
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