Tuesday, July 16, 2013

96 - Not a Yellow Turd Anywhere

The wadi was a half day's journey south of the dry river and would soon be part of that watershed as the fall rains swept north.

The whole valley was full of stalegrass and saltgrass and it was hard to keep their birds from snatching mouthfuls all the way to the verge. Dag pulled her mucky veils around herself and watched as the new flock spread out in the shade all along the bottom of the cliff edge. They'd set up camp and wait for His Radiance to come with the refugees from Nadumon and the Milari relief force which would be coming across the dry river... just before it flooded and became impassable.

The Milar would have to come down to the choke-point and cross on one of the Lainz bridges if they wanted to pass at all... or they could stay on Lainz land until the rains passed and the winter set in; and that would provide itself with a whole different set of problems.

Silly spit out his silk band and croaked at her, tipping his head straight back to beg for a scratch. She reached to rub around the edge of his beak. Something... something wasn't right. 

This valley was in the badlands, surrounded by desert and rocky outcroppings where very little grew at all. It was south of the river, south of where the Nadu had lived, but not on the verge. Zazu, Harsha, and Nanatoya had scouted ahead and they'd spooked two wild flocks of birds, scarlets and purple dusters, driving them down the valley away from the waterhole, into the standing clumps of blooming eyebleed and the thorny bloodburst.

There were asparagus trees all around waterhole and down the lowest parts of the valley where there was underground water, the feathery green fronds full of spike mice. Za...” Dag paused. “Did you see any waxer dog sign?”

Zazu shook her head. “Not a yellow turd in sight. I want to get into the shade and off my bird.” She was a dozen metres away when the roars came out of the bloodburst thicket. And the warbirds shrieked and shied sideways, downslope and into the sun. Not just one but three striped gray shapes burst out of the shadow.

Gray tigers, almost as tall as the warbirds at the shoulder, tooth-filled maws open and spread wide enough to engulf Dag's torso, clawed paws spread wide. Zazu was screaming, half off her bird. Dag ducked, veil twisted, grabbing for her long knife, feathers in her face as the lead tiger leaped high, aiming for Silly's neck. 

The young warbird screeched and snatched the tiger out of the air with its beak, re-directing the pounce, smashed the tiger onto the ground in front of him. The tiger reached one paw, claws spread and Silly stamped on it. Then Dag clung with all her strength to her saddle with both hands and her legs as her warbird jumped into the air, pounding the tiger into grey-furred slush against the hard-packed dirt. Racer, another of the flock, with empty saddle shouldered in to help and though the tiger squalled once more, it never managed to get up again, blood and feces splashing. 

When Silly and Racer finally stopped and began picking at the bloody mess on the sand, Dag finally managed to unclamp her hands from her saddlepad and spit out her veil to see two other clusters of warbirds, gulping down chunks of the other tigers.

Oh,” was all she managed to say. She'd dropped her knife to stick in the sand and Zazu sat on a rock, clutching one wrist. Other girls who hadn't managed to cling to their saddles also stood, or sat near where they'd been thrown.

The Director had someone checking the cliff-shade for more predators outside their normal range, and drew the uninvolved flock into the shade of a tree, until the excited warbirds could be calmed down. “Thank you, Silly bird.” He didn't stop eating, but rolled one red eye back to look at her and squawked with a full beak.


  1. Muahahaha YES
    Just because they put up with humans, doesn't make them tame and helpless AT ALL
    Om nom nom nom

  2. Hee. I'm glad you liked it. Like most Theropods, they're pretty effective predators, especially in flocks. I realized I'd never shown them in action and why Lainz's mounted are so feared.

    Fully trained feather spitters can fight from bird-back, even as their warbird bounced around and kicks the tar out of the enemy. Tar. Feces. You know.

    The girls on the domestic flock did really well to stay on. Za's wrist is probably broken but that will be okay.