Chapter 31: Hostages

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The Scissortail council was rather intrigued with the news of an Imperial rebellion forming and did not take the time to be upset that an unauthorised visit had been made to the Weolcen to share news without prior approval. To Shanku's surprise, the council even made a request of her.

"Do you still keep company with Gryphons?" Niranjan asked.

"Yessir," Shanku answered quickly with eyes averted.

"We may need you to ask them for their assistance then," Niranjan stated.

"Sir?" Shanku asked, quite confused.

"A gryphon has sufficient speed to make for a nice messenger," Niranjan continued.

"With the size of the clans' territories, it is rather slow and awkward to meet between the elders regularly, and even our own messengers do not move quickly enough to relay messages. And with each clan having their own signalling system, it would take too long to train each other. So, we need something more quick and direct."

"The gryphons were a bit hostile the last time I saw them," Shanku cautiouned. "They may not be willing to work with us."

"Then arrange a meeting with those willing. We shall see to it they are fairly compensated," Niranjan finished. "You lot may go now."

A rather baffled group of three cubs and one escort dismissed themselves.

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Zanzen and Nari were quite relieved when their cubs returned home, and Nari fussed over them for the rest of the evening as they told about their trip to visit the Fernwick clan.

The following morning, Shanku set out to find any gryphons in the Scissortail territory.

It shouldn't be that hard to find gryphons, what with them guarding the air ways and all, Shanku thought.

Indeed, she wasn't above the canopy long before a suspicious gryphon began to circle.

"Howdy, there! Wanna land a moment?" Shanku called out to it cheerfully.

The gryphon eyed her suspiciously but followed her to the ground.

Shanku explained the current situation and need to the gryphon as it bobbed and chirped nervously nearby.

"What kind of 'compensation'?" she asked.

"Presumably, a good meal," Shanku shrugged. "I wasn't given the specifics. I was just told to invite some gryphons in to discuss it with the Elders."

"I shall mention it to the flock," the gryphon said. "Return here tomorrow and I shall have an answer for your Scissortails."

"Thank ye, ma'am," Shanku nodded.

The Kurach and gryphon parted ways.

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With reservation, the gryphons met with the Scissortail Elders. The Scissortails made no objection to the gryphons demands and even apologized for the recent disturbances in the Nyre. Satisfied, the gryphons were content to began relaying messages on behalf of the Kurach.

Six weeks have since passed. A few select gryphons flew routes from the Blade and Weolcen territories to spread news, requests, and commands to the lower clans.

Ryan Stormer wasn't the only Fernwick now passing information at the border. The number of rebellious Fernwicks was growing, as well as the civil unrest. Outlying villages were the quickest to take up arms and prepare to overthrow the war mongering officials.

The rebels did not have long to wait. Most of the warriors were gathered up for a large raiding party. As soon as they were gone, the rebels struck, with aid of the Blade and Weolcen warriors. The Fernwick warriors left behind were overwhelmed and quickly subdued.

The Elders of the Fernwick clan were taken prisoner and escorted to the Weolcen territory to be held as guests while the rebels established a new set of Elders.

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"That was it?" Shanku asked, puzzled. "One good tussle and the Fernwick is completely restructured?"

"It's not always that simple," Bibot said uneasily to his granddaughter. He had dropped by Zanzen's den for an evening to share news of the battlefront with them. "The Fernwick are just one Imperial clan, and there will be skirmishes in several of the villages. What we should be concerned with now is whether or not the rebels will be able to stably hold their position during both the transition and any backlash from the other four Imperial clans."

"I'd almost forgotten about them," Shanku muttered. "I stayed close to Highland land when I passed through."

"And while I'm sure the other Ferals would happily stand by the Fernwick rebels, there is only so much nearby game to support troops from all seven of the clans in the Nyre."

"Dragons are good at moving large quantities of things," Shanku said devilishly. "We could start a nice supply line with their help."

"No, no," Bibot shook his head. "Enlisting the aid of gryphons was a daring enough move. I don't want to think about getting involved with dragons!"

Shanku giggled and helped Nari serve supper to the family.

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Word soon reached the Imperials of the Eor forest. Expedited by the fact the rebels decided to gloat a bit about their victory in wrestling control from fundamental imperialists.

"Why did you do that?" asked a tired Weolcen Elder. "We're not even sure if there are sympathisers to your cause in the Eor and things are not yet stable here!"

"We don't tell you Ferals everything," grinned a young warrior. "We have been corresponding a bit with those in the Eor. Falnor is the most stubborn about the old goals, but Waebre is very hopeful. Sushaw is losing interest in battling with the Prairie and wayward humans. And Austmont is all for a more cautious lifestyle, what with being next to those gigantic Highland Kurach and all."

"Speaking of the Prairie, has the Fernwick sent out a peace offering to them yet?" the Weolcen Elder asked.

"Yes. Just the other morning we sent a few lasses out with good goats. It's not much, but it's a start!" the young warrior replied cheerfully.

"It will take a lot more than goats to soothe those ruffled feathers, but, yes, it is a start," the Elder said tiredly.

"I make no guarantees for the rumpies, but I suppose we shall burn that bridge when we get to it," the warrior laughed.

"You Imperials have such a peculiar sense of humour..." the Elder shook his head.

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The Prairie clans viewed the peace offerings rather skeptically.

"What guarantee do we have of your newfound peacefulness after we help you overthrow the fundamental Imperials?" the chief of the Thistle clan asked.

"Those who make up the rebellion has held little interest in the raiding parties, but we do not have the relationship with the Prairie as the Ferals do. We can only give our word, and no doubt that won't carry much weight," the emissary said uneasily.

"Indeed, it does not," the chief said shrewdly. "But we shall try it, for a season. We haven't much choice ourselves, not with the weakened state we're in."

"Warriors from other clans are coming," the chief continued as he petted a goat nudging his leg. "For your sake, you should be honest about your intentions. The net grows ever tighter. The Imperials cannot sustain these attacks for much longer. It would be wise to stand down."

"Surely there aren't that many Prairie warriors coming," the emissary said with a bit of confusion. "The plains are a big place, but sparsely populated."

"Oh no, my dear lady," the chief fixed her with a cold gaze. "There are far more to worry about than a few disgruntled Ferals and wronged Prairie. You may rest here for a few days before returning to the Nyre."

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With an uneasy truce established with the Kurach denizens of the plains, the Fernwick began to turn their attention to bringing what stability they could to their part of the Nyre before the warriors returned from the raiding parties further north.

The fundamental Fernwick were still kept under lock and guard, and they voiced their opinions quite loudly to their wardens.

"You are a traitor. How could you turn on your own kind and side with those lowly Ferals? What's next, the Prairie Kurach?" growled one captive.

"We even intend to go so far as to fix the relationship with Man that you lot fouled up," taunted a guard.

"How could you!?" demanded the flabbergasted captive. "Where is your loyalty? Your pride? Your good sense?"

"Your 'good' sense was leading us to the brink of death," grumbled the guard. "Angering all our neighbors and they were developing their own loyalties because of it. 'The enemy of my enemy is my friend'."

"But we kept proudly to our traditions. What is this blasphemy you now do?"

"Actually, I am more traditional than you. A long time ago, it was tradition to visit with and renew friendships with the other Kurach tribes. I don't know why we strayed from that, but it is our intention to fix it."

"They were too weak to be our allies."

"A water drop is weak. A storm is not."

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"What are we going to do with these rays of sunshine after everything is all done and settled?" one guard asked another.

"Not my problem. We'll let the new clan Elders figure something out," he laughed.

"I wouldn't mind giving them the boot to the Eor. Not as much sunshine there as here. It'd match their disposition perfectly." she grumbled.

"Pot and kettle, eh?" he grinned mischievously.

She gave him a shove and grumbled a string of indiscernible things under her breath.

He chuckled and began his walk around the chambers as part of his duties.

"Just how long are you going to keep us locked up in these cages anyway?" grumbled one prisoner.

"Until we're given orders to let you out, of course," the guard replied.

"Aside from the obvious," the prisoner sighed.

"I don't know. Quit your grumbling. It's not like you have it bad in there. Two good meals a day, all the chance for sleep you want, no interrogations," the guard nodded. "You have the easy end of the deal."

"What, to waste away in here without any proper chance to stretch my legs or wings?" the prisoner asked bitterly.

"It's not permanent," the guard shrugged. "It'll be over before you know it."

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"So, how are you holding up?" Shanku asked cheerfully as she plopped down on the ground beside her brother.

"Can you get Ina to leave me alone like you did Jagan?" Hilael responded grumpily.

"Who's Ina?" Shanku asked curiously.

"Hiiii!" chirped a cheery voice behind them.

"She's Ina," Hilael groaned.

"Time for an elder sister evalutaion," Shanku snickered quietly and turned to face Ina. "Come sit by me!"

Ina slumped over the old log and propped her chin in her hands.

"You must be the infamous Shanku!" she grinned.

"The hunter or the...?" Shanku asked slowly.

"The Wanderlust gryphon-lovin' cub who beat the feathers off Jagan," Ina giggled.

"He still had most of them left, I thank ye," Shanku said with a mischievous twinkle in her eye.

"He had it coming. Seriously, some of the other highborns are so snobby I'm about ready to send them all north!" Ina rolled her eyes. "I get a bad reputation because of them and I behave myself!"

"You're a highborn then?" Shanku asked.

"Yup. Father's a scribe," Ina nodded. "Mother's a calligrapher, and teaching me her trade."

Shanku nudged Hilael in the ribs and he gave his sister the most wondrous glare.

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"So what all do you technically do in the clan?" Ina asked curiously.

"I haven't really been given a job yet," Shanku shrugged. "Right now I'm just lending a hand wherever I'm asked. Gathering, hunting, mending, odd requests to talk to gryphons."

"What do you want to do though?" Ina pressed. "Everybody gets a bit of a choice."

"I don't know," Shanku said thoughtfully. "When I was much younger, I wanted to be a huntress, like my great-great-grandmother."

"What changed?" Ina asked.

"A pack of sabrewings, a yeti, and a threat. I think... I want to be like my dad."

"Zanzen is pretty good at what he does," Ina nodded. "Not a bad goal."

The Fernwick rebels are being friendly with the Ferals and we haven't seen anything of the Eor Imperials yet. Jagan has backed down for now and I've met the mystery girl after Hilael. Katari even lets me tag along as his partner when he's doing his hunting duties.

I reckon everything is going well enough then. And I think I know what I want to do with my life in the clan.

~ Shanku Ravenwing

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