Wish Carriers

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Liffon Foxglove, the youngest in the Foxglove line, travels to Greenbrook to become a Wish Carrier. Upon arriving, he finds his father, the famous Fens Foxglove, has gone missing on a very important mission. Where has he gone? It's up to the young hummingbird and his new friend Lissa Gentian to find out what's going on. What they find may even be a threat to the Carriers, let alone Greenbrook and perhaps all of Herald itself.

Please feel free to comment. I have divided the chapters up according to basic word count, so they are rather long. When I totally finish everything, it will probably look a bit nicer.

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2. First Test

 

 

            Liffon's eyes wandered as he entered the massive complex. He flitted back and forth, avoiding the coming and going of the masses of birds he was shoved along by.

            The dome's roof was almost completely made of glass, the late afternoon sun shining through, splashing the floor with circular patterns and hues on the marble floor.

            The young hummingbird shifted his pack, peering around. He flitted towards the center, bumping into a few oncoming Carriers. He said a weak "excuse me" each time, but was ignored, as expected. The Carriers were a busy bunch. A more official looking Carrier barreled into him and sent him sprawling. He winced in pain as the other hummingbird shouted a few curses followed by "damn rookies!"

            Liffon frowned. This was going to be harder than he thought.

            He had always looked up to the Carriers of Wishes, as they were officially called. According to the human legend, it was rumored that hummingbirds carried wishes, making sure they came true. Well, here in Greenbrook, it was true. It was a busy job, delivering wishes and dreams, but someone had to do it.

            The Carriers were the top notch of Greenbrook. All of the residents of the small tree-fort town, along with the rest of Herald, all aspired to be one. The entrance exam was tough, requiring a speed test, a vocal knowledge test, as well as an endurance and agility test.

            Only the best and brightest even made it past the preliminaries. But Liffon's father was a Carrier. So was his older twin siblings Friss and Fross. He was just next in the long line of Foxgloves to ascend to the ranking of Carrier.

            His mother had sent him off two days ago to make the journey. He had prepared all his life for this, from the moment he had hatched. He knew every rule, regulation, and timeline there was to know about the Carrier sect. He knew all the back roads, all the shortcuts, all the flits and flutters about the routes, he could fly them backwards. She had every confidence in him and his father had reminded he would see him there.

            There in Carrier Plaza.

            But Liffon's father was nowhere to be found.

            The big clock in the center of the dome chimed three o'clock standard eastwing time. The registration closed in half an hour! Where was his father?

            Slightly panicked, he glanced around through the throng of flittering crowds and finally spotted a sign that he would never have noticed if he hadn't stopped to pick up his bag. It glared at him threateningly, the words "Final Registration" in bold black letters above the table. Two rather bored looking kestrels perched atop the scratched up wood, piled high with papers. With a rush of adrenaline, Liffon shot over to the table nearly crashing into an elderly bird flying slower than a cowbird.

            "I'd like to register!" he breathed.

            "Sorry, kid, registration ended an hour ago," one answered, a toothpick stuck in his beak. He played with it, scraping off the remains of lunch, which appeared to be a squirrel based of the smell that wafted from his maw.

            "W-what?" Liffon choked.

            "You heard the bird," the second chimed in. "Registration ended. Now scram. You can wait fer next year."

            "B-but I was s-sure..."

            "They always sure," the first frowned. The two broke into a series of guffaws.

            Liffon scowled. He hated kestrels. They didn't even know how to laugh right.

            "Eh? What's this?"

            The two birds of prey stopped laughing and turned toward the source of the voice. A rather large blue jay, nearly an inch taller than the two stood over them.

            "This kid says he wanna register," the first kestrel explained.

            "Well, Ratch, sign him up," the jay nodded.

            "Registration ended an hour ago," the second chimed in, slightly annoyed.

            "No it didn't," the jay said calmly.

            "It's three o'clock now!" Ratch protested.

            "Registration ends at five."

            "Since when?!"

            "Since I said so," the jay added curtly. With a nod he trotted off down the hallway, not another word spoken.

            Ratch and his partner stood, beaks agape and what just happened.

            "Man, that Chandler got some screws loose I swear..."

            "Well, do what he says," Ratch groaned. "We gots no choice."

            Liffon, still stunned at the actions that just took place, signed the paper in a daze.

            "Report to the bunks for your bedding tonight," Ratch explained, stamping the pages with a scowl. "Tomorrow, 6am at the square. Don't be late," he continued. Sliding the papers across the table, he glared at Liffon, "or you don't stand a chance...shrimp."

 

            The nesting bunks were cramped. Liffon fluttered nervously into the room, looking about. The mass of birds sat fluffed on various perches and nests around the complex.

            It was a big room, but the amount of hummingbirds was astounding. Liffon had never seen so many birds that looked like him cramped into one space. There were Rufouses, and White-eared, even a Buff-tailed. He could have sworn he saw a Marvelous Spatuletail, but he shook his head. There was no way a Spatuletail could be here.

            His confused expression must have caught some of the birds' attention, because he received a few greet twitters as he set his back down next to an empty nest. The idea of sleeping on a branch again didn't appeal to the young hummingbird. He's been sleeping on branches for the last two days.

            "Hey! It's another one!"

            "Welcome! You here for the try-outs, too?"

            "Of course he is! Why would he be in here all cramped with us, egg brain!"

            As he sat down in the fresh and soft nest, which he enjoyed very much (which much to his pleasure was lined with pieces of animal fur as well), a Xanthus' hummingbird in the nest right next to his chirped a hello.

            "Don't mind them," she said with a smile, tilting her head. "They're just nervous about the trials tomorrow." She fluffed her feathers in the dim light of the firefly lamp positioned next to them. Her feathers, already a metallic green shade, shimmered even more as the multiple lights flickered, their residents eager to escape.

            "I think we all are," Liffon observed.

            "Where you from, um..." she started, hinting for want of a name.

            "Liffon," he finished for her. "Liffon Foxglove. I'm from Dewdrop Meadow."

            "A Foxglove!" she exclaimed. "Long family line of Carriers," she stated with a nod. "I better watch out for you." She extended a wing in greeting, shifting her weight to allow it from underneath her. "The name's Lissa. Two S's, short I. Lih-sah."

            "Thanks for the specification," Liffon frowned. "I would have thought your name was Lisa. One S, long I. Lee-sah."

            Her reaction was delayed. At first she just stared at him, confused. Then she let out a soft chuckle, realizing what he had done. She smiled and gave him a playful shove when he didn't touch her wing in return greeting.

            "Hey, you're funny!"

            "Am I?" Liffon asked, feigning superiority.

            "Oh come off it," she frowned, her brow flattening in slight annoyance.

            "Sorry," he sighed, allowing a small smile. "Just nervous about tomorrow I guess."

            "I think we all are," Lissa smiled. "Now get some rest. I think we'll all need it.

 

            The next morning was greeted by a shout from outside, followed by annoyed moaning of hundreds of young hummingbirds as they stirred from sleep. Liffon, reluctant to move on, lay in the soft nest until Lissa finally shoved him out of it.

            "We're going to be late, sleepy beak!" she complained, throwing his bag at him. It landed next to the sprawled bird on the floor and a hat tumbled out.

            "What's that?" Lissa asked, looking over at Liffon, who continued to drool on his face.

            "Wha...?" he asked, half awake. He was answered by a swift peck from his green and auburn counterpart. She picked up the hat in her beak and dropped it on his face.

            "Oh what? Oh that," Liffon grumbled, fluttering to a sitting position. He tossed the hat onto his head. It was blue with a white bar at the bottom and a shiny back rim. It reminded Lissa of those hats the humans the delivered mail wore. The single gold emblem on the front was a circle with a small, stylized wing. "It's my dad's. He was going to meet me here but I haven't seen him yet."

            "Who's your dad?" she asked.

            "Fens Foxglove," he replied simply.

            Lissa gasped. "Fens Foxglove? The General Fens Foxglove?!"

            "Yeah why?" Liffon asked, tilting his head.

            The second call came out, a caw and a screech that sounded like a mockingbird's bad copy of a blue jay.

            "I'll tell you later. Let's go, or we'll be late!" Lissa pushed Liffon towards the door, ignoring his protest.

            "What about my dad?!" he cried, offended she wouldn't explain.

            "If you pass today's trials, and I'll tell you!" she shouted, taking off in a flurry to make the trial on time.

            "Humph," he huffed, following her. "'If you pass,' she says."

 

            "Your first test," the Chancellor read, "is to travel the designated route as marked with bright orange flags." He paused and blinked as if waiting for a cue. The house sparrow next to him switched out the card on the stand, gingerly placing the next card. "Ah yes. You must make it within the allotted time to pass. You will go in groups of five. Please approach the table for your group number." The jay nodded at the sparrow, and the latter sighed. Someday, he was going to have to find a better job than being the Chancellor's nursemaid.

            "What group are you in?" Lissa asked, poking at Liffon.

            "I got group seven," he replied simply, not looking at her, the paper with the calligraphy seven was clutched in his claw.

            "Oh let me check mine," she stated. As she approached the table, Liffon silently pleaded.

            Please not seven. Please not seven.

            "Hey, I got seven also!" she said jubilantly. Liffon couldn't hide his disappointment as she approached him. "Cheer up! We're not competing!"

            "Hey, when I finish on time, you better tell me what you know about my dad," he reminded her.

            "Yeah, yeah," she nudged him with her head and fluttered off to one of the waiting perches around the table.

            The first group was called and Liffon watched as the race gun went off. The group shot off like a series of green, tan, and red bullets. Liffon looked on, not revealing any emotions. He turned to Lissa who was simply watching as well, flapping her small green wings every not and then to keep her blood flowing. Without a word, he joined her grudgingly.

            "Took you long enough," she said with a small smile.

            "For what?" Liffon asked.

            Ignoring his question, she turned toward the starting line. "I heard this race is really hard," she said simply.

            "It has to be or the Carriers wouldn't be the best," he nodded.

            "That explains the Chancellor," she said, nodding towards the scatterbrained bird that was currently tripping over a pile of notes. The sparrow next to him gave a flustered chirp and picked up the papers the jay had knocked over. Liffon chuckled before he realized he was.

            Group after group was called, the finished ones returning without breath. Chatter began as the finishers shared the course with those that had not yet run, giving tips and the route. In the final test, this would not be allowed, but for now, the judges permitted it.

            Liffon overheard a few tidbits of the course, snapping up the information like a trap. Apparently, there were a few trick turns through the forest as well as some vines that trapped a few participants. He made note to keep an eye out.

            "Catching anything interesting?" Lissa asked, noticing his expression.

            "Just a few," he replied, glancing at her.

            "Well, I caught a tip there was a cat prowling at the tenth turn. We gotta fly high to avoid it."

            Liffon blinked. He hadn't heard that. Thankful he nodded at her.

            "Right," he added, trying to remain serious in spite of his growing nervousness. He had prepared for this all his life, but nothing had prepared him for a full grown feline. There were horror stories of cats killing off full parties of Carriers on important missions, and even attacking Carrier refuel outposts, as they were called.

            She must have felt his unease, because Lissa nudged her friend gently. When he looked at her, he was oddly quiet.

            "Don't worry," she assured him. "We'll do fine!"

            The groups were called one by one and Liffon's stomach grew tighter with each call.

            "Group six! Please approach the starting line!" the Chancellor called. The group of twenty or so approached the line, glancing at the judges lined up on perches, each holding stop watches in one talon connected around their necks, and binoculars dangling from a second strap.

            "Start your engines!" The group lifted off, fluttering quickly in place at the line.

            "On your mark," the Chancellor continued. "Get set..." He held a small pistol in the air, poised to shoot. "Go!"

            The gun went off and so did group six. They were off within seconds and out of sight.

            "Looks like we have some competition," Lissa commented with a grin.

            It seemed hardly five minutes before group seven was called. Liffon swallowed down his unease, leaving his bag and hat on the perch. He was reluctant to leave the hat - it was his good luck charm. But he wouldn't need luck to win this, would he?

            Lissa nodded and trotted over to the line, her green feathers shimmering in the afternoon sun. She turned to see Liffon pacing back and forth, obviously working off nerves.

            "You can do this," he said to himself. "You've been training your whole life for this day."

            "Come on, slow wings!" Lissa called.

            "Right," he nodded, fluttering to the line. "Sorry."

            "Relax," she assure him. "We'll do fine."

            "Yeah," he replied. "We will." We? No, I will do well. He frowned in concentration.

            "Start your engines!" he heard the Chancellor repeat, raising the gun above his head.

            Why does he always say that? Liffon wondered. We don't even have engines.

            "Go!" The gun went off and so did Liffon. The world sped by in a blur, shades of green and gold and blue as he sped from the starting line. The first stretch was straight until about 100 meters, then is made a sharp right, he noted.

             As he approached the turn, he spotted a flash of green speed by him. He nearly stopped in surprise.

            "Gotta be faster than that!"

            Lissa! he realized. With new energy, he sped forward.

            The first turn was sharper than he realized. Turning his wings a little to glide the turn, he under calculated and came to a crashing halt into a bush. Flashed of green and gold and blue sped by and he sped off with a few choice words.

            I can't lose this. I have to win!

            Picking up a burst of speed, he caught up with the group, took the inside of the second turn and pulled to the front. He heard a few growls of annoyance, but ignored them to try and catch Lissa.

            The third turn was wide and sped under a tangle of vines. Speeding through the center of a small gap, he heard a soft crunch of a larger hummingbird trying the same thing and not quite fitting through. He smirked and sped on.

            At the fourth turn, Lissa came into view. Fluttering to avoid the hanging branches, he caught sight of a bluebell. He nearly stopped dead just to catch a drink. Bluebells - ahh the nectar of heaven. No, he urged himself. I need to keep going! With grim determination, he sped on, slowly catching up to Lissa.

            The fifth, sixth, and seventh turns were very sharp, and Liffon had to compensate a little more than usual to make the turn and not come crashing down again. At one point, he caught sight of Lissa's expression as he passed her. She seemed pleased and accepted the challenge.

            Here it was, the tenth turn. The cat was here. His senses perked, but he didn't dare slow down. A rustling sounded from his right, but he ignored it, trying to concentrate on the straight stretch, searching for the next orange flag. The rustling continued and even sped up. Growing more wary, he glanced to his right and felt a chill run up his small spine at the sight of white and tan splotches. A low growl echoed off the trees and he swallowed, trying to not slow down.

            Just keep going, he urged himself.

            What he feared would happen hit him like a brick wall.

            No!

            The cat's paws were enormous. He was knocked sideways out of the air in a second. He twisted just enough to avoid the claws, as he was taught.

            This is just another obstacle! he reasoned. He flinched at the clump of feathers pulled from his wing. This was not good.

            Struggling to keep the pace, he leaped and fluttered back to the track. The cat growled and pounced, just missing him. It yowled in anger, and flicked its tail, but turned suddenly, tracking a whiff of the oncoming birds.

            Liffon's mind raced. If he called a warning he could lose this. If he didn't, someone might die.

            He took a deep breath and chirped at the top of his lungs.

            "Fly up! Now!"

            The oncoming birds blinked at him.

            "Fly up!!" he repeated.

            The first few continued at the same altitude with a  smirk thinking it was a trick and were met with a clawed swipe from the hungry feline. The others following chirped in alarm and flew as high as they could. The fallen birds shrieked in pain and terror.

            I'm going to lose! Liffon panicked. Without a second thought, though, he plunged at the cat, beak first.

            The beast yowled in pain and released its grip on the victims. It yowled again for an unknown reason and Liffon caught sight of the green blur that was Lissa.

            "Can't let you have all the fun!" she grinned. "Besides, that wing reduces your speed enough.

            The cat, now furious with anger, swiped the air trying to knock the pair out of the air.

            "Too slow!" Lissa teased. She rocketed towards the howling fury once again and it yowled in pain and shot off into the forest.

            "They're hurt," Liffon observed. The three birds lay on the forest floor where the cat left them. One had blood on his wing, a few feathers plucked out. The others lay unmoving.

            I'm going to lose the race! Liffon grimaced, his wing stinging. "How do we help them?" he said instead, the competitive voice in him shushed.

            "Get some comfrey," Lissa instructed. "They look like small bluebells. They'll stop the bleeding. See if you can find some honeysuckle to prevent inflammation."

            Without another word, Liffon raced off, his mind still arguing about the race, hearing the worlds "sorry, try again next year" echoing in his head.

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