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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3. Proven Strength

 

 

            "He's waking up," Lissa whispered. "Good job finding so much."

            "What's going on?" one of the victims asked, looking about. Lissa opened her mouth to answer, but the other bird stopped her. "The race! God damn it! I have to make time!" Without waiting another second, he sped off.

            "Well, I never!" Lissa said with a frown. "At least he wasn't bleeding as bad as the others. I hope they wake up soon."

            "I just hope that cat doesn't come back," Liffon added, looking around. Even if it did, they were high enough in the tree.

            "You're faster than me, Liffon," Lissa said looking at him. "Go get help. We'll need more than just basic first aid on these guys."

            "Right, of course," he nodded, speeding off. Why didn't I think of that? This race is as good as lost, so why not?

            He sighed, thinking of his loss he had trained so hard to avoid. The trees were green blurs, splotched with sunlight. He wondered what the judges were doing waiting for his group to finish.

            The final turns came fast, and so did the finish line, the same spot he had left not ten minutes before. He turned up his wings, trying to stop fast and came to a crashing halt at the base of the judge’s perches.

            "Time -" the Chancellor started, ready to announce how fast he had been.

            "Wait!" Liffon shouted. The judges looked at him in surprise. "We need...medical...tenth...turn!" he gasped. A murmur rippled through the judges and waiting birds as Liffon fell out of the air with a soft thump.

            "Medic!" someone shouted. A bird carrying a case with a red cross on it shot over, attending to Liffon. He watched hazily as a cardinal donning a white cap issued commands to another group of birds comprised mostly of the same species. Four of them nodded and took off in the direction Liffon had come from. He absently wondered why the hummingbird from before didn't warn them. Was he that concerned with winning? He heard chattering and chitting of other birds as well as the other recruits and then he heard nothing.

 

            Lissa perched, watching over her two patients. One had awoken in a panic, tried to fly, then fell back onto the branch chirping in pain.

            "I told you to rest," she had said. The other bird nodded soberly, his injured leg raised as he lay on his back.

            The second with a hurt wing had not awoken yet. Lissa's feathery brow furrowed in worry, thinking of what could have happened. She checked the poultice as the conscious bird observed.

            Distant chattered echoed on the trees and Lissa snapped to attention.

            "Hello? Is anyone here?"

            "Over here! In the birch!" Lissa called.

            The cardinals glanced up, their white hats jiggling in the breeze. Changing their course, they came to land next to Lissa and began inspecting her patients immediately.

            "Leg brace. String. Cloth piece," one dictated. The conscious bird blinked and winced in pain as the brace was applied. "How is the other?" she asked, looking at Lissa.

            "He's been unconscious for a while. I got some herbs for the bleeding."

            The nurse-bird nodded and set to work.

            "You did well," one commented, assisting the first.

            Lissa nodded and sat patiently.

            "What are you doing waiting here?" the second asked with a grin. "You have a race to finish!"

            "Oh, yeah," Lissa replied simply. She took off at an even pace down the path, not even looking back.

            "She's going to have to speed up if she wants to finish before sundown," a third chimed in watching her.

 

            "Liffon!"

            The ruby-throated hummingbird blinked. He found himself in a nearly empty bunk room with Lissa gazing at him. He had a blanket wrapped around him which he didn't remember receiving. The evening sun blazed through the doorway, pasting an orange square on the far wall.

            "Where is everyone?" he asked, still hazy.

            "They're at the closing announcement," she replied.

            "Closing announcement?!" Liffon shot alert. "We have to get there! I have to find out the results!"

            Before Lissa could reply, Liffon was out the door.

            The Chancellor stood on the high perch in the courtyard as Liffon approached. Breathing hard, he found a spot in the very back on the floor.

            "Someone's in a rush," he heard Lissa comment as she approached from behind. "I don't know why you raced out here. There's no way we made the time."

            "Shh!" Liffon hissed.

            Lissa blinked at him, but said nothing more.

            "The recruits that have made it past the first round are as follows: Kosi Springplum - 10.27 minutes, Frish Aster - 11.43 minutes..."

            Liffon waited for what seemed like hours as the Chancellor listed off the names. When he stopped, he had not heard his and Lissa's names. Liffon held his breath, hoping for more, but the large blue jay said no more.

            "There has to be more. They have the make some kind of exception!" Liffon said softly. "I worked my whole life for this!"

            "Liffon..." Lissa said gently, extending a wing over him for comfort. He said nothing, fighting back tears of anger.

            I should have ignored her, he thought. I could have won...

            "Will the following birds please report to the judges table: Jiffa Acacia, Poia Dahlia, Lissa Gentian, and Liffon Foxglove."

            Liffon's gaze shot over to the judges table in surprise. Lissa, just as surprised, followed his gaze. She recognized the cardinal that assisted with the injured hummingbirds and blinked in confusion. The cardinal grinned and nodded them over.

            The other two birds, which Lissa and Liffon both recognized, still looked in pain from the accident earlier, but the first was in a much better looking leg cast and the second had his wing wrapped.

            "Unfortunately, Acacia and Dahlia, you did not make the time required," the swallow judge said, looking through the papers on the table in front of his perch. The two hummingbirds sighed in unison. "Due to your injuries, you will not be able to participate further this year. However, you are more than welcome to apply next year, and your entrance fee will be waived."

            Looking over at the other pair, he remained stoic, revealing no emotion.

            "In honor of your initiative, Foxglove and Gentian, you two have been given an exception. If you are well, we'd be honored to have you at tomorrow's trial."

            Liffon blinked in surprise.

            "You...you mean it?"

            The swallow judge nodded, his blue-black feathers shimmering in the waning light. "It's not often we get those with such courage. If things continue like this, you will land a top spot on the Service."

            Lissa and Liffon's faces lit up.

            "Now, off to the bunk rooms with you," he said, flicking his wing toward the nests.

            "Lucky them..." Jiffa said, her voice full of jealousy. "Stupid cat got the best of me."

            Poia looked at his counterpart next to him and sighed. "Hey, at least we can try next year, huh?"

            "Hey, you know you're allowed to stay in the bunks until tomorrow," Lissa said, offhandedly.

            Poia and Jiffa glanced over at Lissa, confused by her kindness.

            "What, recruits have no manners these days?" she grinned. "Come on, slowpokes."

            Liffon rolled his eyes. She was a little too kind sometimes. He was just grateful he was allowed the next day's trial.

            Her generosity is going to get her killed someday, he mused.

 

            "You owe me," Liffon said not opening his eyes as he settled into the nest next to Lissa. The roosting bunks only contained half the birds they did the previous night. It seemed not many made it through the first round this year. Chattering from the other birds was quiet as the staff filled the floor lamps with the nightly shift of fireflies.

            "Owe you what?" Lissa asked curiously. She gave a thoughtful glance at the paneled ceiling. "Oh yeah, the story about your dad, huh? I'm surprised you don't know!"

            "He doesn't contact us much. Says he's too busy with work," Liffon replied with a frown.

            "Well, everyone in Greenbrook knows Fens Foxglove is the best of the best. He was promoted to General at the youngest age ever."

            "Mom mentioned this one time, I think. That's why we trained so hard. But I was nearly just hatched so I don't remember," Liffon stated, sleepily, finally opening his eyes to look at the lantern. The fireflies were lively tonight, darting back and forth in the dome, flashing on and off in conversation.

            "Anyway, he left on a big mission a few days ago, but he hasn't come back. It's kind of weird considering he's never taken more than a day and a half even on really hard missions," Lissa continued.

            "Huh? What mission?" Liffon looked at her, unusually curious.

            "No one knows except his Lieutenant Miu Lotus. They're like best friends from what I heard. I supposed it's off to collect some wish energy. It must have been really dangerous for him to go alone."

            Liffon looked back at the lantern, but didn't say anything else. He tried to concentrate on the verbal test that took place tomorrow, but thoughts of his father kept him awake. He said nothing more and feigned sleep until the chattering died down and he heard the soft snores of Lissa next to him.

            She was annoying, to say the least. Having attached herself to his side nearly the first moment he arrived had been awkward, but he had to admit she was helpful – a worthy opponent if nothing else. He huffed to himself and closed his eyes, willing sleep to come.

 

            The morning call came in the form of a rooster with a sore throat. Another mockingbird trick. Liffon grimaced.

            "Rise and shine lemon chiffon!" Lissa mocked playfully. Liffon groaned and fluffed his feathers against the crisp morning air.

            "I'm not a cake, thanks," he said with a slight snap.

            "Oh, come now, Liff," she protested with a smile. "Lighten up. It's our second day to shine!"

            Liffon rolled his eyes as she turned around and waddled out the door after her.

            It was unusually cold for a late spring morning and a majority of the birds had copied Liffon in their fluffing. He held back a chuckle at the show of inflated-looking hummingbirds as they gathered around the morning buds for a bit to eat before heading off for the test.

            He was grateful they had foxgloves. It was a well known fact a Foxglove never went without a foxglove for long. The nectar was so sweet and refreshing, Liffon felt warmer just ingesting his breakfast. He let himself a small smile.

            Unfortunately, that smile didn't escape Lissa's gaze.

            "So you do smile!" she chirped, trotting over to him.

            He scowled at her.

            "Oh stop," she frowned.

            "Nerves," he said simply, fluffing his feathers against the air. He said nothing else and trotted toward the booths set up in the courtyard alongside the race track from yesterday.

            The small booths were walled off like cubicles with retractable roofs in case of rain. Most of them had the roofs drawn against the cold. There were approximately ten or fifteen lined up behind a small desk where a dwarf owl made a roost.

            "All recruits, please proceed to the sign in table to register for your oral exam," the Chancellor instructed through a rolled up leaf acting as a voice amplifier. He repeated the message and a line formed at the table.

            Almost on instinct, Liffon peered behind him to check if Lissa was there. He scowled at himself inwardly for being weak, but was secretly glad that she was there.

            "And here I thought you didn't need me," she commented, sticking out her curled tongue at him.

            "Oh shush," he frowned. "Let's go."

            "Someday you'll have to lighten up," she said, tilting her head. "Scowling is bad for your health."

            "Foxglove, Liffon," the owl said, handing him a leaf with the number 36 scrawled on it. "Another Foxglove, eh? We should expect great things from you."

            Liffon simply nodded.

            "Your booth is number 7," the owl instructed. "We'll call you when your turn comes."

            "Ah, lucky 7, eh?" Lissa said with a grin.

            Liffon stuck out his tongue in return and went to find a perch.

            "Gentian, Lissa," the owl read. "Number 37, booth 4. If you perform as well as you did with those herbs yesterday, you should do fine."

            "Thanks. I need all the luck I can get," Lissa nodded. Flapping over to Liffon's perch, she ruffled her feathers, wishing the cold would leave. This was the Spring of the bluebird. It was supposed to be warm! She ran over her studies in her head, hoping she didn't forget anything.

            "Nervous?" Liffon asked. The question surprised Lissa and she looked at him.

            "A little," she replied. "I studied for months before this."

            "I'm not too worried," Liffon added. He turned to look at her. "Anyone else in your family made the Carriers?"

            "Well," Lissa replied, glad to share, but confused at his sudden interest, "no, I'm the first that's made it past day one. My family used to try every year, but since my oldest brother failed first year, no one else has been interested. My parents used to work for the Carriers, but never made the actual rank. They always dreamed one of their own would make it."

            "I see," Liffon nodded. "So then what about you?"

            "I was always interested in my brother's studies. All the cool stories my parents would tell about the brave adventures the Carriers went on. He abandoned his studies after his failure and I just picked them right up." She was silent for a moment, then spoke again. "Why the sudden interest?"

            "Oh, I just wanted to know what made you so annoying," Liffon grinned.

            "Shush you!" she replied, poking him playfully with her beak.

            "Such violence," he said sternly. "How will you ever become a Carrier with that attitude?"

            She growled at him and stuck her beak in the air. "Oh just you wait, Liffon Foxglove. Just you wait!"

            The morning progressed slowly and the sun warmed the courtyard gradually. Liffon looked on as names were called for the testing and he hoped he would be summoned soon. Though he wasn't too nervous (rather he was too nervous to admit how nervous he was), he ran over the questions that might be asked.

            "Carriers were founded in the Fall of the Junco, approximately ten years ago by moon-time. The most important aspect of a successful Carrier is punctuality."

            "What's that?" Lissa asked, looking over at him.

            "Nothing," Liffon said quickly, not looking at her.

            "So we have another Foxglove, eh?" a house sparrow commented, chewing on a sunflower seed. The much larger white-crowned sparrow peered over at the hummingbird pair on the far perch.

            "Well, if he's anything like his siblings, I'm pretty sure he'll make it."

            "Number 36," the Chancellor read off. "Liffon Foxglove, booth 7."

            "Hey, that's your booth," the white-crowned sparrow said, nudging her neighbor.

            "Oh, I'll give this hatchling a run for his money," the other said with a smirk.

            Liffon approached the booth with confidence, hiding the butterflies in his crop. He had been studying for years for this. There was no way he could fail.

            "Hello, Liffon," the house sparrow said. "My name is Sulora and I'll be administering your test today."

            "Hi," Liffon said simply, observing her.

            "Before we begin, do you have any questions?"

            "Not really. Just want to get it over with."

            "Understood. Now, these first questions will be simple, the progressively get harder. There is approximately 30 questions overall."

            "Okay," Liffon nodded.

            "One - what year were the Carriers formed?" she asked, looking at the sheet she held in her tiny talon.

            "The Fall of the Junco, about ten years ago," Liffon replied quickly.

            "Who was the first Carrier and founder?"

            "Lopi Lilly-Blossom, Ruby-throated, first General and expert Carrier."

            "Impressive," Sulora nodded. "What is the quickest route to the closest Wish Depot from here?"

            "North through the pine grove, skirting around the Human dwellings to avoid animals, stay high above the Gray River (where the monsters with bright eyes go fast), and into the Hallow. First time visitors must show ID and route."

            Sulora said nothing, but flipped through her papers, seeming slightly annoyed.

            "When is it acceptable to fall behind on a Class 3 mission?" she asked, with a covered grin.

            "Never," Liffon replied.

            Sulora opened her mouth in triumph to correct him, but he caught her.

            "Unless a Class 1 emergency arises that will interfere with the timely delivery. Then, however it is permitted to arrive late."

            "Very good," she replied reluctantly.

            The list of questions went on and Liffon answered each with proficiency, much to Sulora's dismay. There was no way a bird his age could answer these questions in such detail. There has to be something he doesn't know. She flipped through the papers and found the final question reserved for the Senior test later today. Not even the veterans managed to get this one right 100% of the time!

            "The mission carried out on Day 43 in the Summer of the Hooded Jay was lead by who, where was it going, and what was the purpose?"

            Liffon hadn't expected this question. He thought about it for a minute, going over his extensive studies. Summer of the Hooded Jay...that was about three years ago. Day 43 was after his father's wing leave for the Budding of the Foxgloves (a huge celebration for the Dewdrop Meadow). He was heading back to work tomorrow. Television...mission...Private First Class Haricot...southern depot...sun setting, so late in the day....

            "Private First Class Pishu Haricot's first mission. He was leading a small team to the southern depot to pick up the special Wish Bags, then head to a potent source of Wish Energy from a sick child on the shore. Apparently the child had a bad case of double pneumonia and began to send wishes out in vast amounts."

            As his answer flowed out, Sulora's eyes widened in disbelief. By the end of his speech, she was gaping.

            "I know that's right," Liffon added, looking at her confidently.

            "Very good, Mister Foxglove," she replied with a frown, having being beaten, and stamped a sheet of paper and handing it to him. He took it with his beak and nodded his thanks, exiting the tent via the flap.

            "So how did it go?" the dwarf owl asked, taking the paper slip. "Oh my, a perfect score. Congrats, Mister Foxglove," he added with a nod.

            "Oh it wasn't so hard," he admitted, flitting off to his perch next to Lissa. He looked on as the Chancellor called out various names from the list. He secretly wish he could be doing something else; the test was a no-brainer. The day progressed slowly as Lissa flitted off to her test. Liffon was surprised with himself, hoping she passed. Maybe Lissa was right - he did like her.

            She emerged about an hour later, a satisfied look of relief on her face. She handed it to the owl at the desk and flitted over to Liffon.

            "I passed," she said with a grin.

            Liffon raised his eyebrows in response. "Cool," he said simply.

            Lissa rolled her eyes wondering if he ever said more than a few words.

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