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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5. Trouble Brewing

 

 

 

            For the second time since he had arrived in Greenbrook, Liffon crossed the finish line without intention of actually finishing. Gasping for breath, he explained the situation to the Chancellor, who abruptly shouted it to the entire courtyard, which is exactly what Liffon did not want to happen. Dina winced in annoyance as he belted out the threat that caused quite a few birds to panic. The two annoyed birds exchanged glances.

            The lead nurse approached Liffon, her white cap and apron contrasting her dark red feathers. She checked him quickly for injuries, then instructed another nurse with brighter colors to pass him a bottle of nectar, which Liffon gulped gratefully.

            After a pause, he spoke. "Just follow the trail until the leaves star dying. Artemis and Larx are there. Kiffy and Cirrus are a bit down the path near the checkpoint station," he explained quietly.

            Meanwhile, the waiting birds were panicking, some leaving the grounds without even signing out. The junior Carriers instructed them to head back to the bunks, and many listened, though there were a few that required medical attention after fainting. Liffon shook his head, wondering why they were reacting so strangely.

            The cardinal nurses set off, a collection of red and brown and white. Liffon fluttered off tiredly to a nearby perch, nectar bottle clutched in his right talon. The birds around him chattered about the situation, each wondering what they were going to do.

            "I bet my mom's gonna come pick me up."

            "We should just stay put until they figure something out."

            "Are you crazy? I'm leaving!"

            Liffon ignored them and closed his eyes, eager for this day to be done.

            Above the commotion, Lissa looked down from a high up branch in the great oak that was the Carrier barracks and training center. She hadn't heard the initial announcement, being so high up. so when the crowd of waiting recruits began to filter out, she blinked in surprise.

            Spotting Liffon, she flapped a few times and dropped from the branches, landing on the perch with a soft thump. Liffon started, nearly falling off the branch. Then, when he realized who it was, he glared at her.

            "Good afternoon to you, too," Lissa said sarcastically. "How was the assignment?"

            Liffon fluffed up his feathers tiredly and looked away. "We got attacked."

            Lissa's eyes widened. "Are you alright? Where is the rest of your team?"

            "Larx and Artemis are at the bend in the trail. A hawk attacked us there and hurt Artemis, so Larx stayed behind. Cirrus and Kiffy are at the checkpoint with Ethrup."

            "That was Ethrup and Horton's checkpoint?" Lissa breathed.

            "Now it's just Ethrup."

            The severity of the situation hit Lissa like a brick. Without a word she took flight down the trail past the judges table and the sound of the Chancellor explaining that everyone should head back to the bunks, not even waiting to hear Liffon explain that the nurses had already taken care of everything.

            "I swear," Liffon grumbled, setting off after her with a grumble.

 

            Artemis tried to not look down. Larx was just ahead, but she seemed like miles away. She blinked, trying to clear her vision, but the ground kept spinning. She focused on Larx's tail feathers, setting her beak, and concentrated on staying in the air, trying to ignore her splitting headache.

            The hawk hadn't given her any warning. She had studied them for hours in the library and usually she could spot them from a mile away. She had a sharp mind and even sharper eyes, but paid for it in reaction time. Whenever she even spotted signs that hawk was nearby, she was sure to stay close to any shelters so she could duck into one if needed. This time her book smarts hadn't saved her, and for that she was upset at herself.

            A group of cardinal nurses rushed past. Artemis glanced over, her vision hazy, but only seemed to process blurs of tan and red. She blinked a few times, trying to clear her vision. Her injury seemed to be taking a bigger told than she expected. The ground seemed awfully close, but she couldn't tell. And then again, it seemed very inviting. She normally wouldn't stop in a case of emergency like this, but the ground looked so soft...

            "Arti?" Larx called. "You doing ok?" When no reply came she turned to find the smaller bird slowly sinking to the moss-covered ground.

            Artemis tried to look up, but all she could see was a collection of white and black with some greens mixed in, pushed together is a blur that could talk. She heard more voices getting closer as everything faded to black.

            "Arti!" Larx exclaimed, shooting towards her.

            "Stretcher!" she heard one of the nurses shout. Two bright red male cardinals donning the white nurse cap trotted over, a strap of cloth stretched between them and over their shoulders. Another pair of nurses helped lift Artemis onto the stretcher. Larx watched as they flew away, hoping her new friend would be ok. She turned to follow them when a metallic green blur flashed by. Larx blinked, surprised.

            "Larx, did you see Lissa?" a familiar voice called a few seconds later.

            "If by 'Lissa' you mean 'green blur,' then yes," she replied, perplexed.

            "Okay, thanks," Liffon nodded and continued down the trail, picking up speed as he flew. He has seen the nurses, so he could only assume everyone was okay. He shouldn't really be worried, right? Thoughts raced through his head as he sped to catch up to Lissa.

             He breathed deep as his pace slowed, flapping lightly. Lissa has come to a stop at the edge of the green where the dust and dead forest began. She stared into it as if it was a desert, which it almost was. Liffon fluttered over and landed next to her on the dry, cracked ground.

            "What happened?" she asked quietly, still in shock.

            "I don't know," Liffon replied, looking at her. "But right now, we have to take care of Artemis and the others."

            "Since when did you care about anyone?" she asked, somewhat sarcastically.

            Liffon opened his beak to give her a snarky answer, but thought better of it. "Come on, let's go back. I'm sure the nurses could use your help."

            Lissa sat in silence, staring at the destruction. It was as if something has just come through and killed everything without actually destroying it.

            "Hello?" Liffon nudged her with his shoulder, but she seemed frozen in shock.

            The only thing that snapped her awake was the approach of the nurse team returning from the checkpoint shelter. A group passed over, carrying Euthrup, followed by Cirrus and Kiffy. Cirrus fluttered down after chatting with Kiffy, who continued on, legging a somewhat less heavy bag of scrolls.

            "Do they know what happened?" Lissa asked the larger hummingbird.

            Cirrus shook his head. "No one knows yet, but I'm sure we'll find out. It's almost as if it didn't rain. Everything is dry and withered right up to this line."

             "The distinctive line seems very strange," she observed, picking the moss under her feet with a clawed toe.

             "I think I've seen something like this before somewhere," Liffon said, fluffing his chest feathers to ward off the chill that ran up his spine.

             "Really?" the pair asked in stereo.

             "I'm not sure. It just seems familiar," he answered, looking around. "It's almost like there's some sort of barrier around Greenbrook."

             Another group of nurses passed over, tailing the other group. A few glanced down at the trio on the path and Cirrus motioned that they were fine and they would catch up soon.

             "Come on, let's get back. Maybe the council knows something," he said, nodding toward the passing cardinals.

             Liffon frowned. "Yeah, that's probably a good idea." He nudged Lissa, who had taken to staring at the dead forest again. She shook her head, her brow furrowed, and the companions took to the air, hoping something could make sense of this.

 

            The C-shaped table was lined with birds of every species. Beside the Chancellor's large form was his small sparrow attendant Dina who appeared just as tired as always, shuffling through papers as she glanced around the room. Bird began to file in, perching on sconces and fluffing up on the floor in front of the table. The chatter continued as the firefly lamps were filled to combat the slight darkness that the afternoon sun left, unable to pierce the think leaf roof.

            Liffon and Lissa emerged from the door slowly, pushed along by the crowd behind them. He caught sight of Cirrus and Larx in the mess, but he couldn't find any other familiar birds other than that dwarf owl that he had registered with at the oral exam. The crowd began to spread out a little as the last of the council members settled in behind the table. However, one seat remained empty. The Chancellor rang a small bell to silence the crowd and the chattering slowed.

            "I call this emergency meeting of the Council of Greenbrook to order," the blue jay nodded. "An issue has arisen and we must decide what to do immediately. Please present the reports, Mr. Johns-wort," he added, turning toward a white crowned sparrow with a small bowtie.

            "Reports have arrived from multiple sources that the forest is dying suddenly," the sparrow explained, reading off of an oak leaf. "This has affected the safety of Greenbrook and a solution must be formulated."

            I murmur ran through the gathered crowd. Liffon noticed there were far less hummers around than other species. He guessed this was the staff of the Carrier Complex along with various residents of the outlying city. His guesses were confirmed when he spotted the perturbed pair of Kestrels that had tried to prevent his registration.

            "Quiet, please," the Chancellor commanded, ringing his little bell. If Liffon didn't know any better he would have thought the jay really liked his little bell. "Order, order. Will the council propose a solution?"

            A goldfinch with dull yellows stood up and nodded. "I propose we close all entrances to the complex to ensure it spreads no more," she said. A murmur went up from the crowd.

            "How will we get our nesting shipments?"

            "That's too drastic!"

            "We'll be quarantined! Cut off!"

            "We can't deliver wishes! It will make the problem worse!"

            "Order, please," the Chancellor said, ringing his bell again.

            "I demand a better solution!" another cry added.

            "Order," the Chancellor continued.

            The crowed just seemed to get louder. Liffon was growing annoyed. He wanted to shout out for everyone to be silent, or nothing would get done.

             "I suggest we send a party to investigate," a voice stated from the back. Something in the tone caused all other birds to be silent instantaneously.

            A rose-breasted grosbeak stood in the door, his chest puffed up. He has a look about him that Liffon couldn't admit he has ever seen in any other bird.

            He had a black tie around his neck, but wore nothing else. His expression was a mix between pride and narcissism, though more on the pride side, and there was nothing that annoyed Liffon more than a know-it-all.

            "So good of you to join us, Mr. Gladiolus," the white crowned sparrow, Johns-wort said with a frown.

            "A pleasure to be the voice of reason in a crisis," the grosbeak said with a nod. He made his way to the empty seat behind the table as the room remained completely silent, every eye in the room on him."

            Lissa leaned over to Liffon and hissed in his ear. "Who is that?"

            Liffon didn't process what she was saying at first. When he realized she had spoke, he looked over at her.

            "What?" he said, rather confused.

            "Who is that?" Lissa repeated, nodding toward the newcomer.

            "Marlon 'Steelbeak' Gladiolus," he replied simply.

            "'Steelbeak?'" she blinked back at him.

            "He used to be a soldier," Liffon explained. "He got his name from his fierceness at defending Greenbrook. There was a series of attacks on Carriers a few seasons back, so he was hired as a guard for some of the larger deliveries. Rumors say he killed a full grown cat north of the Human place."

            "Attacks?" Lissa made a note to read up on Greenbrook history.

            "A group called the Dark Talon was stealing wish scrolls and turning them in themselves to collect the wish energy. Eventually they were stopped, but not before they collected enough energy to create a significant drain on the Greenbrook supply. The Kestrel Forces recovered some of it, but they ended up getting away. I believe Gladiolus was the only Grosbeak on the force at the time."

            "A grosbeak on the Kestrel Force," Lissa shook her head. "How did he manage that one?"

            "He didn't get the name Steelbeak for nothing," Liffon commented.

            "All in favor of sending an investigating party to observe the scene and gather information?" the Chancellor said.

            Every wing in the observing crowd went up. The Chancellor blinked in surprise and the wings of the council began to slowly rise in response.

            "Alright, Mr. Johns-wort, put together a team and meet at the courtyard in two hours. All recruits head to the bunks. Meeting adjourned," the Chancellor said with much more sensibility than Liffon was used to. He knew why a second later when he peered down at Dina. "Was that good?" he asked.

            "Yes, that was fine," she replied tiredly.

            The room emptied quickly, chattering following the birds. The council talked amongst themselves for a bit, then dissipated as well. Liffon watched, glancing around, hoping for some direction. I frowned when none came and just trotted towards the door.

            Lissa blinked and followed, the concerned expression changing to that of eagerness.

            "There's not much we can do other than wait, I suppose," he heard Larx say. Adopting an expression that said "Do I really have to be here?" Larx saw him approaching and copied his annoyed expression mockingly. "Liffon doesn't like us!" she said with a deep mocking voice. Liffon tried very hard to not chuckle, but a small grin escaped him.

            "Well, I don't know much about what's going on," Artemis interjected, pushing her small spectacles up her beak, "but it seems this has happened before just like Liffon said."

            "Yeah, I agree," Lissa added with a nod, approaching from behind. "I'm just not sure when."

            "The drought of Egret Spring," Liffon said flatly. "Very bad year - little rain came."

            "I knew he knew it!" Cirrus grinned, thumping Liffon on the back. Liffon growled mentally, but displayed a simple frown.

            "He's a smart one, I tell ya," Larx nodded, motioning toward him.

            Liffon blinked. He wasn't expecting a compliment.

            "I keep telling him he's gotta open up a bit more," Lissa commented.

            "You're all so slow," Liffon frowned. "How can you not know there's a wish energy shield around Greenbrook?"

            "Oh thank you, Mr. Smarty-pants!" Cirrus mocked.

            "Pffft," Liffon rolled his eyes, which caused everyone to laugh. This, in turn, just made him flush in embarrassment.

            Sounds of pain and "Excuse mes" caused the group to turn. Kiffy was trying to speedily make his way through the crowded hall, where various birds chatted nervously. The Chancellor finally exited the meeting room, followed by Dina, who carried a large stack of papers. Kiffy, finally thinking he was free to race to the group found himself colliding with poor Dina.

            Papers went flying.

            "I'm sorry! I'm so sorry! Here let me help you," he offered, bending to pick up what he could grab.

            "It's alright, really," Dina insisted, an overworked smile trying to work its way to her beak.

            "Dina, where are my glasses?" the Chancellor asked, not even noticing Dina's predicament.

            "Around your neck, sir," she answered without even looking up.

            All but Liffon went over to assist Dina. She gave a soft thank you and raced away to follow the Chancellor.

            "I'd hate to have her job," Cirrus said, watching her race away.

            Kiffy, still catching his breath, finally  got to his real purpose. He breathed a gulp of air in preparation.

            "They are asking for volunteers for the observation party!" he gasped.

            "I'll go!" Cirrus and Lissa said at the same time.

            Larx hauled off laughing. "You two are way too eager!"

            "Yeah, well, I wanna find out what happened!" Cirrus argued.

            "But, you don't know what's out there," Artemis chimed in, pushing her glasses up her beak. "Like Liffon said, it may be a shield, but shields have to break sometime."

            "That just means we have to figure out what's wrong right now," Lissa nodded.

            "I'll go, too," Kiffy said, finally catching his breath.

            "Liffon, you should come," Lissa suggested. "You know a lot about the situation."

            "Why? You don't need me," he frowned.

            "Because I said so, Mr. Smarty-pants," Lissa replied, sticking her tongue out. "Plus it will be a nice bonding experience!"

            "Oooo~ bonding!" Larx said excitedly. "I'll go, too then!"

            "Arti should come, too," Cirrus suggested with a grin. "I wouldn't mind having more ladies around."

            "Don't make me slap you," Larx grumbled. At that, everyone laughed. Even Liffon cracked a smile.

 

            "I was expecting youse all ta volunteer." The Kestrel didn't even look up as he scratched out the group's names on the sheet. "The Chance'la said youse got a lotta potential." Raising his eyes slightly, he observed the motley crew of hummingbirds in front of him. "Especially dat Foxglove."

            Taken aback by mention of his own name, Liffon blinked a few times. Then, regaining his composure, he simply frowned.

            "Pretend ya don't know what I'm talkin' about all ya want, kid," the Kestrel added, looking back at the parchment. The toothpick in his beak bounced as he talked. "Even I knows ya got some fight in ya." He handed Cirrus, who happened to be the one standing closest to the table, the sheet. It was signed at the bottom. The large black-chinned hummer blinked at the chicken scratch.

            "Martin Spinifer?" he half questioned.

            "Dat's right," the Kestrel winked, attempting a thumbs up. "Soon ta be captain."

            Liffon groaned softly.

           

            The earth at the edge of the barrier was as dry as Liffon has remembered it hours before. nothing had changed. He didn't know whether this was a good thing or not. Fluttering about, he inspected the fauna, hoping to find some clues.

             "There isn't much here," Larx commented as another member of the party, a male cedar waxwing, landed next to her.

             "From what I see," Artemis said, fluttering to and fro. "there seems to be a huge lack of wish energy here. It's almost as if it's all disappeared."

             "How can that be?" Kiffy asked, concerned. He took to a perch above the scene, hoping it would give him a better view. The entire forest seemed bare as if everything had just suddenly died. "What's going to happen now?"

             "Everything's going to die, duh," Liffon said a little too loudly. His reward was a slap from Lissa.

             "That's no way to talk you brat!" she snapped.

             At first, Liffon growled. How can she hit him like that! That's not going to solve anything! But her angry expression made him realize that wasn't really the way he should be talking. Everyone was counting on them. Right? Pfft. He frowned, but said nothing more.

            "Anyway," Lissa said, looking toward Kiffy, "we'll figure this out. I'm sure there's answer here somewhere.

            "We know what caused it then," Cirrus observed. "All the wish energy is gone."

            "But what I can't figure out is why," Artemis added. "This has never happened before in Greenbrook history."

            "The Dark Talon attacks weren't even this bad," Liffon interjected.

            The others looked at him a little surprised. It wasn't like Liffon to show concern.

            "What?" he said. When no response came, he glared at them.

            "You're going to have to lighten up someday, Liff," Kiffy smiled at him.

            His reward was a glower that would scare and un-hatched chick.

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