A Summer of Service: Part Two
Almost as soon as the white Eyrie left, three others approached. Where Roger and Blanca were sleek furred and full fed, these three looked unkempt and almost uncomfortably thin. Nisha understood that the flock had a hierarchy and these three were on the very bottom. Thankfully, these three seemed merely curious. They sat in a half circle before her, studying her.
At last, the middle one, a yellow Eyrie, said, "We've never met an Aisha before."
"Not that we haven't seen one before, you understand. We have," said the shadow Eyrie on Nisha's left.
"What's it like to have four ears?" the brown Eyrie on the right asked.
Nisha held up a hand to stop the flood of words. She shook her head slowly, a smile on her face.
"OK, OK. One at a time. Let's make a deal. I'll answer your questions as long as you answer mine," Nisha suggested.
"It's a deal," the yellow Eyrie said.
"I'm glad you didn't ask us to help you escape," the shadow Eyrie said.
"We couldn't do that," the brown Eyrie said with a firm shake of his head.
Nisha looked away from the Eyrie trio then. It was true that it was pointless to try to escape without help. First, she had no sense of direction, like a certain baby Yurble she knew. Second, she had no survival skills in the jungle. Third, there were too many eyes watching her; trying to escape at the moment would be fruitless.
Nisha sighed and looked back at the Eyrie.
The Aisha shrugged her shoulders. "To begin, I don't know what it's like to have two ears. I think having four ears is definitely an advantage. My short ears I use to listen to nearby noises, like our conversation. My long ears I use to listen to noises farther away. Now, you three know my name, but what are yours?"
The yellow, shadow and brown Eyrie introduced themselves as Scorch, Manny and Brownie. As they talked, Nisha had leaned back against the rough bark of the tree. The three Eyrie sprawled around Nisha, paws crossed neatly in front of them.
"Is it true that Aishas can use magic?" Scorch asked.
In response, Nisha could only smile. She reached out a hand to Manny and Brownie. She focused and soon felt an ice cold power in the palms of her hands. It was even more startling in the heat and humidity of Mystery Island. With startled squawks, she sent Manny and Brownie rising quickly to their paws, eyes wide and ears twitching.
Their fur fluffed out and they shook themselves.
Scorch looked first at one friend and then to the other. "What? What did she do?"
"Brr! That was cold," Manny said.
Brownie turned his amber gaze to Scorch. "She nearly froze our paws off!"
"Wow! What else can you do, Nisha?" Scorch asked.
"Well, I can use heat powers, as well but I didn't see any point in demonstrating since it is currently sweltering. Keep in mind that other Aishas have different powers and some can't use magic at all. What is it like to fly?" Nisha finished up her explanation with a question of her own.
Manny lay back down and the three Eyrie exchanged thoughtful glances. They seemed to be pondering Nisha's question.
"Well, we've never thought about it before," Scorch began.
"It's great," Manny said, leaping to his paws.
"It's exhilarating, the wind flowing over your feathers," Brownie added.
"The views are absolutely the best, in my opinion," Scorch finished.
With all of this talk, Nisha was getting thirsty, again. Her stomach also growled, reminding her that she had yet to eat that day. Just then, a Tyrannian Eyrie entered the clearing, his paws full of stolen goods. He presented them to Roger and all of the Eyrie in the clearing (save for Manny, Scorch and Brownie, Nisha noted) lined up in front of the red Eyrie. Nisha watched in interest as each Eyrie took some of the loot for themselves.
Blanca came in Nisha's direction, with a sour look on her face. With nervous glances, Manny, Scorch and Brownie slunk away. Nisha watched them go as Blanca stopped in front of her, giving her a Spicy Chicken Burrito and a Raspberry Neocola. At once, Nisha rose to her feet, her expression one of disgust.
"I am not eating stolen food," Nisha said firmly.
Blanca glowered at her. "Fine."
Picking up the food, the white Eyrie stalked away. Having slunk away but kept a careful eye on Nisha, Manny, Scorch and Brownie came back as soon as Blanca left.
"I can't believe you just did that," Scorch said.
"You refused food," Manny said in awe.
"You stood up to Blanca," Brownie said.
"I'm not going to eat stolen food. It isn't right," Nisha said.
"I don't care where my food comes from, as long as I get to eat it," Scorch said with a flick of his tail.
Nisha looked away from the Eyrie trio. Who knew when they had eaten last? Here Nisha was refusing food! She was mortified by her behavior but she would not have reacted any differently. A low hiss from Scorch caught Nisha's attention and she turned to see Roger approaching.
Scorch, Manny and Brownie crouched submissively before their leader, their eyes downcast looking at their paws. Roger ignored them, his amber eyes narrowed as he looked at Nisha.
"What is this that I hear about you refusing your food?" Roger asked.
"I won't eat anything stolen," Nisha repeated what she had told Blanca.
"Then what are you going to eat?"
"I'll eat berries that I pick myself."
"Very well. Just make sure that Blanca watches you as you do so."
"Wait. What about these three?"
"I don't care what they do."
Roger threw the last comment over his shoulder, turning away. Scorch, Manny and Brownie breathed sighs of relief, rising to their paws.
"How can you be so bold?" Scorch asked.
Nisha shrugged, not sure how to answer. "Are you going to come with me to pick berries?"
"Just as long as you don't make us eat the berries you pick," Manny said, pulling a face.
Brownie didn't say anything but he shuddered. Nisha looked at the three Eyries in confusion.
"Make you eat berries? Why would I make you? I wouldn't do that. Though, why don't you like berries? They taste pretty good."
"Others in our flock wouldn't hesitate to make us do something so unpleasant," Scorch said in a low voice, twitching one ear.
"Eyrie are carnivores. We eat meat. Eating plants is gross," Manny said.
Nisha could only laugh and shake her head. "Well, this is your territory, just as much as it is Roger's. Do you have any idea where I could find some berries?"
"There are some berry bushes near a stream where we go for water," Scorch said, flicking his tail to indicate the right direction.
"Great! Lead on, then!"
Scorch smiled at Nisha, who smiled back. Then, the yellow Eyrie did lead the way, Manny and Brownie flanking Nisha as they headed across the clearing. They relaxed as they were swallowed by the undergrowth. The Eyrie weaved through it with ease and Nisha moved quickly to keep up with them. Scorch stopped shortly, a sluggish stream at his paws.
The stream was choked by roots, dead plants and other organic debris.
Nisha frowned. "I had hoped to get a drink."
Scorch and Manny exchanged a glance.
"Well, about that," Scorch began while Manny reached into the nook of a tree.
"This is our regular watering place. We don't like any of that stuff, either. So, we use a coconut cut into halves. The first half is used as a sieve and the second half is the cup," the shadow Eyrie explained as he demonstrated.
Manny handed Nisha the cup and she was pleased to see clear water.
"The water is tepid, but it's all we've got and our system works pretty well," Brownie said.
Nisha stuck one finger into her cup to cool her water and then gulped it down gratefully. She turned away as the Eyrie took turns getting a drink of water. Nisha went to a nearby bush and picked three Acnefruit. She held the rough, lumpy fruit in her hands and turned back to the Eyrie.
"Guys, I'll need your help. If you wouldn't mind opening these for me, I would really appreciate it," Nisha said.
"No problem, Nisha," Scorch said.
Each Eyrie took a fruit. With one sharp crack of their beaks, the tough skin of the Acnefruit was split right open. Nisha dug into the lumpy blue fruit, relishing its sweet taste, polishing off all three and filling her stomach. While she ate, Scorch had laid down beside her, idly nibbling his front claws. Meanwhile, Manny and Brownie had gotten into a play fight.
As Nisha finished, Scorch rose to his paws, giving himself a shake and stretching. He smiled in amusement at his friends.
"OK, knock it off! It's time we got back. I don't want to tick Boss off," Scorch said.
At once, the shadow and brown Eyrie stopped messing around, coming to stand beside Nisha. The group of four headed back to the clearing and as they got back, it began to rain. Nisha growled in agitation at the situation she found herself in. The sun was beginning to set and the Eyrie bedded down for the night. Almost all of them took shelter in trees, except for Scorch, Manny and Brownie.
They curled up with each other and Nisha, using their wings to shelter each other from the rain as much as possible. For the first time since she had found herself in the clearing, the eventide Aisha thought of her grandfather. Did the elderly Ixi care at all that his youngest granddaughter had so suddenly gone missing? Was he worried?
Was Eric Snow looking for Nisha at that very moment? Or did he just assume she had gone home without telling him? Was he unconcerned or glad to be rid of her? These troubling thoughts prevented Nisha from sleeping long after her Eyrie friends had fallen sound asleep.
~ ~ ~
It had been a month since Nisha had been taken prisoner by Roger and his flock. The red Eyrie was rather adamant at her staying but she still asked for her freedom on a frequent basis. She still refused to eat stolen food. She continued to eat fruit but longed for something different. Every night she seemed to dream of a different food and every morning she awoke bitterly disappointed.
Over the past month, Nisha had learned about the flock dynamic and the day-to-day routine. Every day, one to three Eyrie would go to pilfer in the marketplace. They would bring their haul back and present it to Roger, who would divide it up amongst his flock until it was all gone. The higher ranked members were the better thieves and brought in larger and better cargo. Manny, Scorch and Brownie were on the very bottom of the hierarchy.
The three Eyrie got to fill their bellies only once every five to seven days. The rest of the time, they went hungry. Nisha had become friends with the three Eyrie. While Roger's decision to keep Nisha as a prisoner was respected, as a result of her choosing to spend time with the lowest ranked members in the flock, she had gotten into trouble with a few of the other Eyrie. Nisha hadn't tolerated it and put them in their place, mostly by freezing them.
It had gotten Roger's attention and he asked her to join his flock of Eyrie thieves as often as she asked for her freedom. Nisha was reflecting on all of this. She, along with the Eyrie trio, were at the stream. She had knelt to get a drink of water, casually scanning the bank for fruit. She spotted an Appriberry bush.
While the red fruit wasn't the eventide Aisha's favorite (the seeds got stuck in her teeth!), it was still food. She stepped over the stream easily and began to pick the fruit. That's when her ears twitched. She had the feeling she was being watched. Casually, she let her gaze travel around her.
It took a few careful scans of the area before Nisha suddenly locked her blue gaze with a very familiar brown one. Brogan! Nisha was so startled that she jumped. Scorch noticed and lightly stepped over the stream to stand beside her. He looked at her curiously.
"Nisha, are you OK? What is it," the yellow Eyrie asked, twitching one ear, as if uneasy.
"No, it's nothing, Scorch. Just a Chuchuana," Nisha lied, straightening and looking into her friend's amber eyes.
"Scared you, did it?"
Scorch's tone was light and teasing. The yellow Eyrie flicked Nisha with his tail tip.
Manny snorted, "You know you would be! Ever since that Chuchuana bit you on your-"
Manny was cut off when Scorch quickly flicked his tail across his friend's beak, "She doesn't have to hear about that. Have you quite finished, Nisha?"
"Yeah, I'm ready to go," Nisha said.
"Great! Let's go," Brownie said, kneading the soft ground with his paws.
The Aisha's friends were eager to get going because it was their turn to go to the marketplace. Yet, they had insisted on taking Nisha to get herself something to eat, since she still wasn't allowed to leave the clearing unsupervised. The walk back was quick and familiar to her now and she let her mind wander to Brogan, filled to the brim with questions. As soon as they got to the clearing, Scorch, Manny and Brownie took flight and Nisha watched her friends go. That's when she began to eat the Appiberry fruit, idly picking seeds out of her teeth.
Nisha began a slow circuit of the clearing, casting swift glances into the neighboring area, half-hoping and half dreading seeing Brogan, again. What was the young camouflage Kyrii doing there anyway? Could he possibly be looking for Nisha or had he just happened upon her? Lost in thought, Nisha had stopped in her tracks, staring intently into the jungle.
"What are you staring at?"
For the second time in the last hour, Nisha jumped, startled. She turned to look at who had spoken to her. It was Blanca, her expression ever scornful.
"Nothing," Nisha said quickly; too quickly she realized as Blanca's amber eyes glinted with suspicion.
"Nothing, huh? We'll just see if Roger agrees with you," Blanca said, turning and heading straight for the red Eyrie.
Nisha's blue eyes widened in shock. No! Roger wasn't easily fooled. Nisha couldn't lie to him quite as easily as she could to her friends. What could she do?
Nisha tried to calm down as she saw Roger, Bicker, Blanca and Phoenix talking together. Phoenix headed off into the jungle as Roger and Bicker headed in Nisha's direction.
"Not contemplating escape, are you, Nisha? Blanca certainly thinks so," Roger said, his gaze as sharp as ever.
The red Eyrie sat on one side of the eventide Aisha while the Tyrannian Eyrie sat on her other side. The two large Eyrie had effectively boxed Nisha in.
To be continued...