Sunday, 4 June 2017

Chapter 10 part 2

As always, this is a first draft, so expect some errors. Adult language ahead, and thanks for reading!

They drove east into Burnaby and into an area with the soulless architecture that marked it as a business park. Dimitri put on his turn signal and they pulled off the street and into the parking lot of another McDonald’s. Stirling looked around.

“Are you hungry?”

“Actually, I am, but I need to chat with Aleph first. She owes me some answers.”

Dimitri walked toward the edge of the lot where the trees rose black against the orange glow of the streetlights reflecting on the cloud cover and continued into the darkness.

Stirling followed closely after. Once they passed through the bubble of light cast by the lights of the parking lot, the darkness under the trees was surprisingly complete. He followed the sound of Dimitri’s passage through the soggy turf and bare undergrowth for a long minute until they came to a gravelled path that ran along next to a noisy stream. Here Dimitri stopped and looked around.

“This should do it,” said Dimitri I a hushed voice.

Stirling looked around, nothing seemed to indicate that there was anything special about where they were.

“This is where constable goddess lives?”

“No,” said Dimitri, taking his phone out and activating the camera’s LED, “but it’s where we can talk to her.” He shone the light up into the branches of the nearby bare trees.

At first, Stirling didn’t notice anything unusual, but as he looked closer, he began to see that the branches all had irregular shadowy lumps on them; Hundreds of them, all around, in every single tree. When one of the lumps shook itself, he saw a familiar silhouette and understood.

When he’d gone through his own private hell with the local crows, Stirling had done some research on the birds. He discovered that all the crows around Vancouver would flock every evening, flying up to forty minutes to roost in the same place each night. Upwards of six thousand birds would arrive in the Burnaby roost around twilight and leave each morning to go back to their territories. Presumably, they had things to do there that crows found necessary and life-affirming. Pooping on cars and begging peanuts being the two Stirling was most familiar with.

Stirling had known they had a roost somewhere close to the Trans-Canada highway, but until now, he didn’t know exactly where it was.

“Close your eyes for a sec,” said Dimitri. “I need to get her attention.”

“Wha…” Stirling began but was interrupted as Dimitri snapped his fingers and a blinding flash of light originating from his fingers exploded out into the trees. There came the sound of hundreds of pissed-off and half blinded squawking crows from the trees all around them.

“Now that I have your attention, I need to speak to your mistress, Aleph, The Lady Crow, she of the black eyes!” Dimitri called into the night.

“A bit more warning next time!” said Stirling, trying to blink the spots out of his eyes. “My eyes, the goggles do nothing!”

Dimitri ignored him as the crows slowly settled. Soon only the sound of the stream and rain could be heard, and nothing happened. Nothing continued to happen for another minute.

“Maybe she’s busy,” Stirling ventured.

“Dimitri, is that you?” They were perhaps the most horrifying four words Stirling had ever heard in his life. Each sound of each word came from a different crow perched in the trees around them. The hair on the back of Stirling’s neck rose at near escape velocity, and he couldn’t help but try and track the voice as it continued speaking through the crows all around them. “My children don’t see well in the dark.”

The words could be understood, but it was like the crows were trying to force out sounds they had only the slightest idea how to make. It made the intonations strange and inflexions oddly random. The sheer alienness of the sound put Stirling's teeth on edge and kept them there.

Dimitri turned his phone’s LED on his face. “We need to talk.” He swung the light over to shine on Stirling.

Not knowing what else to do, Stirling waved into the darkness. “Hey there!”

“You saddled me with a fucking Necromancer!” Dimitri shouted into the trees. “A Necromancer!”


“So you could have told me what his knack was!”

“Then you wouldn’t have gone to help him.”

“That’s exactly my point!”

“Don’t be a child, Dimitri. You know as well as I that something is happening. I don’t know all the details yet, but the arcane community in Vancouver is quietly under attack. Rag and Bone can’t be the only ones responsible. Too many have been taken.”

“How many is many?” Dimitri broke in.

“Seventy-one in the last ten days.”

“Yeah, alright, that’s a lot.”

“You and Mr Haig here, are the only loose ends I’ve uncovered.”

“Have you looked into the angle of the guys with their ghosts on the outside?” Dimitri asked with the obnoxious tone of one revealing a bit of vital information he was sure the person he was revealing to didn’t know.

There was a long beat of silence.

“It seems Stirling here has noticed a few of them tonight, and each one of them tried to attack us. Might be important.”

Stirling nodded to confirm it. “It’s true, their ghosts were out of their bodies, they’re really freaky-looking too.”

“So, what do you have to say to that, your all-knowing goddessness?” Dimitri asked, smirking.

“Stop being a dick, Dimitri,” came the voice from all around them. “This is important, and it isn’t the kind of conversation we should be having out in the open. Meet me at Strangefellows as fast as you can get there.”

“No way, Rag and Bone are still after both of us. There’s no way I’m poking my head up until all this is in last week’s news. I’m digging a hole and crawling in. If Stirling here knows what’s good for him, he’ll join me.” He paused to consider. “You might think about it too.”

“There’s strength in numbers, Strangefellows has that. They also have two char witches and a crucible you helped design if I’m not mistaken. It’ll be safe for a quick visit, then you can go hide.”

Dimitri appeared to consider. “Fine, but I’m not happy about all this.”

“As long as you do it. In the meanwhile, you two clearly can’t be trusted to be left on your own.”

There came the sound of wings and a familiar-looking, yet soggy crow swooped out of the darkness to alight on the sodden ground in front of them. It eyed them both and cawed loudly.

It only took Stirling a started moment to recognise the crow. “Magnon!” said Stirling, crouching down.

“What?” came the startled, yet mildly pissed-off voice from the trees.

The crow cawed again repeatedly. It sounded like laughter. No, it was laughter. Stirling could simultaneously hear the crow cawing and a laughing in his mind and a wave of dizziness came over him. What the hell?

The crow hopped toward him and without thinking, Stirling held out his hand for the crow to perch on. His black feet and talons felt cold and wet.

“You know each other?!” came the directionless voice.”

Of course, Pretty Girl,” the laughing voice in his head said slyly.

There was a stunned silence from the trees.

Not since we last parted. I’m Magnon now.

“Huh?” asked Dimitri, clearly unable to hear the crow’s side of the conversation.

“I thought you were dead! Wait…” the unseen voice from  the darkness suddenly became flat, “Magnon? Your name is Crow-Magnon?”

Stirling stifled a laugh.

“What are you laughing at?” asked Aleph's voice a bit sharply.

“It’s been like five years since someone other than me got that joke. It’s got to be the most delayed punchline in the history of lame jokes. I just thought it was funny.”

“I don’t get it,” said Dimitri.

I like it. It’s whimsical,” said Magnon.

“It’s a horrible joke, it lacks the sense of gravitas you deserve.”

I’ve discovered I enjoy shitting on cars,” said the crow. With the words came a mental image of an enraged red-faced man standing next to a shiny yellow Hummer with a large white splat of crow turd on the hood. “The name contains all the gravitas I desire.

“Who are you two talking to?!” demanded Dimitri of the darkness.

“The crow,” said Stirling.

“The crow can talk!?”

“It’s a telepathy thing, I think. I didn’t really understand it all, but I think they used to know each other.”

“Well, duh he’s a crow, she’s the Lady Crow. Wait, you can hear it too!?”

Stirling nodded.

“Why didn’t you come to me?” asked Aleph’s voice from the darkness, sounding a bit hurt. “I missed you.”

You know how it works, Pretty Girl. I’m limited in what I can do until they’re aware. I believe it’s the same with you now.”

“Now Magnon here is being all cryptic about why he didn’t talk to her,” said Stirling to Dimitri, indicating the crow perched on his hand. “I think he wants to keep me out of the loop,” he added in a stage whisper.

Only for the time being,” came Magnon’s voice addressing him in his head.

“Talking long distance like this isn’t the best way to have this discussion. My children need their sleep,” said Aleph’s voice from a dozen sources. “Meet me at Strangefellows, we’ll catch up there.” She paused and addressed Magnon again, a bit hesitantly, Stirling thought. “Welcome back. A lot has changed since you left… You might not like all of it.”

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