Chapter Twelve

UNSAVOURY ALLIES

 Nimbus hated the Scroyle more than any other race but knew he was going to need their services for his plan to work. After leaving the drugged water bottles with Melkaz and Methiyal, he loped nonstop to the Scroylian rookery, which was 15 leagues to the east.

Before the rebellion, Scroyle were  Nocturnes most beautiful creatures and they knew it. They spent hours preening their luxuriant feathers until they shone like pure gold. Their rookery was spotless, they fed only on only the most perfect berries, and their manners were impeccable.

Being such a large flyer, they were able to carry nearly all of Nocturnes’  inhabitants on their backs and their services were often employed. Having impeccable manners, they never refused.

However, during the rebellion, good manners became a distant memory.

Initially, they refused to participate in the stupid antics of their fellow nocturnites and watched in dismay as race, began to attack race. When the battles spilled over into the pristine forests, flawless berries became very scarce, forcing the Scroyle to eat inferior ones.

This affected their feathers, and no matter how hard they tried, they just couldn’t get them to shine as they once had. Appearance was paramount to the Scroyle, so the effect on their mental state was marked.

As the rebellion intensified, berries became impossible to find, so they resorted to eating the seeds of weeds and other plants. The effect on their plumage was dramatic, turning them a dull grey. Thoroughly demoralized they groomed themselves less frequently, and their dismay turned to hatred.

After the great fires, even weed seeds became hard to find and the Scroyle were forced to feed on carrion and their once glorious feathers were soon matted with grime, and their pristine rookery became a cesspit.

The Scroyle blamed all the races for their fall from glory, and instead of forming alliances as the others did; they vented their anger at everyone. In their berry eating days, after their morning preen, they would fly well away from the rookery to get rid of their seed-laden droppings. This established vigorous berry patches which were enjoyed by many. After being reduced to eating carrion one of their first acts of vengeance was to fly in formation over Nimbus’s village to unload the putrifying contents of their bowels. As I mentioned before, the Scroyle are enormous flyers, and over 3000 were in that first formation. I will leave the resulting carnage to your imagination. Needless to say, it was not pleasant.

When the Sculleion found out about the Scroyles disgusting attack on their enemies, they were delighted. A delegation was sent to congratulate the Scroyle and seek an alliance. The offer was duly accepted, and the Scroyle quickly came up with a brilliant and particularly vicious idea that appealed greatly to the delegation. They suggested that the Sculleion arm themselves with rocks and other missiles of their choosing and employ their services to launch an airborne attack. The offer was eagerly accepted, and within a very short while, several hundred Sculleion, armed with a variety of painful missiles took to the air. The Scroyle were true to their word, and the attack they launched on the Sharvan village was an overwhelming success. Many of the Sharvan were severely maimed, yet not a single Scullion or Scroyle had suffered so much as a scratch.

The Sculleion are a tall, thin race, who are notoriously clumsy on their feet and not very good walkers. After the success of the attack on the Sharvan, they were eager to get back home to celebrate and brag about their success. Their gloating however quickly turned to puzzlement and then horror. Instead of taking them home, the Scroyle flew them nearly a hundred leagues to the north of their village and then promptly dropped the Scullion from a tremendous height on to the town of the Mormats. The damage to the Mormats huts and the Scullion’s bodies was dramatic. After the initial shock, a huge battle ensued between those Sculleion who were still capable of fighting, and their long time enemies the Mormats. Meanwhile, the Scroyle flew back to their rookery without as much as a scratch. After the battle, the Sculleion were thoroughly routed and were reduced to hiding in the burnt over remains of a nearby forest, waiting for their wounds to heal. Once healed, they had to make the long, painful and very clumsy journey back to their village.

This was only the beginning of the Scroyle's treachery, which will give you some idea why Nimbus both mistrusted and hated them, (though he did have a grudging admiration for their deviousness). To make matters worse, there was the ‘incident’ that happened a few years before, when the Scroyle had outsmarted and humiliated Nimbus. Those of you who have a slightly warped sense of humor will probably find the story more humorous than tragic so I will recount it at a more convenient time.

So, Nimbus hated the Scroyle, had a debt to settle, and was completely mistrustful of very single one of the feathered deceivers. Nevertheless, Nimbus knew he had to put revenge on hold, as he had other fish to fry. As for hating the Scroyle, well, Nimbus pretty much hated everyone, so that was no big deal. His greatest obstacle was their notorious treachery and to trust the word of a Scroyle was the height of stupidity. To combat their slipperiness, Nimbus had a large bargaining chip up his sleeve. It was the Scroyles mutual addiction and complete dependence upon Silth eggs. The Scroyle, like all the other races, knew very well that this food supply was quickly running out and Nimbus was going to make them an offer they couldn’t refuse.

The rookery was vast and extended for several leagues along the edge of the plain. It was composed of a gray crumbly rock from which the Scroyle had scraped out thousands of caves over the millennia. It gave them a good vantage point over the plain, allowing them to spot Nimbus well before his arrival. When they saw the approaching figure, several Scroyle took to the air to check out who it was. Discovering it was Nimbus they were immediately suspicious, and quickly reported this information back to the colony. When he finally arrived the Scroyle had moved to the cliff tops.

Though he appeared to be alone, the Scroyle didn’t trust their eyes. Knowing that all Sharvan were illusionists and that Nimbus excelled at it more than most, they were highly suspicious. For all they knew there could be legions of enemies surrounding the rookery at that very moment, shielded from their eyes by his trickery.

Scabion, their unofficial leader (the official leader had recently been infected by the Silth), peered down at Nimbus from his safe haven in the cliffs. “What treachery gives us the dissspleasure of your visit?” he hissed at Nimbus.

Doing his best to keep his lunch down, as the overpowering stench offended even his war-hardened nostrils, Nimbus did his best to hide his nervousness. “No treachery at all, in fact, I bring with me a great opportunity.”

Come now, we know your gamesss as well as you know oursss,” replied Scabion, with a mocking edge to his voice.

Nimbus felt his hackles rise, knowing full well that Scabion was referring to the time they had humiliated him in front of his entire village. 

My days of games are over,” he lied, “I’m here with an offer, but if you don’t want to hear it, so be it.”

Despite himself, Scabion was curious, yet wary.

Climb up to the top of that rock, and I’ll send someone down to get you.”

With reluctant obedience, Nimbus climbed up onto it and gingerly crouched on its peak. A large Scroyle flew down, and roughly grasping Nimbus in his Talons transported him to the cliff top, dropping him in an untidy heap at Scabion’s feet.

Trying to look dignified, Nimbus picked himself up from the ground, every fiber of his being itching to rake Scabion across the neck with his razor sharp claws. Only with the greates difficulty did he manage to restrain himself.

Seeing the anger in Nimbus’s eyes, Scabion began to enjoy himself.

So what is this offer of yourssss?”

How does an unlimited supply of Silth eggs sound to you?”

Imposssssible.”

But if I can give you proof?”

What, with one of your empty tricks?”

No tricks, you have my word.”

Scabion cackled at the empty promise. Though not trusting Nimbus for a second, the possibility of an unlimited supply of Silth eggs sent a shudder of pleasure down his spine.

Tell me your liesss, I’m feeling bored.”

Nimbus then recounted all his dealings with Melkaz and Methiyal, holding back only some of the finer details. By the time he had finished, Scabion was almost a believer and had already begun to plot how to steal the prize. Nimbus knew this only too well, as the only thing you could rely upon with the Scroyle was their treachery. But Nimbus had a big ego, and was sure he could keep one step ahead of Scabion. Time would tell.

To clinch the deal, Scabion insisted that he see Melkaz and Methiyal with his own eyes and touch them with his talons. Nimbus had known that this would probably be one of his requirements and had planned for the very event. He was also very conscious of the time that had elapsed since he had left Methiyal and Melkaz on the edge of the Tear, and knew the effect of their drug-laced water bottles would soon be wearing off, so was eager to get going.

Flying on the back of a Scroyle was a very smelly affair, and the feel of Scabion’s greasy feathers nauseated even Nimbus. When he had told Scabion the story of Melkaz and Methiyal he had omitted to tell him where they currently were, as to do so would have been suicide. So as they flew over the desert, he kept feeding misdirections to Scabion, taking him on a very circuitous route. He did this so that he could ensure they were not being followed. When they finally arrived at the edge of the Tear, Nimbus used his powers of illusion, ensuring that Scabion was not greeted just by the sight of Methiyal and Melkaz, but also a legion of encamped Sharvan. The Sharvan were of course just an illusion, but Nimbus knew full well that if Scabion knew the two of them were alone, he would have quickly dumped Nimbus who knows where, so he could keep the prize for himself.

They landed a hundred or so paces from Methiyal and Melkaz who  were still asleep. The shrike was obviously having quite a good dream as her scales were glowing brightly. This reminded Scabion of his once glorious feathers, rekindling his hatred of all the other races of Nocturne. The pair crept closer to the Methiyal and Melkaz, so Scabion could see the Silth first hand. Whispering quietly to one another, they stopped 20 or so paces away. The sight of the strange infected creatures caused Scabion to drool with pleasure. But he was still not convinced, as he knew it could all be a cunning illusion. Creeping up to Methiyal, he touched the Silth with the talon of his left wing. The Silth responded to his touch by retracting itself into the depth of Methiyal’s neck. Scabion let out an involuntary hiss of pleasure, the stench of it wafting past Methiyal’s nostrils, stirring him from his sleep. Eager to discuss the deal with Nimbus, Scabion didn’t notice him move, as he had already turned to finalize the deal with Nimbus.

For the firsst time in your life you have ssspoken the truth.”

. “So we have a deal then?”, said Nimbus, ignoring the insult.

Yesss indeed we do. How long do you expect it to take them to infect their world?”

I don’t know the ways’ of these creatures, but the Silth on the bigger one seems to be growing at a pleasing pace. The smaller one is slightly disappointing.”

Ssso, the harvest may take much time!”

It may, but what a harvest it will be!”

An evil leer formed on Scabion’s face.” And without my aid there will be no harvest.”

Nimbus knew exactly what Scabion was thinking: pointing to the illusionary host of Sharvan, his eyes narrowed menacingly “Work with me Scabion, and you will have abundance. Cross me, and you will be so busy guarding you’re stinking back, you won’t have time harvest a single egg.”

They glared at each other, their eyes filled with mutual hatred. But as much as they loathed it; they knew they needed to work together, for now.

Give the Silth some time and then come and fetch me.”

Scabion nodded his long crooked neck, and then flapped his way back to the rookery. When he was out of sight, Nimbus closed the illusion and retreated out of sight.

Once they had gone, Methiyal opened his eyes. He had heard every single word.

 

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