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King Snippet

The milling Vahazayi finally began to disperse: in groups, in pairs, singularly, they took to the sky, making their way back towards their lairs to contemplate what this new turn of events meant for them. They were looking Change square in the beak and for most, it was unsettling. Vahazayan life was unChanging for the most part; millennium could be spent in solitude and one would emerge with little occurrences happening. It was that staid.

When the last tail feather slipped over the horizon, Vagan turned to King. “And how do you propose fighting him?”

Without looking at the Falcon-Head, King turned and started walking back into his lair. Miffed, Vagan jogged a ways to keep pace, finally settling by the white-red’s side. “You do have a plan, do you not?”

Silence met his query. Vagan could hardly believe it -- was King that much of a moron?

“I suppose I will fight Swalecain the same way I fought Flametalon,” King said at last, his voice distant as he gazed ahead.

A low snarl rumbled up from Vagan’s bronze throat. “That is the most asinine idea I have ever heard. Your stupidity takes the talion, King. And here I was giving you the benefit of the doubt.”

“Your opinion was not asked for,” came the curt rejoinder.

Ikcherie!” Vagan swore, slipping around to put his black beak in King’s face. He had the satisfaction of watching startlement flicker in the Lord’s warm grey eyes. “This is not playtime, King! I am not the Council; I did not haul my ass all this way to be told that my warnings and advice will go unheeded. If the Council wants to pansy-foot around because they are too honor-bound to stick up to you, so be it, but not me. I considered letting you fend for yourself, but I have this ungodly vocal conscious, and it told me that the best recourse was to go to you and warn you about Swalecain’s treachery. And where does that get me?” His voice took on that mocking, sing-song tone that had irritated hundreds of Vahazayi recruits down on the grounds. “‘Your opinion was not asked for’! Ei vaer!

Eye ridges meeting in the middle of his forehead, King stared at the Falcon-Head. “Are you done?” he asked, annoyed at the speech he was getting. Pushing past Vagan, King headed towards his office; determined, Vagan followed, his anger building by the second. How could King be so blithe about all this? Did he seriously think that by being Lord he would by default win?

Vagan watched the white-red Phoenix fling himself onto his settee, slamming his wing claws down on the table. Head arched downwards, King stared for the longest time at the wood grain.

“You are scared.” It dawned on Vagan then. Well, he damn sure should be; Swalecain was massive, easily the heaviest Vahazayan on Phoenixia, second only in girth to Cheron ver Niguyl and Shekeira Eagle-Head.

Muscled white-feathered shoulders heaved ceiling-ward in one big sigh. King’s head curled around on his lithe neck, a murderous gaze in his eye. “Of course I am,” he spat. “Are you happy now? You have gotten into my head, into my emotions, Vagan. Go on, laugh, mock me. I know that you have been waiting eons to do it.”

Looking around, Vagan spied a spare settee and lowered his frame onto it, flicking his silver tail over the back end. “Believe me, I would. But this is neither the time nor the place. The challenge is only in two days’ time. Not enough to get you into fighting shape, but enough to keep your head on your shoulders.”

Narrow grey eyes considered the Falcon-Head steadily. “Why are you doing this?”

“Short answer: I do not want Swalecain in power. Long answer: Swalecain will ruin us, far more than you have. But you have the potential to change. And change is what the Vahazayi need. Too long have we been unmoving, sticking to laws and rules formed a billion years or more ago. Look at what you have done already -- you have brought that human girl here, despite your own orders not to have other creatures on our soil.”

King began to shift uncomfortably on his chair, his crest flicking back and forth. Vagan eyed him. “That in of itself is indicative of the change within you.”

“Your faith in me is amazing,” King drawled sarcastically.

“Listen up, you bald-faced vendictaren,” Vagan snapped back. “Do you want my aid or not? Otherwise you can kiss your red ass goodbye and whine to Solarius and Larath in the afterlife.”

King considered this, his tail swishing. Vagan’s legendary caustic attitude was wearing what little patience he had very thin. Really, who did he think he was, coming here and presenting his grand scheme to him--King Arex’fay, Lord of the Vahazayi? But … what choice did he have? Everyone knew that he had been a battlemage and therefore received the minimum of combat training. And challenges were fought with pure physical strength and abilities.

Flametalon had been insane; that alone had given King the advantage in his previous challenge. Without the madness effecting his brain, Flametalon just may have won and it would have possibly been King’s head on the pikestaff in the swamp, not the other’s.

“And you will teach me?” he finally asked.

Vagan’s head jerked back and he began to laugh. “Me? Hell no. The only one who can keep your head on is Calgon Shekeira.”

Rage bubbled up in the white-red Phoenix’s belly, spilling over into his eyes, which started turning fire-core white. “Absolutely not!” he thundered, slamming his wingclaws down on the table, making the ancient wood buckle and bend in the middle.

But Vagan’s rage was greater. He flew up from his chair and knocked the other Vahazayan onto the floor. Pinning him down with one massive black foot, Vagan snapped the air inches from King’s throat. “Have you not been listening to me at all, you fool? Calgon is your only -- and I repeat -- only hope in this matter. Not me. You must rebuild the paths you have burned over the millennia, and what better way to start than by working with Shekeira’s own son?”

Gasping, King fought for breath, crushed as he was under the smaller -- yet heavier -- Falcon-Head. Vagan was all muscle, after all. “They will have nothing to do with me!”

“Then I will speak for you.”

Coughing, the Phoenix Lord struggled against Vagan’s grip. “Why?

With a shove, Vagan released him, watching as he sat up, wingclaws going up to his chest to rub away the pain. “Stop asking me ‘why’ and start asking yourself. Better yet, ask that human. Vaha only knows why she keeps hanging onto you.” Stepping back, Vagan turned to leave. “You can thank me later, you know.” And with that, he was gone, a flash of silver tailfeathers winking around the corner and out of sight.

Clan Shekeira … King thought. The most powerful faction on Phoenixa. Free-thinkers, they called themselves, shunning most of the traditions the Vahazayi had for those of mortals. Family and bonds of blood kept them together. Rumbling, King stood, walking over to the window slit and staring out onto the vast plain where his mountain lair lay. The Shekeiras … first humiliation at the talons of Calgon’s daughter, Ythé, now at Calgon’s himself.

“Change …” he said to himself, snorting.

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