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Vagan Snippet

Vagan knew he was there, but the Falcon-Head never got tired of the flicker of emotions that ran behind a Vahazayan’s eyes when he was found out.

“Vagan,” he called out quietly, deceptively soft.

Without turning around, Vagan lifted the plump talion from its vine and placed it into the large basket that stood to his right. “It is too damned early to be sneaking around like a fledgling, Swalecain. Get your bald ass over here and speak to me properly, if you have anything worth speaking about.” Vagan’s keen ear caught the suppressed cough of surprise from the sea-green Wing Leader. A moment later, Swalecain stepped out from behind a knot of perindals, surreptitiously brushing leaves from his plumage. The Eagle-Head wore a look of pure annoyance; Vagan smiled to himself. When would people like Swalecain learn that they existed only for his amusement? Those who believed themselves to be superior deserved such flak; let them whirl about in their dream world when the real superiors, like himself, Lived and kept their abilities to themselves. Better to be underestimated than sought out for a fight.

“I have a question for you, Vagan. Will you hear me out?”

Folding his black-tipped bronze wings, the lieutenant deigned to face Swalecain. “Perhaps. Let me hear the opening statement and then we will see.”

A strange light played behind Swalecain’s steel grey eyes; a hint of something that was not quite right. “How do you view our situation?”

Quirking an eye ridge, Vagan stared at the sea-green Eagle-Head. “Our … situation? What kind of bullshit is that, Cain?”

“You know exactly what I’m referring to. Don’t play innocent with me, Vagan; I’ve seen you, I know that you like to observe. For too long we have lived under Arex’fay’s sham of a rule. We have watched our Tarazayi cousins banished to the plane between worlds, the dragons flung from Phoenixia -- and for what purpose? How much longer must we endure this travesty? He is wrong for the job, Vagan; Larath chose wrongly.”

The bronze-silver Falcon-Head studied the larger, bulkier Vahazayan before him with a careful, judicious eye honed on the training ground and on the battlefield. He watched Swalecain’s posture, the little nuances that told him more than what the other was saying. He would have to choose his words with great delicacy; something was not quite right on the wind. “I am one to believe that no choice made by a dying Lord is wrong.”

“You’re serious, are you not?” Swalecain stared at the older Phoenix, his expression one of pure surprise. But something else flickered in his eyes; Vagan’s words did not come unexpectedly to him.

“I am always serious in my dealings. King may not have made the smartest of choices, but he is still our leader and our Lord, chosen by Larath. And I disputed nothing with Larath.”

Swalecain snorted. “I find that hard to believe, Vagan. You were always berating him on the training ground.”

An idle puff of steam escaped Vagan’s black nares. “I berate every single soul who enters my grounds. No one is exempt -- not even you, Cain. I beat your ass daily for a century, yet do I harbor resentment or ill-feelings towards you? I am sure you believed such.”

“Perhaps,” the other conceded. “However, you even you admit Arex’fay is not the best choice.”

Vagan’s nares twitched. He didn’t like the way Swalecain was turning the conversation. Reaching up, he plucked another sweet fruit from its vine, pierced it with one wicked claw and took a bite. “I said nothing of the sort. Tread carefully, Cain, lest someone call you khairachas.”

“Bah.” Swalecain swept out a negligent wing. “Do not tell me such titles scare you Vagan.”

He took another bite, chewing thoughtfully. “Nothing in this world scares me, least of all your not-so-subtle attempts at turning me against King Arex’fay. Ply your trade elsewhere, Swalecain. I am not interested in your games.”

The amiable demeanor that the sea-green had affected vanished. Suddenly, Swalecain was all business. “You are the one not treading carefully, Vagan. Look around you -- our world is falling apart, our people leaving. The sooner King is out of office the better things will be.”

“And with you heading us? I think not. We all know how close you and Flametalon were, how you resent King for killing your traitorous nestmate.”

A murderous look appeared in the other’s eyes, darkening them to charcoal. “Flametalon died in his attempt. I do not play that way.”

Vagan flung the fruit aside, spitting a flamelet out of the side of his beak. “Get yourself out of my grove, Swalecain, before I shove my foot so far up your ass you will be tasting grass for a millennium!”

Slowly advancing, Swalecain tilted his head down in a menacing manner. “Do not seek to threaten me, Vagan --”

“Do not threaten me!” he roared back, suddenly flaring out his bronze-black wings, crest slicked all the way back against his skull. “I will hold true on my promise -- my foot will meet your ass in ten seconds if you do not vacate the premises. You could not take me then, you cannot take me now. Do not underestimate me, Swalecain, for I will rise at the end.”

Swalecain stood where he was for a moment, sizing up the situation. His eyes took in Vagan’s lean frame, not an ounce of fat anywhere on his body; the Falcon-Head was pure muscle. His long legs ended in thick talons and silver claws sharper than most. The manner in which he held himself told others that he was superior in everything; he never had to vocalize it. It was there, a part of who he was.

“You will regret this, Vagan,” he said finally, turning his shoulder to the Falcon-Head, not giving him the benefit of seeing all of his sea-green back. “I came to find an ally, I leave an enemy.”

A controlled smile graced Vagan’s features; it was the smile of one holding back his killer’s instinct -- one that bespoke of ridding the race of traitors. “I am no one’s pawn. And mark this, Cain: I will kill you the next time I see you.” The black whorls around his cold grey eyes only reinforced his message. “And if you so much as bend a branch on any of my goddamn trees as you leave, I will take your sorry-ass carcass and flay it for a welcome mat!”

With a look of pure, unadulterated rage, the sea-green Eagle-Head slipped out of the grove -- carefully, one might add.

When he’d gone, Vagan let out the breath he’d been holding. Glancing around his grove, he picked up his basket in one foot and turned to fly home. None of this would have come to pass if King had been regulated to his training battalion back when he was a youngling. But no, the mages had to take him before he’d finished basic and coddled him with their non-combatant rules. A wonder he’d not been killed when insane Flametalon decided he’d make a better Lord. Lucky bastard, Vagan had thought back then. But not this time. This time, King would need some help if he were to survive.

The Vahazayi needed to change, and soon.

And it seems this shit falls to me, he thought acidly. Great.

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