"Dark Stag" - Chapter 4

A part of me just wanted me to whip this veil back and confront Kijus… But what grounds would I have to confront him on? He was not wrong for…living his life. I just was deeply hurt the he kept such a secret from me. I wanted to know every detail about him down to his thought process.
Kijus however was a very guarded person. Getting to know him on a deep personal level would be a task far greater than ending an Oriental War. He’d divert my every attempt. I, though, would never take that chance. I wouldn’t risk throwing my heart out only for it to get slammed to the ground by someone that was on a grander level of thinking than I was.
This Illisian guy though, he had to be something great. If he could interest Kijus in such a way to make him smile and want more, then he was a gifted man. Kijus was a challenge that no mere attractive man could take. The man of interest had to be incredibly intelligent simply to keep pace with Kijus. Even then, there had to be some mutual intrigue, something there that made him special. I just wanted to know what made this guy so great.
“I finally figured you out.” Kijus smiled. The Illisian simply stared at him.
“Well you tracked me down through this huge ass town…”
“You really were trying to prepare me for this place in the most upfront way possible. I kind of got to say thank you but it didn’t prepare me for all the horrors I’d see.” Kijus said to him. The Illisian leaned in with elbows poised on the table, palms supporting his chin.
“So you’ve explored the town, I see?”
“Yeah, I had no choice. I had to find you again.”  Kijus smiled. The Illisian looked on skeptical.
“Why? You clearly showed little if any interest in me and as I told you, our beliefs are vastly different.” Kijus looked off seemingly tongue stricken.
“…I don’t know.” He responded. The Illisian began to smile.
“Well surely there must be some reason you wanted me to come… I’m not buying this whole, thank you, thing.”
“You really don’t think I’m sincere? Trust me, if you hadn’t treated me the way you did, a lot of shit would have ended much differently than it did. Maybe you saved a few lives….” Kijus smiled.
“Seriously?” The tall Illisian said, his skepticism completely obvious. Kijus, truly not the one for being doubted, got to his feet. With a smile he began to walk past the gorgeous Illisian.
“I clearly made a mistake…” Kijus said politely. The Illisian grabbed him by his arm, chuckling at the boy.
“So you were serious.” The Illisian realized, “sit back down… Don’t leave.”
Kijus, unsure if this idea was still any good retook his seat. The Illisian just watched him with this boyish smile, a mix of lust, wonder and mass respect. The stare made Kijus giddy.
“What?” Kijus asked.
“You’re like so damn gorgeous and don’t even know it.”
“Aesthetics are petty to me. One should look deeper than one’s skin.” Kijus hinted.
“Then...you’re fucking beautiful and you know it completely.” The Illisian teased. The compliment wasn’t taken too well by Kijus.
“I really hate compliments…” Kijus said with a slow head shake.
“Well in this town, expect to get them.” The Illisian continued. He made a smile draw on Kijus’s face. The boy blushed, the charm of the tall dark Illisian getting to him.
“I mean…” Kijus said, not being able to come to words.
“Embrace it. You’re a gorgeous being on the inside and out. And this is no mere flattery. You truly should acknowledge the fact that you’re aesthetically something of a marvel.” The Illisian said.
“And do what with it, flaunt it? Trust me, I love myself enough to be secure with my… aesthetics… I just love myself enough to not let my aesthetics dictate how I interact with others. Not to sound conceited but trust me, I know I’m something quite sought after…especially in this city…” Kijus said.
“You say that like it’s a bad thing.” The Illisian laughed.
“It is a bad thing! I don’t like temptation…”
“Temptation? Well look at you in Temptation City…The biggest way to lose your money, credibility, freedom and even life in all of the Caucasus.”
“No joke about that…”
“It seems you had yourself an experience.” The Illisian inferred.
“…Nothing other than what I’ve seen on the streets. I mean I’ve read of things of such so I’m pretty sure you know exactly what I’m talking about. Plus, I had to do some things to find you.” Kijus smiled. The Illisian was intrigued.
“Things?” He asked.
“Nothing sexual! I see that look in your eye!” Kijus giggled.
“I believe you, don’t worry.”
“So,” Kijus began, “Where can I find you on a regular?”
“I live in the upper Bolt District in the Ion subdivisions, Class A. I tend to be home in the day time. My shift starts in the late evening.” The Illisian answered.
“I’ll be sure to visit you sometime.” Kijus giggled.
“You will huh?” The Illisian said, hinting at something other than Kijus’s intent.
“Don’t ruin it.” Kijus advised.
The date ended. The two hugged, parting ways obviously not being the first time they met over the course of the past few weeks. However it was the first time they met with the ambitions on furthering their relationship.
“This was soooo rich…” Roi said. I looked at him, completely disenchanted. “What?”
“I mean, I just wish he’d had told us he was looking for someone. We could have helped him find him without him having to go through…whatever. I thought he trusted us.” I said.
“I don’t know what to say. I mean the boy fixed my issues with Jon. I couldn’t ask for more. You might be on your own bro.” Roi said.
“Really?” I hissed.
“Of course not… I mean I don’t know how to go about this but, hell, I’ll be there!” He smiled.
“I don’t know how to go about this either.” I sighed.
The two of us left, heading back to the upper ring. It was nightfall when we arrived back home. I could not manage to go to sleep for anything. All I could do was think about Kijus. Eventually I went through my archive and found a book to read. I stayed up doing so to the following morning. I showered then went to breakfast.
Expecting to be the first one at the brunch table, it was surprising to see Kijus sitting there with his journal and pen, writing vigorously.
“Hi.” He said without looking up.
“Hey…” I responded dryly. I was very much happy to see him but after seeing him with the tall and handsome Illisian, I was a bit bitter.
“I’m so hungry.” He said with a giggle. I couldn’t help but chuff with a gram of delight.
“So what have you been up to?” I asked.
“…I’ve been trying to sort out some family issues. As of now though…I’ve been exploring the city, doing some research, heading to the archives… I might want to stay here inevitably.” He said, still continuing to write.
“What are you writing?” He had a long delay. I was beginning to think he wouldn’t respond.
“…Nothing…” He finally said back. It was oh so very clear that he had little trust for me. After I’ve opened up to him about some things, welcomed him into my family and made him one of ours, this boy was sitting here with no trust in me! It was a jarring realization, one that was so battering; I could have almost drawn a tear.
I wanted to leap across the table and throttle him to ask him “WHY DON’T YOU TRUST ME!” but it’d show just how I was. I don’t know if I could live with myself if he knew just how bad I wanted to be his. He’d reject me so swiftly it’d send me into a very gnarly tailspin. I’d probably get depressed, become something like my brother. I didn’t want to risk it.
Breakfast was as awkward as it generally was. Mother and Pa were having their issues, sitting near one another but not making eye contact, putting up this front as though everything was alright though it wasn’t. My brother was off somewhere; probably have early sunrise sex with Jon in some strange location to feed his ridiculous sex drive. Brija was staring lustfully at Kijus causing the boy to eat with strange apprehension.
It was just a normal day I guess but all of this was starting to get to me. Upon finishing my plate, I got up to leave. I went to the aviary to check on the falcons. They all were well in their enclosures, not needing much attention. Upon attempting to leave, I was stopped by my friends. They stood before me with concern.
“You’ve been avoiding us the past few days. You haven’t ditched us for that Southerner have you?” Miles asked.
“Guys, I’m not in the mood.” I sighed brushing past them. Snare put his hand on my shoulder.
“You can’t be serious right now…” Snare said.
“Lay off!!! I need to figure some shit out!” I hissed.
“Dude, what’s going on?” Miles continued.
“I just need to figure some things out.” I responded, walking back to the palace without looking back.
“Why don’t you ever talk to us?” Miles asked.
“Because you all are insensitive idiots.” I said bluntly.
Entering the palace, I went up stairs. I stopped at Kijus’s door. I didn’t know why but something was telling me simply to knock. Giving in to the impulse, I did such. Kijus opened to door with little to any clothes on, simply the riding tights he so loved to wear. No matter how delicious he was looking, I would not give in to my impulses.
“You caught me at a bad time.” He giggled.
“Well it’s fine. We can talk later.”
“No,” He said, “You can come in.”
I entered the room all too eagerly. He sat on the sectionals writing away on a long letter. Papers were scattered everywhere and his journal was closed for once.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“I’m writing my grandmother again..”
“You two must be really close.”
“She’s essentially my mother…” He said, not looking up once.
“Well, what happened to your mother?” I asked.
“She was stolen by a tribe of bandits, never to be heard from again…The same with my older sister. They bandits killed my father, leaving me, my grandmother and my younger sister to try to continue on with his work.” He said with no emotion at all.
“Damn…” I gasped. It was just unfathomable how he could just sit here and not be haunted by this fact.
“Well, we’re generally opposed to guns but after that, my grandmother picked up a buck rifle and a few handguns just in case things ever got bad like that again. She said she would not lose another child without a battle.” He continued.
“I’m sorry to hear this.” I said, feeling full sympathy.
“Don’t be. We stay on a frontier. It’s sad as hell but it’s a reality and you can’t apologize for reality.” He said still vigorously writing.
“So Rejon must be back?” I asked.
“No…” He said. It then hit me. There was something really serious going on if he was writing yet another letter. It had me concerned.
“Is everything alright?” I asked.
“Sure.” He said.
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“Life is what you make of it… is life alright for me now? Sure, I guess it is. I can’t really complain…”
“That’s one twisted ass answer.” I laughed. He had no response. I looked around the room. Bazahra was not in sight. I wondered where she was off too.
“Where’s Bazahra?” I asked.
“I sent her to look for Rejon. I really need him back.”
“You know if there’s anything that’s an issue…anything I can help with I’ll be here. Like seriously, I’ll do anything to help.” I said. Finally, he stopped to look up at me.
“Trust me if I need help, I’ll ask.” He said.
“Alright, but can you at least tell me why the urgency?” I continued.
“I just want to give her a bit of…incomplete information that I failed to give her before. I don’t want her to be confused or anything.” He said. He was lying. I could tell there was something deeply bothering him but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I just wished he’d tell me.
“Something is bothering you and I want to know what.” I said bluntly. He looked up at me with a smile.
“I’m fine.” He said.
“No, you wouldn’t be this worked up if something wasn’t seriously wrong. What can I help with? You can trust me, Kijus. I’ll do anything…anything!” I said. He had to pause, my words catching him by surprise. He then went deep into the depths of his head.
“…I told you, I’m having some family issues. Now could you please let me sort through this on my own? I got it alright?” He laughed. I wasn’t going to prod anymore. His story wasn’t adding up though. What kind of family issues could he possibly have when he had only two family members accounted for? I sighed leaning back.
“I wish I was like you…” I said.
“What?” He asked in surprise.
“I mean…How you tend to solve all your problems so quick and swiftly. I have family issues too but their long and recurring. If it’s not one issue, it’s another.” I said.
“Well, I’m pretty sure it’ll work itself out.” He said. I was half expecting a ‘why?’ or a ‘what happened?’ but the boy had no interest.
“Maybe so…” I said, feeling discouraged, “Anyways, I’ll leave you be. You seem busy.”
“No, stay…I’m nearly done.” He said.
“Why?” I asked.
“Who’s having the problem? Can I take a wild guess and say you parents? And can I continue by saying your mother feels lonely while your father runs amuck?” He asked.
“Yes, precisely!” I said.
“And you father is plainly oblivious to the fact that your mom is hurting?” He asked, still writing vigorously without looking up.
“Well, it seems the two don’t communicate. That would be the start of a fix.” He said.
“Maybe, but my pa is stubborn and bullheaded. His pride would prevent him from truly fixing the issue. He must always be right.”
“He just needs a big enough wakeup call.”
“And what can give him that wakeup call?”
“That, my friend, would require some serious thinking outside the box.” He laughed.
“I caught them arguing one time. It sounded nasty…then they act like it doesn’t happen but mother doesn’t even want to be touched by pa and it’s so evident. He throws himself on her in front of company and her smile…it’s so synthesized… I just don’t want anything bad to happen. I truly don’t know how much more my mother can take.” I explained.
“Fixing human issues is not my expertise. I would if I could but I’m so out of place. I couldn’t possible speak to your father the way I’d like to.” Kijus sighed.     
“And,” I began, “My friends don’t really like me hanging out with you.”
“Why?” He asked, surprised by the matter.
“I don’t know, maybe the fools are jealous. They are starting to get really pushy… I don’t quite know how to address them.” I said.
“…And why precisely are you telling me this?” Kijus asked.
“Because,” I began, “Ok, I keep thinking that one day you’re just going to up and disappear so…some gut feeling tells me to search everywhere for you and I never am able to find you! Today I got lucky! I literally had no idea you were in your room! And since I’m always searching for you, I never have time for my friends anymore.”  I really didn’t want to even explain that much. I didn’t want to make it obvious how I felt about him. I wanted to tell him I saw him at the Mediterranean joint, but I already knew it would start a bitter argument. The jealousy I was feeling had to be suppressed by all means.  
“Trust me, I won’t leave without notice.” He giggled.
“I just…” I stammered, “I just want to know, where you run off to? I mean, you seem like you go on quite some adventures.” I didn’t mean to prod but my impulses were getting the best of me.  He stared with a smile.
“Trust me, you don’t want to worry about that stuff.” He said.
“Is it bad..? Like…drug bad…? Ring bad?” I continued to ponder.
“No.” He said firmly but still with the smile.
“I’m sorry.” I giggled, feeling a bit embarrassed. Truly, I was worried my questions were becoming too intrusive and would push him away. He still smiled.
“It’s fine.” He said.
“So, you want to go get some frozen custard?” I asked. His smile turned into a look of disappointment.
“No,” He said drearily, “I have to wait on Bazahra.”
“I can just bring you some back. What flavor do you like?” I asked.
“You don’t have to.” He said.
“No, come on.” I begged.
“Well,” He said thinking hard, “Sweet potato.” It caught me so off guard. I stood there stunned for a few seconds before nodding and heading to the door. Hands down, of the infinite flavors of frozen custard, sweet potato was my favorite. This was a particular coincidence because sweet potato was a rare flavor and is seldom asked for. Maybe he wanted a difficult flavor so I could come back and say we had none. It most likely was an attempt to get rid of me but I didn’t care. He was going to be so surprised when he saw me return with the frozen custard flavor.
I took a trip to the kitchen, returning to Kijus with the frozen custard. In the ten minutes it took me to prepare the frozen custard, Bazahra had returned to a delighted Kijus. The two talked in a Illisian, a Germanic language I know, but one that was very foreign to me. Kijus turned to me, extremely surprised at the sight. Two glass dessert bowls with the orange frozen egg desert sat on the gold platter. I placed the platter on the table. Kijus came over, rather surprised to see the dish.
“This is like my all time favorite flavor of anything period, point blank, zilch, nada!” He said, grabbing a spoon and a bowl. I couldn’t help but smile.
“Mine too…” I said, “So how are things with Bazahra and Rejon?”
“Bazahra said that he’s returning from the desert and will be here within the hour. After I eat this, I need to send the letters off. I’m going to send them by her this time. She can get there and back within a day but Rejon takes two days. I don’t think I have that type of time.” He said, stuffing his face with the crème.
“Time for what?” I asked. He froze, before continuing to eat. It was obvious he let some information slip that he wasn’t intending on. He had no reply. “…You can trust me with anything, Kijus. Just tell me.” He looked to me.
“I have too many burdens to lay flat. I don’t want my problem becoming yours. I don’t need you worrying about me.” He said in sudden seriousness. I put the crème back on the platter.
“Worrying about what? What problem? Is someone after you?” I asked.
“Are you after someone?” I said.
“Yes…” He said taking a bite of the crème. He stared off with a super serious gaze, obviously having much contemplated so far. There was something far more serious than a random meet-up in the middle ring going on and I longed to know why.
“I won’t ask anymore. Like you said before, it’s your problem and as you wish, I shall respect your privacy. Just don’t bring any issues you find out in the lower rings back here.” I said, reaching for the crème.
“Trust me, you can count on it.” He said. Again, it was another statement with a double meaning. He was giving me way too much to think about and quite frankly, I think it wasn’t to wise to come and visit him. Now I knew I was going to be reduced to snooping for details.
We finished the desert and he placed a tiny harness on Bazahra and sent her into the air. The two of us then went to the stables to wait for Rejon to return. The incredibly intelligent stag did so, probably within twenty minutes of our arrival. His neck pouch, generally hidden under layers of fur was visible…stuffed with material.
Rejon made his way over to Kijus, petting the towering antelope across the snout.  He then reached for the bag, opening it to find quite a surprise. He pulled out several journals worth of notes, years of learning about the details of just about every raptor he’s encountered. His eyes welled up with tears as he continued to dig through the pouch. He found a letter and began reading it. He was extremely overjoyed to read the letter, giggling the whole way through.
“This is from my younger sister.” He said.
“What does it say?” I asked. He continued to read, before handing it to me.

‘Oh, Kijus
By all means, did you intend on making great ma faint? That was a huge heap of cash to be sending back by antelope! I wish you could have come to visit but I guess it’s fine…though no amount of gold and jewels can ever fix the fact that we long for your presence. I guess this means you’re doing well, judging by your letter too.
Well we had to sell our raptors to merchants and we’re moving to the city. Sure, it’s going to be a hard adjustment moving from a nomadic life to modern civilization in this steam engine and coal powered world but, if we can survive an onslaught of attacking saber toothed cats, we can definitely deal with this town. But damn, I wish you were here! I hope the temptations of Temptation City aren’t too much for you and you stay true to yourself. There, I hope you find the right man or woman or whatever floats you around. Just be happy! Oh, and great ma says thank you so much for this. Please write us as often as you can and we’ll be sending tracking pigeons your way too! But just in case you need to find us, we’ll be staying in the upper lots of Central Illisia.
Love, Marshas’

I handed the letter back to Kijus. The letter made me smile too.
“Your sister sounds adorable.” I laughed.
“She is! You should see her! She has these darling little cheekbones and the thickest, curliest hair! She’s also as sharp as a talon! Nothing escapes her!” He said.
“She sounds like you!” I laughed, “But how do you say her name?”
“Like Marsha. Just like my name, the S is silent.” He explained.
“Wait…so she wrote you in English?” I asked.
“She doesn’t know Illisian. We predominantly speak English around her but she’s learning it on her own.” He said as he grabbed Rejon’s reins. He led the giant antelope into a stall and closed it behind him.
“So what?” Now I asked.
“We need to find your brother because he’s been backtracking as far as taking care of Silver goes. I tell him Silver doesn’t need that damn aviary but he still keeps the poor bird cooped up there.” He sighed.
“He’s actually in the Aviary with Silver now.” I laughed. Kijus was shocked but had nothing to say. We went to the Aviary. Entering Silver’s enclosure, we were further surprised to see Roi and Silver playing. Silver had come off a lot of the weight and was now a very capable flyer. However, his abilities were yet to be put to the test.
Roi looked at us as he tickled the highly stimulated bird.
“Hey guys.” He said.
“Stop keeping that damn bird cooped up in here!” Kijus scolded.
“I’m sorry! Jon and I have been spending so much time together and we’ve…Okay, no excuses!” He said getting to his feet, “Come on, Silver! Let’s go to the flats.”
The four of us walked to the flats with Silver being nearly under Roi’s feet the entire time. We neared the flats, where Kijus had a massive eight foot pylon erected. It was wrapped in rope and connected to a lever for some reason. There were four smaller pylons spaced a few hundred feet apart. I then realized what this was. It was a strange coursing device.
“You fucking mad genius. When’d you have time to build this?” I asked.
“You wondered where I disappeared to didn’t you?” He asked. It confused me. Considering I searched every square inch of this place, I would have expected to see him at least once during the periods of his disappearance. I was baffled.
“I searched here.” I laughed, growing unsettled.
“Well I didn’t build this here. I had to go to a wood shop in town. Getting these things back here was utter hell though.” He said, scratching the back of his head.
He took off his fedora placing it atop the pylon. His hair was flowing free and somehow was straightened, flowing down his back. He seized it, pulling it back. He then reached into his pocket grabbing a hair noose and tying his hair down. He reached into his backpack for a journal, quick to write down the conditions of the day.
“So how does it work?” I asked.
“Pull the rope around the pylons. It’s supposed to have crazy resistance so I’ll need two people yanking. Then you tie a lure onto the end of the rope. With the rope pulled as far as it can go, the tension on the springs will be super high so once the lever is pulled, the main pylon will began to rotate. Once it gets rotating, it’ll drag the lure at high speed.” He said, for some strange reason his accent stronger than normal. Roi and I both looked at him strangely.
“I suck at explaining shit so, bare with me.” Kijus laughed.
“It’s fine…” I laughed. Kijus looked at Roi.
“Is he always this quiet?” Kijus asked.
“Yeah, Roi seldom speaks, to be honest.” I laughed.
“I’ve been told,” Roi finally said, “That I tend to be in my own little world.” He sat on the ground, continuing to groom Silver.
“Well you keep up the good work there with the raptor. Richard, if you don’t mind, help me pull this rope across the course.” He said.
“He still calls you Richard?” Roi asked.
“Well, I haven’t been told of any nicknames.” Kijus laughed as he kneeled down to grab the rope on the ground.
“Where’d you get this much rope from?” I asked. Kijus blew hard.
“This was by no means easy… I had to order like twenty five hundred feet. And this much rope weighs about a thousand pounds. Seriously, you don’t know how bad I had to struggle to get this back here. I honestly can’t believe I went to these lengths over this damn bird…but I love raptors.” He smiled. He seemed to be in a much better mood than this time a week ago. At least this was part of the reason for his constant disappearances. But still, he was hiding something…something significant and I needed to know what it was. Whatever it was, I wanted to be there for him, even if it was a dark twisted secret, one that others would look at him and cast terrible judgment. Sure someone this perfect, this self-scrutinizing, with this level of intellect had something to hide. It was just so alluring to think of him this way. The fact that such a pristine person, one with inherent prowess had a weakness of some kind, was incredibly thought provoking.
What ever his secret was, the one he was so desperate to hide, I just wanted to prove to him that I would not cast cruel judgment over it! I would embrace him in all his full glory and exalt him as the strongest person I know. He had to be. I’ve yet to meet a person who’s been through as much as him, struggled for as long as he had, and endured the way he did. He was not only a survivor, but a conqueror. Not many people who’ve dealt with so much tragedy can stand proud and smile, specifically at such a vulnerable age as his. It just made him shimmer all the more in my eyes.
We pulled the rope, the pylon popping loudly with every foot of rope extended. The Pylon slowly turned with every pop, unspooling even more. The amount of resistance was incredible. It was a full body workout dragging the rope around the course. It took ten minutes to reach the fourth pylon.
“Roi, continue to hold Silver.” Kijus said reaching in his bag for a lure. He pulled out a foe lamb, whistling loudly to catch Silver’s attention. The bird turned swiftly to face him. It saw the lure and immediately wanted to sink its talons into it. Before it could charge me, Roi grabbed the bird by its breast. Swiftly, Kijus attached the hook to the lure.  He then stood back.
“Richard, go to the lever. On the count of three release it. Roi, on the same count of five, release Silver.” Kijus said.
“Alright.” Roi and I said simultaneously. I went over to the lever, grabbing it in hand.
One… two… three…,” Kijus said. I released the lever. The pylon began rotating extremely swiftly, reeling in the rope at an incredible pace. The lure was now being dragged at speeds it seemed no bird could keep pace with. “Four…, five!” Roi released Silver. The bird taxed along the ground, flapping far faster than one would have thought a bird his size would have. He eventually got lift off, steadily accelerating as he chased the lure. His flapping went from four hertz to two hertz as the wing beats became more rowing and retractile. He was now gaining on the lure.
Right when he was about to snatch it, the lure reached the first pylon, changing direction swiftly. Silver spread his wings and tail, suddenly pitching upwards. He then banked hard to the left after the lure going into a shallow dive. His wings beats again increased to four hertz until he worked up enough speed. He alternated swift gliding with rapid wing beats, steadily gaining on the lure.
This time, Silver anticipated the second pylon. As he neared it, he fanned out his tail, flapping vigorously at six hertz. He turned sharply without sacrificing any stability. However, he did lose some speed but gained even more elevation. Using that to his advantage, he again alternated rapid bursts of wing beats with swept wing gliding. Before the lure reached the third pylon, Silver caught it.
Kijus pulled the lever, ending the high speed coursing. He then looked at Roi.
“I didn’t know he could fly so well.” Roi said.
“He still has a lot to learn. How he went into those turns was rather clunky and he lost a lot of speed and had to play catch up. At this speed, Bazahra would have caught the lure before it turned on the first pylon.”  He explained.
“How fast does this go?” I asked.
“It’s twenty five hundred feet of rope. At that pace, it can recoil in thirty seconds. He caught it in half that time so that mean he had to be traveling at least fifty five miles an hour.” Kijus said, calculating swiftly in his head.
“That’s pretty fast!”  Roi said.
“Yes, but since he’s a smaller bird than Bazahra, I know on the flat he can out pace her.” Kijus responded, walking over to the exhausted bird. He tossed a lamb head and the bird quickly gulped it down.
“So how fast can Bazahra go?” Roi asked.
“The fastest I’ve ever pushed her in level flight was about ninety seven miles an hour but she averages around eighty. Diving though, there’s no telling. She’s able to dive so fast I can’t even see her.”
“I doubt that any bird can fly that fast level.” I said.
“Well these silver long wings are not just any bird. Normally a bird with a thirteen to sixteen foot wingspan would have very weak breast muscles so getting into the air would prove to be a chore. No, these silvers have extremely oversized breast muscles and virtually no wing loading for their size. They can continue to pump more and more power into flight and it be outputted as thrust. And you saw his silhouette during flight. It’s like a crossover between a goshawk and a falcon. Those are precisely his flight characteristics as well. These birds are built for high speed coursing flight and are designed to never get tired. However, Silver is a bit out of shape. I probably can push him to seventy miles an hour right now.” Kijus said.
“Wait, what do you mean he’s out of shape? I thought we made him lose weight!” Roi said.
“Yeah, we did make him lose weight but he needs to build up musculature. He’s about twenty two pounds now. He needs to get to about twenty five pounds with an empty crop.” Kijus explained.
“So you’re going to run him again?” Roi asked.
“Yeah, but I’m recalibrating the drag lure. I’m going to make it go faster and if he doesn’t catch it this time, he gets no reward. He needs to learn how to bank without losing speed. Get your bird,” He said, walking back to the main pylon. I followed him like an attached an stricken puppy.
“I just can’t wrap my head around an animal moving nearly one hundred miles an hour.” I laughed.
“Have you not seen any of your falcons?” He asked.
“I mean, those things are capable of speeds well over one hundred miles an hour especially the fatter bodied short tailed ones. They live for the dive!” He smiled.
“I mean I know that but I’m talking about on the flat. The fastest they can go on the flat is barely sixty miles an hour. My red breast can push about seventy in short bursts but one hundred miles an hour is just….” I said, skeptical.
He reached the main Pylon, opening a hatch and wrapping a chain around a larger gear. The gear had one hundred etched into it. It would make Silver pursuit the lure at more than one hundred meters a second. I had no idea how fast this was in miles an hour but it sure sounded fast.
“Just how fast is this?” I asked.
“About seventy miles an hour. He can definitely catch this, even with his wonky turns.” He said.
“That’s mighty damn fast. I can’t wait to see this.” I said.
We reeled the rope back to the starting position. As soon as Silver saw the lure, he began getting hunt lust. To him, this was all very enriching and he loved pushing himself to the limit.
“Let’s see how fast a learner he is.” Kijus stood by the lever, “One…two….three…four… five!!!!”  The bird and the lure were off. One simply could not get used to see Silver’s amazing speed. He followed the lure, gaining on it the same way he did before. However, the large raptor still struggled with the turns. The first pylon placed some distance between he and lure. It looked grim, as though he wasn’t going to catch. However, the incredibly crafty bird, began to power upwards, still following the lure. Suddenly, it banked hard into shallow dive, its speed suddenly increasing. The magnificent bird vanished from sight. Kijus yanked on the lever, halting the drag lure. I looked around the sky for Silver, seeing him nowhere.
“Where’d he go?” Roi asked.
“He’s on the lure!” Kijus said as he ran towards him.
“What how?” Roi asked, astounded. We both looked to the ground to see Silver with his talons dug into the lure, panting from exhaustion and exhilaration. He held his wings loosely, knowing this lure was not exactly prey but fun nonetheless to chase. Kijus tossed the bird another lamb head.
“It’s like he disappeared.” I said, unsure what I saw.
“That’s what the oily silver body and the translucent wings allow him to do, literally disappear to the naked eye, when his speed is high enough. The raptor still has a lot to learn on controlling its flight but that burst of speed was impressive. Bazahra has never gone that fast in level flight.” Kijus said.
“Did you see him hit the lure?” I asked.
“Yeah, he tumbled on the ground with it and I pulled the lure lose from the coursing rope. It literally went like this. I saw him bank…he vanished and then seemingly within the same second he vanished, he was on top of the lure.”
“So what exactly did he do to achieve that amount of speed? How fast precisely was he going?” I asked.
“He mostly likely did an owl drop to gain the speed but he was already fairly close to the lure so I’m guessing the owl drop gave him a double increase in speed.”
“Owl drop?” Roi asked.
“It’s basically when a bird power dives and fractions of a second before it collide into its target, it splays its wings. Of course it was much too fast to discern with the naked eye what he did but I’m guessing the owl drop is something in the instinctive repertoire of these birds.  Bazahra does that on spring hares all the time. Since the wind is blowing our direction too, he caught a boost as well. It’s understandable.” Kijus explained.
“Well I stand impressed. How many more runs are we going to do?” I asked.
“Until Silver gets tired.”
“HEY!!!!!” Someone yelled from across the field. We turned to see Jon running down towards us. Roi’s face lit up with even more joy at the sight of his boyfriend coming to watch. He met him halfway.
“Hey, we’re coursing Silver all day today! The bird is ridiculous in the flat!” Roi panted.
“I’ve been looking for you. I want to watch.” Jon smiled. The two made it back over to the course.
“That’s good! We need a third hand!” Kijus said.
“What are you all doing?” Jon asked.
“Well, right now, we have to pull the lure back to the starting position. Since I increased the size of the gear, there’s even more resistance.” Kijus said.
“Alright, just show me where I need to be.” Jon said, looking on rather lost. Kijus walked up to the boy placing his hands on his shoulders.
“Come on.” Kijus smiled. He led the boy across the lot to where the rope and lure lay. I followed. Midway through pulling the lure back, an idea came into my head. I ran back towards the palace.
“Guys I got to go to the pot!” I yelled.
“Eeeew. Hurry back!!!!” Kijus said as he and Jon pulled the lure.
All I could do was hope that Kijus’s room door wasn’t locked because I was not venturing to the lou. I was about to plunder through the pile of paperwork he left on the center piece table to find out why he kept disappearing…to find out who he was searching for. It was quite clear now that the tall gorgeous Illisian at the Mediterranean restaurant was not whom he was searching for. However, I did not know his game. What was Kijus trying to do, precisely? What would be the results and how would I be affected? Was I even prepared for the results I might find?
I didn’t know but there surely was no turning back. I entered the palace and made my way up the stairs. Slowly but cautiously I made it to the hall where Kijus’s accommodations were. I extended my hands to the door knob twisting it. It was unlocked. My stomach twisted into knots as the feeling of entering a forbidden domain hit me.
His room was never this messy. It showed just how frantic his searches were. Entering the room, the atmosphere had a certain charge that unsettled me. Maybe it was the fact that this was probably the worst thing I ever did. What if I got caught? The little bit of trust I earned from Kijus would surely be obliterated. I wouldn’t know what to do with myself if that happened yet here I was, standing in the boy’s room, trespassing.
I walked to the center end tea table looking at all the random sheets of paper thrown around in disarray. They were rather…gruesome drawings of naked women, some very emaciated and others missing limbs. Even more unsettling, some were in extremely provocative poses. Why was Kijus drawing such grotesque images and what did they have to do with his secrecy? I didn’t want to touch anything, move anything around or show that I was here. The incredibly observant boy would instantly know someone was trespassing.
I went to the loveseat he was perched at while writing the letter to his family. A journal of his sat there along with several drawings of a strange woman, rather thin but extremely curvaceous. She had very dark skin and extremely curly hair, suggesting that she was an Illisian. There also were drawings of her face. She was an extremely gorgeous woman, high cheeked and savage eyed. Here eye color stood out against her dark skin, making the woman look rather…terrifying. She looked very fierce and almost sorceress-like. Was this the goddess that Kijus always talked about?
I leaned down to look closely at the pictures. I then realized that some were pictures and others were prints. It made me even more confused. Why was he being such a fanatic over these women but this dark Illisian woman in particular…? She certainly was not a goddess as I presumed. My eyes fell upon the journal.
I reached for it, opening it to its first page. There only were a handful of lines: ‘She saw me but didn’t recognize me… I don’t know how to process this let alone have anything to say.’ I flipped through page after page, but the journal was utterly empty. It was the only thing he wrote. Slowly, I closed the journal and placed it back the way I found it. I left even more confused than when I arrived.


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