It was the first century by her counting, but her parents would add nineteen more, from before she could count. This was the method of the Condors keeping years. We are not like other nations who hold to a birth date and nothing else, we hold two dates. Thus, counting has a quaint and special place in our society, at least insofar as it regards to age. She, and I suppose it must be known that her name is Guuenchime in her tongue; standardized to Gwenhime in the Sollussa script, had two problems. The first being her own personal issue, the problem of being ostracized and unwanted in her society, and the second, that she had an inclination to do what was forbidden to her, which was to marry. Worse yet, this prohibition on her made what was only a slight interest into a burning forbidden lure.
This lure, to marry, may have been in part because of a certain idea which had penetrated the Condor young; her peers. For a Condor, one hundred is quite young. Gwenhime was just barely of marriageable age, and the concept of such a union was beginning to be of some interest to her. It was an idea that had come likely from the prey to the west, the Sollussa, but it could have originated further into the outlands of the abstracted Metch civilizations (Metch being what some call “humans”). Gwenhime was fortunately comely. The major defect for which she was so hated was her size, for she was miniature at only four cubits and a thumb-knuckle (or six feet and one inch). Yet despite her trouble, and the society’s thremmatological inclinations against not only a union, but of her very existence, Gwenhime still hoped for a marriage some day, and to have Sollussa at the wedding.
Today, Gwenhime sat on the edge of a cliff ridge. It seemed that one of the king’s men had a message for her, a task she needed to perform. Behind was her community, stone buildings and tents built on the plains. Gwenhime considered herself to be beautiful and hoped that in the eyes of the men her age she was even attractive. Her arms were strong, her figure well developed, with noticeably flared hips and a newly puffed chest. She kept her pale blonde hair long, down to her waist, and brushed and balmed it often. Most of all, she took pride in her shoulders and collar, whose shape she found enticing even underneath the simple robes she and all her people wore.
She had only survived thusfar thanks to her parents, who were influential in society, though they were far from the king. It was fortunate, she supposed, that the king at present was so mild almost to the point of uncaring. Thremmatology, or eugenics, was and remains a feature of our society; it is the reason we are so tall and strong, why we have extra muscles in our arms for fighting, and of course why we live so very long. Unfortunately, this means that runts such as Gwenhime are often cast to the wilderness, executed, or abandoned in the west to be disposed of by the prey who reside in those lands. This must be done before sexual maturity—well before, usually—so that they do not taint the civilization with inferior offspring, or even the possibility of inferior offspring. Gwenhime managed to survive to five-score less one, or one hundred and nineteen.
The Metch civilizations, I will add, do make for a good meal, some might even say hearty, for they have good constitution, but they have an unpleasant texture and unusual sinews in their muscles. Compared to simply consuming an animal—something less intelligent and less likely to wage war on a Condor feeding party—it was often simply found to be not worth the effort. At that time, it was well known that the Sollussa were the preferred intelligent prey, though like the Metch they had a habit of retaliation. Gwenhime was like the rest of her people, both accepting of and happily indulging in the consumption of humans. Sollussa, being the more delicious, were also the more preferred, although due to their resistance they would only be slain and gathered on certain occasions, such as a festival or a century-birthday. She was fortunate in that her birthday was only days after the king’s, and thus for her first century, her parents took from the king’s banquet, for no one would hunt Sollussa for her sake. No, rather, they, and especially after her first century which marked a spike in fertility, seemed inclined more to hunt her than to hunt for her.
But, perhaps if she performed this task—what was it now? They hadn’t told her—perhaps then she would find favour in the eyes of her people. That was what she wanted, was it not? No, not particularly. Though, she convinced herself, perhaps if I am effective enough, they will let me marry!
A man appeared behind her, though he had likely walked over unnoticed since Gwenhime was lost in thought. It was the king’s man. He pushed her off the edge of the cliff she was sitting on, and Gwenhime was forced to extend her wings and glide forward, then fly back up to the top of the ridge.
“What are you doing!”
“How long have your wings been out?” He asked her.
“Two weeks, as you asked!” Gwenhime said, getting angry now. Anger came forth more readily when she was with people now, and simple fervour when she was alone.
“And you feel the energy, the taint of the wings?”
This was the consequence of Condor wings. Usually, they were imbedded in the back, but they could be released on command by flexing certain back muscles, near the shoulders. But while they are released, they taint the mind, leading to increased energy, aggression, and predatory behaviour. Natural philosophers deduced that it must have something to do with the wings’ proximity to the spine, which runs to the mind who lives in the brain. In young Condor, it also shortens judgement, clouding it over. Older folk know how to widen the judgement process again, and are far less affected by this portion of the mind taint. Importantly, a Condor can shed the wings, as a cervid does its horns, though the Conder can do it as she pleases. This will slowly reverse the taint.
“Two weeks is a long time to bear wings,” he said. “You remember how long they take to regrow after you shed them?”
“Good. You must come with us now.” He pointed to a group she had not seen, five more Condor, some women. All of them had their wings released, but they still had residue from the back fluid, so Gwenhime knew they were freshly out.
“Where are we going? And for how long?”
“We are going west. The community does not know this, and for now it is best that it stay that way, but the Sollussa are on the run. They perhaps have had enough of being prey on our every occasion and festival.” His voice was dull, and whenever he used consonants, it hurt her head. This man, Palor, was over a head taller than her, and he had blond hair past his eyebrows, and fair skin. He was perhaps a century her senior, and, she thought, perhaps a good husband?
Gwenhime shook the marital thoughts from her mind. “And for how long?” she repeated.
“I know not. The king…no, the queen rather, has conjured a plan. She consults the gods, the gems in the skies by night, and they told her how we are to secure the banquet of banquets. And you are an important part in this. But we must go, before the Sollussa escape to wherever they intent. We will overtake them unseen, and watch their new home. A generation for them is so small, Gwenhime—”
“Yes, I know! It is but twenty or thirty years!”
He had forgotten that she was deeply tainted at the moment. “And what is a century for us!” He said, louder now. “Nothing, but for them, four perhaps five generations. And for four or five generations we will leave them there and watch them grow and settle and feel safe. They will have forgotten the threat of the Condor, though they will remember the stories. They will feel secure in their new land, they will feel that they have escaped us, and then we will come…”
“And eat them!” Gwenhime laughed, revealing the hideous teeth of an airborne predator. The natural philosophers never did figure out why Condor teeth grew longer and sharper with wings, or if this was related to the taint. But they did not question it, for it made consumption of flesh all the more easy. “Oh, what a ravenous plan the queen has read!”
“Quite. Now, our party grows impatient. Come, child.” He said, though he had not yet told her what her role, the runt of the community, was to be in all this.
Interested? This will likely turn into a series of short stories.
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