Novel Excerpt: The Aviary

Goitan opened the bronze door, pushing with both hands as it resisted the motion. Instantly the silence of the temple was broken by a tumult of high-pitched cacophony. He was momentarily blinded by the sunlight piercing the high dome of the room within.

Blinking, he stepped onto the metal grating of the catwalk. He felt a rush of wind as a multitude of feathered forms rose from the railings to the perches high above. Below, the floow was barely visible beneath the numerous inhabitants, drab brown and brilliant blue, thumb-sized and waist-high. Goitan noted one of the acolytes, clothed in a heavy protective suit, changing the water in the baths. He recognized the hulking form beneath the yellow plastic and smiled to himself. That should be the last time Bloven interrupts the rector, he thought.

He cast his gaze upward, his skilled eyes quickly finding their target. A large bird with a rich blue plumage sitting on one of the largest perches, near the top of the dome. He cupped his hands and whistled a piercing string of notes.

The sapphire-crested head turned to fix both its eyes on him in turn. Then it leapt from its perch, scattering lesser birds by the dozens. It flew a circuit of the roof, leaving fluttering, twittering chaos in its wake. Apparently satisfied, it winged downward, stopping abruptly before Goitan with several sharp beats of its wings. He held his footing through long practice, and a firm grip on the railing. The blue bird landed there, curling its long talons around the iron bar.

Once it was settled, Goitan made his obeisance, squatting down before it and placing his head against the grating between his knees. He looked up again to see the bird preening itself, one large blue eye fixed on his bent form.

"What is the news?" it croaked after it had put its feathers in place.

"Most worthy Majlis, I bring good tidings. The tide of the plague has turned, and the healers have found a medicine."

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The Den of Ubiquity/ Aaron V. Humphrey /