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2
Sixteen Singing Eagles

Written for the Advent Mathom Challenge last year.
MEFAs, 2006:
Honorable Mention-Races: Cross-Cultural: Fixed-Length Ficlet


~~~

"You are frightfully ignorant, huntress," one of the younger male Eagles said to me loftily. "Your father did not tell you anything of our people."

“I apologize for my ignorance,” I said as civilly as I could, though I was inwardly rather incensed. Unfortunately my anger did little to warm me. The chill expanse of frost-rimed rock upon which the Eagle-moot perched was continuously bathed by a cold wind. Only the fur-lined cloak over the front of me and Gwaenaur's down-covered breast at my back saved me from sheer misery, though the stars burned most beautifully in the thin and bitter air.

"That will be enough, Thelagos!" my eagle-friend snapped, her beak clacking above my head, as the eagles to either side of the young one hissed at him in rebuke. "There is no call to be discourteous. 'Tis nothing that is the huntress's fault and nothing that cannot be mended. If there are things about us you would wish to know, Hethlin, then ask, and if we can, we will answer."

Mollified, I said, "There is one thing I am curious about. Do Eagles sing?" The fifteen eagles huddled about me all shifted from foot to foot.

"Do we look like larks to you?" snapped Thelagos, whereupon his companions fell upon him with wing and beak.

"We are the messengers of Manwë," said Meneldor, after the ruckus had died down. I was getting better at interpreting Eagle expressions and I could have sworn he looked uncomfortable. "Ours is a higher destiny."

"We may as well show her," Gwaihir sighed. Immediately the night was filled with piercing eagle cries. I gritted my teeth and hunched down as the assault on my eardrums continued for an interminable minute.

“Does that answer your question?” the Windlord asked me when they had finished, and I nodded. They all looked so dejected and crestfallen that I gave them the only gift I could.

“Don’t feel so bad,” I told them before treating them to my inimitable rendition of a stanza of Gondor Still Abides. Amber eyes slitted and they hunched down into bundles of brown feathers as they listened. There was a moment’s silence when I had done.

“Singing’s over-rated,” Landroval said consolingly at last, and there was much murmuring of agreement and rustling of feathers.

“Look how bright the stars are tonight,” said someone else, and we turned our talk to other things.

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