Flash: Raptors by the Sea

Photo from Unsplash

The endless blue where the sea met sky brings Mave around for another soar on the updraft from the overheated air baking above the beach sands. She could stay up here forever, at least the part of her which flies begs her to. Enough human remains to acknowledge the fatigue, and monitor the time in form to nudge her into finally landing on a dead tree hanging over the cliffs protecting the isolated cove.

Transforming into her birth form, the female shifter leans against the denuded trunk. Far below the waves race up the shoreline, the cove’s sandy beach disappearing under the incoming tide. Soon she would need to return to the Tower Aerie; at least this time, her explorations brought her to a place she would be flying east. Last adventure had her flying into the sun during the final hours of the day.

A second raptor, a black version of her white and tan bird, flies over the western cliffs. With a scream, it dives into the ocean and comes up with a fish, then turned her way. Concentrating on the food in its claws, it doesn’t notice her partially hidden by the trunk until the creature’s wingspan is spread for landing on the branch.

It caws, and banks too late, making an undignified startled landing, before the being transforms into a man, the fish falling back into the ocean beneath them.

“A little help here,” he says, holding onto the branch one handed until he swings the other to hug the branch from beneath. Mave laughs and walks the branch to where he is holding on, feeling no give in the dead wood nor hearing any cracks. As a bird shifter, his arms would be stronger than his legs. He didn’t need any assistance, and she tells him as much.

Flashing a smile, he says, “Can’t blame a guy for trying,” before he twists up, his muscles rippling across his arms and bare torso. Once on the wide branch, he stands easily, looking down at her, his height a hand’s width taller than hers. “Bryce, High Cliffs Clan.”

“Mave, Stone Tower.”

Bryce’s black eyes darken to raptor pupils, his smile widening. The limited size of the branch has Mave taking a step back to lean against the trunk.

“A bit far aflight for one of the plains folk.” He closes the distance, resting an arm against the trunk.

She could see the feather pattern lining his arm, looking like a tattoo against the human skin.

“I needed to think.”

He moves close enough, Mave could feel the heat radiating off Bryce. His hands smells fishy, but his hair and skin smell like wind and sea.

“About what, my pretty bird?”

Mave rolls her eyes. “Oh goddess, please.”

“Too much?” Bryce backs up.

“Your clan short on females?” Mave shakes her head. “Have you had any practice at all with flirting?”

“Actually no for both.” Bryce sits down on the wood, picking at one of the few pieces of bark the prevailing sea winds hadn’t stripped from the tree. “All the women ahead of me are happily paired off, and all those younger than me are too much younger than me, if you know what I mean. So, we got women, just none I could practice with. All I got is pretty much what Mom and Dad say to each other. And I just tried one of Dad’s favorite lines.”

“Oh, no.” Mave, covers her mouth to hide her laughter. “Your parents are complete corn-balls. You are so screwed if you must court at the Aviary Gathering next Spring.”

“Yep,” Bryce turns his smile up to her, “but maybe it will work on someone and I get something like what they have. They completely are in love and just dive into their little nothings like a fish is just three inches under water. How about you? Any male back home ruffling your feathers?”

The giggling smile erases from Mave’s face. “That is why I’m thinking.”

“That can’t be good.” Bryce face firms, his voice deepening. “Would it help to talk it out with someone with no feathers in the aerie? That is, if it is something you feel comfortable about talking outside the clan.”

“I’m in a bidding war.”

“Ugh, like cock fighting level?” At her nod, Bryce asks, “How many involved?”

She stares back out at the sea. “Four.”

“Your clan have no women at all?”

“Oh, we got a good mix, but ….” Mave pushes against the trunk to stand without leaning. “I’m the fastest, male or female, daughter of the present lead flyers, granddaughter of Stone Tower.”

“In other words, whoever wins and builds your nest, is the next leader.”

“They wish.”

Bryce chuckles. “Only the highest nest for you, and you don’t think any of them can fly that high.”

“I know they can’t. None of them have followed me out here.” She waves her arm at the expanse before them, the ocean turning slightly pink as the sun dips low to see its reflection in the waters.

“Did you want them to follow you?” He cocked his head to the side.

Mave shakes her body once, settling her mental feathers. “I don’t really know. … I really wish I knew.”

“Would you like me to follow you?”

The growl is more human than bird, and makes Mave shiver her feathers flat again. Pulling together her dignity, she dares a challenge. “You think you could?”

“Not today,” Bryce nods to the west, “I would need to let my clan know. But … tomorrow?”

“I’ll be here.” Mave steps off the branch and transforms mid-fall, skimming along the waves filling in the cove below. A shadow flies overhead. She slaps her wings against the water and pulls up to see the dark raptor circle above before heading west. Mave screeches, circling once, before heading east.

(words 980, first published 9/10/2023)

Raptors by the Sea Series

  1. Raptors by the Sea (9/10/2023)
  2. Outside the Aerie (11/19/2023)
  3. Oghan’s Return (12/17/2023)

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