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Meeting the Bird Queen

Meeting the Bird Queen

Since I last wrote, I have spent days digging through my collection of tomes looking for more information about the Bird Queen, seeking some method that I might contact the entity to parlay on behalf of the boggarts.  No–that’s not quite right.  I do not wish to represent either side in this matter.  I represent the interest of the Park itself, which would suffer harm if the birds and the boggarts were to launch a war.  While seeking a method for contacting the Bird Queen, I also sought a source for the conflict.  I’ve given up on communicating intelligently on the matter with the boggarts.  My research was pointless in the end, as it was the Bird Queen herself who found me, rather than the reverse, but more about that later.

My inquiries as to the nature of the conflict with the more well-spoken and less enraged boggarts have been met with naught but mumbled nonsense.  All they will reveal is that the Bird Queen stole something (and this something has varied from a valuable treasure to worthless junk in their barely intelligible stories) that must be returned as what appears to be a matter of “boggart pride.”  The boggarts hold their tribal pride to be one of the utmost ideals of their primitive society, and any insult to this pride is met with violence at the very least.  I have found evidence in the old notes of Doctor Thistledown, one of the City’s earliest scientific investigators, of earlier boggart wars.  They were certainly not recognized as such, but with recent revelations, the true nature of their wars is plain to see in the record.   A boggart war is too terrible a thing to allow happen now.  Allow me to explain why I believe this to be so.

The boggarts suffer from terrible rages that work their nervous and muscular systems into overdrive, giving them heightened reflexes and keen strength beyond what the fey species would ordinarily have.   They move quickly, attacking and overwhelming any living thing in their path, as our most recent Nature Sounds edition documented.  Since then, the boggart tribe within the park have been creating havoc.  News was brought to me recently of an urchin gang’s leader laid low by an attack.  Urchins are one thing, but if the boggarts attack a respectable member of society, fey exterminators would be hired and there is no telling how many innocent creatures would be murdered in the toxic mess they spread.  There are few things I truly loathe. An exterminator is one of them.

It was while I was pondering these notes, late into the evening, in my room at the boarding house, that I heard a tap-tap-tapping at my window.   I  held up my lantern to identify the source of the noise and found a large black raven resting on the window sill.  It cocked its head to look at me with one bright eye, waited a moment, and then rapped again at the glass as if asking to be let in.  I watched, open-mouthed as it repeated the behavior a third time.  Against my better judgement, I opened the window, fully expecting to be attacked, but not thinking of any other action to take.

The raven hopped in and walked across my desk, scattered as it was with papers and open books until it came to a drawing I had made of one of the boggarts.  The raven struck at the illlustration with its sharp beak, cawing loudly.  Before I could shoo it out the window, it did something even more startling.  It spoke.

“Trouble!”  it said.  Not clearly, but clear enough that the word was unmistakable.  Now, I am aware that corvids are capable of mimicking human speech, but I had never heard it myself.   If the recording device had not been damaged by recent events, I would have fired the boiler and made a recording of the utterance.  Instead, I stood dumbfounded and watched as the raven shrieked “trouble!” and tore my illustration to bits.

It then hopped back across the table to the window sill and turned to look at me, fixing me with that one bright eye.  Then it said, slowly and much more clearly, “Follow.”  And then flew out the window to land on a branch of a tree not far away.

I did not stop to think or even dress myself properly.  I threw on a coat and boots, snatched up my photonic capturer,  and bolted down the stairs to the street.  The raven took flight, but thankfully, the moons were both risen high in the night sky and so I could see their reflection on its glossy feathers to follow its path. It lead me to the Park, not even flying “as the crow flies” but making allowances for my poor earthbound self.

It was most strenuous exercise to keep up with the bird, and I was panting for air by the time we cut through the bramble and into a small clearing.  The cries of all manner of birds went up around me, whether warning me or announcing my presence, I was not sure.

And there, laying in an unladlylike fashion and surrounded by ravens, was a young woman.  She wore filthy clothes, carried a tattered parasol as she did in all the stories.  She even wore a pair of tinted lens goggles upon her head as all people must in the City to protect their eyes against the harsh slanted light of the middle day sun.  I thought it unusual that a supernatural entity would have to make such base and physical allowances, but no matter.  There she was before me, smiling in a way that could only be described as mischieviously.

I quickly took a capture, which is attached to this missive above.  She seemed to wait patiently for me to finish, then turned to look at the birds gathered around her, perhaps issuing some order.  Then she nodded, and opened her mouth as if to speak.

Her words did not issue forth from her body, I am certain of this.  Her birds came from the ravens gathered around.  A syllable here, a word there, from different birds, but acting in unison, they formed all the sounds necessary for speech.  It was unsettling, most unsettling.  The supernatural is not my realm of study, and it has always left me most uncomfortable and this was no exception!

“You are the one they call Roundbottom,” the Queens said through the birds, not posing it as a question but making a statement.   I nodded, carefully folding my photonic capturer away.

“You will make the boggarts cease in their aggressions,” she said.

“I would like nothing more than to do so,” I said.  “Honestly, Your Majesty, I would love nothing more than to prevent their rampages.  But they believe their honor has been slighted, and I cannot find a way to restore it.  I am too ignorant of the issues at play in the matter.”

The queen cocked her head, as if listening to the whispered caws of a raven that fluttered from the trees and perched on her shoulder.  She smiled.

“They are angry because We took away the totem,” the Queen said.

“May I ask why you took their totem?”

“We took away the totem, but it was not theirs.  They had taken it from the birds many years ago as spoils in one of their many battles.  We have searched for many nesting seasons for the totem,” she said.

“Ah,” I said.  “So you were simply taking back your… property from thieves?”

The birds screamed together in one voice.  My pulse raced with the thought that I had angered them, but it seemed that they were only agreeing with me.

“What do you want me to do about this?” I asked.  “I will admit to being too trusting, yes, but I don’t see that I should get involved in this property dispute.  I’m a scientist, not a barrister.”

“If you do not take action, the things you love will suffer,” the Queen said through the birds.  “We know you, Roundbottom.  We have watched you often.”

Of all the things she said to me, I found that statement to be by far the most unsettling.  Even now, remembering those words causes the hairs upon my nape to stand up.

“I don’t understand what you expect me to do, Your Majesty,” I said after a moment of thinking.  Try as I might, I could not see what she was driving towards.

“Stop them, or We will fight,” the Queen said. The birdsong around us became a cacophony then.  “If we fight, no one wins.”  And then the birds mobbed me, one after another, as if a curtain of feathers had descended upon me.  I swatted instinctively and brought my arms up to protect my face.  When the birds were gone, so too was the Queen.

So this is where I sit now, pondering the Queen’s ultimatum.  She will not give back this totem, which she claims is her property.  But the boggarts will not stop their terrorizing until they have recovered it.  Once again, I find myself standing between two forces more powerful than I, and I must somehow find a solution.

I am tired, dear reader.  Speaking with royalty has always left my mind exhausted.  The effort of it… Tomorrow I will ponder more on this matter.  If you can offer counsel on how I might resolve this conflict, I and the denizens of the Park will be in your debt.

Sincerely, Julius T. Roundbottom

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