The Accusation

The Broken Oath Part 3

The gray goshawk with a stark yellow beak and white belly clenched her talons into the fraying bark of the matopi tree. The green leaves plump and full from the plentiful wet season fluttered near her blue eyes and she shifted her position in annoyance. As the heartbeats ticked by, she ruffled her prim feathers against the breeze. The tree was tall enough to shelter her graceful figure from the sun’s glare. She glanced at her mate, who hovered on the branch above her, his gaze blank.

“Stop dawdling!” She snapped her curved beak at him, the sound so startling in the silence that he almost toppled from his perch. “Check the skies.” His expression clearer, he nodded and took off. A moment later she heard his distinct shriek from high above her. She felt every muscle in her body tense. Her guests had arrived.

With agility to match hers, a huge eagle owl dove beneath the branches of the tree. He landed with powerful strokes of his strong wings, hovering until he could set the meer in the sand. Then he rested beside his friend, his noble head turned towards the rainbird.

“Greetings, Storm.” The greatwing uttered formally, as if they were meeting for the first time.

Storm shifted on her branch and forced a light tone as she responded. “Are we not among friends here, Greatwing? Must we be so exacting?”

Star squared his small shoulders, though he was large for a meerkat he had nothing on the two raptors when comparing size. “We must when we are speaking of business.” Star’s voice was a warning growl.

“And what business would that be?” Storm queried, though she already knew. Her heart churned with dread as she waited for his response.

Star opened his mouth but Greatwing beat him to the current. “Comet’s dead, Storm.” His tone was forlorn, and he was forced to drop his gaze as sorrow swamped him. “She was killed.”

“Killed by a rainbird.” Star spat, his lips drawn back, expression hostile.

Storm reeled. Her heart pounded. She stared at Star, her eyes wide with shock. Her flight feathers ruffled with surprise. She had heard the rumor; she had known to expect this. Star was grieving after all, but that did not stop his words from stinging. Outrage pulsed through her hotter than the day.

“You dare accuse me?” She leaned forward, her body shaking with the intensity of her words. “You dare accuse my brood?”

“There was evidence that suggested-” Greatwing started but she cut him off with a look.

Storm’s beak parted in a bird’s version of a sneer. “I have not broken the oath, Star.” Her voice rose higher with every syllable until she was screeching. “I have broken nothing.” Her eyes glinted with a strange thrill. She almost wished that she could stop herself, but her tongue was far beyond her head. “You have broken the oath, Star, by falsely accusing me!”

“Admit it-!” Star shouted as the fur along his spine stood up and his tail curled over his back in a display of aggression.

“Or what?” Her lilting question hung like a taut vine in the air. Now, which one would pull it and send the jungle toppling down?

Greatwing interceded before the conflict could escalate further. He spread his wings, his air of finality commanding authority. Storm refused to be daunted and did not shy away. “We will go, Storm.” He rumbled. “But we shall speak of the matter again soon.” With that he lifted Star in both feet and swooped beneath the canopy.

Storm narrowed her eyes, her thoughts whirling. For a moment she let herself be consumed by pity for her friend. To lose a daughter in such a way was awful. An atrocity too painful to bear. But neither she nor any of her brood had committed the crime. She could see what needed to be done now. Yes, the oath was broken. It was up to her to mend it. At any cost.

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