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For the Birds

 - The first thing Hawk heard as he entered the bar was Parrot and Canary singing.  At the table in the center of the room, as Raven checked him for weapons, Crow lit a small cigar.  Raven nodded to Flamingo and she started dancing again.  At least, Hawk was pretty sure she’d been dancing as he entered.  Seemed to Hawk like she was always dancing, even when she wasn’t.

 - There was a loud *CLAK* as Eagle leaned forward and both front legs of his chair smacked the cool, hard wood of the floor.  His beak slowly pushed towards Hawk from the almost-darkness and into the light, bringing some fading tendrils of Crow’s smoke with it.  It was obvious to Hawk they’d been planning something.

 - “‘Bout time, dontcha think?” Eagle spit, subtly snapping his beak.  He leaned back in his chair again.

 - Owl turned his head and met Hawk’s gaze so quickly it was like he’d expected Hawk to look at him right then.  Hawk would have been spellbound again like he always was whenever Owl looked at him like that, but this time Owl just looked down at the table again started dealing the cards.

 - “You are late enough, now, yes?” Owl stated flatly.  The cards went out one at a time from the deck in his hands, but as he dealt, both his hands made little circles over the table.  Slightly different from one another and yet somehow the same size.

 - Hawk took a quick look around and started to relax.  He walked slowly but purposefully up to the table and sat down.

To his left, Crow looked to be half asleep, his cigar barely lit.  To his right, Owl was dealing the final card.  From across the table Hawk could just make out Eagle’s eyes peering at him from the gloom.

 - “Read ‘em and weep,” Crow said out the right side of his mouth.  A sure sign he felt the night was about to get disagreeable – if it hadn’t been already.

 - As they gathered their cards into their hands, Ostrich burst into the room from the door at the end of the bar.  They seemed calm but their eyes were wide.  They scanned the room, then nodded.

 - “Which of you knows the fastest route to the river?  And no discussion.  If you know and you want to save a life, follow me.  Now.”  And she turned and left.

 - There was silence.  Even Crow’s cigar had gone out.  Hawk stood.

 - “What are you doing, boy?” Owl said, gazing Hawk up and down.  “You prepared for that?”

 - “Sure, you got it all figured out,” Crow chuckled, then coughed.  Or was it a guffaw?

 - Owl frowned at Crow.  “Don’t confuse him.”

 - “Shit,” Crow shook his head.  “Just fuckin’ deal him out, Owl, would ya?”


 - Everyone turned to look at Eagle, who had seemingly leaned forwards and risen all in one smooth motion.  As usual, he towered above the table.  He glared at Hawk.

 - “Sit.  Down.”

 - Hawk hadn’t realized his shoulders had tensed, but it didn’t surprise him.  He relaxed again and returned Eagle’s stare, yet he felt no anger this time.  Only pity.

 - “You know the way,” he said to Eagle.

 - “The river is too vast.  They could be anywhere," Eagle grumbled.  "Sit.  DOWN.”

 - Hawk tossed his cards on the table and started towards the door.  But he paused briefly and looked down at the table.

 - “It’s not the river you gotta look for, yeah.  It’s Heron.  And. . .that’s what I meant.”  He looked up at Eagle, then around the room, then back at Eagle.  He made his way towards the door.

 - “You all know the way.”  He stopped at the hearth and glanced briefly over his shoulder.

 - Turning, he flew, and heard Canary cheer over Crow's bellylaugh.

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