Chronicles of an Animal Control Officer: 3. Bird
Mornings were usually quite pleasant. Everything was slowly waking up, the sky was lightening, and only birdsong disturbed the silence. It was by far the best time of day to deal with all the little things that had built up lately. No one else was in yet, save for Igor who covered the night shift, and Igor didn't seem to have even noticed Kir was there.
Or he could still be mad about the superglue thing. Either way, it was nice and quiet. And eventually Igor would forgive him; it wasn't like he'd just left the vampire like that. He'd unglued Igor... eventually... after he'd stopped laughing...
Okay, Igor probably was giving him the silent treatment.
All of that pleasant peace and quiet was shattered by the arrival of a certain harpy by the name of Celaina. Kir was just opening his mouth to deliver a scathing comment when the state of her appearance struck him.
Harpies, as a general rule, were rather dirty creatures to the point of foul. Celaina, contrary to her race's habits, kept herself clean and tidy at all times. (She claimed it was to acquire lovers, but everyone knew she just liked to be clean.)
Except that this morning her hair was unbrushed, her eyes dark, and her clothing rumpled.
Something was very wrong.
"Celaina?" Igor asked, frowning as he entered the common room.
"Oh, Igor... good morning," Celaina said mechanically, noticing Kir a few moments later and biting her lip.
Kir got up. "I know what that look means. What do you want?"
"I..." Celaina hesitated. "It's dumb."
"No doubt," Kir said dryly. "Humor me."
Celaina bit her lip, then slowly let out a breath. "It... it's my babies. Two of them didn't come home last night, and when I let the owls back in this morning, Athena wasn't with them."
Kir frowned. If he remembered right - which he did - then Athena was Celaina's eagle owl. Not exactly something that was likely to just up and disappear; not many creatures would readily take on a bird of that size. Add two more missing birds to the equation and...
"I suppose I could take a look," Kir said idly. "It's not like I have anything better to do, and it keeps me away from horn-head."
Celaina gave a faint smile. "If anyone else called Herne that, he'd have their head mounted on a wall."
Kir smirked. "I'm just special."
He gave a dismissive wave as he headed out the door, pointedly pretending not to hear Celaina's quiet, "Thank you." He was just curious, that was all.
Itazura trilled curiously at him as he got in the truck, no doubt confused as to what he was doing back so early. Kir absently stroked the furry head as he put the vehicle in gear, heading out to Celaina's neighborhood. Like most of them, Celaina lived on the outskirts of town where there was plenty of room for her feathered friends. It was a bit of a drive, but that was no problem. The hard part came when he got there.
How did one go about tracking down creatures that fly? Celaina's birds had already left for the day, off to do bird things, so he couldn't just follow them. Not visually, at least.
Kir parked the truck and got out, closing his eyes and feeling the wind. The traces were faint, almost blown away, but still just enough to follow.
The hunt was on.
Over the course of an hour, the sun rose and Kir had several occasions to wish for wings to go along with his feathers. There were spells he could cast, of course, but doing such high-level magic would be like painting a beacon on his head.
No thank you.
So he just had to put up with walking, trying to follow the wind when there were so many obstacles - cars, houses, fences - to get in his way. He barely noticed as the neighborhood changed, houses getting larger, grander, save for the fact that the fences also got taller and security guards replaced guard dogs.
That was a little irritating. Dogs were much easier to charm. They usually had an inkling of the fact that he was not a creature to mess with. Humans were rarely that perceptive.
Kir froze. That voice was...
Plastering a smile to his face, Kir turned around. "Detective Anderson. What brings Officer Beautiful out here at such an hour?"
Detective Anderson's eye twitched. "I was going to ask the same of you."
Kir waved a hand airily. "What, a man can't take a morning stroll without getting questioned for it?"
"You're in uniform," Detective Anderson pointed out.
Kir looked down at himself, his eyes widening. "Why so I am." He looked back up again, smiling brightly. "Well then, I suppose I must be on a case."
"Really," Detective Anderson ground out. "Well, since this case of yours is so trivial that you forgot you had it, why don't you run along home and find someone else to annoy."
Kir grinned. "But I like annoying you."
He could practically hear Detective Anderson's teeth grinding. "Unlike you, I have an important case to investigate."
"Oh?" Kir artfully arched a brow. "More police officers eaten by escaped pets?"
"A missing child," Anderson snapped. "Now, go away."
Leave? Well, he could do that, couldn't he? After all, he was impeding the detective's search, and there was no reason he needed to be here. He'd been looking for something, but it could wait, because of course Detective Anderson's case was much more important than what Kir had been doing.
He'd actually taken three steps away before it hit him, and the sudden fury at the realization drowned out all traces of lingering suggestion. Kir spun on his heel and marched back, drawing back his fist and punching the asshole with all his weight behind it.
"How dare you!" Kir snarled as Detective Anderson stumbled back from the force of the blow. "Don't you fucking dare try to siren me, you arrogant prick."
A siren. That explained a few things. Sirens were masters of manipulation, weaving their spells with words and coaxing their listeners into doing whatever the siren wanted. A powerful siren could control armies, and there were very few defenses against their songs, short of being deaf.
Detective Anderson rubbed his jaw, wincing at the forming bruise. "The hell? How did you do that?"
Kir glared. "With my fist. Want me to do it again?"
The detective shook his head. "Not that part. You should be halfway back to the city by now. How did you break my spell? How did you even sense it?"
"Drop dead," Kir stated flatly, stepping around the stunned man and continuing in the direction he'd been going before being so rudely interrupted. He only got about half a block before Detective Anderson caught up.
"Don't just walk away from me!"
Kir whirled around angrily. "Yes, I'm sure having people not falling over themselves to obey your every command is a foreign concept. Get used to it, because if you ever try to siren me again I'll make sure it's the last time."
"If you weren't such a stubborn ass, I wouldn't have to!" Detective Anderson shouted, green eyes flashing in anger.
"I'm allowed to disagree with you," Kir spat. "Believe it or not, you're not always right."
"And you are?" Anderson demanded.
Kir glared. "Yeah. And unlike some people, I don't have to force others to do things. I earned my place."
Detective Anderson snorted. "Right. No one's right all the time, no matter how much they may think of themselves."
"Tell that to Grandmother," Kir muttered beneath his breath.
Anderson frowned. "What?"
Kir smiled sharply. "I said, almost no one."
The detective's eyes darkened. "You are an arrogant, self-absorbed, egotistical-"
The rest of his litany was cut off by a sudden gale of wind that kicked up all the loose pebbles in the area and nearly knocked them both over. A moment later something powerful wrapped around Kir, pinning him in place. He started to shift to smoke to get free, only to stop as Detective Anderson gave a startled shout.
Whatever it was, it had them both.
Kir went limp, seeing no point in exerting himself until the situation changed. He waited until the dust cleared, then looked up at his captor.
And swore again. "Shit!"
In the enormous bird's other talon, Detective Anderson looked at him sharply. "What?"
"It's a roc."
The detective twisted to stare up at the massive white feathers above him. "That's bad."
"Yes." Kir thought hard. Because of their size, rocs took a substantial amount of power to affect. Using that level of power was exactly what Kir was trying to avoid doing. But how was he going to get himself and the obnoxious detective free without risking everything?
"Is it bulletproof?"
Kir blinked, drawn out of his thoughts, then scowled. "No, but you'd run out of bullets long before you did any significant damage. It'd be like pricking you with a couple of tiny needles. Annoying, but far from life-threatening."
"Not even if I shoot it in the head?" Detective Anderson asked.
Kir shrugged as best his talon cage would allow. "You'd probably piss it off really good. Maybe fracture the bone."
The detective scowled, but subsided. Kir peered down at the ground passing by far below, noting their heading. It made sense that a bird that large would live in the mountains, but he really wasn't looking forward to the trip back.
"So how do we defeat a creature like this?" Detective Anderson asked. "More sunscreen?"
Kir rolled his eyes. "Ass. I'm thinking."
"Must be a new experience for you," Anderson shot back.
"Fuck you," Kir muttered, wishing his hands were free so he could flip the irritating detective the bird.
Anderson started to snark back, but right at that moment the roc began to descend.
This would have to be quick. The ground was approaching swiftly. In just a moment he could-
Kir shifted into smoke, slipping out of the talon with ease. He resolidified and darted for the roc's head, getting its attention with a well-aimed stone. With its attention focused on him, it wouldn't bother with Detective Anderson. Kir just had to stay alive until he figured out what to do. A hungry roc was not a creature to take lightly.
Diving away from the angry beak, Kir caught a glimpse of Anderson struggling to get free. That was no use, unless...
"Detective! Use your siren song!"
Detective Anderson stopped struggling to stare at him. "It doesn't work on animals." The scorn was thick in his voice.
Kir dodged another beak strike. "Humor me."
Although clearly unconvinced, the detective nevertheless opened his mouth and began to sing.
For a moment, the sheer power in the siren song washed over Kir and nearly made him forget what he was doing. He was snapped out of it by the sound of the roc's angry screech, immediately reaching out with his own power and weaving together song and bird, making them both a little more than they really were. Just small, subtle magic to bridge the gap between man and beast.
The roc swayed, confused, then slowly lowered its head. A moment later the talon entrapping Detective Anderson opened, allowing the man freedom.
Good. Now the question became, what to do with the roc? The detective couldn't keep singing forever, and they needed to render the bird unable to cause further damage. It would be preferable to get it back down to the shelter and the reinforced cages there, but even with Kir's help there was no way to get the song that powerful. As it was, Anderson had to be strong indeed for this to have worked at all.
So flying home on the roc was out of the question, but...
Cautiously, Kir cast a test spell. It glimmered briefly, then faded, far too weak to do much of anything. Still, it told Kir exactly what he needed to know. It was possible, but would take a significant level of magic to pull off.
Kir glanced briefly at Anderson, who was looking a tad bit winded, then sighed quietly. So be it.
He cast a generic ward over the area first, warding both inwardly and outwardly in the hopes that it would keep anyone from noticing what he was about to do. Once it was cast and tested he glanced around one last time, shying away from Anderson's pointed look, before reluctantly reaching up to remove one of his earrings.
At the same time it was both terrifying and exhilarating. Terrifying because he hated being exposed so much, and exhilarating because it felt so good to loosen his self-made bindings even just a little. Magic crackled through him like wildfire, stirring his blood and lifting his spirits.
With only one binding removed it still took a bit of effort to cast his spell, but it did cast, and take. One moment the great roc stood overhead and in the next it was gone. Or rather, almost gone.
Perched on the ground, looking very confused, was a bird which bore a striking resemblance to the roc of before, only this one was roughly the size of a chicken. It squawked once, then flapped its wings and ran to hide behind the detective.
Kir smirked. "Aww, she likes you!"
Anderson shot him a nasty look, warily eying the ferocious bundle of feathers at his feet.
"Oh yeah," Kir said cheerfully, "you can stop singing now. I wove your song into the shrinking spell to keep her tame."
The detective's singing cut off in mid-word, and he eyed the tiny roc for a moment before looking suspiciously at Kir.
"... what the hell are you?"
Kir only froze for half a beat before slamming his personal wards back into place. He'd been so caught up in the spell that he hadn't noticed them come down, their power diverted to more pressing concerns. Unfortunately, it had allowed Kallias Anderson a good look at Kir's true form.
"Complicated," Kir snapped, shoving his earring back into place with a rough motion.
"Don't forget arrogant and irritating, if we're just listing adjectives rather than actually answering the fucking question," Anderson stated, the slightest annoyed growl in his voice.
Kir bared his teeth. "How about 'none of your fucking business' then?"
Anderson eyed him for a long, uncomfortable moment, then shrugged. "Whatever." He glanced around, down at the roc at his feet, then back at Kir. "So where the fuck are we?"
For a moment, Kir simply looked at him, then he snorted. "City boy."
While Anderson was still sputtering over that, Kir turned and began walking back in the direction they'd come from. It was going to be a long hike, and this wasn't an area he was familiar with. Given that, and the mountain terrain, he estimated that the soonest they'd reach civilization was tomorrow at the earliest.
Just fucking wonderful.
A glance over his shoulder showed Anderson jogging to catch up, the miniaturized roc close on his heels. Kir braced for the shove he knew was coming - and Anderson didn't disappoint - and merely continued on his self-chosen path.
"You are a fucking asshole, you know that?" Anderson grumbled, though he didn't attempt to shove Kir again.
"Mm, and you would be the expert on assholes, wouldn't you?" Kir murmured, pitching his voice just loud enough for Anderson to hear.
Anderson snorted. "I believe that honor goes to you."
Kir smirked. "Well then, in my authority as the expert, I deem you to be the supreme asshole."
"Fuck you," Anderson growled, picking his way carefully over the uneven terrain. He was doing better than Kir normally would have given a cop credit for, but it was still very obvious that he rarely, if ever, left the city.
So, by the time dusk began to fall, they'd made it farther than Kir had anticipated - though not nearly as far as Kir would have been able on his own - but the city was still nowhere close. They trudged on through the deepening shadows until Kir found a spot that he liked, a nice little glen with a good covering of clover to provide at least a little bit of cushion. Anderson eyed their camp with a slight expression of distaste, but didn't bother commenting on it.
Kir gave him a point for the impressive exercise of restraint.
While the detective settled himself gingerly on the ground, Kir paced in a rough circle around their little camp and cast a series of defensive wards. They wouldn't hold against anything truly determined, but they would wake him up to deal with any problem that wasn't scared off by the mere presence of the wards.
More at home in the outdoors than Detective Anderson, Kir merely flopped down on the ground and sprawled out with his arms behind his head. He'd slept in worse places, for sure, and this wasn't really even all that uncomfortable. For him, anyway. Given the way the detective was shifting and fidgeting, he wasn't finding their bedding nearly as comfortable as Kir.
Eventually, however, Anderson seemed to fall asleep, the roc snuggled up in the crook of his neck. Kir watched them for a moment, amused, then closed his eyes. It had been a long day, especially considering he hadn't been intending on doing any more than gathering information, and he was still on edge from having to remove one of his personal wards.
There were five of them, all together. Two in one ear, three in the other, and all of them hidden beneath illusion so that no one ever saw them and wondered what they meant. Five separate wards, binding his power and keeping him hidden from those who would try to use him.
Hopefully today's events wouldn't come back to bite him in the ass. He liked this city; he didn't want to have to pack up and run again.
A slight sound made him open his eyes again, and Kir glanced over to see Anderson shaking slightly. No, shivering.
Due to his father's blood, Kir was never cold. He didn't particularly care for cold weather, and was always happiest during a heat wave, but at least he cold tolerate it. Still, he occasionally forgot that others didn't have the same advantages. Although it didn't feel particularly cold out to him, the reality was obvious in the shivering form of the obnoxious detective.
Slowly, with great reluctance, Kir slid across the ground to where the detective was lying. He spent several moments debating with himself, during which Anderson's shivers worsened, then gave a near-inaudible sigh and scooted underneath the detective's heavy coat, wrapping his arms around Anderson's waist. It was somewhat awkward, but after a few minutes the shivers faded away.
So the detective wasn't in danger of freezing to death any more, but Kir really wasn't looking forward to the morning. He stifled another sigh and closed his eyes, silently listing the various ways he was most likely going to get punched. He made it up to seven before sleep claimed him.
When he awoke again, it was to an unfamiliar pressure around him. His eyes flew open, only to be confronted with the sight of unfamiliar fabric and a row of buttons. A moment later his brain caught up with the rest of him and he relaxed, slightly, before cautiously moving his head to look around.
At some point during the night Detective Anderson had wrapped his arms around Kir as though he was nothing more than a giant stuffed animal. It was almost amusing, or it would be if he had any reassurance that he wasn't going to get clobbered for this. Perhaps he could extract himself before Anderson woke...
He hadn't gotten very far when Anderson's eyes opened, slightly muzzy with sleep, though quickly sharpening as he focused on Kir. A faint crease appeared on his brow, and a moment later his arms relaxed.
Kir promptly took the opportunity to escape. He retreated to the other side of the little camp, watching the detective warily. Anderson stretched, moved the roc out of the way, and slowly sat up. The two of them regarded one another for a long moment, then Anderson slowly got to his feet and began stretching the rest of the kinks out.
The words were so quiet that for a moment Kir thought he was hallucinating, only he didn't think he'd ever hallucinate Detective Anderson thanking him. The idea was simply incomprehensible.
He was still sitting there, highly bewildered, when Anderson caught his gaze again.
"Hey, any chance of getting breakfast out here?" Anderson asked.
Surprised that the detective was actually being civil, Kir got to his feet and looked around. The prospects weren't abundant, but they'd do. He struck out into the forest, turning up a few things that were, if not appetizing, at least edible. When he brought what he'd gathered to the detective, Anderson wrinkled up his nose but took his share anyway without so much as a complaint.
Kir quirked a brow. "Apparently sleep does you good."
Anderson snorted. "How about you just shut up and stay shut up so that neither one of us can piss off the other?"
Kir considered this for a moment, then decided that maybe - maybe - the detective had a point. Anderson was at least slightly tolerable when he didn't open his mouth.
Giving a slight shrug, Kir reoriented himself and set off in the direction of the city once again. After a moment, Anderson fell into step behind him.
They stopped twice for water, and Kir had to expend a judicious amount of magic to purify it, but by the time late afternoon arrived they could finally see the smudge of the city in the distance. An hour later they struck a road, and two hours after that an old farmer in a decrepit pickup happened by.
Although initially suspicious, the old man became downright accommodating once Anderson flashed his badge. Useful, that. And he was definitely impressed with the obedient 'chicken.'
Prudently, neither of them corrected him on the bird's species.
Finally they made it back into town, and it was with a sense of relief that Kir spotted his truck. Intact, meaning George hadn't tried to incinerate the two troublemaking kitsune, and Kir didn't have to figure out how to explain dragon fire to a bunch of firefighters. Again.
Kir managed to get the roc into the truck with a little prodding, and then he had no choice but to turn around and confront the waiting detective.
Anderson didn't so much as bat an eye. "So."
They looked at one another for a long moment, then Kir grimaced. "I really don't want to go back and tell Celaina what happened to her birds."
Anderson's mouth tightened. He looked off to the side. "You have the easy job. I have to tell a little girl's parents what happened to their precious daughter."
Kir winced. He'd seen the bones, there littering the edges of the roc's "nest," but he'd been too preoccupied with the immediate situation to remember exactly why it was that Detective Anderson had gotten mixed up in the mess in the first place.
Anderson grunted in agreement, and silence fell once more. What the hell did you say to someone after they helped you defeat a roc?
Finally, Anderson shifted and coughed once. "I guess you guys aren't completely useless after all."
Kir bristled. "I wasn't the one who didn't even know which direction home was, city boy. I'd say we're a lot fucking better than 'not useless'."
Anderson crossed his arms. "I'm the one who tamed that bird."
"Only because of my spell," Kir shot back.
They glared at each other for several moments, then Kir deliberately turned his back on the man and climbed into the truck, almost immediately being mobbed by a lapful of chattering kitsune and one small dragon. By the time he got them all reassured that he was alive and well and could look up again, Anderson was long gone.