Prologue:

Collar From Hell

I thought it was a dream. I didn't expect it to turn out like this. Yet here I am, soaring over the city of Toronto, circling around the sharp gray point of the CN Tower, looking down on the populated region with a bird's eyes view.

"The people look like ants." I hear a cheerful snicker and I close my eyes and laugh-chirp at the static-y voice coming from the speaker installed in the small camera perched atop my feathered head.

"Of course they look like ants Danny, how high up do you think I'm flying?" I scold lightly with a sarcastic tone.

"Um, around 10, 000 feet? That's the average height vultures use in order to scan large areas for food."

Eyes still closed, I can imagine my friend's goofy grin as he spouts a random fact at my beaked face. He was clearly enjoying this.

"Danny. . . That was a rhetorical question. You weren't supposed to answer it." I respond, my voice slightly monotone.

"I know. I just wanted to tick you off." I can just hear the smirk forming on his face.

"Okay. Enough dawdling. Did you find anything?" I inquire.

"Nope." Was the only response, but I refused to give up. Not until all the other bearers were found. Deciding quickly on another question to continue the search, I prodded at my best friend for details to his answer.

"No details? Just. . . nothing?" I asked, shaking my head gingerly in disbelief. "Are there any other places we haven't checked yet?"

"Ria, you've been flying for four. Frickin'. Hours. The altitude is going to do something weird to your brain. Let's call it quits for today, okay?"

"Wait! We can't! I haven't even found one clue! How am I ever going get this stupid thing off! ?"

I nod my bird head at the red leather collar encircling my neck, the bell jingling softly, cutting through the noise of air rushing past my streamlined body. I realize Danny can't see it; but I know he acknowledges what I mean.

"Ria. . ." Danny's voice is pleading, and I know he's concerned about my well being. I sigh heavily in defeat, and take one last scan over the area, eyes sharp for any suspicious happenings.

Every day, I've tried to locate any evidence that betrays the sign of others with the same red leather collar and brass bell. I've tracked police cars and ambulances in hopes of finding a clue that would lead me to the other four Collar Bearers; my partners in "crime". But each time, my results come out negative.

Refocusing my attention as I banked to land on a ledge jutting out of an old brick building, I could feel the wind rush through my silver wings, ruffling the soft layer of downy feathers underneath.

I touched down with a soft "thud" and laid my wings neatly across my back. I hopped towards the end of the rocky overhang, and with practiced movements, swiftly flitted under the cliff-like ledge and flew into the open window waiting beneath.

I couldn't use the powers of the collar from Hell for extended periods of time. It took a lot out of me. And if the grey suits came and attacked in that moment of vulnerability, I'd be dead.

Taking a mental note to ask Danny to train me in amplifying my energy capacity, I entered a peacefully dark room and lighted down upon a plush bed.

Collapsing from fatigue, I could feel my body stretching and expanding from the bird's tiny build, to my original human form. Flopping over on my back, I lay there staring at the lavender colored ceiling and remembered the events that changed my life. It all started with that stupid dream.