Part 23

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PART TWENTY-THREE:

Bird Of Prey

TAL NATHA'S EYES flared red and a harsh growl rose in his throat.  "Filthy vermin!" he snarled at Augwak.  "You are weak and you know it.  So you strike bargains with those who are stronger than you.  You should be aware that you are not the only one who can break a bargain.  Ocryana can do so as well."

"So?"  Augwak sounded bored and made a pouty face as he looked at the stick.  "Perhaps she can.  This bothers me little.  I have this now.  Perhaps she may give us trouble in the future, but I'm thinking of the now.  And right now things look good!"

He dove forward, wielding the stick, point forward, as he plunged toward Tal Natha.  The demon slipped out of the way effortlessly and the GeeBee ended up driving the shaft into the ground.  He whirled around with a hiss, pulling it free.  The two faced each other across the clearing.

Drake kept squeezing Charmian's arm.  His eyes were almost as big as the GeeBees'.

Tal Natha started circling, and the GeeBee did the same.  They both kept their heads low as if stalking each other.  You've lost what little mind you already had, Augwak, Tal Natha said.  You know very well you can't hurt me.  Neither can you do anything about Ocryana.  If you keep this up, you will have two of us to deal with, for I know she will not honor your agreement, no matter how she may benefit from it.

"You're wrong, you're wrong," Augwak replied in a singsong voice.  As he said it he tilted his head from left to right and back again, like a child gloating over an important secret.  "I thought you were going to try to keep a better eye on us.  Isn't that what you said?  You're doing a poor job.  A very poor job.  As if you had any hope in the first place.  You shame me with how ignorant you are, noble Dreamspinner.  It's hard to believe we're of the same kind."

Tal Natha's look became disgusted.  We are both of the wind.  This is the only similarity we share, carrion-eater.

"Oh, truly.  We both share this Island home, do we not?  We both fear the same powers.  Only soon I'll have a lot less to fear.  Thanks to your dear mother!"

He lunged forward again, still missing; Tal Natha's tail swept across the ground, toward him, but Augwak nimbly jumped over it as if skipping rope, and landed not that far from Charmian and Drake.

He turned to them and gave a hideous smile.  "Hello, fleshlings.  Nice to see you again."

Charmian opened her mouth to sling out some insult when Augwak's look turned surprised and then she felt herself being pulled through the air.  A moment later she was atop Sugar Loaf, Drake beside her, eyes bugging out of his head as he gaped at the ground far below.  Pakwa crouched above them, watching the scene silently.

Augwak's lip curled.  "Fine then.  We'll just have to put off pleasantries until later."  He turned back to Tal Natha and his mood lightened again.  "Anyway...before I was distracted...I believe I was telling you how ignorant you are?"

Your insults are like little buzzing flies, Augwak, no more powerful than your threats.  If you have something to say then say it and be gone before I rip off your head.

At this comment the GeeBee actually paled a little, but then scowled and held up the stick.  "Ocryxes, Ocryxes.  Always so full of themselves.  Your mother even.  I've never come across one so self-absorbed.  'Do this, do that, and you shall have your freedom, yet I shall reign over you.'  I'll tolerate her only so long as she's useful.  Then I'll find a way to be rid of her as well.  This Island will be ours then.  All the fleshlings one can eat."  He looked up at Charmian and Drake and licked his chops.  "Except perhaps for the mainlander, the Frenchman.  He could be useful.  Back and forth from the Island he goes without a worry.  If we could make use of that, then we could have all the meat we care to eat from the mainland as well, all without having to give up our lovely cave with the lakefront view."

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