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Crow and Raven Bounty

Archivist note: This article is from an older recovered archive and might be obsolete or in need of updating.

Most recent revision is shown below, by Galactic Baroque.


”’One evening in Clockhaven, Kaylee Frye had apparently witnessed Mr. Underby turning himself into a raven. Mayor Tenk, who witnessed the incident from a distance, quietly encouraged Kaylee to maintain her rigor to scientific principles, and helped her back to the Gangplank where he bought her a drink to calm her nerves. Kaylee’s belief in the non-existance of magic was so firm that she was unnerved enough to take to drink that night, and began work on improving her reality enforcement devices with renewed fervor. Underby had overheard the exchange, and confronted Tenk the next morning:”’

””I heard what you said to the girl,” said Underby.”

”Tenk quickly backed out of the hole in the wall at the sound of the oily familiar voice. It was morning, Tenk was helping Silent Henry reach a pipe that had cracked in the cold. Tenk reflexively hefted his wrench as he turned to face Mr. Underby.”

“I said, I heard what you said to the girl. You told her to turn that ‘reality enforcement’ machine of hers on while I was attempting to assist her… research.” Underby stood arrogantly and sneered down at Tenk, seemingly oblivious to the muscular stonemason next to him.”

”Tenk regarded the pale man calmly. “That’s right,” Tenk said, a hint of malice in his low voice. “And then I’d salt your tail and stick you in a cage and strap that thing on it and lower you over the wall into the old quarter myself, with a little note to the Fathers to take very special care of you.””

””You ridiculous little man!” Underby swore. Henry stood up to his full height and took a step forward. Underby caught himself, and thought better of his situation. “Very well,” he sneered. “I will leave you to your…” Underby looked around at their well-used tools and the hole in the wall, drinking in the contempt he needed to finish his sentence,”

””…work.””

”Tenk and Henry watched Underby walk away until he was out of sight.”

””Henry,” started Tenk thoughtfully. Henry smiled grimly and crossed his arms, familiar with Tenk’s thinking voice.”

””I am the Mayor. Right?””

”’Tenk issued a 500 linden bounty on live crows and ravens that day. Stargirl MacBain successfully caged a raven by feeding it cookies, but it escaped in a scuffle with Boris Lorgsval before she could collect the bounty, as recorded in her journal on January 12:”’

”Journal, What a day!”

”I spent another restless morning at Footman Industries awaiting Mr. Footman’s return. I’m afraid I might have gone out of the building again, if only because I saw that bird… A big black thing, a crow I think, but it could be a raven, I never could tell the difference. Yesterday I had thrown out some crumbs to it, so I expect it expected more today, and really, the day was so lovely I could hardly resist going outside, and it’s not like I was going to go far.”

”Anyway, I grabbed some heels of bread and went outside to feed them to the crow (The crow should have a name…shall we call him fluffy or Snuggles? Snuggles I think…) and was trying to tempt it closer and closer and beginning to fantasize about how nice it might be to own a bird when Mr. Footman returned and frightened the thing off. He chastised me for having left the building and then took me to the laboratory for an examination where I was given a mostly clear bill of health. Just a few of the tests seemed a bit off…but nothing to worry about. Probably just this cold I’ve caught.”

”So, at last I was allowed to return home. Of course on the way home I saw the posters: 500 for a crow or raven caught alive. So, I immediately abandoned my dreams of having Snuggles the Crow as a pet and instead decided Snuggles would be in much better hands if turned over to the mayor for the bounty.”

”As soon as I was home I fetched one of my empty trunks from the attic and carried it to the yard behind the house. I also fetched the last of the remotely-edible cookies from the jar. So few of my cookies survive my culinary skills that it is a bit of a waste…however, all for the good cause. I pushed the lid of the box open and tied a long piece of thread to it, then scattered cookies about in front of it and inside of it and stood back to admire my cunning trap.”

”Almost immediately sparrows and tits from all over the city were gathering. They were a merry lot to watch and making such noise squabbling over the cookies that they must have attracted Mr. Lionheart because he approached me asking what I was planning on doing. As I showed him my string and started to explain my cunning plan Snuggles landed and scattered all the other birds and started hunting around the yard.”

”I cooed to Snuggles and scattered some crumbs to get him moving in the right direction (he was prodding at the milk bowl I keep on the back porch for, among other things, the neighborhood cats). He pecked around happily, greedily snatching up crumbs and whole cookies until he became so engrossed in what he was doing that he hopped in the box to get the last of them. It is so nice to know that someone in this town likes my cooking.”

”As soon as Snuggles was in the box I yanked the thread to slam the lid shut and ran to the box to throw the latch. Snuggles was not a happy bird. But Mr. Lionheart and I were feeling very pleased with ourselves. He helped me carry the boxed-bird into the house for safe keeping and then bid me good day.”

”Naturally, I immediately struck out for Town Hall to let the Mayor know that I had captured a crow and wanted my bounty.”

”Do not think for a moment, dear journal, that I was not still considering keeping Snuggles for myself as a pet…I’ve heard you can teach them to talk…but for the moment greed was winning.”

”Of course I didn’t make it. As I approached Town Hall I noticed smoke and heard shouting and, curious, went around to the canal side of the building and was frozen in horror.”

”Footman Industries was aflame! The ladies fire brigade was bravely fighting the flames but still, when the flames were doused, the building looked to be a waste. Gizzzy explained (as best she could, given her damaged condition) that Mr. Footman had injected himself with something, possibly the same strain of immortalis as he used on me, and had passed-out, knocking a lantern over in the process and setting the building alight. I have no way of knowing if Mr. Footman has survived this experiment, as Miss Gizzzy sent him up to the Rama and the transporter was damaged too much for me to go up and find out. I can only hope…what was he thinking? When I see him next (assuming he is alive) I shall thump him soundly for making me worry!”

”The Ladies of the Fire Brigade and Mr. Mornington helped me get Miss Gizzzy to Mr. Lionheart, who I knew had some experience with clockworks. I felt completely useless and, I must admit, a little destitute so I left her in their capable hands and went to take care of Snuggles and get my mind off the troubles at hand.”

”Fortunately I ran into Miss. Dagger on the way home and she offered to help me carry the box to Clockhaven to the Pub Mr. Tenk’s Office. We were awaiting the Clockwinder when that horrible….thing…who works for Mr. Underby showed up. In case I have never described him to you before let me do so now.”

”Mr. Underby’s bodyguard is a big man by the name of Boris. Boris, I think anyway, smells like old cabbage and unwashed hair and has a face that looks to have been sculpted by repeated poundings from a blunt object, and those repeated poundings have clearly done something to addle his brains. Honestly, Mr. Underby must have dredged the filthiest canal in Babbage to haul that thing up as an employee. Even he could do better.”

”What was I saying…ah yes, Boris showed up.”

”Naturally, knowing his affiliation with Mr. Underby I was reluctant to let him know what I was up to but tried to play nice and even let him sit down on the box with me whilst we waiting for Mr. Tenk to arrive.”

”Oh lord, what a mistake to let that man within forty feet of me! That filthy creature had the audacity to [pencil tip tears long line in page from pressure obscuring rest of sentence].”

”Well, anyway, as soon as he laid hands on me I stomped on his foot which caused him to retaliate. Then I did the only natural thing I could think of, which was to hide behind Jed and luckily the Clockwinder arrived just then and the two of them seemed to intimidate that Neanderthal enough to force him to take his rage out on something else, and the easiest thing in reach was my trunk! The thing shattered and Snuggles flew away and with him my chance at the bounty. Even Mr. Tenk’s quick action couldn’t capture the bird in time.”

”As is to be expected given that his employee was already around, the snake-belly man himself, Mr. Underby, showed up. Naturally his first move was the insult Mr. Tenk (and somehow Miss Lillie in the same breath…it was impressive, not that I would ever admit that to him). I don’t know what his second move would have been because I choose, at that moment, to demand that Mr. Underby pay me the money which Boris had just cost me.”

”Much to my surprise (given the sum of it) Mr. Underby agreed and wrote me a cheque on the spot. I thanked him kindly and suggested that if he didn’t get his man under control I would lodge a formal complaint with Mr. Undertone next time. Mr. Underby sent Boris away then, but not before conferring with the man about something which ended in both of them giving me a strange look before Boris departed.”

”Mr. Underby left shortly thereafter and I returned home, exhausted from the days events. I had thought that I would immediately drop off to sleep, but I’m afraid I was roused by a feeling of alarm and found myself going through the house, checking the locks and peeking out the window as if I expected to see Boris standing beneath the lamppost.”

”It was a ridiculous notion, but still I stoked the fire and sat down to write this.”

”I think I am feeling calmer now. Perhaps I shall try for sleep again.”

”’The incident was also recorded in Mr. Underby’s private work journal:”’

”I am infuriated, and will be avenged. It seems the limits of my nagual transformations was not evident to me until tonight. I use the transformation as a way of keeping visual tabs on those I wish to observe, but without the suspicion that me simply lurking would inspire, however, until now this has not been a problem, and no issues arose.”

”Until tonight.”

”Tonight, it became uncomfortably clear to me that I am not in complete control of my urges when in the raven form. I have always been aware that it is difficult to think clearly when in that form, and would generally need to digest what it was I had witnessed once I had transformed back, but the limits of that form became disgustingly clear. It would seem that I am not in complete control of the urges of that other form. Complete control? I flatter myself, which is not the point of this journal. This journal is for truth. To myself, at the very least.”

”I was unable to fully control myself this evening. It was almost the end of me.”

”I had landed near the Absinthe house, and was observing Miss Macbain quietly until she decided to toss some broken stale cookie my way. I was, in some sense, appalled by the gesture, but in a much more seriously visceral sense, I was enraptured by it. I attempted to resist snatching the bits up, but was unable. It actually caused me acute pain to withhold. I gobbled the bits up. There is no other word in my vocabulary to accurately describe how I ate those bits. I gobbled them.”

”To be honest, the next few minutes are something of a blur to me now… I know someone scared me off, but cannot recall who now. The rat was nearby, but even in raven form he is no threat. It might have been that porcelain maid… I seem to have a vague memory of her firing at me. Can this have happened?”

”At any rate, I followed Miss Macbain around for a bit, in a drooling hope that she would offer more bisquits my way. The real me, in the depths of the demented bird mind was struggling to transform back, but I was not in control. The bird wanted bisquits, and what I wanted mattered not a wit.”

”I need not describe the technicalities of what transpired next, it is still too painful to recall. What matters is that I was caught by Miss Macbain. In a box much the same as the one I kept the mayor in. The irony must have pleased that perverted woman to the tips of her toes. I recall all too well the sheer panic that shot through my entire being when trapped in that hellish prison. I cawed, and scratched, and tapped, and bit. All to no avail.”

”In reality, it would have been the end of me if it wasn’t for the sheer random luck of Miss Macbain coming across my assistant Boris. What he was doing in that area when he was supposed to be procuring me orphans fingers is beyond me, but it worked to my advantage.”

”He has no control over his beastly libido, which is often a problem for Miss Dizelle, but on this occasion it very much saved my life. I’m not sure how the scene began, but somehow he attempted to have his way with Miss Macbain in the middle of the street. He is a monster, there is no doubt about it. I adore him greatly. She spurned his inept advances, and he retaliated by kicking the box into pieces, freeing me. Miss Dagger was also there, to my surprise, as was the mayor. Miss Dagger took a shot at me as I flew up into the air.”

”Somehow the shock of the capture, and then the subsequent shock of the cold air and freedom blasted the raven mind into quiet and I was able to transform back immediately. As punishment to myself, for being so incredibly stupid, I forced myself to march straight back to where I had just escaped from.”

”I came across Boris arguing with the two women, and the mayor. I loathe that horrid little man, more and more. He will get his, by and by, I stake my life on it now. But, my immediate wrath is aimed at Miss Macbain, but for that very reason I was a sweet to her as I could muster. I asked Boris if he was accosting the “three” women, including Tenk in the group, on purpose of course. I know what sort of misogynists his kind are. It would infuriate him deliciously.”

”Miss Macbain demanded that I pay her the money for the bounty she intended to collect, and I payed it over with all speed, smiling as nicely as I could the entire time. I apologized for Boris’ behaviour and told him he would need to catch another raven to make up the cost, but I winked at him as I did so. It’s unlikely he knows what that means, but I tried.”

”As he walked away I called him over and mumbled to him to send Pip over to Miss Macbain’s house to look for information on her. I have a plan. Sweet revenge will be mine. ”

”’But Pip seemed to have his own agenda, much to Underby’s aggravation:”’

”The fae are notoriously difficult to deal with, but Pip seems the worst I have ever dealt with. His insubordinate leanings grow with each breathe, and he is becoming increasingly difficult to use in the manner he is intended for. I sent him off to Miss Macbain’s dwelling a week ago, with the orders to observe her actions, find her motivations and hopes and fears, and to find information on her past, and have not seen hide nor hair of him since. I must remember that he requires extremely detailed instructions or will do as he wishes and completely run amok. The orders themselves were fairly straightforward, though I realize now I didn’t ask him to check in regularly, so I might not hear back from him until he is satisfied he has found out each requirement I set. Damn him and his details and rules. Miserable little wretch. ”

”’When the first bird was brought in, Tenk spoke to it, then inexplicably twisted its head off, killing it in front of the child who brought it in. Word spread like wildfire, and soon got back to Underby, who was living in the house under Oldbridge, as seen in this excerpt from his private work journal:”’

”This is patently ridiculous. I cannot even write at the moment, I am in fact dictating this to Dizelle. I am infuriated.”

”Pip has been missing for over a week, no news of what he might have learned about the private life of Stargirl Macbain, whispers that he has been seen by many people sleeping on her rooftop, and then, and then, Oh bleeding hell, I cannot form sentences! That little maggot! That miserable little scab. Shut up Boris, I do not care if the children outside can hear me, they can all go jump into Iron Bay with lead pieces in their drawers for all I care. Dizelle, listen to me. Ok, write this.”

”And then. And then. Then what, how do I explain this? It is such a small thing, yet it sets on my mind like a vast finger eternally poking me in the eye. That didn’t make sense. Don’t write that.”

”Pip. Pip, that evil little shit. Pippin Jollygoodfellow, my assistant and familiar, the creature I plucked from the aether and gave form to, is seemingly turning traitor. He finally, after a week, can you believe that Boris? Hm? Dizelle? A week? Over a week, to be truthful. Anyway. After a week he came running back into this house, out of breath, and seeing Boris asked if I was there. I was standing near the reading table and said something, what did I say? I cannot recall now, the rage has blinded my memory. Leave a blank space and I will fill in a clever response later. I said something and he saw me, and. And, well, there is no way to describe it except to say his face fell upon seeing me. Fell. Disappointment written on every inch of whatever passes for flesh on its face.”

”Oh, he said. Oh, you’re alive.”

”And then. Oh Dizelle, I can barely stand to describe this. Then he turned and ran back out again. I fled after him and asked him what he had learned. He was already somersaulting up the hill, and merely called back ‘Nothing yet!’, and disappeared over the top.”

”What should I write as my response to that? Hm? Dizelle? Nothing? Boris, what about you? No, I will not say I wept. I do not care if that is the truth. Truth is what is remembered by history, and I will not have that recorded.”

”Oh, just stop writing, I am not in the mood. You didn’t write all of that did you?”

”Did you? ”

”’Eventually Tenk stopped killing the birds as they were brought in, instead putting them in special cages fitted with miniature reality enforcers. Stargirl MacBain recalls seeing one while out skating on the frozen canals:”’

”Mr. Underby seems to have vanished, in his place we now have the oh-so-charming Miss Wickentower, who, we’ve been told, is his wife. Honestly, can you imagine being married to that man, Journal? I certainly can’t. She was at the finish line of the evening Canal Ice Skating Race, attempting to shoo everyone off as quickly as possible. She indicated that Mr. Underby was “resting.” I wonder if perhaps she has put him to rest for us? Should we thank her or throw her in jail, I wonder? Can we do both?”

”I wish I had been there for most of the conversation between her, Tinus and Mr. Tenk but I’m afraid Mr. Tenk had one of those special cages which Kaylee built for him and that thing makes me feel like all the life is running out of me if I am too close to it. A very peculiar feeling. So I left rather in a rush.”

”We discovered Mr. Tenk at my fireplace and he had a crow in one of those special cages with him. He has, evidently, decided to keep the bird as a pet and has even named it. I think Mr. Lovely is an odd name for a crow…but who am I to judge? The thing is his pet.”

”I managed to keep a good distance from the cage (I don’t have to be far from it to feel fine, it turns out) and neither Kaylee nor Tenk noticed if I was acting odd. Mr. Tenk had Kaylee clip Mr. Lovely’s wings (she was almost too afraid to do it, I’ve never met someone so afraid of birds…) and said he wanted to make the bird a special set of cuffs for its legs so it couldn’t fly off. He kept talking about wanting to teach it tricks and kept feeding the bird my cookies, which it seemed extremely fond of.”

”After they left I cleaned up the feathers from the floor and carried them out to the rubbish pile. There was one nearly whole feather in the lot which I have kept for myself. I keep puzzling over it, wondering, did Mr. Tenk finally catch the bird he was looking for?”

”’Phaedra Wickentower-Underby, noticing her husband’s abscence, took it on herself to go to city hall office to see if any birds were being kept alive, as she recorded in her private journal:
”’

”At last today I’ve gone to see the bird.”

”I’ve no doubt in my mind now, having seen it. The trouble is, what to do?”

”Naturally one of the troll’s sniviling man-servants was there guarding the thing for him like a good little puppy dog, so I could do nothing at the time. A Mr. Baroque, I believe it was. He has a weak chin, no doubt a testament to easily swayed loyalties, I’ve made note of him. But I doubt he could be of much use.”

”Also managed to lay eyes on Pip at long last. He looked remarkably well fed for one whose master is missing. I’ve had my suspicions about where he has been given the entries I’ve pursued in Yoyo’s ill-kept journal, so when he provoked me I implied that I had poisoned the Macbain woman and that she was at death’s door.”

”Suspicion confirmed as Pip took off like a shot to discover the truth.”

”It is evident to me now that he has forgotten his place in Yoyo’s absence. He himself reminded me that I cannot punish him myself. Which is true, I cannot lay a finger on the little fiend.”

”The girl, on the other hand, is fair game. I am certain she has no protection, I shall be sure to pay her a visit soon.”

”When I returned home I was already feeling vexed. Naturally the troll arrived, whistling an annoying little tune until, vexed, I whistled it back at him.”

”Then I believe he told “very good” and had the audacity to smile at me like my father used to…”

”Next time I see him I shall simply push him off the bridge and into the bay. I’m sure the good doctor wouldn’t mind in the least.”

”**Phaedra shuts the journal and secrets it away from prying eyes.**”

”’For whatever reason, whether to annoy Phaedra or stop public outcry for killing innocent crows, Tenk kept this particular bird in his clocktower as a pet and taught it to do tricks for food. He should have sent it over the wall into the old city, of course. The reality enforcer clamped to the cage burned out from constant use, and the bird escaped, which set a whole new chain of events in motion as Mr. Underby plotted revenge for his humiliation. His first targets were Stargirl MacBain and Kaylee Frye.”’

[[Category:Tales]]

 

 

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