This is rather a long one, so I`m going to have to break it up into a

couple of posts.

Report on Recent Interview with the Vulture of Vosgaard

Lessandra Lour, Second Circle Initiate. Gessarin College.

"I was not dead. I have never died. That is one of the many false stories

people have told about me. There was a sort of a funeral, yes, but I was

not dead. This has led many to believe the misconception that I have risen

from death, or some foul creature from the Land of Shadow but it is not at

ll true. There was a horrific mockery of a funeral as a result of the

false accusations made against me, and that has led to many mistaken rumors

about my... well, my rebirth, but I never died nor was I raised from the

dead as the creature you see before you."

The being that has come to be known as the Vulture of Vosgaard had a

surprising gentle manner and articulate way of expressing himself. I was

impressed by his pleasant demeanor. In fact, his manners and carriage

would have been considered impeccable in any of the courts of Cerilia. We

sat (or, rather, I sat while he perched) upon the ledge of Mt. Revnya in

Glaznyy. Perhaps a dozen of the mountainous breed of buzzards common to

that region were perched there in a loose semi-circle around me and the

awnsheghlien. They looked on attentively. A like number of these birds

were visible soaring through the gray skies above. I could not be sure,

but it seemed to me that the birds in the air traversed a regular pattern

in the sky. East for what must have been a league or so, then either a

slow half circle to the north or south followed by a turn east again

towards us. Each would in turn pass directly overhead and its cry could be

heard clearly echoing through the late morning mist.

"They must be following the eddies of the wind," I thought. During the

interview, however, one of the circling birds landed upon the ledge and a

bird that had been perched there took off and followed the same pattern in

the sky that the rest had been. Could they be patrolling? It seemed

unlikely that the Vulture`s control over these animals was as perfect as

that, but the behavior was striking.

As for the awnsheghlien himself, he was quite a surprise. I had been

prepared for his horrific visage, of course. My superiors had a good

physical description of this new awnshegh. Despite the fact that there are

few travellers in this cold, rugged land of eastern Rovninodensk there had

been several sightings of the creature in recent months. Of course, these

sightings spawned the typical rumors and tall tales. That the Vulture was

responsible for the disappearance of several groups searching for valuable

silver deposits in these mountains was unsubstantiated. It was also said

that his taste for human flesh was ravenous and insatiable, and the

awnshegh did seem to eye me hungrily... but it was the hunger of ambition

that I saw in his black eyes.

Strangely, it appears the Vulture himself requested the interview. An

elegantly written message had been delivered to one of the members of our

order tied to the leg of one of these fearsome birds that now surrounded

me--rather an unusual event amongst we who document those touched by the

spirit of the gods. Most are... well, if not shy then they are reclusive

and secretive. They are each reticent to speak to outsiders for reasons of

their own. Some fear the spotlight because they want to avoid persecution

by thrill seekers or other ambitious mortals. Others have a residual human

repulsion of their own transformation, and hide out of shame. It is

difficult for most of them to speak to typical mortals let alone we of the

Gessarin College who investigate and document their lives in

detail. Because it is so hard to get information directly from the mouths

of these reclusive beings it is vital that in our efforts we do not reveal

any shock, fear or revulsion at our subjects` appearance no matter how

unsettling that appearance might be.

I must admit, however, that I had more than a few trepidations. Aside from

an instinctive dread of creatures of the kind that this awnshegh`s

transformation took, I have never derived much pleasure from great heights

and the climb to his lofty lair had been formidable. Discovering that the

Vulture was an urbane and well mannered being was quite a surprise, and

stood in sharp contrast to the cold, lonely surroundings. His fearsome

appearance was in stark contrast to his gentle and articulate speech. I

found him intelligent and educated, even rather charming. In turn, he

seemed quite pleased to speak to me. The Vulture was calm and relaxed here

in his secluded aerie. His voice was steady, silky and warm. If it were

not for the circumstances and the changes to his body we might have been

sitting in an Ilien seaside teashop or sipping kaffea in one of the many

shops in Ariya.

"Of course, my appearance has also done much to shape the impression that

many people have made regarding my `death` and `rebirth` as something

beyond death. Vultures are wildly misunderstood animals. They are not

really so different from humans, however. They are associated with death

because they feed upon animals killed before they come upon them--but then

so do most civilized creatures, do they not? I ate only the flesh of

things slain and slaughtered by the butcher before I became the creature

that I am now. Can you imagine if food were served live in the courts of

Cerilia? Force one of the ladies of the Imperial City to slay her pheasant

before she eats! Ha! She`d sooner offer up her footman for supper than

raise her silvered dinner knife to kill her own meal, I wager. I grant you

that I did not quite savor the taste of meat as much before I became the

being you now see before you. Nor did I appreciate the... complexity of

flavours that are lost by cooking. My taste for flesh has blossomed you

might say, but the change is much less dramatic in this regard than you

might imagine."

"Did you know that in ancient days we Khinasi--well, we were Basarji

then--revered vultures as holy creatures? It`s true. As a young man I was

sent to the Temple of Rilni for my education and there I read some of the

ancient writings of our earliest historians, grandee Goulik el-Iz and the

fakir Kannif. In those days it was believed that vultures would carry away

the spirit of the dead to the afterlife, and their presence was considered

a good omen for they were believed to embody the concerns of the dead

regarding the lands of the living. A vulture`s gaze was believed to act as

a conduit to the spirits of one`s dead relatives. There are ancient tokens

from those days that clearly show the sun in the talons of a vulture, its

wings outspread; protective, graceful, glorious.... Our goddess Basaia was

closely linked to these noble birds. Of course, much changed as our people

came to Cerilia, and the godsdeath at Deismaar destroyed much more than

people now suppose. The gods were quite different then, and our culture

has shifted dramatically. Oh, but I digress. I beg your forgiveness once


"Where was I? Oh, yes. My family were merchants. I am a son of the

el-Zareda clan. I know that revelation may cause much harm to my family`s

reputation, but I am here to set the record straight, and to try to return

some semblance of honor to myself and the family of my birth."

"Of course, I have a new family now. These brothers and sisters who

surround me. See bold Render there? Look how attentive he is.... I call

him kin, for we are brothers _of_ the flesh if not _in_ the flesh, if you

understand my meaning. And this one here is the lovely Darkwing. Yes my

beauteous one, yes, we shall set all to rights now, shan`t we? My flock

and I will fix all this, all of thisss. There much cause for anger, but

wee shall fiiix theeeengs. Justice. Justahce! Juhstahce! We shaaall

haaaaaave eeeet! Jaaawsstaaaws! Aaaaw! Ah-Aaaaaaaw!"

His voice rose high and filled with rage. There was a great cacophony as

the volary joined their master in his cries. They spread their wings and

screeched so loudly that I felt smothered by the sound. I dropped my pen

and covered my ears. They fell silent almost as suddenly as they had

begun, and I slowly raised my head and blinked away the tears that had

sprung to my eyes.

"I do apologize for that outburst," the Vulture continued when looked up

and I tentatively uncovered my ears. "It is the nature of my change, I

know, that makes such things unavoidable, but I remain human enough to be

embarrassed by such displays. Prey forgive me...."

I indicated that all was forgiven, though I scarcely would have complained

as I sat there upon a stone surrounded by this murderous looking flock. I

am but a small woman, and the climb to this craggy ledge had sapped me of

much of my strength. As I looked at the hooked beaks and thick talons that

surrounded me I tried to conceal my fear of these birds and the

awnsheghlien whose transformation embodied their essential nature.

"Where was I? Ah, yes, the misconceptions about me. First, I am not Vos,

I am Khinasi. Yes, it`s true. I live now here in these craggy heights far

in the mountainous lands of Vosgaard, but I am no more native to these

lands than a Varsk would be to the Sielwode. Ha! Ha-ha!"

A general cawing sound not unlike laughter rose from the flock,

accompanying the Vulture`s remarks. I feared another outburst of

screeching, but their chortles soon died down. At that moment I began to

see something disturbing in the birds around me. As their eyes met mine I

saw a nearly human intelligence there. It was as if I were surrounded by

some weird moot of old, bent figures in dark cloaks. They were like

crooked men with crooked intentions. The pink, wrinkled flesh of their

necks and faces only served to heighten the anthropomorphism of the

moment. The ledge was littered with bones and carrion in various stages of

decay, but it was this image that sickened me, and I found my throat close

up in distaste.

"Where was I? Oh, yes, we were discussing my funeral. Do you know how

they Vos execute their criminals?" he asked.

I had not yet fully composed myself, and I was afraid my voice might crack,

so I simply shook my head "no" rather than risk showing weakness or fear.

End, part 1