Stinky Beak

Submitted by Mapache on Tue, 2004-06-22 00:00

Auspicious Flame remembered when the stranger had first come to his forge. He had seemed pleasant enough, offering good pay for his requests, always prompt in picking up his orders and dropping off his jade. The jade varied a lot, like it had come from many different places, and Auspicious Flame had tried not to think about where it may have come from and how it got into the pleasant stranger's smooth hands. The swords ordered were always of the same type, great chopping blades with a wicked backhook for disarming foes. When he pried into things, he heard rumors of pirates to the west that used such things, but he was paid not to worry about such details, and the pay was good. Goodness knows he needed it. Since his wife had been taken by the fever, he had been stuck with the task of raising both his sons. He made enough to get by, but there wasn't that much need of a smith in a little fishing village like this.

Now, however, the stranger was telling him something different. Auspicious Flame, for his loyal service, was being rewarded with induction into the Lintha family. The name rang dully, of distant filth and horror. He had heard it a few times before, but it was not something that touched his simple life. Still, there was a certain menace to the way the name cut through the air, like an alien worm wriggling its way through Creation. Continued loyalty and dedication would result in promotions and the rewards they entailed. To ensure such fidelity, his sons were being taken into the custody of the Lintha, and they would be heading west on a ship that very afternoon. His sons. The only family left to him. This pudgy, fat-fingered fop had just told him he'd seen to having his sons stolen.

Auspicious Flame set down the hammer he'd been working with, and gave a clear, level gaze at the stranger. "See to it that you remain a worthwhile addition to the family, and they'll have a wonderful time." quipped the backstabbing eel as he turned on his heels to leave. His sons. Without thinking, only feeling, he found his right hand reaching down and grasping the painfully hot tang of the blade he'd been finishing. Without knowing, he found himself hefting it off the anvil and bringing its dully glowing edge down upon the traitorous bastard. The wretch began to turn at the sound, and got far enough around to catch sight of his doom cleaving him from gullet to groin. Looking down at the gore-stained blade in silent disgust, Auspicious Flame flung it back into the fire, and stared at the blisters welling up on his scorched palm and fingers.

For an eternity, he stared at his flesh, his eyes trying to seek the truth of what he had just done. Then, the heat of the forge was smothered by a pure, crystal voice. Finally breaking his stare, he looked up to see, sitting on his anvil, a woman more gorgeous than any he had seen. She was young enough to be joyous and old enough to be wise. Her long silver hair billowed and twitched in the heat rolling forth from the furnace. Her eyes were silver pools collapsing into bottomless wells, and she wore only a gauze-thin shift of pure water, flowing over her pale skin in a pattern that never repeated. "Very good," she said, "I like those that stand up for what is theirs, but now what will you do? Even as you stand here, the ship with your sons leaves the harbor. When the Lintha learn of what you have done here, their lives will be forfeit."

Auspicious Flame turned from the woman, knowing her every word was true, and sprinted out the door and down the hill towards the sea. "Run," she called after him, "Run like the wind itself," and he did. His feet flew, leaving the ground before they touched it, and he covered the distance in seven breaths. As his bare feet crunched the slick pebbles of the beach, he sighted a ship with black and silver sails halfway across the bay, and he knew his sons were on it. Auspicious Flame dashed after it, and as the water reached his waist, he knew there was no way to reach it swimming. In a panic, he looked around, and spotted the woman again, sitting on a stone slick with algae and now robed in ever-shifting sands. Now she said to him, "You cannot swim as a ship can, for you are but a man. Be more than a man," gesturing down the beach to where a flock of seagulls waded about, pecking at the shallow water for clams to eat.

With a roar, Auspicious Flame launched himself at them, and they turned to fly off, but his hands grasped one whose head had been below water and had only heard the pounding of the surf. It shrieked and struggled in his hands, pecking at his flesh and leaving bloody pocks. With his palms he felt its body convulsing and twisting, and underneath that motion lay the frantic beating of its heart. It sung out to him, spoke to him of his sons and his dead wife and the finest swords a man could make and all the other things that had made his life worth living. With a savage wrenching, his hands tore open the bird's breast, and within lay its bloody heart, still beating though life had left the gull. Dripping blood and feathers, he lifted it to his mouth and ate it in a single bite.

As the heart slid down his throat, he felt a warmth he had never known before spread through his veins, cold as he was from the ocean's chill waters, and he saw that the burns on his hand were gone. As he looked at his hand, he saw feathers sprout from his fingertips and the entire length of his arms, and he lifted great white wings toward the sky. The downbeat launched him, still dripping, into the air, and he saw that his feet had become great talons, both cruel and precise in a single form.

In just seven great strokes, he had cut the distance between the ship and himself to nothing. As he approached, the sailors looked up in terror at the flying doom that came to them. Sitting atop the rigging was the woman again, clad in a dress of molten metal that seemed to flow from her very skin. "They took your sons from you. Show them the measure of your loyalty." Auspicious Flame opened his great beak to unleash a cry of rage, but instead, welling up from deep within him, he felt his anger and bile spew forth in a vile torrent of rotting fish, striking the shocked captain of the ship and withering his flesh like straw in the flames. He wheeled around and opened his beak again, unleashing the vile miasma of wharf-leavings, which struck down the crew in a fit of gagging and gasping for breath. From below deck swarmed up warriors in hastily assembled battle garb, and these he slew with great slashes of his claws, shattering their armor like clams upon the shore rocks.

When all lay still, he turned, and there on the ship's railing sat the same woman clad in nothing at all. "You have shown yourself in the ways of war. Now show yourself in the ways of life." With that, she leaped at him and enfolded him in her arms, and Auspicious Flame felt a passion burning within him that had not stirred since the death of his wife. He made love to the goddess on the deck of the ship three times while waves crashed over the sides and washed away the slaughter.

"Now," she said, "I leave you to find the ways of wisdom," kissing him on the cheek. A noise caught his attention, and he turned to see his two sons peeking out of an opening hatch. When he glanced behind him, the woman was gone, but her calling for him had just begun.

Stinky Beak is a Sea Gull-totem No Moon who has sworn to exterminate the Lintha even if takes him the rest of his unnatural life. They got his attention by trying to induct him and kidnapping his two sons, which lead to him killing his Lintha contact and Exalting. While not all that subtle, he's at least cautious, generally preferring to rain down death from afar, either in the form of arrows, Sorcery, or his putrid rotten-fish-reeking breath which is so foul it flays flesh from bone. He prefers to scout ships then kill everyone on board, leaving the pecked-apart corpses on board to drift back to Bluehaven. No one has identified him yet, but sailors out west know that the Lintha have developed a recent dislike of Sea Gulls, so they consider Stinky Beak, the big one they sometimes see far, far, out at sea, to be a good omen.

His Tell is comprised of his prominent fishy stench as well as a third eye he occasionally blinks open on his forehead.