• Previous Chapters:
    Chapter One - 'Thoughts'
    Chapter Two - 'Rebirth'
    Chapter Three - 'Flying Nightmares'
    Chapter Four - 'A Rogue Echo'
    ‘The Medical Roost’


    His suddenly realized fatigue made the flight up to the medical roost seem far more painstaking that it had been any other time. He scolded himself silently for weighing his mother down all those times…it was difficult for his little body, it must’ve been so hard on her to carry him when she was constantly tired. He began to whimper as he began to miss sleeping against his mother’s warm fur. How was it possibly that she could be so close, in the same tree, and yet feel so very far away?

    Hearing his faint whimpering, Aria called back to him, “Speed up your ascent, boy, the faster you cooperate with the examination, the faster you can curl into your mother’s fur again.”

    He was amazed at how quickly she seemed to read his mind, he supposed she had just picked up on his whimpering and made a guess…but, she was an elder, could she possibly possess some otherworldly power? He immediately shook the thought from his head, there was no possibly way a bat could have such strange powers. He knew, he hoped, the thought was just another product of his tired mind.

    Finally, after what seemed like more than an hour to his weak body, they reached the entrance to the hollowed out branch that was the medical roost. As he landed, he nearly gagged, the scent of the roost was nearly overwhelming. It wasn’t so much the scent of the many herbs the roost held, but the combination of the scent of sickness…and death, that lined it’s walls. Even breathing through his mouth didn’t help, he could taste the scent just as easily as he could smell it. Hoping he would get used to it over time, he began breathing through his nose again as he followed behind Aria.

    He tried to keep his eyes focused on what was only ahead of him, but his curiosity forced himself to look in other directions. He saw many things he already wished he hadn’t; sick newborns, several of which he had been friends with, and countless others who had been injured by either being careless during a flight or attacked by some other animal.

    His eyes fell to what he thought was a pile of leaves, but the bats in the medical roost were more organized than to just pile things in a ragged heap, he knew that much. As he stared at it, he saw a small flower topping the pile of leaves and the faint scent coming from the pile of leave made his heart flutter in sad realization…the pile of leaves was a burial shroud. A bat had died recently and they had yet to send it off into Nocturna’s nurturing wings. He had stopped following Aria without realizing it as he stared at the hidden body. Tears began to well up in his eyes, he didn’t know who the bat was, but he already felt sorry for their uninformed loved ones.

    Aria slowly crawled back to him and sighed, “…we knew she was going to go any day…this really is no surprise. She was very sick and not even our best herbs could save her…she’ll be with Lady Nocturna soon enough.” her voice, though it sounded lined with genuine sadness, carried a hint of what seemed like pride…as if she had won a bet about the date the bat before them was going to die.

    He was about to ask who that bat was, but he received his answer before he was able to open his mouth. Two of the other Elders, he couldn’t seem to remember their names, were leading a young female bat towards the pile. Her eyes were wide with fear and her fur was matted with tears, the elders must have already told her what happened.

    Noxx stared at her, wondering how she was related to the fallen bat. She looked to be about two years old, the body beneath the pile could very well be her newborn, but the pile seemed to large for the small body of a child…then again, he could be just comparing his own size with the size of a regular sized newborn.

    She looked so different from the other bats, her fur didn’t look silver at all, it was white like a cloud. He wondered why she looked so different and was about to ask Aria if she knew. But, as he opened his mouth, anything he was about to ask was cut off by the white female’s upset cries.

    “Mother!” she yelled as she broke free from her Elder escorts, “Mother, no!” she nosed through the leaves, frantically trying to get through the leaves to the body of her parent. As she thrust the final leaves away from the body, Noxx realized the leaves were really fragrant herbs used to mask the scent of death. Everyone in the area wretched when the heavy scent reached their nose, except the white female, she continued to sob as she curled up as close to her mother’s body as she possibly could.

    It was then that Aria began to take charge, the false sadness falling away completely to be replaced by a sort of irritated anger, “Katarra, you foolish girl!” she growled as she crawled towards the white female, “Your mother has passed and I won’t allow you to fill the tree with the scent of her death! We don’t need this for the newborns we’re holding here!”

    Katarra raised her head, not bothering to leave her mother’s side, “You can’t hide this from the colony forever! She has grandchildren from my brother, they’ll have to know sometime!” tears spilled from her eyes like a broken dam as she spoke, “…just leave me alone…I want to be with my mother…”

    Aria flared her wings in a threatening manner and rose up on her rear claws, showing Katarra who was boss, “I won’t have confused chaos flying through my colony! She’s dead and her loved ones will learn that at The Burning, we’ve already sent for the torch carriers and we’ll send her to Nocturna at nightfall.”

    When Aria mentioned The Burning, the ceremony where the Owls helped the Bats send the spirits of their loved ones to Nocturna through burning the body and setting the soul free, Katarra mimicked the elder’s actions and flared her wings as well, “I will not let you burn my mother’s body!” her voice was becoming nearly a shrill wail as she tried to speak through her crying, “…I want…I want to lay her to rest…like I’ve seen the humans do…”

    Katarra’s statement was quickly met with Aria’s claw swiped harshly across her face, “The human’s way is foolish! Our way is the only way to make sure they reach Nocturna! You would just be sentencing your mother’s soul to eternal damnation!” she narrowed her eyes and jerked her head towards the two elders, “…Restrain her…”

    As the two lesser elders pushed Katarra’s wings against her body, pinning her too the ground. As she struggled against their combined force, she shouted, “That’s not how they meet Nocturna and you know it! Everyone know the stories of Shade and his child! Not everyone is so ignorant to believe your lies!” her words were starting to become lost in her frantic sobs, “…they’ll…they’ll find out…they’ll all find out soon enough…all of your rules and customs are not for the good of the colony!” her eyes narrowed as she tried to move her head to look Aria defiantly in the eye, “…even his banishment was wrong…”

    Aria was holding three red berried carefully in her claws, but the need to be careful vanished as Katarra spoke her last sentence, she lunged for the struggling white bat, “…never say that again!” she hissed through clenched teeth, “He was a threat to the colony, and you know it!” with that, she forced what was left of the berries, she had crushed them slightly when she lunged, down Katarra’s throat. Satisfied that she had swallowed the berries, Aria moved off of Katarra, “…I don’t want to hear any such heresy from you again…”
    Katarra had lessened her struggle and fought to keep her eyes open, the juice from the berries was incredibly potent. All she could do was whimper slightly and whisper, “…Aelfric…” before she fell into a disturbed sleep.

    Aria sighed, seemingly upset from the struggle, “Take her back to her roost…she should sleep for the next two days…The Burning will go on as planned.” she nodded in farewell as the two elders carried her limp body up to the higher branches where her roost was located.

    As Aria turned back to Noxx, he flinched, expecting her to strike out at him too, but her anger was again replaced by a kind smile, “…poor girl…” she whispered, “…she was born with such a weak body…it won’t be long before she follows her mother…” slowly, she shoved passed him, nudging him to follow, “now that that little distraction has passed, we can continue on with your examination…it won’t be too much, I assure you…you and your mother both probably need sleep.”

    Noxx nodded meekly and followed behind the elder, staring questioningly at her. What had she done that made Katarra so angry with her? Was it possibly that her decisions were not in the colony’s best interest? He had so many questions that needed to be asked…so many answers he needed to hear…and he felt there was no way he could get them.