Fantasy Fiction posted January 14, 2018 Chapters: 1 2 -3- 4... 


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An evening story about the legendary Piasa Bird.

A chapter in the book Legend Chasers

The Piasa Bird

by davisr (Rhonda)


The author has placed a warning on this post for violence.



Background
Nara Baker, a school teacher from New York, ventures to a small Texas town to work in a Children's Home as a history teacher. There she learns more than she teaches.
End of chapter 2:

What was it about this sleepy old town that irritated her? She had come here for rest and reflection. Was it the town's fault she felt uneasy, or was it her own restless spirit? And, yet the whole place didn't add up. The exterior seemed dusty and dirty, while the room was almost pristine. The contrast didn't seem right.
In an odd sort of way, she couldn't help from hoping there was something more to this town than met the eye.



Chapter 3:


Nara and the others settled in after a delicious meal, complete with barbeque of all types, and serenaded by resplendent Bluegrass music. All was quiet as they waited for the celebrated storyteller, Riley, to begin his tale. Hank had already warned Nara that the old man always referred to himself as a young boy, or young man in the narratives. To say she couldn't wait for the tale to begin, might have overstated her anticipation, but she was relaxed and ready.

**********
A young boy knelt in the dirt beside his farmhouse playing marbles with his older brother, Conner. It was Sunday after church and he was still in his dress overalls.

The scent of broiled roast beef drifted over the boys like a welcome breeze. An involuntary grumble escaped the young boy's stomach causing him to miss a shot with his favorite marble.

"Don't you dare take my marble," the youngster warned. "I'll tell Mama."

"Tell her," Conner said, thumping his own shooter at the contested blue green orb, "and I'll tell Daddy you're being a big fat baby. He won't let you ride on the new tractor tomorrow."

"I'll, I'll..."

"You'll what?" Conner teased. He placed the younger boy's prized marble in his pouch. "You'll do nothing, Twerp."

Just as the young boy started to protest, the marble game circle, etched roughly in the dry earth by a mesquite stick, was covered by a shadow as dark and silent as midnight. A putrid odor bathed them like an old horse blanket that had sat too long in a damp puddle, and chased off the scent of baking roast.

The boy's eyes rose from the marbles until they met Conner's across the circle. He raised his eyebrows in mute question. Conner shrugged and shook his tawny head back and forth. He didn't know what was happening either.

A shrill shriek pierced the darkened air. The boys fell to the ground covering their heads with trembling arms.

The odor grew stronger and the darkness more intense. The young boy heard a loud beating sound, and felt the fetid air whoosh in and out. It seemed, almost, as though he was being drawn into the middle of a storm. A combination of terror and curiosity gripped him.

A distinctly human scream brought the boy back to reality. He turned his head to see an enormous winged creature hovering over Conner.

It had a huge, lion-like head, and the body of a four-legged fowl. Long, sharp teeth gnashed in fury. Huge eyes glared out of an oblong hairy face. The monster's body was elongated and covered in golden scales. Red wings batted the foul air.

Is this a dragon like in my storybooks? Is it a demon sent from God to punish us for fighting? Is it Death itself?

"Help me," Conner cried out. He reached for his younger brother.

The young boy was paralyzed by fear as two enormous clawed feet snatched his brother by the back of his overalls and began lifting him from the ground. Finally reacting, he grabbed his brother's leg and hung on with Herculean strength.

"Mommy, Daddy!" the young boy screamed. 

The front door of the farmhouse banged open. On the stoop stood the boys' father with a shotgun. Without a word, the older man opened fire on the dragon-like creature.

The bird glared back, his massive wings batting away bullets like flies. He rose slowly, two prize morsels within his evil grasp.

"Drop them, you beast," Mama demanded. She flew out of the front door, wielding a frying pan like a tomahawk.

The bird hesitated, looking back and forth between angry father and enraged mother.

Bat, bat, bat... swoosh, swoosh, swoosh...

The bird dropped its prey in the middle of the marble circle and flew away with an unholy screech.

**********************

Riley Byrne placed his fiddle on a small table perched beside his rocking chair. The notes and melody he had stroked out on the weathered instrument had added flavor and substance to his tale.

Gray eyes, vivid during the story, retreated into an old man's glance. Riley stretched and leaned back, the old rocker groaning with the effort of keeping him seated. He looked out at the collective eyes watching him in rapt attention.

"Was it really a dragon?" James, from the fourth grade, asked.

"Well, son, that there is one very good question," Riley said. "They're called Piasa birds, but no one knows for sure what they are. They're deadly fierce, and have been known to attack livestock... some as large as calves."

"What about humans?" a little girl asked. "Do they attack humans, like in your story?"

"Oh, yeah," Riley said. "Just like in my story."

"We don't have any such creatures in North America," a teen-aged girl named Bess said. She was an honors student who prided herself in knowledge of all sorts.

"Don't be too sure what exists in the shadows," Riley replied slowly. "This very bird was etched by Native Americans on a cliff in Illinois hundreds of years ago."

"With all due respect, Mr. Byrne, we live in Texas. Even if the Piasa did exist, how would it have gotten here?"

"Duh, it can fly," fourth-grade James said.

"Merely legend," she said.

"Yes, yes, legend," Riley said. "There are many such creatures of lore. But, my dear child, legends are based on fact, and I've seen many in flesh throughout my years."

"Was the young man in the story you, then?" James asked.

"Of course it was," Riley said. "That very experience is what started me and my brother, Conner, on a lifelong journey to discover such creatures."

"Tell us the story about Bigfoot," a little girl urged. "I love Bigfoot."

"Not tonight," Miss Eddins, Rugged Saddles Children's Home Director, spoke up. She stood and motioned for the children to join her. "It's getting late and we need to clean our messes. But first, we would to like extend our thanks to the musicians for playing, our cooks for preparing this feast, and Mr. Byrne for another of his excellent tales."

"More than welcome, Ma'am," Riley said. He rose and began helping with the chores.

Nara walked over to the old man, and rested her hand on his arm. "That was a charming tale."

"Thank you, darlin'. I'm glad you liked it."

"I have to admit I was wrong about you earlier. I've heard the South is rich with storytellers. It is a gift that should be treasured."

"As are the experiences that go with them," he said. "It's easier to describe what you've seen with your own eyes, than to make up what you ain't."

"Surely, you don't expect me to believe you actually saw a Piasa bird? I'm not a child."

"Are you sure?" Riley asked. "We all have a child inside, my dear. It helps us adjust to new situations and believe in the impossible. Isn't that what you teach your students?"

"I teach them to imagine new things, but I encourage them to seek truth."

"As do I."

Nara's response was cut off by the ambling appearance of Hank.

"Hey, you two. I'm glad to see you've met. Nara here is a history teacher, and I'm sure she'd love to hear of your many conquests."

"Oh, I don't know if they were all conquests," Riley said, "but I did have some interesting adventures. I'm not sure if this little filly is a believer, though."

"She'll get out of it. Just like I did."

Nara shook her head in disbelief. Was everyone on this ranch crazy?

"Anyway," Hank continued. "You're welcome to come by my classroom and see some of the artwork students have created about his creatures."

"Art class? You're a teacher?"

"Sure, what'd you think I was? A cowhand?"

"Pretty much."

"Ha ha, well, I'm that too."

"So, the lovely paintings in my room...  they're your students' work?"

"Heck no, they're mine, and I'm glad you like them, Sweetheart."

Hank flashed a grin and turned away. Nara thought she heard an annoying chuckle in his wake. She thought about shooting a scathing remark at his back, but just couldn't think of one. How do you counter finding out the local redneck is actually your colleague, and a very talented one at that?


Book of the Month contest entry

Recognized


Artwork from Google Images of the Piasa Bird etched into the limestone.

"The Piasa or Piasa Bird is a Native American dragon depicted in one of two murals painted by Native Americans on bluffs (cliffsides) above the Mississippi River. Its original location was at the end of a chain of limestone bluffs in Madison County, Illinois at present-day Alton, Illinois." ~Wikipedia
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