I had hoped for a quiet morning.
Evidently, I had hoped in vain.
I was done at Blood Lake, sitting off to one side in a small cove. There was new growth there, water plants I’d not seen before. But, given the things that came across from the Hollow side of the lake, I didn’t think too much on it.
I was into my second pipe when whispering caught my attention.
Peering around, I caught sight of a pair of giant herons which had come up out of the water. They were, I discovered, deep in conversation, and they seemed to have completely missed my presence.
They spoke in a rapid language I did not understand, and when the wind shifted and carried my pipe smoke to them, they both snapped around to face me.
Their bills appeared to be tipped with steel, and there was unmistakable malice in their eyes. They screamed at me in their private tongue and launched themselves across the grass.
They were faster than anything I’d fought before. I’d barely thrown myself backward when their bills struck where I’d been sitting.
My pipe tumbled from my mouth as I scrambled to one side, drawing a Colt.
The herons’ wings snapped out and beat at the air ferociously, sending a wall of wind toward me. Through narrowed eyes, I fanned the hammer of the Colt, the roar of the weapon silenced by the howling wind.
The first bullet caught one of the herons in the neck, severing the head completely and covering its compatriot with a fine spray of blood that stained the other bird’s white feathers.
The second and third bullets punched through the remaining heron’s left-wing, while the last three rounds blew apart its chest.
Around me, the wind subsided, and a few tattered feathers drifted to the blood-smeared grass.
I got to my feet, reloaded my Colt, and picked up my pipe. Putting in a fresh pinch of tobacco, I lit it and eyed the birds. Then, with a grunt, I grabbed each by a leg and dragged them away from the water’s edge.
The damned birds had ruined my morning, so they were going to provide me with breakfast.