Disclaimer: I do not own Legend of the Guardians or the book series

The following day, Soren and Gylfie had returned to work in the pelletorium. The last time that the Pure ones had attempted to moonblink them seemed so long ago. But they had survived. Soren poked his beak into the feathers, the very feathers that Hortrnse had said were coming along so nicely. They seemed even thicker now; he was finally fully fledged.

"Look at those primaries, Soren, and your plummels! I really envy them," Gylfie said.

Soren ran his beak lightly through the plummels that hovered like a fine mist over his flight feathers. He remembered his mother saying how one must preen their plummels every day, for, indeed, plummels were unique to owls. Of all birds, owls, and only certain owls at that, had plummels. Elf Owls did not have these fine, soft feathers that fringed the leading edges of wings. It was these feathers that allowed larger owls to fly in almost complete silence.

"So Gylfie, you think we'll be able to get out of here soon?"


Soren looked at this little owl who had become his friend and felt a twinge. While thay had mostly talked about learning to fly, they had yet to figure out just how they were going to escape.

Later on, as the night had begun, Soren and Gylfie's shifts had become unusually long. And as they munched on their evening crickets, Soren spread his wings and fluffed them up and, altough not hopping, Soren had certainly assumed what was known as a flight-prime position. He turned to a young Western Screech Owl, who, in Gylfie's mind, was the most perfectly moonblinked owl in St. Aggie's.

"Getting feel of it." Soren said. Naturally, Soren did not wait for an answer. "Feel of what?" He merely went ahead and answered his own question in hopes of provoking the owlet into offering more information. "Must feel good to fly." He raised his wings slightly as he spoke.

"Oh, yes." the owlet blinked. "Feeling will pass." his wings hung limply at his sides. "I rembemer when I have it. You not be bothered, much longer." he stared straight ahead, his eyes vacant.

Bothered? Why would such feelings ever be a bother? Soren dared not ask. He could see that Gylfie had heard this as well and was equally disturbed. A dread began to creep up from their gizzards and seep into their hollow bones. They had thought that moonblinked owls were nearly mindless, but somehow they still retained their urges to fly. And what did the Pure Ones have in mind to quell these urges?

Just at that moment, Jatt and Jutt screeched a call for attention. "All 40's through 48's shall port on the third sleep march to area three!" they spoke in unison.

Two marches had gone by. The moon was drawn down to the edge where the sky met the earth. A third sleep march would seem meaningless, as moonblinking could no be done without a full moon. Soren and Gylfie, being in the 12's and 25's category, were safe from whatever was to come, yet they were taken with the others nevertheless. They walked out to the glaucidium and stopped at the edge of area three.

"Look!" Gylfie said. "Look at what they're doing." Soren and Gylfie both stared in disbelief as hundreds of owls flung themselves flat on their backs with their breasts exposed to the sky and their wings spread out.

"Never," Sorend said, "have I seen an owl perch that way. It looks like it might hurt."

"I don't think it's called perching," Gylfie said. "I think it's called lying down."

"Lying down? Mammals and reptiles do that, not bird, and never owls." Soren hesitated. "Not unless they're dead."

But these owls were not dead.

"Listen!" Soren said.

The sky high above the glaucidium seemed to suddenly pulse with a throbbing sound. It was the sound of wing beats but not soft, almost silent, wing beatsof owls. Instead, there was a tough leathery snap. Then, blacker than the blackest night, printed against the sky, a thousand bats flew overhead and decended upon the owlets.

Good Glaux. Soren thought, who hadn't felt true terror at St. Aggie's until now. The memory of the bat's vulgar treatment towards him when he had asked a question was still fresh in his mind. Of all his captors at St. Aggie's, the bats were the cruelist. In fact they were even more brutal towards the moonblinked owlets that the Pure Ones themselves. He had seen how they would hiss and even nip at the owlets, snickering as they did so. Even when he was soiled upon by the nasty little beasts, he could clearly remember that they had laughed the hardest at his misfortune. Bats often found themselves caught and eaten by owls, and hated them for it. I only made sense that the Pure Ones were giving these bats some self-satisfaction, of doing with these owlets as they pleased.

Soren and Gylfie watched in unblinking fear as the bats landed. Most of them were Vampire Bats, while the large Flying Foxes flanked them as they alighted. On the larger bat's wings, thin blades of steel glistened in the moonlight; certainly a match for any battle claws. Upon looking closley, Soren could see that all the bats had dark red markings on their backs and undersides, the trademark of the Pure Ones. The Vampire bats, using their thumb claws and legs, crawled up onto the owl's breasts. They seemed to forage for a few seconds, snipping away at the feathers with their incisors. Then with gleaming sharp canines, they made a quick tiny cut. The bat's tongues, narrow and grooved, slipped into the nicks. The owls did not even flinch but seemed merely to sigh into the night. Soren and Gylfie were horrified and could not move. A young female Great Horned Owl turned her head toward them, her eyes half shut, a mild, contented expression on her face.

"That must hurt terribly," Soren spoke softly.

"No, good. Soothing."

Soren and Gylfie were not sure how long the bats were there, but, indeed, they seemed to swell before their eyes. And then they appeared so gorged, it was as if they staggered rather than lift off into flight. The grayness of a new dawn began to filter through the black and, in drunken spirals, the bats wheeled through the remenants of the night, the only evidence of their presence being cuts on all the owlets breasts, and small puddles of urine.