Chapter 5

Shaze was thinking hard in his hollow. He was suspicious about his father because in training, though Shaze did it much better, his father insistedMost of his down had fallen out and he was turning out to be a handsome young owl. Timatsu had already begun flying and as usual, he excelled. He was still a little wobbly but their father only looked at the good parts about Timatsu. Sadly when it came to Shaze is father only looked at his flaws. Shaze had mastered branching and was good at the short flight sessions his father assigned that lengthened in time every day. He was hardly tilted in flight and was very graceful but his father always found something found something wrong with his flying. Maybe it was because he had not completely recovered from the attack on his recent patrol.

"You don't fly fast enough!" or "You look like a rat with wings, balance yourself!" and also "Your turns are rusty! If an enemy was flying straight at you, what would you do then, eh?" Shaze was trying his best but his best just wasn't good enough. He was flawed somehow, in some way. But how? He was pacing around in his hollow trying to figure out what was wrong, the crickets chirping and the mosquitoes buzzing in his ear seemed to distract him. Then a thought came to him. Was it because his father favored Timatsu? No that could not be. Sure he wasn't as strong as his brother, Sure he wasn't the firstborn, sure he wasn't as good at everything Timatsu did. It was just…just. His mind trailed off. Maybe that was the case. His father had always hugged Timatsu and praised him for his good work but He rarely praised Shaze and had never hugged him.

"Is it true?" He asked absolutely nothing and he never received an answer. Tears rose up in his eyes. It was true. He tried to deny it but there was no other explanation. Timatsu was just better than him. More loved. For a moment, he didn't care. For a moment his father's opinion didn't matter to him. But then he remembered who his father was. His father was King of the Great Tree and his opinion of his sons mattered to everyone. It decided what rank he could get as a soldier, it decided what chaw he would take and how advanced it would be and it decided how much authority he had over the Tree. Everything depended on it.

….

He flew with all his might and grace, fanning out his wings and soaring silently and quietly through the evening light. It was very early in the night but Shaze wasn't tired. He was absolutely focused on flying. His father watched him like a hawk, his dark brown eyes narrowed to slits as he examined his every move. Some of his down flaked off as he made a perfect turn, flapping his wing only once. He tried to remember everything his father told him about flying. He focused on the wind and made sure to adjust his wings to just the right angle to execute a perfect turn. He then flapped higher in the air and did the most recent move his father had taught him, the corkscrew. He dived downward at top speed, his wings hugged tightly to his body as he spiraled madly. He opened up his wings and shot upwards right before he hit the forest floor as if plucking a mouse from the ground. He did it the best he could and he knew he did it perfectly. When he finally lighted soundlessly in front of his father he waited patiently for his opinion. His father thought for a moment.

"It still needs a lot of work. You need to work on your—"An angry shriek cut him off.

"I've had enough, Father, I've had enough!"Shaze yelled. "I do my best for you every day! I do exactly what you've told me to do ever since I began training and it's just not good enough. I know I did that flight session perfectly because I followed your instructions very carefully! Why am I not as good as Timatsu? Why do you love him more than me?" Shaze said, teary eyed. His father was too shocked to speak. It was the first time Shaze had ever yelled at him.

"I- I…" His father said. "How did you know?" Shaze tried to hide his anger but beneath his feathers he was smoldering. So it was true. Shaze took a deep breath and slowly began to calm down.

"Ever since I was an owlet you had always treated Timatsu better than me. Its true Timatsu is better than me at almost everything but you had always loved him more. I don't know why but you do. I try my best to be like him but it's never good enough for you." Shaze sighed loudly. His father laid a talon on his sons shoulder, but Shaze shied away. He had swelled twice his original size.

"Shaze." He rumbled. Shaze did not answer. He looked away and wouldn't listen. After a few, heart stopping moments Shaze looked at his father, licking him in his cold gaze. "Why?" He asked. "Why do you love Timatsu more than me?" His father opened his mouth to speak but closed it again, for he had nothing to say.

"Do I mean anything to you?" Shaze murmured barely above a whisper. Again his father gave absolutely no answer. Shaze snorted and flew to the other side of the large hollow and snuggled in his nest, his back to his father.

"Shaze?" His father called. Shaze gave no clue that he heard, or even cared. Instead he preened his new feathers, throwing off the rest of his useless down.

…...

He stood in front of the army of barn owls. They were all waiting patiently for his orders. Today was the day of his final assessment. His father was beginning with the easiest, leadership. His father prepared half the army in Formation B1 Which is when there are ten rows of owls, the same number of soldiers in each. They were told to obey Shamere's every order or they would receive an awful punishment. So if Shamere said for them to walk into the wall, that's exactly what they were going to do. He prepared his voice and shouted out the first command.

"Marche!" He shouted at the top of his lungs. As soon as the word left his beak he heard the sound of many feet stepping at the same time. Left, right, left, right. He knew his father was somewhere watching him, he just didn't know where. He flew over the marching army. When he saw they were coming to a thinner section of the canyon he immediately knew what to say.

"Formation A2!" He ordered. Immediately the crowd of owls formed into three rows, an A2, and fit perfectly through the thin crevice. When he saw that there was space to take flight he had an idea of how to get through this part of the assessment quicker.

"Take flight! Keep formation!" He yelled. The owl militia rose up in the air and flew at a quick rate each flapping their wings at the same time.

"Turn! Starboard!" all the owls immediately rounded the curves perfectly. He smirked. For the next two hours in the unforgiving sun, he led the army through the canyon. Then he saw the underground tunnel. It was a large hole in the ground that sucked an owl underground and after going through a series of twists and turns before shooting them out on the other side of the canyon.

"Take Formation A1 and corkscrew into that hole." He shouted. The owls formed into a long line, a single row, and dived straight into the hole, each getting sucked in. He dived in excitedly. His mother would take him here and, carrying him in her talons, would dive in the hole. He would cry and scream with fright at the beginning but in the end he would beg Aryn to do it again. This tunnel was a piece of his childhood. The wind roared by his ears as he twisted madly, turned sharply, and dropped dramatically all at the same time while going at breakneck speed. He yelled with fear and delight. He hadn't been in this tunnel for a long time, he had almost forgotten what it felt like. Then it shot him straight out after the soldiers. For a long moment he flapped around like a rat with wings, but when he finally regained his perfect balance he ordered every owl into Formation B1. He finally made it to the other side of the canyon. His father and mother flew over to him and landed on a cliff edge.

"You did so well! You looked like a born leader." His mother praised. His father nodded and smiled.

"It was wise to use the vacuum tunnel to reach your goal quicker. It was a good idea to use everything as an upper hand and adjust the crevice space with the formations. I am very proud of you."