Ten minutes after sunset, Owen walked into the main courtyard of Castle Wyvern, the gravel of shed gargoyle skin crunching under his shoes. A chill breeze cut through the air, a sure sign of autumn on its way in. Owen allowed himself to shiver just slightly, wishing he’d remembered his coat.
The gargoyles were easy enough to spot, Goliath talking in deep, serious tones to Brooklyn and Hudson, probably laying out their plans for the evening. They didn’t notice his approach. He cleared this throat politely and they turned to stare at him, Brooklyn in particular giving him a strange look.
“My apologies for interrupting,” Owen said, nodding his head formally at Goliath, who was looking just above his eyes with a confused expression on his face. “I wanted to make you aware of some maintenance that will be taking place on the castle over the next two days. It may be prudent for you to spend the day on the west side tomorrow morning so the crews that are coming can work without any risk to you.”
“Are you aware there’s a bird on your head?” Brooklyn asked.
The sharp tiny feet of the bird on his head dug into his scalp as Owen nodded his head slightly. “Yes, that fact did not escape my notice, thank you. As I was saying, they’ll be repairing some masonry and doing some structural work on the east side tomorrow and the west side the day after. All the crews have been very carefully vetted and they will be overseen by the security team you have already approved. I myself will also keep an eye on things throughout the day. If you’d be more comfortable sleeping in a secure room inside the castle itself, we can make those arrangements for you.” He handed Goliath a short stack of papers with all of the relevant information regarding the construction.
Goliath glanced down at the information in his hands before his eyes darted back up to look at the bird on Owen’s head. “Being on the west side should be fine,” Goliath said. “I appreciate you keeping us informed.”
“Of course,” Owen said, inclining his head slightly which caused the small bird to squawk indignantly at him before making a somewhat tentative and clumsy hop down to his shoulder. It nipped very lightly at the bottom of Owen’s chin in retribution. “We hope everything will be concluded in those two days, but if circumstances change, I will inform you of that immediately.”
Brooklyn frowned. “Is the bird some kind of new, weird fashion accessory or something?”
“Not at all,” Owen said, glancing down at the small sparrow-like bird now pecking at the collar of his shirt for some reason. “If you fray the fabric, I will make you mend it.”
“Ah, he finally managed it,” Hudson said suddenly, eyes widening with understanding. He smiled, stepping forward to squint at the bird with his good eye, holding out one finger of his hand for the little bird to jump on. It went through two aborted attempts before finally making the leap onto the older gargoyle’s steady hand. “Bit nervous, is he? A bit unsteady?”
“He’s getting used to the balance of the body,” Owen said, watching carefully as the bird became more sure of himself on Hudson’s hand, even getting confident enough to whistle out a short song. “He wanted to try flying tonight, but I think it’s too breezy for that.”
“Probably,” Hudson said with a deep chuckle. “I’ll take the lad in the Great Hall. He can practice there. I’ve trained enough young ones on how to get their wings, though not quite like this.”
Owen saw Brooklyn and Goliath exchange baffled looks behind the older gargoyle, who was still laughing as the bird on his finger puffed out his chest and flapped his wings a few times, showing off.
“What’s going on, exactly?” Brooklyn asked, hunching down and running his hand through his hair.
Hudson just gave him a look, then nodded at the bird. “It’s Alex, lads. Obviously.”
“Oh, obviously,” Brooklyn said sarcastically, but he relaxed at that, looking at the bird with renewed interest.
Goliath came forward for a closer look. The little bird sang a song for him, confident in his ability to do that, if nothing else. “It’s very convincing.”
“He is very proud of the plumage,” Owen said, unable to keep a little of his own pride out of his voice. “It’s something we’ve been working on for several days.”
“And a fine job he did of it, too,” Hudson said, putting the bird easily on his shoulder. “Come on, lad. Let’s get you out of the cold and see if we can get you to land on a tapestry.”