Green Dinosaur Feathers

26 Jan

Yawgo had a sense of unease about this particular hunting expedition. What were the true intentions of the party that had come from the capital, Galiant City?

The veteran guide into the Gita Glades could do nothing beyond gritting his teeth and putting a false grin on his gaunt, narrow face.

Hunting was his profession and livelihood. Adventurers like him could not afford to be choosy about the paying customers they took out into the greatest swamp on the world named Gibus. These people wished to hunt harpies, so someone had to take them through the labyrinth of marshes and wetlands. It might as well be Yawgo Fitex, the glademan told himself as he waited for his patrons to arrive at the Bayou Hotel in Gitatown.

Mr. Slocum Tangou, the head of the visiting party, had made the reservation for them with the booking office, putting down his occupation as that of a venture capitalist. To Yawgo, this had the ring of a speculator with the money of other people. The financial gambler intended to bring his son and daughter along with him. But the father planned to be the one to shoot a sleep capsule into the first harpy that Yawgo produced for them on this non-lethal hunt for amateurs who were there as tourists.

Yawgo remembered back to when he was a boy of ten, and the Dinosaur Preservation Act had gone into effect. His father, uncles, and all other glademen had to adjust to the entirely new conditions under which severe punishment would come to anyone who killed any member of the protected species. Hunting now mainly consisted of anesthetizing and then studying the bodies of the largest denizens of the swamplands. Painful adjustments resulted for the retrained guides who had licenses to take tourists deep into the Glades.

Seeing two likely figures entering the lobby of the Bayou, Yawgo rose from the comfortable soft rubber chair he had been sitting on. He hurried toward those he took to be his new patrons and quickly introduced himself to them.

Slocum Tangoon was a tall, portly man in a flashy scarlet silk suit. His chestnut eyes matched his thick, bushy hair. He spoke in a rich baritone voice of extraordinary persuasive power and self-assurance. It made the sound of a born salesman, one who had learned the lessons of many, many no-sales of the past. Every word of his was suffused with self-confidence.

“This is my son, Alto,” said the big man, nodding in the direction of the lanky, worried-looking youth who was a pale copy of him in facial features. The young man gave Yawgo a silent stare of cool indifference.

“Our luggage is being taken to our rooms,” noted the father.

“Can we sit down somewhere for a drink and a short talk about your plans out in the glades?” inquired Yawgo.

Slocum Tangoon nodded yes and the guide led his two customers to the lounge of the Bayou Hotel, where serious drinkers were busy with their daily activities.

Once the trio were seated in a corner booth made of devilwood from the Gita Glades, a waiter appeared to take their orders.

“What is the local favorite here?” inquired Slocum of Yawgo.

“Iced pinkroot tea with a slug of geneva,” answered the latter.

“My son and I will both try that,” decided the venture capitalist.

Yawgo told the server to bring them three big pitchers of the drink. As the young man in dark blue uniform walked away, the guide could feel Slocum’s searching gaze studying his own narrow face and amber eyes. The patron began to speak in a guarded but sonorous half-whisper.

“You may be wondering why big-city denizens like my son and I have come such a long distance from the capital to shoot soporifics at the dinosaurs in the Gita Glades. It is no secret that my own business, like so many tens of thousands in our country, has fallen on the rocks of the present economic depression that our journalists call the Great Downturn. I can imagine how it has affected your own occupation in the glades as well.”

“Things have turned very slow out here in the wetlands,” declared Yawgo. “It has become a rare event for me to receive reservations like yours any more.”

“Alto and I have to get away and escape our troubles back in Galiant City,” confessed the father. “That is our main reason for coming here, to get away from the conflicts and troubles of business and finance.” His face suddenly seemed to fall under a shadow, as if his mind had become centered on something hidden far inside himself.

“This hunting expedition should prove quite interesting,” muttered the hitherto silent Alto. “Social life back in the capital can be dull and boring most of the time. I look forward to things being different out here.”

The waiter arrived with three ceramic pitchers and large drinking mugs on a wide circular tray. He set down his load on the table and served each of the three customers.

“There is one other person who will be joining our party,” said Slocum matter-of-factly. “I failed to include her name in our reservation request.”

Yawgo gave a start. “A woman?” he said in surprise.

“Yes. The daughter of a close friend of mine. She is a fashion designer with a shop of her own in Galiant City. Her fond desire has long been to see a live harpy from close by. Brita Dotkie is the woman’s name, and she insisted that we bring her along with us. Her interests are keenly aroused by what lies ahead for us out here.”

“I did not expect this,” murmured the guide in a low tone. “But if that is your wish, room can be made for a third person as well as the two of you.”

Slocum took a sip of his pinkroot tea and smiled with joy and satisfaction.

“This is good,” he remarked. “Brita will be arriving on the early flatplane in the morning, early tomorrow. You will meet our beautiful young companion at that time.”

The medium-sized floater from the capital descended toward the small marshland lake on the south edge of Gitatown. Turquoise rays from the dawn sky filled the wet, crispy air with invigorating light. As the flying airship touched down on the surface of the sleepy water it started to cut down its speed.

Among the handful of passengers aboard the floater, only one made an effort to look out a porthole window on the side of the light craft.

Brita Dotkie was a spectacularly attractive silver blond who outmatched all the fashion models of Galiant City. Why has she never used or exploited her wonderful beauty? wondered all her rivals in the fashion world of the capital. Perhaps the abundance of her figure might act as a distraction from the clothes she would be required to display, the cognoscenti concluded. Too sensually hypnotic, too fetchingly enchanting for that type of work, in all probability.

The clothing designer watched as the airship neared the docking pier. Her platinum eyes brightened with anticipatory excitement.

This trip to the Gita Glades held the promise of a colossal triumph for her. Or else, the punishment of public ridicule for what she planned to accomplish with her new partners, the two Tangoons. Brita shuddered as her mind considered the consequences of the failure of this risky scheme that she carried in her mind.

Before she realized it, the floatplane had docked at the side of the placid lake. Slocum Tangoon had promised that his son would meet her there upon arrival. As she stepped down the debarking gang way, Brita spotted the tall Alto with a stranger standing next to him.

“Good morning, dear,” the playboy greeted her, coming forward. His companion did the same.

Alto then introduced the amber-eyed guide to the fashion designer from Galiant City.

“I have a Victoria waiting to take us to the hotel,” said Tangoon. “Your luggage must be seen to at once, though.” He started walking away toward the baggage room, leaving the other two by themselves.

As Brita scrutinized him, Yawgo asked her a direct question.

“You have a special interest in dinosaurs?” he murmured shyly.

She suddenly grinned. “The feathered ones, of course. Those with the beautiful, colorful covering.”

“I understand that you work in women’s fashionable clothing.”

“Yes,” Brita replied, her face and eyes turning serious. “My design studio produces new clothing for the main fashion houses in Galiant City. We have to be on our toes continually, because the competition is fast and rough in our industry. Rivals are unmerciful to each other.”

“I can imagine why you need a break from such tension,” said Yawgo.

A wry smile ran across her delicate lips. He is not in on our plan, she realized. At that moment, though, Alto reappeared.

The Victoria is being loaded, Brita. We can climb aboard it, if you are ready. Your rooms are prepared for you at our hotel.”

The three headed for the horse-drawn Victoria coach waiting for them.

The party of four was to head into the Gita Glades as soon as their amphibiac was loaded up and ready to go.

Yawgo took the driver’s seat, Slocum the one next to him. The remaining two sat behind them. Brita had not yet had an opportunity to converse alone with the venture capitalist who had proposed this trip to her back in the capital. A scheme to revolutionize the realm of women’s fashions was what Slocum had outlined to her in a general way. Perhaps he intended to induct their guide into the plan at the appropriate time, she supposed.

As their craft sped along the water channel leading into the Gita Glades, Yawgo gave them a brief outline of what could be expected this first morning out in the wetlands.

“We shall be passing through a zone known for its microdinosaurs, the species that survived the horrible slaughter of the great ones generations ago by our ancestors. The laws to protect those giants of the past came too late to do any good. Only the smallest of dinosaurs survived to be seen in our glades today.

“You will be able, if we are fortunate, to see some lariosauruses that are only about two feet long and weigh less than twenty pounds. They are small, frightened creatures that run away whenever they see human beings. Even smaller than that are the microceratops that average only one and a half feet in height and weigh less than five pounds. They are very interesting to see should we be lucky enough to spot any of them.”

Slocum then asked a question. “Shall we be able to see any harpies? The books that I have read give their full name as harpymimus. They say that they are the one feathered dinosaurus that remains in the glades down to today. Do you think there will be an opportunity to see any of them?”

He glanced back at his son and the designer for a brief moment.

“Yes,” confirmed Yawgo. “Harpies are about three feet long and extremely fast both in the air and on the ground. All the dinosaurs that were bigger or even the same size have been eliminated by generations of hunting down by humans like us. Only the flying harpy was able to escape and survive, and now it is protected by strictly enforced law.

“When you see your first harpy, you might take it for a large turkey or chicken of some sort. It feathering is a light, yellowish brown, a protective camouflage that it uses in order to hide itself in the natural environment of the Gita Glades.”

Brita then spoke up. “The harpies, like all the remaining wild dinosaurs, were originally escapees from the zoological preserves brought by our early ancestors here to Gibus. It was impossible for them to keep all the offspring of the gene cellules they transported to our planet in captivity for so many centuries. A few of them were certain to run off and find new homes out in the wilds, as in the glades.”

Yawgo nodded yes, turning his head so that he could see her.

“Every creature desires a free life, and in truth deserves to enjoy it,” he slowly said, starting to lower the speed of the amphibiac they were riding in.

“It is forbidden by law to take the feathers from a dinosaur like the harpy,” muttered the fashion designer. “That is a tragedy for those of us in my profession. We could do a lot if it was permitted. Our clothing would become colorful and artistic like never before. I understand that harpy plumage exists with many different natural hues.”

“Indeed,” said the driver. “Especially beautiful is the yellow green of the troodon harpy. It possesses the brilliance of a star in the night sky.”

“I would dearly like to see that variety for myself, if it is possible,” sighed Brita with unconcealed emotion.

“If we are fortunate, we may cross paths with a troodon today,” said Yawgo.

The guide swung the land-water vehicle onto the narrow shore of the glade forest, bringing it to a halt under a giant cypress with a leafy panoply.

Yawgo was the first to spot what might have been taken for a small, ostrich-like bird. He raised his right hand, signaling the others to keep silent.

Standing as still as if turned into a statue, the green creature stared at the group of humans in the unmoving amphibiac. Hypnotic yellow eyes took in the strangers in the vehicle. Six small, blunt teeth protruded outward from the dinosaur’s large mouth.

The harpy’s beak would surely serve it as a dangerous weapon if ever used for the purpose of defense. It was like a strong, sharp sword that could kill a small animal in a few seconds. One did not wish to provoke any such ornithomimosaur into a fight. That was a duel that promised grave injury, even if the bird itself should be defeated.

Yawgo lifted up the short metal cylinder he carried in his right hand, slowly aiming its outer opening at the immobile, watching flying dinosaur. Pressing a small tab on the side of the shooter, the guide let loose a dart containing a strong soporific compound. The projectile stung the harpy on the side of its thick neck before it realized what had happened to it.

The four in the amphibiac saw the yellow eyes turn to unconscious, motionless orbs as inert as glass. All of a sudden, the two legs of the creature collapsed, taking it immediately to the marshy ground.

Yawgo motioned to the others to follow him out of the carrier, onto the mound of muddy soil where the harpy lay in a coma.

When the group reached the prone form on the ground, the guide turned to the three who had hired him.

“Why don’t each of you choose a part of its body to study?” he proposed to them. “Don’t be afraid. The harpy will be asleep now for several hours.”

Not one of the three tourists moved, all of them staring intently at the guide.

Yawgo, not taking any notice of their focused concentration upon him, continued with his description and explanation of the harpy.

“Have a good look at the large, delicate hands with their three clawing fingers. The legs are so slender and agile when in motion. Remember, This is the fastest running of the small dinosaurs.

“After the three of you have finished examining the exterior, I will try to open its jaw so that you will be able to see that the mouth itself is almost toothless. The only teeth that the harpy has are those that stick outward like fangs.”

Slowly, Slocum reached into the hip pocket of his field jacket and pulled out a pencil-thin wire rod. “I am sorry, but this must be done to you at this time. An explanation will be given to you later.”

With that, he pointed the eerie instrument directly at the guide and pressed the outside end of it with the inside of his hand.

The surprised Yawgo felt only a slight tingle as a tiny needle struck him on the side of his neck. His arm went up, but it was too late to make any defensive moves.

What was this? wondered the victim. I am not a harpy to be shot unconscious so that people can safely study and examine me.

But he quickly fell to the ground, the same way that the mini-dinosaur had just done a short while before.

Slocum then stepped forward to make sure that the man was comatose.

“It’s all right,” the venture capitalist told his two companions. “Now is the time for us to start plucking out this harpy’s feathers.”

Alto placed his backsack on the ground and took out a small, sharp mini-razor, handing it to Brita. “You can start the shaving of the bird, my dear,” he said with a sardonic expression on his face.

She took the cutting instrument, then turned to his father, the mogul.

“When will Yawgo awaken?” she anxiously asked him.

“In less than an hour, I estimate,” he answered. “But we had better work as fast as we can.”

Alto handed him a small shaver, taking another out of the sack for himself to use on the harpy.

Yawgo opened his eyes to discover that he had been carried back to the amphibiac by his two male tourists.

The father and son stood over him, one on each side.

“How do you feel?” said the voice of Brita from somewhere he did not see her. It took a few moments before the awakening guide realized that she stood behind his head, leaning forward to look at his face upside down.

“What happened? Why am I down here on the ground?”

Suddenly Yawgo remembered the rod with the knock-out compound within it that had been pointed at him.

“It had to be done that way,” weakly muttered Brita. “There was not sufficient time to explain to you what we were here for.”

Yawgo tried to lift up his head, but found it too difficult at the moment.

“I don’t understand you people at all,” he resignedly confessed. “What did I do to deserve being shot unconscious with substance from a rod?”

Slocum turned his face toward the fashion designer. “Explain it to him,” he ordered her.

Brita turned to Alto. “Help our friend to sit up,” she suggested in a soft voice.

The lanky young man bent down and placed his arms about the guide’s shoulders. With a straining effort, he raised the upper portion of Yawgo’s body so that he could then sit upright on the wet ground.

Brita then proceeded with the task given her by Slocum.

“It has long been my ambition to be first with some new, sensational fashion trend. That is the hardest thing to achieve in my profession of clothing design. Very few of us ever rise that high.

“I have tried many novel forms and shapes. None of my experiments has brought me the success that I dream of. But then the realization came to me that I was taking the wrong approach. My methods were all wrong. The answer to my difficulties lied in discovering something that no one else had ever thought of using. A new kind of fabric to work with and to design for: that was the remedy for me. But what was it to be?”

Her platinum eyes glittered with an inner frenzy. She seemed to be experiencing some vision out of the future.

“But then, I saw a magazine article about the mini-dinosaurs of the Gita Glade. In a flash, the idea of utilizing the harpy feathers came to me. A strong fabric could be produced for women’s dresses out of that material. I began to draw new designs with the green hue that was my favorite, that I was certain could win the race for popular favor and demand.

“My imagination came to be centered on green harpy feathers like those that we spotted out here on our first day out on the amphibiac with you.”

Slocum took up the rest of the explanation. “There are persons in all areas of commerce and business who report to me about what they hear, even very vague rumors. I have to stay informed about new fields of possible profitable investment. One of my many informants brought me word of Miss Dotkie’s seemingly illegal scheme to make use of dinosaur feathers. I sent agents to investigate what she had in mind. In short order, this fashion designer convinced me that this new fashion could sweep the world of expensive women’s clothing, if only it could be brought about somehow.

“So, I decided to come here myself, with my son, and obtain all the feathers that Brita needs for a first breakthrough on this innovative frontier of high fashion. She is here to inform me what kind of harpy feathers to take for her first models. Her choice is for the green ones, like what we saw and collected while you were asleep.”

The fashion designer interrupted him. “We need you, Yawgo, to find the specific green harpies and help put them to sleep for feather shaving. There are great fortunes to be made in this enterprise of ours, and you are going to share in the returns. Are you willing to join and work with us?”

The gladesman gazed into her entrancing face and eyes.

He realized that she had the power to convince anyone to become a part of her plot to possess the green feathers she prized.

“Tell me more,” he said. “I want to know everything that is going to be done in this operation of yours.”

Brita proceeded to describe the details of the planned appropriation of plumage.

From its first public appearance, green harpy feathers became the sensation of women’s fashion in Galiant City. Wearing such materials became a runaway fad in the upper reaches of the social pyramid, then the middle ranks as well. High prices brought a flood of profit to those who first brought the dinosaur product out of the Gita Glade.

Yawgo found himself becoming the first of a team of scouts who were locating harpies for shearing. Featherless mini-dinosaurs could be seen hobbling about in the wetland swamps, trying to recover the ability to fly through the air.

Brita became almost delirious with a fever for more and greater success.

“We must not let up, or allow our competitors to jump ahead of us,” she told Yawgo with an ambitious gleam in her eyes. “I want you to take with with our new amphibiac into the farthest reaches of the glades, where no one ever goes for years on end. Those isolated backwoods areas are full of hidden harpies, my imagination says to me. That is where I want to take our unending hunt for valuable green feathers.”

The veteran guide passively accepted her commands to be taken into the forgotten, ignored areas where no one ever looked for anything.

Brush and trees became thicker and larger as Yawgo’s own amphibiac took unfamiliar channels never covered by tourist excursions of any sort.

“Take that channel to the left there,” commanded Brita. “It looks like on that might turn out to hold some promise.”

He cut down the speed and entered the waterway she had pointed out to him.

It took only seconds before she sighted a single harpy sitting on a cypress branch and raised her right hand in that direction.

Yawgo at once shut off the motor, allowing the craft to drift on its own

A second, then a third mini-dinosaur appeared around the first one seen.

The two observers watched in stunned awe as an entire flock of harpies materialized as if magically. They stared at the ever-growing population of the green-feathered flying creatures.

Yellow eyes looked at the pair of humans with stony hatred.

Without making any sound, the multitude of harpies took to the air, hurrying toward the amphibiac as their shared target.

Brita and Yawgo underwent a sudden assault against which both of them were helpless and defenseless. Almost without a sound, the harpies moved as if coordinated by dark, primeval instincts of a chtonic nature.

Neither of them had the time or the opportunity to raise a hand or to hit back at the aggressors.

Harpies took turns at biting and pecking at the two faces.

Both persons under attack fell back onto the flooring of the watercraft.

The harpies held them motionless, completely at their mercy. The invasion seemed to be an endless one to the two humans who suffered it.

On and on went the collisions with harpy beaks and fangs.

But then, as if in a single second, the winged dinosaurs were gone. Neither of the two lying on the floor dared to move or speak. Time seemed to have frozen into solid ice.

Finally, Yawgo lifted himself to his feet. He stumbled over to where Brita still lay, her body inert. What he saw in her face was a sight that was to haunt the rest of his days and years.

Her once beautiful eyes had been pecked at, extracted, and forever ruined. All that was left there were two blood-filled hollows. Empty caverns had replaced her whites and her irises. They had disappeared for good. Horrid white and reddish flesh was all that remained.

She was now unconscious, but still had breath left. What would she do when she found out that the harpies had blinded her?

Yawgo could foresee the screaming of the fashion designer who had come back for more green harpy feathers.

One heavy question arose in the mind of the gladesman. Why her and not me?

Yawgo came to suspect that the harpies knew who was responsible for the theft of their green plumage.

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