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An adult male roan with a size comparison to a human.

An adult male roan with a size comparison to a human.

I always liked the idea of giant birds.  I find ostriches fascinating, and the pictures I see of prehistoric moa make me think wistfully of the days when megafauna roamed the earth,  unmolested by hunters and tourists.  I would have loved to have seen some of these species (which included woolly mammoths, giant ground sloths, and smilodon), but then I remember that they would all be enormously dangerous animals (that would have trampled, mauled, and eaten me, respectively).

I needed an animal for the semi-nomadic peregrini to follow, and for some reason I did not like the idea of it being just another mammal.  Bison and elephants are too mundane, so barring the likelihood of there being a species of giant migratory mudskippers (that’s a kind of walking fish, for you non-ichthyologists) , I figured they could easily be hunting giant birds.  I called them “roan” and sent them trampling about the imaginary landscape.

And yes, in my mind, roan taste like chicken.

Maybe this can restore some majesty to the avians.  I heard somewhere that modern day turkeys have been bred and engineered to the point that they are so fat they are no longer physically able to have sex.  That is a depressing thought for the species.  I also heard that they have to be artificially inseminated in order to create new turkeys.  That then makes you think about who gets that job at the turkey farm (ranch?).

Do they use a turkey baster to do it?

While that thought gobbles and squawks its way across your brain, another excerpt.  Emily is riding with the peregrini hunters as they chase after the giant herd of roan.

She could see other hunters making their kills as well.  Bolas whirled to tangle up the legs of animals, just as the Aged had described, and the roan crashed to the ground, unable to rise again.

One of the riders was knocked from his horse as a massive bird rammed into the side of his pony.  He struck the ground, rolling end over end and slamming against a crumbling rock wall.  He lay against it, clutching his arm and in obvious pain.  The roan barked at him, kicking at the riderless pony and sending it bolting away from the herd.  It then turned on the fallen peregrini.

“Trust,” Emily yelled over the noise of the moving herd.  She pointed at the fallen hunter.  “Look there!”

“I see him,” he said, spurring his horse forward toward the advancing roan.  The hunter had struggled to his feet, but his spear was some twenty feet away, knocked out his hand as he fell.  He drew his heavy chopping blade with his uninjured arm, but he held it awkwardly.  Emily realized that he was using his left hand.

The roan towered over him, alternately kicking with its massive legs and swinging down with its horned beak.  The hunter had to move quickly to dodge the attacks, but he was backing into a wall, and he had little room to manoeuvre.

Trust urged his pony forward, but they were still too far away to help.  Emily watched in horror as the hunter’s back hit the wall, and he realized that he had nowhere else to go.

The next moments seemed to pass in slow motion.  The bird picked up one leg and smashed it forward into the peregrini hunter’s chest, crushing him against the wall.  When the foot was withdrawn, the hunter collapsed to the ground, his blade clattering to the stone.

Emily did not remember drawing her slingshot or loading a stone from her belt pouch.  Suddenly she was aiming down the stretched bands, leaning out wide around Trust and trying to steady herself against the bouncing of the horse, her breath held.  They were only a few dozen paces away now.  The roan was standing over the unmoving body of the hunter, one leg raised again to deliver a final crushing stomp.  When Emily loosed the stone it flew straight and true, striking the bird in its eye and drawing from it a long keening wail.  It stumbled backward, shaking its head violently from side to side.

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