My Empire of Birds
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The good doctor's chronicling was interrupted by the gates to his palace being thrown open, making a slamming sound that reverberated through his chamber and made sticks and dirt fall from the ceiling. Through the doors came two of the bird-men, walking as if they were a drunken wreck, as always. They seemed to be in some kind of great urgency, not just because they burst into his chamber instead of knocking, but because they screeched with some strong conviction that began to give the good doctor a headache.

The doctor placed down his pen and crude paper to listen to the bird-men. Of course, he had no way of understanding them, as he did not speak Birdeese or what language the bird-men talked in. The doctor sat and tried to make eye contact as the men with the heads and wings of bird jabbered in, making arcing motions with their wings and flopping about the room. Eventually, they quieted down and looked into the doctor's eyes, seeking his absolution.

"Yes, yes, that sounds pleasant enough to me," said the doctor, trying to sound confident and non-metallic in the face of his subjects, "given your urgency, you should do what you need to do."

The bird-men paused. The doctor didn't know if they could understand him, or if they were playing the same guessing game that he was. Then, the bird-men began to continue their uproar, but the doctor stilled them with a raise of his hand.

"Silence!" he boomed, "I trust you two, and whatever you need to do, I leave it in your capable hands."

After that, the feathered fools spent a moment looking into eachother's eyes, before leaving the palace and leaving the good doctor in silence.

Once he was sure the subjects had left, the plague doctor slouched down in this throne, letting out a sigh as he did so. He still had no idea how he had been thrust into the position of king, or judge, or whatever the bird-men considered him. One day, he was sitting in his cell, minding his own business, trying to answer the question of whether or not an eldritch abomination counted as a mammal in his diary. The next day, the bird-men had broken down the door to his cell and carried him to the makeshift town of dirt and bones, and starting coming to him for what he imagined to be advice.

The doctor still didn't know what happened to the outside world. He hadn't seen another human, hell, another living organism other than the bird-men, since he had been stolen from his cell. The sky had been stained with the color of dirt, and there were still entire flocks of bird-men blocking it out.

All the doctor knew is that it gave him many a quiet moment to continue his chronicling. So he picked up his pen and paper, and tried to push the other thoughts to the back of his mind and hoped that it would be another good hour or two before the bird-men came back.

The first thing Shock registered when she woke up was the smell of shit. Even before she opened her eyes, she could smell it from a mile away. The second thing was the intense amount of pain she was in.

She tried to stand up, but when she got a stabbing sensation in her arm that made her go back down. She felt that she had at least a few broken bones. Did I crash into something? she asked herself. It probably didn't help that whatever the toaster man had haphazardly slapped into her legs and back were probably all breaking down.

Once she had found a position that didn't make her entire body hurt like hell, she opened her eyes. She realized she was in yet another jail cell, but this time composed of wood, dirt, and the aforementioned shit. From her vantage point, she could see various other mud-huts and the outline of a wall in the distance. In addition, she could distinctly see a large palace with stairs leading up to it, alongside the usual flock of bird-men in the sky.

Shit, did I really get pulled back here? Shock checked her hand, and she still had the eggbeater-dimension-portal device she had whipped up. She could probably teleport out of this place, but the eggbeater ran on her own energy, and she felt that if she tried to repeat that stunt from the factory she'd kill herself.

So Shock decided to choose a very unusual strategy for her: biding her time. Yes, she'd bide her time, get back her energy, and hopefully come up with a better plan.

Yes… I'll bide my time… was Shock's last thought before passing out, just before two humanoid figures, resembling birds, opened the gate to her cell.

The good doctor found himself staring out the window, at the wasteland beyond the palace. He let out a longing sigh. Yes, he was king, but he was king over a mount of dirt covered with feathers. Besides, he was not meant to be a king. He was meant to be a doctor, and he found himself mourning in the fact that he hadn't been able to operate on a patient for what seemed like an eon.

The doctor stood up and went to the window. Oh, what he'd give to have a patient. Even a pig, hell, even a horsefly would do.

Just as he started contemplating trying to kidnap one of his advisors in order to operate on them, a bird-man burst through the doors and started cawing at him. He groaned in agony; at first, ordering around his subjects had been fun to do, even if his orders meant nothing. Now, after a straight week of hearing that damn cawing in his sleep, the doctor found himself wanting to surgically remove his ears.

He turned to the bird. "What is it?" he asked, in his best attempt to sound interested.

The bird-man then stumbled out of his office. The doctor first decided that it might've been a fluke, but then he saw him return with a limp body slung over his shoulders.

When Shock came to again, she found herself slung over the two bird-men, in some sort of dirty, shitty chamber. She was facing some guy in a black cloak on a stray throne, wearing some weird bird mask. He was in the middle of some tirade which he halted when he saw Shock waking up.

"Ah, you've finally awoken," he said in a metallic voice that grated against Shock's ears, "tell me, what are you doing in my realm?"

Shock opened her mouth to say "What?", but in her near-fugue state she instead slurred something along the lines of "Whaaaaaa…"

"Answer me," the bird-mask-man demanded, "why have you come into my kingdom!"

Shock looked to the left, then to the right. She saw the bird-human hybrids who had taken her standing as still as possible. Out of respect, or out of fear?

"Are… are you the one in charge here?" Shock managed to force out of her mouth.

The masked man paused for a moment. "Yes, yes I am," he said in a voice that seemed to lose its previous confidence, "yes, I'm the, the king here. But I'll repeat myself, what are you doing here?"

"I think… I don't, I don't… I think I fell…" Shock began to spin up her eggbeater.

The masked man strolled up to Shock. "I daresay, do you think you're mocking me?" he asked, before diverting his attention to the eggbeater, "wait, what is that peculiar device?"

"It's… it's not, really, it just a, spin…"

The man approached Shock and began to examine her. "I think that she might just be delirious," said the man in the black robe, "so we won't be able to get anything useful out of her. Take her to somewhere safe, and give her food and water until she seems stable."

In the corner of her eye, Shock saw one of the bird people take out something shiny. A knife… This seemed to put the bird-mask man into a panic: "No, no, no! W-what are you doing, don't kill her, she's the first person, uh, that we've found here!"

The birds paused for a moment, watching the bird-king panic. He approached Shock, took something out of his cloak that looked like a flask, and tried to put it to Shock's mouth. Something in her half-broken mind shoved it away, causing the man to stagger back.

The bird-men reacted by plunging the knife into her neck, and she felt the burning pain echo throughout her entire body. She let go of the energy within the eggbeater, and a bolt of energy came from it, creating a portal on the floor. She heard audible shock in the king and panic from the birdmen and they fell downwards through the portal. As Shock felt her limp body pull through, she wondered if she could really take one more fall. As she passed into unconsciousness, perhaps permanently, Shock found herself wondering how she would wake up this time.

The good doctor hummed a theme to himself as he trotted on the winding old country roads. His adventuring party was somewhat odd: a sapient mosquito and a middle aged man in pots and pans would be strange company. But it was the first time in years that he'd seen the outside world, and he found himself in a good mood.

"How much longer until we get to West Virginia, guys?" Leslie asked in a shrill, high-pitched voice. The pilgrimage from Site-19 to the state was a long one, and even Don Quixote's motivational speeches were starting to wear down now.

"Not much longer now, mi amiga!" Don Quixote yelled in his usual overenthusiastic voice, "but I must warn you, the mythical lands of West Virginia are host to the greatest of horrors. We must be—"

Quixote was interrupted by the opening of a strange blue portal in the sky above them. Expelled from the portal were a strange fellow in black followed by a dog-human wearing a torn green jumpsuit, followed by two bird-like humans. The black fellow appeared to have a rough landing, but simply got up and dusted himself off. The dog-human, on the other hand, landed on the hard ground with an audible crack that made the good doctor wince. The two bird-men flew across the sky and both landed in a nearby ditch.

The fellow in black turned around and, after almost glazing over the man covered in armor of pots and pans, immediately fixated on the good doctor. "Who are you?" he asked.

The doctor came closer to inspect the fellow, but with a wave of his hand he shooed him away. "I asked you a question, who are you people?" the fellow repeated.

"By god, I think we look exactly the same!" said the doctor, "but your robe is a little bit stained with some substance, and—"

"You didn't answer my—" continued the black-robed newcomer, before pausing mid-sentence, "speaking of which, how did I get here? I was in the bird palace, then the dog-girl—" the fellow paused for a second, "huh, I guess she got me out of that conundrum."

"Wait a tallied second," replied the doctor, "if— if I'm you, and you're, well, me, does this mean that, somehow, that old parallel universe theory is correct?"

"Um, I hate to interrupt," interjected Leslie, "but while you're on the subject of the dog-girl, she's kinda, uh, dying."

The good doctor and his clone turned towards the sprained body of the canine. She was lying on the small crater she'd made on impact, covered in blood. At least one arm was broken, and she was out cold.

The doctor immediately rushed over and took out his tools; it was time to put his theories to the test. His first task was to see what the damage is. He took his scalpel and opened the chest, and saw that one of her heart chambers were caved in. He poked it for a second, and this was followed by a popping sound.

"What are you doing!" replied the duplicate doctor, "I'll take over this operation. I do not want you damaging the heart" The fellow came over with a syringe and started pulling at the dog-girl's arteries.

"You think I'm incompetent? The nerves are torn as well! I will operate on those." The doctor took out his nerve paste and began spreading it.

Immediately the doctor's doppelganer criticized his work: "You're spreading it wrong. You'll just tug on her nerves, and that'll be the death of her."

"And what are you doing? Why are you injecting it in the heart? You'll make it collapse under the strain of the fluid, let me take over with the heart operation."

The doctor took the syringe and moved it towards the arteries, filling them with its green fluid instead. The other doctor took the nerve paste and spread it across in a much more delicate way that somewhat amazed the good doctor.

"I guess I was in the wrong there," said the other fellow, "I think the nerve paste is steady. Have you repaired the heart?"

"Just finishing, fellow. There, she should be at least breathing now, but she's still dead. What am I missing?"

"I think I see something, near her spinal cord. Let's turn her over."

The doctor stitched up the incision, turned the dog-girl over, and made another. Immediately, he saw the problem.

"It appears that she doesn't have a spine. There's only a grey pipe filled with some kind of copper nerve… and it's broken in half."

"I don't think we can complete this operation. Unless you have a spine just lying around somewhere—"

The good doctor reached into his bag and took out his spare spine.

The fellow looked astonished for a moment. "Alright, now just put it in there."

The doctor stuck the spine in place, and affixed it to the remaining nerves. "Now all we need is electricity, to revive her brain," he remarked.

"Electricity? Nerves?" Don Quixote blurted, "what kind of medical madness might you two men be speaking of?"

"Wait, electricity?" said Leslie, "We're in the middle of nowhere, where would we get that?"

"Hold, fellow, I just conceived an idea," replied the good doctor. He began to run away.

"What are you doing, are you giving up now?" shouted the fellow.

At the ditch, the doctor stopped and dragged the limp body of one of his bird-people out. "Give me a hand here!" he yelled.

The two doctors dragged the cadaver to the one they had been operating on. "This one's still breathing, we might be able to use the electricity from its brain to revive the dog!"

"Kinda like jumpstarting a car?"

"What's a car?"

"This could be complicated." The clone took his scalpel and made an incision near the avian man's brain. Then, grabbing a handful of nerves, he connected them to the base of Shock's new loaner spine. Finally, in order to stimulate the last breath of the bird-man, he gave him a swift kick in the arse. This was followed by a deep breath from the dog-girl, followed by a heartbeat.

"¡Dios mio! She draws breath!"

"She's still out cold," remarked the fellow, "um, excuse me, sir with the horse, but do you think you could carry her?"

"Certainly, ¡compañero!" blurted Don Quixote, before slinging her up onto his steed, "She appears to have some sort of sword, but attached directly to her hand! She may come to be a valiant companion on our adventure, alongside our newfound surgeon!"

"You're too kind, sir. All I did was—"

"Now, we must continue on our adventure, to find Leslie's true love. We may still encounter resistance yet, but with our might, no obstacle will block our way! ¡Vamanos, amigos!"

And so the now-even-odder group— a mosquito, Don Quixote, a plague doctor, his doppelganger, and a passed-out dog smuggler— continued on the road to West Virginia.

This was written for the Original Character Tournament, in a matchup of The Plague Doctor by Gabriel JadeGabriel Jade and Shock by me.

Gabriel JadeGabriel Jade also made a pretty cool tale for the contest, and I'd highly recommend checking it out if you liked this!

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