THE BADGE OF OUR TRIBE By Taylen Carver
Harley Firebird 5.0
Urban Fantasy Novelette
Is a day with no crimes in it possible?
Harley has nothing to do. So when her lieutenant, Mojag Bear, heads for the town’s high school with a thunderous expression, she tags along.
Her curiosity tips Harley into a day of discovery about Mojag and his family, the skewed passions of the Old Ones and humans who live in Falconer, and a tragedy in the making.
Maybe a quiet day in Falconer just isn’t possible, after all…
The Badge of Our Tribe is part of the Harley Firebird urban fantasy series of novelettes, which is set in the same world as Taylen Carver’s Magorian & Jones series.
The Harley Firebird series:
1.0: The Dragon of Falconer
2.0: The Orc Who Cried
3.0: The Shepherd of Fire
4.0: The Mad Folk of Falconer
5.0: The Badge of Our Tribe
5.5: Harley Firebird Files
…and more to come.
Urban Fantasy Novelette
BARNES & NOBLE
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EXCERPT FROM THE BADGE OF OUR TRIBE
COPYRIGHT © TAYLEN CARVER 2021
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
She stepped out onto the concrete stoop and shut the door. “Mojag!”
He glanced at her, but kept walking.
Harley zipped up her jacket and jogged down the narrow path to the sidewalk, then hurried to catch up with Mojag. “Where’s the fire?”
“Official business?” She had left him as the point man at the station this morning.
Mojag blew out his breath. “Yep.”
“At the high school.”
She walked behind him, breaking into a jog every few steps, to keep up with his pace, and waited.
“I diverted the phones to Kask’s cell,” Mojag said.
“Not what I’m worried about.”
They crossed a side street. Up ahead, Harley could see the heavy pipe-and-wire fence that enclosed the school ground, on the other side of the road. Everyone was in class. She couldn’t hear kids yelling, the way they did at recess.
Mojag slowed his pace, which let Harley catch up with him. “I got this, boss,” he told her. “It’s just stupid shit.”
She looked up at him, letting the silence work on him again. He was thirty years old and usually quiet-spoken, but Harley had seen him in action. He might talk little and slow, but his mind moved at lightspeed. He was the empathetic one of her two lieutenants.
Mojag jogged across the narrow street to the other footpath and slowed his pace even more. He gave a great sigh. “My sister’s kid is about to get suspended.”
“Your sister asked you to sort it out?”
He glanced at her, his head down. She could feel awkwardness radiating from him. This was personal stuff. “Her husband was a drunk and a womanizer. He split. Years ago.”
And Mojag had stepped into the breech.
“Why is your nephew getting suspended?”
“‘bout to find out,” Mojag muttered, then added, “Probably fighting.”
Harley wrinkled her nose. “Kids fight. Suspension seems a bit much. How old is he?”
“Eighteen in June.” Mojag slowed even more and scratched at his long, glossy hair. Most of it was tied back with a leather thong, and it was usually neat and tidy. The thing with his nephew was getting to him.
“Eighteen…that makes it a bit more serious,” Harley agreed.
“When he was at the high school in Sundre, he was in fights nearly every month, seemed like,” Mojag said with an air of confession.
“Falconer opened up the multi-school last September.” Harley let her voice rise at the end. The abandoned high school had been reopened to all students of Falconer, of all grades, from pre-school to high-school.
Mojag shook his head. “Nothing since then.” He added heavily, “Until now.”
They both remained silent for a dozen more paces. Then Mojag said, “I was going to call you, once I knew what was going on.”
“And now I’m here, anyway.”
“You don’t have to be, boss. It’s not a police matter.”
Harley recalled the blank top of her desk, back at the station. The empty in-box. “Have you met the new principal yet?” she asked Mojag. Col ap Red Deer was a fae—an elemental—and had moved to Falconer from Red Deer only a month ago, shortly after his transition to an old one. More, he was a trained high school teacher and former principal. Akicita Frazier, the Mayor, had hired him instantly and the floundering, untrained teachers had cheered.
Mojag grimaced. “Never met the principal. Migisi gets the invitations to school things.”
“Then I’ll introduce you to him,” Harley said. She pulled out her sunglasses, put them on, then picked up the pace. There was an opening in the boundary fence at this end of the grounds.
When Harley had first been introduced to Col ap Red Deer, she had been astonished to see that he was a short fae, which was nearly unheard of. The fae were usually tall and lithe. Col had clearly been short as a human and had not acquired much extra height with his transition to an Old One. On the other hand, like all fae—all the Air species, in fact—he radiated an unearthly glow that made him look saintly.
Harley’s first, quick opinion of Col ap Red Deer had been that he would have trouble with the unruly elements at the high school.
His charges weren’t just human teenagers high on hormones and attitude. The kids at Falconer School were of every old race except firebirds, with a handful of still-human kids waiting to change. The problems with being an undocumented Old One in Canada applied just as harshly to them as it did to their parents. The Falconer student body dialed “attitude” way up.
That first meeting had been in March. Now it was mid-April and so far, Harley hadn’t heard any complaints or troubles issuing from the school and figured Col was handling everything with aplomb.
Now she stood in front of Principal Col once more, introducing him to Mojag, she knew the silence had been a mask.
Col looked as though he was short on sleep, at the very least. His ethereal glow was barely there. His face showed signs of stress, particularly around his eyes, which had bags beneath them.
When she had first met him, Harley judged Col to be in his late thirties. Today, he appeared to be in his late fifties.
But he greeted them both in the school’s reception area with brisk efficiency and showed them back to his office. Over his shoulder, he asked the dryad hovering nearby to have Hahnee Bear sent to his office.
Hahnee arrived only a few minutes later. He was a tall near-adult, who limped into the office, a bloody rag in his hand.
Harley caught her breath. The kid looked like he’d been rolled down the Rockies in a barrel. There were cuts and scrapes on his face and hands, and fresh bruising that would be dark blue by tonight. His lip was split and swollen and his nose showed a dribble of blood, which he mopped with the rag.
His brows were pulled in over his black eyes, as he looked from Col to Mojag. “Perfect,” he muttered. He turned to Col. “I’m getting busted over this?”
“Nothing has been decided yet.” Col’s tone was soothing. Harley gave him full marks for his attitude. Most principals she’d ever met preferred to deal with kids from a position of power. Vague threats, condescending “chats” and rigorous punishments for non-compliance. Col, though, seemed to be dealing with Hahnee as if he was an adult and an equal. If he treated all the senior students with the same attitude, then Harley was even more puzzled over the signs of strain Col displayed.
“It looks as though you deserve to be busted,” Mojag told his nephew, his voice deep and calm.
Hahnee spun on his heel to confront Mojag. “There was four of the fuckers, lekší! And two of them are orcs!”
Mojag’s eyes narrowed.
“Language, Bear.” Col’s tone was firm.
Wariness spread through Harley’s middle. “You took on four Old Ones?” She kept her tone light.
“They jumped me,” Hahnee said, his tone bitter. “And I’m the one in the principal’s office. There’s a big surprise.” He wiped his nose once more. “You’re Mojag’s chief, aren’t you?”
“Harley,” she said. “Boss, not tribal chief.”
Hahnee didn’t smile at the microscopic joke.
“What did you do, to have two orcs swing at you?” Harley asked. Orcs were almost impossible to knock off their feet. They weighed more than they appeared to, and all of it was muscle. They were strong as hell. Two of them, plus two other species also using their talents, meant Hahnee had defended himself enough to stay alive and still able to walk. That showed both mental and physical strength.
“I don’t think we need to get into specifics,” Col said, his tone the typical “I’m the teacher,” one that had made Harley’s teeth ache, when she had been in school. Col’s progressive attitude had evaporated. Shame.
“Maybe we do need the specifics.” Mojag’s tone was still calm. He spoke slowly, feeling his way ahead. “Hahnee makes a point. Why four of them?” He looked at his nephew and raised his brow.
Hahnee shrugged. “I don’t know. They didn’t say. The usual reasons, I guess.” His tone was infinitely wise.
Harley’s wariness lifted another notch. She’d been called into deal with serious high school fights once or twice when she was still human and a Mountie. Fights which involved knives or blunt weapons and therefore might involve criminal charges. The fights with a lone kid against a group had always been about race, at their core.
Hahnee seemed to think so, too. That put the whole fight into a different light. It edged it into criminal territory.