If I was not of this planet, if I was originally from one called Badezon, had I paid the ultimate price in service of my species on this research mission to Earth? Had my wings been amputated so that I might pass as human? And was the process reversible? I looked in Chan’s hallway mirror at where the stumps should be, at where the welts were, red scorches in white human skin. I could imagine no operation that would be successful in reattaching wings to these alien shoulders. There were recent instances of reattachment, but they stemmed from accidental severance and close proximity to the best surgeons with the wing accompanying the victim into the operating theatre. Where were my wings? The best I could hope for was that they had been placed in frozen storage. But I had lost not only my feathers but the bony structures at the shoulder blades to which Badezon wings were fixed. I could not see a future in which I was able to fly again. The boy who had been fascinated by the stories of the ancient wing-taking sects of Badezon had somehow become their modern-day victim.
Of the many rival sects that the mythological history of Badezon records, two became dominant, and their names have been whispered down the ages, ensuring the survival of their enigma if not their actual continuity.
There were the Peldastiquon, an order at the level of the ancient aristocracy of Badezon. What had begun as sport turned into darker pursuits over the centuries as they used hunting skills on their political enemies. It was enough to take the trophy of their wings, and then the token of their tongues, for who could continue to hold the ear of a king or a queen without a tongue?
As is so often the case with sects, the Gedavippio began as a faction of the Peldastiquon. Legend says that there was a move by the Peldastiquon leadership to curtail the extent of the sect’s barbarous practices, with a stipulation that the wings of fellow Badezon should not be clipped without the exhaustion of all other options and a unanimous vote by all attending its necessarily secretive ruling council. With sufficient sleight of hand the ruling council used both political and a final few nostalgic wing-taking measures to rid itself of opposition, and push through the sect’s transition into an expanded honorary organisation, the guiding purpose of which was to look after its members career and business interests.
But they failed to tear the wings or tongue from Gedavippi himself. Always a killer and never a council member, none dared go after him. He drew many younger members, their blood-lust still keen, away from the portly embrace of the Peldastiquon, and satisfied that keenness in allowing his new followers to ground the leaders of the old order one by one. The Peldastiquon was forced to recreate an armed wing to defend itself against the Gedavippio until finally, after many wing-takings, a kind of balance – in the form of an unspoken truce – was reached. Through the centuries the fortunes of each rose and fell, coincided and were once again sundered. In modern times the Peldastiquon have become extremely secretive. No member would publicly admit to membership; but it is well-known that certain government and military roles are in their gift.
As for the Gedavippio, few now believe they remain at large, although occasionally reports surface of ritualistic murders with wing-taking hallmarks, creating a flurry of rumour which dies away soon enough. But though the Gedavippio went deep into the forests of Badezon long ago, no-one knows for sure whether the sect has managed to hand down its tenets with unbroken continuity, or whether the wing-takings that sporadically darken the light of our suns are the work of individuals or groups invoking their name for purposes which always and inevitably remain obscure.