It started, innocently enough, with a series of tattered journals wrapped in brown paper, and tied together with twine and some vines that were brittle and dead. And certainly such a mysterious package would inspire in even the prosaic individual some sense of wonder– after all, such a find seems to inherently possess a distinct, and well-nigh “otherworldly” tale of adventure, or derring-do. Perhaps the fantastic and indeed tantalizingly wrapped package of haphazardly written notes and dates would speak only of moss growing or the ever-increasing cost of tea, or worse still, a rigidly-formulaic romance novel draft where the protagonist, Prudence Worth, has not a single suitor until one day a man who is just plain “into feet” admires her bushy toes and whisks her away to some magic foot-worshiping kingdom. But I digress.
The innocence and awe of finding these journals was only slightly marred by their method of delivery. You see, the Mayor of the small town of Yokhein, Pennsylvania- a man by the name of Frank Fontaine- had just arisen from a dreamless sleep and donned his robe to take his morning constitutional, when all of a sudden he was struck from above on his bald head- not hard enough to harm him mind you, but dropped from enough height to get the portly man’s attention– and it had worked. After letting loose a stream of oaths that had sent the neighboring Widow Skinner fainting upon her fainting couch, the Mayor (in his robe and undies) looked up and brandished his fist at some ugly black bird, which he determined to be a vulture. And what a vulture!
Vultures, as a general rule, are not considered by normal, healthy folk to be cute or even endearing- sure, they serve an important purpose in the circle of life, but the birds in general- and this ne’er do well in particular, who was already flapping its wings and (and the Mayor would swear to this) grumbling (!) seemed particularly repulsive and malign. It had the typical pink, plucked head and piercing beady eyes; it’s neck was similarly pink and devoid of feathers until its base, where a circle of white down marked the beginning of the bird’s torso. Its body and impressive wingspan were covered in a thicker type of feather, which was starting to grow hoary white as if the bird were of an incredible age, and its talons seemed even more menacing than your typical carrion bird– but then again, considering its impressive aim and singular package, this was clearly no ordinary buzzard. And, in fact, after placing a slab of cold meat upon his completely hairless head, the Mayor (still in his small-clothes) would pour over the journals in one sitting, at once fascinated and mystified. If not for the ugliness of the messenger, the mayor would have assumed the winged-beast to be some sort of actor of providence.
But more on this later– prior to the start of the tale, it would behoove the reader to understand a little bit about the settlement of Yokhein, its people, and its bizarre history.