The cawing that surrounded Gravefoot was the only sound, though he could feel a strong wind upon his face. Gravefoot was not certain how, but he knew he was dreaming. He stood on roughhewn steps of stone, leading to a dais with pillars that reached into the slowly swirling golden sky like skeletal fingers. A gray mist spread out beneath Gravefoot, making it impossible to see the ground, yet somehow he knew he was atop a very tall peak. Countless and varied sized poles of grayed and gnarled wood lay in scattered intervals crisscrossing the skeletal pillars, and thousands of ravens cawed, hopped, and perched on the beams.
Gravefoot was not scared. There was something familiar about the feel of this place, although he was certain he had never been here before. Slowly he began to ascend the steps. The cawing seemed to get louder, and now he could he the snap of wings and the tapping of beaks. Yet even as the sound grew it never became cacophonous or deafening.
As Gravefoot ascended the steps he saw beneath the perches were so many writing desks. The desks were made of a wood so dark it looked black, and atop them were large tomes bound in variety of colors. At each desk a spectral scribe busily transcribed into the tomes, motes of faint green light gathering around their quills as if being pulled from the air itself. Each of the spectral scribes wore a long black robe that seemed to absorb the light, and small soundless bells dangled from their hem and sleeves. Occasionally a scribe would cock their head, as if trying to hear better, before nodding and carrying on with their work. Gravefoot saw that after a time a raven would nod to a scribe before flying off, only to have the scribe begin to immediately pay attention to another that began cawing. The birds were in constant flux, with as many coming as departing, seeming to appear and disappear out of the swirling golden light.
Gravefoot did not know how long he waited on the steps by himself, yet he knew he must. Nor did it bother him to do so. There was a pervading sense of clam in this place, despite the noise. Here he did not feel ashamed, or as if he must hide. The nagging pains of his disfigurement vanished in this place. And suddenly Gravefoot knew he was where he would one day be eternally, in the home of his matron Pharasma.
After a time Gravefoot felt a small tug on his psyche and turned to see a scribe at a black desk looking patiently at his tome. A little disoriented Gravefoot realized he was no longer on the steps, but on the dais itself, with so many ravens overhead.
“Be quick, and say what you have drank,” the ghostly scribe urged him, though not unkindly, without looking up.
“I do not understand,” Gravefoot tried to say aloud, yet his voice came out like a caw.
The Scribe looked up and was immediately perplexed to see Gravefoot.
“You are not a normal drinker,” The scribe said not quite knowing what to do.
Gravefoot could only shrug.
“What is your name?” Asked the scribe.
“Gravefoot,” Gravefoot replied.
“No,” was all the scribe said.
“No?” Gravefoot was puzzled. “I have only had one name, the one given to me by him that saved me shortly after I was born, and almost killed.
“No,” the scribe said matter of factly. “Yours was name given before your birth. Your name was announced to a people, and your coming was celebrated.
Gravefoot could only snort. “My coming, friend scribe, was met with a slab of cold stone upside my head by she that bore me.”
The scribe tilted his spectral head slightly, as if listening to something distant, then returned its gaze to Gravefoot. “It is of no matter for now, you have drank so little. Yet we will need to record your contributions under your name, you will need to find that out.”
Gravefoot confusedly spoke, again his voice sounding like a raven’s, “I know not of what you speak?”
The scribe nodded slowly. “Too soon, drinker, you drank too soon. There is still much you should have learned.” The scribe waved its arm towards the sky indicated the ravens overhead. “They eat the eyes of the dead, capturing the last impressions and sites of a departing soul, and bringing them here, to the Aviary, where they can be transcribed by us. Sometimes the images and impressions happen after the soul has begun to depart, and without drinking the eyes, some parts of the living soul can be lost as they transition to dead souls. If pieces are lost, the soul is unwhole, and may become restless. And this, as you know devotee of our lady Pharasma, is unacceptable. Normally Our Lady relies on the raven kin to be the Drinkers of Eyes. But it would seem as if you have been chosen.”
As the scribe spoke, Gravefoot knew what it said was true, the same way he knew he still dreamt. Even still, the kobold’s last memories surged to get out. They battered and leapt against the inside of his skull while others seemed to peck. Sensing a release, Gravefoot began to recant the memories that were not his own to the scribe, the words turning to caws that joined the chorus of those around him.
The scribe’s quill flew across the pages of the tome, the greenish motes seeming to be pulled from Gravefoot’s mouth. When Gravefoot had concluded, he again felt at peace. The scribe finished his scrawling and nodded to Gravefoot. Suddenly Gravefoot was again among the steps of the dais. He could no longer see the scribes, only the ravens. The swirling amidst the ground begun to rise and engulf Gravefoot. As the slow mist began to slowly overtake him, Gravefoot heard the echoing voice of the scribe.
“Return to us when you have drank more. And learn your name.”
Gravefoot awoke with a slow and calm fluttering of his eyes. As had been the case all his life, the first thing to greet him this morning was the ever constant pain of his disfigurement. Even still, Gravefoot felt a residual stillness within himself. He rose slowly from the floor and reached for his tattered coat. Only in its place was a new one, the fabric a shiny new black. Gravefoot raised it up and a small tinkling sound filled the air. A small silver bell hung from each sleeve, and below the collar was a mantle of Raven’s feathers. As Gravefoot slung the coat over his shoulders it fit perfectly. Grabbing his staff, Gravefoot breathed a prayer of thanks to Pharasma and brushed the rough wooden holy symbol against his battered lips. Stowing the rest of his gear Gravefoot departed into the morning air, eager to perform in his new calling.