Since childhood I have admired the long-tailed birds of fantasy found in ancient tapestries. Not surprisingly, the creatures showed up unannounced in Tales of Faeraven. Kaerocs first make their entrance in DawnSinger when Shae and her companions stop for the night in the ruins of Braeth. The birds also put in an appearance in WayFarer and turn up once again in Sojourner, the third book in this medieval epic fantasy trilogy.
While a white peacock isn’t a perfect rendition of the white, ungainly bird I picture as a kaeroc, it’s close. The glossary in the back of each Tales of Faeraven book describes the long-tailed fantasy birds in this way: Kaeroc (KAY-rok)—Large white bird with long tail feathers that roosts in tall trees and inhabits ruins.
These rare birds show up in unexpected places, their presence like a benediction. The archer, Aerlic, has fond memories of trying to catch kaerocs in the woodlands of Glendenn Raven in his early days . In WayFarer, they are spotted in the wild lands west of Torindan, and in Sojourner, a kaeroc visits the inner garden’s fountain, perhaps stopping for a drink while on a long journey from the ruins of Braeth in the east to the western wild lands. Elcon mentions that his mother refused to eat kaerocs because of their beauty.
As a child, I pored over books about history, including one belonging to my parents that showed birds in medieval tapestries. To my young mind, the exquisite creatures with impossibly long tails pictured became the essence of wonder.
Years later as an adult living in Hawaii, a chance sighting took my breath away. For there, flying through a waterfall’s spray in the blazing heat of a summer day, was a white bird with an incredibly long tail. I had always thought the birds of he medieval tapestries in my parent’s book to be mythical creatures, but here was one right in front of me.
I believe now that I saw a white-tailed tropicbird. Although the bird’s tail seems in memory longer and more flexible in flight, the markings are the same. The beauty of this bird’s flight are a far cry from a kaeroc’s wavering efforts.
I may have drawn the kaerocs’ flight from that of a white heron, not an uncommon sight in the Pacific Northwest where I live. Although their flight may be ungainly, the sheer size of a heron, much like that of a kaeroc, never fails to impress.
All told, the kaerocs of Faeraven take something from all three birds. They have the beauty of a peacock, the ability to command attention of a tropicbird, and the magnificent clumsiness of a great white heron. They are the birds that should be, the best of beauty, grace for ruined places, a reminder of hope.