No. 11.—The Roc.
ROCS ARE LARGE birds native to the Arabian peninsula and other mythological lands. They are not very common, which is just as well, since a mature roc is about the size of a large passenger jet. Rocs feed mostly on the henchmen of villains in Hollywood Arabian fantasies; they have been known to abduct raven-haired princesses as well, but have never been known to succeed in eating one. Indeed, because of the prevalence of swashbuckling heroes throughout the roc’s natural range, the abduction of a princess usually proves fatal to even the most determined and ferocious roc. Most rocs, therefore, have long since learned to restrict their diets to henchmen, no matter how temptingly unguarded a princess may appear to be. This has caused a shortage of henchmen throughout the Caliphate, which in turn may have contributed to a marked fall in the quality of sinister plots, though there has been no shortage of wicked and scheming wazirs. The Audubon Society, concerned that the shortage of the rocs’ natural prey may lead to a further diminution of their numbers, has experimented with importing other kinds of henchmen and releasing them into the wild. The rocs, however, seem to show a marked distaste for mob henchmen, and mad scientists’ henchmen (though more to the rocs’ taste) have proved difficult to obtain.
Rocs breed in late winter, and the female roc lays a single egg about the size of a common fast-food restaurant. A few weeks later the egg is ready to hatch, for which the assistance of power tools is necessary. After the hatching, the female roc guards the nest while the male goes in search of food. The young at first are not ready for a diet of pure henchmen, and must be fed partially digested bureaucrats and minor functionaries until they have grown sufficiently. They learn to fly with the assistance of their parents, who toss them off the highest coastal cliffs when the time comes for them to leave the nest. The roc learns to fly, at least vertically, on the way down.
The roc teaches us that Happiness Must Be Earned.