Odessey of the Desert Shadow is a fanfiction by Lyze4ever
Jihn and his sister are coming up on hard times as winter is approaching and they have no currency to their name. Time is running out and Jihn has to go on one last bounty before winter approaches, however, he didn't expect his client to be a young elf owl in search of his parents.
Jihn- male Greater Sootie Owl Ilumenna- female Greater Sootie Owl Kopal- male elf owl
Deep within the darkness of Shadow Forest, a spruce tree erupts with a series of curses and shoutings of an elder owl. This, however, wouldn't be new since there would be occasions where the owls at the local grog tree would sing loudly into the night, but tonight was not one of those nights. Jihn, a greater sootie owl, had just found out that the shinies, had just run out.
"What happened!? I thought we were set for this month-what in hagsmire happened!?"
"Your 'habits' that's what happened, brother." Ilumenna sighed unamused at her brother's outburst.
Sure, this isn't the first time Jihn had drunken the money, but of all times, this was one of the worst of those times. Before winter, they would always buy foxskins and a few pelts of fur to keep warm every year because the old furs would decay. Now, they had no money to buy any pelts, nor had they started stocking up for winter.
"Lulu, understand that my work is very demanding, I need my alcohol every now and then.", he reasoned
"But why work if you always drink the money!? This time you've gone too far, Jihn." she hissed irritably
"I guess I'll go out and do one more bounty-"
"No, you can't leave me alone in this hollow like you always do!"
"Ilumenna, I already told you the reasons you can't come with me on my job."
"Brother, I can help if you let me! You never trust my abilities as a fighter!", she whined
Jihn knew that his sister was a great hunter, but fighting with daggers and battleclaws was a different story. Ilumenna had no combat experience, but she was a capable hunter in case she was ever left alone. But hunting and fighting are two different arts, one is to kill and the other is to survive, and innocent Ilumenna would never kill anyone. Most of the time, he would tell her that he'd be back and for her to wait till he returns. And each time he returned, she'd welcome him with an emotional embrace, not that he would blame her. Jihn was a hireclaw who would either go to hunt other owls or protect them for money. He would come home scarred and bloody from his job, inciting worry from his beloved little sister. Many times, she tried to follow him, and many times he would tell her to return home.
"Listen, Ilumenna, you need to start hunting for us till I return."
"And if you don't return?"
"Then at least you'll have everything you need for the winter."
"But I wont have a brother..." Ilumenna whispered as she walked out of their hollow and onto the perch outside.
With a sigh, Jihn slowly donned his armor and equipment before accompanying his sister out on the perch. She was looking out in the night sky with a look apathy.
"I'll be right back, I promise. Besides, I'll always come home, you know I always do, sis." Jihn reassured her
"I know you always do...Just be careful, Jihn."
With that, he alighted into the air and disappeared into the night as Ilumenna took off in the opposite direction in search of any prey that would suffice them for the winter. As she tilted her head side to side for any heartbeat, her mind continued to worry for her brother.
Dust in the Sand
Jihn was scouring through the outskirts of Shadow Forest in search of work. So far, no owl has requested his help, nor have they needed any favors from him. Jihn starts to speculate that owls maybe preparing for winter as well and don't have any need for a hireclaw in the winter. Desperate, Jihn decides to leave Shadow Forest in search of work elsewhere in places that have yet to be affected by winter. He flew southward to the Desert of Kuneer, knowing that the desert is the last place he'd expect to be hit with the early signs of winter.
Time would pass and Jihn would still have no luck in finding work in the desert, much to his frustration. The heat was already starting to irritate his senses as he had fallen for a mirage of another owl one or twice by now. Suddenly, he hears a faint heartbeat several meters below him, just among a small cactus cluster. Being a bit hungry, he decided to investigate for the chance of a quick meal.
Performing a steep bank, Jihn lands on one of the cacti, being careful not to prick himself with the sharp spines as he looked down at the cluster. He didn't see anything, but could still hear the faint heartbeat of another living thing below him. Leaning forward to get a better chance at hearing, he was startled by a small voice:
"Excuse me, have you seen my ma and da?"
It was a small owl, an elf owl that only looked a couple days out of the shell, that was in a hollow in the cactus. The little one was small and a lot skinnier than that of a normal elf owlet. If Jihn weren't mistaken, this owlet was malnourished and was starving to death. Hastily, despite the owlet's protests, Jihn left the cactus in search of something to feed the little one.
"Where are your parents, owlet?" Jihn asked as the elf owl tore into the snake that he had caught
Snake hunting wasn't Jihn's thing, but it was the only source of food he could find at the time. It was a sheer miracle that he even managed to find one at all, being that winter was on its way and usually the reptiles would be preparing to hibernate for the winter.
"Ma and Da left, but they never came back." the owlet said quickly as he ate the snake.
Knowing that the owlet was probably starving, Jihn waited rather than pester the owlet until he was finished eating. The elf owl eventually finished the snake, but still looked hungry. Jihn decided to try his luck and ask the little one about his predicament.
"Where are your parents, owlet? Did they leave for early winter hunting?"
"No, sir..they left with a group of owls."
"Owls? What did they look like?"
For a moment, the little owlet looked nervous and shuffled his talons before looking back up at the larger Greater Sootie. He opened his beak as if to say something, but then closed it, unknowingly irritating Jihn. The little owl did it again, but this time wilfed before he could utter a sound. Frustrated, Jihn made a reach for his dagger, but didn't want to scare the youngin into staying quiet, so he worked up the patience to wait for his answer. Finally, after minutes of tense breathing, the owlet spoke.
"They were different colors."
"You know, like one was orange, another was yellow and a third was green and red."
"Sorry, son, but there is no way any owl would be that color."
"You have to believe me sir! They got my parents!"
"Don't raise your voice with me!" Jihn suddenly snapped, making the little one to retreat in a corner, so he calmed down a little.
"Tell me the story from beginning to end. Maybe I'll get a clue as to what happened."
So the little owlet told Jihn his story of what happened before his neglect, and how he had managed to survive despite being left without food or water. Jihn was a bit surprised that a young owlet had managed so long, surely, he knew that elf owls were tough, but an owlet was still developing these traits. The situation appears to Jihn as an exchange that went horribly wrong with the owlet's parents. It was a miracle that they didn't snatch him, or do worse based on the description that he was given.
"What made these owls stand out from what you normally know besides their appearance?"
"Umm...Oh! They spoke funny."
"They kept using words like 'ja' or 'kraffin' or something like that."
"Ah, racdrops!", he cursed, earning a gasp from the owlet because of his foul mouth
"Sorry, but that means those owls were from the Northern Kingdoms. Its a long way from here."
"Please, sir, can you get my parents back? or at least see if they're okay. I miss them." he whined
"Sorry, but that sounds like a job, and I know you can alone cant afford to pay me."
Jihn didn't intend to be cruel, but he definitely didn't want to give the impression that he did work for free. Surely, if this owlet could give him anything of use, then he might make an exception, just this once. The little owlet looked scared and he frantically paced around the partially empty hollow, before stopping as a suddenly realization hit him.
"My da's a blacksmith!"
"I could care less.."
"He can trade you some new weapons if you like."
"No, I wouldn't lie sir, at night, I would see his forge light up just a good distance from my hollow. If you can bring them back, you can get whatever weapon he has."
"You sure he would agree to this?"
"I'll worry about him later."
"Fine, I'll be off to look for them." was all he said before making his way to the exit, but is stopped by a desperate peck from the owlet.
"What in Glaux's name do you want now?"
"Please, don't leave me alone..Take me with you."
"You'll get killed youngin."
"I'm not being left here all alone again!" the owlet suddenly screeched at him with tears in his eyes.
It was those exact words that reminded Jihn of Ilumenna , on how she would always urge him to stay home rather than go out on his dangerous bounties. "Glaux, am I really that neglectful? he thought as he turned to face the owlet.
"Fine, stop crying, I'll get you a place to stay for the time being. Is that okay, youngin?"
"Alright, lets go. You'll stay at my hollow with a friend."
"Sir, are you a guardian?"
"Guardian? No, just a hireclaw. What's your name, by the way?"
"Kopal! And yours, sir?"
"I'm Jihn and stop calling me sir. I'm nobody special."
"Alright, si- I mean, Jihn." Kopal churred as Jihn lifted him with ease with one talon.
With little words being exchanged, Jihn flew back to Shadow Forest to drop off the little owlet just in case he'd be gone longer than anticipated. What worried Jihn the most was whether he'd get the job done before winter, which was only three days away. Another thing that didn't help was that he still doesn't know who could have taken Kopal's parents and let alone why. one thing that mattered was that he get his pay before time was up. Hopefully for him, Ilumenna had gotten lucky and managed to stock up on tons of kill for the winter, since her babysitting this owlet would give them another mouth to feed until his parents are reunited with him. With newer things to worry about, Jihn flew hastily back to Shadow Forest, in hopes of reaching there before dark, he couldn't afford to waste anytime thinking about it.
"Jihn, what are you thinking!?"
This time it was Ilumenna that was fuming as a menacingly calm Jihn waited for his sister to calm down. Kopal just hid quietly behind Jihn as he watched the irate female sooty owl berate his savior.
"We cant afford to take care of him! I cant find anything to hunt as it already is!"
"How much did you get this time?"
"Only three mice within two whole hours!" she shred, making Kopal wilf, but was reassured by Jihn with a gentle stroke from his wingtip.
"Did you try going out farther to search for vole or mice?"
"That would take to long and is a waste of time anyway seeing that snow has already started to hit certain places in the owl kingdoms." Ilumenna hissed angrily
"Don't be such a crybaby sis. Just venture out-" Ilumenna gave him a glare that meant death for a brief second, before starting again
"With the owlet, I cant leave him all alone! Are you stark raving yoicks!"
Ilumenna turned her back away from him and sighed in an exasperated tone, trying to regain her composure. Jihn has never seen his sister this angry, but its not like he wasn't expecting it. It was winter and the two had no efficient supply of food, no pelts, and a hungry young owlet that wasn't even theirs to take care of. Things didn't look well for the siblings, nor did they look well for the owlet that they had to now care for.
"I know, I know, but if I do this, we can get paid and go from there."
"You better hurry because-", Ilumenna stopped to look at Kopal, who had just eaten two of the mice she had caught.
"Our 'guest' is wearing out his welcome." she hissed stepping out onto the perch and flying off before she could have an outburst toward the little one.
"Sorry, Jihn, I'm still hungry.."
"Don't be..I forgot to feed you enough." he joked ,stepping out of the hollow.
"Don't be trouble for my sister. And you can sleep in my bed until I return."
"Okay, thanks, Jihn!" Kopal peeped up
Jihn spread his wings, but upon hearing Kopal shout to him, he nearly stumbled off the perch.
"What is it now, Kopal?" his hissed
"I almost forgot to thank you for saving me."
"Don't thank me. Anyway, I cant save your parents staying back here now can I?" Jihn joked before taking off.
Kopal sighed as he watched Jihn leave him in the hollow. He was tempted into eating the other mouse, but was afraid of what Jihn's sister would do if he ate all the food. With that being said, Ilumenna entered the hollow with another mouse in her beak. She walked over to the other mouse in the corner and dropped it, slightly eyeing Kopal as she left it. Without saying another word, she left the hollow again before Kopal could blink. Deep down, he starts to worry as to whether Ilumenna has animosity towards him for just being there. With a sigh, Kopal settles into Jihn's bed of down, and lays down to sleep.
A Rogue Among Noble Owls
"Racdrops! Me and my drinking habits have really messed me over this time!" Jihn mumbled as he proceeded to fly over the Sea of Hoolemere.
Whether it was the cool sea breeze or winter on it's way, Jihn was cold and was wishing he hadn't spent the money of else he'd be having to wear a nice fox pelt over his shoulder. He had never been to the Northern Kingdoms before except to deliver messages for military figures back in the day. That, however; was a long time ago and he is no longer familiar with the landscape nor the language. After his last job in participating in a small skirmish and nearly getting his eye raked out by a Great Grey, Jihn swore he'd never do business in the Northern Kingdoms ever again. How fate has proven to be cruel to him, because not only does he have to return to the Northern Kingdom, he has to return at the worst of times, winter.
In the distance, Jihn could see the Great Tree up ahead through the mist. As tempting as it was for him to ask for their help, Jihn didn't want to affiliate himself with the guardians in any way. He didn't have anything personal against them, Jihn just didn't want any of his employers having the wrong idea of him. Jihn, gets hired by everyone, owl good or bad, but he doesn't care about the cause, just the pay. If word got out to a pure one that he was seen with a guardian, then his family would be at risk. Countless times he had been called a traitor or a slipgizzle, but he wasn't doing anything to be evil, just for his family. Unfortunately, not every owl sees that, and Jihn stopped caring long ago on if they did or not.
Unexpectedly, an owl approached Jihn from his starboard side and screeched, "Halt! Why are you within vicinity of the tree? Do you have any business?".
Jihn was annoyed at the nosey owl, surely, he always passed by the tree without detection, but this was way different.
"I always pass by here, owl. Leave me be and there wont be any trouble." he hissed as he attempted to pass the guardian, but was intercepted by two other owls.
"I'm going to ask of you to follow us for a moment.." one of the guardians inquired as they surrounded him.
"Racdrops..." Jihn muttered as he reluctantly followed the guardians to the tree.
"Tell us, why do you always pass by the tree?" the same guardian asked as he was escorting Jihn to the Parliament chamber. "Business." Jihn stated a bit coldly as he looked back at the owls behind him, annoyed that he was even being brought into the tree.
Despite the situation, Jihn did take in the sight of the tree before heading into the parliament hollow. When he entered the chamber, he looked about the hollow, ignoring the owls speaking before him. Honestly, it was the largest hollow he has ever seen, let alone have the privilege to step a talon in. Before he could further assess the hollow, the owl behind him tapped his shoulder and gestured to the king and queen.
"Um, excuse me?" Jihn questioned, making the guardian next to him scoff,
"The king asked why do you pass the tree regularly and wants to know if you're a slipgizzle." she whispered to him.
"Ah, that is the question, isn't it?" Jihn started, "Well, as a matter of fact, I am, but I choose no sides. At the right price, I'll help anyone." he stated matter of factly.
One of the owls in the parliament chimed in,
"So, you are working against us at the moment, I assume?".
Starting to get impatient, Jihn screeched, "Listen, I don't have time for this! I have to help my client.", with that, he attempted to shove past the guardians behind him, but was held in place. The queen whispered something to her mate, he nodded then asked,
" Tell me owl, where do you reside?",
"Shadow Forest. Now will you let me go?"
"I just have a few questions to ask."
"Hurry, I have to get to the Northern Kingdoms.."
"Rumor has it that the pure one supporters are attempting to revive the faction. Is that true?" he asked leaning forward on his perch.
Jihn thought back on what his response would be. Surely, he knew about pure one supporters, but he didn't want to get involved in their affairs, let alone on their badside. Jihn knew he was running out of time, winter is on its way, he must find Kopal's parents, and he needs to buy fur pelts to keep him and his sister warm for the winter. Suddenly, an idea struck Jihn, that way, he could at least gain something from his endeavor.
"I'll tell you, if you can trade me some foxskins and vole for the winter."
"We guardians don't do bribes, as far as we know, you could be lying!" the guardian on his left hissed
"Then I could be on my way right now!" Jihn screeched
"Wait..What if we made an agreement?"
"If I sent my guardians to Shadow Forest and they find some pure ones, then you get your reward. If not, you will be escorted from the tree."
"Escorted? You act as if Im staying here, my client needs my help!" Jihn screeched as he stepped forward
"Well, if you don't stay, how do we not know that you'll be deserting your end of the deal." the king stated strictly
"Listen, I need to get to the Northern Kingdoms to save an owlets parents! Whether you believe me or not, I cant stay here!" Jihn yelled
"How do I know that a hireclaw like you isnt lying?"
"Because I was on my way there! I go to the Northern Kingdom sometimes to do my work! I'll give you your information as long as it gets me out of this hollow!"
For moment, the hollow was quiet, then the owls looked at the king who seemed to ponder for a bit. After a bit of waiting, he spoke:
"Fine, we will allow you to go on your bounty, but you must return to the tree so that we may get caught up on our agreement. Seems fair?"
"Fine, I'll be back here sometime before winter. But no promises that I'll return alive." Jihn said while stretching.
"After all.." he continued, "I have no idea who I'm up against."
"We wish you a safe travel. You are dismissed." the king said as the guardians began to escort Jihn out of the parliament hollow. He prepared to take off, but was stopped by the guardian escorting him.
"How do we know that you should be trusted? The pure ones are long gone since the war of the ember."
"It doesn't matter how many pure ones you kill. The idea still lives on. You can kill an owl, but you cant kill an idea. How do you think that groups like you still exist?" Jihn stated as he shifted impatiently.
"The only different is that our group protects the innocent, not oppress them."
Ignoring the guardian's last comment, Jihn proceeded to take off and head to the Northern Kingdoms. The day was almost gone as the sky was turning dark, Jihn knew that he would have to pull an all nighter just to stay ahead of time and to keep up to date on his task. Jihn cursed in his head as he thought about the actual search for two elf owls in the Northern Kingdoms. As he progressed further, a wave of coldness washed over him, "I must be getting close to the Northern Kingdoms... he thought as he pushed further into the dwindling day.
An hour passes and Jihn finally reaches the cold seas of the Northern Kingdoms. A place once covered in war and natchmagen, the Northern Kingdoms have healed up quite well considering that it was almost once again overrun by hagsfiends. Sure, all has cleared since then, but Jihn still looks over his shoulders, for this time of year was low tide, and the lack of saltwater could spell danger for him if he ever meets a surviving hagsfiend. Jihn shivers the thought away as he heads to Elsemere Island, hoping to rest there until he can search for any leads on Kopal's parents.
"Kopal! This is the fifth time you ate something I brought back." Ilumenna said calmly, to hide her annoyance at the little owlet.
Kopal didn't mean any harm, he truly was hungry, for he had been left for an unprecedented amount of time alone in that hollow with barely anything. He tried to stop himself from eating the vole, Ilumenna brought back, but he just figured that she could always catch more.
"Sorry, I was just hungry. I promise I wont do it again." he whined
"You said that last time." Ilumenna sighed as she sat down to rest.
Looking over in a corner, Ilumenna sighs that she has managed to gather three voles within the past hours. Honestly, she had caught eight in total, but Kopal ate the other five. Ilumenna didn't mind owlets, but she was rather irritated that the owlet they're caring for has a big appetite.
Kopal didn't mean to stare, but he always wondered why Ilumenna looked younger than Jihn and the two never really talked since he got there. To break the silence, Kopal finally spoke,
"So, how are you able to fly? You look young, and small-"
"Don't start about my height, its rude." Ilumenna snapped as she stood.
"Wait, I didn't mean it like that. I just thought you'd be taller-" he stammered
"I was born a runt, lucky for you, elf owls are naturally small." Ilumenna sighed sitting back down.
"Oh...." Kopal whispered as he looked down.
He never meant to insult Ilumenna, he was just curious. He also starts to ponder on whether Ilumenna gets made fun of because of her height. Just as he was about to ask another question, Ilumenna steps out of the hollow, appearing to go on another hunt. Kopal quickly stumbled over to the edge to catch up with her, suddenly slipping and almost losing his footing on the edge.
"Be careful, youngin! What is it now, Kopal?" Ilumenna sighed worriedly, as she used her wing to steady him.
"I want to come with you on a hunt!" Kopal piped up
"It's too dangerous, you should stay here." she assured, but was stopped again
"Please, I don't want to stay in the hollow by myself!" he whined
"When you're old enough to start branching, but right now, no." Ilumenna stated, trying to convince him to leave her.
With a sigh, Kopal finally decided to head back into the hollow, leaving Ilumenna to do her hunting. With one leap, Ilumenna was off and out searching for more prey that would suffice the evening. As she scoured the land from the air, her mind wandered to Jihn, she was hoping to Glaux that he would get back in time to take the owlet and to help with winter hunting. Sighing, she flies ahead to any source of water, hoping that any mammal would be still inhabiting the waterside.
Ilumenna returns to the hollow, with a squirrel, only to find it empty with the exception of her previous voles. Dropping the squirrel, she started panicking, Where could Kopal have gone!? Glaux, please tell me he wasnt snatched! she thought as she checked their beds for the elf owlet. Suddenly, a rapid heartbeat catches her attention as she tilts her head about listening for any change.
"Ilumenna? Are you there?" the small voice said
"Kopal! Where are you?" Ilumenna looked outside the hollow
"Down here. I fell out of the hollow." he replied solemnly.
Ilumenna looked down and of course, saw that Kopal had indeed fell to the forest floor. Wasting no time, Ilumenna performed a steep banking turn and lands before Kopal. Before he could explain, Ilumenna had him in her talons and had carried him back into the safety of the hollow. Then, she began her lecture with the little owlet about 'the owlet rules'.
"Didn't you know that you aren't supposed to try to fly before you're ready?"
"I know, but you said-"
"I didn't tell you to branch, I told you to stay in the hollow!" Ilumenna snapped, making the little owlet flinch.
Realizing her mistake, Ilumenna calmed herself and patted Kopal on the shoulder.
"I'm sorry, I'm just a bit flustered, doing the hunting then having to watch out for you. I'm tired, Kopal." Ilumenna said softly as she began to preen Kopal.
"I know, and I thank you for everything you and Jihn are doing for me." he sniffled slightly
"Don't cry,..everything is going to be alright." she sighed as she took him into a deep embrace.
The moment was interrupted when outside of the hollow, there was a shriek from one of the neighboring trees in the distance. The two young owls froze as they listened for the scream again. First, there was silence, then another shriek, making Kopal wilf twice his normal size.
"W-what was that-"
he stammered but Ilumenna stopped him and shoved him in a corner. She gestured with her talon to be quiet as she stepped to the exit of the hollow. Kopal whined, not wanting Ilumenna to leave him, but she reassured him with a friendly smile. Cautiously, she peered her head out of the hollow and looked around. She didn't see anything until she saw a group of owls, tytos exiting a hollow. They each where painted white with red in some places, and they were armed with battleclaws that could easily kill owls of all species. Quickly, she yanked her head back into the hollow and looked at Kopal with a bit of worry.
"Wh-who?" he whispered as quietly as he could muster, trying to stop himself from crying a fit.
"Just some really bad owls, Kopal.." Ilumenna said as she started to move things in the hollow.
Ilumenna knew, that those owls, were pure ones, or at least pure one supporters. Sure, majority of them were killed in the war, but their legacy of being murderous owls have infected a few owls with the thought of ruling the owl kingdoms. Her and Jihn have encountered them from time to time with a few insults and them threatening to enslave them, but the threats have gotten worse. Rumor has it that the pure ones have been invading other owls homes, snatching owlets, and even committing atrocities against non-tyto species. Ilumenna knew that she and Jihn stood a a chance, but Kopal, being an elf owl, would be killed on the spot. The one time, she's left alone, the pure ones prove to be a threat once again, to her home.
"Please, hurry, Jihn." Ilumenna whispered as she looked out of the hollow.
Jihn had been flying for hours, and was getting a bit frustrated at his luck of finding the island. Ever since he entered the Northern kingdoms, he'd been battling fierce head winds that have been slowing his progress and wearing him out. Jihn cursed to himself as he pushed forward,, not even bothering to open his eyes in the fierce wind. Abruptly, he slams into a foreign object and almost tumbles, but he regains himself and turns to face the object of intrusion. The sight, made his gizzard turn to stone, before him, was an angry hagsfiend.
Jihn's wings almost folded but he forced them to regain their strength as he turned himself back to his desired direction and flew with the hagsfiend tailing him. As Jihn flew away from the hagsfiend, he could feel the fyngrot bear into his back, luckily, he wasn't daring to look back. In the distance, he could see an island, that would surely provide him cover from the brute.
The hagsfiend dared take a swipe at his tailfeathers, prompting him to stagger and slow down. As his flight was slowed, the hagsfiend closed in on him and extended its talons, ready to go in for the kill. The situation gave Jihn an idea as he gripped the handle of his dagger in its sheath. "As soon as it gets closer, I'll rake her head off." Jihn thought as he barely dodged another swipe from the pursuing hagsfiend. He waited until it would swipe at him a second time, grazing his leg, only for him to swivel around and slit its throat. The hagsfiend shrieked as it fell into the sea in a mix of blood and water. Relieved, Jihn flew to the island to rest and tend to his wound before he could continue any further.
Jihn arrived to the island, tired and a bit bloody, but nonetheless, alive from his little ordeal. He landed on one of the shore rocks to recuperate as he panted. Jihn has never had to face a hagsfiend before and he was silently praying that he didn't have to face anymore anytime soon. This thought worried Jihn, hagsfiends reappearing during the time after the War of the Ember would mean another threat in the near future.
Not wanting to get sidetracked, Jihn looked around for a place to sleep, but what got his attention was a slightly lit tree in the distance. This was unusual to Jihn, because the lights looked vaguely familiar. He decides to take a closer look and tiredly takes off to the lit tree.
When he got there, he was surprised to see a few owls here and there enjoying a couple cups of bangle juice. Jihn awakes from his tired stupor and came to realize that this was a grog tree. Limping a bit from his injury, Jihn approaches the tree tender and asks,
"What island is this? I appear to be lost, my good owl."
The owl recognized him and handed him a cup of bangle, "On me. The best I can do for a regular." he said
Jihn was a bit confused, he didn't recognize the tender, but he supposes that since he does visit grog trees on a daily basis, word about him could spread.
"Thanks, but please, tell me, where am I?" Jihn asked while downing the bangle.
"You're on Stormfast Island, how could you forget? Did something hit you across the head?" the tender joked
"I'm tired, flew all day and night to get here to the Northern Kingdoms." he stated as he handed the empty cup back.
The tender just nodded before heading away to tend to other customers. Jihn was slightly annoyed, but a bit relieved that he made it to a known island. He realized that had he stopped at Elsemere Island, he would've had to fly a couple knots to get to this destination in the morning. Now that he was here, he planned on getting information from some owls around the island that might know the location of the kraals that took Kopal's parents.
When the tree tender returned, Jihn asked for a couple of bandages and some bangle to go as he planned on questioning the owls at the tree tomorrow. When the tender handed him the items, he left to find a tree to roost in for the night. Luckily, he managed to find one not so far from the grog tree, but unfortunately, upon entering it, he was startled to find bloodied feathers scattered across the hollow floor.
Jihn examined the feathers and found that they had been shead just moments before his arrival. Looking at its small shape, he could determine that it was elf owl feathers. This made his gizzard shake a bit as he worried on whether Kopal's parents would even still be alive. Jihn may not be close with Kopal, but it would be devastating news if he found out that his parents were dead. "I still got time. It's not too late yet..... hopefully." he thought as he wrapped his leg in a couple bandages.
As he was about to tighten the wrap, he noticed a silver metal object lodged into the wall. Forgetting about his wound for a moment, he approached the object and upon further observation, realized that it was a broken scimitar. It appeared to have been damaged at some point before being lodged into the wall, but if seen by a smithy, it could be fixed in no time. Upon looking at the handle, Jihn saw that it had been marked with dye and had a talisman attached to it,If I could bring this to the local grog tree, someone might be able to identify it and help me find those in question. Jihn thought as he eyed the customized handle. Lifting a talon, Jihn grabbed the scimitar and pulled it out of the wall with a sharp tug. He examined the rusted blade, before setting it down and returning to patch up his wounds.
When he was finished, he sat down in the corner and was about to take a sip of bangle juice, until he decided against it. It was the bangle that gotten him into this mess, but then again it was his choice to drink. Jihn pondered to himself about his life and his habits as he stared at the small container. He yarped a pellet, then sighed as he drifted to sleep, having succumb to his feat of hours without rest.
Ilumenna had just buried Kopal with the down of both her and Jihn, hoping to hide him just incase. Kopal watched as Ilumenna started to pull down from underneath her wing and drop it upon his head. When she finished, she forced him to lay down and appear as a downy bed.
"Listen Kopal, those owls will come in and I'm going to need you to be very quiet." she whispered a bit worriedly to him.
"What about you?" he whispered
"I'll make them leave. Now don't say a word and try to not breathe too hard okay?" Ilumenna said with a reassuring smile as she left his side.
Not a moment too soon, the pure one supporters were outside of the hollow.
"Anyone in there? If we don't get an answer, we will use force!" one of them screeched as they approached.
Ilumenna peeked her head outside of the hollow and saw three barn owls standing before her. Though frightened, she needed to stay calm or else her panic would drive Kopal out, putting him in danger.
"Do you..need anything?" Ilumenna asked as nice as she could.
"Bah, a lowly sooty owl!" the one behind the other two scoffed as the leader approached.
"To put it bluntly, yes. We ask that you join us in our quest to restore the Tytonic Union of Pure Ones. Despite you being a sooty owl, you still can be made useful for our cause." she stated
Before she could answer, the she owl pushed pass Ilumenna and entered the hollow, followed by her other comrades. Ilumenna hastily entered the hollow to keep an eye on the belligerent owls. Much to her dismay, one of the barn owls was tampering with the downy bed that Kopal lay hidden. She had to give credit to Kopal for not moving, but was worried when the owls started to pluck away the down.
"Sir, that's my brother's bed! He's away at the moment, but please, I was keeping this place clean for him." Ilumenna pleaded
The owl dryly stopped his actions and glared at Ilumenna, until their leader spoke again,
"So, I bet that you can tell, that by your neighbor's.... 'departure' they refused. So I'm hoping you wont make the same mistake." her friendly voice ending with a scowl as she gave Ilumenna her most menacing glare.
The last comment frightened Ilumenna, they had killed the owls that lived only a few trees away from them. Sure, Ilumenna wasn't close friends with them, but their daughter would help her on the hunts from time to time. She was guessing that since the family were grass owls, the pure ones asked them to join, but they refused and were murdered for it. Telling them to leave was no longer an option, she just had to convince them to leave. Luckily for her, she still had the three vole that Kopal didn't eat and could use it to bribe the obnoxious owls.
"Um, how about we discuss this over some freshly caught vole? You all must be hungry." Ilumenna said in a concerning manner.
"Thanks for the offer, you know, you're really generous unlike the other group." the barn owl teased
"I'm just glad to be of use to you, that's all."
"Maybe when the Union is back together, you might be able to tend to the troops. You know how much of an honor that is."
"May I ask you a question?"
"Within reason, what?"
"Are you, the General Mam?"
Suddenly, the pure ones stiffened and their leader's tone became dark.
"No, I'm not. Don't ever compare me to the greatest leader tytos will ever have!" she shreed, making Ilumenna wilf.
"My mistake, I'm so sorry."
"All will be forgiven if you join us." one of the barn owls stepped up and inquired
Ilumenna couldn't breathe, there was just too much pressure. If she joins, they might take her away and leave Kopal alone in the hollow. If she doesn't, they'll kill her and Kopal will also be left alone in the hollow. The situation was a no win situation, these owls were determined to further their cause. Ilumenna had to think of a reasonable lie, and quickly before they start to get impatient with her reluctance to join.
"I'm sorry, but, I'm more comfortable if my brother was here to help me with this decision." she inquired
"We don't have time to wait for your brother! We need an answer, and we need it now." the she-owl scowled as she walked toward Ilumenna in a menacing demeanor.
"Alright, alright, I'll join you. Just don't hurt me." Ilumenna sighed as the owl began to back off.
"Wise choice, but I'm afraid you'll just have to come with us for the time being until we encounter your brother again." one of the barn owls added before getting cut-off when Ilumenna pushed pass the group and darted out of the hollow. With haste and newfound anger, the group of pure one rebels followed behind Ilumenna into the canopy above. Kopal can only listen as he hear the rapid wingbeats get farther and farther away. He dared move from the down, but he was afraid of being found out. So there he lay in the bundle of down, waiting to see if Ilumenna will ever return.
Jihn awakens in the messy hollow, tired and worn out from the day before. Even though he got his rest, Jihn was anxious because now, he had only two days left until it was time for winter. Despite him reaching his destination, he still had no leads as to where the kraals must've taken them. His only lead is the messy hollow he currently resides in. Unfortunately, the owls aren't there and he starts to question as to whether the owlets are even alive. Not wanting to fail his task, Jihn considers continuing his search. Getting up and stretching, Jihn closely examines the hollow now that he has the light of day to reveal what couldn't be shown in the night.
Upon closer examination, Jihn could see medium sized talon marks in the wall. Well, the kidnappers arent Great Grey nor are they a Snowy Owl, he thought as he fixed an out of place feather on his shoulder. Though not an expert tracker, Jihn knew a little from his previous experience throughout his work as a hireclaw. He picks up a small stained feather that, if brushed off, had tints of an amber-like color underneath in. Looking more into his investigation, he decided that he'd take the feathers and wash them off at the shore. If he could identify the feathers properly, then he could be able to ask owls if they saw the owl species in question.
With a tired yawn, Jihn walks around the hollow, picking up every feather and storing it in his dagger's scabbard, as for the scimitar, he tucked it beside his scabbard in his belt. As he stopped and looked the hollow over again, he noticed that some of the blood seemed to be in small puddles before ending in small droplets. He gives himself a quick lookover and was not phased at as some of the blood had stained his feathers. He would wash up later, right now, there were other things to be concerned about. Jihn was concerned at the amount of bloodloss, because usually, the more blood in one area meant that the victims were bleeding rapidly at one point. Knowing the victims to be elf owls, Jihn was worried that they might not have survived their ordeal.
"No one should have to endure this.." Jihn mumbled before stepping out of the hollow and onto the perch. With a quick glance around, he takes off toward the shore.
Unnoticed by Jihn, there was a small group of owls watching him from afar. The leader, an Eagle Owl whose feathers were stained a deep blood red grumbled in slight agitation at the sloppiness of their work.
"Foolish old owl should've picked a different hollow" he mumbled as he watched the Greater Sootie Owl, fly away with his scabbard.
This Eagle Owl is Skraal and he's returning from his previous 'business' to retrieve his dagger. Like a kraal, he dyed his feathers and terrorized other owls in exchange for dye or shinies. The day before, he had just returned to the Northern Kingdoms after rounding up several owls suspected of being in debt to his boss. However, it was not an easy task as his group were intercepted by some passing guardians along the way and they were forced to split up. Remembering this made Skraal's blood boil, How could the guardian's have known about this? Who told? Is there a traitor in our wake? he thought as he craned his neck.
The night before, he was told to interrogate the prisoners with him for any feedback, but got nothing and was forced to return to the lead kraal empty handed. He never expected another owl to live in the hollow in which he interrogated the owls. What disturbed him more was that the owl had taken his dagger and didn't seem fazed at all upon leaving the hollow. He gestures for the smaller owls, Vert, a grass owl dyed green, and Amber, a Great Horned owl dyed red-orange, to investigate the hollow. As they left his side, he decided to set off and pursue the Sootie owl to his next destination, he needs an explanation and he expects to get one.
The silence of Shadow Forest is shattered with the cries of Ilumenna as she begged to be let go by her assailants. Unfortunately for her, she'd gotten caught by the pure ones after barely managing to avoid them for two hours. They took her back to the hollow to be interrogated, much to her chagrin.
"So, you thought you could pull a fast one and ignore our kindness? Honestly, other sooties aren't as luck as you." The lead owl hissed as she circled Ilumenna
"Listen, I don't have time for this, like I said winter is coming-" Ilumenna started but was interrupted by the she owl-
"Excuses are for the weak! Now explain yourself! Before you share the same fate!" she screeched
"I need your names first, other than that, I wont know how to address you." she stated calmly
"You will address me as Xana. My companions are Clyde and Razor. Now you identify yourself and why you disobeyed us!" Xana said as she raised a talon to Ilumenna's throat.
"I am Ilumenna and I'm a passive owl, like I said, you caught me at a bad time." she said again
Ilumenna wasn't going to be disrespected in her hollow, but she also had to be careful as to not wearing the intruders patience. She thinks back onto their neighbors and the dilemma that could've happened when they refused the offer to join them. Strange, why are they giving me slack instead of killing me for refusing? she thought as she ignored Xana's words. They must be waiting on Jihn, after all, I did mention that he was my older brother. Ilumenna was suddenly snapped out of her thoughts when Xana slapped her across the face with the back of her wing.
"Pay attention you weak mooncalf!" she hissed at Ilumenna who was sent reeling from the hit.
It wasn't until Ilumenna got back to her feet that she realized that the bed of down, was flatter than usual. Upon closer examination, it appeared that Kopal wasn't in the bed of down at all, he'd simply vanish from the small pile. Ilumenna got up with a start, nearly knocking Xana over in the process, and began to search the hollow's nooks and crannies for Kopal.
"Watch it! What in hagsmire has gotten into you now!?" Xana screeched
"Are you hiding something from us, Sootie?" Clyde asked they carefully observed Ilumenna
Gone! Kopal simply just wasn't in the hollow, he'd completely vanish from thin air. Ilumenna began to panic, sure it was a good thing Kopal wasn't in the hollow in any danger, but she couldn't imagine where he could've left off to.
"Oh, just...nothing, I didn't lose anything." Ilumenna whispered more to herself than to the owls standing behind her.
"If that's so, then you don't mind telling us where we can find your bother?" Razor suddenly said. he had been standing quiet the whole time.
"He's..a hireclaw, he gets many jobs. To be honest I don't know where he could be." she said, trying not to give too much on his whereabouts.
"You never mentioned that your brother was a hireclaw." Razor mentioned a bit on edge with this new information.
"Well, he doesn't want everyone to know who he is. " she stated
"Now can you please leave the hol-" Ilumenna started to add until her gizzard froze at the sight of Kopal standing outside of the hollow.
It took every ounce of willpower to prevent her from screeching in utter shock. Little Kopal just yawned and blinked, completely unaware of the dangerous situation the two of them were in.
"Ilumenna, I'm hungry.." he whined, drawing the attention of all the owls in the hollow.
Ilumenna attempts to rush past the owls to get to Kopal, but was tripped up by Xana, who then pins her by her throat. Razor and Clyde approach Kopal, causing a feeling of dread to wash over Ilumenna and still her gizzard.Glaux, no, not Kopal he's just an owlet! she screamed in her head as she struggled underneath the older tytos strong talons.
"Little one, do you know this..owl?" Razor asked in a menacingly calm manner
"Yeah, she's taking care of me, her brother saved me!" Kopal peeped up to the older owl
Poor kopal, mistaking the owl before him as a friendly owl because of his way of speaking Ilumenna thought as she managed to raise a talon to get a grip on Xana's leg. It wont free her, but it will take the pressure from around her neck off.
"Why are you hurting my friend?" Kopal asked as the owl towered over him
Ignoring his question, Razor turned to Ilumenna and churred in a mocking manner. Suddenly, he grabs Kopal and lifts his with one talon, inciting a whimper from the little owlet.
"What are you doing trying to save a little...elf owlet?" Clyde hissed at Ilumenna
"It's not even a tyto! What a waste.." Xana scoffed, letting Ilumenna up.
"He's with me, and don't you dare harm him!" she hissed
The situation wasn't smiling in Ilumenna's favor, for now they had Kopal in their talons. She really wished she never given them the chance to subdue her, had they not, she would be flying off with Kopal. Now, she just has to find a way to wrestle Kopal away from Razor. Despite the simple plan, Ilumenna had to take Kopal's smallsize in consideration. He's an elf owlet and if much more vulnerable than if he were great grey or great horned owlet. For a moment, things got quiet, then Clyde broke the silence,
"Let us make a deal with you, Ilumenna." he mocked, "You wont have to die, unless you hand over this owlet."
"Why? I thought other strigaformed owls were of no use to the pure ones?" she patronized
"That's why he'll make a fine picker!" Xana interrupted
"I'm sorry, but he's with me." Ilumenna asserted, attempting to step forward but was stopped by Xana
"Not so fast!" she screeched as she shoves Ilumenna back
The sudden use of force, almost sends her to the floor, but she regains her posture and decided that enough was enough. She would have to wrestle Kopal away from Razor, no matter what it takes.
Taking a deep breath, Ilumenna lunges at Razor, but Xana intercepts her and is knocked out of the hollow onto the ledge outside. Razor drops Kopal, and rushes to Xana's aid, giving Ilumenna the chance to reach Kopal. Ilumenna hops over to Kopal, but just before she could grab him, Clyde crashes into her, knocking her into the other two owls. The light skirmish sent the three owls tumbling off the ledge, leaving Kopal alone with Clyde.
Kopal attempts to flee from Clyde, but is quickly caught by the irritated owl.
"You're coming with me, picker!" he spat as he carried the struggling owlet off into the day.
Meanwhile, Skraal stops at the beach where he last the sootie owl that had his dagger. He spotted the owl cleaning himself and the dagger during his time at the shore and left shortly as he had came. Skraal could've ambushed the owl when given the chance, but judging by the owl not being fazed by the hollow, Skraal can guess that this one is a fighter.
Perching on one of the rocks, Skraal examined the spot where he last saw the sootie owl. Looking down, Skraal noticed an elf owl feather, tinged with blood slowly bobbing in the small waves in a puddle. That owl couldn't possibly be onto us, could he? , he thought as he leaned in closer.
Soon he is accompanied by Vert and Amber who alight down on the sand below him.
"Sir, we caught sight of the ol' owl. He's headed back to the local grog tree." Vert said
"We fear he might be heading to warn the others of a murder." Amber added
We're already rouge, the last thing we need is a group of vigilantes coming after us. , Skraal thought as he jumped down from the rock to accompany them.
"We must set out after him and convince him to keep his mouth shut." Skraal hissed as he sized up the two owls before him.
"S-sir, what if he brings other owls, or if he doesn't cooperate?" Amber dared to ask
"Simple, I may not have my dagger, but at least I have my battleclaws." he replied gesturing to the silver polished set of battle claws on his talons. "Now lets catch up to him before he runs his beak off to someone who might cause trouble." Skraal added before alighting into the air and heading east. Amber and Vert follow suit and join him, Vert on his port side, and Amber on his starboard. The sun's light dwindles as the small band heads off in pursuit of the sootie owl's trail.
In the Company of Kraals
At the Grog tree, Jihn wasnt havent any better luck in his situation, it was getting late and Jihn was running out of time before winter and he had wasted his day scouring the island for the culprits. Racdrops, they probably arent even here any more and here I am wasting my time looking everywhere but their hideout Jihn cursed to himself as he placed his cup down. He'd stop checking the island hours before dark and decided that it'd be best for him to leave the island before dawn comes.
Looking at the dagger once again, brought questions to Jihn's mind, Why are the kraals so persistent with Kopal's family? What really went on between these owls?. Putting away the dagger, he leaves the tree and alights off into the night where he searches for a light meal before he heads out. Tilting his head side to side, Jihn was hoping to find the faint heartbeat of any mice or vole, but instead he heard many heartbeats. Suddenly, those heartbeats were accompanied by heavy wingbeats around him, kraals.
This wasn't new to Jihn as he had worked, fought, and encountered kraals before in the past. Usually, they would pay him for any information he'd have or ask him for favors involving kidnapping owls, but this approach was different. Never had kraals approach him in a group of more than two before except if he was the target or in trouble.
"Can I help you kraals?" he asked tiredly, hoping to deter them
"Follow us. Now." The leader snapped at him
"Is there a problem, sir?" Jihn asked testily
"There will be a problem unless you hurry up!" one of the smaller owls barked at him before pulling a small ice dagger on him.
With a sigh, Jihn complies ," Alright, but don't be long, I have places to be!" he added as he followed the kraals eastward.