Chapter 1: You Can't Change My Mind
“Hey… uh… Skip?” The small orange and white hawk crept forwards with his wings tucked close to his side. There was a look of fear on his face. Beside him a small Soluno stood, also seeing somewhat concerned, though far more confident than his larger friend.
In front of them was a groggy, battle-worn navy blue harpia. His dusty blue eyes peered at both the Stryx and Soluno, immediately growing somewhat tense by the look on their faces. He stood up from his relaxed position, towering quite a bit above both in a mass of ragged feathers. “What is it? What happened?” Although he wasn’t panicked by any means, both Dusty and Sparky could hear a note of worry in his gravelly voice.
“It’s not that anything happened,” Dusty said, stepping forwards. “But I wanted to tell you that… well, I’ll be leaving for the coast of Reamere tomorrow. I’m sure you’ve heard the rumors going around about that sea monster floating around. I’ve already made up my mind that I’m going to assist with the humanitarian efforts if there are any more attacks… and it sounds like there have been. I need to get some things together, but I wanted to let you know first… and I already told Sparky, since he answered the door.”
He gestured with one wing towards the topaz Soluno, who nodded and took a step forwards. He knew without the harpia saying another word that Skipper wasn’t pleased. “I tried to talk him out of it, sir- er… Skip.” Although the strange pair of friends had had a long history together, the glare in the harpia’s eye took him back to the days early in their history together. Skipper had outranked him when they were stationed together in the First War. The impulse to call him ‘sir’ was still engrained into him when the Stryx wasn’t in a good mood.
“Dusty, you’re going to get yourself killed,” the horned bird said, ignoring Sparky to instead focus his attention firmly on the hawk. “You’re terrified of the sea. Knowing you, you’ll wind up flying over the ocean a second time and if another-”
“I know. But I know now to avoid flying low over the water when it’s storming,” Dusty interrupted. The firmness in his voice was surprising. “What happened two years ago won’t happen again. If I do end up helping to recover any destroyed ships, I’ll be fine. You’re not changing my mind on this.” He stomped one foot against the ground in defiance.
Skipper let out a heavy sigh, then looked to his long time friend. “Sparky? You wouldn’t be opposed if you and I took a trip to the coast, would you?”
“Oh… golly, Skip… uh… are you sure about that? I’ll go if you do, but I don’t think it’s a good idea. You don’t… really have a great experience with the ocean either.” He flinched, remembering the battle that had traumatized the bird so deeply. It was lucky the harpia had made it out alive. “I’m… worried that you’ll get there and-”
“What? That I won’t fly again? That I’ll go backwards in my progress?” Her harpia practically snarled at Sparky, making Dusty jump back and his tail fluff up like a scared cat’s. “I’ll be fine. Those days are long behind me… and besides, I have more important things to worry about. Like your safety.” He pointed a talon at Dusty. “If you’re not going to change your mind about leaving, then I certainly won’t change my mind either.”
The hawk’s tail was still puffed up slightly. No matter how well he’d gotten to know the old harpia, Skipper could still be incredibly intimidating. How Sparky managed not to flinch or startle, even at Skipper’s worst, Dusty couldn’t figure out. “Well, if I can’t change my mind… then… sure. I’ll be setting out at o-five hundred tomorrow, so we should get ready to go now. I… also came to ask you what I should bring,” he added.
“You’ll want food.” It was Sparky who responded. He was already moving over to a closet to retrieve a box. “And we’ll want first aid. I still have this kit from our days in the war. Don’t worry, either, I’ve replaced everything that could expire since then plenty of times over.”
“Oh, that’s great!” Dusty wagged his tail a bit, seeming to recover from his fright. “I think I have some rations from last year’s National Wings race. I’ll go ahead and gather those up, since they don’t expire for another two years and are light. I… don’t know how much I have left, so we might not have enough for the both of us… especially since I don’t know how long we’ll be out. I’ll get them!” He hopped from foot to foot. Living only a few doors down from Skipper and Sparky, he didn’t feel the need to stay. Instead, he bustled out of the stable and over to his own.
Stepping into his home, he hurriedly went straight for where he’d stashed what rations he hadn’t used. They were made for Stryx, however, and not an herbivorous Soluno, which caused him to pause. They’d have to go and buy food for Sparky. Putting that thought away for later, the hawk finished gathering what he had. It was more than he’d originally remembered having left, but that would serve them well. Besides, even if they ended up staying out at sea for a few days, there were always fish to hunt if things became dire and the coastal city to regroup and rest if they needed to.
With all he had left gathered, he paused and took a look around his home. While he knew he’d be coming back to sleep through the night before leaving, he wanted everything he could possibly get ready before then. Nothing immediately came to mind, and so he walked back to Skipper and Sparky’s stable with the food. When he stepped in, it appeared the Soluno had already thought about the fact that Dusty’s rations could not and would not accommodate his diet. Sparky was stuffing a bag with grain based crackers and freeze dried fruit, along with what Skipper considered to be a foul smelling biscuit.
The harpia was bellyaching about the smell already. “You couldn’t find something else to pack?” he complained. The old bird was quick to make sure the biscuits were stuffed away in sealed bags. Although Stryx didn’t have particularly keen senses of smell, this one seemed to seep into everything. “Disgusting things…” he grumbled, though smiled when he saw Dusty. “It looks like you have enough to possibly sustain us for the whole trip. I can’t imagine we’ll be out for long. We may not even be needed.”
“But it’s better we go than risk that,” Sparky stated. “And it’s best that we make sure we have as much as we can reasonably carry. I know we’ll have access to food and water in town, but if we are part of any search and rescue parties, we’ll have to make sure we have everything prepared in advance.”
“That we will,” Skipper agreed. “Dusty? Why don’t you go ahead and gather up some of your personal belongings. Sparky and I will go in town and do some shopping. You can leave the rest of the necessities to us.”
“Uh… okay, Skip!” the hawk said with a smile and wag of his tail. “Thank you! I’ll see you soon. You know where to find me if you need me.”