Chapter 1: Chapter 1
The sound of the waves gently crashing against the shore was what brought Nebulosa back to reality. She woke with a start, head shooting up to check her surroundings. Memories began flooding back, even if they weren’t all that clear.
The mission, the storm, the supplies… Richard. Richard, where’s Richard?
Nebulosa pushed herself up despite her muscles screaming in protest, looking around for her missing partner. The white harpia was nowhere to be seen. All that she could see was the soft sand making up the beach she’d washed ashore, a large outcropping of rocks and boulders in the distance, the sun beginning to set along the horizon, and the edge of the jungle to her right. Inspecting her surroundings closer, there was a strange monument partially buried in the sand. Nebulosa approached it cautiously.
Inching closer to the monument revealed no danger to the strange monolith, allowing Nebulosa to sweep the sand away from the carvings on its front with her wingtips. There was indeed a carving on it, resembling a stryx of some kind, but a strange one. It looked almost like a corva, but the entire head shape was…off. It had a massive curved beak, and a much bulkier head than a regular corva. What was the purpose of this thing, and who had left it here…?
“So you’re awake. Good.”
Nebulosa nearly leapt into the nearest tree at the sudden voice behind her. Her fur stood up all over her body, baring her teeth as she whipped around. A large shimmering harpia stood where she had previously been laying on the sand, eyes locked with her own.
“Who the hell are you?” Nebulosa growled. The harpia snorted in amusement, making Nebulosa’s blood boil.
“Calm down kitty cat, I’m no threat, as long as you’re willing to stand down that is.” The harpia approached Nebulosa, who made no move to lighten up.
The harpia now stood tall over Nebulosa, who had crouched down and spread her wings out, tail puffed up, the barb on its end exposed and ready to strike.
“I said stand down.” The harpia said calmly, although Nebulosa could sense she was prepared to fight. Against her better judgment, Nebulosa began to unwind. She slowly unpuffed her fur, brought her wings in, retraced her barbed tail, and stood up to meet eye-to-eye with the harpia.
“Alright, but you still haven’t answered me; who are you?” Nebulosa tried not to let the bite in her words bleed through. The harpia luckily didn’t seem to notice.
“I’m Akhlys. I was instructed to travel the coastline of the mainland, assisting with the study of sea serpents. The storm threw my senses out of whack, so I landed here to wait it out. Unfortunately I haven’t the slightest idea which way home is.” The harpia explained, surprisingly calm despite her predicament.
“Well, I’m Nebulosa. I was traveling for a…business trip, and the storm got me too. I must’ve passed out, I can’t remember much about what happened to get me here.” Nebulosa sighed. Akhlys nodded in acknowledgement.
“Well, it doesn’t look like anyone’s aware of our presence here, and aren’t coming to look for us yet. Perhaps we should make the best of our situation and start looking for a place to shelter for the night. It’s getting darker.” Akhlys gestured to the sky, which had indeed darkened significantly. Nebulosa wasn’t entirely up to working together with someone she’d just barely met and avoided a fight with, but if it gave her something to do until Richard managed to find her, she’d take it for now.
“Alright. Let’s try and…I don’t know, build something to protect us from the elements? What could we use, we’ve got sticks, rocks…sand…” Nebulosa began pacing back and forth, muttering to herself. Akhlys playfully huffed, catching Nebulosa’s attention. Turning to face the harpia, Nebulosa was greeted with an amused expression on her face. Nebulosa glared at her, but she didn’t relent.
“Or, we could knock down some of those trees and prop the logs against the rock wall across the beach. Might be easier than cobbling together some sort of ramshackle hut from twigs and leaves.” Akhlys was much to cocky for Nebulosa’s liking, it made her feel all tingly, and not in a good way. More of an “I’m going to explode at any moment and you’re tipping the scales” kind of way.
“Fine. Let’s get this over with.” Nebulosa snorted, somehow making Akhlys seem more amused than ever. She was most definitely enjoying her annoyance.
The two stryx headed for the rock wall across the beach, Akhlys taking off to perch atop one of the larger palm trees in the area.
“Think we can topple this one?” She called from up in its branches. Nebulosa inspected the trunk for a moment before nodding, placing her wings against it and shaking from the base. The tree didn’t budge, only swayed slightly, knocking a coconut from its branches and bonking Nebulosa on the head.
“OUCH!! What the hell?!” Nebulosa let out a string of curses as she jumped back and rubbed her head where the coconut had hit her, beginning to feel a sore spot. Akhlys sat up in the tree, laughing her tail feathers off. Nebulosa felt her fur spiking in rage, but forced it to lie flat, shooting a death glare up at the giggling harpia.
“You gonna help or what?” Nebulosa apprehensively placed her wings back against the tree trunk, shouting up at Akhlys. The harpia managed to contain her laughter, lifting into the air again and bracing her talons against the trunk, ready to push all her weight onto it.
“Alright, push!” Nebulosa shouted, pushing the tree trunk with all her might. Akhlys did the same, kicking at the trunk as she beat her wings to hover in place. Soon enough the tree began to uproot itself, and with a thud it fell to the ground, sending sand flying upwards.
Nebulosa, panting, started to wonder how many more trees they’d end up needing to make a shelter. Probably a lot. Was this even worth it…?
“I don’t think we’ll be able to get this done before it gets completely dark out. It’s already getting harder to see things.” Akhlys commented, making Nebulosa silently sigh. No more head injuries.
“Should we just make a fire then? Camp out on the beach? Maybe someone will happen to spot us and come to our aid.” Nebulosa suggested. Akhlys nodded, perched atop the fallen tree they’d knocked down.
“Let’s get some logs from the edge of the jungle, maybe use those palm leaves as kindling too. Nebulosa instructed. Akhlys did as she was told, making Nebulosa feel a spark of adrenaline. It quickly faded as Akhlys called to her over her shoulder.
Nebulosa sighed but quickly caught up with the harpia, beginning to gather small logs and dry grass chunks, bringing them back to the beach and placing them onto the sand in a pile to be rearranged later. Akhlys even managed to track down a piece of prey for them to (begrudgingly) share while they waited.
“Alright, here’s the palm leaves. I got a couple coconuts too, maybe we can have a drink too. Seawater isn’t a very good alternative.” Nebulosa said, muffled through the palm leaves in her mouth. Under her wings she carried two coconuts, the remainder of the ones that had stayed on the tree when she’d been hit in the head by the third. She wasn’t too fond of doing anything with that one.
“Good idea. Let’s get this fire going then.” Akhlys’ praise made Nebulosa feel…strange. She wasn’t used to being praised by another, granted she usually only spent her time on missions or in the black market, neither being the place to make friends, but even in her earlier years she’d always been shamed when she did something of her own accord rather than following strict, set out rules to follow in order to replicate a result. Akhlys was by no means a great friend to her, they’d only met tonight and it hadn’t been the smoothest of interactions she’d ever had, but she wasn’t nearly as annoying as she had been earlier. Nebulosa figured being stranded on this island with the harpia wouldn’t be so bad after all.
“There, fire’s going.” Akhlys snapped Nebulosa from her thoughts with the crackle of a spark against dry wood, instantly catching fire to the palm leaf she set on top of the pile.
“Not a fire breather I see? Me neither. My breath wouldn’t be too helpful in this scenario in fact. Too cold.” Nebulosa chuckled. Akhlys nodded, a puff of cold frost escaping her beak with a huff. So they had something in common after all.
After a few hours of waiting, Nebulosa and Akhlys had devoured the small amount of prey they’d been able to catch in the last minutes of the dying sunlight, and drank the entirety of the two coconuts contents, spoken about everything they could think of, and even drew pictures in the sand. Now here they were, eyes drooping, staring longingly out to see at the invisible horizon, the mood risen high above them by this time. So far, they’d seen absolutely no sign of sentient life coming to their aid. Their fire was slowly dying, too. Maybe they’d be here longer than they’d originally thought…
“What the hell is that?” Akhlys broke the silence, staring suspiciously at something in the distance behind Nebulosa. Concerned, the lycan whipped her head around to see what was causing the disruption. Across the beach, a shimmering light could be seen, small and flickering.
“Don’t know. All that’s over there is…that weird monolith with a stryx carved into it.” Nebulosa recalled the strange stone structure half buried in the sand, wondering if that could somehow be the source of the light. Involuntarily, her legs began to carry her away from the fire and out into the darkness of the abandoned beach.
“Wait, get back here! We don’t know what that is!” Akhlys hissed, but Nebulosa didn’t listen, too entranced with the little dancing light.
As soon as she reached the monolith, the light dimmed, beginning to form the outline of the strange corva carved into the side.
Akhlys managed to catch up to Nebulosa, who had halted in awe of the occurrence. The monolith had cracked open, a strange, magical substance spilling into the air around them, spiraling up into the sky, then dissipating in the clouds. Nebulosa leaned in to inspect the crumbled pieces of stone, which were now lifeless and cold.
“...What was that about?” Akhlys asked, not exactly expecting an answer from the lycan.
“Not sure. Probably something to do with the carving on the side, you saw it right?” Nebulosa asked the harpia, who shook her head, puzzled.
“There was a strange corva of sorts drawn into the side of the stone, it wasn’t a normal corva. It had a big head, shorter, more hooked beak, and two toes in front of and behind its feet. It looked almost like…some sort of tropical parrot, but I’ve never seen a corva like that before. Just little companions that get traded on the black–at the place where I work.” Nebulosa quickly corrected herself before exposing her business. Akhlys hummed, inspecting the remnants of the stone herself.
The two stryx were startled by a distant droning sound, much too familiar not to be a foghorn. Looking up, a moving shape could be seen on the horizon, one Nebulosa recognized all too well.
Richard quickly approached the beach, landing at their campfire, which had been reduced to embers in the time they’d left it unattended. Nebulosa ran towards him, catching his attention with a call of his name.
“Richard! Over here!” The harpia perked his ears and looked towards her, smirking as she skidded to a halt in front of him, sand piling up around her feet as they dug into the gritty surface.
“Glad to have you back.” Richard said, eyes narrowing suddenly as Akhlys approached from the darkness.
“Oh, Richard, this is Akhlys. We were stranded here when the storm hit, and we didn’t know how to get home from here. We waited it out for the night until someone arrived.” Nebulosa explained as she saw Richard’s feathers prickling in alarm.
“I see.” The white harpia looked Akhlys up and down, seemingly sizing her up and assessing her threat level.
Akhlys seemed slightly off put by the look of the newcomer to their island, covered in symmetrical scars and a nasty hooked beak, ruffled, scraggly feathers, and sunken eyes. Nebulosa knew she wasn’t entirely wrong for this feeling; Richard was incredibly powerful and revered within the black market social circles, having been known to take out rogue elements to their little crime ring single-handedly in his spare time, removing them from the equation entirely. Not necessarily killing them, although he wasn’t above that.
“Well, we’d better get going Nebulosa. We have…business to attend to.” Richard side-eyed Akhlys, who was watching the two of them converse, a confused but not naive look on her face.
Right. Nebulosa had been sent out here to gather information on a potentially valuable asset making its home along the coasts. A sea monster, as the client had put it. They’d been instructed to capture it alive and unharmed, only able to collect payment if those parameters were met. Nebulosa had a strong dose of venom coursing through her veins already, but not strong enough to tranquilize a sea monster. But she’d been tasked to locate it first, then they’d go from there. Considering she’d seen little sign of such a monster the whole time, she had her doubts about their clients’ credibility.
“Well, I suppose this is goodbye.” Akhlys bowed her head to Nebulosa in a farewell. Nebulosa briefly nodded her head, turning to Richard, silently asking for one more moment. Richard nodded, but seemed impatient.
“You’ll be alright by yourself?” Nebulosa asked Akhlys, who nodded in response.
“I’ll be fine. I’ll just need to find someone to tell me the direction of home and–” She was suddenly cut off by Richard’s interjection.
“Your homeland is to the north. I’ve been there before, seen you around. You’ll want to fly directly above the island towards the jungle, then keep going that direction for about a day or two. You’ll be fine from there.”
Akhlys seemed confused, but didn’t talk back. Instead she nodded her final goodbye, taking off and following what Richard had said.
Nebulosa watched as the harpia disappeared over the treeline and out of sight.
“Alright, let’s get going. We’ve still got a monster to track down.” Richard said as he took off, Nebulosa taking one last glance at the now dark campsite she’s shared with Akhlys, and quickly following in Richard’s wake.
Total= 64 AP
Total= 61 AP
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