Chapter 1: Red Glow
Jade opened her eyes slightly, still quite sleepy. She had been sleeping soundly, when something she heard had woken her. A strange scratching noise from somewhere inside Sanctuary’s tree base. Perking her head up and yawning, she wondered if it was merely her imagination, or something she’d heard in a dream. Then it came again.
*scratch scratch scratch*
Now Jade was alert enough to stand, getting ready to investigate. She’d also forgotten about her rider, Neo, sleeping soundly next to her, for when she stood up, Neo fell backwards where Jade’s body had once been, banging her head on the wooden floor.
“Aye! What’s with you?” Neo startled awake, rubbing her head with her hand and looking at Jade, puzzled.
Jade could tell Neo could feel her discomfort. The two were soul bonded, meaning they could share feelings and communicate among other things a bonded pair could do. Neo stood up and lightly tiptoed over to Jade’s side, looking around for whatever was causing Jade to feel uneasy. Nothing made itself apparent.
“There’s nothing here, Jade. Either that or it’s probably just a critter skittering around for food or something. Go back to sleep.” Neo turned to head back to the pair’s sleeping spot, when the noise came again.
*scratch scratch scratch*
Neo froze, finally hearing it. Her ears were perked up, swiveling around trying to find the source of the sound. The noise sounded off one more time, finally giving its location away.
“Come on.” Neo whispered, hurrying quietly out of the room, Jade following closely behind.
It was harder for Jade to keep silent on the ground than in the air, but she managed somehow. The two cautiously scanned the hallways and rooms they checked, following the noise they’d heard as it continued to sound out. Unfortunately it found them first.
The room they were currently in was suddenly caved in from the ceiling, sawdust and wood splinters flying outwards in all directions. Jade used her wings to shield Neo and herself from the shrapnel, waiting until the carnage was over to peer out at the culprit.
In the center of the now roofless room, covered in sawdust and sitting on piles of splintered wood, was a Corva, feathers shimmering in the moonlight shining in from the new hole in the roof. He looked around for a moment, finally spotting the others he’d nearly crushed. His face turned to one of horror as he realized his predicament.
“I’m so sorry, I wasn’t aware there were any occupants here.” The corva squeaked out under Jade’s intimidating glare.
After shaking off the shock, Jade puffed up her feathers and approached him.
“Who are you?” she growled defensively.
“Woah, woah, chill out, I’m not trying to hurt anyone!” The shiny corva squawked. He leapt to his feet as soon as Jade had charged him, backing away as she approached.
“How’d you manage to get in here? We’ve got no records of you as far as I know, so by my knowledge you’re not supposed to be here.” Jade hissed. She had the corva backed against the opposite wall, still approaching.
“Jade, back off!”
Jade’s head immediately whipped around at Neo’s call. Neo was shaking off the sawdust from her body and had started to hurry over to Jade’s side. Jade stood her ground, but stopped progressing forward towards the intruder.
Once Neo caught up with Jade, she examined the corva from a distance. He didn’t appear to be hurt, so Jade wasn’t sure what she was looking for. Neo must’ve sensed her discomfort, because she patted Jade’s wing gently.
“It’s alright, he’s not a threat.” Neo whispered to Jade more than anyone else. The corva cocked his head at the two, his expression now one of confusion more than anything.
“Threat? Why would I be a threat?” The corva questioned Jade, who was still all hot-headed from the initial shock of the situation.
“You never know who’s going to try and raid a place like this. Not in these times anyway.” Jade huffed, looking away from the corva, the first time she broke her glare with him since they’d met. She instead peered out the room’s one window, spotting the night activity crew returning from their scavenging excursion. The moon was beginning to fall towards the treeline, making way for the sun to climb up.
The corva seemed to have regained his composure, standing up straighter now, but he still kept his eyes on Jade. She had just nearly attacked him after all.
“That doesn’t answer my questions though; who are you, and how the hell did you manage to get into our base?” Jade scowled, returning her glare to the corva. Neo sighed tiredly, but let the two converse.
“My name’s Vidar, and I’m…not entirely sure how I got here to be honest. I was just chasing a few little red wisps and-” Vidar was cut off as Jade’s expression shifted suddenly. He worried he may have offended her somehow, and quickly tried to backpedal.
“I mean, it wasn’t a really valuable thing I’d assume, and I didn’t even know anyone lived here! So I meant no harm.” Vidar’s speech shook slightly as Jade’s feathers ruffled up. Even Neo seemed concerned due to Jade’s discomfort.
“What’s wrong?” She asked as her partner lowered her head towards her.
“Red wisps. What are corrupted wisps doing all the way out here? That can’t mean…” Jade silently communicated to Neo, the power to do so granted by their soul bond. Neo stroked her chin, trying to think of a logical reason for corrupted wisps to be in their territory. Coincidence? Maybe, but with everything happening lately it’s less likely. Habitat loss? Couldn’t be, these wisps don’t really have a habitat to begin with. Chased out? What the hell could scare off a corrupted wisp? Time of year? Very possible, but even in past years wisps have only rarely been sighted near Sanctuary's base in the fall.
“We’d better go send out a search patrol. Just to be sure.” Neo concluded. She motioned for Jade to lower herself so that the rider could climb onto her back, opting not to bother with her saddle and tack for a simple patrol. Jade pushed past Vidar, but nodded for him to follow along. Vidar obeyed, sticking close behind as Jade took off through the new hole in the roof of the room.
The harpia made her way through the hollowed out tree, heading for the nearest opening big enough to squeeze through. Once the trio were outside, Neo began to use her senses to find something, anything that was out of the ordinary around them.
“Vidar, where did you see those red wisps?" Jade demanded.
“The red wisps? Oh, I believe they came from that direction.” Vidar nodded eastwards from the tree, following as Jade bolted away in the direction he’d shown.
As they flew, the sky began to grow lighter along the horizon, signaling the end of the night. Jade’s eyes darted around wildly, locking onto every little thing that dared to move beneath them.
“Vidar, are you sure you saw actual red wisps? Not some trick of the light?” Jade growled. She was beginning to get annoyed at the corva.
“Jade, I’m certain I saw them, I was chasing them for nearly an hour.” Vidar sounded equally annoyed, probably fed up with Jade’s aggressions.
Suddenly, before Jade could snap back at the corva, a flash of red caught Jade’s eye beneath the gaps in the tree canopy below. She flapped to a halt, nearly vaulting Neo off her back in the process. She hovered there for a moment, trying to pinpoint where the red had come from exactly.
And then it flashed again, for just a fraction of a second. But that was enough for Jade to dive towards it, Vidar following hurriedly. Jade burst through the branches blocking their descent, ignoring the stings of the new cuts forming from the sharp branches.
The harpia snapped her wings open just before the ground, slowing her descent enough to land silently so not to alert the corrupted wisps, if there really were any.
Something up ahead flashed red again, this time leaving itself out in the open. Sure enough, it was a corrupted wisp, one oozing with an evil aura, looking completely lost as to what its purpose was. Jade let Neo off her back, still keeping her eyes trained on the anomaly ahead.
Jade was startled as Vidar landed with a thud next to her, shaking out his feathers and yawning loudly. Jade stared daggers at the corva, who hadn’t yet realized what they’d found.
“What’s up with you?” Vidar crowed, suddenly caught off guard as a snarl came from the wisp’s direction. His face fell as soon as he spotted the creature, slowly getting into a defensive stance and backing away.
“That’s it! That’s the wisp! It’s so much…scarier up close.” Vidar whispered. Jade sighed, but had no time to respond. Neo had already drawn her weapon quietly, the light from above gleaming off its metal blades. Jade stepped up beside her, snarling back at the wisp.
The wisp seemed to take that as a sign of challenge, zipping over towards them and towards Jade’s head. Jade just barely missed the snap of its enlarged, drooling jaws by a half inch or so, but retaliated by spreading her wings and flapping a gust of wind at the wisp, who seemed much larger up close.
The glowing red monster swirled away slightly, but it wasn’t enough to disorient it completely. It lunged again, this time plucking a few feathers from Jade’s shoulder. The feathers melted into a goopy red liquid at the wisp’s touch, reminding everyone how dangerous these things really were.
“Hey! Back off!”
A pebble was tossed at the wisp, but it merely fazed through the incorporeal body of the anomaly before tumbling to the ground harmlessly. Vidar could be seen atop a large rock, more pebbles in his talons, ready to throw. Seeing how the first one went, that was sure to work well, Jade thought.
The wisp hissed, speeding towards Vidar, its slimy jaws open wide, aiming for the corva’s neck. Vidar froze, instantly dropping the pebbles and accepting his fate.
Just as the wisp came within biting distance, a satchel was slammed down over its head, completely blinding it. The wisp flailed around helplessly, Neo watching her handiwork as the monster began to shrink down to the satchel’s size. Once it was completely inside, Neo rushed over and snapped the bag closed, the wisp still hissing and snarling from inside.
“There, thanks for distracting it guys.” Neo hummed, seeming too unfazed by the whole situation. Her attitude seemed to calm Jade down a good bit, but the same couldn’t be said for Vidar. The poor corva was trembling, his jaw dropped, eyes wide, still focused on the spot where the wisp had been in front of him. Jade approached quietly, waving a wing in front of his face.
The corva shook himself violently, snapping out of whatever trance he was in. He still couldn’t stop shaking though.
“I’m good, I’m good. Let’s bring that thing back so you guys can…what are you going to do with it? You can’t possibly keep it, there’s a warrant out for these things all over the region.” Vidar squawked. Jade shrugged, signaling that she wasn’t quite sure what they were going to do with it.
“We’ll turn it in eventually, but I’d like to see what this thing really is first.” Neo responded, sensing the question through Jade’s emotions.
“Let’s head back, don’t want all that noise bringing in others.” Jade said, heading in the direction of Sanctuary’s main base.
The three began their trek home, keeping an eye out for other wisps like that long the way.
Extra stryx (Vidar)-3
Total= 52 AP
Extra stryx (Jade)-3
Total= 43 AP
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