The Wastelander - Chapter 1

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The Wastelander

by ethanol

Libraries: Fantasy, Original Fiction

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Entry for the Wastelander raffle Featuring the titular Stryx and my Red Dawn

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Chapter 1, Part 1: An Unfriendly Meeting

830 Words

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It was the crack of dawn, with frost still lingering on the ground as breath turned to smoke in the air.  Daius peeked above the horizon with a glorious glow, dispelling the night with his gorgeous warm shades.  The aptly named Red Dawn stood with the morning glow on her feathers, the pink and red hues of the sky giving a beautiful glow to her crimson and white plumage.  Normally she would be in the sky, patrolling her territory for breakfast; today however, there were far more important things at stake.
 
The Wastelander did not disappoint with her appearance before the red and white maiden.  Her overgrown talons clicked menacingly against the rock with every footstep, her golden eyes narrowed and focused on her guest.  The long silky feathers of her tail fan, tattered from her rough lifestyle, dragged across the ground with a slight gliding sound until she finally came to rest.  With one final step, her foot found the dried skull of a long dead Windhound and crushed it with an ominous bone crunching noise.
 
"This is not your territory, Daius chaser." The Wastelander hissed. "Leave.  I will not ask so nicely again."
 
Dawn huffed a little; she hadn't exactly asked nicely the first time, after all.
 
"You have stolen some of my flock, scavenger." Red Dawn replied, her head held high. "I come for their safe return.  I pray this does not lead to senseless violence."
 
Dawn had been hoping for some civility; instead, the opposing Gryph laughed in her face. "I stole them, did I?  Rubbish.  They came to me of their own accord and I welcomed them!  That hardly makes me a villain, does it?"
 
Red Dawn may have been taller than the Wastelander, significantly so in fact.  Despite being the same species, the wasteland queen was shorter and stockier than the slender, graceful dawn-bringer.  However, Dawn knew very well that she would fare poorly in a fight with her.  It was in her best interests to avoid a confrontation if possible.
 
"Let's not go putting words in each other's beaks, now." Dawn lowered her head, trying to appear diplomatic. "All I'm asking is for my brethren to return home."
 
The Wastelander raised her head in return, asserting her dominance over her so-called guest. "And they can if they want to.  Look for yourself, I'm not keeping them here.  They came here of their own volition, and they can leave of their own volition too.  If I may though, why does it bother you so much that they're here?  Do you, perhaps, dislike that your flock is showing free will?"
 
Dawn bristled at the accusation. "Show me your quarters then.  I want to see for myself."
 
The Wastelander smirked slightly, delighting in the fact she was riling Dawn up.  However she was a bird of her word, and dutifully she turned and led Dawn towards the flock's main sanctuary.  It involved a few clumsy hops up the side of a volcano lip; Dawn chose instead to fly.  Perching next to the wasteland queen on the edge, she peered over into the hollow beneath them.
 
This volcano had obviously been extinct for centuries, the lava it once housed hardened into black ash upon which the Wastelander and her clan had their village.  All the shelters were roughly built shacks that took advantage of natural shapes within the volcano, obviously thrown together by the Stryx that lived there rather than man-made.  To that effect, it was an impressive feat of engineering.  Sure enough the Stryx that had hailed from Dawn's flock were there; a few helped to pull supplies between different parts of the settlement, while another practiced sparring alongside a scar-heavy Tyto wearing a metal helmet.
 
Wastelander turned to Dawn, a calm look in her eyes. "Are you satisfied that I'm not malicious now?"
 
"Not entirely." Dawn sighed, exhaling a few frost particles from her nostrils.  Something felt off about this place... but could she trust her gut?  Everyone looked happy, after all.  Perhaps she was just jealous her flock mates had chosen this scarred fiend over her?
 
Noticing the trepidation in Dawn's tone, the Wastelander sighed back. "Listen, dawn-bringer.  I really do not mean harm to you or anyone in this tribe..." She took a long breath in before letting out a little huff. "Tell you what.  Why don't you and I go out for a hunt together?  A little bonding exercise.  Then maybe you'll see that I am not malicious in my intentions at all."
 
Dawn looked to the other Gryph for a moment, a hint of suspicion in her eyes.  Was this a ploy to simply lure her to her doom?  Though to be honest... even with the trepidation in mind, Dawn concluded this was unlikely.  The Wastelander truly didn't seem like an evil being, just a bird hardened by life and wanting to help others in dire straights.
 
"Alright, Wastelander." Dawn nodded. "Let's go hunting.  I'm sure it'll be a fun experience."
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