Chuck and A-Ziz II - Chapter 1

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Chuck and A-Ziz II

by Aerophoenix

Libraries: Fantasy, OriginalFiction

Published on / 1 Chapter(s) / 0 Review(s)

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Sheera needs to replenish their firewood and goes out to log with Chuck while baby Ziz is helping.

She woke up to shivers before the sun was even rising. Sheera buried herself deeper in her down stuffed blanket, trying to fend off the bitter cold in the cabin. Only her nose poked out from the mountainous blanket and yet she remained cold. With a sigh she prepared herself mentally to leave behind the comforts of the bed and embrace the low temperatures around.

Ziz who was curled up in an old makeshift dog bed breathed steadily, his thick floof making him oblivious to any cold temperatures. At least nearly, she saw the slight trembling of his downy feathers. Sheera contemplated cuddling up with the chick and savor in his warmth but decided against. Too fidgety she thought. Chuck would be much better, although he was too large to fit into her hut. He was perched right outside on his own wooden platform with a nice roof over his head.

 

Counting down to three Sheera threw off the blanket and stood up, grabbed her day garments and fur hat. Her teeth were chattering and in the faint light of the morning she saw her own breath. It was definitely too cold in her cabin, too cold for comfort at least. The piles of fire wood had dwindled unexpectedly fast during the past few icy days. A cold front from up North had reached their sheltered valley and a pool of cold remained stubbornly.

Ziz was starting to stir at the sound, he too might be more comfortable with some nice fire going. He looked plenty fine now however she did not want to risk anything happened to the little chick. Chuck was a fully grown adult harpia, he would survive any blizzard out there in this thick royal coat. Chuck also knew which places offered more warmth and protection and which places to avoid. Ziz however lacked all that knowledge and his small body could only contain so much warmth.

She rubbed her palms against each other and inspected the kitchen. She had a bit of wood left to get started and make herself a nice warm breakfast. The thought was very tempting and from the big eyes staring at her she surmised Ziz and Chuck would too enjoy a warm meaty broth. However something dragged Sheera to the small window.

 

The huge shape of Chuck was hard to miss, his rich colors were quite faint in the morning light. It was still some time before the sun would rise above the rolling hills. Day time was short up North and Sheera knew she had to make it count. Moreover there were sheep like clouds in the sky, thousands of little flecks of gray against the dark blue sky. They were a suspicious indicator of bad weather closing in.

Sheera willed her grumbling stomach to shut up and went over to Ziz. The chick held up his head, expecting her pets. The youngling made sounds best described as happy chips as she ran her hand down his neck and scratched him behind is little crest. Sheera called it the sweet spot of harpias and recalled a juvenile Chuck making very similar noises when she used to do it years ago. Chuck still enjoyed and demanded his cuddle time, however now that he was so large it had become a bit more difficult.

The soft downs were hard to let go but Sheera felt a sense of urgency to get out and get fire wood. Lots of fire wood. Today was a good day to set Chuck out for heavy physical labor. He had been out yesterday to hunt and fill up their stock so the harpia was well fed and energized. Surviving the winters out here was a lot about planning ahead. Especially when the nearest village Blaustatten was two days flight away.

 

“Alright Ziz, are you ready for some real important work?” he tilted his head and blinked his rich purple eyes. Sheera packed water and some food for the trip and threw her backpack over her shoulder. “Let’s go wake up Chuck shall we?” she grinned. It was hard to tell how much stryx understood of what she said but Ziz seemed to be quite innate at it. Instantly he jumped up and subsequent to shaking out his plumage ran to the door.

Sheera had steeled herself mentally against the bitter cold but the bite against her skin made her gasp as she opened the door. Head to toe she was covered in thick fur and yet the temperature immediately took hold of her. “Hey Chuck” she whistled. A large head emerged from the fluffed up shape and Chuck blinked slowly. If the cold bothered him he did not show it. Ziz on the other than stood in the door frame, unable to decide whether pestering Chuck was worth going into the cold.  

 

The harpia lowered his head as his rider approached. Sheera took off her gloves to give him some scritches under his chin. His eyes were as big as her closed fist and once again she marveled at this size. “You’re a good boy Chuck” she whispered with her head nuzzled against him. Chuck held still for the embrace, eyes closed.

“I’ll need your help getting wood today. I’ll prepare the harness and chains” Sheera informed him. His reaction could be interpreted as a nod, she could not be quite sure but he certainly understood what their task was. “And you little man, you will help me find enough brushwood. It is very important. Do you think you can do it?” Sheera placed her hands on her knees as she talked to Ziz. He reacted with an overzealous nod, impossible to be mistaken for anything else. The little colorful bird sure was something, Sheera marveled.

The tool shed contained all the equipment she’d need today. In swift motion she pulled down the heavy leather harness for Chuck as well as diverse metal hooks and chains for the tree. Lastly she lifted down the heavy axe. Pulling a tree was one thing, felling a whole other task where not even Chuck could help her. For Ziz she had tinkered around to build him his own little harness. Not so much for function but to keep him securely on Chuck’s back when they were flying.

 

It took some time to strap on the equipment, the leather bits were hard to adjust given how frozen solid they had become. By the time Sheera had prepared Chuck and Ziz for the trip she had already spend quite some energy. And the hardest part was yet to come.

“Ok Chuck, I think we go back to the last place we picked wood to the East. Then we have the sun in our backs when we fly back here.” She gave him one last pet before climbing up to her saddle. Ziz squeaked happily below, very much enjoying what came next. Chuck bent down and gently bit into the hook on Ziz’ equipment to lift him up. Happy chirps filled the air was the chick was lifted on to the back of the large harpia where Sheera grabbed the man-sized youngling and strapped him down. “Easy now Ziz, don’t fiddle too much or we have to leave you here”.

Chuck straightened up and flapped his wings experimentally, making sure he was ready for take off. He did so without any warning and barely suppressing a yelp Sheera found herself airborne. Chuck’s large wings quickly carried them upward and she had to hold on tight to aid his efforts. Ziz meanwhile held out his wings, trying to match his wingbeats. Sheera could not help but smile, it might still be some seasons before he had his juvenile plumage and could learn how to fly.

 

They had not even be in the air for five minutes before Chuck started levelling out and gliding towards a smaller pine forest ahead. The faraway mountain range was already lit up by the sun, they were making good time. The harpia landed right next to a few pine stumps standing out of the snow. A cloud of white engulfed them as he whirled up the snowflakes. It was a good place for logging, Sheera decided. They knew the area and the way back home.

“Now listen Ziz, I need you to find lots of branches like this ok” Sheera held up a smaller dead branch. “The more smaller branches on it the better” she showed Ziz, hoping he understood what they were after. The chick nodded eagerly before heading towards the edge of the light forest. “But don’t get away too far, scream if you need us” Sheera shouted.

 

She knew Chuck would always watch out for Ziz, but out here anaruqs could be very sly and a stryx chick would make a good easy meal. “Ok Chuck, I think that tree back there has just the right size. I think if we can get this one home we have enough wood for some weeks” She pointed at a pine just next to a large boulder. Both Sheera and Chuck inspected the sturdy pine. “Just as usual” she instructed and unsheathed her axe and with big swings started hacking at the trunk. Meanwhile Chuck used his size to break of the branches, careful not to drop them on Sheera. He threw them on a pile where the branches from last time lay. Once the snow was gone and the branches dried they made excellent fire wood. Right now they were too wet however.

Ziz wandered in between the nearby pines, poking his head into the snow and crevices. He walked around rather aimlessly but carried himself proud every time he found a particularly beautiful looking stick to add to his little pile. Ziz eventually lost interest in the game and sat down next to his collection to lazily peck at it. The rhythmic beating of Sheera’s axe was almost lulling him to sleep.

 

The crashing sound of wood splitting apart tore him wide awake and Ziz watched just in time to see Sheera stepping away from the tree and Chuck airborne, pressing down on the tree. Without much protest the pine snapped and with a dull thud landed in the snow. “Great job!” Sheera shouted, resting one arm on the heavy tool.

It took nearly as long to get rid of all the branches. While she used her axe to make sure the trunk was a smooth as possible for the transport, Chuck gathered them to add to the pile. That is when Ziz perked up and joined the game. The chick could only carry the smaller branches but felt it was just as crucial as Chuck picking up the several meter long ones.

 

The sun was high in the sky by the time the trunk was ready. Sheera unpacked her backpack to munch down on lunch and water. Ziz eagerly gulped down some of the fresh cool from the leather pouch, only Chuck seemed content as he was.

The next step was securing the trunk to the hooks and chains. Without a stryx an agonizing task, at least here Chuck could help by lifting up the stump so Sheera could wrap the chains under it. It was still exhausting since the chains had significant weight. They were old and rusty, the clunking sound sometimes drowned out any other noise. Ziz could do naught but watch, slowly wanting to get back home. The chick enjoyed being outside, but the temperatures were not as much fun, even with his thick plumage.

 

Sheera tested the chains two times before securing them to Chuck’s harness. It was a complicated mechanism that ensured he could fly without being hindered in his movements and she was glad she had inherited the useful tool. She had repaired the chains many times before, out here you had to have all sorts of skills in order to survive.

The pile of brushwood Ziz had gathered was bundled together and hug to the chains. With Sheera and Ziz secured to their saddle she instructed Chuck to start pulling. He had done it many times before but each time she was a bit tense. The hardest part was getting the wood moving and overcoming the traction on the ground. One unfortunately placed branch could get the whole trunk stuck.

 

The way to her cabin was all downhill. Her forefathers had picked the location on purpose, knowing a stryx could nearly impossible fly a tree uphill, but pulling it downward was feasible. The sound of snow cracking indicated that the tree had started to move. Chuck walked a few more steps until the tree would no longer suddenly halt before lifting up. With relief Sheera and Ziz watched the log start to slide across the snow cover. The slight tilt of the hill along with the upward pull of Chuck made for an effective means of transportation.

Chuck knew the way back to the cabin and which land path to pick. Sheera allowed herself to lean back and relax a bit. For now she had a moment of respite, it would not last long, in the distance she could see a winter storm brewing and the log still had to be split. Winter up North was brutal, all the more important to have good friends to help, she smiled.

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