Moss Gathering - Chapter 1

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Moss Gathering

by FizzGryphon

Libraries: General, OriginalFiction

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King, James, and Belschnickle are assisting Ratchet in gathering moss from a difficult to get to cavern. While there, they discuss the ongoing war and find something which has existed since ancient times.

Three older Stryx and one young one flew in a diamond formation over a deep ravine. As they lowered altitude, the roaring river rushing below echoed up and reverberated through the four Stryx’s hollow bones. It only got louder the nearer they became, until it was rushing just under their feet. Ratchet and King, two seasoned Tytos, lighted down on an outcropping. A much larger Gryph and still very young Corva followed their lead, though the Gryph had to put himself into an awkward hover. There was no room for him to land.


“So why are we here?” he asked, yelling to be heard above the rapid’s roar. The white beneath his wings flashed as he pumped them to stay airborne. “I thought we were collecting herbs.”


“Because this is the best place to find the moss I need in my medicine,” Ratchet responded. The piebald Tyto gestured with a wing to a waterfall not far away. Behind the waterfall was what appeared to be a cavern. “The best place to collect it is behind the falls. Do you think you can manage to get behind them without slipping?”


“Well, we have to try,” King pointed out. As soon as he’d said it, he was shimmying along the outcropping that led to the cavern. It allowed Belschnickle - the youngest of the four - to land on the wider section.


“Just be careful. Those rocks are slippery,” Ratchet warned, slowly moving to follow. “And if you get your wings too damp, you won’t be able to recover from a fall. That’s why I asked if you three would join me. You’ve all impressed me in the past with your various skill sets… and I can’t carry enough moss to make the trip worth taking, like I explained earlier.” James, the Gryph, landed once there was enough room and nearly slid off the ledge. His size was going to make it all the more difficult when it came to the narrower parts ahead, but flying through the falls was not an option… and he did have claws much stronger and tougher than the other three. “Careful! We have enough death with this bloody war going on as it is.”


It wasn’t an easy task for the two older Tytos to get behind the falls, where the cavern opened up and there was enough room to comfortably fit, but they managed. Bel found it the easiest, given his small size and spry body. Now, the three were watching with bated breath as the large Gryph made his way to meet them. His lumbering form clung to the rock by sheer strength alone. Here and there, he would slip or put his weight on a crag that could not support him. Each time, the three half expected to see the bird fall and disappear into the mist below. Each time, they marveled when he did not.


Slowly but surely, he inched closer, until he was standing with the rest. His feathers were soaked from the fall’s droplets, as he could only barely avoid the falls pelting his shoulders as he dipped behind it. Belschnickle stepped up to him and wrapped one of the Gryph’s legs with his wings in a hug. “I’m glad you made it. That… looked terrifying,” he admitted.


“Hah! Nothing I couldn’t handle, my boy. Just a part of your future jobs.” He took one of his large wings and ruffled the Corva’s feathers. “Alright! So, what are we looking for?”


“If I recall, it’s a green-blue moss?” King asked Ratchet. 


The other Tyto dipped his head, walking further into the cavern looking for ths moss they’d come to collect. “This, over here.” He pointed with one talon towards a damp wall which was coated with the stuff. Along with the moss, several small and beautiful flowers in varying shades of purple dotted the walls.


“Woah,” Belschnickle said. Even James appeared to look dazzled by the beauty before him as he drew near. “How come I’ve never seen these flowers before?”


King gently pushed the Corva out of the way in order to closely inspect the moss. “This is a rare species of flowering plant, actually. Not moss. It just appears like moss. It’s unusual to see them blooming so early. Ratchet, you may want to collect a few of the flowers too. I can’t be sure without consulting my books, but I believe these have antiviral properties if distilled as a tea.”


“Really?” the other Tyto sounded unconvinced, even as he helped show Belschnickle how to collect the ‘moss’ with his talons. “How have I not heard of that before?”


“The flowers only bloom for two days a year… and usually it’s not this early. Unless they’re dried and kept, I feel like most people don’t use them mainly because they don’t know about them.”


Belschickle carefully clipped a flower from its stem with his beak, inspecting it on the ground. “So these help with viruses?”


“That is what antiviral means,” King said in a short tone. He, too, began to gather the plants. When he saw a particularly lovely specimen, he would snip the flower in order to dry and keep later. It would be a wonderful and rare find for his collection.


James chuckled, plucking talonfuls of the moss and King had picked and putting them into tack bags. “Take it easy on him, King. We haven’t had the time to practice the literary, medical, and botanical studies. The war is only getting more and more violent. It’s been hard to keep the feathers on our bodies, let alone do the jobs we set out to do.” His voice only grew darker and more serious as he continued to speak. “Even trying to stay out of the fighting is a battle in and of itself.”


“I’ve heard old Megs is just getting more and more confident with his attacks,” Ratchet chimed in. His voice was tired and he paused his moss gathering to sigh heavily. “Even though I do my best not to get involved, it’s been harder not to. My job is to heal and assist others medically… I can’t deny my calling just because it’s an inconvenience.”


Belschickle looked up at the old piebald bird, studying him. “I hope I don’t sound rude, but there are plenty of medics on the battlefield itself. Why would you need to help?” Once his question was asked, he went back to picking moss.


“Stryx, Amoux, and Kukuri… they’re all involved in the war. So many of them abandon the battlefields in delirium or fear. I’ve run into more soldiers than I’d ever have wanted… just in this short time.”


“Mmm… I’m sorry,” Bel said softly. The group fell into silence, simply collecting the moss. When they ran out of moss in one area, they would move on to the next… until they were deeper inside the cavern than any of them had expected to be. King had begun to look for other flowers, appearing to abandon the main objective, while the other three stayed focus.


It was while James was adding the last of one area’s moss to the tack bag when the group was interrupted. “GALYX ALMIGHTY!” King’s voice rang through the cave, rivaling even the waterfall’s roar in volume.


James was the first to scramble down further into the cavern where King was. “Are you alright? What is it?” he asked, Bel and Ratchet quickly following behind. What they saw when they appeared was a wall covered in what looked to be ancient writing and drawings.


“I’m alright… but look at this.” The Tyto traced one talon along a faded Stryx painting. “Ratchet, you’ve been here before. Have you seen this?”


“No. I’ve never gone this deep into the cave system. I’m afraid that if it’s unstable further down and a collapse happens… we won’t be able to get back out. Just being here makes me nervous.” He hopped slightly from foot to foot, clearly anxious about being down here.


“If it’s stayed standing for this long, I feel like we have nothing to worry about,” Belschnickle pointed out. He began looking down further into the cavern, spotting something shiny. Curiosity caused him to walk towards the glimmer, wondering what it was...




1374 Words

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