Pumpkin Party- GH 2021
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Cockatrice was sulking a few miles outside of Sol when Laika and Aster found him. The colossal harpia had been a saving grace in the fight against the Wraith, having been able to pin her down and halt her wanton destruction of the city until the elfling rider could calm her down. In the wake of the event however, the people and stryx of Sol remained terrified of him. They’d seen his fierce battling against her, and the scores of buildings he’d leveled, not to mention having thrown her through an entire section of the towering walls that were supposed to protect the city. And unlike Senka, he’d retained his monstrous size and appearance after the battle, even if it did not reflect his kindly but awkward personality. He’d tried helping rebuild the city, but but ended up damaging more buildings be accident. It was clear the people were frightened of him, and he’d had enough of trying to think he could change that.
He was nearly about to leave for the lonely solitude of his mountain cave, but as Laika called out to him, he stopped and turned. The blue corva was one of the few stryx he considered a friend, along with her microstryx companion. They’d been part of the group that had freed him from the enchantment that he’d been under, which had forced him to eternally protect an ancient store of treasure and magical artifacts. He’d been stuck in that cave for centuries, but now he was free to roam as he pleased. Not that it did him much good. Just about everyone that saw him either ran away, hid from him, or tried to drive him off. Not Laika though. She smiled as she neared him, though there was also concern in her eyes. She landed onto his head, with Aster landing on her own. It was a sight that could almost be comical, were anyone to look their way.
“Hey there big guy, are you leaving already?”
“Yes.” Cockatrice replied, his voice solemn and crest lowered. “There is not a point to staying. They don’t want me here. Some of them pretend not to mind me, but I can tell they are still scared of me.”
“Nonsense.” Laika quipped. “They just haven’t gotten to know you yet. Most people like to judge books by their covers, but if you slap em over the head with an open book enough times eventually they’ll see the inside.”
Cockatrice made an amused snuffing sound. “I think... that is not how that’s supposed to go.”
Laika jokingly gasped and put a wing to her chest. “Uh! You doubt my advice? Such an insult! Can you believe it Aster?”
The microstryx shook his head in mock disbelief while tuttering. At this Cockatrice flicked his head upwards, displacing the other two stryx. He seemed a bit happier than before, but it hadn’t quite reached his eyes.
“Come on you two, I am serious.”
“As am I! Well… mostly. I really think if you at least try, you can show them that you’re just a big sweetie, and not a monster at all. We just have to think of something you can do. Clearly fighting off monsters wouldn’t be the way to go.”
“Avoid areas with crowded buildings maybe.” Suggested Aster.
“Oh I know! What about helping gather pumpkins? I bet you could carry a whole field worth of em at once! That’s a gentle activity, and there’s nothing to knock down or anything. You’ll just have to keep your tail from swishing a whole lot.”
Cockatrice was uncertain, but he agreed nonetheless. At first it didn’t go so well. Cockatrice kept trying to pick up the pumpkins with this beak, but they all ended up broken, either from being crushed, stepped on, or dropped. Laika could tell that the harpia was getting discouraged by this, and all the while more and more people were stopping to watch him with frightened expressions, so she pulled Aster to the side and whispered,
“This isn’t working. We need to come at this from another angle.”
“A net?” The micro offered. “We put pumpkins in, he carries?”
“Good idea. Let’s gather some friends as well. We’ll clear out this field in no time!”
Turning back to the big bird, Laika called up, “Hey Tricy, just stay right there alright? I’ll be back soon with some help.”
Cockatrice shuffled his weight and nodded silently, having become self conscious of all the onlookers. He waited for what seemed like a few hours, not wanting to move. He could see the people looking at him and pointing from a distance, but there wasn’t really anywhere he could hide. Finally though, he saw a group of colorful stryx flying his way, Laika and Aster, with three others in tow. He recognized one of them as the tyto Bravo, who had also been present when he was freed. The other two he had not seen before. One was a vibrantly orange harpia that had a funny little crest like an orange slice on her head, the other was a brightly colored corva who wore what appeared to be a lantern filled with fireflies around his neck.
All six of them landed in front of Cockatrice, and Laika spread out a wing to gesture to them.
“I brought some friends. You’ve met Bravo, and this is Bee and Quat.”
The orange harpia, Quat, smiled sweetly at Cockatrice.
“Nice to meet you dear. When Laika told us about your situation we were more more than happy to help.”
“Speak for yourself.” Bravo grumbled under his breath, though he quickly shut his mouth as Laika shot him a sharp look.
“Yes yes, we are very happy to help.” Bee said cheerily, his head bobbing, then with a mischievous glint in his eye, “Especially Balto. He is most overjoyed to help.”
“For the last time, my name is not Balto, it’s Bravo you little- ouch!”
The glimmering tyto turned sharply to see Aster landing on Laika’s head with one of his feathers in his beak. He glared at the micro, but turned away when Laika looked his way again.
She wondered for a moment if perhaps it had been a bad idea after all, but it was too late for thinking like that now. They were going to make the most of this. She helped the others to tie a series of large stryx blankets around Cockatrice’s neck to form a makeshift satchel, then they got to work, coming the field to gather as many pumpkins as possible. Most other stryx would either have to carry a few at a time and then fly them to the pile over an over again, or load up wagons which would get stuck in the mud. But Cockatrice was able to carry all of them at once. All the others had to do was fly the gourds into the satchel. For the biggest pumpkins, Cockatrice picked those up himself, as they were far too heavy for even Quat to lift into the air. At one point, Bee found a giant brown tarantula curled up in a particularly large pumpkin and began chasing Bravo around with it until Quat gently reprimanded him, though for the rest of the time Bee kept the spider with him like a backpack. Later, Bravo had attempted to lob a half-rotten gourd at Bee, only to miss and accidentally hit Laika instead. This soon devolved into a full on war, with slimy pumpkin gut being thrown everywhere. Laika and Aster had teamed up, while Bee and Quat allied together. Then to Cockatrice’s surprise, Bravo took his side, cheering loudly from his head as the huge harpia chucked talonfulls of smashed or rotting pumpkin at the rest of them.
He’d completely forgotten about the people watching, or even the reason they’d been doing this in the first place. It was perhaps the first time he’d been able to hang out with other stryx without seeing the look of fear or disgust in their eyes. They were all just having a good time. By the end of the day, they’d cleared a huge section of the field, and brought the now overflowing sheets of pumpkins to the pile where they would be processed. The human and stryx tending the pile thanked them, though their wary gaze remained on Cockatrice.
Afterwards, the birds went to the river and washed the pumpkin out of their feathers. Quat had somehow remained nearly pristine, to which Bee said that her feathers are so perfect, not even dirt or mud would dare sully them. Not having a better explanation, no one argued with this. Eventually they settled down on a grassy hill to dry off, nestled close to Cockatrice to keep warm in the chill even air.
“So,” Laika said, “Do you think it worked Tricy?”
The feathery colossus shook his head, though he didn’t seem upset.
“I do not think so. That’s okay though. I made good friends today, thank you.”
“Hm, same time next week then?” Quat offered jokingly.
Bravo coughed. “Maybe minus the rotten pumpkins though. It’ll be a month before I get them smell out of my nose.”
The other laughed and agreed. They’d had their fill of expired squash.
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