Check out the Court of Halcyon, holy knights of the Bleak Wilds and a growing unboarded proclan who aim to bring peace and order to Agrelos!
Newborn-fragile is the little one nestled into her own, coarse spine fur; Softbeat's glass-bone talons need only to pierce the faintest surface of tigerskin before grasping secure. Pitch quite misses the aerial view he's always allowed her, but it's only too selfish of a request from his shattered, gauze-bound wing. She carefully splays her bulky toes while walking, as though she imagines the stone floor is powder snow instead. This sort of heightened mindfulness, even with a graceful predisposition, forces her into an unbearably slow pace. Every few steps she opens a toothy maw to complain, every second later stinging shame closes it. The little sparrowhawk's presence on her back is hardly anything at all; gentle is the pressure on her brutish form, like dandelions' fluff caught in the hoary bristles of a wild boar. Her eyes and only weakness, his dreams of hearing, his hopes of meeting other birds—all rest entirely on her back. Forever heavy is her debt; but for a friend as true as him, fragile as him, she doesn't mind.
The walls she walks with twist strangely, rocks arranged by a stranger in Mother Nature's graces. Morning's fingers have already wrought their way through temples' cracks. Still a little too early for her liking, but it's a sacrifice she must make to spite embarrassment. She prays no one will see her shuffling like she needs a cane, head bowed so low her whiskers brush the floor: they're humiliating consequences of storing her eyes in the oh-so delicate bird squatting behind her broad shoulders. Even then, the thought brings a smile to her face. She knows Softbeat can hear it, and she knows she's staying faithful to today's request. First thing in the morning, can we go look at some babies? I'm sure they have some, or so his disjointed bird thought went.
The two enter the nursery, one seemingly too large for her soft footfalls, the other visibly cringing away after perking forwards in delight. Without the avian-sharpshooter gaze, she would've never noticed the pale girl among pale hatchlings. She crouches over a nest like a willow over water, the picture of beautiful curiosity. Pitch can't hide her smile at the sight: illuminated in morning's gracious light, she and the children look a little like earth-bound angels. A mental whisper sounds behind her, eagerness overwhelming the tranquil scene. Pitchthought finds it necessary to cough a little first, some sort of warning for the preoccupied, before speaking. "...good morning...?" the throaty murmur comes, and she nearly recoils from how awfully her deep tones must break Astria's focus. She offers another smile as compensation. "My friend. Here. We would like to see little ones...also. With you. If we are...not. Disturbing. Your...thinkings." she adds, smile growing bashful.
blind, almost completely black / melanistic Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris tigris) with gauze wrapped around her eyes
— 3ft (90cm) @ shoulders . 300lbs (135kg)
— nearly silent in pawsteps . Sundran jungle native
— status : 95 / 100 . worried about Softbeat
kind . passive . fatalistic . gentle . faithful
21-strength . able to out-wrestle a work animal or catch a falling person
22-dexterity . very graceful, capable of dodging a number of thrown objects
10-constitution . occasionally contracts mild sicknesses
5-intelligence . often resorts to charades to express thoughts
10-wisdom . makes reasoned decisions most of the time
10-charisma . capable of polite conversation
accompanied by a deaf male little sparrowhawk (Accipiter minullus) named Softbeat
— acts as her eyes through character bond
— status : 40 / 100 . gravely-injured wing
The spirit was old. That was Ulla's first observation as she neared the stranger. Well, was calling the creature a stranger polite? She supposed she must be a Volarian, but Ulla knew she hadn't quite gotten around to meeting them all yet. Still, being a fellow Volarian didn't negate the term 'stranger'. All joiners were strangers at first. Ulla shook away her rather confusing line of thinking and simply approached the feline, watching in silence for a moment. She had always wondered what caused old spitits to seek out bodies rather than continuing on past the world that Ulla could see or simply remaining a spirit. Was it their will? Did many of them seek out a new body? Was this life better than the one enjoyed by spirits? She had watched her father wander around aimlessly for nearly two weeks before he found his way to wherever he needed to be and seemed to permanently disappear from Ulla's Sight. Her mother, on the other hand, had passed through to whatever waited even past death rather quickly, but still occasionally showed up for a visit. What was the difference between them? Did her father not want to visit? Or was he not able to? There were so many questions she had about death and spirits in general, which struck her all as terribly ironic. She knew now that she had been a spirit before - that she'd been a spirit multiple times, given she was recovering memories of her previous lifetimes. There had been many of them, she was told, maybe even more than those she would eventually remember.
Deciding it best to speak up rather than simply watch like some sort of strange prowler, Ulla soon spoke with a smile, "The birds seem quite sweet. I used to feed the ones that lived in the forest near my childhood home. None of them ever stayed, though." But she supposed most birds didn't stay. That was the point of them. Eventually, most would fly off and live a life elsewhere, out on their own. A bit like children, some would say, though that was a comparison that only brought her grief in light of Kiyoshi's recent exit. She still couldn't believe he'd run off without saying a word to her. Well, she could believe it, but she did think it was rather hurtful of him to do. He was only a child, but she thought she'd taught him more empathy than that. Still, most of her feelings towards Kiyoshi weren't anger, they were worry. Worry that he'd never come home, that he'd get hurt, that'd she'd never hear from him again. But only time would tell and she couldn't keep searching for a bird that left no trail. "I'm sorry, I haven't introduced myself. I'm Ulla, I don't believe we've met." She was actually quite certain they hadn't met, but it seemed strange to just proclaim something like that.
☾ WAS IT YOU 'MID THE FIRE AND THE EMBER? ☽
☾*: softbeat's current location — on her back
Her voice. The words, tiny things from a tiny mouth, spill in graceless beat when she turns around; it stops Pitchthought for a second, dull surprise flushing through black veins. She's interacted with the girl before and knows completely how little she says, how brittle she sounds. Yet she can't help the silent startle that follows. Pitch is the hulking night against her dove's morning, a barbarian facing down a ballerina. But she too cracks in every word, stumbles on every phrase and rights herself too late. Despite the leagues between their statures, they're but the same in language. "Thank...you..." she murmurs. When she carefully lowers herself into a crouch, a steady rock forward into sturdy paws, she pretends she's shrinking down to Astria's height. So that they might admire together, wonder together. Talk together. The birds she watches are genuinely interesting, but now pale in comparison to the feline swan beside her.
Pitch starts a little at Ulla's voice; her tendons knead at the stone before her, still unsheathed but ready all the same. The coiled snake of a spine relaxes some moments after, recognizing that goddess-voice. Even without Softbeat turning backwards, she would know the sound of hoofbeats against rock anywhere—thankfully with a different sort of reaction today. The doe—fragile, flashy, should not talk, only fear—has opinions enough for all three of them. But Pitchthought doesn't mind; the sort of civilized chatter will always be music in her uncouth ears, always experience to be gained. The tiger carefully considers what she mentions, the kindness to the birds of her homelands, the fleeing of the beloved in turn. It seems...unjust. Ulla's old birds should surely stay with her, care for her as she did them. But she knows all too well that the bound of loyalty is only ever a construct, and the truly free can take what they can without obligation. Shame pricks at her pawpads, turning her dark cheeks hot.
These little birds...will they have a sense of loyalty? "Ulla," she greets, offering a tail flick in lieu of looking. "Why...waste food. Like that?" There's no derisive pitch in her rumble, no sneer or accusation. Just a rolling, unexpressed undertone of 'you deserve better?'. These hatchlings are fluffy, downy, and maybe even grotesque in outstretched mouths and unfeathered wings. But wonderful all the same, these little paragons of beginnings. "You think...birds. Are. Nice?" Having stared at babies for long enough, this is her conclusion for Ulla's inefficiently-altruistic behavior.
There was nothing more fragile than the newborn hatchlings which sung from their battered nests, frantic and youthful and innocent in every blind action. They were small enough to be crushed beneath a paw or ground between molars; small, hollow bones not yet capable of flight yet delicate enough to thoughtlessly snap. They'd hatched just a day after the storm. All of them, healthy despite the way the jungle had fallen around them, demolished by the whims of the storm. The stench of lightning still lingered around the tall trees of the aviary, but the baby birds which lived there were unfettered by the rainsoaked mosses or sharp scents of ozone. They merely wanted to grow; instinct drove them to survive. When Felix had been clearing away the battered debris from around the aviary, he'd discovered the nest of eggs among waterlogged ferns and thought for a traitorous moment that they'd perished. Fear, cold and ragged, crawled through the hollow of his chest as he stared at the eggs. There was no way that they could have survived. No mother to warm them, no shield to protect them. Just another casualty of frigid, reckless nature. But before he could muster the heart to clear them away just the rest of the muddy treebranches and shredded leaves at his feet, a furious robin burst from the foliage and nearly clawed his ears off with her righteous claw-swipes.
A day later, every one of the eggs hatched. When Felix crept toward the nest and caught a glimpse of cotton-soft baby feathers and tiny, shivering frames, that fear within him melted away. Replacing it, there settled a tentative contentedness. Warmth bloomed in his soul — the quiet, barely-there kind which drifted after him, a better shield than any amount of snide remarks or cold glares.
Astria was kind of like those baby birds. She was fragile, paper-thin skin and glass bones; cold, dead expressions and an anxiousness so strong it was nearly palpable. But she was strong, too. There was an inherent strength in living, after all. It took guts to move through each and every day, to wake up each morning and survive the chaos to follow. He saw that courage within her, coiled behind fragile skin and bones and words. He was learning to have more patience. He'd begun to see those around him through the lens of protectiveness as well as loyalty. He looked at Astria and suggested she watch over the baby birds hatched in the fray of chaos, and hoped that she'd get a taste of that same hushed hopefulness that had washed over him as well. Or that maybe, she'd see more of her own strength reflected in their innocent chattering.
It was sentimental, but he was learning more about that, too. Felix's presence was one marked by sharp frowns and threatening scowls, calmed for the moment as he slipped through the foliage toward the trio around the nest. He didn't miss the way Pitchthought tensed at Ulla's steps over the soil — like her own reaction to typical prey, the bit off snarl he turned toward the blindfolded tigress was completely instinctual. Muscles tense, teeth sharp, he teetered for a moment in the tentatively still atmosphere. Disquiet faded, and his reactiveness slowly melted away. He understood impulse. It drove any one of them, just as it hissed at him to bear his teeth and neutralize any and all threats around him. But he also understood that impulse could be denied. No matter how easy it would be, none of them bothered to snap their teeth at the tiny, defenseless hatchlings before them. He could latch onto that; trust in the restraint more than he could the kindness of the soul. He retreated fully from his scowl toward Pitchthought, casting a glance toward the middle distance. There was a fragility within her as well; a kindness, truly. Perhaps in all of them, crouched around the rebuilt nest in the demolished aviary.
Felix looked toward Astria, watching the reverence over her blank face with a frown of his own. "How are they doing?" Felix asked after a moment, voice hushed as to refrain from jarring the feathery hatchlings, drifting through summery jungle air on a taste of tranquility.