Small notes from an expedition hire of the lord and lady of The Flightless. Incomplete, missing information and lacking clarity, the notes remained stuffed in an outdated book on nautical charts in a faded dowry chest in the upstairs corner of his descendants’ house.
Caladrius – A pale blue with stark orange legs, the crane that feasts on pain looks no stranger than the fauna it lives among. A simple beast, little in the way of brains, yet elegant and useful and kept in high regard in a large cage on deck.
Chrono Owl – We followed them by their broken, midnight song. Every beat of their wings a distortion in time and space. Each attempt we’d get close, close enough to see their eyes, the patterns in their feathers, but never fast enough to combat time itself. The lady had hired a sorcerer, a vortex mage, and it took all his strength to slow the owls enough for us to get a hold. Though, even now, I wonder at their age, for some days they seem like ancients and others hatchlings just from the shell.
Cockatrice – What do they look like? We wore blindfolds into the dark caves and moved by feel through their domain. No one ever got a clear look. Not even after we dragged a few back with us, their leathery bodies squirming in the rucksacks, their claws scraping at the inside though they could not scrape clear through the spelled hide. Even after they’d been put on display, lizard-like snouts wiggling in disdain and tiny wings fluttering in useless expressions of aggression, we could not see them clearly through the colored, distorted glass. And when we placed our fallen comrade, the blindfold slipped off his nose when his tie had loosened, next to the display, most tourists ceased their complaints about the lack of view.
Flame-tail – Damn these tiny hellions! Damn them to the planes of hell and beyond. Let them burn up the damned rather than live on a decent plane of existence. If only. Instead, they trail ash and steam wherever they might go.
Gryphon – Regal creatures the lord called them, his poetry something to acknowledge and praise without sincerity. They’re kingly if one considers the food chain, if one considers the apex might not be us after all. We lost five on that trip. Three to their claws and another two carried away to their cliff-side nests. That mountain range is one I’m happy to never see again.
Harpy – I couldn’t imagine a song so horrid your ears bleed red, yet there it was, filtering across the lakes like warning bellows. Even with my ears stuffed and clogged and muffled further under a helmet of hide, I could just vaguely hear them. Notes of perfection, yet filled with some harmonizing undertone that racked my spine with shudders.
Ivory Lorikeet – White like the snow-flats where they spawn, the lorikeets wear crystals on their wingtips and frost along their pinions. They are trusting birds. Easy to catch. But they will freeze through gloves meant for the largest of birds of prey readily enough.
Moonlit Rooks – Like the ravens and crows from back home, these corvids are loud and raucous, letting us know they’re around by their boasting. However, unlike their fellows, these ones seem invisible to the naked eye, their screams and cries chasing the swaying boughs, but no hint or glimpse of ebony feathers in the sky. Catching them took nets for other, more visible birds, and even then, it was an accident of fortune.
Morphing Swallow – Camouflage birds, the lord said, must not be misplaced or they will be impossible to find again. These ones, small, with songs as long as the epic opuses by masters of the craft, hide within their cages, only their eyes and claws giving them away when the servants come at feeding time.
Ocean Crooner – Bashful, with drooping, multicolored plumage, these crooners trill when they think they’re safe. We crept upon them, watching as moss grew into squat fronds and palms in their wake, blossoming fruit trees—mango and fig and pomegranate—groaning in their sudden growth. They fed us, these birds did, but unlike anything else we’d ever hunted.
Planes Hoppers – We pretended we couldn’t find them; the expedition a complete failure. The lord and lady sent us out again, this time armed with darts of paralysis made by herbalists and hedge-mage alike. It became a game, who could hit the most once the flock had been startled from their wading. Who could stack the most within the cages. We cleaned the lagoon out, brought back every shade of reddened plumage imaginable.
Rocs – They fly singly, which you’d think would make them easier to catch. They do not boast magic in their wings or power but for a natural strength and claws and beak that scaled with their size. That’s plenty, I reason, for that beak has snapped at more than one of us and when it crashed down, it crashed down. The snow of the mountains kept us from dehydrating as we dragged it toward the icy shore, but nothing kept us from jumping whenever those predator eyes roved toward any one of us.
Simurgh – We searched, high and low and high again, my boots worn through. I begged the lord and lady to allow us leave to skip this one. We would take the storms, the fires, the claws of ice and time, if only they’d allow us to abandon this expedition. The lady insisted. So I insisted that they’d need a bigger ship.
Storm Birds – Soaring in flocks they light the sky with crackles of energy, coruscating in and over and under the clouds. They were a blight on the land, on the rocks, turning the world to zapping death where they flew. But in their aeries, they slept at peace, their shivering lightning kept at bay, mere static. Pad their cages well and don’t step past the grounding rods, marked where the boards run black with ruin. Not unless you’ve said a last prayer to the leviathan.
Swiftwings – Some folk used them as mounts, their wings grand draperies of pale colors, their tails spread across the ground in their wake. Their gait held a gracefulness that yet threw people too used to horses or elephants or camels, for a half-stag, half-bird would fan its tail and wiggle its hind with each step. The two my lord and lady bought boasted a teal-cerulean coloring with white on their bellies and gentle personalities.
Undying Swan – She found a way to attract death, though I was not welcome on that expedition. They brought back two, or so I’ve been told. I’ve never seen them, but there’s a room down near the ballast where no one may enter, yet something always hisses when I pass.
This is a teaser for the upcoming novel, Lost Isle: The Ocean’s Aviary I, which you can pre-order here on Amazon