Chapter 8: The Will to Fight
When I had rescued Animae, she was barely fully fledged. After rescuing and taking her in a hollow, whose inhabitants I had killed in order to silence any kind of suspicion that could have come against us. Words travelled fast and the last thing I needed was a division of tyto owls coming after me. Following the events that took place during the siege of Ambala, I was certain that both Nyra and Metal Beak wanted me dead. I had most certainly disturbed their plans and knowing Kludd, he would try to kill me before planning something.
That was if they could find me, though. Who would suspect an owl that was on the runaway after his mate had been killed by the Pure Ones? Such a story was just too real to be contested in the first place. I had the perfect story and with it, I was able to obtain peace for several moon cycles… until a fateful day.
That day, I also had a dream, concerning both the future and two of my dear friends: Soren and Gylfie. However, in my dreams, they were not alone. With them were four other owls: a Barn Owl that greatly resembled Soren in appearance, a Burrowing Owl, a Spotted Owl, and a Great Grey Owl.
They were flying behind the Great Grey, who seemed to be carrying some sort of metallic shield made from whichever metal that was, while they all carried buckets made from the same type of metal. At first, I had no clue whatsoever about where they were, but after closely at the dreamscape I came to realize that they were in the area where the Siege of Ambala had taken place.
My dream went on another scene. This one showed Soren and Gylfie, along with the rest of their companions, face to face with a group of Pure Ones with Metal Beak leading said group. This scene also marked the moment my dream self-made his entrance.
He dived down towards Metal Beak and separated the two groups for a moment until I finally sided with Soren and Gylfie's group. Metal Beak and I both wore helmets, but the main difference between our reasons was that I did so to cover my scar and identity, while he wore his to cover his own scars only. Sadly though, my helmet did not work well to cover my identity against Kludd.
"Uncle Kurth! Wake up, Uncle!"
"What's wrong, Animae?! You saw Pure Ones flying near the hollow?" I asked the owlet with an alarmed voice. I was also worried this would mean we'd have to find another hollow.
You may wonder who Animae is, and I cannot blame you for asking about her identity. To be brief, she is the owlet I saved from Threka's talons during the Siege of Ambala. While Animae sounds a bit 'Other-ish', I assure you that it was the name her parents had given her, or so she claimed.
Still, when I first settled in the hollow we currently occupy, she kept on going about owl purity. As time passed on, and this behavior refused to stop, I began thinking that the Pure Ones had really gotten to her, but at a later point I noticed that she lacked something in her eyes. When I was stuck with Soren and Gylfie in St. Aggies, they both had a certain glitter that Animae lacked.
That realization stuck a chord! Of course, moon blinked owls had the same kind of stare that she had. But surely, the moon's light wasn't strong enough in Ambala to successfully moon blink an owl. In the end, I came up with the conclusion that the Pure Ones had done something to her and the other owlets that closely resembled moon blinking. What they did was completely unknown to me, but this only strengthened my resolve to get Animae out of that strange trance she had been put under.
There were so many things I tried to accomplish that one goal, and yet most of them ended with failure. I was rarely able to catch her attention, let alone break the trance, and it eventually lead me to believe that nothing could be done to help her.
Desperate, I nearly gave up, my sorrows and disappointment welling together in my mind to form a melody that I soon began to hum softly as best as my screeches went. Sure, it wasn't the most harmonious thing ever, but it sounded good to my ears at least as I weaved note after note, melodies unleashed into the air as it soothed me at the same time.
When I finally lay the melody to rest, I quickly took noticed of Animae, who had fallen asleep whilst I was singing. Perhaps my singing voice wasn't all that bad after all, but that was beyond the point at the moment.
Truth be told, it was slightly comforting to see she had finally stopped mumbling about her owl purity nonsense, but there was nothing at all that could assure me that she had completely regained her senses.
With these weighing heavily on my mind, I also began dwelling on what I had planned. My only problem was that I was not sure about what I wanted to do in the end for the days to come. Of course, I knew that escaping from both St. Aegolius and the Pure Ones guaranteed me deadly foes. Ranging from Finny to Kludd, there were many owls that wished for my death just as I wished death upon them in return.
However, what worried me the most was that I was close to Pure Ones territory. What if they eventually found my hollow? Would I be willing to shed blood in front of Animae, or even risk her safety to secure my own selfish desires of quelling the lives of those I despised? I wasn't sure how far I would go to protect another owl such as Animae.
Several hours later, just shortly after the sun had risen, Animae awoke after her long slumber. She had strangely regained her senses and when her eyes landed on my form, she uttered the usual inquiry of where she was followed by an iconic question about my own identity, just as if she had forgotten who I was.
My answer was quick and rich in information. I told her that I was a friend she could put her trust in, while omitting to mention her stay at the Pure Ones' stronghold in Ambala or how I rescued her during the siege.
Time passed on, and soon half a moon cycle had passed, and Animae's trust in me had done nothing but grow as I supported her growth. When the time came I considered her ceremonies, I first tried asking her where her parents had left off, but unfortunately she was just as ignorant on that much.
In order to avoid confusion, I instead decided that it would be far wiser to begin anew in case she had been captured as an egg by the Pure Ones. Once she had agreed to my plans, ceremonies came one after the other and before we both knew it by the end of the moon cycle, it was time for her first flight ceremony.
I had never really taught another owl how to fly, but I was sure glad that Grimble had taught Soren, Gylfie and I every step of the way back at .
Unfortunately, pleasantries and good times came to an end when the owlet asked me the question I dreaded most: where had her parents gone to? Being somehow that despised answered with anything other than clear answers, I answered as best I could.
"To be completely honest, I don't know anything about your parents. I rescued you from one of the owls of St. Aegolius, not that I'd expect you to know about that wretched place. Essentially, I managed to rescue you from the owls of St. Aegolius, who had just captured you from the Pure Ones and it was they who held you captive initially, it would seem," I explained with as much clarity as I could whilst avoiding the mention of the owls I had killed to rescue Animae. "So that leaves me with only a few conclusions: either they were Pure Ones themselves, or the Pure Ones stole you from them."
As I explained myself to her, I noticed that she had been staring at my scars on my chest and face. "Where did those come from, Kurth?"
"They were given to me by my mother and aunt. As I oppose the Pure Ones, on top of having thwarted their plans here and there in the past, they seek only to slay me. Sadly, I slew my very own aunt, who injured my chest, while my mother still lives to this day and she is still alive to this day."
"That's so awful!" she exclaimed as I told her how I had gotten my wounds.
"It is. Truth be told, I don't really care for my mother anymore and I currently seek vengeance upon her and her new mate, the one who fell my father."
"But, isn't that taking it a bit too far? I can understand she angered you, but isn't seeking vengeance upon her a bit too far?"
"It is not for the wounds she inflicted on me, but for a plethora of reasons that I loathe her.
"She… did worse things to you other than wound you so?" Animae asked, dread filling her voice.
"She did. One of those things was having my father, her very own mate, murdered. On top of that, she ordered my aunt to kill me. It was during that battle that my best friend came to my aid, but ended up getting killed instead," I explained, clutching my feet around Serenade's bracelet.
"Is… that thing on your foot from your…" Animea began, although hesitation halted her from concluding her question.
"Yeah. It belonged to my best friend and she gave it to me before passing from this world to glaumora."
It had seemed awkward of me to say such a thing. After all, I did not hold any sort of beliefs whatsoever, but it felt somehow pleasant to believe that there was something higher than us all sometimes.
I could only hope that wherever they were, my father and Serenade were at peace. While it does feel good to believe in something greater, I did not hold any beliefs of what awaits us in the afterlife. No, the very concept of glaumora seemed too utopic for me to truly believe in it.
"Uncle, I think I just saw a bunch of owls flying near the hollow. One of them in particular had pure white face feathers," Animae told me as she looked out of the hollow.
"Nyra! How did she know?!"
"Nyra…? Is that your mother?"
Unfortunately, she is. Now, come on! We're leaving this place right this instant," I commanded.
"But, isn't this our home?" Animae complained at my command.
"It is, but if Nyra finds us, you'll be wishing you never hatched. Her cruelty is as great as her beauty is dazzling," I commented, quoting my father's last message to me.
"But where will we be going?"
"To Silverveil. I know a hiding place there that not even the Guardians could find."
"Does that mean we're leaving right now?" Animae inquired.
"No, not yet. If we leave right this instant, we'll risk being spotted by Nyra and her Pure Ones, and we don't want that," I told Animae.
"When will it be, then?" She asked, growing either impatient or nervous, I couldn't quite tell at this instant.
"When they're out of my sight. Then, we'll make our escape."
We waited a while until the Pure Ones were gone from the immediate surroundings, and once I had made sure that they were gone. It was either pure, dumb luck that not one of Nyra's Pure Ones barged into our hollow. If it had come to that, I would have been forced to kill in cold blood right in front of her, and I certainly didn't want to scar her with those kind of images.
It took a while, but just as we had hoped, there were no Pure Ones in the vicinity. After getting out of the hollow, I instructed Animae to follow me as I guided her through the forest and quickly over the same canyon that had served as the battlefield during my battle against Maritha. I was sure that if Nyra had searched the area thoroughly, she must have already found my aunt's corpse, that is if a wild animal hadn't already disposed of her carcass.
"Attack them, Pure Ones!" Nyra let out.
Her Pure Ones came from under us, just as I had done during my skirmish against Maritha. Their flying formation was well organized so far, so I instructed Animae to fall back and notify me if they also targeted her. I knew they have a grudge against me, but what did they have against Animae and what would they gain from killing her?
"Leave her out of this, Nyra. She is not the one you want!" I shouted as I gestured to Animae to continue flying.
"That is true, but she is by your side and that brands her an impure. Any impure owl must be cleansed from this world!"
"Over my dead body!" I barked.
"If that is your wish, so be it," Nyra replied coldly. "Kill him, Pure Ones. Have no mercy for the owlet as well!"
She was going too far! She had to be stopped! She and Kludd had to be stopped. If nothing was done, who knows what might happen to the owl kingdoms?
But before I could do any of that, my first priority was to protect myself and the owlet I took under my wing a while back. After all, if I couldn't even protect a single owlet, who would I be able to save, in the end?
Six Pure Ones accompanied Nyra. Four seemed to head in my direction while the other two were giving chase to Animae. I had to defend her from those two owl, but with the four that gave chase to me, it was unlikely that they would allow me to do that.
Animae soon began to beg for help, but as I was, there was naught I could do for her, let alone help her as I kept evading attacks that were sent at me by the four Barn Owls that chased after me.
My mind soon began to panic as I saw the Pure Ones force Animae into a dive against the rocks below. She let out a screech when she hit the rocks, calling out for help as the Pure Ones descended rapidly towards her, their battle claws extended and unlocked, ready to reap her life.
"Don't do it!" I screamed, as if my voice could stop them in their descent.
Suddenly, a large shadow appeared in the pale moonlight and in less time required to say racdrops, the two owls that were about to kill Animae were both pinned down. The one that had attacked them was probably the biggest owl I had never seen. Even Serenade looked small in comparison.
"Ain't ya dumb birds have any honor at all? What's all this 'bout attackin' a harmless owlet like that?!" the owl exclaimed.
"And just who might you be, owl?" Nyra asked him.
"Spike's the name and I am here ta help them owls you idiots are attacking," Spike replied.
"Why you…! Pure Ones, kill him with the rest!" Nyra commanded the four owls she had brought with her.
Using his large talons, Spike crushed the skulls of the two owls he had pinned down a few moments earlier and quickly rose to join me once he had made sure Animae was safe and sound. With our skills combined, we could stand a chance against the Pure Ones.
If I remembered correctly, the ranking system the Pure Ones used worked with the Barn Owls being the highest ranked. They were those that had the most training, since they were supposedly the purest of them all.
At the very least, they should pose a weaker threat now that Spike had joined my side. How he had found us in the part of the world still puzzled me, but I wasn't about to complain about it. While I had hoped we could have had some time to discuss, the Pure Ones launched an attack before we even had the time to engage in conversation.
Instinctively, both of us split and flew in opposite direction. The Pure Ones had split in two parties; one of them was chasing me while the second gave chase to Spike. On my end, I focused on the task of eliminating the Pure Ones chasing me and dove right into the forest at full speed, taking care to evade whatever came in front of me.
My plan was to lead the Pure Ones into a trap of my own and get rid of them right then and there. Improvising as best I could, I led the Pure Ones to a large tree about twenty-four pytes away from our current position. It was a good thing I was a skilled flyer as I was able to keep the Pure Ones at bay behind me, but they would surely gain on me when I would begin circling around the tree.
As I had originally planned, I banked around the tree and began to circle it, but to my surprise I saw Spike coming on the other side, almost as if we had had the same idea for this trap. However, I quickly understood why he was doing that. He wanted to switch groups so we would have the element of surprise on our side.
Giving a quick nod, I flapped my wings a bit and caught the upward draft to gain some height just as the Pure Ones chasing Spike came into my sight. Letting out a screech, I unlocked my talons and flew right in-between the Barn Owls, grabbing the exposed part of their legs with my talons, dragging them with me in my dive.
I did feel them struggle at the very best, but with the speed I was coming at, there was naught they could do to break free at this point. I threw them on the ground when I was close enough and stopped my dive to gain some altitude and come right back at them after a loop, sinking my talons in their throats in a flash. They struggled for a few seconds before their bodies went limp and motionless.
Taking a few breaths, my chest heaving all the while, I looked up to see Spike send the Pure Ones he had taken on hurling against the large tree, leaving them motionless as they fell to the ground. Not taking any chances, I took flight and dove right at them, finishing them before Spike could utter a single comment.
"Ya needn't do that," he told me as he landed next to me.
"No, but I prefer to be sure my enemies don't come back and bite me in my back. I've had that happen once and it's enough to make me more vigilant."
"That 'side, who taught ya how ta fight?" Spike inquired.
I felt a lump in my throat as the question left his beak. "My father did," I answered, "but at this point, it's better if we leave that much at that."
"Got somethin' ta hide, don't ya?"
He was pretty good for an owl I had just met. "My past, but the past is the past. I can't change it, but the best I can do is make amends for it in the future."
"Sounds pretty personal ta me. Who was yer father, exactly?" Spike inquired, much to my discomfort about this subject.
"Former High Tyto, the previous leader of the Pure Ones before Metal Beak took over. I don't remember his name, but I believe he remained nameless even in the end," I answered, groaning internally as I saw him spread his wings in a threatening display. "I'm not a Pure One anymore, so calm yourself; the last thing I need is another enemy right now."
"Plus, I despise the Pure Ones just as much as you do for what they did to me," I told him, taking off my helmet and revealing the scar adorned on my face. "Courtesy of my mother."
"You not bein' one anymore ain't reassurin' me one bit, but if yer honest about yer hate about them, I s'pose I don't have ta be afraid of you betraying me," he responded, returning to a more relaxed position and stance. "Say, I didn't catch yer name before. Mind givin' it away, owl?"
"My name is Kurth. Not that I expected the owls of these parts to know who I was and who I am now. You're Spike… right?"
"Correct. Spike's the name, and just so ya know, I'm an Eagle Owl. Yer a Barn Owl, though, that much is clear. Could've mistaken ya fer a Snowy with your size and feathers. Thankfully, your facial disk and flight feathers give your breed away," he explained, taking another look at my form.
"So I've heard, actually. At least, I only share my wings with my mother. I wouldn't have wanted to inherit her mindset, Glaux almighty. Anything but that!"
"Who's she? Maybe I've heard of her before."
"Her name's Nyra. She's the one that led the Pure Ones into battle today to attack the three of—Oh no! Animae. I've got to check on her!" I exclaimed, my mind panicking as it immediately thought of the worst-case scenario.
"Calm down, I'm sure she's mighty fine down there," he calmly replied, hoping to actually get me to calm down in this sort of situation.
"You don't understand! Nyra, she wants her dead just as she wants me dead, and she's basically ready to do anything to kill me right now. If she so much as noticed her on that rock, Animae's either dead of left for dead. I need to get to her as fast as I can!"
"Let me come with ya, in case that damned Nyra planned some kinda trap for ya down there."
I nodded, appreciating his support, although I was pretty sure it was both out of concern and mistrust. I didn't want to assume he already trusted me as it was probably not the case. Still, we wasted no time in flying back to our initial location before Nyra ambushed us and I began to track the flight path Animae had used. I remembered it clearly and traced my way to the rock she had been left on, unharmed for the most part.
I landed next to her and looked down at her, offering what little smile my beak could produce as she got to her feet with some challenge, hugging me in a flash. "I was so afraid, Uncle Kurth! I thought they'd come back for me and that they'd do away with me," she let out, small tears glistening in her eyes.
"There, there. Everything's going to be fine. I'm here now," I softly whispered, returning her embrace, wrapping my wings around her.
"That's a really overused phrase, kid. Besides, don't go around making promises ya can't keep," Spike told me in a harsh tone.
"Not helping, Spike!" I replied venomously.
"Hey, don't throw a fit over what I told ya. What I meant by that was that if it's not them damn crows, it's them frinking Pure Ones lurking at every turn. Danger crawls everywhere and it can kill ya before ya even realize what's goin' on!"
"Really not helping, Spike. The last thing I need is her going yeep because you instilled fear in her mind."
"It ain't like I'm far from the truth, though. If you've been on the run for the past few moon cycles, ya should know that to be true, especially if ya plan to move during the day."
He had a point. Serenade and I had been assaulted by crows when I first met her, and when my instincts were awakened for the first time. Carelessness led to death in these parts, and I was living proof of that, glancing at my talons and the small ornament tied on my leg.
Serenade may have been an overconfident fool, her death had come to her as a result of her selflessness towards me. She had died valiantly and bravely to help me in my goal. As for myself, I had escaped death more than once and, although I admit to my own overconfidence, I can be modest about my own potential at times, for safety's sake.
This much proves that one must be cautious in their travels, especially now that we are in Pure Ones territory. Even if Spike and I were skilled fighters, one accident or one ambush could be the end of us. Even natural disasters should not be overlooked. Forest fires were deadly things and things that should be avoided at all costs.
At this moment, it was impossible to deny I was emotionally unstable, with the way everything just crashed down on me in the last few months, what with it discovering my mother was a psychopath, that her and my aunt had plotted his death and that my best friend died at the talons of my very own aunt, whom I murdered in cold blood for vengeance. To be completely frank, I think I would go yoicks if something ever happened to Animae.
"By the way, you never told us your story, sir," Animae called out to Spike, approaching him slowly.
"I will in time, young'un, but more importantly, d'ya have somewhere ta go to?"
"Well, actually, we were headed for Silverveil. I know of a place there to hide," I replied, quickly answering his question as I glanced around, checking over at my surroundings carefully; I was not taking any chances, for Animae's safety.
"Well, what do you know? I was headed there myself. I'm in need of battle claws so I was plannin' on meetin' up with the rogue smith there ta get a pair. Plus, I heard that this smith's the only one ya can trust."
"Battle claws?" I repeated, sinking in deep thought for a few moments, considering the option of getting some of my own if I ever was to face Nyra and Kludd again. "Maybe I could also try asking a pair too. They could come in handy in the future."
"Just be careful what ya wish fer, kid!" Spike chuckled, his loud hoots echoing around. "The Rogue Smith of Silverveil may be trustable, but I heard she was rude."
"No matter. Just like you, I must try my luck. If I ever step it up against the Pure Ones and go up close and personal, I'll need a weapon. If anything, battle claws would be my greatest allies as my entire fighting style is about overpowering others on top of fighting with my talons if need be."
"Ah, that sounds fair enough, kid," Spike replied with a chuckle.
"So, we all ready to go or what? Unless, of course, you want to rest up a bit, Animae?" I asked, directing my gaze at the owlet with a hint of concern written all over my face.
"We ain't resting up one bit, kid. Nyra retreated, but that don't mean we should be careless. We need ta get as far away from here as fast as possible."
He had a valid point. Nyra was a complicated creature and it was almost impossible to decipher her mind, or what she was plotting, other than the utterly obvious things. Time was precious here and we had to make every second count. Gesturing to Animae to follow us, I let Spike lead the way as I stayed by Animae's side to make sure her flying had not been affected by the Pure Ones' assault.
With Spike saying he knew a quick way to make it to Silverveil, I let him lead the way as I knew nearly nothing about the geography of the kingdoms or the separating borders so the Eagle Owl was better off leading the way compared to me. Simply said, my sense of direction was just awful.
Eventually, I let Animae fly ahead of me so she would fly between myself and Spike, an additional manner of protection as we actively kept on listening to our surroundings in the case we ever encountered any threats on the way. Of course, there was always some sort of risk to flying when in Pure Ones territory.
The landscapes, however, as we travelled were so beautiful and peaceful that mere words failed to describe them. The valleys in the distance, the flowing rivers, the peaceful lakes, the peaks and the waterfalls that some had. In my very own ignorance and goal for vengeance and self-discovery, I had overlooked how beautiful the world that surrounded us was. And on top of it all, the moonlight's reflection in the waters made this even more beautiful, making the soft beams of moonlight shine and brighten the usually dark forests.
Fortunately for us, we didn't have to travel by day as we soon find a fir tree large enough to let us rest, although it was already inhabited by a family of Great Greys. They were kind enough to offer us a place to stay for the night, though I did feel a bit bad for nearly imposing myself on them. They did say it was no worry or problem for them, but I still felt a bit uncomfortable with this.
The only problem was that the two parents froze in fear once I had entered the hollow, with my helmet on my head, nearly accusing me of being Metal Beak at one point. I held them no grudge, for Kludd and I were of the same species, so it was a bit hard to distinguish us when one does not know how Metal Beak looks like save for the fact he's a Barn Owl.
It took a bit of time to explain to them that I was not Metal Beak, and that I wasn't part of the Pure Ones. I tried to explain to them several times that we were trying to flee from him and his gang of Pure Ones. Still refusing to believe me, I finally took off my helmet and showed them my face, and my scar. That proved to be enough for them to realize that I was not Metal Beak, and it lead to them apologizing to me for the false accusations, whereas I responded that I was used to it as the both of us were of the same species.
I also told them that while Metal Beak was unusually large for a Barn Owl, I was still a bit larger than he was. I ignore if his growth had been somehow altered unnaturally, but I knew mine had been kept natural due to my father's wishes, and now I thanked him for that. I wasn't sure if that witch of a mother that Nyra was had tried to do something to alter my growth, but I do believe she never had the chance, considering how I turned out in the end.
To prove my point even more, I told them that Metal Beak had much more brown feathers than me since I last encountered him in Ambala, which wasn't exactly a lie. I did encounter him, though I had not fought him in any way. We just conversed and expressed our disagreement at each other's ideals, on top of trying to have me killed.
Even when I had my helmet covering my face, I still had more white feathers than he did. I was obviously not as large as a Snowy Owl, but I had oft been told that I could be mistaken for one from afar, though my back gave away my species almost immediately, what with those small white speckles of white on my brown feathers.
The owlets currently occupying the hollow with their parents were scared of my scars when they saw them, mostly the one on my face. They eventually grew out of it when I told them that they had been dealt to me by members of the Pure Ones during some skirmish against them.
When asked what we were doing so close to the borders between the Kingdom of Ambala and the Barrens, we each told them our stories, though I kept out the fact I was the son of the previous High Tyto and the current co-ruler of Pure Ones and they all seemed surprised by what we had to say.
"You three really are headed to find the rogue smith in Silverveil?" The father asked, mostly of behalf of his chicks' curiosity, who were currently chattering in the corner, talking about us, and me in particular.
"Yes, that is correct," I acknowledged, giving off a bit of a giggle at the owlets' antics in the background.
"And if I understand correctly, you're wanting to gain access to battle claws to fight against the Pure Ones' tyranny on the owl kingdoms?"
"Precisely. Though they are no joke, and if anything an incredibly powerful threat, something must be done about them and we need to band together to keep these our kingdoms at peace. They cannot be allowed to succeed in their plans, hence why I plan to get battle claws from the smith," I explained, going from one detail to one another, trying to not overlook anything I had on my mind, as I went on, "and from there, probably try to seek aid from the Guardians, if they are more than just a legend, that is."
Of course, I believed the Guardians were real. They were real. My father trusted in them and was living proof they existed, as he had once clashed with them at one point in time, or so I think I remember. If not, then I would still believe in their existence, for I had no reason to not believe in them.
"Ah, I see. Those seem good enough reasons. Although I do not like violence, I do at least believe that something must be done about the Pure Ones before time runs out for us."
"Does that make him a murderer, Da'?" one of the owlets asked, approaching his father, while glancing my way at the same time.
"Just 'cause he fights doesn't mean he enjoys killin', young'un. Kurth here is tryin' ta protect his own and somethin' much bigger than himself. Fer that, sacrifices need ta be done," Spike told the owlet.
"Precisely. I once thought myself to be a gizzard resister, but in order to protect the owl kingdoms, I will have to forsake my own pride and embrace my instincts. Although I may not be one anymore, you were right for doubting me," I told the parents, glancing at them both every now and then. "I was once a Pure One in my youth, as my father pushed me into their ranks, but I have since then deserted them, abandoning the only family I had left. Unhappy with my deserting, they sent me to St. Aegolius to silence me. Obviously, that didn't turn out very well."
A big fabricated lie, and although their looks became more serious when I told them I had once been a Pure One, it soon softened when they realized I meant no offense to them or their owlets.
"Now, now," the mother began, seemingly trying to bury the current matter, "I think that's enough talking for the night, let's all get some sleep."
"Indeed, this is a good idea, ma'am," Animae replied happily.
Through the day, no dreams whatsoever came to haunt me. Maybe it was because the previous ones had not yet become reality, but even if that was not the case, I was glad that I didn't have any visions or peculiar dreams hinting the future so long as the ones that came before hadn't already become real.
Through that relief, I actually managed to get some sleep, something I had lacked in the last few moons because I was hiding from the Pure Ones. The last time I could remember sleeping so soundly was when I first met Serenade.
Soon enough, though, as the sun began to set, leaving the night to take its place, we found ourselves thanking the family that gave us shelter for the day and left the hollow. Animae looked a bit down as she had managed to make friends with the other owlets, but I knew it was for the better. Pure Ones were still on our tail and I would not allow anyone else to fall prey to their talons if I could help it. Leaving the hollow of those Great Greys was the best thing we could have done for them.
As we kept on flying through the night, we eventually entered the Barrens, an area that didn't exactly hold a lot of good memories in my mind. It had been where I had first shown my murderous instincts as a Pure One, and also where I had been mobbed by crows. The blood I spilled on that day still played on repeat in my mind, those gory images floating around in my head continuously, haunting me endlessly. The only thing I prayed for was for us to keep away from that area.
There was an incredible amount of relief that coursed through me when I saw that Spike was leading us into another direction, though it was understandable, considering there was an enormous forest fire straight up ahead. Going into a fire without any experience doing so was just, well, suicidal.
Funny enough, just as those thoughts echoed through my mind, I saw another owl diving inside the fire and through the flames like it was something easy.
"What is that owl doing?" I wondered aloud, glancing at the owl every now and then.
"Probably a rogue smith collectin' some coals to fuel their forge," Spike answered, glancing in the same direction as me.
"Do you think this could be the rogue smith of Silverveil?" Animae inquired, her curiosity piqued at the sight of this mysterious owl.
"Maybe, but fer now, let's steer clear of this fire. Ain't safe anywhere near it," Spike replied, holding still for a moment, the mysterious owl quickly closing the distance between us.
"Wise choice, lad. It's complete madness to send an untrained owl into a fire like this."
Glancing at her form, it was hard to determine what kind of owl she was, due to all the soot on her feathers, so for the moment, I just overlooked her species and focused on her words. Slightly giving a shake of the head, I looked at her again and asked, "And just who might you be, stranger?"
Giving somewhat of a shrug, or what seemed to be a shrug, the owl simply replied, "No one you should bother yerself with. I'm just an acquaintance of the rogue smith of Silverveil. I was asked to collect coals for the forge and I had spare time, so here I am!"
An acquaintance of the rogue smith? This was the perfect opportunity for me to ask her if the rogue smith would see us!
"Any idea if we could come and talk to the smith, then? My companions and I are here on business, and we'd like to see if we could make arrangements with the smith to get battle claws of our own," I told the owl while trying to be as convincing as possible.
"No can do, lad. The rogue smith hardly trusts your kind and refuses to supply any of y'all Tytos with any kind of weaponry."
"What? I'm not the enemy! What have I ever done to be treated like that?!" I asked, enraged by the answer I had been given.
"Dunno," the owl just replied, almost as if evading my question entirely. "You'd have to take that up with the rogue smith, if she agrees to meet with you."
"I know the Pure Ones have done horrible things to owl kind in general, but I am not them! Please, just let me talk to the smith and maybe we'll come to an agreement of some sort!"
The owl's chest heaved greatly as a heavy sigh left her beak, before she glanced back at me with a stern face. "Very well, you may follow me, but don't come back to me saying I didn't warn you."
I silently thanked the owl, hiding my anger as best as I could. I had not exactly liked the way I had been treated by this owl, but I knew somewhere in my gizzard that the rogue smith would probably be worse than that, and I had to prepare myself so I could retaliate accordingly.
I was eager to finally meet with this rogue smith, as I was more than hasty to get a pair of battle claws so I could start fighting back against the Pure Ones, though my actions would probably be insignificant as I was only one owl in this large world we all live in.
"If ya don't mind me askin', what's yer name, owl?"
"I ain't telling. I ain't got no name when I'm workin' fer the rogue smith, lad."
"Quit pestering the fella and just follow him," I told him glancing at him sternly.
His beak almost made a pout at my comment, but moments later his chest puffed out and a series of hoots left his beak as he laughed at me, or the situation, or both. "Fine, fine. But at least I tried socializin' with 'im!"
I groaned internally, turning my head back to face straight ahead, only to see a part of the forest that had already burned in the distance. When I asked why we were going through there, and when I got my answer, I tried to object, as I had no idea if it was safe to pass through there. I was not going to let Animae be endangered by something like that.
Upon hearing my protests, Spike decided he wanted to intervene and become part of the conversation. "Ya know, ever since Animae got injured in Ambala, all yer doing is shelter 'er. Don't ya think she should think for 'erself?"
Faced against that argument, I knew I couldn't retort in any way whatsoever. I just accepted my loss, though I did want to continue my protesting. I would have done so had Animae not stepped into the conversation to share her thoughts.
"He's right. You've been awfully protective ever since we got ambushed by Nyra in Ambala. Besides, have you forgotten about what's going to take place during the next full moon?"
That argument right there was my downfall in this conversation. I knew I couldn't back out of it, and I knew I could no longer say anything to defend myself or justify my own arguments. The simple fact Animae had used my very own dream against me had rendered me defenseless. I just surrendered peacefully letting the owl guiding us to lead us in whichever direction would lead us to the rogue smith faster.
We flew for about another hour, or so it seemed to me, before I finally saw some smoke coming from a small clearing in the distance. It was worrying me a bit to see that ominous smoke coming out of the clearing, as if another forest fire was starting in the area.
"Hey, what's that over there?" I called out, screeching in the way Barn Owls usually did.
"That? Oh, that's just the smith's forge, an' judgin' by that smoke, seems like she's up forgin' somethin' again."
"This is it. All of my travels finally come ta a close. After this, I might try ta go find the Great Ga'Hoole Tree and join the Guardians after that. What about ya, friend?" Spike inquired, glancing my way all the while.
"I have… business of my own I need to take care of. I plan on finding the Guardians eventually, but I need to take care of those things first," I answered, not wanting to elaborate into this business of mine.
Moments later and we landed at the forge where we saw the rogue smith hard at work. The smith's friend walked up to the smith and said, "Oi, friend! I brought you yer coals…along with some visitors."
"And who might they just be?" the smith inquired, before stopping her current activities, having apparently finished what she had been working on. She was probably the blackest owl I had ever seen in my life, with all that soot covering her feathers. Her head and eyes did hint that she was a Snowy Owl, but it was impressing to see how much soot could stain feathers.
Her gaze was, however, harsh as those eyes looked down at me. The more I found myself gazing back into her glare, the more I would see that she seemed to bear a grudge against me as a whole, and, to be honest, I didn't know how to react to this growing feeling in my gizzard.
"Sorry, I'm not interested in working for the Pure Ones, so you can tell whoever sent you that I'll not work for them."
"As I told your…friend earlier, I am not a Pure One, nor do I work for them in any way whatsoever. I'm here on a different business, which also happens to be the same one as my friend here," I replied, extending a wing and motioning it in Spike's direction, while also displaying the scar I bore on my chest at the same time, though not on purpose.
"What do you need me for, then? Go on, humor me!"
Her personality was already starting to anger me, but even so I endured, as I knew that waiting it out would result in the best outcome. Of course, that was if she stopped provoking me, as if trying to prove her point about me.
"The two of us are here for battle claws, smith. I seek them fer protection against any mobbin' on my way to the Great Ga'Hoole Tree and he seeks them for some business he refuses to talk to me about," Spike answered, throwing glances both at the smith and myself.
"My goal in coming here was to obtain a pair of battle claws to settle scores between myself and Nyra. We have…unfinished business between the two of us," I answered grimly, trying to make it seem like it was something serious, not that it wasn't, and make them back away from the subject.
"You sure you want to pick a fight with that owl? She's a fierce one, that she is," the smith told me, glancing at me, and more precisely at my helmet. "By the way, mind taking off that helmet. I don't personally care for owls that hide behind a mask."
Against my better judgment, I complied, slowly lowering my head a bit and grabbing the top of the helmet with one of my foot, holding it tight in my claws. I took it off in a slow manner, though I wish I didn't have to.
Within seconds, I had taken away the helmet and put it down next to me, slowly raising my head to face the smith and her assistant, or whatever purpose she filled, revealing my scar, along with the white feathers that covered my head.
"Great Glaux…" the assistant muttered, her breath taken away by the scar I bore on my face.
"So, tell me now; what is your relationship with Nyra?" the smith inquired, a semblance of a smirk pursed up her beak.
"She's the one that gave me this scar I was hiding under that helmet, on top of being my mother. All things considered, how did you know?" I asked back, puzzled by how she had found out.
"Your eyes. Only Nyra's eyes are this piercing, so I assumed you were related to her. My point still stands, though. How can I tell if you're not here on behalf of your mother?"
"I'm not. If anything, I want to put down my mother, for what she did to me, and my father. I want vengeance, and I will eventually have it, given time of course."
"He speaks the truth, smith. I was there when she attacked him and the owlet he's taken under his wing, and she wanted him dead," Spike added, resulting in me turning to him and bowing my head slightly.
The smith looked down at me and seemed to have trouble choosing, either between throwing me out of her forge, or helping me out with those claws I wanted. Finally, after a few minutes of standing still, thinking of what to do with me no doubt, she came around and surprisingly said," Very well, the two of you will have your claws."
At that moment, I felt like my gizzard was going to burst from my insides so much joy was rapidly increasing throughout my body. I couldn't believe she had decided to trust me despite me being the son of the co-leader of the Pure Ones, but it somehow felt too easy.
"On one condition…"
I'm not sure if I'm back or not, but I recently got back into the series and decided to pull out my old notebooks with my notes for this chapter and wrote it down right then and there. This was not edited in any way, excluding the grammar check from Word.