Chapter 1: A Voyage East
"Khione, have you seen my leather windbreaker? I can't find it anywhere and I just had it." Indra gave up on digging through her chest and peeked her head out of her bedroom window, to see if the tyto heard her.
The stryx in question was nowhere to be found in the large yard, not even a shadow, and so Indra huffed and ducked back inside to check her wardrobe one more time. A faint warble caught her attention, along with the appearance of blue and white feathers, as if she had summoned her by thought alone.
The young tyto peered at her through the window before continuing to mess around with something on the ground. Perhaps she had gotten something to eat before their departure. The shifting of her wings and the sweep of her tails generated a temperate breeze into the bedroom, not at all like the brisk weather from last week.
While the rest of chilly months had thankfully receded along with the last remnants of March, she knew that the open sea, as well as the towns and ports that lined it, wouldn't be as forgiving. At this time of year, the very weather that kept the open waters tumultuous and roiling had no qualms about besieging the cities with sharp, biting winds, alongside the frequent, but light, showers of rain. Yes, she would definitely need that windbreaker. It was the only one she owned that was both waterproof and lined with ermine for those nights when she'd have to sleep on the road, using Khione's wing as a shelter as best she could.
And yet, the mere thought of having to rough it out there on half-forgotten roads, alternating between trekking on foot and wing so neither would tire too fast, and having to stay vigilant for the many creatures hunting about, whether it be for a meal or a territory dispute, was thrilling. It all filled her chest with a giddy sort of anticipation that no amount of lounging or resting could fill. She knew Khione felt the same way on their daily flights, the stryxess longing to fly longer, go further past the acres and acres of land her family owned; to fill their hungry imaginations with sights unseen.
Khione knew that Indra would indulge her as best she could, the both of them gliding through the expansive property Indra had inherited from her late parents. But the two hundred acres of sprawling land was never enough. Would never be enough compared to the thrills and exhaustion of actually traveling.
A rustle of feathers, and then the sound of a talon clicking on wood drew Indra out of her closet. She had to blink a few times to readjust herself from the darkened depths of her wardobe. She really ought to sell some clothes and clear up some space in there.
Khione stood at her bedroom window, a talon raised up to grip the window sill like one might tap on the glass. In her beak was a dark bundle of fabric, a hint of pewter peeking through from the ermine lining.
"You found my jacket! Thank you. You don't know the kind of morning I've been having."
Khione had a few good ideas and would be raising a brow if she was capable. Her rider did look a bit tense. Her dark hair, which was usually pinned up and away from her face, had dropped down to the nape of her neck, a few flyaways looking like strands of black hay.
Khione knew her human well, and withdrew from the window right before Indra could grasp the coat.
"Khione, now's not the time to—" She fell into a silent surprise.
The icy blue tyto sat proudly next to the bags Indra had set out, but next to them were several items that Indra could've sworn she'd never see again. The items were also pulled into neat little piles that Khione had learned from her rider over the years.
She ducked back inside and came running around the side of the house to take inventory. "How did you know what I need?" The question was tossed out offhandedly, not giving her words much thought as she named and listed off things.
Khione flared her wings and blew air into her face, imitating a raspberry and pretending to be offended. As a matter of fact, the stryxess knew her so well that she knew their departure would be delayed by at least several hours, as per usual. When it came to packing, Khione was well versed in how frazzled her rider got, always worried about leaving something that they'd later need. Honestly, with all their excursions, she was surprised the woman didn't have everything down pact already. After all, shouldn't it be the same items every time?
As her partner, she took the liberty of packing all they would need...yesterday. Including Indra's jacket.
It was mainly practical things like a sleeping roll, two long daggers, a pair of leather braces for Indra's protection (should they find trouble), a bundle of rope, a smaller dagger, her journal, and some empty water skins that they could fill up on the way out. The other pile held toiletries for the human and there was a hat in the mix Khione had found lying in the yard.
"Khi...this is so much less than what I usually pack!"
The stryxess huffed. She knew that. That was the point. She believed this would be all Indra would need.
"What about a map, or a compass?!"
Khione delivered the image of herself straight to Indra. As a stryx, she had an impeccable sense of direction–in fact nearly all stryx and avian creatures alike did! The nerve...
"Ok fine, but there are other things I need. A brush for my hair—"
The image of a rather dishevelled looking ravenette came to mind, complete with twigs and mud stuck in her hair. To complete her point, she sent another image of a cleaned up Indra, only to shove the dishevelled one back to the front. She let loose an amused warble.
"Alright, alright. You're trying to say there's no point to personal maintenance while on the road. It'll just get messed up again." She gave a laugh. "Still, there's something about feeling put together that makes the travel even better."
Khione blinked owlishly at her, not convinced in the slightest.
"Fine. I guess the only thing you forgot was my clothes..."
She knew the woman loved the numerous outfits she owned. Sure she was aware that most humans wore something different everyday, but Indra seemed to wear something different over her skin depending on her mood. She would bet each of her tails that not all humans changed as much as she did. On the last expedition, she had changed into a different outfit to go to sleep in, while in the woods! Khione knew the nighttime outfit ended up just as dirty as the one she wore in the daytime. Not to mention she only slept in it for a couple of hours. It was just perplexing.
Rolling her eyes in concession, she allowed her that much.
Indra was seeing the image of an elk, followed up with fish they could catch. "Yes we can hunt, but as a human, I'm in need of other food sources. Don't worry, I'll pack light. There's bound to be some towns or a peddler or two."
Khione bobbed her head in agreement. She was itching to push her along.
"And I'll need some underwear, maybe I need my cutlass too. What if there's something terrible in the waters of Reamere? Better yet, I just fletched some arrows last week..." Indra went off into a concentrated mumble, back towards the house.
Aghast, Khione could only stare at her, letting out an indignant squawk. She had gone as far as assembling the items she'd need for her, and she was still wanting to take more. They might as well take a whole trunk at this rate. She cast an eye over to where her riding gear lay, slumped against the iron fence bordering an inner part of the property. It sat there, just begging to be used again, to let the sharp air currents rip and tear into the leather, signifying yet another satisfying flight.
If she could do the straps up herself she would. She was restless, always restless. For a moment, she wondered how long Indra would want to keep journeying, exploiting caves, running from beasts of all manner before she decided to settle down. At this point, both stryx and rider were young and strong, and that inevitable day seemed far off, so very far off. And yet, she was thinking of it. The thoughts felt as though they had been lingering around for some time, held at bay by the constant excitement and travel.
Now she was rested, had been rested for a week now, and the ground-time was giving her time to think. Too much time. She preferred to live life as exuberantly and as fast as the northern winds. When thoughts such as these were whisked out of her brain by today's curiosity, saved for tomorrow's worry.
Guilt nestled into her chest, leaden and heavy. She and Indra knew each other heart-to-heart, soul-to-soul. It has been many moons since the girl had found her as a small bundle of matted down and bones, falling in love with such a creature when there wasn't anything there to love yet. Their strong bond was the main reason they could communicate like they could, and sometimes feelings were able to cross the threshold.
Every stryx and rider had a bond, drawn to each other by a predestined fate, compatible to the core. So she knew, that even if Indra ever tired of this life-style, she'd probably be tired right along with her. Sure they'd still take up the odd request here and there, answer a call to arms, but it would be a leisurely choice. Nothing like the back-to-back thrill of the present. Khione knew she'd be okay with it, that they'd reach that decision together.
After all, they were of the same understanding, had been since day one. A connection as bright and as unbreakable as the stars that wrote their destiny. Their energies were the same, their souls molded from the same clay regardless of the bodies they bore. So she knew, if there came a time where they needed to re-evaluate their choices, and she wanted to push on, she knew, Indra would be right there, just as eager.
It was simple answer really, but Khione found that she could breathe a little easier, the world just a little clearer. Her doubts satiated and settled for now. She supposed it was natural to find oneself doubting what they thought they knew every now and again. It was a matter of realizing the doubts, accepting them, and stepping back out of the hole.
Indra came jogging back out and Khione wondered just how long she had been thinking for. It couldn't have been for long, not as she saw how small the knapsack that she carried was.
She hefted it next to their other items, her eyes bright. "Alright Khi. I trust you. Just this time, I'm taking a page out of your book. Err, your nest, whatever." She huffed, smiling. "I of course had to pack some bread and apples, some underwear, and a couple of shirts. But that's it."
Huh. How about that. A little take and a little give. Khione found herself cooing in agreement
"After all, I've come to the conclusion...that I can just buy whatever it is I need!" The grin never left. "When these pants are all dirty, I'll buy a new pair. Do I want a nice relaxing evening under the stars? I can easily get some tea leaves, maybe a pot or a kettle."
Oh Daius...Khione could only hope to the stars and back that they did not return with more than what they left with. The point was to leave with less and come back with the exact same amount give or take a couple of items. But she supposed, that was just Indra. That also meant—.
Khione practically half leaped, half bounced, half fluttered her way over to the riding gear. Gathering it all in her talons and beak, she struggled back over and chirped, nudging the complicated straps closer to the human that could actually handle them.
They'd actually get to leave, before sundown. She'd take it.
"Oh whatever. I do not take that long."
She had a hundred images and feelings at the ready to disprove that very sentence, and Indra seemed to catch the hint too.
"Never mind. Let's get going. We need to figure out what's happening in the eastern sea. The problems will stretch further inland if the fishmongers keep turning up with empty nets."
Khione couldn't help but flex her wings outwards, trying to relieve the tension out of her feathers.
'A sea creature, as slimy as it was dark, with daggers for teeth and red sickly eyes, was frothing the waters up into a frenzy with its hulking size as it raged.'
Indra just stared at her. "You have quite the vivid imagination."
She shuffled her wings in an imitated shrug. They both had quite the adventures that she could blame that on. Some of the beasts they've come to face were still fresh in her mind. Not that she minded. It left her all the more curious of what they might encounter this time around.
"Still...this watery beast seems to be all people are talking about." She paused, her own rationality keeping the wilder thoughts at bay. They needed to at least reach Reamere first before jumping the boat about anything. They were rumors for now, until something or someone was able to give credit where credit was due. "I'm kind of hoping it's just a migration issue, maybe the waters are still too cold for the shoals to return."
Khione wasn't so sure, but she'd stand behind that theory, for now.