Chapter 1: Kaleidoscope Dawn (June)
The pre-dawn air was crisper than usual for a summer morning, not that Cypris minded as much. After conveying his thoughts to the freckled red-head nestled on his back, she figured it had something to do with the altitude of the Spires. After all, they tended to visit the coastal towns and stay closer to the plains of Anaruq. The highest they'd ever been in terms of altitude, before now, had been a crop of hills in the southern region of Wyvera. Even then, Cypris could still remember the rather temperate weather of the area, even being that it was the beginning of fall when they had gone.
But this, was a nice reprieve from the blazing temperatures. This June had been rather rougher than usual and Cypris found his feathers sporting a lighter tone than what they had been a month ago. Looking around, he spotted a couple of other stryx whose feathers were even more sun-bleached than his.
A pair of smoky grey stryx roosted on a nearby ledge, the new darkened feathers growing in tufts around their beaks and eyes betrayed the actual pitch black hue of their feathers. But given the near cloudless month they've been having, he was sure any new feather growth would end up bleached into a far less saturated tone.
It wasn't lost on him how humans seemed to get darker in comparison to receiving more sun on their skin, whereas animals and beasts such as stryx and horses seemed to turn lighter, the sun leaching the color off of their coats and quills, as if it were jealous despite being blindingly bright itself. At least he was able to stay cooler. After all, Asix had once told him how darker colors happened to retain more heat than lighter colors, which explained why her wardrobe choices were usually pastels and brighter colors during these summer months.
Honestly, he was mostly perplexed by Asix's reaction to the sun. She never turned darker, or tanned as she put it, and she definitely didn't turn paler like he. Instead, when given too much sun, the red-head seemed to turn...well, a pinkish-red. The first time he had seen her, all red and splotchy, he had assumed the worst and thought she was poisoned. But rather, she took the time to explain that there were some people, like her, who actually burned easily under the sun. Once he had heard that she was "burning" he spent about a week making sure she was covered by a wing, or by nudging her quickly into the shade whenever they were out. He had fussed and worried like a mother hen, which made for quite the sight when she was at the market trying to shop.
However, here deep in the hills of the Banshee Spires, Cypris didn't have to worry as much. The sun had just begun to paint a few of the stones a rosy soft hue. The sky itself had the night chased away by tendrils of blush oranges and gentle yellows.
Cypris let out a soft warble, akin to a human sigh at how good the sudden breeze felt. All around them, stryx of all sizes and colors shuffled eagerly, whispering in hushed tones to their partners and loved ones, or cooing and chirping at the handlers they shared their lives and souls with. It was like something out of a painting.
A dark purple feathered chick tumbled across the stones in front of him, chirping and fluffing her down as she squawked and nipped playfully at her sibling. Her parents, two tytos, ambled from behind, muttering soft apologies to Cypris as they attempted to gather their rambunctious hatchlings. A couple of surrounding stryx moved closer to the ledges in an effort to help keep the hatchlings further inwards towards the cliff-face, on solid ground.
It was times like these that Cypris really felt at ease, aside from gallivanting around with his rider of course. As much as he loved her to death and back, there was a different sort of pleasant companionship that came with meeting others of his own kind.
From where the family of tytos had settled, a trio of corvas were nestled further up, two alphas preening the omega situated between them, who looked sleepy yet content.
When Cypris caught the eye of one of them, the male gave a tilt of his head and a flick of his tail in greeting. Everyone was here to share in the love of life and one another. A wonderful spot for family, lovers, and friends.
As the sun begun to reveal itself bit by bit, Asix begun shifting around on his back. Cypris felt a sudden weightlessness from his back and the thud of her leather boots hitting the ground. The freckled woman gave him a grin as she revealed the trinket she had brought along with her.
Braided and woven into the cord of braided leather were various feathers of his, ranging in all shades from the molten brown quills that colored his neck to the cream feathers from his chest, along with a couple of sunset tinged feathers from his silken tail. All of the feathers were ones that he frequently dropped around the aerie, and sometimes along their travels. They were small sheddings, his body's way of losing the deadened and dull feathers without needing to go into a full on molt.
But on that long cord of braided leather, the feathers were glossy and sleek as if he had just preened them himself. The care and time she had to have put into this just to give them their lustrous shine again...
Cypris couldn't help the purr that rumbled out of his chest at the affectionate offering. He bent lower to rub his head into her, catching her off guard as she laughed and stabilized herself. He truly had the most thoughtful rider around. He could only wish that he could keep the bauble, but knew that the other half of making such a gift was to offer it in these hills as everlasting proof of the bond between stryx and human.
While she was busy fastening the feathered trinket onto the large shrine, Cypris crept his way over and held a piece with his beak, allowing Asix to tie the final troublesome knot.
Looking around, he could see other stryx partaking in their own kind of ritual, whether they had humans offering up their own feathered gifts, or a pair of stryx were just content being with each other, Cypris thought for a moment on what he could offer.
Pulling a wing around, he rifled through his feathers with his beak until he caught the right one and gave a quick, painless tug. The feather he held out to Asix was one of his smaller secondary coverts, a light brown feather lined in tangerine.
She smiled softly, taking it and tying it on the end of the rope, as a finishing touch from the stryx himself.
Both stryx and rider shuffled back towards their spot to allow others the chance at tying their own offerings onto the shrine.
It wasn't long before the sun had banished all remnants of night, but instead of blazing overhead, it offered a soft and warm glow in light of the event. As if Daius himself was looking in on them with a soft smile, overjoyed at how many were partaking in the tradition.
That warm morning light danced and played across the various colored quills and plumage decorating the old weather-beaten shrine, a kaleidoscope of colors bathing the Spires and its guests. Some baubles held bells and chimes, some glittered with pretty stones and bright ribbons, smelling of carefully picked herbs and flowers. Even the tyto hatchlings cooed in silence at the display, the mellow chiming and clinking creating a beautiful sound all their own. The few conversations that could be heard quieted down into smooth murmurs.
Cypris could feel the weighted warmth of Asix as she leaned against him, her fiery hair a complement to the browns and oranges and creams of his feathers. He knew they made a great team, but right now, he felt like a part of something more.