Chapter 1: A Search for Nesting Material
“How much does Legacy need for her nest?” Orison bellowed, the low rumble of his voice shaking through the dead forest. The massive harpia craned his neck and peered into his open pack. Bits of straw poked through the top of the pale leather bag. At a glance there seemed to be about 20 pounds of nesting material inside.
“I don’t know, actually.” Bard admitted, tilting his head to the side. Orison towered over the tyto, but it didn’t seem to bother him. Despite the harpia’s intimidating posture and size, Bard knew him to be safe. Despite being in different flocks - flocks that were usually bickering at best and waging war at worst - Orison had always been extremely capable and willing to help other stryx. “I’ve never nested before.”
“I haven’t had the pleasure.” Orison chuckled. “I have a very vague idea of nesting. Nothing solid.”
“Luckily for you both, Bravi is here to save you.” A particularly small tyto fluttered down from the upper branches and onto the forest floor, the brilliant sunlight of day filtering through the feathers of their wings. Not far behind them trailed a little orange bird, Bella, who landed on Orison’s head. Their voice was in the higher-range, their tone jovial but haughty. “I have made many nests. Let me see what you have.”
“Alright, Bravi.” Orison carefully gripped the strap of the bag with his beak and slid it off of his shoulder. The small stryx poked their face into the bag and cocked their head to the side.
“Orison,” Bravi looked up at the hulking harpia. “How do I put this… Hm… Your nesting material… Should not have rocks in it?”
Orison seemed genuinely surprised. “They’re for structural integrity.”
“It’s a nest.” Bravi’s voice was laden with pity. “Think of yourself as a little baby. With your little down feathers. Do you want to snuggle up with a rock?”
Bard snorted. “You know him.”
Bravi chuckled. “Dump that out, and then pick up all of the soft things again. I will help you find more soft things.”
Bella made a little chirp, mimicking Bravi’s small laugh, before she leapt from Orison’s head and began picking leaves off a branch.
Orison did as he was told. Half a dozen rocks thudded onto the forest floor, crunching dried-up twigs and leaves. Bard helped him grab the bits of straw and flexible branches that fell out and stuffed them back into the bag.
“I’m glad that I was too lazy to pick up any rocks.” Bard joked. Orison shook his head.
“We’re hopeless.” The harpia sighed.
“She will appreciate the help regardless. This clutch has been difficult for her.” Bravi tentatively patted Orison on the shoulder with a wing.
Bravi hopped up with a beakful of fur and lightly shoved everyone else out of the way. Carefully they set it on top of the pile. It was fine but fluffy, clearly shed rather than pulled off. They looked between Orison and Bard.
“Sometimes you can find bits animals have left behind - like deer or bears as they rub themselves on trees, or rabbit fur in abandoned burrows. Little baby birds like the softness of them.” Bravi nodded to themself. Bella landed on top of the fluff pile, adding some green leaves before flapping away. A handful of fur was disturbed but did not fall out of the bag.
Bard peeked into their own bag. It was primarily stuffed with straw and small branches. He knew he would need something softer to keep the chicks warm and comfortable - as well as their parents. “I’m going to go check some trees and see what I can scratch up.”
“Sometimes roots can help too.” Bravi called after him as he waddled between some trees.
Orison looked around with an uncharacteristic level of anxiety - it felt to him that he was failing at this task. This, too, was uncharacteristic. He stood awkwardly in the midst of the forest, surrounded by the gentle rustling of leaves and calling of birds, frozen to the forest floor. Bravi looked at him with sympathy in their brilliant blue eyes.
“Come now, let’s follow Bard and help him.” Bravi tried to keep the tone they would use with a child out of their voice. Orison was a large, intimidating bird - and yet out of his element he floundered. “Come on.”
The two weaved their way through the trees, leisurely walking through the fallen leaves and debris of the earth. Bravi paused to grab a mouthful of fragrant herbs, carefully tucking them away in their bag. Orison paused to pick up a particularly smooth stone - but at Bravi’s quissicial and somewhat judgemental glance, he grudgingly allowed it to remain.
“Bard? Where did you go?” Orison called out.
“Over here!” Bard answered. “I got something!”
When the two other party members rounded the corner they came face-to-face with their comrade covered in bits of dandelion fluff. Bard was quite pleased with himself; his pack was overflowing with little seeds and dandelion strands. A patch of sunlight filtered in through a break in the canopy; where it warmed the forest floor, hundreds of dandelions sprouted from the fertile earth.
“Excellent work, Bard. This will be great padding for the little ones.” Bravi stopped themselves from fluttering their wings excitedly, fearing the dandelion bits would scatter. Their little appleseed bird landed happily on their shoulder, chittering joyously. Bella could sense this was a victory.
Orison visibly drooped with relief. “Thank Daius. I don’t think I will ever be good at this.”
“That’s okay. We’re mostly using you as a pack mule anyway.”