Chapter 1: Daius: Competition - Ailith, Gravity, and Umami
“On your marks…”
Ailith tensed her entire body, lowering into a stiff crouch.
Umami spread his wings, shifting his weight forward.
Gravity barked loudly and launched herself down the cliff, gaining the smallest advantage by gliding forward ever so slightly on her small wings. Ailith snarled and launched herself upward. A flurry of grass and feathers accompanied her abrupt take off. Umami charged for the cliff, wings opening as far as they could. He spiraled upward much like a standard vulture.
Pyrope whooped from her spot in Ailith’s saddle. She was very happy to have remembered to strap her legs in. The hawk was flying in a wavy pattern consisting of fairly steep dives followed by sharp ascents to gather the height necessary for the next dive. Somehow, she was still in second to Gravity. The raptor barked tauntingly up at Ailith. Ailith screeched in retort. Pyrope patted her hawk.
“Patience, Ale,” she called on one of the ascents. Ailith rolled her head to shoot the woman a nasty look. Her furious flight pattern leveled out into one much more sustainable, adding in short glides to conserve stamina.
Back near the start, Umami was near dozing as he rose ever higher. He had a solid strategy that he was determined to see through. Ailith and Gravity would serve to let him know when phase 2 kicked in. The rays of the sun shone brightly and warmed his wings as if to tell him Daius approved of his plan. He may not have been the fanciest stryx present, but he was the largest and most patient in this competition. Given his opponents were the size of his skull, he can’t say being the largest was the hardest achievement of the day. No, winning this race would be the toughest. On his own, he was not objectively faster than a hawk or raptor. In most senses, he was slower. Much slower when it comes to powered flight, and he would be exhausted by the end of the canyon long race. But that’s where his plan comes in. This plan would overcome the issues he faced. This plan would assure him the victory. Daius assured him of it.
Gravity leapt smoothly over a boulder bigger than herself, not slowing in the slightest. She launched off the top of the rock to gain a view of the path in front of her. The short glide she had managed to achieve had long since worn off, but the advantage of jumping off a cliff and startling her opponents had won her just enough time to secure the lead. All she had to do was ensure Ailith couldn’t get the lead. The hawk had quit trying to gain the lead, settling into a slightly slower flight pattern, meaning she was no longer a threat. Umami wasn’t even anywhere in sight. Gravity snorted. Of course the Gryph wouldn’t be able to keep up in a race, even when it was a race to impress Daius himself. Her feathers were warmed significantly more than usual down in this canyon. Clearly the diurnal god had seen logic and agreed she, who was awake to watch him rise, was the true champion of this race. She was all but assured victory. All she had to do was keep running.
Ailith released a sound somewhere in between a hawk’s enraged screech and a raptor’s challenging bark. As a grandchild of the renowned Abramo, she would make her stunning ancestor proud and win this race. Her rider chuckled at the noise. Pyrope was always amused when Ailith made funny noises. The hawk angled downward slightly to gain more momentum on her glide, launching into powered flight moments before impacting the ground. This dive had an ulterior motive. Ailith hefted the rock she now held. Her strong legs swung forward as her body tilted vertically. She released her grip. The rock would land somewhere in front of Gravity, she had planned this whole attack. All that would happen is the raptor would spook. When she recoiled, Ailith took the lead, now ahead by a mere hawk leg length. She growled a challenge at her closest friend, who barked furiously in return. Pyrope swatted at the hawk.
“Hey! No!” she sharply reprimanded. The hawk launched into a barrel roll to rattle her rider. Ailith ignored the way Gravity’s feathers seemed to shine more than usual. Hopefully the raptor would overheat and slow down for a break, giving Ailith a further lead. She also ignored the way her own feathers felt slightly chilled. Daius did not approve of sabotage, she knew, but Daius did approve of using one’s smarts to win. And that’s all she had done. She would win, not by sabotage, but by gaining advantages. Then, Daius would have no choice but to approve.
Umami watched in interest from his position. He chuffed at Ailith’s power play. Clever move, he decided. Obviously she wasn’t going to hit Gravity. Those two were inseparable most days after the hawk had warmed up to the always cheerful raptor. He glanced a little further ahead, determining that now was the time to make his play. The finish line was a tiny speck in his view. The two leading racers were a little over halfway to the goal.
He folded his massive wings and plummeted. One thing neither of the smaller pair had considered when they’d taken off was how fast he could accelerate in a sharp dive, and how well he could retain the speed. By the time the two had neared the finish line, Umami was merely wingbeats behind them and gaining. Gravity screeched in surprise, but grabbed his wing as he passed. The sudden weight threw his precise aim off, launching him into Ailith. Ailith roared in shock. She instinctively flipped to protect Pyrope, grappling at the sudden impact with her legs and clamping down with her beak.
Umami’s flight entirely stalled at ths. He hit the ground and started rolling. In an almost cartoon like manner, the quartet became obscured in a dust cloud, tumbling like tumbleweeds across the rocky landscape. During the commotion, Pyrope Once the air cleared, Ailith, Umami, and Gravity were all collapsed against the same lone tree. All bystanders waited with their breath held for which Stryx would receive Daius’ favor. In a startling move, all three began to glow vividly. Soft gasps sounded as the glow intensified to a raging fire, healing their wounds.
Ailith was the first one to scramble back onto her feet. Her soft caw drew Pyrope’s attention to Daius’ actions. The human had never seen such a spectacle before. Umami and Gravity stood just as the flames flickered back down to the glow, still sparking. Gravity churred at Ailith. Her hawk friend clacked her beak gently in return, trotting closer. Umami didn’t externally react other than to watch the smaller pair. The smaller two tilted their heads to stare up at him.
From Pyrope’s perspective, all three came to the same thought at the same time. Ailith shrieked and launched herself skyward, trusting Umami to collect Gravity. The fliers were headed back in the direction of the start line. Rematch time, that tie ending was bogus. And Daius surely would approve of the competitive spirit.
Post a comment
Please login to post comments.
Nothing but crickets. Please be a good citizen and post a comment for