Chapter 2: Seaspray, Red, Green Trib; Daius: Endurance
Erebus sighed as he slid down Seaspray's back. He'd agreed to meet with Pyrope for many reasons. One being his sister was still working at the enthusiastic red-head's stables, and the other being he hoped Pyrope would have a way to settle the aggressive Rhakos down. As if on cue, the large Stryx snapped her head around to face the night sky.
The moon, while out, wasn't quite full, so he was spared her usual display of hatred. She still glowered at the moon, rumbling lowly in her chest. Seaspray settled after a few seconds. Pyrope was approaching the pair while riding on a Cara that only had a single horn. The second horn was completely broken. Pyrope waved enthusiastically as she slid off the small runner's back.
"Erebus!" She greeted warmly. The Cara meandered off to look at Seaspray, who lowered her massive head to investigate this newcomer. Erebus nodded curtly at his friend.
"Pyrope. I brought the Rhakos," he stated. He glanced warily at the sky. Almost dawn. "I am hoping you know of a way to settle one like her." The red head shrugged.
"Maybe, maybe not! What's her problem that you've noticed?" Pyrope asked, leading Erebus to a bench nearby. Erebus sat down next to her. He frowned briefly as he thought.
"She has been increasingly aggressive towards the sun," he finally answered. Seaspray whipped her head around to look at him, knocking the Cara off their feet. Pyrope snickered at the indignant squeak.
"Well, maybe she has a vendetta against sunlight. Maybe she wants it to rain so she can play in mud," she hummed.
"Considering she's been hissing and roaring at the sky for two months now," Erebus replied, "I'd say she wants to fight the literal sun." He pointed at Seaspray, who was already arching in an impressive threat display at the rising sun and growling her head off. Off to the side, Ailith and Gravity were cheering the Rhakos on. As if she needed the encouragement. The poor Cara was just watching. Pyrope cackled.
"Alright, well. Maybe we take her to a temple to Daius! He'll surely have the solution," she finally got out through her howls of laughter. Erebus sighed.
"Worth a shot," he agreed. Pyrope whooped, already pulling out a map she'd just had folded in her pocket. Most stryx riders kept a handy personalized map with them, just in case their mount decided to stop listening. Ailith scowled at the sight of the paper and pointedly waddled back into the barn. Her ever loyal raptor friend followed without a single look back.
"We're fighting right now," the woman explained, waving a hand. "She got inside and got into the pantry, which made her sick, and then she needed to go to a vet, which she absolutely hates. So she's mad at me. No biggie! I'll just bring Green and Red!" Erebus sighed, dragging a hand down his fave as he stood. Pyrope clambered to her feet as well, whistling at the Cara.
The green bird, Erebus noted, had gorgeous green feathers with glowing spots. It was more teal than green, but he supposed either descriptor worked. The Cara clacked its beak amicably as Pyrope swung onto its back.
"Hop onto Seaspray, then," Pyrope instructed. She whistled in a new note, summoning a mid sized Gryph from the forest below. Mostly white with black on its under side with red on its wing tips and eyes, this one was presumably Red. Erebus motioned for Seaspray to let him climb onto her broad back
Seaspray paused in her aggressive threats towards the sun. She seemed to be debating briefly before lowering herself to the point Erebus could settle in the point where her neck met her shoulders. Pyrope urged the Cara forward, Seaspray on their tail, as the Gryph circled above them, ready to follow.
Seaspray huffed. This whole ride, and not a single indication of an answer from any of the gods. She knew they're up there laughing at her. How else to describe the lack of reply from any of the trio?
"Maybe they're busy," huffed Green from beside her. Red, high above, was unable to contribute to the conversation until they settled for the night, but indicated her agreement with a faint caw sound. Seaspray snorted and shook her massive blue head.
"Nonsense," she retorted. "What occupies so much of Daius' time that he cannot show to a single fight?" The Cara bobbed its head in response.
Seaspray focused back on the road in front of her. This temple the humans had mentioned. A shrine, to Daius himself. Surely he could not resist a challenge from his divine site! She picked up the pace a little. Green started falling behind at this new speed, but valiantly ran faster. She approved of the little runner's spirit.
The pair ran for hours. When they left, Daius had just been peering over the horizon. As they settled in a clear patch of grasslands to rest and let the humans stretch their legs, Nokt was high in the sky. Her face still wasn't full, so Seaspray decided she wasn't worth issuing a challenge to yet. She laid on the ground, exhausted from the day's trip. By Pyrope's estimate, they would have to keep the same brutal pace for at least a week, assuming the weather held. She sighed quietly.
Green, shaking slightly where he stood, looked near ready to fall asleep standing. He'd kept up with her the whole way, and now his legs were so tired he was halfway to falling over, but he was stuck standing from the general exhaustion. Seaspray laid on the ground near him before taking pity on the poor small Cara. She reached out with her neck and grabbed him around the torso with her large beak. Instantly, Green went limp.
She gently wiggled her head to check if he was even still alive. The raspy huff she got for her efforts was enough confirmation. As Red landed and settled herself down for the night, Seaspray set Green under one of her wings so he could get a proper rest, safe from noise, light, and threats. She rested her head nearby, curling her tail so she was tucked into a ball. The humans set themselves up a tent, crawling in and eating whatever they'd brought with them for their nightly meal.
All the stryx fell asleep near instantly. The humans took a little longer, but to be fair, they hadn't just spent the whole day doing all the leg and wing work. As Nokt inched across the sky, quiet fell.
Daius eventually took her place, resulting in Seaspray waking first. Her tufts flattened as she yawned, stretching her back and shuffling. Below her wing, she could feel Green stirring. She moved her large feathers from off of the Cara, repressing a snort at the sight of his still exhausted expression. Red flared her massive wings, stalking closer to converse with the Rhakos before traveling again.
"You're here to fight Daius?" She asked, tilting her head. Seaspray nodded.
"Any god will do, really," she replied. "But Daius is the most likely to accept." Red nodded in return.
"Perhaps, once you've had a turn, I'll give it a go," she mused. She tilted her head further to investigate Green before refocusing on Seaspray. "I am surprised a runner like him was capable of keeping up."
"Don't underestimate us runners," Seaspray chortled. "We're made by Galyx to run for eternity, and so we shall run." Red snorted.
"Perhaps you misunderstand. He is small, reliant on human handouts. It is surprising he was able to stay with us for an entire day," she said. She shook her neck ruff. "Either way, we require food. I shall hunt. I will bring enough for all of us, including the humans." The gryph moved a few steps away, spreading her wings and taking to the air awkwardly. Once she was aloft, however, she gained altitude rapidly, searching for a large enough lake or cave to provide food for two massive stryx, a small runner, and two humans.
By the time Red returned, Daius was fully risen, but not at his peak. By human time scales, it was the perfect time to be leaving. Mid morning was an excellent point of day to resume their trio, but first, breakfast. Red had acquired a massive serpent for their food, scooped straight out of a neighboring jungle. She dropped to the campsite and landed expertly as she deposited the snake near Seaspray and Green.
Seaspray nodded gratefully as she sat near the mid section. Green settled near her. Red noted he was still wobbly on his undoubtedly sore legs. Perhaps she could take Pyrope and let him have less weight for the day. She then focused on eating a fair amount of the reptile, enjoying the exotic flavors.
When the trio had finished, the humans approached and cut sections off what remained. There wasn't a lot, but even so, the humans' share that would last for several days barely made a dent in the remainder. Red deftly removed the fangs from the snake's massive jaws. She considered handing one to Green, but it was nearly as long as his tail.
She extended her own neck, offering one to Seaspray. To her amusement, the Rhakos accepted, storing it… somewhere. Red stored her own in a small, secure bag Pyrope had given her for hunting and scavenging purposes. Red ripped a few scales from the snake's head, passing Green the stripe of iridescent snakeskin. After a moment's consideration, she ripped a larger segment for herself before glancing up at Seaspray.
"I've got what I need," she informed the Rhakos. Seaspray nodded, tearing off a similar sized piece and storing it somewhere again. With the humans ready to leave, Red cawed to get Pyrope's attention. She flattened herself to allow the woman to climb on her back. Green looked relieved at the break before Seaspray lifted Erebus into his usual spot. The trio started off at a sedate pace, but soon, Seaspray felt impatient. Daius would not wait forever for her to challenge him! She began trotting faster, breaking into a run shortly after. Green kept up with her in a truly impressive display of tenacity.
He kept pace the entire day, collapsing when they stopped to get a drink at a river. Once again, Seaspray found herself lifting him up and tucking him near her in a kind display. She resolved to hit Daius extra hard once he showed his stupid, glowing face. In the morning, Pyrope once again flew along with Red. A brutal, tiring pace was set, and the landscape flew by in a whirl of colors. The trio pushed through snow covered mountain caps. A strange looking deer with glowing eyes honked aggressively at them in a suspicious forest that passed in a blur of motion. The trip lasted nearly a month and a half, all told. At some point, Pyrope swapped back to riding Green, who stopped collapsing into a boneless pile nightly.
After the days of travel, the weeks spent running until they couldn't run any longer, they finally arrived. Before them lay a massive temple, four large pillars adorned with distinct symbols. A sun, for Daius. A moon for Nokt. A moth for Galyx. Stars for the Void. Typically, Daius temples featured a heavy lack of any Voidra symbolism. Perhaps this was a more inclusive shrine, meant to allow all worshippers in.
Seaspray huffed to herself, letting Erebus slide off her back as she climbed the stairs. To her interest, the entire temple was massive enough to hold several massive breeds of stryx at once. She noted perches from the ceiling for the small avians as she entered. Ledges across the walls allowed runners and humans to sit high up, away from the trampling feet of large runners and avians. Large windows gave more room for Stryx of all sizes to peer into the hall.
Daius must have created this to be the perfect arena to challenge him in! She raised herself up, advancing toward the dais in the center. Red stalked with her on the right, Green accompanied on the left. The humans were busy reading something in their funny and impossibly complex language. Red was the first to realize something was wrong.
“Seaspray,” she growled. Her long tail thrashed. “This is not a temple to Daius.” Seaspray spotted it at the same time Red mentioned it. There, in the center of the dais, a symbol of the Voidra adorned the ancient stone.
“We ran this whole way! For this!” Seaspray snarled. She whipped her head around as Pyrope spoke up.
“Erebus. We’ve gone off track, we’re nowhere near where I thought we were! We’re in Kusong, the oldest Void City!” Pyrope was clearly just as frustrated as Seaspray. Red lashed her tail, hissing. Seaspray bared her fangs as well. “That marathon was for nothing!”
“How far from the Daius temple are we?” Erebus asked. Pyrope threw her arms up in frustration.
“Just the entire way back to my stables and then! Another trip! Of equal distance!” she roared. Erebus groaned in frustration, running a hand through his long hair.
“Of course,” he replied. Pyrope kicked furiously at a pile of rubble. As if on cue, Seaspray, Red, and Green began glowing faintly. This was the glow of Daius’ blessing, earned by their journey across the lands. Seaspray snarled in fury.
“DAIUS! YOU COWARD!” she roared. “FIGHT ME!”
Naturally, Daius ignored her.