Chapter 2: Nokt
“Athena, wake up!”
Athena was startled awake by CloudChaser rocking her from side to side violently. She blinked her eyes open, turning to look at her sister.
“What is it?” Her voice was gravely from sleep.
CloudChaser seemed nervous, alerting Athena that something must be wrong. She sat up immediately, ignoring her tiredness.
Nearby, something could be heard. Whatever it was, it seemed fast. The sounds of footsteps continued to circle through the forest around them, putting the siblings on high alert.
Suddenly, a purple ball of feathers came tumbling out from behind a tree, snapping up a decently large creature in its beak and swallowing it whole. Now Athena felt more confused than afraid. Who was this guy?
When the stranger had finished eating and finally noticed who he’d intruded on, he froze, looking back and forth between the two harpias.
“O-oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t realize anyone was here. Did I scare you?” The smaller stryx asked.
Athena shook her head, but seeing as how CloudChaser was still alert and defensive, that was a lie.
“Who are you?” Athena asked.
“Oh, how rude of me. My name’s Ruin, I’m out here hunting for my team. We’re a mercenary team, you see. My partner and his companion have been together a long time, but they wouldn’t be complete without me. We stick together, taking care of each other and all.”
The corva explained his situation to the siblings, which seemed to calm CloudChaser down a bit.
“Your team aren’t the type of mercenaries hired to poach and kill stryx… are they?” Athena asked nervously.
Ruin shook his head, chuckling a bit. Athena sighed in relief. That was one thing she had been worried about when her sister left the city. She would most likely be killed if a group of poachers found her out in the wild. CloudChaser had little to no battle skills, and certainly wasn’t crafty enough to escape anyone who tried to capture her. Plus, with her shimmering plumage and second set of wings, she’d be a high prize on a poacher’s list.
Suddenly, CloudChaser gasped.
“Look! Out there, at the full moon! I saw something in the sky!”
Athena trodded over to her sister’s side, looking out over the peak of the mountain they had decided to spend the night on. The world below was cast in the glow of the full moon, which hung high in the cloudless sky. The stars speckled the dark void of space like paint spattered onto a black canvas. Nothing out of the ordinary could be seen in the sky however.
“You sure? Maybe you’re just tired or something. When stryx get overly tired, they can have hallucinations on some occasions.”
CloudChaser frowned at Athena.
“I’m nocturnal. It’s night. I don’t think I’m hallucinating, Athena.”
“She’s right. I saw it too.”
Ruin piped up, having been forgotten temporarily by the siblings.
“It flashed for a moment, a mere second, and was gone. I caught it out of the corner of my eye.” Ruin walked up to the sisters, standing between them and looking out at the sky.
There was a brief pause, one filled with silence, save for the sounds of the mountains at night and the trio’s breathing. Then, CloudChaser spoke up.
“We should go find out what it was, maybe it’s something worth chasing after.”
With that, CloudChaser leapt off of the peak of the mountain, beating her wings in order to climb higher. Athena looked to Ruin.
“I suppose you could come with us if you’d like? You saw it too supposedly, and an extra pair of eyes would be a great help.”
Ruin smiled at her in response.
“I guess I’ll go, Haseo and Nyx will be curious when I’ll be back, but they can wait a bit longer I think.” Ruin responded.
Athena nodded to their newfound friend, turning to take off from the cliff’s edge. She heard Ruin follow after her, but kept her eyes carefully trained on her sister’s figure, slowly disappearing as her plumage blended her into the night sky.
The two stragglers finally caught up with CloudChaser, each individual now scanning the skies, the ground, the mountaintops, everything for a sign of what CloudChaser and Ruin had seen just a while ago. Nothing extraordinary seemed to be showing itself however, making Athena question what it could have been that the two had actually seen. Some sort of shooting star maybe? Or just the moonlight shining off of something below? There was surely a body of water around here somewhere. Or maybe, Athena doubted this one, but maybe it was someone else lurking in the night like Ruin had been. Either way, it was probably something ordinary seeming to be unordinary due to the sisters’ lack of sleep over the past week or so.
Suddenly, Ruin stopped in his tracks. The siblings stopped to hover and face the Corva.
“What’s up?” Athena asked, looking around to see what Ruin had stopped for.
“Shhhh…” Ruin shushed her, eyes locked on something up above them in the sky. Looking up, there was a strange shimmer to the empty skies that hadn’t been present previously. As the trio watched it, the whole sky suddenly burst into color, illuminating the landscape below.
“Woah, woah, what’s happening?” CloudChaser asked. Athena picked up on the fear in her voice. It occurred to Athena that CloudChaser, having been living in her state of ignorance for so long, confined to Faraway City’s interior for her entire life, had never really seen an Aurora before.
“It’s called an Aurora, it’s a strange phenomenon that occurs when particles from the sun reach our atmosphere, hitting the atoms in it and releasing photons.” Ruin replied. Athena was stunned to know the truth about these auroras.
“Really? I thought they were a sign from the gods, saying that they’re still watching over the world, and that they were a symbol of protection if they appeared nearby.” Athena almost stumbled her words multiple times, too entranced with the light display happening right above them.
“I mean, I suppose that could also be true, it really just depends on what you believe in I guess. I’ve overheard a lot of things in my time with Haseo and Nyx, but that doesn’t mean it’s always correct. Most of it is just word-of-mouth from bypassers or those we talk to.”
Athena chuckled. So the gods could really be out there somewhere still, keeping an eye on the world to make sure things were alright with its inhabitants. Or it could just be some scientific babble as to why the auroras happened. Whatever it was, it was truly beautiful.
“So, uh, is it dangerous if we get closer?” CloudChaser asked.
“Uh, I’m not sure how close you can get to the literal sky.” Ruin laughed.
“Well, let’s find out!” CloudChaser bolted with those last words, ascending higher and higher into the sky. The other two followed after her, Ruin hanging back a bit while Athena chased after her sister.
Once CloudChaser was high above the world, even higher than the highest mountaintops below, she stopped. Athena quickly caught up to her, watching the phenomenon as they both basked in its light. The full moon shone through the ribbons of color, its size making Athena realize just how small they were in comparison to everything else out there, things they had no comprehension of. She didn’t try to think of them either, merely hovered next to CloudChaser, watching the shimmering sky.
Maybe the gods were truly here tonight, watching them as they marveled at what was happening? Maybe they were giving a sign? A sign that things would begin to look up for the siblings? No, not just Athena and CloudChaser… the whole world needed hope right now. With what had been happening lately to the world below, Athena wasn’t sure if things would ever truly go back to normal. But maybe this was something to remember, and a sign of better times ahead. A sign from the gods themselves. Athena wasn’t sure what CloudChaser believed anymore, but she hoped with all her might that things would get better for her. That things would be alright in the end.
After a few moments more, the skies began to fade back to the deep devoid color it used to be, signaling the siblings to return to Ruin.
Once they reached their newfound friend below, they were almost completely exhausted. Gliding wouldn’t’ve been a huge problem for this long, but hovering and beating their wings for so much time? That was tiring. The three spiraled down towards the ground, eventually landing in a rocky clearing together.
“That…was amazing.” CloudChaser panted breathlessly. Athena truly had no words, she’d never experienced an aurora so close before. Every time she closed her eyes she could still see the ribbons of light impressed into her vision.
“So you guys have never seen one of those before?” Ruin asked. CloudChaser nodded sheepishly. Athena shook her head.
“I’ve seen them before, when I was outside the city on trips and activities, but never like that. That was…” Athena failed to finish her sentence, not finding any fitting words to describe the experience. Ruin snorted playfully.
Athena, looking over to CloudChaser, noticed that the harpia was rather quiet, more so than usual. Normally she’d at least be suggesting directions or grunting in response to Athena’s words. This time she was silent.
“What’s up?” Athena inquired, cocking her head as she saw the Galyx harpia’s brow shift.
“Y’know… even if that was just some science-y crap and not actually a show of the gods’ presence, it was still something to behold. Maybe… maybe we could try a display for the gods ourselves. It doesn’t hurt to try.” CloudChaser side-eyed Athena, not taking her eyes off the sky.
Athena hadn’t really thought about doing stuff like that before, despite Faraway city’s various religious beliefs and cultures. They were never really her style, nor what really made sense to her in terms of beliefs she aligned herself with. Even when CloudChaser was born and the city began to praise her as a gift from the gods, Athena just didn’t understand why. All she saw was a young Harpia with special traits, one who was growing weary of all the commotion and regality that followed her around. But if she knew one thing for sure, it was the fact that CloudChaser clung to those beliefs like her life depended on it. She knew nothing else, having lived such a sheltered life for so long, meaning all those little myths and fairy tales and religious beliefs were like reality to her.
“What would you do for a display?” Ruin interrupted Athena’s thoughts with a question for CloudChaser.
“I don’t know, really. It was just a thought.” CloudChaser suddenly seemed incredibly timid.
“Well I think it’s a great idea!” Athena nudged CloudChaser with her wing, trying to perk her up a bit. CloudChaser smiled shyly at her.
“Hey, how about we put on a show! Maybe not a huge theatrical performance-type thing, but an aerial show or even just a display of dedication.” Ruin suggested, suddenly very enthusiastic about the idea. CloudChaser seemed to cheer up at the fact that Ruin wanted to play along.
“Let’s do some aerial stunts, Ruin can be the coordinator!” Athena decided, happy to see that the others agreed. Ruin nodded definitively, motioning for the two to take off and get ready to start.
Once everyone was in place, with Ruin standing on the biggest rock in the center of the clearing and the siblings hovering above the treeline, the event was ready to start.
“Alright, begin!” Ruin signaled, waving his wings in different motions, instructing the two harpias to perform various tricks and maneuvers.
“CloudChaser, twist right and Athena, dive left over CloudChaser!” The siblings obeyed Ruin’s command, putting their own little theatrical flare into it as they did so.
“Good! Now, spiral upwards together!”
The performance eventually morphed from Ruin giving commands to the siblings really taking the reins and letting Ruin give simple guidance.
“Very good! This is going great!” Ruin had to shout louder at this point, since the two harpias had ascended quite high into the sky by now. Athena wasn’t paying much attention to him though, simply caught up in the moment and focusing on her task at hand.
CloudChaser suddenly lunged towards her sister, narrowly dodging under her right wing as she circled back around to Athena’s field of view. Athena caught the slight smirk on her sister’s face as she hovered in place.
Athena took that as a challenge. She shot up into the sky, holding her position there for a beat of a second, before plummeting down towards CloudChaser, nearly colliding with her sister, but managing to swerve past her and tilt her trajectory to just glide back into CloudChaser’s space.
CloudChaser laughed, imitating Athena but trying to best her by adding a small spin to her descent.
This went on for a good twenty minutes more, each maneuver managing to outdo the last by just a little bit. Eventually the siblings began to grow weary, and a shout from Ruin was the signal to end the display.
The two harpias made a mad dash for the ground, using the rest of their energy to initiate a race to the finish. CloudChaser landed first, and Athena second.
“Hah! Beat ‘ya.” CloudChaser panted, smug grin plastered on her face. Athena simply rolled her eyes playfully.
Ruin ran up to the two, complimenting their performance.
“You two did a spectacular job! Surely the gods would be impressed by such a dedicated display.” The corva smiled at the two. CloudChaser bumped into Athena with her shoulder playfully, Athena returning the gesture.
“Well, I think it’s about time I get going honestly, Haseo and Nyx must be worried about me. I’ll bring back breakfast to make up for it I suppose.” Ruin sighed.
“Yeah, us too. We’ve got to keep moving, need to find a permanent place to settle down.” Athena said. Ruin nodded, waved his wing at them as he trotted off through the nearby treeline. Athena, noticing the sky beginning to lighten, turned to CloudChaser to see her let out a huge yawn.
“Maybe we should rest for a while. I’m definitely tired out as well.” Athena suggested, receiving a nod from CloudChaser. The pair decided to settle around the biggest pile of rocks in the clearing, one that was full of crevices and nooks big enough to fit a larger stryx. They soon made themselves comfortable, or as comfortable as possible when wedged between giant rocks, falling asleep almost instantly.
Total= 58 AP
Total= 58 AP
Total= 49 AP