Chapter 1: Chapter 1
A pair of shadows fell across the ground below, which was completely covered in scattered remains of houses and buildings, trees snapped like twigs and living beings crushed underneath, all submerged in a landslide of snow and ice.
The stryx that the largest shadow belonged to, a royal gryph, scanned the surface below for any signs of life. Nothing.
“Onlooker, over there!” A high-pitched chirp pierced the gryph’s ears.
“You’re right next to me, no need to yell.” The gryph, named Mortifer, but called Onlooker to the corva flying next to him, scowled. He quickly corrected his expression to one of apology as he observed the surprised look on the corva’s face.
Following the corva’s gaze, Mortifer’s attention was caught by a pile of rubble moving to their left. It trembled for a moment, before going still again, then began moving again. Someone was trapped underneath.
“We have to help them!” The corva exclaimed.
“Victor, don’t you think we should assess the whole situation first?” Mortifer stated calmly. Victor, the corva, shook his head vigorously in definitive disapproval.
“No, we have to help everyone we can!” Mortifer sighed as the little corva veered off towards the rubble pile. What a piece of work he was, truly. Mortifer didn’t know how such a small being could cause so much ruckus and annoyance. Mortifer could put up with a lot of garbage, anyone would say, but even this guy was getting on his last nerve.
Mortifer was so deep in his own thoughts that he barely noticed the little bit of light that reflected off something on the ground below. But it caught his eye just barely, turning his head and gaining his attention. It was hard to tell what it could be from way up high, so Mortifer opted to dive down and investigate.
Upon descending to the ground, Mortifer’s claws sank into the wet snow, still all churned up from the avalanche. He trudged forward towards what seemed to be the remains of a gorgeous home, probably belonging to one of the richer families in what was once a village. The concept sparked something within Mortifer. Maybe there’d be something of value within the wreckage, something that he could take for himself. He was sure the family wouldn’t miss it too much, if they were even still alive. Quite a few residents were unable to escape the avalanche, Mortifer had observed. Rescue efforts were currently being made to try and find the missing villagers and their families. Hell, there were even rescue efforts up in the collapsed mines! What’s a missing valuable or two going to do after all this? It’s material stuff, it can be replaced. The villagers should be more concerned with the lives at risk right now.
Mortifer chuckled to himself as he began poking around at the remains sticking out of the snow, nosing away pieces of rubble and wreckage. The first thing that caught his eye was a shiny pendant lying in the snow, which was probably the thing that grabbed his attention from the air. Mortifer picked it up, turning it over in his talons. There appeared to be writing on one side, as well as a symbol on the other. He’d never seen them before, which was strange considering how many highly valuable possessions had come through his hands.
Mortifer jumped slightly at the sudden voice, stomach dropping. Had he been caught?
“Are you aiding us in the rescue?” A villager’s stryx had run up to him, trailed by a pair of windhounds carrying small barrels around their necks, probably containing food and water.
Mortifer quickly put on his public facade, which consisted of a charming smile and a silky smooth voice.
“Why yes, I am! I saw the avalanche from way up high on top of the mountain, so I followed it in hopes I could help in its wake.” He lied, gritting his teeth in a smile. As he spoke, the windhounds circled him, sniffing for any traces on his feathers. They seemed incredibly suspicious of him.
“Excellent, here take this. It contains first aid supplies and some rescue gear.” The stryx handed him a large backpack full of goods, ones Mortifer was seemingly expected to use to help with survivors. Looking inside the bag, there were a lot of the promised things and more; bandages, medicine, rope and picks, etc.
“Search for survivors, and report back to me if you find anyone.” The stryx bounded away, the windhounds abandoning Mortifer and following quickly. They didn’t seem to notice the pendant clenched in his left fist planted firmly into the snow.
Mortifer waited until the stryx had left his sight completely to turn and dump out the bag of supplies, placing the pendant inside and slinging it over one wing. At least now he had a bag to keep valuables in.
As Mortifer was digging through the remains of the home, he managed to find various decent things; a gold chalice, a coin purse, some jewelry, many miscellaneous trinkets, and a broken watch. His bag was beginning to feel heavier, so he took a break to sit and think.
As he was lost in thought, he didn’t hear footsteps approaching.
“Hey Onlooker! We could use your help!” Victor’s shrill voice cut through Mortifer’s thoughts like a hot knife, startling him a bit.
“What? I thought you were already helping someone?” Mortifer nearly hissed, but he managed to correct his tone in time. Victor looked distressed, the corners of his mouth turned downwards in a frown, eyes glistening. He tiptoed back and forth from one foot to the other as he explained himself.
“The wood and rocks were too much for someone my size to move on my own, and no one is coming to help me! I need someone big and strong, like you! I’m not good enough on my own…” Victor looked down at his feet as he muttered the last bit.
Mortifer sighed, lashing his tail back and forth in indecision. Should he help? Yes, it’d be the morally correct thing to do. But did he want to, and give up his scavenging opportunity? Not really.
“...Please?” Victor’s timid, wavering voice struck a chord within Mortifer. Something inside him snapped, forcing his hand.
“Alright, just make it quick.” Mortifer didn’t bother with his act this time, sighing as Victor perked up a bit, taking Mortifer’s wing talons and leading him towards the trapped individual.
Once the two reached the pile of rubble half buried in the snow, it was just barely moving now. Mortifer could see scattered pieces where Victor had tried to help and move things himself; it wasn’t much.
“Come on, help me move these big ones!” Victor cried out, tugging at the bigger pieces of rubble and collapsed wooden beams trapping whoever was underneath. Mortifer lifted into the air, gripping the end of one of the wooden beams and pulling backwards. The beam shifted, then came sliding out, causing a good portion of the rubble lying atop it to collapse as well.
“Keep it up, we can do it in no time if you keep pulling out the beams holding the whole thing together!” Victor exclaimed, continuing to peck away at the weaker points in the structure. Mortifer sighed again, grabbing ahold of another beam and repeating the process.
After a few more beams were removed, the rubble had crumbled enough that the two could dig out the rest of the snow and pebbles to reach whoever was stitch beneath.
As the two dug at the pile, a whining sound became audible.
“Is that..?” Mortifer wondered to himself.
The two kept digging, and soon enough they could hear less muffled whines and cries from beneath the pile. Suddenly Mortifer was tackled by whatever was beneath the pile. It began licking at his face, tail wagging happily.
“Eck, get off me! It’s a damn windhound!” Mortifer cried. A piercing whistle caught the windhound’s attention, causing it to scurry off of the gryph and away to the source of the sound.
“Mortifer, what’s all that?” Victor asked curiously. Mortifer was confused for a moment, wondering what he could be referring to. Then it hit him.
“Uhh…” Mortifer scurried to his feet, scooping the now scattered valuables back into the unzipped backpack. Damn that stupid windhound.
“What are you doing? I gave you that bag for rescue aid, not pickpocketing!” The stryx from before that Mortifer had offered to “help” was now rushing towards them, now with three windhounds in tow. Mortifer’s dread turned to rage. Rage at the whole situation, rage at the damn windhound, rage at Victor for dragging him over here. Any competent stryx could have done that themselves with a bit of resourcefulness, but no, Victor had to rely on someone bigger and stronger to come save his sorry ass. All for a windhound!
“Give me that!” The stryx snatched the bag from Mortifer’s numb talons, peering in and checking what he’d stolen.
“I had a bad feeling about you dude, but I wanted to give you the benefit of the doubt. Guess I was right after all. Not many would be foolish enough to steal from that house, even when it’s in shambles after such a tragedy! Once we find the residents, we’ll let them have their way with you. Just get out of here for now.” The stryx scowled at Mortifer, who was standing there dumbfounded.
“Onlooker, you…were you really trying to steal from these people? These poor people who need our help?” Victor’s voice cracked a bit as he asked the question, his eyes becoming watery again.
“What I do is none of your concern, kid.” Mortifer snarled, startling the little corva.
“Onlooker, I–” Victor was cut off by Mortifer’s hiss.
“Enough! I didn’t even want to be here longer than that storm lasted, and now, because you wanted to play the hero card, I’m stuck here without a thing to bring back! Why don’t you just get lost, kid. Maybe you’ll have better luck with someone else, someone more ignorant and simple-minded.” Mortifer’s unfiltered rage spewed from his maw, puffs of chilly breath following each word. Victor was on the verge of tears now, not knowing exactly what to say in response to Mortifer’s words.
By now a large crowd had gathered to watch the fiasco go down. Mortifer was able to shift his focus long enough to notice the group around him and Victor now, a sea of shocked and angered faces staring him down. He had so much more to say to the little quivering ball of feathers in front of him, but he decided to just forget about it and move along, whether the village wanted him to or not.
“Whatever, I’m out of here.” Mortifer growled under his breath, spreading his wings for takeoff.
“Onlooker…” Victor squeaked, forcing Mortifer to turn his head. Victor had his eyes covered now, trembling in place. Mortifer felt…bad in a way, but also knew he couldn’t stick around. Not even to save face. He’d ruined his reputation here, and there was no redeeming it at this point, so why stay?
“Don’t call me that.” Mortifer huffed, turning away again.
Before Victor could interject again, Mortifer took off, leaving the mutters of the angry mob behind.
Total= 46 AP
Total= 23 AP
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