Chapter 1: Destiny

Despite the fierce cold and brutal weather that plagued the Northern Kingdoms, a variety of resilient owl species gladly called that realm of ice and snow home. Eking out an existence was not always easy, yet it could be done if one was willing to brave the harsh conditions and put forth sufficient effort.

Altruistic individuals had the opportunity to join either the Glauxian Brothers or Sisters to master the healing arts.

Those who instead craved adventure and peril could paint their feathers and live as kraals, ragtag pirates that raided every corner of the N'yrthghar in the search for loot.

Nomadic souls that preferred to live more peaceful lives could become gadfeathers, wandering entertainers who charmed others through storytelling, music, song, and dance.

Janna, a talented vocalist, and Tycho, a passionate chronicler, crossed paths in a grog tree located on the spit of land north of Stormfast Island.

Captivated by her alluring voice, he introduced himself and asked to accompany during her travels.

Charmed by his candidness and gentlemanly disposition, she granted his request.

She, likewise, grew fond of his eloquence when telling ageless tales, fictitious or not.

Their bond gradually strengthened with each passing night. Four moons after their fateful encounter, their mutual feelings had intensified beyond platonic attraction.

Temporarily ceasing to be gadfeathers, they engaged in a series of heartfelt courtship flights over a seven-night period.

Convinced that their love for one another was true, the pair of enamored owls eloped. Settling down in a tree on the opposite side of the strait, they consummated their relationship without hesitation.

In the wake of the sacred and intimate act, Janna laid three pristine eggs. Out of those eggs tumbled a son and two daughters, three vulnerable owlets surrounded by a harsh landscape.

Torin, the last to hatch and therefore the youngest, was a soft-spoken and contemplative owl. He devoted his life to medicine and the teachings of Glaux, earning the esteemed title of Glauxian Monk.

The middle sibling, Annika, allied herself with a small band of kraals. Repeatedly proving her courage and tenacity despite her small size, she garnered the respect of her companions, who designated her their leader.

The eldest female, Katarina, desired nothing more than to follow in her parents' footsteps. Blessed with artistic ability and a creative mind, she taught herself how to carve, first experimenting with ice before honing her skills with stone.

Inspired by the haunting sounds of the howling winds, she flaunted her skills by crafting a series of aerophones. Her first few attempts were unsatisfactory, yet she persevered and ultimately perfected the design.

Known to the long-extinct Others as an ocarina, a type of vessel flute, it was her prized possession. Mashing a particular variety of berry into a pulp and smearing the goo over its external surface, she stained it a lovely teal hue – her favorite color.

Learning how to play it properly was initially a challenge, but her lack of experience granted her the motivation to improve. Practicing nightly for two whole moon cycles, she eventually mastered the instrument.

Subtle changes in breathing technique had a noticeable effect on the flavor of the notes it produced. Conjuring mellifluous melodies became second-nature to her.

The wind itself, if it was sentient, would have envied the sublime music she brought to life.

It rested comfortably against her breast, dangling from her neck by a thin strip of fabric threaded through an accessory hole. She took it with her no matter where she went in case the urge to belt out a tune gripped her.

As expected, her debut performance for her family moved them to tears. Even Annika, the strongest-willed of them all, failed to contain her liquid joy.

The next step was obvious: demonstrate her music-making ability to a group of total strangers. It would be a definitive test of her proficiency and there was little room for error.

Butterflies flitted about in Katarina's gizzard as she entered a grog tree on the mainland. The most important exhibition of her existence was imminent.

She knew that failure to please the crowd was not an option.

Skewered from multiple angles by fifteen pairs of eyes, the pressure to fascinate the onlookers weighed heavily on her shoulders.

Drawing two deep, calming breaths, she brought the ocarina to her beak and blew gently into it. A cascade of fluid tones filled the spacious cavity.

The serenade encompassed a wide spectrum of emotions ranging from uplifting to melancholy to foreboding. The spectators listened intently, uttering not a word lest they break her concentration.

Every airy note tugged at their heartstrings. Their gizzards likewise fell victim to the emotive tones spilling forth from the round blue instrument.

Katarina's soul-stirring performance lasted ten drawn-out minutes. As the last of the notes faded into nothingness, silence as thick as honey infiltrated the tree cavity.

It was then shattered by a chorus of ecstatic hoots, hollers, and whistles. A mini-celebration unfolded in which her audience drowned her in vocal praise and physical expressions of their delight.

Even those whose minds were muddied by the consumption of slightly too much bingle juice had been affected by her powerful nocturne.

Tears of euphoria trickled calmly down her facial disc in the midst of the chaos. She had proven herself worthy of the title of gadfeather; it was a lifelong dream come true.

Additional performances at a smattering of other grog trees during the remainder of her seventh moon cycle cemented her reputation as a brilliant musician. Passed from beak to ear slit and from owl to owl, word of her aptitude spread throughout the N'yrthghar like a beneficial plague.

The name Katarina was henceforth brought up in conversation from the Ice Dagger to the Pirates' Lair and every locale in-between.

The plucky saw-whet owl realized that the purpose behind her existence was to pour contentment into the hearts and gizzards of others through music.

None could be more satisfied with her achievements than Katarina herself.

She did not allow her pride to mutate into arrogance, however. She, like her brother, valued humility.

The gadfeathers she acquainted herself with were no less talented. Katarina held them in high regard and they gladly returned the favor.

To uplift owls who were struggling to make ends meet or had forsaken happiness brought untold pleasure to her.

The concept of destiny was without a doubt real. In the process of fulfilling hers, Katarina had taken the Northern Kingdoms by storm.

She did not know what the future had in store for her, but forged confidently onward regardless.

She may have been eight moons old already, yet the most rewarding period in her life had only just begun.