A/N: Yes, it's me. I figure some of you might be might looking for an explanation regarding my whereabouts, as it has been about roughly a year (only off by eight days) since I last updated. Before I get to that, however, let me quickly explain the premise of this story before people skip the author's note.
This story idea is quite simple in nature: It's a slightly modified version of The Siege. However, as to be expected, this small alteration will result in a rather significant change to both the plot and events of the series. This first chapter will mostly cover what will be different. Future chapters will get progressively more unique content should they be made (unlikely for the most part, mostly using this story as a test, but if interest is high enough I'll consider it). But yes, that's pretty much it, nothing overly complicated about this idea, unlike some of my other stories.
Anyways, now regarding where I've been. To put it simply: life has kept me busy, and I've lacked the drive to write as consistently as I used to. That isn't to say I'm burnt out from GoGH, but creative writing in general is a difficult task, as I'm sure most of you understand. Hence why I wrote this little idea of mine, to mostly test the waters and see if anyone is interested. This little update is very useful, actually, as it'll allow me to know where to work on and try to get myself re-motivated. Though, for the most part, I did it just to provide something for whoever is out there. I don't expect this idea to get much traction (as I have other projects to attend to), but if it does, I might provide an update here or there.
I'll be trying to respond to everyone that sent PMs in the meantime. Please, feel free to review, and it can be about anything: critiques, suggestions, story ideas you would want to see happen. You get the idea. Also, I'd recommend reviewing other author's stories, but that's just me. Anyways, will catch you all later (maybe a year later . . . who knows?)
Chapter One: Discovery
Racing through the borderless, unending sky, a group of seven remarkably different but similarly intentioned owls followed the one and only river leading out of Ambala, through The Barrens, and into the Sea of Hoolemere. While one of their objectives was to reach the Great Tree as fast as possible to bring urgent news, they first intended to travel to Cape Glaux and see for themselves if an army really was massing there to attack Ga'Hoole. If what they had heard was true, it would become imperative that the Great Tree and its legendary Guardians are warned before the ensuing onslaught reached their shores.
This group, having just completed a successful counter-espionage mission at St. Aegolius, had come to be known as the Chaw of Chaws. Its members were some of the youngest and most creative owls in recent times. Though, it still had a long way to go before being recognized as true Guardians sworn in by oath.
While their mission had been a success, it was far from perfect. In fact, the mission had almost ended in tragedy as one of its key members, an aspiring Barn Owl known as Soren, nearly succumbed to the wounds that were inflicted upon him during their escape. Luckily, a flying snake known as Slynella had miraculously saved him just before the point of no return.
It was also during this recovery period that this tight-knit group ran across several owls and other creatures in the Forest Kingdom of Ambala. Of those, a renowned female Spotted Owl going by the alias of Mist was the one to provide information regarding the army massing at Cape Glaux to Soren and his comrades. After learning of this, despite the protest of some members who believed Soren needed more time to heal and rest before getting airborne, it was decided they should get moving at once.
Progress was far quicker than initially anticipated. Soren's wound hardly diminished his resolve to warn Ga'Hoole. This determination would pay off, as they reached the outskirts of Cape Glaux by twixt time and weather conditions were quite unpleasant. Visibility was even worse, seconded only by the one precarious incident many moons ago where the Band found itself lost in a middle of a winter storm on their way to Ga'Hoole.
Needless to say, the group decided to use the opportunity to rest and reorient themselves while Twilight was given the special task of scouting out for any signs of the evil Pure One army.
Soren, still recovering from his wound, sheltered inside the hollow of a fir tree. He was joined by Gylfie, who elected to stay behind and keep an eye on him while the others attempted to find a quick meal within the immediate proximity of the fir tree. They were extra careful to avoid running across any owls that could be Pure Ones, but given the visibility, the chances of that happening were slim.
The uncertainty of the situation they found themselves in did have a toll on their nerves, and Soren's gizzard was particularly uneasy at this point of time. Pressing his back against the rearmost wall in the hollow, he slumped himself against it, being extra diligent to ensure the spot where he was missing a tailfeather wasn't damaged any further. Observing it briefly, he rested his head against the wall behind him, before falling into deep, apprehensive contemplation.
There's no way my brother would have amassed an army to strike Ga'Hoole this early. How could he have hidden it so well? Are we just that naive to the true threat he and his followers pose to the Owl Kingdoms?
Soren sighed wearily from the troubling thoughts. Gylfie, having picked up on his uneasiness, stood beside him and adopted a similar position, equally gloomy from the present situation.
The two remained silent for a few moments, until Gylfie locked her eyes on him.
"How are you holding up?"
Soren slowly turned his head towards her, before returning it to its previous position ahead of him.
"My wound has been healing up quite nicely now, Gylfe. Once that tailfeather returns, I'll be back to normal."
Gylfie responded quickly, restructuring her response. "That's great Soren, but I was more-so asking to see how you were feeling about all of this talk regarding a possible attack on Ga'Hoole."
"Oh," Soren took a moment to try and formulate a response. "I'm somewhat optimistic that our actions at St. Aegolius will to the very least distract them. We should have some time to get to the Great Tree before the winterlies get too severe."
It was obvious to Soren judging by Gylfie's expression that she was hardly convinced by his statements. He gave a heavy sigh before confessing.
"We can't let this get to our heads, but I am worried about the news Twilight will bring back to us. There's no denying that if there really is an army there, and Ga'Hoole isn't made aware of it, there's no telling what could happen."
Gylfie nodded solemnly. "There's still hope that this army is insignificant in numbers and, more importantly, hasn't attacked yet. If we're lucky, these winterlies may work to our advantage for once."
Soren seemed to perk up slightly from that. She had a valid point, the Pure Ones weren't nearly as good flyers as the Guardians, and for them to fly out in these conditions would be quite risky. This small element of nature may just prove decisive in determining who wins this war. Though, they still must not get complacent even if that is the case.
"Thanks, Gylfie, I feel a lot better now."
She smiled. "Don't mention it."
The two fell quiet again until Digger poked his head inside the hollow, before entering.
"Sorry you two, couldn't find anything for us to grind our gizzards on."
Soren rushed to assure his disappointed friend. "Don't worry about it, Digger. I'm not hungry anyways. All I want to do is get back to the Great Tree and ease this burden we've been put under."
"Only for us to be burdened with something else the moment we get back…" Gylfie commented insightfully.
"Fair point, Gylfie." Soren replied. "That is to be expected for Guardians like us."
"I don't think we're Guardians quite yet, Soren." Gylfie pointed out.
"Well," Digger interjected hesitantly. "What does that make us, exactly?"
Soren and Gylfie were stumped by the question, as was typical with such questions presented by an owl like Digger.
"I don't know, Digger." Gylfie answered finally. "Maybe we can best compare ourselves to owls like Mist. We are noble owls, at least, I think so. But we're not quite Guardians, perhaps Guardians-in-training is a better way to describe us."
"And what do you think, Soren? Digger asked pressingly.
"You know exactly what we are, Digger . . . we're the Band, the Chaw of Chaws. While we may not be Guardians yet, that is but only a title, it's our actions that truly matter in the end."
Digger seemed impressed with the answer. "Well said, Soren. Well said."
Remember Gylfie's own response, Digger added. "Your response was equally admirable, Gylfie."
Despite the praise, Gylfie hung her head low, having been out-done by Soren. Her low-spirits were only temporary, however.
Interested in continuing the conversation, Digger brought up another observation that had been on his mind for some time since they were made aware of the army at Cape Glaux.
"It's ironic, isn't it?" Digger asked cryptically.
"The situation we've found ourselves in, surely you two see the parallels of this to an event that we've experienced before, eh?"
The two's silence was enough of an indicator that they hadn't yet recognized the point he was trying to make.
"Think about it, it hadn't been too long ago when we all had first met each other and vowed to reach Ga'Hoole to warn of them of the threat posed by St. Aegolius and the 'you only wish' group we've experienced together as a band. Now look at our situation now, we're trying to reach Ga'Hoole to warn them of an impending threat to the Owl Kingdoms."
Digger never ceases to impress me with the things he can put together. Soren thought, amazed that he hadn't made such an connection earlier.
"Though," Digger added, "Let's hope we don't overshoot and end up having to share a hollow with a punch of smelly puffins again."
This got a good churr out of them. The memories flooded back to them how poorly things had went during that time. It was a miracle that they managed to eventually locate the Great Tree. The times were much different back then, though, in a way, not much has changed either.
"Thinking about it again, I sure do miss the Mirror Lakes and the abundant prey and warm thermals it provided . . ." Gylfie reflected dreamily. "Maybe we should go there instead. Ga'Hoole can wait."
"Here we go again . . ." Soren groaned.
The Mirror Lakes had been a source of conflict for the early band, and had almost resulted in the group splintering just before they reached Ga'Hoole. In hindsight, Mrs. P's intervention proved to be the right decision to make given the rather meaningful life they enjoy at Ga'Hoole now.
"Relax, I'm only joking. Though if Twilight were around, I'm sure he'd take the thought very seriously."
"Speaking of Twilight," Digger broke in. "I wonder if he's found anything."
"Knowing him, I'm sure he has. Let's hope he brings us back some good news."
Twilight had to circle around for another pass to be sure he wasn't missing something. While the fog heavily impacted visibility, it helped mask Twilight's grey plumage and allow him to fly undetected around the general proximity of what he has come to discover to be the Pure Ones' staging area. A joke of one, that is.
At most, he counted thirty Tytos. He had to suppress himself from churring out loud at such a pitiful number. With the element of surprise, he and his comrades could rout this "army" in less than several minutes with fire branches.
Racdrops, I could rout this army by myself if I wanted to! They'll tell stories about me if I do that!
Though, despite Twilight's bolstering confidence, he knew from his orphan school of tough learning that there had to be more to this. Perhaps the fog was hiding something from him, maybe his vision wasn't as sharp as before, or . . . he dared not think about the worst possibility.
Just as he was finishing his second pass, he caught sight of two Tytos isolated from the group. Twilight strained to hear what they were discussing.
"What's the news from the front?" One of the Tytos asked.
"Better than expected," the other Tyto responded. "The foolish Guardians were taken by complete surprise. Though we did lose a few owls from the winterlies, that is more than made up from our glorious victory. The High Tyto was wise in taking such a risk."
Twilight, beginning to comprehend what they were saying, had to fight off the urge of going yeep. Never before had he been so petrified, nor did he expect any of this to be true.
"So, the Great Tree is ours?"
Twilight prevented himself from sighing in relief, there was still a chance and not all was lost. The main Tyto speaker provided an explanation.
"We've routed the Guardians from the airspace around the Great Tree thanks to the High Tyto's brilliant flanking maneuver. We have control over all parts of Ga'Hoole except for the Great Tree itself. However, the Guardians have dug themselves inside of the Great Tree, and seem to have no intention of fighting us on even terms. They can't get out, but we can't get in either- not without taking unsustainable losses, anyways."
"They're only delaying the inevitable, surely they don't have the food to survive such a siege."
"Our intelligence unit says otherwise. It could be a full moon before they fully run out of food, maybe even longer."
Intelligence? Twilight mused. I didn't think the Pure Ones had such a thing.
"Most unfortunate, and here I was thinking we would've fully secured the Great Tree by spring."
"That is why you and your soldiers must protect these bags with your lives. If you lose even one, the weapon will no longer work, and we will be forced to endure a campaign that may very well extend into springtime."
Bags? Twilight wondered. What could possibly be in the . . .
The moment the realization hit him, his gizzard locked up, simply stunned beyond comprehension. The Pure Ones had more flecks, somehow, despite him and the others having destroyed most of it in the rescue of Ezylryb. How could this have happened?
"I didn't realize the stakes were this high," The other Barn Owl commented. "Though, I suppose we should avoid having our slipgizzles deaths be in vain. They gave their lives going to St. Aegolius to steal their flecks to allow us to use them for this very moment."
"Not quite this moment, we still cannot risk carrying the flecks over the Sea of Hoolemere under these conditions. Once the winterlies die down, however, complete victory will be ours."
Twilight had heard enough. He left the scene immediately and raced back to his friends.
When he returned, his panicked expression was enough of an indication for everyone to realize that what Twilight had learned was far worse than they had initially anticipated. He caught his breath and explained the situation.
"The Pure Ones have laid siege to the Great Tree."
Everyone was silent for what felt like an eternity. None of them could believe it, yet they knew it to be true.
"We're too late?" Martin whimpered. Despite being one of the smallest owls in the hollow, he appeared even smaller from the amount of fear coursing through him.
"How many owls were there?" Otulissa asked, equally frightful.
"I only saw 30, but they didn't seem to be with the main army. There's no telling how many there actually is."
"We have to rush back to the Great Tree!" Ruby urged suddenly. "They'll need our help if they wish to overcome the siege."
"I'm afraid there's more pressing matters that we have to deal with." Twilight responded ominously.
Soren didn't really want to know, but knew that they needed to. "And what's that?"
"From what I heard, the Pure Ones are planning on setting up a devil's triangle like the one they used to capture Ezylryb with on the island."
"Good Glaux," Otulissa muttered. "The Guardians will be done for if they succeed in setting it up."
"How soon until it will be operational?" Digger asked worriedly.
"As soon as the weather clears up. They don't want to risk losing it as they only have enough for one complete devil's triangle."
The hollow fell silent again, Soren could sense the fear building up in not just his own gizzard, but the others as well.
Gylfie, hesitantly, asked the most obvious question. "What do we do?"
Everyone focused their attention on Soren, the leader of the group, and the only one that could be relied upon to make such a difficult decision. They looked to him for inspiration and guidance, and their faith in him was well placed. He had got them back alive from not only a battle against the Pure Ones, but St. Aegolius as well. Soren knew this, and with it, his confidence was steadied.
"There's only one course of action to take: we have to destroy the bags of flecks before they reach Ga'Hoole. If we don't- . . ." Soren didn't want to contemplate the consequences any further.
Gylfie questioned. "But how? We're without battleclaws, outnumbered, and we don't even know where these bags of flecks are located."
"We're also ignoring the fact we don't have any mu metal to protect ourselves from magnetic effects those bags would give off if they're placed in a triangle formation." Otulissa added.
Digger also chimed in. "I doubt we have enough time to try and secure enough mu metal to fully protect all of us either."
"Look," Soren answered sharply. "Yes, we're not in an ideal situation at the moment. But we are the Chaw of Chaws. Did you all happen to forget that we found a way to rescue Ezylryb all by ourselves without even a single battleclaw? We've beaten my brother — the leader of the Pure Ones — once before, we surely can do it again. We've been through everything, overcome every challenge thrown at us, and while this one will perhaps be the most difficult, the end result will be no different than before. I know this, because we already possess the only weapons we'll ever need: our gizzard, our brains, our talons, and our resolve. If that isn't enough, then nothing ever will be. But know this: we are Guardians of Ga'Hoole, and this will be our final trial before either becoming a true Guardian, or being the last owls to truly stand up for good in this world. Let us, then, prepare for what lies ahead of us, be it a world for the noble, or a world for the tyrannical. I say let us fight, friends! Let us fight!"
A/N: Well, that is all for this chapter. Who will win by the end of this story? The Chaw of Chaws' plot armor or the Pure Ones' being supported by author bias? Find out in the next few chapters coming next year! (Or, in all seriousness, once I get the time to write another story first.)