A/N: Hello everyone, it has been awhile. As you all can tell from this latest story, I'm still active, but I must apologize for my long absence. Writing motivation comes and goes for me as of late, but I still try to do something for you all whenever I can. There's quite a bit of you that have messaged me recently who I need to respond back to, so after this I'll return a message back to you all ASAP.
Now, this story idea has long been on my mind for well over a year now. It was my next "big project" to work on instead of Incongruous Recurrence. It may seem dull at first, but I assure you, it'll have a beefy plot coming along with it in due time. I must thank the user Bluetech for the amazing amount of work and dedication he put into this collaborative project, without him, this idea would never have seen the light of day and this story can effectively be considered just as much his as it is mine.
I cannot stress just how vital Bluetech's role was in making this story. I can only hope I do our work justice with these final drafts I'll be writing for all you to see.
I would've put even more time into the prologue if I could afford it, but time constraints and other factors prevent me from doing so. In the future there might be some edits here or there, but I assure you the content should be otherwise acceptable for the time being. Feedback would be greatly appreciated, be it positive or negative. And for anyone curious, I aim to get this first arc done before the end of the year, so about four to five chapters if everything goes to plan.
It is important to note the rating is subject to change later on in the story. Rest assured, I'll provide all of you fair warning if it does, and it shouldn't impact your ability to read the story should you choose to avoid it.
Finally, feel free to do as you please fellow readers. I know there isn't many people out there, but every reader counts, and even the simplest of reviews goes a long way in encouraging me to solider on. Direct some love to Bluetech as well, not just for this story alone. If you have any questions, don't be afraid to ask me. I should be able to get back to you relatively quickly and am always eager to chat!
Without further ado, let's get started!
From within the hollow of a fir tree, the ambient sound produced from the passing rain shower slowly declined, before ceasing entirely. It seemingly vanished into the evening sky, with the only observable remnants of the shower being the occasional drip of water from the leaves, along with the unmistakably damp — but not unpleasant — humidity hanging in the thick air.
The sudden change in environmental conditions proved potent enough to disturb one particular being from its slumber. The mature barn owl roused wearily, sensing the unfortunate cessation of rainfall just a few moments after it had stopped. Fighting bitterly with itself, he twisted and turned on top of his poorly kempt moss nest in an attempt to return to the scarcely pleasant dream he was having, to no avail.
Defeated, this provoked an aggravated groan, followed by a final brief pause. Groggily, he opened his eyes and proceeded to blink away the blurriness. Even in his discombobulated state, he could recognize the to-be persistent hangover from the previous night's occurrence. Despite this, it mustered what little willpower it had and stood slowly, then stepping away from his nest wobbly.
Upon successfully overcoming this unnecessarily difficult obstacle, the barn owl sighed, its exhaling breath laced with heavy sadness. Following the source of the light entering the hollow, the Tyto approached the hollow opening leisurely, halting abruptly at the opening's edge after being blinded by the intense sunlight, raising its starboard wing to shade its face for several moments to allow for its eyes to adjust.
Able to see again, it casually scrutinized the surrounding landscape. Overcoming the depression momentarily, it appreciated the region's natural beauty and uniqueness, especially compared to its homeland. The orange-tinted evening sky mixed wonderfully with the dense majestic forest below. Most of the surrounding area was blanketed with a light layer of mist from the proceeding rain shower, adding yet another appeasing layer of beauty to the setting.
Such a memorable sight, the Tyto thought. It never ceases to amaze me that nature can remain so consistent no matter what is thrown at it, while us owls do not.
Upon being content with studying the forest, the barn owl examined itself in turn. It extended the same wing he had used to shield himself from the sun's powerful rays. It was clearly a mess, with a lot of the barbules in his flight feathers unhooked, impacting his flight performance and silent flight capabilities. He already got an earful about it from several owls, but in his current mood, he was hardly interested in addressing it. This was something he certainly couldn't have gotten away with back where he came from.
Won't be needing to fly anytime soon, anyhow. He rationalized, then hardening his expression when noticing the slightly noticeable scar on the ventral part of his right wing. It traced vertically from his alula feather to one of his primaries. The scar brought about several less-pleasant memories.
Moving on, he examined his chest and belly. Dirt and soot blanketed his normally pure white feathers, making him appear more masked owl than barn. Such a tarnished appearance wasn't uncommon around these parts, especially with this kind of profession. From where he came from, however, such appearances would not be tolerated. A single large horizontal scar was visible all along his belly, carrying with it even more unpleasant memories.
He studied some of these stains, realizing some of it was dried blood, and not his own. After a brief moment of recollection, the face of a grass owl flashed in his memory, eyes wide and beak agape, before vanishing almost as quickly as the owl's life had ended.
The barn owl didn't explore the thought any further, drawing a blank from the memory. Done more-so as a coping mechanism, he intentionally purged any relevant connections from his mind. Try as he might, his thoughts invariably found its way back to the source of his depression, back to "him."
He retreated back into the hollow and focused his gaze on a set of battleclaws hanging on the wall at the rear of the hollow. Finding sudden interest in it, he approached it before lifting one from its post to examine it. A sliver of sunlight infiltrated the hollow, finding its way to the hollow's rear and reflecting off the particular battleclaw he had lifted. Compared to him, the battleclaws were in perfect condition. Its distinct patterns and unique engravings signified it came from the Northern Kingdoms — his homeland.
He slid a digit across one of the talon's delicately, feeling out the metallic surface and the following some of the engravings. The battleclaws were in excessively fine condition, almost looking completely pristine to the untrained eye. It wasn't uncommon for onlookers to question why this barn owl would place so much more value to the health and longevity of these battleclaws over itself. When asked, however, he very rarely gave a clear answer.
Inevitably, his thoughts returned back to "him." He could almost hear the voice in his head as he touched the battleclaw. It was already beginning to take a toll on him, and the night hadn't even started! Oh how he longed to be at a grog tree right now, to drown out that voice with bingle juice. It just wouldn't stop, driving him more and more yoicks.
Too troubled by his inner thoughts, he could only barely catch a faint shuffling sound from the entrance. The barn owl swiftly twisted its head around towards the source in response. He caught sight of a feathery blur, but it disappeared as quickly as it had arrived. The Tyto didn't bother finding out who it was, instead, focusing on two forigen items that were placed at the hollow entrance.
Stepping towards it, he quickly noted what they were. One was a botkin bag, the other was a single cup of bingle juice. The latter item's timely intervention helped to put a small smile on the owl's beak. However, before indulging in the cold drink, he investigated the botkin thoroughly, uncovering every last item that was inside of it.
The Tyto gasped upon feeling the distinct surface that could only be from several pieces of parchment. Pulling it out, he examined the sheets that were quite moderate in size, perfect for drawing. It had been so long since he last had parchment of this variety, especially since his own supply along with all of his other materials were lost when he first arrived here.
Feeling out the botkin further, he flipped the botkin over and shook it down, finding several supplementary items. Though, the barn owl found interest in a single feather with a metal tip that dropped down from the botkin. Grasping it with one foot, he brought it up close to his face to examine it. It was clearly from a barn owl much like himself, but not of his own. The unique pattern gave him all the answers he needed, to which he shook his head and chuckled softly in response.
Having procured a quill, he had all the material he needed to draw. The easel that had been gathering dust near the rear of the hollow could finally be used for its original purpose, rather than used solely for displaying maps and other such material. The ink was still relatively new and would serve its purpose.
It didn't take him long to remember why he was placed on forced leave to begin with. His deteriorating mental condition and chronic drinking had made him too much of a liability for combat duties as a hireclaw. His superiors had deemed it necessary to bar him from leaving the hollow unless otherwise sanctioned. Their hope being that he could find a way around both ailments by using alternative, more appropriate means.
One such idea that happened to stick out was regarding his other affinity beyond combat, which was drawing. Obviously, he wasn't too thrilled with the idea, but was forced to comply nonetheless. For the past several nights, however, he lacked the means to try out their proposal — until now.
I don't have any excuses anymore, he realized. Better get started now before the next quill she gives me is from one of my own tailfeathers!
Taking the time to reposition the easel towards the center of the hollow. He allocated all of his drawing items to their appropriate spots and mounted a single piece of parchment on the easel in preparation for his first work. Then gleefully, he took a single sip from the cup of bingle juice, before setting it down close by his right foot. Upon doing all of this, he paused and stared at the parchment thoughtfully.
While he was hardly confident that this would help his condition in any way, he still was committed to at least trying. After all, "she" has kept to her word and snuck a single cup of bingle juice to him despite the explicit orders not to. The least he could do is return the favor and keep to his own word.
Now, however, he needed to decide what to draw. Nothing in particular was talking to him. The battleclaws in the back quickly came to mind, but that was almost too easy — too inconsequential to challenge his mind and creativity. He needed something more, something quite ambitious to pursue. A project that allowed him to release his inner-thoughts, and turn it into something positive and meaningful.
He pondered on the topic for several minutes, before it came to him all at once. Yes, how could he have not thought of it before? Why couldn't he go through the important moments of his life one by one with each drawing and see what comes out of it?
Better yet, he realized. If she could tell her own story using written words from her diary. Why can't I do the same except with drawings on a dozen or so pieces of parchment?
With that, he was convinced this was the proper way to go, and gulped down the rest of his bingle juice. He thought about where he would begin, what he wants to express out of this drawing, and how he would accomplish such an undertaking.
The subject of his drawing would take him back into uncomfortable memories, but it is a necessary cost for the greater good. He assured himself that it would pay off in the end.
Dipping his quill down into the cup of ink to coat it in the black substance, he lifted it back up only to notice it shaking uncontrollably. He sighed and studied his right foot, then remembered a similar circumstance when he was younger.
Upon thinking of this, his foot seemed to settle down. That was how he should start this. He needed to recall the pleasant memories first, then work his way from there.
Exhaling deeply, he explored the deepest part of his mind for memories, and finally allowed his foot with the quill to move freely from there. Beginning his story.