the Will of Calamus Part II
To Be a Harpy
Colored strips danced in the slight breeze, pushed this way and that by the air of fluttering wings. Harpies cawed and hissed as they fought over ledges surrounding a pit in the red sandstone. There were four perches in the circle along the edges, and one, slightly larger one in the center. The arena was covered in excess feathers and down, and blood stained the rocks and perches at the focus. One cry began to spread through the air, shouted.
"Pyrefeather! Pyrefeather! Pyrefeather!" Over and over they chanted, until a gray blur, diving from the direction of the sun landed on the far right perch. It was a male harpy, covered in black slicked armor and his feathers dyed charcoal and the color of blood. A helmet with only one eye graced his head, the eye as black as the protection he wore. He silently brooded on his anointed perch, and waited for his opponent. The crowd cheered for him, as he was this spire's champion. They hushed as another harpy issued a challenge in the form of a caw. The raven type harpy hissed at the crowd, his armor silver, and his dark feathers glossed midnight blue threw the light away from him, almost making him glow. Both stared at each other across the duelist court, strutting on their perches, and fanning their tail feathers. A heron priestess, with the orange scarf draped over her shoulders that marked her as a teacher of Calamus flew in from the side and landed in the center.
As per tradition, the fight was announced in their elder language of Tcheir, and she lifted off to announce the start of the duel. The crowd went deadly silent as both duelists did not move. Almost in sync, they alighted and circled once, then collided. The crowd cheered, as blood dripped from the raven, first blood for their champion.
Chloe had just arrived on the spire this morning and needless to say, things hadn't been going too well thus far. She had been gawked at and even insulted a few times. Logic would say to keep away from heavy crowds, but her logic seemed to be shrouded by curiosity. Sneaking into the arena, she hid amongst the rocks, doing her best to not draw attention. Though this was difficult given she was the only one who seemed decent enough to wear clothes. Chloe had arrived just in time to see the dueling harpy's first strike. This must be some kind of sport, perhaps?
Time and time again, in a flurry of feathers they fought over that middle perch. Finally, after what seem ages the raven harpy hissed tiredly, and settled on the floor, holding out his torn up wings flat against the ground and backing away. The red and black harpy raised his wings into the air and screamed his victory, joined by the crowd, that lifted up into a swarm flying around the arena. Only one harpy had remained grounded, besides the loser. With so many bodies moving in the air, they became faded blurs, and in that moment the winner turned his head and spotted the female. Then, he was gone, in the air with the others. They began to land, chittering about the fight until they began to notice Chloe. Someone hissed. "That is QUITE enough." Called out a voice behind her, coming from an older harpy, one that dwarfed her and still had the body of someone less then half her age. The high priestess wore the familiar golden scarf that draped over her breasts, and a tan hide loincloth. Her feathers were almost the same color, but her eyes were dark, almost like tiger eye. "Come with me, child." She ordered, then turned on her tail and walked out of the duelist arena.
Chloe hesitated, a bit nervous that nearly everyone on this side of the cliff side was staring down at her. It was both awkward and nerve wracking. She tucked her head in when the female addressed her. Chloe tucked her head in, a bit intimidated. This woman was huge! Hell, everyone here was. She thought against following...but it would probably be better then sticking around here with all of these harpy glares looking down at her. Gulping, she followed, keeping her guard about her. "Is there a problem, Miss?"
"That is High Priestess, little bird." She corrected, then "High Priestess Marigolde. It seems a few harpies noticed a human in disguise as a harpy wandering around, and Calamus sent me to investigate." She turned, her right eye just visible enough to glance at her up and down, then shook her head and continued down a pathway.
Chloe scoffed at the 'little bird' comment, but said nothing. "A 'human in disguise', huh?" she inquired, "Well for your information, I'm obviously not human." She said it almost in a way that she wished she was. "How on Earth would I have gotten up here otherwise?" With a deep breath, she tried to start over, "Sorry- just a little stressed out. I've never been up here before and the welcoming committee is apparently off duty. I'm from West Brook."
"You do not take that tone with me." Marigolde had abruptly turned again, feathers raised in agitation. "I am a High Priestess, and you will treat me as such." Then she paused as West Brook settled in. "You... were raised by a human, weren't you?" She asked, less annoyed now. No wonder the poor chick was dressed the way she was, and did not know who she symbolized. "Come, we will have Calamus see into your heart so that all on the spires will allow your presence."
"He's going to do what now?!" Chloe asked loudly, completely caught off guard. Then immediately dropped her voice and calmed herself before adding, "...Miss High Priestess." to top it off.
"He will tell me if you are a spy for the humans." Marigolde replied offhandedly. They walked a while, many harpies staring, others sunning out on the rocks, and oblivious to their presence. They walked along a weathered pathway, towards a cave with decorations of gold clothe tatters blowing in the light wind. Several harpies fluttered down, watching the human-like harpy and the high priestess entering the temple of their god Calamus. Inside, it was dim, with a slight breeze flowing through like the blood through veins of the deep red rock. She took them down a well beaten path with the breeze in their face. They reached the end, where normally would be a landing opening, instead there was an alter made of silver and granite, polished to a pristine shine and gloss. A statue rose from the center, surrounded by burning incense and different colored feathers, lazily drifting across the bottom, only to be flipped over and dragged across again. Marigolde knelt and spread her wings wide in a bow. The breeze died quickly.
Chloe was a bit worried. She was in a place she didn't know and everything was so different. Sure she would easily outrun this Harpy, but where would she go? Everything was wide open up here. Not to mention the hoard that would probably chase her. Maybe coming up here wasn't a good idea after all. Then again, it's not like she was treated any better down on the ground. "Uhh...nice place?"
Although it was only a few feet tall, it seemed to loom above her, stretching its wings, all eight of them. Calamus had wings growing from his taloned ankles, from his pronounced hips, with the familiar harpy wings, and strange, angelic wings from behind his shoulders. They flexed.
Who has come before me? The statue's face was blank, as if wearing a mask. "This lost harpy from the ground, raised by the humans. I seek to know the way of her heart, to keep our kin safe, and to seek peace of her presence here on the spires." Marigolde whispered, then looks sharply behind her at Chloe, "Show respect, hen."
Chloe was in complete awe at the winged statue. Her mouth was agape and her eyes wide. She was seemingly in a trance when Marigolde's voice snapped her out of it. Gulping, she stepped forward and bowed her head, hoping this is what the harpy meant.
Ah, one from the lost flock. Chloe. You have a beautiful heart, and an open mind. You are not a spy. Calamus paused, then, The human that took you under his wing when you were young was taken from you. You seek acceptance... here on the spires. You are... civilized. Even his mental voice sounded dry when he said that, as the ways of humans were not unknown to him. You will find our ways much different then them, but have an open mind, and we will accept you. The statue abruptly went still.
A young male, probably a jay by the looks of him fluttered down the pathway, twittering loudly. He was so startled that he was speaking in whistles and tones, then managed to get out, "The Pyrefeather!" Marigolde knew about the duel earlier, and she paled. There in the hall, slouched against the rock was the black duelist from earlier.
Chloe almost had tears in her eyes when the winged harpy said she would someday be accepted here. She had never heard those words before and they were all she could ever hope for...acceptance. Her sheer bliss was interrupted by the commotion that came into the cave. Chloe jumped from the startle, not really knowing what was going on. She crouched down, looking at the poor soldier. His wounds looked really bad... almost as if from an infection.
"My Chaa," He murmured in a light baritone. His wounds, which earlier did not seem so severe revealed themselves. One large one across his chest, and several much smaller ones on his legs. "Summon Jenna!" Screeched Marigolde.
"She is on another spire!" The jay twittered back, resisting the urge to preen himself in his nervousness. The duelist slumped further down the rock, his helmet sliding off to reveal his pale face, and the eye patch that covered his right eye.
"Oh my poor son," Whispered Marigolde, "Your opponent was cruel, poisoning his spurs." Such wounds would not have made him this weak otherwise. The armor that covered him had been sliced open at certain points, but had remained true in most places. "Come Chloe, help me take him to my quarters. We shall summon another healer when we get there." As the other harpy had proven useless and just stood there twittering. The duelist, her son, twisted his head, his black eye blinking owlishly at her.
Chloe did as she was told and hurried to the duelist's side. He was even more massive up close. His claws overparticular trumped hers nearly ten fold...talons too. Her attention then went to the gash in his chest that was bleeding a lot quicker then a typical wound. It was amazing that he was still conscious. Staying submissive, she attempted to shuffle herself under his wing- with his permission of course.
"You... are dressed like... a human." He told her, his voice flat and lifeless. Marigolde rolled her eyes slightly, still very worried about her only child. They stumbled with him through some caverns, outside, then into another cave near it. The High Priestess' home was cozy, with wide caverns, and fresh split sage hung from the ceilings. Leading the way, she brought them into a sub room, her son's room. Sets of armor adorned the walls. In the middle was his nest, with several large pillows, and a round cushion beneath them. Feathers decorated the sides. His nest was clean, but after he laid down it wouldn't be. He was bleeding quite badly. A few servants rushed in, having heard about what happened and began the long process of removing his armor. Underneath it he was an average sized male harpy, with brown and gold feathers on his chest.
Chloe personally didn't like that they had to haul this guy all the way to his quarters to tend to his wounds. They really should have just let him rest in the other cave, but it was too late now. Gently resting him down, Chloe stepped back, assuming the others would tend to him. Seeing that no one really did anything, Chloe got frustrated and took initiative. "Why are you just standing there?! Time is precious! Go get something to stop the bleeding; sheets, towels, blankets, anything!" she ordered.
The duelist, who seemed rather calm, and slightly woozy looked over at her again, his eye still rapidly blinking. "Well," Marigolde growled, "Do as the hen says, get to it." One of them rushed to the right, where some towels were folded and brought them over, ripping them to strips easily.
He wasn't talking yet, that was a good thing. "Lay back and try not to flex your stomach muscles. Slow down your heart rate but DON'T fall asleep." she warned, kneeling down next to his hips. She was in 'doctor-mode' right now and personal space had to be kept on the back burner. Gently using the upper curve of her wing, she parted his feathers were the gash was and leaned her head in. Planting her lips firmly on the cut, she sucked.
Wincing, the harpy looks down at her, his face cringed before he said quietly, "I'm Gawn."
Lifting her head, Chloe turned her head and spat into one of the towels next to her. "No! You're going to be fine, just relax." Her mouth and chin were covered in his blood. Quickly, she went back down, sucking out the poison once more.
He actually laughed, but stopped himself before it hurt more. "No, little hen, my name is Gawn. I... felt that since you... are doing something to me strangers... tend to not do, I should tell you my name." Gawn smiled softly, "Thank you."
She lifted her head and spat again. Gasping for air, she exhaled roughly and said, "Don't mention it- Now stop talking" and went right back down. This went on for another 30 seconds or so when all Chloe could taste was blood. "I think your clean." she said, grabbing a different towel and placing it firmly on his wound with a claw, perhaps a bit too firmly.
Gawn didn't mind. He laid there with his wings out beside him, completely vulnerable and simply took the pain of having his wounds looked at. One of the servants, a female wearing only a loincloth giggled as she bed over him, and batted her eyes. Gawn ignored her. She pouted, then looked at his thighs where other cuts were, and began to bend so she could suck on those like Chloe had been. "Enough, out, Chloe is more then capable of handling this." Marigolde snapped, eager to get these vying females away from her son. Gawn looked relieved.
Using a talon, Chloe cut down one of the towels, making it into a long strip. "Could someone help me tie this off?" she asked no one in particular, making a firm wrap around Gawn's waist. One of the servants in the room came forward and helped knot the wrap before stepping back again. Backing up herself, Chloe looked down at her handiwork, pleased with the results. Her Father would be proud. Unknowing, she still had his blood all over her face and neck. It also seemed to have stained her dress in several places.
"You can wash up in the room behind me," his mother murmured to her, then leaned forward and preened the hair next to her ear, "And you have a parent's gratitude for what you have done for my son. You will stay with us while you remain on this spire." Then she left and shooed out the servants, to deal with the rogue duelist no doubt. Gawn looked over at her again, but didn't say anything.
Chloe's attention went to the brutish harpy and her expression was suddenly a bit embarrassed, "Heh- sorry about the lack of personal space earlier." She airily chuckled and went on, "Uhm, I'm going to wash up for a second in there, if that's fine with you."
Gawn smiled at her. "You don't need permission to use my bathroom, Chloe." He said her name like he was testing it on his tongue. He was respectful about his stare though, and looked away to give her privacy. A servant appeared behind her, and handed her a bundle of clothes. "High priestess Marigolde wanted to make sure you had these." The clothes consisted of a loincloth, and a armless coat type of shirt. They were rather small for a normal harpy, so some other small ones had been found for her. This servant, like a few others, was topless. And she flaunted it at Gawn while she left, him grimacing and ignoring it.
"Oh my-" Chloe said, distracted by the servants breasts. She tried not to stare and took the clothes. "Thank you?" she said, but the harpy was already out of the room. Whoever this Gawn fellow was, he must be really popular with the ladies. Taking her things, she went inside of the washroom. A few minutes passed before she started to emerge. "What are the chances I can get my things washed?" she asked, keeping most of her body inside of the bathroom. These clothes where... a bit skimpy for her tastes. Her face was now clean and her hair and feathers were fixed.
"You... want to remain in the guise of a human?" He asked after a moment of realizing what she meant. "Wait... you... are embarrassed by your body?" Gawn voiced, then shut his eye, "Here, come out, I'll keep my eye closed, that way you don't have to be embarrassed." He shuffled himself into a more comfortable position, trying not to shiver from blood loss. "Please come out..."
Chloe waited for a moment before stepping forward, holding her dress in front of her like a shield. As she walked, she kept her eyes on his... making sure he didn't peek. Near him now, she settled down and laid the dress on her lap. "Ok- you can open up now." She lifted the shoulder of her wing a bit as she explained, "I don't get why everyone is naked up here."
"It is how we are raised, to generally ignore the way a body looks. Plus, under the sun, with the rock beneath us we never chill. You were raised by humans, on the ground, your blood isn't used to the height." His nose wrinkled, "You don't think we find humans odd for covering up so much?" Then his eye opened and looked at her, truly looked at her. "Your hair is lovely... most females keep it rather short." He said this in an honest way, not intended to be flirtatious. "And it is nice that you aren't flustered when I talk to you."
Chloe wasn't used to such direct compliments like that. The only compliments she ever received were from her foster father. She blinked wide for a moment, a bit shocked at first. A grin crept on her face as she said, "Thanks, though I can see why they keep it short. Tying the bow can be a bit tough at times." Chloe adjusted in her spot before glancing down at his wound. "It seems to be clotting pretty well... nothing is bleeding through." She looked at his face now, trying to note if he was pale or not, "How are you feeling?"
"Better, thank you. Was rather rude of him to use a mild poison to weaken me," Gawn replied, a little offended. "Normally Jenna looks after me, she is our spire's main healer, a sparrow, very good at what she does." He did not say this wistfully, as he didn't want her to get jealous, she had acted almost as well as the other little harpy would have. Maybe less eccentric. Jenna had always been rather shy around him. His curiosity made it so he couldn't stop staring at Chloe though, as she even moved differently then other harpies, and he bet that had to do with her upbringing. "I have so many questions to ask you," He admitted after a moment, "I seem to be the only harpy here that has a curiosity for humans, and their lives."
Chloe looked at him directly. "You mean that?" From his expression, she could tell he wasn't lying. "Sorry- as I told your Mom, I didn't exactly get a welcoming committee when I arrived. Oh and you can't give me too much credit, I'm no physician. I really just know the basics from what my Father taught me. Actually, tomorrow morning I was thinking about heading back down to my home in West Brook. You're welcome to join me if you would like...so long as you can fly without tearing your chest open. My cottage is just below here. Although I can't exactly show you the town....my place is pretty secluded in the woods."
Gawn suddenly looked a little uncomfortable. She had just invited him to her nest... "I'm afraid I shouldn't fly for a few days. I can glide, but to return to the spires I would not be able to." He looked away, his dark eyes unreadable. Then he attempted to preen some feathers on his wing nervously, then gave up and murmured, "You would not know, but a female inviting a male to her nest is an invitation to a mating dance." Gawn kept his vision to the side, so that she did not feel pressured by his keen glance.
Chloe coughed a bit, not expecting that at all. "Oh no no no! You said you were curious about humans... I assume not many harpies come down to Earth, so I thought perhaps you would like to see how they live. I meant it purely for educational reasons!" she defended, pausing a moment, "Is that allowed? Just as friends?" Well this sure was embarrassing...
"Most of the time.. No." Gawn was sad, but that was just how things were done. "But surely you can answer any questions I have." He smiled, then looked at her again, "And I can answer any you have about our culture."
"Well if you change your mind, you can just stay outside of the house and I can bring out some books for you. We could also fly over the village and spy on them for a bit and I can explain some things." Chloe said, shifting where she sat, adjusting her feathers a little. She was very pleased he was so interested in the land she came from. Perhaps it was a lucky coincidence that they met today? "By the way- is there anything else I should know about this culture so I don't offer to mate with every male...or female, on the street?"
He chuckled, lightly, because it hurt him to do so, "Harpies search for their other halves, it is our main quest in life, for we cannot be whole alone. Therefore, you would not be able to mate with anyone you offer too, because some have mates already... or others have their sights on someone already." Gawn sighed at that. He wanted a strong mate, yet how could he choose? All the females saw were his duels, and his black armor. They didn't look at his heart. "But it seems to be a dying practice, a lot of the younger generation of harpies only look on the outside... and follow the ones they want, flaunting." He frowned, leaning back his head and sighing.
"Well it looked like you have a few young sweethearts, yourself." Chloe said, hoping she was right to assume and didn't misinterpret those females earlier. Her eyes kept shifting down to this wrap on the wrong of his chest, constantly checking to make sure it wasn't bleeding through. "To be honest, I never really thought about finding a mate. Well- I mean sure, I've thought about it, but I had never seen another Harpy before." Noticing she was rambling on a bit, she shut her mouth and looked at Gawn for a response.
"It's all I've been searching for..." He mumbled in reply. Then Gawn tilted his head and looked at her, a faint smile on his lips, "You're very cute, I'm sure if you blended yourself into our society, you would have a few suitors yourself." His smile faded, "And If I heard right, Calamus complimented you, said you had a beautiful heart..." Suddenly Gawn blushed, and looked away.
From both compliments and his sudden bashfulness, Chloe could feel her own cheeks warming quite a bit. It was now that she remembered just how intimately close she was to this harpy as she saved his life. Just thinking about it made her flush even more. After a short pause from both of them, Chloe cleared her throat to break the silence, "He also said I will be accepted here someday- definitely good news."
Gawn flexed his wings, "If I could help you, I would like that. When Jenna returns, I think she would adore the idea of you apprenticing under her." The little harpy was also a human enthusiast, and might have some clothes that would suit her more then the ones his mother sent for. "For now, I would impress upon you to try to... get used to our clothing. That is your first step into our world."
"But even this is just so... inappropriate." she said, looking down at the dress on her lap, knowing she only had what looked like undergarment underneath. "I can't imagine prancing around with my genitals out in the open for everyone to see." Chloe explained, a bit of strain in her voice, dreading the experience. "It's just so embarrassing!"
"It's a loincloth!" Gawn laughed, "-if its not covering that bit all the way you must have put it on wrong. And as for you top, well, you can choose whether or not you wear it. No one will look twice. No one cares. Is it inappropriate if no one bothers to look?" Gawn smiled, and sat up to look at her, her flush was adorable.
"Still...." Chloe thought for a while, pondering about running around without anything on, "One wouldn't have to do much laundry, if any at all actually." She would like that very much. It would still take some getting used to though. Not to mention, building up the confidence for it. Chloe had worn clothes since she was a fledgling. In the midst of her thinking, a loud rumble came from her stomach. She immediately looked at Gawn, worried he had heard it. Judging from his expression, it was clear he did. "Eh...hehe....Sorry? I guess I haven't eaten all day from the excitement."
"What have you eaten?" Gawn asked, curious. "We have several hunting spires for a nice meal, and a few harpies that grow fruit and vegetables." He wondered if she cooked her food, like some other humans on the spires.
"Just a quick breakfast, but it's fine." Chloe didn't want to worry him about her hunger. His mother was nice enough to give her a place to stay for a while. Though she should remember not to overstay her welcome. Lifting her wings a bit, she said, "Perhaps I should go? I've already taken up much of your resting time."
"Being a duelist I've conditioned my body to need minimal rest, and one meal a day. I've rested while talking to you." Moving his leg, Gawn brought his chest up into a sitting position, then stood to his feet from there. He was a little shaky, but it was more from not having been moving much. His muscles wanted to be used. "Come, I can glide. Let us feed you."
"Wow-" Chloe said as she stared up at him, in complete awe. It was remarkable how much blood he had lost and now...now he was standing! Spotting his falter, she immediately stood and took a step forward to catch him. When he adjusted and supported himself, Chloe took notice that she was standing in nothing but a top and loincloth. She immediately let out a surprised chirp and jumped back, grabbing her dress and holding it before her. This was so awkward.
For her maybe. Took a moment for Gawn to realize what her reaction was for. "Little hen, I am in a loincloth too." It was all he was wearing under his armor. "Come, I promise to not look." He shuffled then refolded his wings.
Chloe took a deep breath and dropped the dress from her mouth. She just had to think of it as a swimsuit. Then it registered what he called her, "Hey- I'm not little!" she argued. Chloe was starting to become a bit more comfortable in front of Gawn. "Everyone up here is just huge." she pouted a bit with her chin up. A smirk grew on her face, "So- you were saying something about eating?"
He clicked his talons on the sandstone, "Yes, come, I show you to our primary hunting grounds, the spire that neighbors us." With that he turned and began to walk up the slight incline, his claws marking the stone where years of this abuse was already evident.
Chloe followed suit, making several more steps to keep up with his longer strides. She stared ahead at the markings on his feathers. They were quite beautiful actually.
When they reached upstairs, and entered the sunlight, Gawn blinked, annoyed that the brightness. Experimentally, the harpy opened his wings and flapped once, then grimaced. Turning, he made his way to a ledge, where he wordlessly reopened his wings and jumped off into the sky, knowing Chloe would follow.
Chloe watched him for a moment from the tops of the warm rocks, observing how well he could fly. Bobbing her tail up and down for a moment, she checked the wind. Then, opening her own tiny wings, she batted them and lifted off of the stone, hurrying behind him. Despite her wing size, Chloe caught up quickly with little effort.
They made short work of the distance between them and the smaller spire, which had several trees and many large bushes. Deer pranced among these and grazed in the dry grass, while rabbits nibbled on roots. A lot of rabbits. Several caretaker harpies were on the far end, which Gawn angled away from.
Chloe followed his lead, becoming quite eager when she saw the deer. In a quick turn, Cloe's direction shifted at a right angle. "Are you sure you should be flying like this?" she asked, moving next to him.
"I'm fine," Gawn smiled at the little harpy, "If you don't mind taking two rabbits for us though, I would really appreciate it."
"Hah! No problem~ Betcha' I can get both in one go." Chloe mused with a somewhat cocky grin. She may be trying to show off at this point. Without waiting for a response, she lowered to a cliff that she could rest on. Turning around, she stood there, looking around the grassy field below. There just had to be borrows here.
Alighting with minimal energy, Gawn stood on a higher cliff, one that had landing perches and troughs of water for recently fed harpies. While he waited, he chatted with another harpy that was nearby, feasting on a hare. However involved he seems in conversation, his dark eye never left Chloe.
Chloe stayed on the cliff side for a while, scouting out the grass. It wasn't too long before she spotted some movement. There was one in the field now, but she was waiting for two. As she waited, Chloe was able to somewhat map out where the rabbit tunnels were in the area of tall grass- just in case she needed to do some chasing. Then- another rabbit rustled and poked it's head up a few times. Adjusting her claw footing, she waited until they were in a reasonable position, both facing away. It had been a while since she hunted for two, but she knew it could be done. Finally, she opened her wings and took off high into the air. Stopping above her first prey, she turned her body and dive bombed straight down. Wrapping her wings around her figure, she shot down like a bullet, tearing through the sky. At what seemed to be the last possible second, her talons opened and jerked ahead and her wings flew open. Her aim was dead on and the small mammal didn't know what hit it. Her claws crushed down into it's neck and Chloe spun for a moment, flipping it into the air where she caught it with ease. Taking down one rabbit was cake, but now for the second.
A foot or so away was the other rabbit, who had just started to take off in the opposite direction. Fluttering her wings, Chloe kept up and was gaining on it. When it dodged a different way, her small wings were able to maneuver and stay with it. They sliced through the air like knives- which was even more impressive since she already and another rabbit in the other talon. Before it managed to get into the long grass, Chloe forced her claw into the rabbit's rump, pinning it to the ground. It squealed and squirmed, trying to break free. Chloe set down the first rabbit and used her talons to but it out of it's misery.
Both harpies had been watching her, and hooted in approval at her hunt. "That was absolutely impressive, well done Chloe." Gawn smiled at the little hen, and the other harpy, a fellow duelist bowed to her, then lifted off as he had some errand to do.
"Oh- that was nothing." Chloe said, panting a bit. Agility and speed were her strong points. She was very good at killing rabbits and other small prey, anything much bigger and she would've has some issues carrying it up to the perch. "Here-" she handed over the larger of the two rabbits, "Oh! Did you want me to pull the fur off for you?" she offered, unsure about how his wound allowed him to bend.
"Please," Gawn agreed, shuffling his wings while he waited. She did so quickly and cleanly, and he accepted it from her again. Tearing into the meat, the duelist held the meat as high as he could with his leg, which, was pretty high, having his wings outstretched slightly for balance.
After cleaning her own rabbit, Chloe dug in as well. She didn't need to use her wings for balance as much being that she was so much smaller and closer to the cliff to begin with. Hunting and preparing meat by herself, Chloe was reminded of when her foster father had gotten sick. She had to do all the hunting and preparing herself. There was an odd nostalgic to it. Keeping it to herself, she tore off the muscle on the rabbit's hindquarters.
He finished his meal quickly, tossing the carcass to a trough on the side to be cleaned up by someone later then bent to the water troughs. Dipping his head in, Gawn cleaned himself briefly and flung some over over himself. He was an impressive sight, and throwing water about in the sun was fairly glamorous, but the harpy was mainly doing it to rid himself of the dried sweat he had accumulated over his duel.
Chloe turned her head and watched him for a while. Despite his injury, Gawn was probably the strongest being she had ever seen. It was actually a bit intimidating. This harpy apparently had a record of defeating other duelists...but she felt calm around him, not threatened at all. Although they had met today, she really trusted him. Before his gaze could go back to her, Chloe dug her head down and began to finish her meal.
"Almost done?" Gawn flicked his tail and shook himself free of any moisture, then turned to her. After fluffing himself up, he looked... like he needed to preen. A thin line of blood was apparent on his chest under the makeshift bandage, but he didn't seem to notice.
Chloe swallowed and kicked the carcass down. "I am." She turned to see his feathers all in a mess and resisted a light chuckle. Moving over to assist him, she took notice of the blood on his bandage. "Oh- looks like you opened up again...We need to clean those when we get back. Just try to glide most of the way back, okay?"
"Of course, little hen," He leaned in slowly, and pulled a tuft of rabbit hair from her neck feathers, then stood straight, a soft smile on his lips.
"Not too little." Chloe said before instinctively smiling back. She flickered her tail feathers before lifting her wings and releasing herself off of the cliff. She took off first, wanting to give him more room for his giant wingspan. It seemed she had forgotten all about what she was wearing, losing the earlier insecurities.
He followed suit closely after, angling against the wing so he soared upwards, then glided the rest of the way to their spire. By now it was late afternoon, and there were less harpies sunning then before. Now, most were dealing with their trade. Gawn took the lead once they landed, heading back to his mother's home.
Chloe was still in awe at this new place. She would stop to look around every so often. Seeing he was further away, Chloe would flutter up near him again. "Are you sure it's fine that I stay at your home tonight? I really don't mean to intrude..."
Gawn clicked his talons on the ground, "Of course, my Chaa insists, and she is technically the leader of this spire." Then, "Did you want her to set up a nest for you to stay at one of the other priest's homes?" His back was to her, and she couldn't see his expression.
"Oh no no, that's okay. I really don't want to trouble her any more then I already am. She is being very generous and I would like to personally thank her tomorrow if she has the time." Chloe explained, waddling along.
He chuckled, "Well she volunteered my room for you," Gawn could sleep on a perch while she took his nest, which had probably by now been cleaned out by a servant.
"What?" She scuttled closer so that she was beside him now. "I just thought she said I could stay with your family. Surely she didn't mean your room specifically?" Chloe asked, a slight hectic tone to her voice. It was safe to say that Gawn was a friend, but to already be sleeping in his room?! Unable to fight it, her cheeks went red.
"Oh hush." Gawn stretched out his wing while it was still folded, the carpal joint touching her shoulder, then gently pushing her into a corner so they had some privacy. "Listen, a male never forces his way onto a female, he never makes the first move, and when he invites a female to his nest, it is only in the act of charity. Never to mate. That is only done at a female's nest, unless the mate is human, and then it doesn't apply." His eye was serious, and light from the sun blocked by the wall behind her caused it to glow slightly. "I would never take advantage of you." His voice was heavy with emotion, as rape was a very serious crime on the spires.
Chloe looked up into his eye, unable to glance away from the seriousness in his voice. When he finished, a gentle smile grew on her lips. Despite Gawn's sheer massive size and the battle wounds on his chest, legs and face...he was truly a civil gentleman. Her tail feathers twitched a little as they were pressed awkwardly against the rock wall behind her. Appreciating his words, Chloe leaned forward and preened some of the down feathers around his bandage to show her appreciation. "Come on-" she said finally, "Let's get you cleaned up."
She surprised him with the preening, and he stood there gawking until he finally snapped out of it and followed her. His mother was still gone when they arrived at their home, and Gawn paused momentarily as he watched several harpies fly to the tops of the cliffs to light laps. Unlike their avian cousins, harpies did not share the same hours with the sun. It was becoming early evening and the light had fled, leaving them in the haunting dusk. Lamps had already been brought inside the cave ahead of them. The nest had been cleaned while they were gone as Gawn had predicted.
Keeping close, this was going to be her first night up on the spires. It was strange that being so elevated had little effect on the evening sky. The only real difference was that there were far less trees way up at this altitude. Chloe chose not to comment on the apparently pampered lifestyle Gawn lived. Instead, she walked in and went to a pile of wraps and bandages someone had apparently fetched from the spire's medic. "I think this will do much better than the torn towels." she smirked, grabbing one with her mouth.
Gawn smiled back, and carefully set himself down, then laid back so the little harpy could reach everything. This time however, he kept his wings folded, with his primaries keeping his lower body warm.
Going near Gawn, she placed the wrap down for a moment. Lifting a claw, she reached up and tore the towel off of his chest carefully, humming lightly as she did so. Continuing a casual tune, she cast the bloody towel aside and leaned towards his wound to examine it. It was still a bit fresh looking and the flying surely didn't help any. Reaching back, Chloe picked up the medical wrap and started to bandage him up once again. They were able to feel each others body heat as she leaned in and slid the wrap under his back and around again. Her long, copper-colored hair draped loosely over her shoulders as she bent down.
Doing his best to ignore how close they were, Gawn fidgeted. He had really only been this intimately close with one female other then his mother, and Jenna was not the kind of mate he had wanted. He was so used to females throwing themselves at him, he didn't know how to adjust to her attitude. He decided it was best to ignore her for the moment, and stared at the ceiling.
Chloe went on humming and tightening the wrap around his chest. She tied off the end of the wrap with her mouth and talons. Beginning to notice his silence, Chloe backed up and ruffled her feathers a bit. "I'm curious- how many spires are there? I haven't exactly done a lot of traveling in my lifetime."
Gawn raised his head to look at his bandaged chest, then back at her, "About 13, there are some shards here and there, but nothing habitable." Sitting up, the harpy stood and shook out his tail feathers.
"Might be fun to see them someday." Chloe speculated, giving him more room to stand. "I must say that my first day up here sure was... eventful to say the least. I really do hope tomorrow is better in your case." she said, regarding his battle wounds. "Is this usually the outcome of one of those duels? Minus the poison..."
"More or less." Gawn shrugged, "It depends on the rank. I will duel youngsters, to see if they are ready for the first rank, and like today, I will duel others from other spires, or the champion of that spire."
"Well I hope they caught that rat with wings after what he did to you. That's such a low thing to do." Chloe said. She jerked her head to one side, sending her ponytail from her front to her back. "There was a lot of poison and it could have seriously killed you."
He smiled at her, "But if he hadn't of poisoned me... I might not have met you. Chaa would have probably set you up at another harpy's home."
"Wait- are you justifying getting poisoned and nearly dying because you met me?" Chloe chuckled a bit before going on, "Sorry Gawn, but I think you give me a bit too much credit, but I do appreciate the compliment."
"The will of Calamus is hard to discern, little hen, it might have been fate." His eye wandered from hers to the curve of her cheek, and the slight amount of feathers there, a fairly unique feature from the other harpies. Gawn swallowed at that moment, his throat suddenly dry. He realized that this harpy was exactly what he was looking for and his heart suddenly swelled, had Calamus answered his prayers in the form of Chloe?
Chloe chose not to say anything about his last 'little' comment. "Hmmm....maybe it was fate that I decided to fly up here today. I mean- the unthinkable would've happened had I not been here to help you." She pondered on the thought, was it fate? Or coincidence? Nevertheless, she made a very nice friend today.
Gawn swallowed again, blinking then looked away. "Yes..." He replied quietly, "We normally deal with poisons with poultices, but the recovery is much slower, and Jenna seems to be one of the few to master a poultice that actually works." He flexed his wings, using the excuse that he needed to stretch, but it was more or less to show Chloe how nice his wingspan was. "I would still be stuck in a nest or worse if it hadn't have been for you." He looked down at her and smiled after he had refolded his wings.
Chloe watched as he stretched, his wings were indeed enormous compared to her own. "Let's not talk about that." she said, wanting to steer the conversation to something a bit more lighthearted. Chloe's talon tapped against the cold stone underneath her as she thought, "So what sort of things do harpies do for fun around here? Or what would you recommend?"
"Sun... play fight... duel... we have flying courses you might be interested in... but we don't run any of those after dark. Also, tomorrow I would like to introduce you to Jenna." Gawn sort of murmured these, and preened his shoulder.
"She is the medic on this spire, right?" she asked before going on, "I'm not really sure how things are done up here, but perhaps she would be interested in my father's books?" Chloe suggested. "They taught me everything I know as far as first aid goes." There was a small silence before Chloe went on to say, "Would you mind if I perched there?" She gestured her wing to the post on one side of the room. She assumed it would be where she would rest for the evening.
"If you want, you can take the nest," Gawn offered her. Even though it would probably be better if he laid down, he could not stop himself from offering, as it was a polite thing to do.
Chloe was already on her way to the post when she stopped, turned and looked at him. A genuine smile grew on his face, "That's very sweet of you, Gawn. It's alright though, I won't steal your nest." Opening her petite wings, she fluttered up onto the post and turned around so she could face him. "This is just fine for me, thanks."
He grinned in return, then preceded to blow out one of the lanterns. "Do you need to use the restroom?" He asked her, before he made his way to the last one. Unlike her, he could see very well in the dark.
"No, I'm fine. Thanks." Chloe ruffled up her feathers for a moment before easing them down, getting comfy. She hadn't slept on a perch in a long time, but the strangest part was that she was sharing a room with another harpy- a male harpy. Wanting to keep her cool, Chloe tried to ignore that last part. "Good night~." she chirped, completely blinded when the lights were blown out.
"Goodnight, Chloe." Gawn replied quietly, clicking his way back to his nest, and setting himself down as gently as he could. He turned his legs to the side, so that his massive spurs would not tear up the cushion. Then, Gawn reshuffled his feathers, and tried to sleep.
When mid-morning arrived, one of Marigolde's trusted priestesses arrived at the start of Gawn's room. She was a heron. Tall and lean with short gray hair that was tied back. Around her neck was an orange scarf that draped over her chest and a matching loincloth. Seeing a small kestrel perched on the far side of the room startled her a bit. Seems she had forgotten that Gawn had a guest last night. Not wanting to gawk at the two sleeping, she kept her ground and cleared her throat.
Chloe flinched a bit from being woken up so unexpectedly. She looked around quickly, regaining where she was.
Gawn awoke much slower, coming out of a healing coma and looked up, still a bit hazy. "Good morning... Minstril." This was the same priestess that had announced his duel, other then that he didn't know the harpy that well, other then a name. Seeing as they were awake now, the female summoned a servant, a young male with polished and filed down nubs instead of spurs. He was a priest of Calamus just as Minstril was, but he was rather new, and still did a good amount of chores. He carried with him several cleaning articles.
"Good morning." Minstril said, gesturing for her assistant to come closer with the cleaning materials. "Oh- and good morning to you too." she said, spotting the little Fletcher perched on the far side of the room. Her gaze cast back over to Gawn, "Jenna has returned and is ready to see you whenever you please."
"Oh, yes that is good news." Using his wings, Gawn raised himself and stood for a moment, feeling strong and well. He smiled at Chloe, "You will like her a lot, we will leave after we answer the call of nature." Gawn didn't realize what he said sort of sounded cheesy, but he was a little nervous around Chloe now, for some reason.
Chloe fluttered her wings and hopped off onto the stone ground. With a light chuckle, she nodded, "Sounds like a plan." She stiffed the urge to ruffle her feathers, not wanting to make a mess in Gawn's room, especially with the cleaning crew here. "Should we go out here like before?" Chloe asked, gesturing her shoulder down the corridor.
"Sure," Gawn replied, then nodded to Minstril, "Thank you for the message." The priestess bowed then left. The male harpy servant went about cleaning while Gawn outstretched his wing, "Shall we?" Polite ever to the end.
Cloe found it interesting that he seemed to have maids and servants to do everything for him. Honestly, she was surprised food wasn't served to him like everything else. Despite her thoughts, Chloe nodded, opening her tiny wings as she took flight out of the tunnel.
Gawn was less inclined to fly, instead fluffed himself up and glanced around in the crisp morning air, watching several sunning harpies. Looking up to Chloe, riding a breeze easily in the air, then nodded in the right direction. He preferred to walk, to save flying till later. They arrived at the healers home, one of the rare caves that went up, rather then downwards. White banners flew from several metal poles around the entrances. A little harpy, a good foot smaller then Chloe appeared, wide eyed and erratic. "Ohhh oh oh is this the HUMAN raised harpy??" Jenna squealed in excitement.
"Uhm..." Chloe blinked and kept her ground, "Yes?" She wasn't really sure how to read this one just yet. Most of the reactions she had received previously hadn't been the best, especially when she was wearing clothes. "And you're Jenna, right?"
The sparrow harpy nodded vigorously, "Yes! Yes I am!" She twittered happily and bowed low in front of them both. She wore a long tunic, with special cut off sleeves and buttons up the front. Jenna even wore a thin leather belt. Her claws were small and shaved down to nubs, then cut in such a way they looked very similar to a humans. Her home was layered in shelves up a good twenty feet, all with jars of different ointments, herbs, and liquids.
Chloe couldn't help but smile at this harpy's expressions and gestures. She was so fluttery and cute! Gawn knew what he was talking about last night, Chloe was going to like her a lot.
"Jenna, Chloe saved me after my duel with Corvin... he poisoned his spurs because he knew you were off-spire." The little harpy gasped, quite horrified, "Oh how rude!" Gawn nodded.
"And did Corvin receive disciplinary action from Calamus?" Jenna asked curiously, then forgot she asked when she let out a small peep of surprise and checked his bandage.
"I'm no doctor so my wrapping technique might not be the best." Chloe said as Jenna examined the bandage. "-and I only knew to suck out the poison from my Father's books." she explained, wondering how the little harpy would judge her. It was interesting to see another harpy smaller than her. She supposed Jenna was the only one shorter than her in these spires.
"Oh this was very well done, very well done indeed." Jenna murmured to herself, then lifted the the edge to look at the wound beneath, "Couldn't have done better myself!" She ripped the bandage from him, revealing the cut closed and pink with healing.
"Goodness... you heal fast, Gawn." Chloe remarked, impressed with how much better his wound looked since last night.
He smiled in reply, and Jenna cocked her head at her fellow female, "He hasn't told you all the training he has gone through has he? Duelists are trained in sleep meditation, where the body fully focuses on repairing themselves." Gawn nodded, "I think I am good to fly, right Jenna?"
"Oh of course, of course," the sparrow responded, then fluttered into a backroom, dismissing them.
"That's amazing! You should teach me that someday..." Chloe said, as if she could learn to do it overnight. "It would have taken me weeks to heal some a gash like that!"
"As it does with most anyone." Gawn smiled at her, then ushered her out the cave exit. "Now..." Gawn turned back to her, "You said something about your village."
"To nourish that human curiosity you mentioned yesterday." Chloe reminded with a smile. She had never had a harpy guest come to her home, it was quite exciting actually. "Can we stop at my place first? No mating dance required."
"Sure," He smiled back, "Of course, lets not actually get too close to the village, we don't want to be spotted."
"Yeah... they've seen me once or twice before, but I don't think they would like seeing a harpy as big as you creeping around their town. I know the perfect perch. Would you like to go now?"
The harpy nodded again, "We can eat when we get back." He moved out of the way so they could walk to a ledge, "Lead the way, little hen."
the Will of Calamus Part II