Colette had spent so little of her childhood on her father’s estate that it hardly felt like home. Trees that she had thought she’d remembered were strangely absent, and the shimmering creeks had rerouted or completely dried up. She blamed much of it on the imperfect memory of a young child, twisted and warped by time and imagination.
The cause of some of this change of landscape though, was obvious in the deep muddy furrows left behind where flowering hedges once flourished. Hogs the size of horses, some terrifying amalgamation of nature magic and feral pig, had been slowly encroaching on the sizeable territory. Frowning, one hand went to her hip only to find it empty. Perhaps it wasn’t so smart for her to travel the grounds unarmed.
A grating call echoed down from the sky, feathers of white and shades of golden brown catching the sunlight as the large corva circled lazily down to land. Colette watched as it choosily flew past the huge furrows of mud, backwinging with the utmost grace before landing on the large wagon path.
It had been three weeks since the corva joined her in her childhood home, and every day it had seemed to fly nearby and overhead as she made her rounds surveying the acres of territory bequeathed to her. When she’d inquired to other stryx owners, they’d guessed that she was perhaps learning from Colette just where their borders stopped, so as to know just what claim the corva could lay nearby. Others surmised that the dragon was merely curious of its new owner and wished to follow along.
“Good morning, Enceladus.” Colette addressed it politely. She was rewarded with a rough little noise as the crow-like dragon stretched each wing in a leisurely manner before finding great interest in eating a few plants on the side of the road.
Colette decided to leave the beast to its devices, turning to resume her walk down the path… only to stop when she realized she heard scraping footfalls behind her. She turned, and Enceladus stopped, tilting her feathery head to the side.
That was certainly new. Typically Enceladus would merely follow from the sky, often not even in sight. “Fancying a walk this evening, Enceladus?” She attempted to keep her tone light, but could feel the slight tightness in her throat and a jolt of primal fear in her belly.
Enceladus’ eyes lidded just ever so slightly in an expression Colette had long since decided was avian exasperation. The woman raised her hands in surrender, ignoring that cold anxiety churning in her gut. “Alright, alright… so terribly sorry that I asked.”
Slowly, Colette could feel her anxiety lessen as they made their way down the path. The steady beat of the corva’s feet on the path was merely another noise amongst many. The rustle of a warm spring breeze wafted the scent of honeysuckle into her nostrils, and her shoulders inevitably lost their tension. The occasional pecking of a giant beak on the ground brought less and less anxiety, and even managed to bring a smile to her face when Enceladus let out little excitable chirping noises from finding some tiny lizard or other within the weeds. This was a good thing, right? Just coexisting together, without some weird expectations of interaction or contact?
At least that was how it had begun, and continued for nearly an hour on the trail. Colette had almost forgotten about the avian’s presence until the bird was very suddenly quite close; practically on top of her with its feathered chest pressing into her back. Primal panic tickled up her spine, but didn’t take hold like it would have mere weeks ago.
“Enceladus??” But before she could inquire further, there was an intense cracking noise of a tree being shoved aside. Her heart sunk as the huge body of a boar came into view from the treeline.
That was all she could see before she was enveloped by feathers, encompassed by warmth and noise as Enceladus’ guttural, draconic growl thrummed so loudly around her that she feared her eardrums would burst. It felt like an eternity went by, unable to see anything more than sunlight filtered through a sheet of down and feathers before Enceladus finally smoothed her feathers back against her body to show that the boar was long gone. Colette could not blame it; with how huge a stryx Enceladus was for her breed, even the most ornery of the supernatural board would think twice before picking a fight.
Then it occurred to her. Enceladus had just protected her! In fact, she’d done no differently than how a mother would have shielded her chicks by flaring out her plumage and obscuring her from view. It was really a most precious thought, and one that struck Colette with a rather complicated emotion that made her eyes sting with very unwanted tears. She was a warrior after all, and she felt that crying was not particularly warriorlike.
“Alright, I’m going to hug you now.” She choked, hoping very much that her open arms would not be misconstrued or unwanted as she wrapped her arms around the feathery, expansive chest.
Enceladus churred in response, preening through the woman’s curly blonde locks in response. For once, Colette actually found herself unafraid, even soothed by the attention. Enceladus wouldn’t hurt her, and that was very obvious to her now. It felt almost silly now that she was so afraid. Well, perhaps not so silly considering the dragon was large and imposing enough to scare a boar away. However she was certainly glad that the stryx was on her side!
Speaking of being on her side… the stryx let out another low growl in the direction if distant rustling. When it did not draw nearer, the feathers that had slowly began to bristle smoothed back against the stryx’s lean form.
“Don’t worry, girl. Once I learn to ride you, we’ll go and hunt down the lot of them.” She could have sworn she saw an excited glint in the bird’s bright blue eye.