Bird is the Word

The Roc dived and raked at Faden - the difference in their sizes was such that actually gripping Faden with its talons was out of the question. Faden focused his Will and moved to the bird's talons, clinging to them - with his reduced weight and lack of actual muscle, it wasn't even tiring.

From his position, Faden looked up. "You know what? No. This is ludicrous. I refuse to believe that a creature as large as you could possibly exist, to say nothing of flying and hovering. What would you even eat?"

Had the godling still possessed a heart, it would have skipped a beat - the bird stunned him by answering. "Whales, mostly." The voice was distinctly feminine, although roughened by age.

"Oh, whales!" Faden exclaimed sarcastically, moving to the bird's back as she snapped at him. "Well, I'm glad Father made a species of creatures that big solely to support the Absurdly Large Bird population." The Roc suddenly dove, picking up speed and forcing him to hang on to her feathers.

"You should be. If the whales weren't there to support larger beasts, then what would the really big creatures eat?" The Roc banked into a sharp turn, trying to shake the godling, but still Faden hung on, his mind working partly on how to convince the Roc to back down but mostly ruminating on what a bad idea it was to let his older sibling have so much influence on his Father during the creation of the Great Disk's ecosystem. Oh Jongo, you've done a really stupid thing, here.

The Roc plunged into a valley that was nonetheless wide enough to accommodate her massive wingspan. Stony arches and massive columns spanned the ravine - it was a wondrous-looking place, if somewhat desolate, but the son of Baz'Auran had no time to examine it as the creature started weaving back and forth, up and down between the stones. "That's even more ridiculous! What's at the top of the food chain, then?" The feather Faden was hanging onto broke loose and he grabbed for another.

"Logically, the Alpha Predator would be the one that no one survived meeting long enough to talk about."

Faden blinked - metaphorically, of course. "Are you mocking me?"

The Roc looked back at him, semi-hostile amusement twinkling in the huge eye. "Are you asking if I'm a mocking bird? Perish the thought. On second thought, just perish." A sudden, powerful downbeat of the massive bird's wings slammed the creature's back against the bottom of one of the arches. When the Roc looked back again, Faden was gone.

The massive bird settled on one of the arches, sighing. "Disappointing."

"I'll say. You telegraph virtually all of your attacks."

The Roc let out a startled squawk and hopped a full dozen feet. "You're still alive!"

"Of course." A cloud of bluish smoke coalesced on the arch next to her. "The mystery is where all of this hostility is coming from. We've barely met."

The Roc leaned forward, one massive eye to Faden's two bright points of light. "You stole the stone I was guarding."

Faden's hood shook. "Nonsense. If you were guarding the stone you would have buried it, probably here in this canyon, rather than placing it on top of a mountain where everyone could see it. The stone was a lure, I'm just trying to figure out why. If you're smart enough to speak, then you're smart enough to know that I'm not food. What do you want?"

"Food! How insulting. There's more to life than eating, godling!" The Roc gripped the arch tightly and flapped her wings once, hard. The draft blew Faden clear off the stone and into the ravine, and the huge bird dived after him. "I am a great hunter! A mighty hunter!" Faden once again willed himself onto the back of the Roc - it seemed to be the only safe spot near the creature. The Roc surprised him by pulling up, gaining altitude at an alarming rate.

"Alright, so you're a mighty hunter. That doesn't answer my question at all." The son of Baz'Auran noted that the air was rapidly growing colder. The chill itself didn't bother him, but eventually it would get cold enough to freeze the resin holding his bandages together, and that could be a problem.

"Ah, but I am a little less mighty every day. I am an old Roc, godling, much older than I look. I have no desire to grow steadily weaker until I am torn apart by flying sharks-"

"Please tell me that isn't a real thing."

"-and so I when I found that chunk of immortality, I knew what I could do. I would wait for powerful beings to come and take it, and go out in battle with one of them, in one blaze of glory. But then the black sand came and began devouring them first!" The Roc snorted indignantly as they continued to ascend. "I couldn't do battle with sand of course - it would be completely beneath my dignity. But then you beat the sand, and I realized that nothing could be better than going out in combat with a god. A true child of the Creator! Nothing could be more glorious. But then we started fighting and all you do is evade. Not even a single lightning bolt! I'm disappointed."

"Prepare to be disappointed further. You know I could conjure a magical wall in front of you at any time, right? At these speeds you'd have no choice but to hit it. Even if you broke it, it would stop your flight rather violently. There'd be a long drop to the ground, which I can survive, and you'd have a crushed skull, which you can't survive."

"Then why haven't you done that?"

Faden crawled up toward the Roc's head, one huge feather at a time. "Because that would be a waste. A big one, if you'll pardon the pun. Let's say you do die in battle here. Who gains anything? No one. I doubt anyone will have witnessed your fight with me. The humans of the clans won't record it. You'll just be some bird that I killed. And I'll have spent a lot of time and energy with nothing - other than the immortality stone, here - to show for it."

The Roc leveled off. "And you have a better plan?"

"I do. Take me where I want to go, to meet my siblings. In between my other activities, I will find a way to bring you eternal glory. Everyone will know your name, and your legend, instead of never beginning, will never end."

"Will you offer me jewelry to accomplish this?" The bird snarked.

"Saw that, did you? Paideiazel and Qarezel were greedy fools. Besides, I promised them eternal life, not eternal glory. I'll tell you up front that the cost of such glory will probably be your life, but if you were willing to die pointlessly a minute ago, then you should be happy to die for what I'm offering. What say you?"

"...very well. I accept your offer, god-child. Where are your siblings?"

"Well, that's what I was attempting to find out, when I was so rudely interrupted." A pair of sprites zoomed up to him, telling him of Avyra - and bearing Khalen's message of Dasque's predicament. "South, it seems. We should head there as fast as we can."

The Roc banked in a sharp turn, toward the edge of the disk. "South it is, then. Remember your promise!"

"I'll keep up my end of the bargain, never fear." Faden focused his Desire and Will, pushing the Roc to move faster than ever before. Within moments the pair were moving faster than the huge bird ever had before, leaving even sound itself behind. "So... do you have a name, or shall I introduce you to my siblings as the world's largest and grumpiest chicken?"

"My name is Pyra. Do you have a name, or will you introduce yourself as the world's most uppity laundry?"

The son of Baz'Auran snickered. "I am Faden, Pyra. And so far, I seem to be the Alpha Predator." The pair shot across the waters, a colossal BOOM trailing them as they went looking for trouble...