They hold watch over The Beast.
It came from within The Gleam.
The pair eagles reach North Cove and take perch inland, resting on a low-lying branch. The snow accumulated on their wings despite their heated flapping, simultaneously melting and freezing to form heavy coats of ice. Lysandra chips the shells off Lysander’s wings and shivering back with her beak, and then he returns the favor. Finally, with their wings unencumbered, they take a moment to roost up and catch their breath properly. The blizzard – though that word pales in comparison to the unrelenting swarm of snowy butterflies hatching from their chrysali in the skies and fluttering down to greet the world – only seems to get heavier with each passing moment. When they left The Sticks they were able to see the shoreline and follow it here; now it seems as though they’ll have to walk when they return to… return to where? The pair no longer has a home in the petrified jungle in which they’d taken roost for all these cycles. Never has the snow fallen with such virile and intensity, never have the temperatures dropped so low so fast. Before the onset of the storm, Monksville’s cap of ice was no thicker than a feather – now, it could likely support the weight of the black bear who lives in the cave in the mountains.
The channel opens narrow and fluctuates with the snowfall, creating a warbling effect in the transmission of thought. The pair eagles pretend not to notice, but it hits their brains like the talon of a diving eagle into the neck of a hawk.
‘Highest Lysander, it seems we’re stranded. What are we to do?’
‘I do not know, Highest Lysandra.’ He peers out across the Reservoir but sees nothing, not even the surface. They could be roosting on the canopy for all they can tell. ‘How could he do this to us? To the vultures? To High Choridae and all his gullflock? That damned Hilaetos… it’s twisted, it’s downright blasphemous, it’s, it–’
‘I know not, my love,’ Lysandra sends, clenching her beak. Her brain feels like it’s swollen larger than her head; the eagle can feel the snowstorm’s frozen touch through her feathered skull. ‘But there’s no use in asking ourselves what the traitor could not answer. Would not answer. He was too far gone, swept up in the cult’s wavelength.’
With trembling feet and numb toes, Lysandra inches closer to Lysander. He opens his right wing and takes her under, shielding her from the harsh whiteout. They roost together like this for a couple moments, reminiscing on the good times they shared in The Sticks, remembering all the surfaceswimmers and ‘munkies and all the other prey that fell to the weight of their talons. They regret but a single thing: that Hilaetos is not amongst the memories of those felled.
‘We can’t stay here for long,’ sends Lysander despite the channel’s snowy bucking. ‘The canopy is collecting most of the snow for now, but soon it will outweigh what the dormant branches can handle. They will break and we will be buried.’
‘But where are we to go, Lysander?’ sent weakly and without opening her eyes.
The pair eagles consider this quandary until the snow gathers on Lysander’s beak. They come up with nothing, and then…
She stands straight and hops to the right, allowing her soulgroom to fold his wing and feel his own warmth.
‘High Choridae! He escaped, Lysander, we sent him off ourselves! Did you see any gulls resting dead on the ice while we flew through the storm?’
‘No, but would we have? He was in tragic form and his feathers are whiter than the snow. Surely we would have missed him.’
‘We could have missed him, I think you mean to send, and I disagree! His beak and his web-footed legs are as vibrant as our own beaks – if he had perished as he flew we would have spotted him easily! Highest Lysander, do you know what this means?!’
He does not, at least not until the muffled squall of a certain wingflapper with a lack of feathering on her dome breaches the storm. It comes from the south – what the pair eagles think is the south, anyway – and it sounds off twice more before relenting.
‘The Vultress, it had to be. No other denizen is capable of a cry so deafening.’
‘Deafening? I could barely hear it. Had she not repe–’
Lysandra stands tall and spans her wings out, issuing a mighty scream. A moment of snow falling silently. The eagles stare out intently into the blindness around them, their minds deathly quiet and their mighty eagle hearts beating with force against their ribcages.
Then, ‘Praise Mother Monksville, you eagles survived. The channel is not stable in this storm, I can already feel my brain swelling up. Sending over such a distance is not sustainable, not now. You must find your way to South Cove. Sanctuary awaits.’
The channel closes up, giving the pair eagles no other option. Lysandra looks at her soulgroom with wide eyes that seem to ask how they’re meant to get there. Lysander gives his soulbride a look which suggests they walk along the shore and hope they are not buried. Then, the channel opens and closes in a split second. In the interim, the pair eagles catch the following:
‘Avoid The Crater at all costs, lest you be trapped in the chasm.’
The eagles know not what a chasm is or even what it might be, but they take the hint nonetheless. The blizzard relents slightly for a few miraculous moments, gifting the pair eagles their sight. The snow is piled high across the entire reservoir and higher yet in the canopy of the forests on either side, but the earth is bare enough. Not snowless, but bare enough, though that may not actually matter – if they launch now and beeline down the last stretch of the Northern Leg, they cou–
The blizzard picks up again, blinding the eagles. They did not see nothing, though; they know what they must do if they are to reach their promised salvation.
The pair eagles take flight into the snowblast and cut south across the Reservoir. They come to the Minelands and find a wide dirt road, a footpath used by giants. They follow the beaten path south, hoping the mystic did not misguide them.
This has been the fifth subchapter of the third chapter of The Monksville Chronicles. Here is everything you need to know about it:
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