View Full Version : Flight of the ostard

31-10-2002, 11:58:42
As Austerlitz awoke, he felt the strange sense of displacement that always came from waking in a room at an Inn, rather than out in the forest. If the sight of the clean, painted room, the vase of flowers on the bedside dresser and the sunlight peeking through the curtained window were not unusual enough for the ranger, then the sight of Alikanas, his loyal forest Ostard curled up asleep on a blanket on the floor was a reminder of how incongruous his presence was here. As he pulled himself out of the soft bed, which was somewhat the worse for wear after being slept in by a fully clothed and rather dirty ranger, he shook his head and thought that the comforts of life were just not for him.
‘Alikanas, time to get up’ he said, slapping the beast on its rump.
The ostard’s large eyes winked open and it sprang to its feet with a loud squawking noise. At full height it was taller than Austerlitz and the top of its head brushed the ceiling of the small room.
‘Calm down, we’re not in the Northern Forest now.’
The ostard emitted a lower pitched squawk and rubbed its head against Austerlitz’s shoulder.
To see the creature, a deep brown bipedal lizard, showing affection was unusual, but Alikanas had been Austerlitz’s faithful companion for several months, a long time by the standards of this dangerous world.
Austerlitz took an apple from his backpack and tossed it towards Alikanas. In a flash of movement the ostard’s beak snapped open and shut and the apple was gone.
‘Come on then, boy, time to go.’
Austerlitz led the ostard out of the room and drew only a few astonished glances from the other guests as he led it out of the Inn. Immediately they found themselves in the noise and hustle of the city of Britain. Alikanas screeched and Austerlitz was forced to grab the ostard before it ran amok. His mount had little experience of the cities of Britannia, and still associated humans more with danger than anything else. To calm it he quickly leapt up on the ostard’s back and began to guide it through the busy streets, thronging with strange and colourful characters and creatures. When they had arrived the previous night, late and tired after a long trek from Yew, Austerlitz had wanted to find an Inn on the edge of the city, close to the forest where they would be heading the next day. Of course all of the Inns were full and Austerlitz and his mount were forced to head deeper into the city, eventually taking more refined lodgings than he would have liked. Austerlitz disliked the city, in one hour walking its streets he had seen more people and creatures than in the last month in the forest.

In the city of Britain, the unusual was not a term that held any real meaning. The most incredible animals and people seemed commonplace. Terrifying creatures (that would spell instant death if met in the wild) walked tamely with their owners as dogs might do in other towns, mages of vast power were as oft passed in the street as beggars, bizarre and valuable objects were as common as dropped change. Amidst this carnival of Britannian life, Austerlitz, the tall, world-worn ranger, clad in browns and greens, wrapped in animal skins and mounted upon his deep brown forest ostard, was no more noticeable than a stray cat.

Nevertheless, they were here now, and Austerlitz was determined to quit the city as soon as possible in order to complete the mission he had charged himself with. A few days earlier he had heard from a young ranger leaving the Britain area that he had seen an ostard outside the city, and that it had acted very aggressively towards him. To hear of an ostard outside Britain was strange enough, but an aggressive one was extremely disconcerting. From the description, the young ranger had given Austerlitz, it sounded like a frenzied ostard, a creature that it was inconceivable that could have found its way into the Britain area on its own. He had heard of unscrupulous tamers releasing unwanted pets in areas in which the animals were unaccustomed, and the consequences were usually tragic. He also knew that he would have to go and investigate for himself and should this be the case, he would hopefully calm the creature or lead it away from Britannia back to its home. But he knew that if the animal was dangerous, he would have to kill it.

Finally the density of people and buildings began to ease and soon they were at the fringes of the city. Both Austerlitz and Alikanas were relieved when they saw the row of trees that marked the edge of the forest. The ranger suddenly remembered that he had intended to bring along one of his stabled pets to help in the event that a fight was required, but as he looked back to the busy city he did not relish the journey back through the throng to claim it. He looked back at the forest edge.
‘Let’s get in there then, boy.’ He said to the ostard, which leapt forwards eagerly.
It did not take more than an hour to find the first signs of what he was looking for. The remains of a dog, killed and partially eaten, bore the telltale marks of an ostard beak. Alikanas was nervous and Austerlitz wondered if the wild creature was closer than he had thought. He looked round quickly, half-expecting the creature to leap out from behind a bush or tree. But no sound came, and Austerlitz dismounted Alikanas and began to search the area for tracks. In these surroundings, where the tracks of deer and bears were common, the trail of the ostard stuck out like a sore thumb.

Eventually Austerlitz saw a tell tale movement through the trees. Even at the distance he was it was obvious – it’s bright orange colouration was totally unsuitable for the forest – that it was the frenzied ostard. It was ambling slowly through the forest, head down, poking through the leafy floor. Austerlitz knew it would smell one or other of him and Alikanas at any moment. There was no use trying to hide. He stood up and holding Alikanas, advanced slowly towards the frenzied ostard. It looked up at him almost straight away and squawked, a warning, it seemed to Austerlitz. Despite the frenzied ostard’s fearsome reputation, Austerlitz guessed that the beast would not fancy its chances in a straight fight - even if Alikanas was weaker, it would still be facing two opponents.

He began to inch closer, calling to the animal in imitation of the sounds its own kind would make when reassuring one another. If he was lucky, the creature would not have been so badly hurt by its experience at the hands of whoever had originally tamed it that it would allow him to tame the creature himself. He kept Alikanas close at hand - the sight of a cousin would no doubt help his argument that he was a friend.

The frenzied ostard seemed to relax, even chancing the occasional peck at a piece of fruit on a nearby tree as Austerlitz approached. Soon he was close enough almost to touch the creature. He looked into the large eye; this was where he would see if it could be tamed, this is where the outcome of their encounter was held. But all the eye told him was fear, pain and hate. Suddenly the beast leapt forwards on powerful legs, it’s beak open and aimed at his throat. Austerlitz threw himself to the side and the bulk of the creature flew past him, catching him and knocking him to the floor.
‘Alikanas, kill!’ he shouted, but he need not have wasted his breath because Alikanas had already pounced upon his larger cousin. Austerlitz knew that Alikanas could not win the battle on his own, and as the two creatures struggled, Austerlitz pulled his large hunting knife from inside his bear-cloak and leapt upon the frenzied ostard. In the mess of beaks and flailing legs it was impossible for Austerlitz to get to his intended target, the animals neck. Soon he was thrown to the ground once more, without damaging the tough-skinned creature. Alikanas was holding his own but could not do so forever, its rival was enraged and fought without fear.
Austerlitz could see a change of tactics was called for.
‘Alikanas! To me!’ he shouted, the sound apparently registering in Alikanas’ brain over the noise of battle, for it withdrew temporarily from the clash. Before the frenzied ostard could press home it’s advantage, Austerlitz had leapt upon his mount and was urging it away.

As he spurred his mount on through the forest, branches and leaves whipping into his face, he was aware of the frenzied ostard close behind, crashing through the foliage after them and squawking in rage all the time. Nevertheless they were putting some distance between themselves and the beast. Austerlitz slackened Alikanas’ pace, he had to keep the frenzied ostard interested, for he had decided to lure it far away from the forests of Britain, back to its own lands.

31-10-2002, 11:59:30
Soon his target was in sight, the forest edge whence he had entered that morning. Erupting forth, the squawking, flapping convoy screeched towards the city of Britain. As they reached the city edge, Austerlitz could see citizens pointing towards him, some shouting calls of alarm, some that had already started to run. As they entered the city, people were running in all directions, seeking to escape the mad chase that had burst upon the city. Austerlitz knew that he had to keep the ostard close, if it was to lose focus on him and Alikanas it could pose a grave danger to innocents. But he was not far from his goal. Dashing through the cobbled streets, Austerlitz saw ahead the target of the chase: the sewers. For here was located the long and winding passageway through to the Lost Lands, to the frenzied ostard’s original home.

All three of them plunged down into the sewers with a splash. There was little light and the stench was overpowering. The instinct to fight seemed to be draining out of the frenzied ostard, but once they had picked themselves up and began to trudge through the sludge and waste, it resumed the chase with renewed vigour. Austerlitz knew it had resigned itself to the outcome, whatever it might be. It would kill him or die trying. But if he and Alikanas just had the strength to outpace the animal through these sewers…

It was with great relief that Austerlitz and the now desperately tired Alikanas eventually emerged into the strong, bright sun of the lost lands. Not far behind them trudged the frenzied ostard, no longer the fearsome creature that had attacked them in the forest. As it caught sight of the sun what little fight that remained in it instantly vanished. It looked at Austerlitz, its body heaving, just as the ranger’s and that of his mount were. Soon it looked away and quickly ran into the lush undergrowth, disappearing from sight completely. It was over.

If the ostard understood what the ranger had done, Austerlitz could not tell. But as a ranger he was not accustomed to gratitude from the creatures he helped. For him there were no princesses to rescue, no treasure hoards to plunder, no kingdoms to capture. Still this was the life he had chosen and as he patted Alikanas’ neck and passed him an apple, he was not sorry.

But as he looked back towards the sewer entrance and contemplated the slog back through that stinking mess, he thought with a smile that maybe he could justify just one more night in an Inn before he returned to the forest.