Mountains

Compendium Entry North: Himalayan
Central: Appalachian
South: Rockies

A mysterious set of mountain ranges sprawls across the the terrain, curiously flowing from one extreme to the next. In the south, temperate zones are split with canyons and cliffs. The central terrain is comprised of low mountains that appear blue in the distance. Toward the north are intense peaks taller than any have ever gone before. Many of the mountains and ranges are dotted with old bridges and mysterious ancient structures.

AW
on a cobweb afternoon

#1
AW
Discovery
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Atlas wasn't one to oversleep, and whether he liked it or not, the monastery bells would invariably ring before dawn to announce their latest offerings for sky burial - rumour had it that one of the eldest monks had succumbed the prior afternoon. Judging by the angle of the light creeping into his cave and warming his face, however, the summons was long overdue. How rude. Rousing, he got to his feet and shuffled over to his ledge after a cursory glance over his shoulder where his two companions still slept. There was no sense waking them. It would take a couple of hours for the lesser vultures to clean up the meaty bits anyway - the bonebreakers had nobler tastes.

He launched himself from his ledge and wheeled out over the rugged heights, coasting along an updraft until the familiar sight of his "restaurant" came into view. It was oddly quiet, without the bustle of monks going about their morning prayers, and as he flew, a loose piece of ragged cloth drifted alongside him, tossed about in the wind. By all accounts the place looked utterly abandoned.

Rather than the general untidiness and evidence of a hasty treat that was evident when the humans abandoned their mountainous homes during a rockslide, however, it looked as if they had been gone for some time - collapsed cairns lay in disrepair, and the prayer flags were faded and tattered. Which was, of course, impossible, seeing as everything had been in perfect order the day before.

Atlas trimmed in his wings and gently descended to land on what had once been his breakfast table - a flat slab of rock that now hosted little more than a single dusty cow skull.
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#2
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 Unlike the vulture, the eagle was not from this place. He, who had once soared over the greatest mountains known to the wilds. He, who had followed the mountain queen into darkness and beyond, facing the terror of its bloodshed and feasting upon the heroes who died for it. For a moment as he fell from the clouds, he remembered her.
 She had been almost a friend. Yet he did not make friends. She had been of no consequence to him, yet somehow he had been tied to her in a strange way. Spacetime bent as he fell, the wind whistling along feathers as his wings limply allowed the current to whirl him.
 Most of all, the eagle recalled the burning sensation he had felt as the world consumed him in an instant. He had been incinerated on contact with a space rock as it blasted into the earth. He, the most magnificent, had been the first casualty.
 The eagle managed to awake mere moments from hitting the top of a flat rock slab, managing only to slow his descent and hit it with minor impact — it was enough to confuse him and hurt one of his wings. He opened his eyes and above him sat a very ugly eagle. He opened his break in something like a vague threat, but no noise came out.

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#3
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For such an iconic part of the skeleton, skulls weren't really all that appealing to Atlas - too crunchy and not a whole lot of marrow to be had, quite frankly. He poked at it with his beak for a few moments before nudging it off the platform with a scaly toe, watching it careen down the mountainside with detached interest. It bounced once and on the next impact shattered in a burst of pearly shrapnel, noisily scattering a family of marmots.

Atlas had vaguely dismissed the growing dark speck in his peripheral vision as a chough tumbling in the wind - as the crow-like creatures were wont to do - and had all but erased it from his attention when the speck suddenly was no longer a speck, and rather a fully grown golden eagle that had narrowly avoided becoming splatter art at his feet. A majestic bird in most contexts, this one had apparently forgotten how to fly and was currently a flopping pile of feathers that looked like it was trying to hiss at him. As if waking up to an abandoned and decrepit version of his mountain village wasn't odd enough, now eagles were falling out of the sky.

Nonplussed, the vulture simply blinked and stared blankly at his unexpected breakfast guest. He looked up to the clouds as if half expecting more bird meteorites, and returned his gaze to the eagle, canting his head to the side. “I must say, I am flattered by the sacrificial offering, but I don't eat birds.”
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#4
Discovery
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 At the words, the eagle clicked his beak closed, slowly blinking as his nictitating membranes slid across his eyes in a vague attempt to clear the dust. He blinked fully. The eagle stared back at the ugly eagle, and laughed weirdly at the joke.
 Flopping up in a blur of feathers and dust on the stone table, the eagle righted himself and folded his wings, uncomfortably, to his sides. One of them hung more limply them the other, and he eyed it for a moment before ignoring it in the presence of the stranger. The eagle was not used to chatter. He said nothing. He stared unnervingly at equally unnervingly eyes, flapping the dirt from his tail for a moment.
 The eagle took a moment to look around him.

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 The area was strange. Below and around him were objects that he had never seen before. A shattered skull lay in pieces upon the ground. There were weird, coloured leaves flapping about in the wind on strings further away. The eagle could see wood, polished with colours that didn't seem normal in trees. There was nothing here that looked like a tree, the only sign of life still hanging on being this weird bird in front of him. The eagle snapped his beak, confused, looking at the other but saying nothing. One moment, there had been heat and falling through starlight. Now, perhaps this was death's great reaper, come to collect him for his final trek.

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#5
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Atlas eyed the eagle somewhat shrewdly as it folded its wings and composed itself. One wing was held somewhat more loosely than the other, and the vulture surmised it must have been injured in the tumble, but exactly how badly it was strained was difficult to say, as the eagle hadn't made any attempt to fly just yet. On the other hand, he had seen birds shrug off worse. “Not the conversational type, I see,” Atlas murmured more to himself than the mute eagle before him. Hopefully the fall hadn't scrambled the bird's brains too much, but the eagle just looked more confused than anything else. Surely if this beast was from around here, he had seen a bonebreaker before, and quite possibly even the village? Atlas had certainly seen his share of goldens around.

“There used to be humans here, and they would leave out food, but I suspect you are of the persuasion who prefers to do their own dirty work, hm?” Rarely had he met an eagle that was content to scavenge unless it was the dead of winter and prey was truly scarce. “I can show you around, if you wish, and assuming that wing of yours still works.” And if it didn't, well, that would be interesting...

He flicked his wingtips and bowed his head in an attempt to look as unthreatening as possible for a bird of his stature. While he was larger and a fair bit heavier, Atlas possessed little of the weaponry that his guest wielded. His feet were flat and strong with blunt claws adapted to carry heavy bones, and even his bill was built more for precision work rather than real ripping and tearing.
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#6
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 The vulture was a large animal. There was something odd about the look of his eyes, as though they had been stained red from the many kills the bird had scavenged from. The eagle couldn't remember ever seeing a carrion-feeder that looked quite like this one, though the curved and bulbous nature if his beak was familiar enough. Though an apex predator, the eagle had certainly borrowed much of his food from the success of others; he would never dream of trying to compete over a kill with these large, noisy animals, though.
 The eagle thought about it, looking away and staring at the shattered skull. Humans? He had never interacted with them, doing little more than fly over their towns once upon a time in a land far away from this one. He wondered why the two-legged strange ones would leave out food on purpose for such a feared feathered creature. Confused, he did not answer the arbitrary question. Of course he preferred hunting over eating the dregs of other kills.
 “It will,” he said, partially surprising himself with his words.
 As the other moved, the eagle stretched out his wings and flapped them slowly, pushing air to the side to make sure the bones were still intact. The joint was sore, but he suspected nothing that would prevent flight. It would harm his agility and no more.
 “Show me, large one,” he "asked" calmly, his voice smooth and undemanding despite the bluntness of the words.

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#7
Discovery
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The eagle seemed confident enough in his ability to fly, and Atlas was relieved. He didn't particularly fancy having to take care of the beast until his wing healed, and the vulture had too many scruples to simply let the golden beast starve to death on the side of the mountain. It simply wasn't the way, and if this whole humans disappearing situation was some kind of karmic retribution for a long-forgotten bad deed, the bonebreaker reckoned he had some redemption to do to tip the scales. Perhaps giving the disoriented fellow the grand tour would score him some points.

He watched his guest test out his wings, and ruffled his own feathers in preparation. Shuffling closer to the edge of the stone slab, Atlas unfolded his wings and launched himself into flight, catching an updraft almost immediately and rising quickly, though not yet straying far from his point of takeoff. Atlas suspected that the eagle could easily overtake him even with a sore wing, but nonetheless took his time and arced in a lazy circle as altitude revealed the extent of the sprawling settlement below.

“This is where they all used to live, and that winding trail down by the red-roofed building, where they grazed their yaks — big, hairy and generally unpleasant cow-like things,” he mused, “which in turn attracts the snow leopards. There are many coveys of snow partridge around the fields there as well.” Atlas didn't know where this particular bird was from, but he imagined that the eagle had lived with some sort of chicken-like prey bird of some species or other around. He did another loop, pausing his narrative to allow for any questions before straightening out his trajectory and aiming for the far side of the mountain face where the buildings thinned out, and the terrain became even more rugged.
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#8
Discovery
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 The eagle watched the vulture spread his wings. They were massive. The primary feathers were glorious and surprisingly graceful for an animal that specialized in carrion and the disposal of bones. The eagle could not help but compare his own anatomy with that of the stranger.
 The eagle launched from the stone table just after his tour guide, finding the warming air beneath his wings. Almost immediately, pain shot down from the joint of his wing. Eagles, and others of their feathered kind, had extraordinary pain tolerances. The eagle himself was no exception, and so the pain was swallowed. To anyone who was not one of their own, they could not have guessed the angry inflammation that tormented him during the flight.
 He found that he accelerated quicker than the vulture. He had never been this close to one during flight that he could remember. At first, he rose higher, and then reduced his altitude so that he might better hear the other as they soared. To stay circling, the eagle had to adjust far more frequently and flap his wings more often than the vulture, who coasted so easily upon the wind.
 Up here, the landscape stretched beyond the imagination. The peaks of the mountains were visible, and sharp. Each was snow capped, and one could spot the snow flying as the wind swirled it from their sides. The strange, coloured pieces below became dotted oddities as his new companion described what they were seeing.
 All of these animals that the vulture spoke of were new to the eagle. He followed in the same pattern, looking from the red roof to the fields. “I do not know this beast, 'leopard,'” answered the eagle, strangely fascinated by this high place among the tallest of mountains.

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#9
Discovery
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“Ah,” he acknowledged, somewhat embarrassed at having assumed the extent of his guest's knowledge. He knew better than to project his own experience onto others, even if they were a type of beast he was familiar with. Surely a powerful and resourceful species such as a golden eagle could exist where there were no bonebreakers. Undoubtedly the eagle had seen plenty of things that Atlas himself had never heard of before. “Spotted predators — about the size of a wolf but bulkier — and solitary, with long tails and short faces.” If there were other, subtler things that distinguished the great cats from dogs, he had never really looked at either close enough to notice, even if he could instinctively recognize them as a different lineage.

Their shadows darkened the slopes below, and the disparity between the speed at which their silhouettes raced across the ground and the paired raptors' leisurely circling was a testament to their altitude. A pair of plump, mottled grey partridge flushed from the leading edge of the darkness as it encroached upon an alpine meadow, and fluttered downslope. They were too small and ironically too bony for him to bother with, but he had seen proper raptors hunt them before. “Good eating, I would imagine,” Atlas mused, “should you need or choose to stay here.” The eagle's future plans were neither his business or concern, but Atlas felt obliged to at least provide sufficient detail to allow him to make an informed decision. It was not that he necessarily mistook the creature for incompetent, but it had just fallen from the sky, after all.
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#10
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I have no idea why but I thought it'd only been like five days >_> Sorry for the wait!


As the vulture described these new beasts to him, the eagle wondered if perhaps he had fallen into a different planet entirely. Nothing made a whole lot of sense, although the wind on his feathers felt as natural and normal as ever. These beasts sounded much as the mountain lions of his homeland, only spotted. Snipping his beak lightly, he listened with his wings to the current, adjusting as they circled. He said nothing, peering down and wondering silently if birds fell into other worlds often, and if they escaped them. Perhaps this was simply the way of the universe.

The eagle, too, spotted the grey birds. It did not surprise him that vultures were keen of sight. Most of their greater kind were. They were far beyond that of the dogs and cats that roamed and believed it was their world that mattered alone. An entire life lived beyond their reach. “I come and go all places,” he answered. It had been how it always was. For a time, he made his living on one place, but often he found himself roaming far beyond what a normal territory might be. He could no longer remember ever taking a mate.

“Can you catch them?” He wondered, having no knowledge of what bone eaters could or could not do. He knew them only as the dregs of folklore. Nature's finest cleanup crew, and far better equipped for the disposal of corpses than he was.

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#11
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It's all good <3


The idea of trying to catch a partridge had not really occurred to Atlas before. Certainly, he had chased and sparred with the odd raven or chough to test one another's flight capabilities, but it had always been in jest and in the name of the challenge of it, with neither party having any real advantage or intent to harm. To him, there was no need to even distinguish predator from prey, and he would as readily have a debate with a sparrow as he would an eagle owl. Of course, not having to recognize that distinction was a privilege of being a creature that did not fit into either category.

“I have never tried, as I do not consume fresh carrion,” he admitted, “Though I know I cannot turn at an instant as the longwings do.” Falcons always seemed to be in a hurry to him, which he supposed was a reflection of their hunting habits. Speed and maneuverability were of the essence when your quarry were often other birds, and any hesitation could mean the difference between eating and starving on a given day. For a creature that thrived on patience and letting things unfold on their own terms, it was stressful even thinking of such a fast-paced existence.

He imagined that the lifestyle of a great eagle fell somewhere in between both extremes. “I've also found that those in constant fear for their lives do not make particularly enthusiastic flying companions.” The wide open sky was a dangerous place to be for many, even in the company of a harmless vulture.
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#12
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Longwings. This was an interesting concept for the eagle, who had never had a conversation with one of the lesser species of birds. In fact, it was rare he had conversation with anyone. Most of what he performed as a creature of high sights and better visions was simply that of the judge and impromptu cleanup, for all else was to chance.

This interaction with one of the lessers seemed as a test of this new world. Vultures were inherently dumb, or at least they were supposed to be. This one appeared to mirror his own knowledge and language skillset, which in itself felt rather disturbing. The eagle, as usual for a predatory bird, made no knowledge obvious of such thoughts. All he did was observe as the pair of birds flew above this strange, mountaintop dwelling. Below them, in dots the flags that draped dimly across lines of rope were visible.

The eagle did not bother to explain that partridges were not of the same essence of the vulture and the eagle. They were lesser, and thus designed for the demolition of the higher. It was how things were designed. Instead, as they flew the eagle spoke. “The dead become the dead, one way or another,” he answered simply. It might have made little sense to a partridge, but a vulture might understand.

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