|Summary:||Nia happens upon a hooting hunter near her home.|
The air is thick and pungent in the bayou this afternoon, a sickly-sweet blend of rotting plant life and carcasses mingled with brackish salt and the pine-like resinous aroma of the cypress trees. It is cloudy, too; the sun hidden behind bilious banks of off-white fluff, lending an air of gloom and shade to the swamp. Despite this, there is the sound of movement all around; croaking and splashing and slithering and buzzing, life is happy here. For the animals and mosquitos, at least.
On her little islet deep in the swamp, Nia is working on a piece of wood, sat on the steps up to her hut, cigarette between lips and a knife in hand, lightly whittling away at a twisted piece of cypress.
The day was peaceful enough, threat of an incoming hurricane notwithstanding. However, as the minutes passed by things began to grow quiet. The telltale chirping of the birds, clicking and chittering of insects, and the movements and squeeks of the larger creatues. Eventually, the only sounds come from the wind and the water it moves around.
It may be cloudy, but something overhead looms. Large enough to blot out the sun overhead for a scant few seconds. However, a glance above reveals nothing more than the passing sea of grey. Sound soon comes back to the world around the Wolf-Blooded, although something else can be heard in the distance, somewhere northwest of the islet. Howling? Screaming? Hard to say as it passes as quickly as it came.
As that unnatural stillness sets in, Nia likewise falls still, straining her ears and looking around slowly. That kind of silence usually means a big predator, but normally the insects don't care... and so she frowns. Looking up as the light of the sun is obscured further, she rises and reaches for her shotgun - to shoot what? A cloud? Maybe it's for reassurance more than utility.
That screaming/howling makes her jump, and she promptly heads up into her cabin, shoving her feet into her waders and then comes back down and heads in that northwest direction, slowly. Stealthily.
Nothing seems amiss the way Nia heads. A few frogs hastily jump out of her way, but nothing out of the ordinary. What she does see is something canid. It'd almost be easy to mistake the eastern coyote for a wolf in that split second until it howls and screams again. It looks up, fearful and now growling as it sinks its head low. The source of its ire looks to be a crocodile thats much smaller than the others of its ilk, although big enough that it could still snap off someone's arm without issue.
Remaining slow-moving and hidden, Nia keeps her gun to hand, but doesn't interfere. This is nature doing what nature do, and either the croc will end up with a full belly, or the coyote will have learned a new trick. Glancing to the cypress trees either side of her, the bayou-dweller reaches up to climb into the low branches, aiming to get high enough that she's not at risk of being attacked by either beast - though also mindful of anything else that might be lurking in the branches already.
There's something else there with them, although none of them see it just yet. It's large enough, though, that when it makes its presence known none of them can ignore it. An owl large enough to nearly rival Nia in size swoops down as silent as a whisper. Within seconds it sinks its claws down into croc, and after a few strong beats of its wings its off again. As it darts off like a feathered lightning bolt it hoots an unintelligible mess of words.
...or player three will enter the game, denying the coyote his trick and the croc his meal. Nia's eyes are wide as she sees the giant owl swoop down and snatch the reptile from the ground. She remains where she is, rising up in the tree branches to watch where the huge owl is headed - as far as she can, anyway - her curiosity piqued. She doesn't forget the coyote of course, waiting until it wanders off before climbing down, beginning to venture in the direction the owl went in. Not blindly, nor so hasty that she might stumble into danger, but with reasonable speed. As she does, her skin begins to discolour, taking on the olive and moss hues of the swamp.
Navigating the swamps proves to be difficult, but not impossible. The harder part is moving and following along the spirit's movements without getting lost. She's going further and further from the islet of her home, and nearer wherever the spirit might be heading. Along the way she notices that no birds sing, no animals chirp or chatter, and the only bugs she can even get a sight on are spiders and dragonflies.
The spirit moves and flaces far faster than anything alive should, and do so with an alien grace that avoids every tree and every branch.It leads her a couple dozen meters away before coming to a halt to plant itself and the now dying crocodile on an overlarge tree that stands above the rest. Blood drips from the reptile as it twitches and slips off the mortal coil, and the spirit starts pecking away at its innards.
Finding herself a sheltered pocket of undergrowth to hide in, Nia simply observes the owl. She's not going to disturb a (presumably) wild animal while it is feeding - that would seem to be the height of stupidity, something a tourist would do. Nor is she bothered by the way it pecks and tears into the body of its prey; she's intimately familiar with the circle of life, so to speak, and instead more admires the sleek shape of its body and the general /size/ of it. That is one hell of a bird, after all.
Once the bird is done eating, which may be minutes or hours, Nia slowly rises from her hiding place, intending to move away and let it go about whatever business an abnormally large owl has.
It tears open flesh and cracks bone with ease. Stray pieces of its meal fall to the swamp floor with a splash, but most of it is consumed almost whole. It takes a few minutes for the act to be complete, and unlike its fleshy kin there's nothing left of the scaley meal.
As the Wolf-Blooded starts to turn away the owl hoots. Its loud enough to shake the trees, and startle away even the would-be predators that were around. The noises it makes almost sound like its trying to speak, but none of it makes sense save two word. ~Blood. Hunt.~
Straightening, Nia is about to turn and go when the Owl makes its pronnouncement. She isn't sure exactly what it said, but it definitely isn't the usual screech or hoot that a regular owl might make. The two words that she makes out, having heard spoken by Uratha before and translated in kind, have her pausing.
She takes a breath and tries to repeat one of the words, with a questioning inflection. It isn't perfect by any means; she has only a human voicebox to work with after all, but with any luck the Owl will understand. ~Blood?~
The word elicits no response from the owl initially. Its confusion becomes much more plain as its head rotates fully until its upside down. It straghtens out again, hooting several times over. She can still hear and slightly understand those two words, but the rest may as well be white noise.
Soon enough, Nia can see that they're not alone. With every passing second since it first 'spoke' to her an owl had come to them. The strigoi surrounded them, truly Nia, in the trees. Of that massive, feathered chorus she can make out that some of the birds that arrived were nocturnal and shouldn't be up and about this early in the afternoon.
While she had been about to leave, Nia realises others have arrived. Some of them may be hunters too, of a size where she could well be prey. So she sinks back down into hiding, remaining still and hoping that the Owl doesn't see fit to mention to its friends that there is a human-shaped morsel not far from where they gather. She listens, though the words they share largely mean nothing, looking around slowly at each super-bird in kind, trying to pick out the corresponding 'regular' species and making a mental note of them.
All of them look mundane enough save the spirit that stands nearly a meter and a half if not more. The others are quite small in comparison, and nothing out of the ordinary save this queer swarming about as they surround Nia. As the seconds pass by the number growls until its likely that every owl in the bayou might've heard that call.
Clearly things are not quite normal. The giant owl knows she's here, and the smaller ones seem to have an idea of her location, since they're surrounding her. So, mentally crossing her fingers, the wolfblood slowly rises from the undergrowth, making no sudden moves or gestures, until she stands still amidst the flock. Her attention remains on Big Bird, and she offers a quiet, "Hi," in its direction. She doesn't imagine it can understand English, but it's worth a shot. She follows with a quiet, "Salut," in French.
The owl flutters up from the branch, and all the other still look in the direction of the Blooded. If she doesn't run away it gets closer until it stares at her. It spreads its wings wide, and presents a talon in her direction. When upon her it brings that talon onto her arm, drawing blood for a few beats.
Nothing in Nia's life has prepared her for some kind of owl handshake. She's running on instinct alone here, and when the owl reaches out that talon, she offers her hand in response. When it presses the tip into her (currently moss-and-olive-mottled-green) skin, rich red blood wells up. Despite this being a painful sensation, the mostly-human woman remains still and quiet, figuring the owl isn't intending any /harm/ otherwise it'd be a lot more than one talon, and a lot more swipe-swipe than simply pressing down.
There's little malice or joy in the act is it digs its claw into the Blooded. It lifts the glossy black talon only to drag it across again. After a few seconds the act is done, and an intricate glyph's been carved into her flesh. It stops for a second, eyes turning skyward. As it does so the other owls do the same.
The boom of thunder comes echoing from on high. A crackle of lightning can be seen in the distance. Soon enough the clouds break and rain begins to fall. As the water hits the owls they shake themselves from whatever brought them here, and begin to scatter to the four winds.
Gritting her teeth and letting the owl do what it's doing, Nia waits for the gathering of owls to scatter before she digs her other hand down into one of the pockets of her cargo pants, pulling free one of the bandages she keeps handy - it isn't the first time she's been hurt out in the bayou and probably won't be the last, even if it is so far the -strangest- time, by a wide margin. Tugging the end loose with her teeth, she begins to clumsily wrap the fabric around the design on her arm, to soak up the blood and ensure she isn't leaving a trail for every predator in the bayou to follow when she does leave. Also not wanting to get mozzies laying eggs in there either. Eugh. To the owl, who clearly did this with some kind of purpose, she voices, "Uh. Merci?"Her thanks is met with a barrage of hooting from the spirit before it takes off again. The sudden rush of air's likely to knock the Blooded off her feet if she's not steady. It hovers in place only for a second to look around, and then its flying off somewhere northeast. As it departs the normal sounsd of the bayou return, and the rain begins to pick up further.