"Who's a good boy? Yes you are!"
The bird on his shoulder fluttered his wings before resting on his forearm again. He looked around with his green speckled eyes before coming to rest on the man before him.
"Why, you look rather dashing today Albert. Now, be a good boy and go scout the surroundings for papa."
He took off in a flurry of wings and wind. Tall evergreen trees covered the skyline barely letting any starlight reach the ground. It was dense and untouched by humans. The creatures of the night prowled about freely claiming their prey. He was in their domain and the sooner he leaves the better it is for him. He was no beast tamer. These beasts were not the ones to be tamed anyway.
The forest was miles away from the city itself and was untouched by humans for the most parts. The forest was home to one of the biggest species of tigers and very few braved to venture into the forest itself. Large parties with enough weapons and artillery travelled to the forest to harvest timber. These were usually funded by the Ageas for their blinding mansions and furniture.
If you were a small party without any cavaliers to help, you are tiger mulch. Guaranteed.
He was perched on the top branch of a tree with relatively feeble branches. There was one tiny problem though. Tigers can climb trees. They are no way efficient climbers but if they wanted a taste of the rare human meat they would willingly climb trees. It bodes him well to stay on the feeble branches as they don't follow you up there due to the fear of the branch collapsing. He had climbing harnesses just in case one decides to follow him up.
He tuned in his senses and waited.
The forest started coming alive. Slowly.
He could see the rats and rabbits coming out of their burrows to search for food as his eyes narrowed and adjusted to the darkness. It was a moonless night and everything was shrouded in darkness. His ears could hear the chirping of the cicadas and the trickle of a faraway brook.
Good. Water source.
The smells of the night wafted to his nose. Everything smelled green. Tree sap and wet mud. The smell of wild mushrooms called him, making him salivate. Nocturnal flowers and everything the night had to offer was calling the animal in him out. He could almost taste the nectar from the flowers and fruits.
He loved the night.
It tickled his senses without overwhelming them. A beautiful calm settled in him and he got comfortable on the branch. Albert was late.
He was beautiful. He was a horned owl with a large body and beautiful tufts of fur on his head made them look like large ears. They moved when he was agitated and it was plain adorable.
He had found him hurt and bleeding. Tended to his injuries and waited for him to fly away. But he didn't. He had stayed under his quilt and had refused to ever leave him again. He had even scratched up his arm when he had tried to leave him in the woods. Albert was quiet and calm which was a stark contrast to his hyperactive self. He had piercing green eyes that sometimes resembles his own. And a soul that mirrored his own.
The soul of a hunter.
That's when he heard the signature wing flaps. Albert landed on the branch nearby and started walking around on the branch agitated. He only did this when something was wrong. Hunter trusted the bird's instincts over his own and Albert had never failed him. If he is agitated there is always a reason.
"Good boy." He gave a small piece of dried meat from his rucksack to the bird. "Good boy Albert. Now stay here."
He slowly climbed down the tree and walked with sure but slow steps. His eyes were designed for darkness. He didn't stumble or hesitate. He had an idea of where his prey was, but he still needed some sure signal. A scent would do.
He slowly took out his crossbow and loaded it with arrows before adjusting his rucksack in case he needed to run.
After 15 minutes of walking, he finally got a whiff of something resembling perfume. An expensive one.
"Damn Ageas." He cursed in his mind. If this could fly, he was screwed by a long shot. He never missed a shot unless it could fly. The air friction and gravity definitely screwed him over equally. The thick canopy of trees would definitely not help. If he was a skilled flyer, then he would know how to shield himself within the forest. The forest was always an ally to the birds. So if this guy had wings... It will be a long hunt.
He usually refused to hunt Ageas, their abilities sometimes were an extreme pain in the arse. In addition, if they were associated with one of the prominent families he had to deal with bureaucratic nonsense. He only did jobs for rich families that usually wanted their runaway, spoiled, rich kids back. They usually ran away to explore the 'normal world', as they put it. It made his darn blood boil but he did the job anyway as they paid a large sum. Usually at least.
There are the overly annoying ones that refused to pay properly. So he got a tiny scratch on the kid trying to capture him. So what?
His thoughts came to a screeching halt.
A lot of it.
The stench caused his nose to almost close up. He tuned out his senses and started running towards the smell.
Left? No... straight up. Follow the smell. Follow the blood. Always follow the blood.
His brain was on auto-drive as he started walking faster towards the smell. Running caused too much noise and it would attract a lot of attention. The last thing he needs is to be hunted by a tiger.
He pushed through the thick undergrowth of the forest in quick long steps. His boots were designed to not make any noise and helped him tread lightly and silently. He walked with sure steps and made it to a clearing before spotting the man lying face down with his arm bashed in.
The arm looked broken in two places and he could almost see the bone in the darkness. The entire left side of his body was covered in a thick red coat of blood. He tuned in his senses and waited. Waited to hear something or see something. If this was a trap, better safe than sorry.
Cicadas. Lots of them. He could not hear anything other than that.
He crouched low and checked the pulse before doing anything. He did not want to be blamed for the death of an Ageas. The aristocrats were not a forgiving bunch.
It did not look like a fall or any natural cause. The way the arm was bent looked like a deliberate attempt to break it. Should it be a natural fall, the leg should also be broken, but it was not that case. He could feel it now. The pulse. It was feeble but it was there. He needed to get help before his bounty bled out.
"Damn it. Just what I need, another questioning from the guards. Dammit all to hell!"
He took out the blanket he had in his rucksack before wrapping the laid form in it. The stench of blood was like a magnet to the animals, he needed to move this guy before he became a midnight snack. He tried to cover the arm as much as possible without jostling it and gently lifted the man over his shoulders. He whistled for Albert to follow him and took off the way he came following his trails.
-------------------------------To be continued...