All week there had been excited talk about sightings of massive, aquiline stryx far larger than any tyto or corva wheeling on thermals. Dan had caught a glimpse of one in the distance two days prior on a mail run; massive and heavy as it dodged a wild pair of corva guarding their nestlings. The urge to follow it was strong but the need to finish her rounds and actually get paid was stronger, so they had to leave it be. Beau didn't seem all that thrilled to be in the same airspace as something so large even if it was almost a mile off. Fortunately for the two of them Dan had a plan and several years of falconry and stryx-riding under her belt. If these massive harpia -she'd heard the name dropped a dozen times on her rounds- were migrating they'd end up hungry. And hungry creatures of any size won't say no to a fresh, free meal. Especially if it was already dispatched. It took an hour or two to track down a choice mammoth; a fat, sub-adult cow who was fortunately lame. A well-aimed crossbow bolt or three soon solved their first problem and the next was dragging the carcass to a place the large stryx would feel comfortable landing in. Too small and those huge wings would get caught in trees and shrubs. Too large and it would be exposed and easier to find for other predators and wild stryx. A clearing at the foot of a mountain seemed to fit perfectly and with the help of her mount she hauled it to rest.
The third problem was making sure the harpia didn't simply have it's meal to-go. She was certain the beast was far too large for even a large harpia to loft but to make sure she staked it down as well as tied it to a tree stump. It would have to be something immense to wrench it free. By then it was mid-afternoon and the large, heavy stryx would soon be losing the aid of thermals. With her handy hunting knife she opened up the belly of the mammoth to make sure it didn't bloat and then it was just a waiting game to see if the smell would reach any prospective nares.
Beau served well as a small guard-stryx as he chased any wayward corva and tyto off the beast, occasionally nibbling much to the disagreement of his rider. Then it started to get dark. An hour before dusk and she was pretty certain nothing would turn up until it grew light, so their watch shifted to keeping bears or other midnight snackers off the bait between cat-naps by a small fire. Dawn brought the chorus of birds and a pregnant sky fit to burst as mist rolled down the forested hills and into their glen. Beau, not used to pulling all-nighters, roused his soft feathers and cocked his head at Aidan who sat under a temporary shelter. The rain pit-patted off the old leather tarp over her head as she sat with knees drawn up under her chin and eyes that were twelve hours tired. She sighed and rummaged in her pouch to toss a large, fat rat towards her stryx who almost inhaled it with glee, having gone through ten before that and three rabbits she'd snared. It was probably worth the effort as stryx, having high metabolisms, needed the energy to power them into the air and if things went badly... he was going to have to get them gone pretty quickly.
Not long after the rain stopped Beaus feathers slicked to his body and he hunkered down by his rider, pupils pinned. At first she thought a bear had spooked him but the answer was far, far larger than a bear. And so much meaner looking to boot. A massive shadow passed over the pair in their spartan camp. It paused above the clearing with the rhythmic WHOOMPH-WHOOMPH
of enormous wings filling the air before it dropped heavily, talons first, onto the bait. The dull sound of cracking ribs under flesh met her ears with a wince. Dan and Beau stayed down as the night-black stryx raised it's head and looked around quickly before shifting it's weight and spreading it's wings over the carcass to shield it from view. Then that huge head craned down between wickedly taloned feet to delve into the cut Dan had made and start pulling at the inside; removing rich, fatty flesh and the nutrient-rich organs inside. Even in the soft morning light the head of the stryx shimmered with a soft iridescence and tiny, bright spots that resembled stars falling down it's face and neck. Curious and eager to get a better look the small ride slipped from her hidden perch with a tether clipped to her belt and her heart lodged firmly in her throat. Beau didn't like this idea one bit and he tried to stop her from leaving by tugging at the belt, but was quietly swatted away with a hushed sound.
Dan crept around to the rocky outcrop behind the stryx to get a better vantage point whilst it picked and pulled and gulped. She'd have to make a move soon or it'd leave before it ate too much. Getting to her feet she was all but ready to spring atop the harpia when it's head snapped up. Her eyes followed the line of it's gaze and there was Beau, half terrified, staring down the massive stryx.
"You ridiculous, feathery idiot!" She hissed under her breath as he stood there, half-fluffed in an attempt to appear intimidating.
It didn't seem to be working. The large harpia's own feathers lifted and it made a series of very unhappy sounds at being challenged. It was now or never.
Aidan and my baby tyto stryx, Beau, plan to take on a harpia. And it doesn't quite go as expected because Beau doesn't want his little spotty ginger friend forever to end up being pooped out by the big angry space bird.