A story could be heard throughout the Aught…
Once upon a time, within the small island of Yolk, and the even smaller village, also aptly named Yolk, there lived a lazy stable boy named Lothleit Twillyon Twig. Lothleit desperately wanted to become a breeder and competitive racer one day, but was reluctant about his field chores. His father always told him that to chase a dream was all well and good, but to catch a dream, you must be willing to take out the bad habits, and put in the work necessary. Somehow, Lothleit always imagined that his dreams would come true one day if he wished hard enough, and remained a good person that stayed out of trouble… Barring getting caught taking a few naps in hay bails and wheelbarrows while everyone else in the village was hard at work. The small, shaggy brown haired boy who wore a straw hat oversaw livestock unfamiliar to us, at least in this world. The creatures he tended to were called alabaster kwael.
Unlike quail, which you may have heard of, alabaster kwael, were large bird-like monsters, the size of horses with wing spans the length of a small house! They proudly walked on four taloned legs, beautiful, flowing tail feathers, and had long ears like those of a hare. Their plumage was white as pearl, as their names indicated. Kwael, of all varieties (and to be sure, there were several varieties within this world, most of which were wingless), were known to be incredibly intelligent, and only worked alongside those they respected. They were prideful, stubborn beasts, but under the right master, they became life-long companions. They had a snake like tongue that could taste the air, which was a keener sense than even their unrivaled abilities to hear and see. Large, saucer eyes with pupils almost as large as the eye itself lent a charming look to them. Kwael hatchlings, or kwaelan in the language of the inhabitants of the mid-western continent of Midraea, were incredibly popular with the nobility of the mainland, however, they were typically abandoned or even killed once they had gotten bigger and more unruly than the owner first would have expected, which made the villagers of Yolk quite wary of newcomers in recent days.
These large animals were completely domesticated, and had resided in the small village of Yolk for hundreds of years. They had been the life line for the villagers of Yolk for time immemorial, supplying means of travel, egg production, feather production, pest-removal, windmill repairs and tilling of the land. Never, however, were they used for meat production. Slaughtering of kwael was severely looked down upon, and even punishable by way of exile, as the Yolkish believed that the kwael were a gift from a long forgotten God of the winds. Winged kwael had only recently become well known on the mainland.
The Yolkish themselves were known by many names, as most neighboring towns and villages enjoyed poking fun at the backwater people of the small island. Yolk Folk, Eggfaces, Bird-brains, just to name a few, perhaps because of their affinity towards the kwael and the worsening relations between the island and the mainland. Lothleit had been told by his father, Twillyon Felgran Twig, to stay far away from any travelers, as they may invoke the ire of the Western Wind upon the village. The Western Wind was a popular bed-time story told to children so that they may behave. This was true for many villages in the west, not only on the island, but the mainland as well. Lothleit wasn’t worried about the Western Wind, however. He was never one to step outside the boundaries of expectations. He had never even seen an outsider, let alone met one. His field and stable chores took up much of his life, and he was blissfully unconcerned about any and all surprises, until one day, things went terribly, terribly wrong.
“Fine skies today… Mornin’, Yolk.” Lothleit quietly said to himself, gazing out into the vast expanse of golden fields of wheat, ivory beaches and aquamarine waters. He was captivated by the cerulean heavens and dozens of massive Sky Stalls that were scattered around the horizon of the peaceful island. Seagulls lazily cried, drifting on the soft breeze that brushed the meadows below. Sky Stalls were windmills that also housed kwael on their many floors. He had heard from the village elder that Sky Stalls were once the ruins of ancient barracks. They had since been remodeled by the ancestors of the Yolkish, many years after the fabled War of the Living Gods to better suit the developing agricultural population.
The village of Yolk was hard at work, and had been since the break of dawn. Arriving late in the Sky Stall, Lothleit was behind schedule, and still had one more stall to complete. He was leaning on his pitchfork, caught in a reverie of one day flying a kwael. “Leit!” Yelled Ybb, the stable master of the seventh floor of the Sky Stall. The older the kwael was, the higher the floor they were situated, and the twentieth floor was the highest floor. “You’re far from finished with Wenbae’s stall. It’s almost lunch time. If you don’t want them to snack on you, I suggest a quicker pace.” Said the old stable master.
With that, Leit naturally quickened his pace, as he also noticed the largest and most aggressive kwael, Brooqon, tasting the air towards the boy from the stall over. “Y-yes sir!” he exclaimed, rushing to get the wheelbarrow he used to scoop out the soiled straw from Wenbae’s stall. “Hah, that’s a good lad! Nothin’ like a fire under a bottom to get the engine goin’, eh, Brooqon?” Yyb said, petting the kwael. Both Wenbae and Brooqon were bred specifically to be Windtouched kwael, which the Yolkish took great pride in racing against each other during the many festivals throughout the year, paying homage to the forgotten God of winds of old and the God of agriculture, Tol.
Leit exchanged glances with Wenbae, but Wenbae’s beak shot up into the air in a self-dignified manner. “Look, Wenbae… I don’t want any trouble today. I don’t get it, I like you, why don’t you like me?” Leit said as he began to pitchfork the used straw. Wenbae turned around and began to kick his bedding into Lothleit’s face. “Hey! Stop that!” “Leit! Quit playin’ with the livestock and do your job, boy!” Yyb shouted. Leit, covered in straw and feathers stared grudgingly at the kwael. He could have sworn that a smile crept onto the beast’s beak, even though he knew it was probably impossible.
Leit finished up his work, running to dump the refuse out of the side of the Sky Stall and packed in fresh straw from a pulley lift that he yanked on to distribute more. He put it into the wheelbarrow and ran to scatter the straw in Wenbae’s stall. Wenbae began to sniff at the fresh straw, and scratched at it. He pranced around the more Leit piled in the fresh straw. Kwael sure do like their straw and hay… Leit thought to himself as he finished the job, leaning on the stall’s door, a satisfied smile growing on his face. Despite his constant run-ins with Wenbae, he was his favourite kwael, being the smallest and most eager of the seventh floor. He had seen the most exciting air formations and displays from the kwael, and had nothing but admiration towards the proud beast.
“Alright… Time to feed them.” Leit said as he figured it was about lunchtime. “And myself… I sure grew an appetite. Hope pop’s got somethin’ good cooking at home.” He said, imagining a delicious omelette full of vegetables he had helped pick the day before from the communal field. He made his way to another pulley system that distributed fresh hay for the kwael to eat, as well as many crates full of scraps that the villagers would throw away to feed their beloved livestock, and carried them over to a large trough in the middle of the room. Kwael enjoyed eating with company, and were generally behaved under a good stable master. Despite living primarily off of vegetables and eggs, Yolkish typically preferred their food to be plain and without interesting spices. They ate a diet largely vegetarian, though enjoyed fish from time to time. Anything that didn’t grow on the island, the Yolkish had a strong mistrust towards.
Leit’s father once told him that he had drank the milk of a cernewael, a large goat-like beast with massive horns that twisted in many different shapes that inhabited the mainland. Leit felt repulsed whenever he thought of someone drinking the milk of another animal, but Twillyon recounted that it was the best thing he had ever tasted, that and cheese from the same animal on top of a Yolkish omelette. “Yuck…” The small boy said under his breath, thinking of the combination while feeding the kwael their slop. “Hm? I think it’s quite good!” Yyb said, with a fistfull of the same concoction that the kwael ate. “H-huh? You’re eatin’ kwael food?!” Leit said, much more disgusted than he was before. “Certainly! Oh, come now… It’s just fish and veggie scraps. If they can eat it, so can we! Been eatin’ the stuff for years. Here, have a taste.” He said, gesturing with the the horrible food. “I… I’m okay, old man. Anyways, I’m done my chores for the mornin’, see ya!” He said, running toward the exit, trying his best not to be sick. “Geez… How gullible can a kid get?” Yyb said with a grin, throwing the food back into the feeding trough where the kwael were eating. Wenbae looked back to Leit with his long ears perked up, but soon resumed eating.
On the way home in the bright summer sun, Lothleit saw something peeking over the wheat field. A scarecrow? Here? He thought to himself. It was black, scrawny and made a noise unlike anything Leit had ever heard before. It was a bit like annoyed grunting, and perhaps the sound of metal chains rattling against each other. He saw it spring up quickly several times, but he couldn’t quite get a good look at it. Out of vision, it stopped moving for several long seconds. Leit then heard an “Oof!”, following a thud. “What… Was that?” He said out loud, now genuinely curious. Forgetting all about his lunch, he moved off the dirt road and cautiously made his way through the golden field towards the mysterious figure…