The creature was mulling over its own thoughts privately for a few moments. It made no sound but Toby could occasionally catch mutterings that it would think of casually and forget to shield. After a few moments, it seemed to sigh and languidly slid from its place in the tree. It made no attempt to come near Toby as it pondered. Finally it looked up at him again.

Do forgive the rudeness, my new friend, however, the information you so kindly provided means that I believe my little vacation here at the tides is likely to draw to an end soon. Alas, I suppose it was to happen eventually anyway.

Is this a bad thing, Toby thought to the creature. It certainly didn’t seem alarmed at this point. Perhaps this vacation it had been on had done some lovely things to help with allowing it to become so calm and relaxed. Toby very much wished that he could convince Will to be so calm.

You are too kind, my dear little friend, but I have been rather lazy here if I am being perfectly honest. I suppose I’ve been up to a few, minor things that some might consider work. Then again, when one is fostering a family, it hardly seems like work at all, really.

Family? Toby thought about this as he looked around with his other eyes. He didn’t see anyone else around but he knew these creatures did enjoy hiding in the darkness.

My dear, beautiful family. You’ll forgive me for not introducing you but some are quite young and very very new to the great skills of hunting. I’ve but a little time, it seems to teach them the ways of distinguishing prey but they learn so quickly. Pity, really. While I suppose we are all biased to such things, my great family is so very lovely. And as for your previous question, no. This is exactly what my wonderful brood needs to help my young ones grow and become even stronger. While I will miss the calm of the tides, I do have many mouths to feed and if what you think of is any indication, they will get their chance very soon.

Thinking of having mouths to feed, Toby thought again of the great bird in the distance. He wondered how much further it was going to be to get up the rock face to the nest.

Now that is impressive prey, indeed. I assume you mean to catch the Night Bird that has been terrorizing the tides as of late. Some of my brood have been tempted by it, even the older ones. The few who have tried to find a means to catch it have come back with tales of how it flies strange. It sees through glamour, so it is like you in that sense. That said, it can seemingly use some of its own powers and I am left to wonder if the bird is its only form. Alas, this revelation comes as a bit of a loss to me.

The bird has attacked your family, Toby thought to the creature. It nodded solemnly and sighed out loud. Toby turned one of his eyes towards the darker path and wondered what this bird would actually be. He’d heard of shapeshifters who could fly but they almost always held their forms in some regard. The eyes would stay human shaped or the feet wouldn’t fully transform or something. Perhaps this was not a bird at all.

I do believe it is a shapeshifter, my friend. But I also believe that is cannot stay another shape. The bird form is the only one it seems to settle into and I know from my surviving brood that it can only eat at its nest. This fiend has taken two of my beloved sires from me and I had, at one point, a mind to kill it myself in retaliation. That said, I do have many others and with the few that arrived back, starved and injured, it seemed that revenge was something that I simply could not afford myself. I do mourn my missing family and if you have taken it upon yourself to find such a horrid bird as your next meal, I am more than happy to provide a clue as to how you might succeed where I cannot. I am certain that those who call the tides home would be most appreciative as well. This place caters to us predatory creatures, but there is a limit. And from what I have seen, this creature is nothing if not greedy in its consumption.

Toby was terribly sorry to hear of the plight of this predator’s loss. And to think that this large bird had also been attacking the sea creatures and picking off their elders. Granted, the sea creatures had been contemplating picking off their elders themselves but that hardly seemed like his place to judge. Still, it seemed like this large bird was doing some damage and he should help. And it would feed him and Will for a very long time.

Well, that settles it. It would be for the greater good of all and a clever creature such as yourself may be able to get exactly where you need to be to help yourself to a rather nasty bird that needs to go to better use.

The creature then stood tall and looked up towards the darkened sky above. Toby knew that it was thinking but wasn’t sharing these thoughts now. While he waited for his predatory acquaintance to do whatever it was that he was planning to do, he looked up at the stars above them. They were quite pretty and they looked a little different than the ones he was used to seeing where he and Will were. They almost seemed to glow a different color. In fact, there were so many of them but it seemed like there was a spot where they were missing. Toby was startled when he realized it was moving and saw that it was coming closer. He stood up as the dark spot expanded and fluttered down to the ground into a tall form like the other creature. This was looked more like a woman and her eyes were fierce and bright. It was only when she came closer that Toby could see that she was missing an arm.

“You see that our little friend here is quite perceptive,” the creature said to its new companion. “Mirabella, my darling, tell us of your ordeal with the Night Bird. We have a small ally in our midst who wishes to eat it.”

“The Night Bird is much too heavy for such a small beast,” Mirabella said, her voice coarse and whispered. “It can lift even the biggest of sea creatures from the oceans. How might such a small creature fight something with such powerful wings?”

“Ah but he is more than what he seems, my darling sire,” the first creature said, gently. “Like us, he is something that only reveals what he can do when the time is right. And besides, my dear, did you not escape the great Bird through some rather clever means?”

“When the Night Bird attacked, it brought me and my twin to its great nest,” Mirabella said. “It ate my sister and when I tried to intervene, it severed my arm with its beak. When it reared back to devour me, I saw on its body a great number of spikes. I used my remaining hand and pulled it out with all my strength. The Bird was furious and called deep into the night. When its voice shook the nest, it revealed a small path beneath the piles of leaves and branches. Missing my arm, I was able to slip beneath the bones and the bedding piles of fur and leaves. It took the better part of a week to fight my way through the small tunnel, feeding only on the vermin that feasted on the leftover carrion of the Night Bird’s victims.”

“Such a small crevice should be nothing to trouble one such as yourself,” the first creature said, thinking.

Toby wasn’t worried about the crevice at all. If anything, it meant that getting to the next might be somewhat straightforward. He was, however, concerned about these spikes that Mirabella had been thinking of. If that was what he thought they were, this Night Bird wasn’t that old. If it was this destructive now, what would it do when it was a full adult?

“The small creature thinks so quietly,” Mirabella complained. “I could not hear properly what it was thinking.”

“Do not trouble yourself with such matters, my darling,” the first creature said, soothingly. “You’ve given us a great deal of help and for your troubles, I will let you know that there are some very naughty wild dogs that are making a home near the creek. You know how much trouble they can be for the people of the day. Why don’t you go take care of them, lest they get a hold of one of those delectable children before they’re fully grown?”

Excitedly, she seemed to fade from view and seconds later, she was no more but a dark mist, drifting off on the breeze that had suddenly switched directions. The creature waited until she was gone before thinking of anything.

She is lovely, as you can well see. She is also young and very much mourning her sister. It is best that she doesn’t know the Bird is a juvenile or she might become frightened again. Poor thing. In the interest of giving you the best chance for success, my small friend, I will bring you to the place where I found Mirabella emerge from the tunnels that she had escaped through. If there is such a way that I might find to help aid in your success, I shall. If this is a growing Bird, its hunger will likely only become more than the tides might be able to handle.

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