Whenever shrill cries are heard overhead as grey and white figures playfully dart about the sky, delighting in their freedom, one stands beneath majestic raptors, known commonly as Myrddin Falcons. Said to be created by and beloved of Grothar, the falcons reside in the forests and mountains of south Santharia, feeding upon the songbirds found therein.
Picture description. One of the most majestic falcons of the southern Santharian mountains, the Myrddin. Image drawn by Bard Judith.
Silver wings, majestically riding the fierce gales, is how the Myrddin Falcon is
often described by those fortunate enough to have sighted one, and the
description is apt for the fierce little predator. Believed to be beloved of
known as "Father Sky" to the
Eyelians, the Myrddin Falcon proudly
displays his symbolic colours: silver, white, and grey, representing rain, snow,
and clouds, all aspects of his domain. Tiercels, as the males are called,
possess a snow white underbelly, the back, wings, and tail being of a light grey
hue. For the last palmspan
or so of both wings and tail, the feathers are coloured a bright silver, seeming
to glow in the radiant light of the Injèrá.
The head of the tiercel is often regarded as exceedingly beautiful, shimmering
shades of ithild in hue,
the exception being a thin line of silver which arcs above the eyes on either
side of the head.
In contrast to the males, the females are a dull grey, only having the white underbelly in common. Both genders exhibit eyes of burnished gold, a spark of cold intelligence lurking within, yet those of the tiercels are noticeably dull whereas those of the females shimmer with seemingly a thousand shades of gold. Perhaps the females have discovered the value of inner beauty and scoff at the males as they parade around in their bright plumage. Descending from the eyes of the females for about a nailsbreadth is a thick charcoal line, nearly dark enough to be considered black, giving the impression that these birds are eternally weeping over a sorrow unknown to those doomed to wander upon the ground, never experiencing the freedom of the air, as the line could be said to resemble a teardrop.
Both genders may be accounted as small for birds of prey, with the male noticeably a third smaller than the female. As adults, tiercels reach a length of two palmspans whereas females acquire another palmspan in length. Whether their greater size allows the females to carry more eggs or if they are larger simply to remind the males of their place is not known. Wingspans of the females may reach a breadth of two fores, those of the males being smaller at an average of six palmspans.
A characteristic shared by the genders is the beak, short with a sharp curve downward. The beginning of the beak is a deep gold, the beak darkening as it descends to the tip, which itself is black. Powerful and sharp, the beak is cruelly effective at ripping flesh and tearing into a creature’s innards. Descending from the belly, the tops of the gold legs are covered in snow white feathers whereas the bottom half is left bare, perhaps to aid in the cleansing of blood. Four toes are evident upon each foot, three pointing forward and one backward, sharp dark talons extending from each toe.
Undoubtedly the most remarkable of the bird’s abilities is the speed attainable
as it dives, the sharpness of their wings seeming to aid in the descent. One
moment the skies are calm with only the slightest breeze to disturb the eternal
wanderings of the clouds, yet in the next a bolt of silver is seen, if one were
fortunate enough to glimpse it, only seconds before the dying wail of the doomed
creature is heard as merciless talons strike. Impact alone is commonly enough to
douse the flame of life previously burning within the breast of the prey. Those
unfortunate enough to survive the impact suffer the fate of being consumed alive
before finally succumbing to death’s cold embrace.
Less remarkable only because of its commonality among birds of prey is the acute vision of the Myrddin Falcon. Such wonderful, golden eyes perceive the slightest movement at a distance up to several leagues away. Once sighted, the prey is all but doomed, unable to escape the gaze of the falcon or to evade it through agility, the falcon proving to be just as agile and in some cases much more so.
Territory. Found throughout forests of southern Santharia, even dwelling upon mountains in the more forested regions, the Myrddin Falcon resides wherever its preferred prey, namely smaller birds, may be found. The southernmost reaches of its territory being the northwest regions of the Nirmenith Mountains, where it may even be found within the city of Varcopas itself, both trained and wild. Farther north, the Myrddin Falcon dwells within forests such as the Sharadon, the Auturian, and the Zeiphyrian Woods. A few sightings have been reported in the Mithral Mountains, or even as far north as the Rimmerins Ring.
Habitat/Behaviour. Accounted as either lazy or clever depending upon one’s perspective, Myrddin Falcons make use of the nests of other birds, driving away the current residents if necessary. Tree hollows and cliff ledges may also be used for nesting, especially if the nest of another bird is not available to be appropriated. Little to no effort is exerted to improve upon a nest once obtained, the falcons seeming to prefer stealing the nests of others rather than improving the one they currently reside in.
Mating for life, the bond between partners is eternal, unbreakable even by death, as the surviving partner refuses to take a second mate, instead mourning the loss of her one true love for the remainder of her days. A Myrddin Falcon rarely lives long after the demise of her mate, as a sorrow seems to afflict her heart, until even flight is an effort for one depressed so. Not long after, the agony of living worsens, becoming nearly unbearable, until the falcon finally succumbs, taking a suicidal plunge, crying out once in joy as if joined by her lost mate before crashing into the ground below in a mass of feathers and broken bones. The entire lifespan of a falcon has been documented at a decade on average, though in captivity they have been known to live twice as long, whereas in the wild the demise of a mate may shorten their lives extensively.
Together for the majority of their days, a couple jealously guards their territory against other predators, including other falcons. In this regard, the Myrddin Falcon is known as either insane or foolishly brave, as they do not retreat from any foe and will even attack larger birds of prey such as the toran eagles whenever their territories happen to overlap. As a team the couple fights, one distracting the larger and therefore more clumsy bird as the other dives in unseen, sharp talons ripping flesh before the Falcon agilely maneuvers away. However, the falcon is not always so fortunate, instead being caught by the larger bird, pinned by its greater strength. For such a creature of absolute freedom to be trapped is a piteous sight, one that drives its mate into a frenzied rage, losing all regard for its own safety as it darts in, fighting with beak and talon, frantically attempting to free its mate.
Diet. As remarkable fliers themselves, the falcons have little trouble hunting their winged prey, namely songbirds. Particularly favoured by the raptors are aelirels, injohs, and varcosparrows. To watch as the silver winged falcons dive in and out of flocks of songbirds is a remarkable sight, truly the only time when they gladly share their territories with others. When desperate, the falcons have been known to feed upon carrion, balefully glaring at any stormcrows intent upon the same meal.
Mating. At the age of two years, a Myrddin Falcon is physically mature enough to mate, whether she is mature enough emotionally is another matter entirely. Late in winter, as Grothar yet covers the earth in snow, the mating season begins with older couples flying together to the location of their first mating as the newly mature falcons flock to cliff ledges and even tall buildings in larger cities, seeking mates among other young falcons.
Displays of aerial acrobatics, steep dives, and looping spirals are then put on by the tiercels, attempting to impress a mate with both their bright plumage and amazing agility. The females stake their claims upon their chosen mates in a rather peculiar fashion, or so it seems to those lacking wings. Upon choosing the mate that has impressed her, the female launches herself into the air, aiming her body directly at the male in question in what can only be described as a flying tackle, using her greater bulk to pin him against the ledge or roof. Lacking experience, the female may accidently be rougher than is necessary, resulting in a stunned tiercel. Once it is apparent that the male is alert, the female launches herself into the air once more, this time leading him in a long chase during which she uses her feminine wiles to evade him, not willing to submit to any male unworthy of her. Persistence inevitably rewards the stubborn tiercel as he catches his now life long mate.
The first mating can be rather clumsy and uncoordinated, as both genders lack the experience gained through time. However, the matings of older falcons are a remarkable sight to behold, the birds intertwined as one and even managing some measure of flight as they remain locked together, though a slowed descent would perhaps be the apter description. Separating only moments before crashing into the ground, the female flies toward her nest with the love struck male in tow, flying spirals around his mate as her shrill calls cheer him on.
A clutch typically consists of two to three eggs, light grey in colour and speckled with silver. After about a month, as spring begins, the eggs hatch into greyish balls of fluff, crying out almost immediately as they express their hunger to their parents. Either parent may hunt as the other guards the nest, ensuring that the chicks are kept fed and protected from predators. A month or two after hatching, typically well into spring, the chicks fledge, obtaining their adult feathers and beginning to resemble their parents, though lacking their size. Even after being capable of flight, the juveniles remain with their parents until midsummer, joining in on their hunts. As summer comes to an end, the young falcons are driven from the nest to seek nests of their own, and in time, mates.
Usages. Among the cities of south Santharia such as Varcopas and Marcogg, the Myrddin Falcon may be found as a hunting bird among the nobles as they practice the sport of falconry. A commoner may occasionally attempt to steal such falcon eggs, hoping to train a Myrddin to hunt, but this sport is not for the untrained, such an attempt usually results in the death of the bird. Nobles do however raid falcons’ nests, with intermediate success. Fledglings are preferred to eggs, but either are difficult to obtain as they will be guarded by at least one parent at all times. Juveniles are also taken, yet capturing adults is rarely practiced as they are exceedingly harder to train and to do so would remove a couple of breeding age from the wild population.
It is common practice for a net to be cast over the parents, entangling them within it yet leaving them unharmed as juveniles or fledglings are taken from the nest, taking great care not to injure them. Missing with the net has disastrous results, enraging the parents as they defend their nest, as netting them becomes nearly impossible without the element of surprise. The taking of wild falcons is absolutely necessary, as they do not breed in captivity. Once captured, a Myrddin Falcon is kept within a small enclosure, usually tethered, as her training begins. Not a matter to be taken lightly, training a Myrddin requires time and dedication and may result in death if the utmost care is not taken for her safety. When cared for properly, a bond may develop between falcon and falconer, not unlike that of two mates in the wild. However, such a bond is not of love but of respect and dependence upon the other.
A trained Myrddin Falcon is an undeniable symbol of one’s status within society, the common scene being a noble upon his majestic steed, surrounded by his hunting companions as the falcon flies overhead. To protect against the sharp talons, a thick leather glove is commonly worn, which the falcon may be tethered to when not in flight. The raptor is kept hooded when tethered to the glove in an attempt to keep her calm and to prevent her from trying to take off before the tether is removed. In particular, the Myrddin Falcon is popular among ladies of the court, preferring it to larger birds and delighting in the sight of its majestic plumage as the falcon soars through the air. The tiercels are especially favoured for their plumage and are far more common as hunting birds among nobles than the females. While a Myrddin Falcon may be trained, they are never tame and will revert to their wild natures if separated from their owners for an extended period of time. How one could even begin to imagine taming a force of nature, a creature as free and wild as the mightiest river, is not known and never understood.
Myth/Lore. "Conceived in whispering breezes and born of a thunderous storm", or so the saying goes regarding the creation of the Myrddin Falcon. One cannot question the divine origins of the majestic falcon, as Grothar’s very symbolic colours are painted upon its plumage. The ways of the Rainlord are mysterious at best. It is said that he created the Myrddin from the soft rain as it descended to the young world, its every drop a gentle caress, from the fluffy snow as it first fell to the then infantile mountains, covering them in an eternal blanket of security, and from chaotic bolts of lightning, setting the night ablaze with their wrath, all on a whim. Such a tale of its creation is widely believed by the commoners, yet the nobles either do not believe it or do not fear the wrath of a god. For whom would choose to enslave, for falconry is naught but glorified slavery, the creation of a god, one in which he delights?
Another tale exists concerning the creation of the majestic raptors, a tale of tragedy befalling two young lovers. Mere mortals were they, yet their love transcended their corporeal forms, existing on a spiritual level where they were eternally bound as one. Innocence imbued their very souls as they sauntered through forests and meadows, clad only in flesh, as shame was foreign to two so pure. From birth, all are destined to perish, sometimes tragically so, and the shadow of death fell upon their love as the man was pierced through the heart by an arrow intended for another, the very heart that had been pierced by love so many years ago. Eyes once alight with joy wept tears of uttermost sorrow as the maiden clutched the still form of her lover. The once clear skies darkened with clouds as shimmering rain descended. So profound was her sorrow, even the sometimes morose Grey King wept for her loss, drenching the corpse in the tears of the divine and mortal alike. Blessed as his tears undoubtedly were, they denied Queprur her claim upon the youth’s soul as the Rainlord separated the spirit from its former body, his power infusing it with the freedom of the wind. With a shrill cry, the youth made the nature of his new form known, spreading his silver wings as he ascended, circling high in the air yet never willing to fly far from his love. Tears yet streaked her cheeks as the maiden watched the antics of her lover, a broad smile upon her face. With a cry she stood, running with arms outspread as if she could ascend into the sky. By the third step, her form was changed as she joined her lover in the sky, never to be separated again. Teardrop markings descended from her radiant eyes, a reminder of her sorrow, of the agony of losing her beloved, and even now she remembers.