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The savanna was steeped in dusk, reds and golds given way to blue shadows stretched purple where the last of the sunset still touched them.

The crow that flitted over them almost fit into this falling dark, bar its ominously glowing red eyes; and all of this would have been very poetic if it weren't swearing profusely (if quietly) at each tree it reached. These acacias were few and far between, and Matchsticks--exploring the caldera's lands with fascinated eagerness--was both irritated and unnerved about the lack of cover, here.

He was rather regretting having come this far into this too-open land; it was nothing like the thick stands of pines in the region of his hatching.

The crow landed on the higher crown of this last tree, carefully stepping between the thorns as he turned his head this way and that to regard this foreign landscape. Flat grasslands, as far as the encroaching night allowed him to see. Every now and then, some shadow moved ever-so-slightly, but not enough to really pick out: a snake here, or a lion, maybe, there. He wasn't sure. He didn't like it.

"WHERE are all the TREES?!" he screeched, at last, an obvious beacon to any other sentient beings in even a long range around his carrying voice.


The svelte silhouette of a wispy black serval was prowling searchingly about the grassy expanse of blandly-colored land, neat ebony paws drawing her steadily onward as she hunkered down to keep from being seen. A gentle gale whispered softly throughout the savannah, the toned-down rays of sunlight spilling like honey down upon the terrain, and it was these very winds that gave Ciara a reason to constrict her eyes in an attempt to scan her availability of surroundings. A perfect ear pricked upward as - rather assudenly - a raucous caw carried across the hilltop on which the long-legged cat was lurking upon.

"The hell-?" Ciara couldn't help but let the words evade her neat charcoal lips as she jerked her slim head upward, chin tilting about with the endeavor of trying to detect the source of the screech that had turned out to keep her target at bay.


Another voice--and a sentient one at that; none of this bleating, squeaking stuff the simple animals did.

Matchsticks leapt up, with a flap of wings, toward a branch closer to this voice.

"I SAID, WHERE ARE THE TREES?!" he cawed, the echoes carrying over the grassland. Then he paused. The cat was a cat, sleek and dark and even his glowing eyes couldn't find it anywhere below. He could see... grass, some rocks, a few dead and scattered branches.

"Wait. WAIT!" he cried, now alarmed, lifting up to fly a slow and wary circle a little higher up. "WHO'S TALKING?!"

Was it... a ghost?! He didn't know but this was SCARY. Sticks and grass didn't talk-!


Her eyes proceeded to dart like blazes of lightning about the pinkish sky, neat foretoes shuffling rather apprehensively as she stiffened upward. At last, she was able to manage the trick of distinguishing the source of that obnoxiously emitted screeching: a glossily feathered crow - most likely one of the carrion subspecies - was driving itself aimlessly throughout the atmosphere, those squawks of sheer discordance continuing to make themselves clear among the grasslands. Ah, good god, what a moron.

"YOU!" the serval shrieked, a low growl soon following after the infuriated word from deep within her pharynx. Her eyes creased, this time a sign of confusion rather than against the softened zephyr. "Now, what in the name of Satan's haven do you think you're doing, flapping obnoxiously around like an absolute idiot?"


He almost fell out of the sky when one of the shadows started yelling at him, and then he was flapping higher in alarm.

"AHHH. -What in the name of WHAT? What's a Satan?" The word, for a moment, brought the briefest touch of knowledge--some sort of demonic figure, he thought, but he quickly discarded it as 'not cool enough' for him to bother with. He returned back to the highest point on the tree--but something about Ciara's body haunted him as dangerous, striking every instinct with a warning. He'd seen bobcats in the north, and this thing was similar, and they ate birds, so he'd stay high. High, and tense.

"NEVER MIND I DON'T CARE. My name is MATCHSTICKS. I don't know you; who are you? I'm flying--I WAS flying--'cause I'm a bird, and we FLY. Are you jealous?!" he demanded, and then broke into a few more amused caws. "And I'm not an idiot. I'm friends with a PHILOSOPHER. Of electricity!" he added, puffing out his feathers proudly.

Still, the gregarious-natured bird felt no real urge to leave. This was a stranger, yes, and it was already mean but he could take that and anyway, the empty savanna without anyone in it was both boring and, well, lonely.


Now, in all rightful fairness, Ciara hadn't necessarily known this dim-witted crow of carrion for, well... Er, the lengthiest of seconds, but already she was beginning to receive the impression of sheer idiocy. And her opinion of what was perhaps her own flaw - arrogance - didn't seem to differ much as this inadequate pest proceeded to break into another rasping trance of pointless babbling. Damn, just how narrow-minded could one possibly become?

The slickly-furred serval had to practically squinch together her lips to prevent herself from muttering aloud these impudent thoughts, although she did nevertheless permit out some words:

"Pftt. I wouldn't speak so proudly if I were you: I could dispatch such a moronic thing like you with just one swipe of my polished claws." Ciara couldn't help but allow herself a scoff of amusement as she continued threateningly on. "And I'm about a thread away from doing so - I'm hungry. Oh, yes, real starving, and a nice, plump bird such as yourself sounds awfully nice at the moment, wouldn't you think?"


Matchsticks listened, eyes narrowing a tad, from the top of his acacia tree. Now, it should be noted that while the tree wasn't as big as an acacia could get, it was still pretty tall--some forty or fifty feet in the air. But it should also be noted that Matchsticks had absolutely no idea how high cats could jump.

It couldn't jump this high.

...Could it?

Can it CLIMB real fast, though!?
With a caw he launched skyward, just in case, going back to flapping about some sixty feet up, shouting down now.

"THAT'S THE ANSWER TO WHY I'M FLYING." It--it can't fly, right? he thought, and then croaked and lifted a little higher. He was seriously considering just departing, while he still had feathers and, well, meat, and life and all that. Wait--had she called him plump-?

"DID YOU CALL ME FAT?!" Matchsticks demanded. -Was he fat? Was that even a bad thing? He wasn't sure, but he launched into another series of very loud caws anyway, as if to punish Ciala's ears where he couldn't actually attack her. Or go anywhere near her. He might have been an idiot, but he wasn't stupid. ...Or something along those lines.

Curiosity gripped him, though, as he considered everything the cat had said, and banking in another slow circle he shouted down again. "Why do you polish your claws-?" he asked, baffled; he just had to know.


A collection of brusquely gruesome thoughts had begun to surface among Ciara's relatively screwed-up mind as the pest carried on with his frenzied cawing. Intelligent he declared himself to be, but the alternative of the glossy serval's imagination insisted otherwise: his feathered cadaver dangling limply from her bloodied jaws, gouts of the red liquid spilling like a waterfall from the perfect puncture in his throat. Ah, mmm. Yes. Ciara flexed her claws mid-thought, tongue ravishing her jaws. What she had said about her hunger had not been a lie - her stomach seemingly whined every other passing second, the buds of her tongue wettening at the idea of munching into that bird whom flew only a mere few meters out of her reach. Gahhh, how Ciara wished she could sink her fangs into his...

But her daydreaming session was soon interrupted as this so-called "Matchsticks" continued on. A question about her claws? Oh, why she would have expected for the answer to appear quite obvious. But, eh, what could she expect with this dim-wit.

"I sharpen my claws simply as an act of survival, just as you fly idiotically away from predators. Simple as that, wouldn't you say?"


A pause, as the bird processed this, in his constant circling flight.

"POLISHING ISN'T THE SAME AS SHARPENING," was what he decided on yelling, at last. Had he known the extent of the serval's thoughts he'd have undoubtedly flown the coop for real, but as it was Matchsticks was already bored of circling. He started looking around for a place to depart to or a higher spot to land.

"SOOOO, YOU EAT MEAT?" It was a questioning tone; some of the Chosen he'd met did, some didn't. It seemed to stay the same before and after they were Chosen, too. "I EAT EVERYTHING," he then went on. "There's all KINDS of stuff in this place, I passed like four bodies on the way over here" (it had been one, and half a one at that, and old) "and there's fruit and all that and worms and fish and bugs in the grass-lands. Oh, and the Stone Forest is FULL of stuff," he added, cheerfully. "You been there, yet!?"


Pfft. What a stupid bunch of questions: of course she ate meat - she was a legitimate serval for god's sake. What, did that stupid little idiot with wings expect for Ciara to eat grass or something? Because in all honesty the sleek-furred cat couldn't imagine herself being all that surprised if that did end up being his inference.

Oh, and to the casual remark of having found three dead carcasses... Yeah, Ciara highly doubted that. Pfft.

Stretching her jaws in a stifled yawn, Ciara allowed herself a devilish smirk. "I eat meat, yes," she answered rather obviously. "Now - just out of curiousity - where is this so-called 'Stone Forest' you speak of, eh?"

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