Your name is Jade and you and your friends have been walking through the forest for quite some time now. You have been on the move ever since the shield surrounding the laboratory was blown up and have not yet dared to rest. You're tired, your friends are tired, but you keep marching on.
Dave and Dirk walk behind you while Rose brings up the rear. You're all silent as you take in all there is to see. The trees in this forest are so strange; bright blue trunks with pink leaves. Or are all trees these colors? You wouldn't know.
You cast a glance back on your friends. Rose walks with her head and tail high and confident. Dirk and Dave walk with their wings outstretched. It probably feels good to actually be able to spread them after being confined for most of their lives.
You begin to wonder why they follow you. Ever turn you make, they copy. Every pace you set, they match. For the first few hours you hadn't even realized you were the leader, but now it seems like you were silently and unanimously chosen to guide them.
But you're not too entirely sure you're capable of the responsibility of leading your friends. There's one unspoken question that's on everyone's mind, one you can't deny and one that couldn't be avoided; what do you do now? You need to make a plan of action, that much is sure, but you have no idea where to start.
Your stomach decides for you. You practically startle yourself when it growls and you give your friends and apologetic smile.
"Sorry, it's been a while since I last ate," you explain.
"It's been a while for all of us," Dirk adds to ease the awkwardness. "Now that we're on our own though, how are we going to get food?"
"I guess we could hunt and kill the forest animals," Dave suggests.
"That would seem like the logical course of action, wouldn't it?" says Rose. "But I'm afraid that option won't be possible."
"Why not?" asks Dave.
"Haven't you noticed?" Rose inquires.
"Noticed what?" Dave responds, becoming frustrated at her allusive statements.
"The silence," Rose drops her voice to a whisper. "I don't know how keen avian or canine ears are, but surely you've noticed the lack of bird calls or scurrying of critters. There's no life in this forest. I can't hear a single thing. Not even insects."
You all stop and listen for a moment. Rose is right. There is no sound what so ever. Not even a wisp of wind rustling the leaves.
"But… how is that even possible?" Dirk speaks up. He kneels down and begins to dig at the earth. "Dirt is supposed to be filled with bugs and insect life. I'll show you."
The white winged avian scoops up a large mound of soil between his palms and slowly lets it fall through his talons. Not a single life form is found in his hands.
"Humans," you cut in. "All animal life on Alternia are Lusii, remember? But because humans and Lusii don't get along, humans had to force all living things out of the land they claimed so they would be safe from them. Even something as small as the insects. That's why there's no life here."
"Then I guess the only way to find food is to scavenge for nuts, roots, and berries," Dave says.
"We could, but we don't know if the flora here is safe to ingest," Rose points out. "I know you may not approve of this suggestion, but I propose that we seek out civilization. Where there are people, there must be food. It's our safest bet."
Dirk and Dave give Rose disapproving glances before turning to you. It takes you a moment for you to realize their waiting for your jurisdiction.
"Oh, well, Rose's idea does seem like the most reasonable choice of the few we have." You can tell Dirk and Dave are displeased with this decision. "Listen; let's just follow this plan for now. If something better comes along, we'll switch tactics, okay?" The begrudgingly agree and you continue on your way. You hope you know what you're doing as you retake the lead.
"So how are we supposed to find civilization?" Dave asks after you walk on for a while.
"Where there are people there will be activity, and where there is activity there will be noise," Rose explains. "So we just have to listen and follow our ears."
Everyone strains their ears, searching for the faintest sound. You hear nothing.
"We must be too far away to pick up any noise," You try to encourage. "Let's keep walking."
You walk on in silence, everyone focusing for the faintest noise. After an hour or so of no progress, Dave speaks up again.
"How do we even know we're going the right way? For all we know we could be heading away from any sign of other people."
He had a good point.
"Um, well," you falter, not knowing how to respond.
"I know!" Dirk speaks up. "If we can manage to get up high, we may be able to see evidence of humans." Immediately turning to the nearest tree, Dirk grips the blue bark of the trunk and begins to climb. You tensely watch from the ground as he scales higher and higher. Even the lowest branches are quite a ways up and you mentally will him not to fall.
As soon as he hits the branches his ascension improves. He jumps nimbly from limb to limb, flapping his wings for an extra boost. Soon he is nothing but a small white speck in the air.
"Do you see anything?" Dave shouts up to his brother. There's a pause then a fain reply.
"I think I see smoke!" Dirk shouts back down. "It's coming from the south east direction. It's barely visible, but definitely there!" Dirk begins to descend, awkwardly feeling his way back down.
"Careful!" You instinctively say. It looks as if all is going well at first. Dirk comes down slow, but steady. It's only when he clears the last branch does he slip.
The three of you on the ground gasp in horror as he free falls. But then Dirk surprises you all by flipping himself over and spreading his wings. He begins to flap madly and successfully manages to slow his descent. He still hits the ground hard and flat on his stomach at the base of the tree. All three of you rush to him.
"Bro, you okay?" Dave asks franticly.
Dirk sharply inhales. "Just got… the wind knocked out of me. That's all," he wheezes.
"Do you hurt anywhere," you ask sternly. "Does anything feel broken or out of place?"
"I'm fine," The white winged hybrid insists as he picks himself up and brushes himself off. "But, damn. That felt incredible. I got to do it again."
"No," you order. "I don't want you risking injury. Besides, this isn't the time. Don't you want to find people so we can find food?"
"You don't understand, Jade," Dirk looks at you with pleading eyes. "For a minute there it almost felt like I was legitimately flying."
"Listen, we'll compromise. Since you saw the smoke, you point us in the direction we need to go. If you need to check our course, you can climb the trees again," Dirk readily agrees. "But sparingly. We can't be checking the direction every five minutes, okay?"
Dirk nods. You let him take the lead and sigh heavily. Finally. It's a relief to not be in charge of the fate of your friends. At least for now.