Owl Be There For You
an anthropomorphic owls fanfic
Notes: Written for makiyakinabe in the Trick or Treat 2015 exchange.
Owls were meant to be wise. That's what everyone told Barn Owl. And it was not wise to go hunting for ghosts.
But Barn Owl wore her heart on her face, and her heart was fearless.
She settled on the hay bale next to Tawny Owl, who shuffled sideways to make room. The old stone barn was full of owls: not just her own relatives, but everyone in the neighbourhood, taking shelter from the biting cold. The wind howled outside, a high whistling WOOOOO that resembled a moan.
"I just want to see what it looks like," Barn Owl said reasonably.
Tawny Owl blinked his narrow eyes at her. "Curiosity killed the cat."
"Hmm," Barn Owl said. Soft squawks came from the rafters above, as restless owlets engaged in a shoving match. Little flecks of down drifted past her beak, making her sneeze.
"If you get eaten by a ghost," Tawny Owl said, "don't expect me to come looking for you."
"I don't think ghosts eat owls." She wasn't entirely certain on this point though. Owls feared nothing in the skies, but she had never met a ghost. What did they eat, anyway?
Great Horned Owl harrumphed loudly, to make sure everyone heard him. "Stuff and nonsense! Everyone knows that ghosts only drink blood."
"Hmm," Barn Owl said. "I'll tell you when I find out!"
And she flew out the window.
It had begun to snow, but the moon was a bright disc in the midnight sky. Barn Owl soared over cropped fields and bare hedgerows, to the edge of the old forest. Something new lurked in its depths, the robins and thrushes said. Something that moved like a phantom and called like a demon. Birds liked to gossip, and the tale grew in the telling. It delighted Barn Owl.
She could glide soundlessly on soft wings, unobserved by her prey until she struck. But she sensed someone watching her. Someone or something.
"Hellooo," she called. "Whooo are yooou?"
Only the rustle of leaves answered her.
She pressed deeper into the forest, where the moonlight faded into shadows. But Barn Owl had eyes that could see in the dark. Sometimes she glimpsed a flash of white at the edge of her vision. But when she rotated her head to look, it was gone.
At last, she came to a clearing where a dozen hollow trees stood in a ring, their leafless trunks stark against the snow. This was the heart of the old forest, and surely the likely haunt of any ghost. Barn Owl peered into the nearest hollow tree.
A pale shadow swooped overhead, moving very fast.
Her heart hammered a thrilling beat. It wants to scare me away. But I am an owl, and I fear nothing in the skies.
She rose to meet the ghost, extending her own wings. They collided with surprising force, and tumbled into a snowbank together.
Barn Owl resurfaced, coughing. The first thing she saw was a pair of blinking yellow eyes amid the snow. Then she realised that those eyes sat in a round face like her own, but with white plumage rippled grey like a clouded sky.
"Oh!" she said. "You're not a ghost."
"What?" the other owl said. "Why would I be a ghost? I'm Snowy Owl. Why are you looking for me?"
"I was curious." Barn Owl introduced herself, and then noticed how cold and wet Snowy Owl looked. "Would you like to come home with me? There are rather a lot of us, but I'm sure we'll manage."
Snowy Owl hesitated. But maybe she was curious too. "All right. Thank you."
As soon as they returned, everyone gathered around in a big fluffy huddle. They were fascinated by their new visitor, and eager to know where she came from.
"A long way away. I followed the stars." Snowy Owl began to talk of the quest that had brought her here: dying promises and deadly foes and lost secrets. The owlets hung on her every word. It was, frankly, as good a story as ghosts.
Barn Owl settled next to Tawny Owl, who was a drowsy bundle of feathers.
"I hope that satisfies your curiosity," Tawny Owl grumbled.
"Hmm," Barn Owl said. "I still haven't met a ghost yet."
Outside, the wind went WOOOOO.
But inside, the owls cuddled together in sleepy warmth, and all was right with the world.
- fin -