Guardians of Ga'Hoole 04 - The Siege
T he Brown Fish Owl looked up and blinked. The red comet had passed by for the last time nearly three months before. What could this glowing point in the sky be? It was hurtling toward the lake at an alarming speed. Great Glaux, it was screeching the most horrid, foulest oaths imaginable!
The Brown Fish Owl stepped farther out on the sycamore branch that extended over the lake. If this were not a Fish Owl, it would need rescuing. Most species of owls, save for Fish Owls and Eagle Owls, were completely helpless in the water. The Brown Fish Owl began to spread his wings and was ready to flap them quickly for a power takeoff. Within the sliver of a second before he heard the splash, he was off.
There was a sizzling sound as Kludd hit the water, and then there were wisps of steam. Simon, the Brown Fish Owl, had never seen anything like this—an owl glowing like a coal from a forest fire, plunging into the pond. Wasit a collier owl? But colliers would know better. Remarkable as it seemed, a collier owl could do its work without ever getting burned. The Brown Fish Owl grabbed the mysterious owl with his talons just in time. But his gizzard went cold as he saw the owl’s face—a mangled deformity of molten metal and feathers. What was this?
Well, better not worry now. At least it was alive, and as a pilgrim owl of the Glauxian Brothers of the Northern Kingdoms, Simon’s duty was not to question, nor convert, nor preach, but simply to help, give solace, peace, and love. This owl seemed sorely in need of all. And this was precisely why the brothers took seasons away from their retreat and study; to go out into the world and fulfill their sacred obligation. The Brother Superior often said, “To study too much in retreat can become an inexcusable indulgence. It behooves us to share what we have learned, to practice in administering to others what we have gathered from our experience with books.”
This was Pilgrim Simon’s first season of pilgrimming and this seemed to be his first big challenge. The burned owl would need tending. No doubt about it. Restoring fallen owlets to nests, making peace between warring factions of crows—the Glauxian Brothers were among the few owls who could speak sense to crows—all that wasnothing compared to this. It would take all of Simon’s medicinal and herbal knowledge to fix up this poor owl.
“Easy there, easy there, fellow,” Simon spoke in a low soothing voice as he helped the wounded owl into the hollow of the sycamore. “We’re going to fix you up just fine.” This was when Simon could have used a nest-maid snake or two. What a luxury they had been back at the retreat in the Northern Kingdoms. But here the pilgrims were charged to live simply. To avail themselves of the blind snakes that tended so many owls’ nests, keeping them free of vermin, was not deemed appropriate for the pilgrim owls who were dedicated to service. They had been instructed to live as sparely as possible. Simon would have to go out and dig the medicinal worms himself. Leeches were the best for healing these kinds of wounds, and being a Fish Owl, he was fairly adept at leech gathering.
As soon as Simon had Kludd arranged in the hollow on a soft bed made of down plucked from his own breast and a combination of mosses, he set out to gather the leeches. As he flew to a corner of the lake that was rich with leeches, he reflected on how this owl, which might be a Barn Owl, had fought when he had tried to preen him. This was very odd. He had never known an owl who had resisted being preened. This owl’s feathers were adirty, tangled mess. That he could have flown at all was amazing. Smooth flight depended on smooth feathers. On every flight feather there were tiny almost invisible hooks, or barbules, that locked together to produce an even surface over which the air could glide. This owl’s barbules had become unhooked in the worst way. They needed to be lined up and smoothed out again. But when Simon had first tried, the owl had pulled away. Odd, very odd.
Simon returned in a short while with a beakful of leeches and began placing them around the curled edges of the strange metal mask that had melted over most of the owl’s face. He didn’t dare try to remove it. Upon closer examination, Simon was sure that this was a Barn Owl, an exceptionally large one at that. With patches of soaked moss, he squeezed drops of water into the owl’s beak. Occasionally, the owl’s eyes
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