Final Flight

Hunting Darkness: Greywing’s assault on the ship in the Bay of Fangs, as described in From the Bay of Fangs episode Final Flight.

Join Brother Gilbert as he is selected by the legendary Speaker Margaret for the first official Hunt against Greywing, a flying Beast terrorising Fenblith. Written in 5 A.S.




The beginning is the Beast.


So much seems to have changed since then, but it appeared over Fenblith mere days ago, circling above the Bay of Fangs as if it had always been there. It was a pallid, batlike thing, almost imperceptible against the white cliffs flanking the water or the light grey clouds blanketing the sky.


We named it Greywing.


Despite its camouflage, it was clear that it was large. We had seen as much when it made swoops past the cliffs’ upper edges, but it became painfully apparent when a ship attempted to come into harbour and was assailed. Greywing dove down the cliffside, landing bodily on the vessel. Finally, we could estimate its size, and were shocked to find it probably some three yards from head to rump, with a wingspan twice that size.


Of course, we did not leave the vessel to its doom. Speaker Margaret immediately mounted a rescue party, instructing us to take what firearms and blades we had on hand and climb into any vessel that could get us to the ship in need. Sadly, when we were halfway, Greywing arose once more, flying back towards the cliffside and leaving a carnage of splintered wood, crushed supplies, and torn bodies behind. I saw it then, in the stoically angry expression on her face: Speaker Margaret intended to Hunt the Beast.


It was swiftly decided that she herself would lead the mission to kill Greywing. Moreover, we would use this occasion as an opportunity for our very first true Hunt. This meant that we would send in a team of only four Hunters to accompany Speaker Margaret in ending the threat. Thus, we would prove that we were capable of eradicating the Beasts in small, effective teams, showing that the Hunters of Fenblith can become Humanity’s salvation.


Speaker Margaret approached me as soon as the decision was made, telling me to accompany her up the cliffs for reconnaissance. As we mounted the hillside towards the cliffs, both carrying a blunderbuss with Starsteel shot and a Starsteel sabre, I asked Speaker Margaret why she had chosen me to accompany her. She managed to both humble and flatter me with her response, saying that although I was exceptional neither with firearms nor blade and no great example of agility or strength, I was very perceptive. And what she needed now was a second pair of eyes, both to ensure we knew as much as possible before we formulated our plan to slay this Beast and to ensure it would not catch us unaware while we studied its lair. I’ll confess that her calling it ‘our’ plan filled me with pride, and I eagerly awaited an opportunity to prove myself.


We crested the hill, looking out over the calm sea and – vaguely in the distance – the mainland of the continent. No sign of Greywing, we set to scoping out the terrain. The hilltop was a gently sloping field of grass, offering little in the way of cover or natural ambush sites. A few carcasses, mainly deer, littered the ground, the flesh ripped free in hungry chunks. I felt my gorge rise at the thought of Greywing swallowing down those heaps of flesh and quickly scanned the sky to ensure it wasn’t approaching.


It was.


With a vicious arc, it swept up and over the cliff, bearing down on us as it let out a horrid screech. With movements drilled to perfection, Speaker Margaret turned, unslung her blunderbuss, brought it to her shoulder, took aim, and let the flintlock spring shut. The gun cracked, but as it did so Greywing veered aside, the hail of Starsteel shot flying harmlessly past. Speaker Margaret told me to start running and to cover her while she reloaded. I obeyed, running downhill some half a dozen strides before taking aim and shooting. Again, Greywing veered away from the gunfire, but it kept it from approaching. Speaker Margaret, for her part, reloaded her gun as she ran past me, turning and firing at the Beast while I retreated and did the same. Thus, we slowly descended the hill, my ears ringing with the blunderbusses’ fire while Greywing managed to remain unscathed. Finally, the Beast ceased its pursuit, returning to the top of the hill and diving beyond it.


As we walked back to Fenblith, we discussed what had happened. I observed that Greywing’s movements had not been random: it somehow knew both that it should dodge our fire and how to do it. Speaker Margaret cursed the Dark Ones with words I had never expected a Speaker to utter and asked me my thoughts on how to kill this Beast. I remarked that an ambush would be impossible, as there was no cover atop the cliffs, but that we could succeed with a sufficient number of Hunters firing in concert. Speaker Margaret rejected the notion, reminding me that the goal of this Hunt was not just to slay Greywing but to test the ability of a single team of five Hunters. I told her that the only way I saw for only five Hunters to slay this Beast was to force it to the ground. She acknowledged that she had come to the same conclusion, ending the conversation with a pensive stare at the workshops where our weapons are made.


We were greeted at Fenblith’s outer wall by some two dozen Hunters in front of a mess of onlookers, each of them carrying loaded firearms and sharpened blades. They explained that they had been alarmed by the gunfire, but Speaker Margaret briskly ordered them away. As we continued through the food forests towards the inner wall, she ordered me to collect Brother Horatio, Brother Lionel, and Sister Edna and await her at headquarters. I asked where she was going, and she said she was visiting the Smithers just within the wall.


Intrigued, I immediately went to find my Siblings and brought them to the instruction room. Soon enough, Speaker Margaret arrived and told us with determined expression that we had been selected based on skills necessary to execute the plan she and I had formed, although I feel she gave me far more credit than I deserved.


Pragmatic as ever, Edna asked which skills exactly had seen her selected. Speaker Margaret gave a satisfied smile and picked up a piece of chalk. In quick, sure lines she sketched out the cliffs on the large piece of slate hung on the wall. She explained what had happened with Greywing, and how she intended to slay it. With simple symbols, she imagined our positions, our movements, and our attacks. Horatio, a savant with a weighted net, would stand ready to pounce as soon as Greywing landed in order to restrict its wings. Lionel, capable of tying knots faster and tighter than any I’ve met, would use a heavy crossbow to shoot bolts tethered with rope into the Beast, staking the ropes into the hilltop to prevent it from fleeing. Edna, fastest reloader among the Hunters of Fenblith, would then overwhelm Greywing with her blunderbuss. I myself would hang back, my ability to maintain an overview of an entire fight trusted to direct the action. Speaker Margaret herself, she explained, would be unable to do so, as she would be Greywing’s bait.


Naturally, we protested, but Speaker Margaret would have none of it. She told us that she expected every single Master Hunter whose training she had overseen to stride into danger at the head of their Hunters, so how could she herself do anything less? In fact, the workshops were right now forging her a new weapon that would allow her to fend off this Beast while we did what we had to. She would brook no argument, and with that the matter was closed.


Thus, on the morning of the next day, we found ourselves atop the hill once more. I was holding back, standing slightly downhill. Edna, blunderbuss at the ready, was a little ahead of me, ready for her cue. In front of her stood Lionel, a heavy crossbow in his arms and coils of rope at his feet. The tips of his bolts were regular steel, so that Greywing’s wound might close over them, trapping it with the very preternatural healing ability that made it so hard to kill. Horatio stood to the side, the largest net we had firmly in his hand. And to the fore…


Speaker Margaret was resplendent in glinting steel, her body, arms, and legs protected by slanting armour, a coned helmet encapsulating her head. In her hand she held the grip of a mighty swordstaff, its butt planted firmly in the ground. It was crowned with a tip the size of a sword, glittering as if entire constellations had been captured by the Smithers who had worked on it through the night. Beyond a doubt, it was the purest Starsteel I have ever seen in a weapon, its edge capable of ending even the fiercest of Beasts.


And it would have to.


With a screech even more blood-curdling than the one before, Greywing soared up and over the cliff. As it spread out its wings, the light of the morning sun caught behind their membranes, revealing a web of veins flowing with dark ichor. It swooped, crashing down toward Speaker Margaret, who sank into a ready stance, her swordstaff grasped in two hands and braced against the earth with its tip aimed at the diving Beast. Using my slide whistle, I signalled Horatio to stand ready. My stomach lurched as Greywing approached Speaker Margaret, my lungs screaming for me to blow the sign to hurl the net, but I waited for it to twist aside, waited, waited…


And then it made its move.


Curling around Speaker Margaret, it arced away from Horatio, coming in for the attack from Speaker Margaret’s unprotected flank. She had foreseen it would do so, however, and had prepared us accordingly. I whistled the signal for the counter-attack we had drilled all afternoon. Speaker Margaret whirled, bringing herself low to the ground as Greywing came in. Horatio sprang forward, hurling his net before rolling aside. With mesmerising grace the net unfurled above Speaker Margaret’s crouching form and slammed into the diving Beast. It was wrapped in weighted netting, screeching as it soared over Speaker Margaret and crashed heavily to the ground.


With another blow of the whistle the signal was given for stage two, and Lionel shot his first bolt into Greywing, ramming his stake into the ground and tying a one-handed knot while already placing his foot to reload his crossbow. Speaker Margaret, meanwhile, lunged toward the Beast, hacking at a wing whose membrane protruded from the netting. It snarled and writhed, screeching as the Starsteel tore its wing to shreds. Lionel repositioned and loosed a second bolt, tying the knot as expertly as before. I signalled Edna to get ready and she rushed uphill as Speaker Margaret moved in to deliver merciless thrusts at any part of Greywing she deemed to be moving too freely. Spitting with rage, it heaved its body towards her, claws reaching for her through the netting. The move was surprisingly wild, the Beast clearly ignoring the sting of the bolts anchoring it to the earth, but the attack mercifully scraped off the Speaker’s armour. Lionel loosed his third bolt, once again ramming the stake into the ground and tying the knot so that Greywing was stuck.


Satisfied, I signalled for Speaker Margaret to retreat and Edna to take aim. The Speaker hurled herself away in long backwards steps and Edna let her blunderbuss rip. Greywing screeched as the Starsteel hailed into it, ichor flying as it twisted. With unmatched efficiency, Edna loaded another shot and fired. The Beast’s eyes bulged as it pulled, heaved, rolled…


And then the netting broke.


I’m not sure what happened. Perhaps Speaker Margaret had damaged the net with her thrusting, perhaps Edna’s fire had torn it, perhaps Greywing was just that strong, or perhaps the net had been faulty, but suddenly the Beast was free. With clear intent, it slashed its claws through the ropes still holding it back and – streaming with ichor and covered in torn netting – it began to run towards the cliff. I signalled a retreat, believing the Hunt to be a failure.


But Speaker Margaret clearly thought differently.


Despite being clad in armour, she sprinted after Greywing with a speed I could not have matched on my best day. The Beast was fast, but it was tired, and injured, and slowly the Speaker gained ground. I signalled for the others to follow, to help our leader, but it was clear we could never reach her in time.


With a heroic leap, Speaker Margaret hurled herself atop Greywing, plunging her swordstaff through its back. It screeched once more, crashing to the ground, its body spasming into lifelessness… and sliding off the cliff.


I yelped involuntarily as I rushed forward, but by the time I got to the cliff and looked over its edge, the waves had already swallowed both the Speaker and the Beast.


The Beast was dead.


And so was the first and best of us.


Hunting Darkness: Greywing, as described in From the Bay of Fangs episode Final Flight.