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Heritor Owl


There is no point in hiding the fact that I was thrilled to make my bi-annual visit to check in on Oswald, the Heritor Owl. This year marks the 80th anniversary of the first discovery of the Heritor Owl and the beginning of our long friendship with this beautiful, mysterious, and quite deadly bird.

Oswald was first discovered by Llewellyn, who at the time was not involved at all with the OES. He was simply a man seeking a purpose and found it at the base of the Yenith Peaks. Like many people who chase the legend of Eil'Luna, the Oracle, his courage ran dry once he laid eyes on the trek before him. The mountain range is vast and treacherous, and the highest peak where Eil'Luna is rumoured to live is in the very middle miles and miles away, not even visible until you spend days making your way further into the range.

Disheartened and defeated, he set up a crude camp by the Eskoya River and begged the Ancestors for a sign. It came to him in the dead of night when he was awakened by the sudden screech of an animal. Startled, he looked across the river to find tiny glowing red orbs piercing through the night. This was the beginning of his lifelong obsession, and friendship, with Oswald, the Heritor Owl.

It took three years for Llewellyn to actually make visual contact with Oswald past those glowing red eyes seen from afar. Part of the problem was that Llewellyn had very little to go off of in hopes of tracking the animal besides a general idea of where it liked to hunt. Heritor Owls are silent animals. And when I say silent, I mean silent. To this day, nobody has ever heard them hoot, hiss, or caw. Even their wings move soundlessly as they cut through the air. Unless they want to be seen, you won't even catch a glimpse of them outside of those red eyes.

That isn't to say that Llewellyn did not get some useful research done before their fateful first meeting. For one, he accurately ascertained the Heritor Owl's preferred hunting strategy - setting traps. The Heritor Owl will injure, but not kill, a small rodent or bird and place it near the den of a larger mammal. Upon hearing the cries of the injured animal, the larger mammal, often otters, badgers, and even raccoons, will come out and attempt to feast on the easy meal. This is when the Heritor Owl will reveal their unnerving red eyes and swoop down and claw and bite the neck of the larger animal, rendering it dead and safe for the rest of it's brood to swoop down and feast.

He also learned that the Heritor Owl is very territorial. It will hunt only within a 1000 acre (4 square km) radius at most. They also migrate every winter further east, following the Eskoya River from the base of the Yenith Peaks over to the Mynydd Mountains and set up another 1000 acre (4 square km) hunting radius.

Now Llewellyn didn't get to see his hunting hypothesis in action for many years. As stated earlier, he only got to see the Heritor Owl briefly in person exactly three years after their first encounter. He always said it was the greatest moment in his life. It was near the end of the twilight hour, with darkness about to take over the sky, when the owl suddenly appeared on a nearby stump and startled Llewellyn so badly he fell right over. At first he thought it was just an owl he'd simply never seen before, but then the majestic bird looked to him and pulled back his third eyelids, revealing that he was not black-eyed, but red-eyed. The same bright, glowing red eyes that had been haunting Llewelyn for months.

Awestruck, Llewellyn took in as much as he could. The owl itself was nearly 2.5 feet (76 cm) tall and covered in black feathers. Even its beak and claws were a deep, glossy black as well. Along his chest, wings, and tail were dark grey triangular and diamond patterns that reminded Llewellyn of the shape of the Sootsap tree's leaves. Its heart-shaped face was lined in small, dark grey feathers, and like impressively long eyebrows, two black tufts extended outward past its head. There were two more tufts on each side as well, forming a sort of crown without a middle. When it spread its massive wings (a nearly 6' (1.8 m) wingspan) and long tail feathers, the triangular and diamond patterns were almost dizzying, like one was being put under a visual hypnosis.

The owl didn't stay long, but its patterning left a very obvious clue about where to find him again. The Sootsap trees are considered sacred to most human villagers who live in the northern areas of the human territory, and we at the OES believe these trees may be descended from the Black Forest itself, but I will leave the specifics of that research for another time. Point was, Llewellyn was able to find large nests hidden amongst the Sootsaps. This was also the time Llewellyn finally named his owl friend, Oswald.

It was a few more years of research after that point when Llewellyn learned of the Heritor Owl's social structure and ultimately gave rise to its current name. Heritor Owls are led by a single male and will only allow the first born male and their mate to stay in their territory. This means his first born son, his first born son's son, and so on are allowed to remain a part of the brood. Once the other children reach maturity they are forced out, largely by denying them food.

Now this hereditary preferential treatment also extended to who Llewellyn first interacted with in front of Oswald. It was nearly ten years later when Llewellyn met up with a field agent of the OES, Clairnha. Clairnha was very excited by Llewellyn's research and they struck up what would become a lifelong friendship. Naturally, Llewellyn introduced Clairnha to Oswald, the Heritor Owl. Unfortunately, Oswald would then not come out if anyone else showed up with Llewellyn. However, when Clairnha came alone with one of her mentees from the OES, that young lady became part of Oswald's favoured group. Oswald was treating these people as the "first born sons" and gave them preferential treatment in his territory.

Luckily for me, I am the latest in this long line of preferential researchers and am excited to continue be a part of this honoured tradition. I am worried though that we may be getting near the end of Oswald's life, for his once lush black feathers are slowly turning ashy. But in these past few years I have also made strides to get along with his son and next heir, Igor, and hope to learn even more about these secretive owls.

~ Tulin

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