The half-elf rocked forward for a tenuous moment, stretching her long frame with more than a bit of desperation, until her grip caught on a shelf of rock above. Ysharra's limber strength echoed and matched her grace, and she pulled herself over the last barrier to the peak's summit, pausing to lean against the dark, violet-grey rock until her exerted panting leveled into steady breath once more. She stood upon the outermost rim of a towering bowl of earth and stone, and below her was a layer of silvered mist, clouds rolling in the gleaming light of the mid-morning sun. The air was perilously cold, and the wind ripped at her, making it difficult to remain where she was. All around the rest of the valley rim loomed jagged columns of cerac, glacial formations that made approaching the valley nearly impossible for anything larger than a marmot.
The valley was what her people used to call a cauldron, a mass of land created by erosion in the middle of a glacier, forming an amphitheater of soil and rock, where trees, moss, and small animals could lead an isolated life until further erosion or volcanic activity caused the bowl to break down.
Ysharra started a careful descent down to her destination, a long crack in the side of the slope, between her and the bowl of the valley. If she had meant to travel all the way down, this rift in the bedrock would prove challenging and dangerous even for her, the rock glimmered with ice, and she could not see the bottom of the cleft. Past the crack, a blinding-white snowfield slid down into the green, and the sight of the sun on the tree leaves was deeply tempting, after spending most of the past few days gripped in the Northern Dragonspine's bitter cold.
But, she was not here for comfort or to witness nature's diversity. Ysharra was here on a mission, and this was as close as she could safely get and accomplish what she must. Her charges should be safe here, as all that could come to this valley would be those who knew it was here- and other than herself and a few of the giantkin who lived this far north, that seemed unlikely. Or, she thought, looking over her shoulder at her white-winged companion- ones who have learned to fly. Munin caught her gaze and screeched, a sound now familiar to most of the Landing residents.
Ysharra stared at the raven, and steeled her own will, reaching through their special bond, to try once more to explain, and express her deep regret. Eventually she turned away, and reached into her wicker sample case, which held her two passengers, Saga and Edda, Munin's fledglings. They had hatched over two months ago, and had within the past two weeks learned to fly. It was time for them to go, and be free...and while Ysharra had watched over them, and loved them along with her corvid parents, they would no longer be safe in the Landing. A terrible blight was choking the life and greenery around the Landing, and every day she had found wildlife corpses in the Dragonsclaw and Trollfang Forests.
Saga quorked softly at her, and Edda hadn't quite woken up, tucking her pale head into the crook of Ysharra's arm. They would be safe here, but they would have to stay. At one point, Ysharra had imagined a different life for these two, they would join her own family in the neighborhood bearing their name, Ravenswood, and be companions much as Munin herself was. They were accustomed to people, and there was a risk they would try to find them, again, no matter how isolated this valley might be. Ysharra stroked Saga's neck ruff slowly, thinking her hardest task lay before her, much more dire than the climb to reach this hidden world. She would have to give these two a reason to stay, to learn what they are. Harbingers, she whispered to the fledglings, setting them both upon the nearest boulder.
"You've had a life of summer corn, my girls..." she told them, stepping away toward the arch's drop off, digging into her sample case. "But you are ravens. Opportunists...scavengers."
Ysharra caught Munin's gaze again, and unwrapped something from her pack, a few scraps of meat, tender cuts of cheek from a certain generous former Mayor of the Landing. She dropped the slices across the rock face, and Munin, hungry from the long trip, darted forward to snap up some, shooing her sleepy daughters toward the waiting meal. Ysharra watched them eat, leaning back against one of the ice-rimmed columns. She whispered a few chants under the wind's howling gale, and immediately deep green vines laden with spikes pushed up through the few patches of soil in the snow, and at her command, curled over her limbs and torso, binding her to the frost-riddled stone. A few swipes of the barbs across her skin, and a new sharp agony joined the ache in her limbs. As the haze crept through her chest, she concentrated, pulling insistently at the bond between her and Munin.
The bond was so strong, and in time, when it was safe, she would call to Munin once more. For now, she would have to be convinced to stay- and her daughters with her. And soon, the inexperienced chicks will be hungry again. To sever the bond, and renew the instinct nature had given them...Ysharra slumped back against the stone, her tears freezing against her cheek. It was so cold...it wouldn't be long now.
It's only meat, only pain, she told herself, before the twisting, sharp thorns and the howling gale finished their grisly assault upon her. And they'll be safe...at the least, I can save them...
Munin wailed, a curiously human sound, distressed and discordant in this strange, hostile place her friend had brought them to. The grief-stricken ravens huddled about the dead half-elf, confused and frightened. Munin's black eyes stared at the corpse, the depth of awareness and sorrow warring with her instinct. For now, she would huddle the chicks within the arch's sanctuary, but in time...they would need their next meal.
The gales continued to sound out through the cauldron, joined by the keening corvids, fading into the arctic tapestry of beauty and survival.