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Guardians of Ga'Hoole
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The First Collier

Guardian's of Ga’Hoole #9: The First Collier

After our discovery of gloss, Joss arrived with a message calling me back to the N’yrthghar. War had not broken out no had peace been shattered. I was called to attend the annual lemming hunt held by Lord Arrin, a powerful lord in the Firth of Fangs whose allegiance was vital to the High King.

Lord Arrin’s realm was rich in issen blaue, a kind of ice that had many uses in the Northern Kingdoms, particularly for weapons. Also, in the region of the Firth of Fangs, there was a preponderance of Great Snowy Owls who, as a breed, were particularly skillful fighters. Snowies were also known for their expertise in hunting lemmings; thus, the annual lemming hunt. So the Firth of Fangs was a region rich in resources vital to the High King. Add to this the additional fact that Lord Arrin himself was an owl of great vanity, and it would not do to offend him by not attending this event. I had secured for King H’rath the ice rights during the brief summer months when the issen blaue could be harvested. Each year, these rights had to be renewed. It was always a delicate negotiation, and I was the chief negotiator.

So, as much as I hated to leave the Beyond, there was little choice. Too much was at stake. And, in truth, the lemming hunt was fun, for it was not all just chasing after those stupid rodents. There were festivities and katabat dancing, a particular specialty of owls of the Northern Kingdoms, in which we danced in those boisterous winds unique to our kingdom.

Lord Arrin was a generous host as well, and the bingle juice always flowed. There were always troops of gadfeathers to entertain us. Gadfeathers were wandering owls who were looked down upon in general, and often scorned by owls for having no solid place to roost. They lived for the most part by begging or stealing. But they were wonderful musicians and made a festive addition to any celebration. Festooning themselves in molted feathers from other birds, lacing moss and berries through their primaries, they were about as gaudy as an owl could get. Wonderful katabat dancers, they were a delight to watch and they were legendary for their singing. The gadfeathers sang all sorts of songs, merry ones to accompany a jig on a katabat, or achingly tender ballads of love and wandering. To hear a gadfeather’s melodious voice singing a ballad under the starry arc of a lofty summer sky is an unmatched experience. Though I knew I would miss my fire studies, I felt little regret leaving the Beyond to go to Lord Arrin’s lemming hunt in the Firth of Fangs.

When I finally returned to the Beyond after the lemming hunt, I had every hope that this would be an extended stay, for a fragile peace still reigned in the N’yrthghar. I had negotiated extended ice rights in the Firth of Fangs for King H’rath; at the same time, there was a sharp decline in hagsfiends’ insurgencies, which Lord Arrin claimed credit for. All this boded well. Or so I thought.

Shortly after I had come back, I was flying over a volcano on the northwest side of the ring. This particular volcano had not been active for some time, and Fengo and I were thinking of moving one of our fires close to it was there were some good sand beds nearby, and sand was the main ingredient of gloss. I had not thought of the owl ember for a long time. I had truly cleared my mind of it. But as I was circling around this volcano, I saw a peculiar transformation taking place. It appeared as if the sides of the volcano were beginning to turn to gloss. I could see right through it. Was I having a vision? I knew that my firesight had become much keener since I had been coming to the Beyond, but this was very odd, not simply a vision. I was seeing something deep within the volcano itself. It was orange with a lick of blue at its center, circled with green. My gizzard flinched. It was the Ember of Hoole!

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