The Blue Heron and Those Who Fly
When I was young, I travelled much. Yes, even I, Bengoukee, was young once. I was but a little korobokuru, full of the knowledge I thought I had. Full of foolishness, in fact. On my travels to the west, I encountered the plains of ash, which some of you may have heard called the Yaku plains. No one knows what caused this plain to be covered with ash, but little or nothing grows there to this day.
Now the Yaku plains have long been taboo, but I felt no qualms about crossing them. Would that I had. I have never been so thirsty before or since. I nearly died, while several of my companions caught the coughing death and did perish. Finally I had to turn back, but not before I saw a sight which amazed me. I saw men flying, and with wings! They soared and danced in the air. No, not flying garuda, and not just big birds. What bird do you know that can sling a javelin, for that is what I saw them do. I would have put it down as a hallucination, but when I later told my grandfather, he said I did not dream them. It was then he told me of the legend of Blue Heron.
Thousands of moons ago, there lived a magic-worker of the Ancient Ones. He could do almost anything with his magic, but he was not content. His first love, his passion, was the birds. He could speak to them, he could even take their shape. But always he knew that he was Nubari, and not a bird. Always the birds spoke to him of the thrill of flight, of the freedom of the skies. More than anything else, he wanted to experience the freedom that the birds knew.
So he set out on his greatest quest, his final quest. Gathering his magic, he searched for a way to become one with the birds. He searched through countless places of the Ancients, and found many strange artifacts. He broke many taboos, saw strange and frightening sights, but he did not find what he sought. He spoke to wise Nubari, aged korobokuru, and even to the elephants. He learned the language of the oldest of Malatra, the trees. It was one of them who finally gave him the clue he sought. The old oak was amused by his quest, but told him that his answer was already with him. One of the artifacts he had found was a small ceramic Blue Heron. Beautifully made, but it had only the faintest touch of magic about it, as of a magic long faded.
Overjoyed, he returned to his home, prepared to finally experience the true freedom of the air. But he did not have the secret, just the beginning of it. Many more years passed as he labored to bring the magic back into the Blue Heron. Finally, as a last hope, he returned to the old oak. The oak could only say that for those who truly want to fly, the Blue Heron finds a way.
Finally, he gave in to despair. His quest had kept him alive for many more years than most of his tribe lived. His children’s children had already grown old, his friends long passed on. He went to the highest peak of the Forbidden Mountains and resolved to throw himself off. For he would fly at least once before he died. His grandchildren accompanied him, for they loved him dearly, and many too had caught his love of the freedom of the air. As he stood on the peak, he renounced his magic, and said he would fly only through the Blue Heron, or he would die. It was then that the Blue Heron spoke to him, in the language of the mind. He felt the secret words come to him as he leaped. Repeating them, he was shocked to find his arms had become wings, and his skin sprouted feathers. He had become a bird man, for he retained his hands and his mind, but it was changed in a way both wondrous and frightening. Higher and higher he soared, free and alive. But his aged heart gave out and he crashed to the earth.
As he lay dying, his grandchildren gathered about him. “Weep not for me, for I have lived more in the past few moments than in my whole life before. Never have I been so alive.” With a smile, he died.
Inspired by this, many of his tribe took up the Blue Heron and made the fateful leap. They too changed. Truly did they live, free in the air, masters of the skies. For their name they took that of their grandfather, Aarakocra, and that is how they are known as to this day to the few who know them. In the many moons since that day, a very few brave Nubari have found this artifact of the Ancients, and they too have found the freedom of the skies.
Thus were born the aarakocra of the Forbidden Mountains, which I have seen, though so long ago. It is whispered among the trees that they live there to this day, but we may never know since the mountains are taboo as well. Taboo places are best left alone, because they are dangerous to us, as my own experience on the plains of ash should show you young ones.