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Kite Banshee

Lore vignette for the release of Deploy StarShip’s fourth official First Edition Creature NFT
Kite Banshee
As the first great sun began to rise over the rolling plains of Grassland-08183, its light and warmth gently stirred the winds to their early morning rhythm. Every hilltop began to awaken with a soft tremble, and a peaceful glow spread across the swaying grasses of each small crest. Captain Van Dien and his platoon sped silently in a tight formation across the landscape, their hoverpods carving a sharp wake behind them like ships trailing through the clouds. He scanned the horizon of the tranquil fields before them, remaining vigilant against their flowing, hypnotic rhythm. The voice of Lieutenant Harris came over the coms, breaking the stillness of the moment. “Captain, we’re approaching the Ban’Thari village. It should be just over this next hill.” “Thank you, Lieutenant,” he replied. “Ghostriders, let's slow it to a crawl. We’re guests here and we don’t want our new friends getting the wrong impression.” He had seen shadows shifting among the tall grasses over the last few kilometers. The native scouts were well hidden, but Van Dien’s trained eyes could see that they were lightly announcing their position in a subtle gesture of respect. The platoon approached the crest of the large hill and came to a halt as they moved into a tight defensive formation. The Captain reached down near his leg and flipped a switch, instantly sending a giant dome of blue light around the circle of hoverpods. He watched his troops step out onto the grass, and an image of Ensign Flores once again flashed through his mind. It had been months since their touchdown on this planet, and he noticed that even inside the bubble his soldiers hadn’t yet taken off their helmets. Van Dien checked his scanner one last time, noting the small group of dots moving toward his position, and climbed out of his scouting vehicle. The platoon stood in silence, looking out over the vast, idyllic landscape before them. Sunlight crawled across the valley, striking the rooftops of the awakening village that lay below. Dozens of small buildings swept down the shaded western hillside, leading down to the banks of a winding, forked river that split the sprawling fields. Simple houses nestled between its massive twin tributaries, with many more following the waterway as it reached across the plains to the edge of a great forest to the east. Despite the allure of the valley before them, most of the crew were staring with wonder at the skies high above the village. A ring of brightly colored birds hovered serenely in a giant oval formation, as if somehow tethered to the homes below. As the soldiers watched, a single bird moved out of the circle and began a slow descent in their direction. A soft and distant whistling sound like an old wooden flute cut through the otherwise silent scene. It was only then that the captain realized he had been hearing this gentle sound all along. “Captain, listen!” Lieutenant Harris whispered over the coms. She planted a small dish on the ground and pointed it up at the formation in the sky. Van Dien’s headset began to fill with a ringing, harmonic tone, like the low rumble of a great pipe organ. It began to fill his heart with memories of an almost forgotten world, one that few among them could remember. The image of a crumbling cathedral washed into his mind, like trying to remember a dream about something he saw in a movie. The Captain recalled his mother sitting at the keys of a church organ, practicing from an ancient manuscript as he ran up and down the aisles chasing a girl with black, wavy hair— his…sister? How was this possible, he thought. I don’t have a sister… He looked around at his crew standing on the hilltop, watching their bodies visibly relax. Lieutenant Harris’s eyes gently closed, and the Captain saw a tear roll down her cheek. She reached beneath her chest armor and pulled out a small locket, lifting it tenderly to her lips. Van Dien knew that she kept a picture of her older sister there, one with strikingly dark and flowing hair... What is happening here? Surrendering to the moment, he allowed his own eyes to shut, taking a slow, deep breath. As the chorus of sound resonated inside his body, reaching down into his bones, a feeling of incredible calm washed over him. For the first time in longer than he could remember, the Captain felt truly safe. Another flute-like sound pierced the soundscape, this time coming from a spot much closer to where the soldiers stood. Van Dien’s eyes snapped open to see a small group of humanoid figures moving up the hillside toward them. At the front of their formation, their leader lowered a large bird-like skull from his lips, letting it return to its resting place around his neck. The manner with which this group moved suggested that, at least for now, they were safe from local predators. “Ghostriders,” the Captain calmly called out, “Form up.” He pressed the button on his chest, lowering their protective shield. His platoon moved quickly into a simple parade formation, ready to greet the approaching entourage. The captain heard one of the younger ensigns shift a little as the dominating figures reached them. He turned his head slightly, catching him out of the corner of his eye. “Steady, Watkins,” he said in a low, stern voice. Twelve of the sentient Grassland race, the Ban’Thar, stood before them. Their large, yellow eyes casually scanned both the soldiers and the surrounding area. A few of them audibly tightened their grip on their tall spears, a subtle warning to Van Dien’s crew. The gesture was obvious, though not overtly hostile. Their first encounter with the Ban’Thari took place just a few days ago. All the platoons had returned late one night, exhausted from an extended scouting mission. The soldiers had only just secured the glowing domed perimeter when the night watch reported figures shifting at the edge of the darkness. They had spent the day evading a pack of bladed tigerlike beasts and were already deeply on edge. Before long, however, these people made themselves known, stepping out of the shadows of the dense foliage, standing fearlessly in the light of the camp’s shields. They looked like the panthers featured in historical documents about the jungles of Earth, but larger and with much bigger ears that reached down to their shoulders. Vibrant colors covered the skin and fur around their necks. In the night, against the blue glow of the bubble shield, Van Dien had thought these humanoids were covered in white fur. Now, standing before them in the light of morning, he could see they were more of a blue-green, fit for hunting unseen in the planet’s tall grasses. The largest among them, the one with the skull, stared intently at the Captain. He stepped forward from the group, extending his hand, palm upward, in front of him. Though Van Dien was considered tall among his troops, he still had to look up to meet the gaze of the Ban’Thari leader. His great yellow eyes shone with the same iridescence as the rest of the tribe’s, but from this distance the Captain could see a flowing green shimmer moving in their depths. It was the same glow he had seen in the shard of crystal he kept in the breast pocket of his jacket. At that moment, Van Dien noticed the intense readiness in the body language of the other Ban’Thari. He kept his eyes fixed on the face of the leader and reached slowly, deliberately down into the pocket of his right leg, pulling out a slender wooden blowgun and an ornately feathered dart, and placed them meaningfully into the hand before him. The corners of the leader’s lips lifted, and his eyes softened. Then, he spoke. “A krush’ta Lorekeeper is at a disadvantage without his sacred weapon. It is good that you chose to return it to me.” The Captain nodded with respect, and took a subtle breath of relief. At least their translators were still working, but there was a word in there they didn’t quite catch. “Come,” said the leader. “The entire village is anxious to meet these strange new creatures they keep hearing about.” He turned and began to walk back toward the village, and Van Dien signaled his platoon to follow. A few of the Ban’Thar remained toward the back and sides of the large group that now moved down the hillside. It felt more like a protective measure than a prisoner escort. After they were a safe distance away, the Captain tapped the front of his chest, and the shield snapped around the vehicles. One of the krush’ta jerked into a crouch, whipping around to eye the shield through narrowed lids. He looked at the other warriors, then down at the grass before shaking his head a bit, regaining his composure. Van Dien did his best to pretend he hadn’t seen the moment of panic. He stifled a smirk as they all continued onward. Overhead, the single bird that had separated from the flock let out a sustained note. The Ban’Thar leader returned its call with the skull necklace, and it slowly ascended to rejoin the larger circle.
***
From the StarShip science logs... One of the defining features of the Grassland’s predominantly temperate climate is the constant presence of the primal element of wind. An everlasting breeze blows at a steady pace across the planet’s lush green landscapes, tying the ecosystem to a steady, persistent cycle of transformation and rebirth. This dominant force unites the flora and fauna in an evolutionary path built around the essences of speed and communication. As the various species harness the wind for their unique purposes, no creature takes advantage of the planet’s gifts more than the kite banshee. The distinct delta-shaped wing structure and minimal bone density of the kite banshee allows them to spend their entire lives from birth to death gliding upon the gentle currents of air found in the middle atmosphere. These birds are actually born onto the backs of their fathers, where they remain until they grow their characteristic rainbow-colored plumage during their fledgeling years. Because of the fragility of their light bone structure, most of these birds choose to perform all of life’s functions— feeding, mating and even sleeping— in a constant state of flight. Additionally, the currents of air unique to each region have, over time, carved distinctive grooved patterns in the beaks of local flocks. The wind flows across these intricate channels, creating an ever-present, flute-like sound. As the kite banshees beaks have hardened over generations, subspecies of kite banshees emerged, recognizable by the “songs” of the region’s currents. At night when their flight formations tighten, this drone is harmonically amplified between the other birds, creating a soothing melodic blanket of sound over the area, and giving them their nickname, “the sleeping ghosts”. In some cases, when the lifeforms of a planet in the Kyanite Universe develop evolutionary traits that are especially convergent with that planet’s essence, the mystic powers of kyanite imbue these beings with extraordinary gifts. Specific and peculiar relationships like the one found between the banshees and the Ban’Thari tribes reveal an example of this deep connection. For generations, the elder banshees have chosen to give up flight in their later years, descending permanently to form a sacred and symbiotic bond with the Ban’Thar people. The tribes— colloquially referred to as krush’ta— use their connection with these birds in various ways to establish themselves as the dominant caretakers of their world. Flocks of banshees, guided by their elders, attach their flight patterns to krush’ta villages. Over generations, these subspecies have become an intrinsic part of the tribe, each with their own songs and distinct coloring patterns. The krush’ta leaders use their banshees to pass messages between settlements across the vast Grassland plains, while the tribal hunters communicate with them directly to monitor the presence of predators, who have since learned to give the villages a wide berth. The songs of the banshees have become interwoven with the lives and stories of the krush’ta, and in their flowing harmonies it is said that one can hear the will of the planet itself. Incredible tales tell of the most worthy of the Ban’Thar becoming imbued with the powerful essence of Grassland kyanite, ascending to guide their people in moments of great need. The first of these legends reaches back generations, and variations still echo in the great halls of the oldest tribes. Many years ago, a great krush’ta warrior fell in battle against a terrifying and powerful glaivelion. For seven days, as his tribe carried out the sacred burial rites, an unnatural storm raged over the valley, flooding the plains and threatening to wash away the entire village. The warrior’s son, beset with grief and unmoved by the relentless downpour, stayed with his father’s body to sing the song of his lineage, a tale of unwavering sacrifice and noble service to his people. The elder banshee, so moved by the loss of his lifelong companion and the dedication of his son, chose to brave the lightning and thunder, ascending once again for the first time in decades to rejoin his flock. As he rose to the sky, battered by the fierce and howling winds, the circle of banshees gathered around their elder and began a new song. A dense harmonic tapestry began to resonate in the midst of the storm, calming the wild tempest and reaching down to the village, into the hearts of the Ban’Thar people. The ground beneath them trembled and the eyes of the mourning son began to glow with a vibrant green light. Visions of the great warrior’s entire life, memories and emotions from a time before the child was born, began to flow into the son’s thoughts as if they were his own. In the days and years to come, the young warrior found that he could recall these memories at will, using them to better guide his people through his father’s wisdom. The first Lorekeeper of the Ban’Thari people was born. Generations of elder kite banshees have formed this bond with the krush’ta tribal leaders, allowing their stories to pass from father to son. To this day, the songs of these noble people and creatures reverberate through the skies and valleys of the Grasslands, protecting and guiding all life as it flows through the gentle cycles of transformation and rebirth.
Written and released 25 Nov '22