After she and her partner Pewk had been trecking through the tree-speckled foothills for weeks, Farys understood why the pay offered for the particular birds they were hunting was so high. They would spot a swarm and follow it, and be certain the beasties settled in a particular grove or tree, but once they got close it was impossible to spot them. Either they had flown away too fast to see, even with Farys and Pewk approaching from different directions, or they just plain disappeared.
Pewk finally suggested, “Maybe we should cover the tree they settle in with a net next time, so we catch them when they try to leave.”
It was the best idea yet, but it took another week until they saw a flock settle in a crippled oak that was small and solitary enough for them to try it.
“And now we wait?”
“I don’t think so!” Farys picked up two sticks and banged them together, yelling and advancing on their little “trap”. There was a flurry of tiny wings, and strangely low, distressed noises.
She ran around the netted tree to the other side, where a few lumps were moving in the net. She grabbed the closest and lifted it for a closer look. The small bird had a rounded beak like a lovebird, but instead of tailfeathers and legs it had string-thin tentacles, with partial webbing between them, like a tiny octopus. As Farys watched, it changed colour, starting at the tentacle tips. The greyish brown or the oak bark turned into the sandy brown of her palm. The lighter shade raced up the tentacles to slow down only when it reached the feathered head.
“Look at this, Pewk! No wonder we couldn’t spot them.” She bundled the tiny bird in a pocket of netting and laid it on the back of her hand, where it turned the rich umber of Farys’s skin. It flapped its wings, one of them getting caught in the netting, showing that the pinfeathers were so fine they were practically transparent.
“Betcha that alchemist is working on a potion of invisiliity?”
“No bet. None of our business, either.”
“Yeah, let’s just bag them and get them delivered.”