The wind howled fiercely through the canyon, whipping up small clouds of dust. The canyon's layered walls captured the wind and directed it from a light breeze at the lip to near hurricane force on the rocky floor during the strongest of gusts. The scorching desert sun baked the already dry sand on the floor, making it too hot to cross barefoot without receiving burns. The wind and the sun aside, however, the canyon's greatest threat was not from rock slides or flash floods, but from harpies, mighty warriors who trained night and day to hone their skills and become the strongest.
Harpies were feared warriors in The Other Place, an entire plane of existence that was both connected and separated from Illinara at the same time. They knew not when to back down and fought to the death instead of bearing the shame of defeat. They were capable of killing all but the most formidable of foes without assistance and required only small numbers to bring down the mightiest.
Still, all these factors did little to stop a lone creature in the form of a human man from traversing the canyon. Some would have said he was foolish, but he planned to prove them wrong. He carried sword and shield with him; the sword, a simple longsword, with an ornate crossbar and pommel, the blade straight and shiny, carried but a single notch near the crossbar. The shield, on the other hand, was wedge-shaped and finely detailed, appearing to have been patched at some point. Its edges were notched and dented, but the face was mostly untouched other than the patch. Over his body he wore ornate bronze and black armour. It was in "like new" condition, matching the rest of his things. He was confident he would best his quarry and carry proof of his victory back to his companions.
Upon one of the canyon's outcroppings, far above the man-like figure, a creature resembling a woman was perched. Her mismatched wings were folded against her back, one of flesh and feathers, the other of steel and spines. Those who doubted she could fly would be in for a nasty surprise. In her gauntlet-clad right hand, she carried a long, heavy spear that radiated magic along the edges of its unusual three pointed tip in the form of a red aura and black lightning that arced silently over its surface. She adjusted her visor, a gold-tinted object that covered most of her face on the right side.
"Prey…" she purred in a deep, soft voice. She slowly rose to her feet and placed her left foot against a nearby boulder. Her long, black talons closed over the crown, gripping it hard enough to cause small fractures to form in its surface. Although tempted to shove the large rock down and crush the intruder, she wanted to show him just how foolish he was. The harpy spread her wings and sprang from her perch, diving at him.
The clattering of small rocks echoing through the canyon and the death of the wind told the lone warrior his quarry had arrived. However, he was not expecting her to slam full-force into his back, sending him flying across the rocky canyon floor. He tumbled and rolled to his feet, crouching near the ground as he looked up at her, at the mighty harpy. Her black wing was folded firmly against her back and her metal one was partially unfurled, the steel spines along its edge glinting in the sunlight.
"Rise," she ordered, seeing no honour in simply killing him where he crouched. The warrior stood slowly, drawing his sword.
"I will take your head," he responded, causing a single deep laugh to fill the silent canyon, echoing off the painted walls. He ran forward, a battle cry escaping him. He brought his sword down, the blade's tip humming as it sliced through the air.
The ring of metal-on-metal was the next sound in the canyon, followed by the crash of the armoured warrior slamming against the ground. His sword landed not far away, its point buried in the hot sand. The harpy stood in the same position, however, her metal wing now rested in front of her body, slowly pulling back to its half-folded state.
"You wish to kill me… yet you are so weak…" she said quietly, standing still and watching him. He rose to his feet slowly and appeared to surrender. "Take up your blade!" the harpy screeched, her golden eyes turning to red. The man, shocked by her words, hurried to his fallen blade and took it from the sand. He turned just barely in time to block the head of her spear from colliding with his face plate.
He shouted in a mixture of surprise and anger at her surprise attack, but swung with the tip of his wedge-shaped shield, a blade protruding from its end. Her wing blocked the attack in a shower of sparks before she shoved him back with her spear, nearly wrenching his weapon from his hand again. They were several paces apart, sun and silhouette on the sand.
Magical energy began to gather around them both. The winds whipped up, carrying dust with them. It soon grew from a stiff breeze to a full gale and finally to hurricane force, clouding the canyon with a sandstorm. The warrior's own magic only afforded him visibility of a few feet while the harpy knew the canyon well, having made it her home for many years. However, instead of rushing along the ground to fight, she took the skies, the place she was most at home in.
She rolled through the sandstorm's howling winds, her wings carrying her toward one of the canyon's walls. Her talons locked against the painted rock, allowing her to perch and wait for the sandstorm to clear. A wicked smile crossed her face while she watched her prey blunder around before she kicked off the cliff face and rocketed toward him. She flapped hard, throwing herself at even higher speed, diving at him.
Almost too late, the man, now showing her he too was a creature of power, a demon of The Other Place, rolled to the side, his wedge-shaped shield being torn asunder by one of the spines protruding from the head of her spear. She recovered too late with her weapon, but brought her left foot up instead. His sword sparked against her talons, the last few inches of it snapping off. A wicked smirk crossed her face and she lashed out with a powerful kick, her diamond-hard talons tearing into his armour.
"Give it up, you can't defeat me!" she laughed, pinning him against the sand, standing on his chest. He brought his right arm back, moving to attack her, only to cry out in pain when the tip of her spear found home in his shoulder. "You'd rather die than leave here broken?" she asked, wrenching the tip of her spear sideways, forcibly dislocating his shoulder and cutting through the remaining flesh. Magic leaked from the wound instead of blood, causing her to snicker darkly.
It was at that moment that something pulsed in her chest, something other than her heart. It was faint, so she ignored it, continuing to torture her victim, laughing darkly, as he screamed in pain. The pulse came a second time, much stronger than before, pulling not only at her heart, but at her very existence. She paused a moment to take stock. Her victim, the wounded warrior, began to struggle again, only stopping when her talons became buried in his chest, gripping his ribs.
It came a third time, then a fourth, each time stronger than the last until she was forced to place one of her large, clawed hands over her heart. It came again, finally ripping her from The Other Place and hurling her into a world she was unfamiliar with.
The harpy collapsed in a heap on a wooden surface, the scent of unfamiliar magic filling the air around her. The unwelcome glow of an arcane circle met her eyes when she opened them. Light from outside the barrier she was trapped within was blocked other than the glow of another arcane circle not far away. The harpy unsteadily rose to her full height, clinging to her spear for balance. "Who summoned me?" she growled, her keen, golden eyes settling on a sorceress sitting not far away.