|Tristep Bird, Glittering Messenger
|The Far East
Saidiau is a type of bird that have served as a symbol of love for as long as the Sihai people have existed, their bright blue and green plumage a startling sight in the mountains of The Far East. They are invaluable avian companions and messenger birds, traveling great distances with ease. They are known to be kind and social creatures, devoted to one another. They have always had large numbers on their side, and have weathered the many chaotic events of the recent centuries of Zhong’s history with grace.
- The woman was sad
- The man came from far away
- Bound forevermore
This simple poem is one of the oldest known pieces of Sihai literature and the first in the famed literary collection from 1500 BC known as The Tale of the Lovers. The imagery that accompanies this poem is that of the Saidiau, one of the oldest domesticated birds in Sihai history. Its origin is one of mystery, but ancient legends speak of two lovers, separated by a great distance, who eventually both formed wings to fly toward one another. While the myth makes little mention of the Loong Dragons, later versions of the myth clarify that when both the man and woman began to die of old age, they went to a Loong Dragon Temple honoring Saaima, the Loong responsible for crafting many of the animals that roamed the air. This Loong granted them, upon their death, their fond wish to be together, and a flock of Saidiau emerged from their clothing as they died together in peace. The reality, however, is not as mystical. Pragmatic Sihai scholars widely assume that the Saidiau were originally high-altitude birds that nested in and around the Loong Temples as they were constructed. Over time, the birds and their migration from mountain peak to mountain peak were noticed by the assortment of visitors, temple attendants, priests, and workers that populated these sites. Thus, their early use as messenger birds may have been voluntary or more ceremonial before the Sheng Empire got involved.
It is known that by 3000 BC, the Sheng Empire’s messaging network included Saidiau messenger birds, and ever since they’ve remained extremely popular as a form of correspondence. There have been major disruptions to this form of messaging, which at the time emphasized the use of land and river travel rather than aerial options. The most significant disruption was the Cataclysm, as the shockwave from that event heavily confused many birds and other creatures of the air, resulting in messages never being received or capable of being sent. However, other more natural disruptions have been known to take place, such as the time known as the Decade of Drowning. This increase in rainstorms caused many Saidiau to be grounded, developing chills and illness due to the extended wet weather. Luckily, the Saidiau messaging infrastructure has returned to normal in the modern-day, and the bird continues to be enjoyed not just as a tool for the state, but also as a companion to individuals as a popular pet.
Saidiau are medium-sized birds, reaching at most two feet in length with a wingspan of around five feet. They have a small head with a long, narrow beak and a slight downturn at the end of it. Their eyes are large and exist in shades of blue or green. The top of their head has a few skin bumps which help create a light crest formation. Their neck is half a foot in length, and leads down to a relatively plump body well built to survive the cold temperatures of the high skies. Their wings fold close to their body, and this form ends in a dense, arching cluster of feathers that serve as the bird’s tail. Their body is supported by a trio of rather large clawed feet, built to grasp perches hard and to secure their bodies in harsh conditions. Their bodies are covered in their most notable trait, their brightly colored and almost energetic feathers. Soft and light, the bird’s colors are either a stark pale blue, or deep emerald green, both having a tendency to gleam in the sunlight, and both coating much of the animal.
While many pieces of art and classical folktales will depict Saidiau males as having blue feathers and females as having green, this is not true. While it once might have been accurate, females and males over the past half a millennia have been found to possess feathers thatwere only supposed to be those of the opposite sex. Many Sihai still believe the folktale beliefs, though, yet it is not an accurate assessment of gender. Additionally, the gender ratio in the Saidiau population is equal.
Life Span and Development
Saidiau chicks are born from small, green speckled beige eggs that are laid in clutches of three to six. The chicks that emerge have all-white down feathers which remain on their form for several weeks before, in a brilliant display of color, the first appearance of either their blue or green shade comes in. From here, the bird rapidly matures, reaching its adult size after three months, but often requiring a further six to nine months for their mental attitude to reach that of an adult. They can go on to live for twenty years in the wild, and up to thirty-five in domesticated circles.
Saidiau are kind creatures, lacking the ferocity of other mountain-top creatures, and have great flexibility in their mindset given their range of habitation and uses. Those in the wild tend to be rather docile, and are often used to the presence of Sihai given that the animals are rarely hunted. Most commonly they can be found in large gatherings on mountain ridges or cliffs, either at the edge or close to it as they sunbathe throughout the day. They largely consume insects found in the nooks and crannies of the mountains and their valleys, performing large graceful dives down to seek out food. They also enjoy small fruit and plant seeds. Saidiau are devoted to other members of their species and flock, especially chicks. While they often remain attached to their partners, most couplings only tend to last maybe ten or so years before separating, an idea blasphemous to any Sihai who hears it given the bird’s status as a symbol of devoted love. Saidiau who are domesticated and exist outside of the wild have the same characteristics as their wild counterparts, but due to their lives where they are often still for long periods, they require exercise to stay healthy, and it is usually good for them to see other members of their species once or twice a month.
Territory and Groupings
Wild Saidiau exist in flocks of as many as 200 birds, which engage in a yearly migration across the various mountain ranges of Zhong. The total cycle of time has been estimated to be at least four years for one flock to return from the peak which it flew from. It is at this point that they will roost and produce their eggs, sometimes staying on these peaks as they wait for them to hatch, not engaging in a cycle around the mountains. As for domesticated Saidiau, many exist in specially crafted aviaries known as “Saidiau Mountains” which have artistic imagery connected to mountains along the inside and outside. These are often attached to messenger operations of the Sihai Empire, and run by bureaucrats and animal tenders. Such spaces are usually capable of sustaining some 100 to 125 Saidiau, though the largest cities and towns sometimes have as many as a thousand in either larger Mountains or in a cluster of cages kept close together. Other domesticated Saidiau rest in small, personal cages and fly free across the Zhong landscape with their owners or masters.
- Saidiau who have followed Sihai masters, be they travelers, merchants, or more to Regalia and the rest of Aloria, have proven resilient to not seeing another member of their species for sometimes years on end. However, this does cause them to get highly attached to their owner during their time apart from others of their kind.
- Saidiau feathers are sometimes used as gifts between Sihai lovers as a symbol of devotion.
- The migration route of wild Saidiau has radically changed in the past few centuries given the loss of easy access to the Sheng mountain ranges and the rise of the Jade Wall. Instead, many migration patterns now run parallel to the great structure.