Spike sat at the workbench, reviewing her blueprints. The weren't the clean and perfect things she had envisioned when she began this project, rather, they were full of ink, blotted and crossed out and scribbled on, notes about paths tried (and failed) trailing through the margins and marked with daggers and stars and swirls according to her personal proofreader's marks; guiding her to corners of the document, to the obverse side, to other sheets of parchment entirely, pinned to the walls like butterflies.
She took another deep drink of her coffee, frowned when she discovered her cup was empty and cold. One hand over her eyes, she sighed. This was much harder than it looked. She'd thought it would be a far more straightforward process to take the elements she was looking for to create her perfected owl and meld them together in a crucible, then pour them into a shell to hatch underneath one of the chickens kept as living incubators. The doctor had suggested that that the creation of a new form was fraught with certain special difficulties, but Spike hadn't counted on this particular level of trouble.
Size was proving to be difficult. Something about coding for the Chinese Fireball's ability to create flame without the evil temperament of the Hungarian Horntail also caused the resulting owl to be nearly the size of the dragon. And that won't work. It wouldn't fit through the halls. Or rather, it would, but there wouldn't be room for anything else. Including students. Or furniture. She pictured the first time the owl made a delivery, or came to pick something up, and shuddered.
The psyche was also going to be a challenge. Owl, bat, dragon. Remembering the stories of Errol and Pidgewidgeon, adding echolocation to an owl's bag of tricks sounded like a good idea. And keeping to animals with the ability to fly had seemed sensible as well. She had considered the mammals of the sea, whales and dolphins navigating the boundless deeps guided by clicks and moans . . . and had thought better of it once she thought about it further. While the air wouldn't be a terrifying drowning experience, gasping in the void, at the same time, wouldn't the lack of anything around you forever and ever be equally horrible? Maybe they don't fear falling the same way we do, since they have no arboreal experience, but for them, falling means going back into the embrace of the sea. What if you fell and fell, endlessly waiting for the water to close back over you, safe in the wet -- but there was never any?
No, it had to be a bat. But the sole mammal brain was often overruled by the two flying reptiles, with their own odd way of seeing the world. It needs to pass, more or less, for a normal owl. I want it to be able to defend against predators and enemies, not to suddenly turn on its handler. "Food source" is one thing, "food" is quite another.
She reached for her mug again, having forgotten its coffeeless state, and was pleased to find the perfect mix of hot brew and cream waiting for her. She turned back to her blueprints again, made a small tweak to her plans, then waved her wand to reveal what would come this time.
Totenberg watched from the shadows, carafe in his hand, as a wispy image arose from the papers, coalescing into a smoky mass. Looks like an owl, he thought, approvingly, until the bat's wings unfolded from under the avian pair, and the scaly tail flicked out, lashing angrily. Horns and pointed ears popped out of the smooth, round feathered head, the beak elongated into a snout, and fire spouted from the nostrils. Spike waved her hands through the image, and it vanished, broken up by the motion.
Gonna be a long night. He weighed the remains of the pot in his hand, finished off the dregs. Best brew some more.