Closed Beasts and Burdens (Azira)

Zhol and Azira try to calm a farmer's llama drama.

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Beasts and Burdens (Azira)

Postby Zhol on November 22nd, 2014, 2:18 am


|.
If Zhol was honest, he wasn't entirely sure which way northwest was, exactly. So sure, there was that whole proverb thing about how Syna wakes, and then walks to the west, but it wasn't exactly sunrise or sunset right now, and the only thing he could discern about Syna's direction was that it was up, and vaguely over there-ish. Maybe there was something with shadows, and he'd maybe heard someone once say something about moss; and maybe, if he really thought about it, he might be able to dredge some half-remembered fragment of map from his mind, and work out which way north was based on which way Thunder Bay and Mount Skyinarta were; but even trying to consider those options made his mind ache. At least Azira seemed to know what was going on; Zhol wasn't entirely sure if he found that reassuring or not.

He waited patiently as Azira began to shimmy her way back down the outcrop, his gaze dutifully focused on a mildly interesting tree a few dozen yards away. It was part courtesy, and part self-preservation: his body still ached in residual memory of what had happened when Azira had mistaken his casual scrutiny of her archery form as something untoward; he had no desire to find out what might transpire if she caught his gaze accidentally settling upon her sculpted behind. Not that he expected it to be sculpted or anything, it just made sense when you thought about it that someone who spent so much time physically active and outside, who had muscles from hiking and archery and such things, would probably have fairly well developed muscles elsewhere. Not that he even thought about it at all, or her, or anything like that at all, it was just a casual -

The cart wheels of that thought came astray, the entire ensemble crashing unceremoniously into a ditch. Colour flushed his cheeks, burned at his ears, and for approximately the millionth time he was glad that the contents of his mind firmly remained there, and were not uttered out loud.

His arms hugged around him a little, defensively, as Azira finally made it back to the ground. "Northwest," he nodded, as sagely as he could muster, realising that he was trying a little too hard not to look at her; but, not wanting to look at her too much either, he picked a spot on her shoulder, paying more attention to the strap of her quiver than anything else. That felt awkward too though; with a fake, mustered cough, he looked away again, nodding to himself, as if somehow coming to a decision.

"Best if you take point, then," he uttered, dredging a phrase he'd heard hunters back in Endrykas use. The point of a spear, they'd explained it as; if Azira was going to be anything, it felt somewhat fitting that it was a stabby sort of anything. He reinforced his point with an admission of truth; a good leader was aware of his flaws, and the strengths of his subordinates, after all. "You know your way around here far better than I do."

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Beasts and Burdens (Azira)

Postby Azira on November 23rd, 2014, 9:26 pm

Getting down from the outcrop was a little harder than it had been climbing up it. She made sure that her bow and quiver were out of her way before she moved to the edge. Turning her back on it she knelt down, supporting herself with her hands as she allowed one foot to dangle over the edge to find a foothold. Once she had it the other foot went in search of purchase on the rock face. She lowered herself, her feet moving down before her hands reached the edge. From there it was just a matter of finding each hand and foot hold until she reached the ground. There was just one slip up as her foot slid off the rough spot it had been on. Her foot waved back and forth, searching for a place to support itself until she got a grip on the rock again.

It was a relief to find herself on the ground once more although she was a little flustered that he'd seen her lose her footing. His reception of her was unexpected though. Instead of a smirk or some mirth in his eyes, he was avoiding her gaze. The huntress watched him with interest, noting his defensive posture and the redness of his face. She was puzzled by what had caused it and hadn't the slightest idea what it had to do with. "What's up with you? Your face is nearly as red as my hair," she commented, an eyebrow raising as she awaited an answer. The reassertion of her superiority in this situation had her moving forward rather than waiting for him to reply to her question.

They needed to get hunting and there was no point dallying when there were other hunters about that could beat her to a kill. Now that she had some direction and purpose she was feeling more optimistic although she wasn't convinced that she could actually find and kill the leopard. If she wanted to save face she'd have to kill it but at the moment all she could do was try her best. Zhol couldn't fault her for that if he knew what effort she was going to. She didn't want to be shown up in front of her unwanted companion.

She orientated herself, using the outcrop for guidance and set off in the right direction. The outcrop was bypassed, the girl moving in as straight a line as she could manage where the terrain allowed. The girl assumed that the horse boy would manage to keep up with her as he seemed to be managing so far. There was no word from her until they reached a stream a few minutes into their journey. It had to be crossed over to bring them nearer to their destination and so she found a low point where she could balance her way over to the other sides on slippery rocks.

"So Zhol... explain why our Endal friend mentioned fire and you together? I think I know what he meant but I can't be sure. Care to fill me in?" Azira asked casually. She'd decided that there was no harm in asking him about it. It was always possible that if he was indeed a fire reimancer that his magic would come in handy in some way. It was a good idea to know what resources she had at her disposal and she was no longer as petulant. She was stuck with him for now and there was no point being bitter about it. Bitterness wouldn't get rid of him any faster.
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Beasts and Burdens (Azira)

Postby Zhol on November 24th, 2014, 7:44 am


|.
Azira might have been waiting on an answer, but she didn't receive one, and it was a relief when she trudged off without forcing him to make any admissions. He wasn't even sure what he would be admitting, though he was certain that whatever it was, the result of doing so would likely be painful, and leave him in need to medical attention. Continuing to suffer Azira's company in silence was probably for the best.

Her next question came too soon, and it was far harder for him to evade. The change in her demeanour was unexpected as well, the sudden civility causing considerable unease. Was there some ulterior motive? Had she realised that cooperation was the fastest way to escape each other's company? Had her anger finally run out of fuel? Had she merely worked out where she was going to conceal his body when she brutally murdered him?

He considered what it was exactly that the Endal had said. Flamethrowing stable boy. There wasn't really a way to spin that which didn't involve an admission of the truth; and while reimancy itself was one of the magic forms that was a familiar and accepted part of every day life for the Inarta, he still felt reluctant admitting it. Perhaps it was that beside earth and water, his ability to manipulate fire seemed far less useful from the perspective of an Inarta; another reason for Azira's opinion of him to diminish further. Perhaps it was the comparison that they had drawn back home, that he was somehow cursed by Ivak; he didn't know much about what had happened in Wind Reach when the god had escaped his prison, but it didn't seem like the sort of subject that anyone would react kindly to being reminded of. Perhaps it was simply reluctance towards the questions that would inevitably follow, and the judgements they would inspire.

Even so, his own words lingered in his mind, from back in the summer; his invitation that if Azira asked anything, he would answer. He was who he was; and his reluctance for people to know didn't negate their right to.

In lieu for a verbal explanation, he delved inside his mind, seeking out his candle, and letting the molten wax trail into his veins and arteries. It oozed from his pores, transformed from viscous white to inky black, flowing beneath his skin to paint patterns - like windmarks - on his disappointingly unmarked skin. The res coalesced into a tiny sphere in his palm, and with a thought the orb ignited, flames dancing across the surface. A flick of his wrist, and the tiny fireball launched from his hand, splashing against the cool stream water in a harmless display of hissing and steam. "Flamethrowing," he said with a shrug, as if that explained everything.

He sighed, waiting to watch the route that she took with the intention of following in her footsteps. "Look -" His shoulder slumped. "I know you don't think I'm much use, that you think I'm a burden, and that you don't like me all that much. Honestly? I don't like me all that much either. But this isn't about you and me: this is about having a job to do, and about what happens and might happen to the people in Thunder Bay if we don't; and this leopard is going to be hard enough to find without us hunting for each other's weaknesses as well."

He forced himself to pause, and moderate his tone, fighting the urge to say anything more than the minimum that needed to be said. "So, truce? At least until we make it back to Wind Reach. As soon as I'm close enough to crawl to the Infirmary, you can take out as much frustration on me as you want."

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Beasts and Burdens (Azira)

Postby Azira on November 25th, 2014, 9:19 pm

It seemed that she wasn't going to find out what had made the young man red faced. Apparently she was to remain curious about it and perhaps a little suspicious. It was too strange for him to be so embarrassed without an apparent cause. There was something that she was missing that she couldn't quite put her finger on. It didn't seem likely that she'd get any help from Zhol and so she was going to have to let it go or hope that he'd let a clue slip at some point.

At first she didn't think that she'd get any sort of answers out of him today. Once she'd crossed the stream, she turned to watch his progress while waiting impatiently for an answer from him. He had to be a reimancer, she just knew it as there was no other explanation that she could think of that would involve flamethrowing. Unless he liked to go around lighting things on fire and actually throwing them. She'd prefer reimancy to that explanation that was for certain. He didn't keep her waiting though. The huntress had barely reached the other shore before an intense look of concentration culminated in something in his palm, some sort of sphere. As she watched it ignited, the Avora giving an almost lazy flick of the wrist that sent the fire ball flying into the water.

Flamethrowing.

Awe and envy arose within her, the girl jealous of his ability although such a magic would be of little use if she wielded it as he did. Still he had it and she didn't, which was enough to make her want it too. "The boy who plays with fire," she pronounced in a tone that suggested it was a title and a mocking one at that. "Can't imagine that fire and horses mix well, stable boy."

He didn't seem all that enthused by his ability and Azira disliked him more for that. He could fling fire from his fingertips and he treated it with something almost akin to boredom. He didn't seem to want to elaborate any further on the subject either, immediately moving on to trying to bring about a truce between them. The girl rolled her eyes, her expression clearly displaying her exasperation with the subject. All the same she allowed him to finish before giving her own opinion on the matter. "You're right. I don't like you. I have no reason to like you. I don't want to like you. You don't like you. I'm not surprised," she responded bluntly, looking onward towards her destination. There was no sight of it yet.

"You are a burden. You can't hunt, you can't scout, you can do with your magic what I can do by hand myself so you're no use to me really. You brought an eye glass that looks far away. That's all you've done. It's a fact, not a personal feeling. I know I have a job to do and as long as you don't get in the way then that's fine. If you do get in the way then I will happily shoot you. I could wait until we got back to the city to do it but it'd be better out here. More like an accident and your blood might tempt the leopard if that's what it is. If you don't want that to happen then don't petch anything up. That's all of the truce you're going to get with me. Okay?"

Her speech was delivered in a deadpan tone, the teen's face reflecting it until the end when she lifted a questioning brow. She'd been incredibly frank with him. He'd been honest so she had been as well. Now they could get on with things and maybe the threat of being shot would keep him in line. He could be a burden that didn't get in the way rather than a hindrance. As a hindrance she wouldn't put up with him. The huntress turned on her heel and continued on her course. He would catch up and when he did he could deliver his acquiescence of what she'd said while on the move. There was no way that she was going to hang back for his sake. She had a job to be doing after all as he'd so kindly reminded her.
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Beasts and Burdens (Azira)

Postby Zhol on November 26th, 2014, 2:47 am


|.
Plays?

Res coiled down his arm before he had the opportunity to consciously thinking, far more collecting in his palm than before. It was anger and instinct that drove his actions, his annoyance finding a familiar, satisfying release through the pores of his skin. Adrenaline took control of his muscles, and he crossed the water as swiftly as his reckless pace could manage. Were Dinah here, she would have parted the waters or turned them to ice; he'd have to make do on his own.

As his boots found the far shore, the burning behind the backs of his eyes intensified, and once again the orb in his palm erupted into flame. His muscles bunched and uncoiled, converted into a catapult to launch the larger fireball in the direction of the fleeing huntress, missing her intentionally to sail past the periphery of her vision and splash against a tree a few yards ahead.

"Don't walk away from me," he growled, her words ringing in his head. Do this with your bare hands? A burden? Who the hell did she think she was? What arrogance was this, to assume that she knew him and understood him and his worth based on so much nothing? He felt fresh res coiling around his fingers, wrapping across his knuckles as his hand clenched into a fist. His mouth tasted of coins; his mind whispered in familiar voices, urging him to sear the smug arrogance from Azira's flesh. "You have no idea what I am capable of," he uttered darkly, less a threat and more a warning.

He clenched his teeth, fighting every impulse to advance towards her, to grab her arm and let his res flow across her skin to be ignited in flame, to let it spread across the ground and to the trees to set the entire forest alight and disprove her condescending judgement of his capabilities. "The only thing getting in the way of your job is your sheer arrogance. You think you're better: than me; than the Endal back in Thunder Bay; than the rest of Wind Reach; than the whole petching world."

HIs nostrils flared as he tried and failed to calm himself with a breath. "You know nothing about me, and yet you act as if you know everything. You're not as special as you think you are, glassbeak. This may not be my area of expertise, but I'm good at what I do. You're just another huntress, and from what I hear, a mediocre one at that."

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Beasts and Burdens (Azira)

Postby Azira on November 27th, 2014, 11:18 am

Her mind was filled with plans for the hunt when the fireball sailed past her vision. It brought her to a stop, staring at the flames that had caught at the drier sections of bark. The dry wood was only beginning to light as she looked on and her shock changed to irritation quickly enough as her backpack was hurriedly shrugged off her back. It hadn't rained in a few days and so if that tree was left the way it was it'd probably catch fire properly and start to spread it to the others around it. The pack was drawn open, the huntress rifling through the contents for the blanket that she kept there. Once her fingers found the soft texture of the material it was drawn out and she hurried over to smother the new flames.

She didn't look around as she worked and so she didn't see his current attitude as she flung words at him over her shoulder. "If you'd like to show that you're capable of setting fire to the forest then that's just great. Do you know how much dried wood there is? Do you know how far this could have spread? Maybe as far as Water Reach itself. Very smart that," she snapped out as she smothered the last of the flames. The bark was left scorched and burnt away entirely in some places and there were scorch marks on her blanket as well. The smell of burning wool and wood pervaded the air as she shook the blanket out.

Her attention switched to him at last as the crisis was averted, the irritation still clear in her features although her eyes widened when she caught sight of him. Gods he looked pissed. At that moment he looked more than capable of setting the whole forest on fire and her with it. What was his problem? She'd explained things quite clearly to him, it was nothing personal. Her job was her job, her job was her life and she wasn't going to let anything or anybody interfere with it. If he wanted to hinder her then she'd explained quite simply that she wouldn't let him so if he didn't want to get shot, didn't want to be a burden then he'd be better off doing something to show his worth rather than having a tantrum.

Usually during a hunt was one of the few times that she could get the better of her temper, even when she worked with others. She couldn't stand to be insulted though, not on her own ground as she saw it. Golden eyes blazed as she glared back at him, her jaw set until he finished. The rage was simmering below the surface, straining to escape through her skin with such ferocity that she actually began to shake. It was an effort not to scream at him, not to rip him to shreds if she wanted to. She had it in her to kill him whether with her bare hands or the knife at her hip she could do it. But she struggled against the urge, rooted herself to the spot and tried to take the high ground. It was a fine line that she was walking so close to slipping into her more animalistic instincts that she could feel herself teetering on the edge, a conscious struggle made to keep her on that line instead of falling off it.

"I do not think myself better than you or anybody else but I don't see your worth," she growled through gritted teeth. "I know that you've just proven yourself to be an idiot by having a tantrum and possibly messing up what I am trying to do. I don't care if you can look after your horses. They're only so much use to us when winter comes and would you prefer us to eat them or would you like just another huntress to work her ass off to fill your belly? You get to stay in the mountain and complain that you never go out, we get to go out and risk our lives to try to keep the stores stocked. I bring in meat. As long as I do that, you have no right to complain."

Her nostrils were left flaring as she stared back at him, trying to calm herself so that she could get on with what needed to be done. Thoughts ran through her head as she tried to convince herself that the opposite of what he'd said was true. She wasn't mediocre. She had brought home the moose last season. She had plugged it full of arrows, she had slit its throat while it tried to kick her and take her down with it, she had taken what meat she could from it and had physically dragged it back to the mountain. She had had Khara there but Khara hadn't killed it and hadn't sliced it to pieces. There were still small marks on her own hands where ivy and rope had torn her skin open. Over three hundred pounds of meat had been added to the stores that day and it had not been brought in by an Endal or a group of hunters but by only one small huntress and a game scout. She knew that he was wrong.

That fact calmed her enough to turn back to her pack and the blanket that had been dropped. The material was bundled up and squeezed back in among rations and traps. The pack was pulled closed again and repositioned on her back. The tree was given one last look to make sure that no embers had remained to relight it before she turned her gaze back to Zhol once more, the golden gaze cooler than it had been only a few chimes before.

"Are you ready to continue or would you prefer to burn me to a cinder? I'm sure that would be very helpful or would you like to show that you can be of some use rather than frightening off everything in the area by setting things on fire? If I can't find this leopard or whatever it is then I'd like to be able to bring back something that we can eat so I'd appreciate it if you didn't make everything run away," she explained tiredly. Azira would appreciate being able to hunt without risk of any more flying fire balls aimed near her head. It seemed like such a small thing to ask for.
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Beasts and Burdens (Azira)

Postby Zhol on November 27th, 2014, 2:55 pm


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The hypocrisy of it was astounding. Azira had the gall to claim she didn't think she was better than others, only to provide a few moments later a list of reasons why she thought she was. Yes, the role that the huntress played was vital to the survival of the city and those who lived in it; but what of the game scouts, who faced all the same perils in the Unforgiving as the hunters, but with none of the prestige? Zhol knew the kind of arrogance she directed towards them, and yet Azira had the nerve to feign innocence. Zhol could already hear the whispers of reimancy in his mind, urging him to immolate the infuriating woman where she stood.

There were so many things the seething, broiling anger inside him urged for him to snap back at her. She condescended about her apparently expert knowledge of forest fires, but did she even know the first thing about reimancy? Did she realise that a few flickering flames and measly embers were well within his capabilities to control? Did she hear herself? Did she know how grating and abrasive the never absent arrogance and judgement in her tone was? Did she know how badly she made him want to sear her lips closed and spare himself the sound of it?

He held his tongue and remained silent, but the intensity of his glare didn't lessen in the slightest. As he advanced, his anger burned beyond his body's ability to feel how hot it was; an eerie chill descending over him. When he finally spoke, his voice was quiet, and unnervingly calm. "I've felt what your anger is capable of," he reminded, not bothering to expand upon their encounter the summer just past. "Now you've seen what I can do with mine."

His arms folded across his chest, as if sheathing his weapon after demonstrating what he could do with his bare hands. "I don't care how special or important you think you are: any respect you think you deserve is undone by your actions, and you have none of mine left. You are mean spirited, and a bully, and whatever patience and tolerance I had because of whatever is broken inside you, has run out to. From here on, I treat you the way that you treat others."

A faint hint of a joyless smile tugged at the corner of his mouth. "And if you threaten me again, Glassbeak, I assure you: you will find yourself in flames before your arrow even lands, and we will both die out here."

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Beasts and Burdens (Azira)

Postby Azira on November 27th, 2014, 5:59 pm

The other Avora spoke at last and offered her absolutely no direction. She assumed that she was allowed to continue without him throwing another hissy fit seeing as he hadn't said anything to the contrary but she heard him out all the same. His last words were met with an eye roll at what she saw as being melodramatic.

"Yeah whatever. I was only going to shoot you if you did something stupid as long as you don't do that then what difference does it make to me?" she asked exasperatedly, turning away from him to continue in the north west direction that she'd set herself. Words were called back over her shoulder at him as she walked. "Petch respect! Why does it even matter?" A pause before she continued more quietly to herself in Nari. "Nobody has ever bothered to respect me so it's not like it's anything new."

Although she'd so casually brushed off his words she pondered them as she walked. She was by no means immune to what he'd thrown at her. She had no idea what a glassbeak was but she had an idea that it was supposed to be derogatory like the rest of his speech. Mean spirited, a bully, broken. She knew he was right. Azira had probably been broken since her mother died, as broken as her mother's glass figurines that the girl had shattered on the floor in grief fuelled rage. Maybe that had only been the first crack, one that had widened in the strangeness of the nursery and cracked open completely when she'd moved to the Yasi Quarter and left Phobius, the only ally she had, behind. By the time the boy had been old enough to join her she was a different person, a child trying to hold the shattered pieces together. She suspected that some of the pieces had slipped away from her, lost so that she could never be fully whole again. There were just gaping holes left behind.

The outer pieces had hardened against the world like tempered glass as she mimicked the behaviour that had been so often aimed towards her. The taunts, the cruelty, the biting remarks, the fear, all replicated to keep everyone at bay. If nobody was willing to come near her then there was no chance of anyone getting in and damaging the few pieces that she had left. So his words might have hurt but she knew that being a bully was the only way that she was likely to survive. His death threat didn't shake her though as she didn't half wonder whether it might not be kinder for everyone. Maybe it'd be good to have someone put her out of her misery so that she could come back as a whole person rather than a shattered mess.

The leopard! Focus!

Shaking herself free of the more morbid thoughts that she was beginning to indulge in the huntress began to pay more attention to her surroundings again. A glance skywards and a quick calculation set her on a more straight course again as she'd been veering a little off it. The Avora tried to see between the gaps in the foliage ahead, searching up high for the rocks that she was hoping would provide some sort of cover. She was hoping that that cover was harbouring a leopard. If it wasn't then she was going to have to reassess things. There was no certainty that the creature they were searching for was even one of the shy creatures. She almost didn't want to find it so it'd have a chance to escape up into the hills again. She was sure that the beast only wanted to return to a life of peace.

Oh so you're a leopard now?

The remark had her wincing slightly, chewing at the inside of her cheek as she tried to ignore the comparisons that she had been drawing between herself and the leopard. They weren't the same and she didn't want them to be the same. She didn't want to be tracked down and killed by a bunch of hunters but then she wasn't a leopard so in theory she should be okay.

A glimpse of stone that she almost felt she'd imagined. Craning her neck as she continued onward she saw it again. She'd found it. Her steps which had already been quiet slowed as she drew nearer, a conscious effort to avoid anything on the ground that might make some sound that gave her approach away. A break in the trees and she could see it better. It was going to mean more climbing to reach the top and she had no idea if there would be anything waiting for her when she got there. No matter how much she craned her neck there was no way that she was getting a better view. The huntress had to go up there or there was no way of knowing.

A few feet away from the rock she was going to have to climb she began to unload her gear to leave at the foot of a tree. Her bow, quiver and hunting knife would go with her but the pack would have to stay.
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Beasts and Burdens (Azira)

Postby Zhol on November 29th, 2014, 7:54 am


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Why does it matter?

This was the part that the Inarta got backwards, as far as Zhol was concerned. Their caste system set ground rules, mandatory levels of treatment and prestige that were based on some cold and calculated evaluation of how much "worth" an individual had. Wind Reach had at some point decided that a huntress like Azira was worth more to the city than a tutor of Yasi, and so Azira was an Avora, with all the perks and privileges that went along with it: better treatment, better food, better facilities, more days of rest, and everything else. The Inarta forced those of lower status to treat their betters with respect; but being treated with respect by state decree wasn't the same as being respected, or earning respect. In Zhol's experience, many Avora did the opposite, abusing their status, exploiting the lower castes; and the uprising last winter had been proof of that. The fact that the Chiet and Dek felt compelled to rise up against the upper castes, all the destruction, and crime, and rape, and killing that transpired was the fault of people like Azira and the way they treated others: she and the like had brought it all upon themselves, and upon everyone else.

Zhol had been raised different. For him, respect was something you earned, not because of what you were, but because of what you did. True, just like in Wind Reach, back in Endrykas those with crafting and artisinal skills, with hunting skills, with warrior skills were regarded as better than those who could not do any of those things; but they weren't respected because the city decreed that they should be, but because what they did earned that. It wasn't merely blanket respect either: there were subtle variations. You could respect someone for the contributions they made, and for who they were; but also not respect them because of their conduct, and their behaviour towards others. Zhol could think of several siblings who fit that descriptor: he respected them because they were his big brothers and sisters, and because they were warriors and crafters and he was just some lowly horse-carer; but the way they treated him, treated Dinah, treated others made him think of them as the worst kind of people. For Azira, it was the same. He respected her contributions as a huntress, and the risks she took; but by comparison, to his mind, people like Khara took many of the same risks, and yet deserved more of his respect than Azira had earned, because they weren't total shykeholes to everyone around them.

That all mattered. That was all important. That was where Inarta culture got confused. It wasn't the prestige, or the status, or the better treatment that was the true reward of contributing: it was the respect, the gratitude from others for what you did, the acknowledgement that you had done things that made a difference, and that people noticed. It was what was missing when people wrinkled their nose and looked with disdain upon the horse boy outsider. It was what made Zhol want to slap sense into anyone who treated Khara with the same blanket disrespect they showed towards the entire Chiet caste, with no consideration of how important the game scouts made to that full stomach they had. It was what made him want to drive a sword through anyone who blamed the riots on the "ungrateful" lower castes, as if it wasn't something that they had caused themselves. So much sadness, so much hurt, and so many other bad things had been caused by that attitude.

Respect mattered, because it was the currency of being worth something: and when respect from others was lacking or absent, self-respect became the only way to feel worthwhile. No matter what the city gave them, anyone lacking those two forms of respect had, and felt like nothing.

Zhol wondered if Azira suffered from that: if her self-worth was gone, and her actions towards others were merely a retaliation, unwilling to let anyone else feel worth something if she could not herself. She certainly acted as if that were true; but all that earned her was his pity, not his respect. Worse, she seemed to turn what should have been self-respect into arrogance. It was one thing to have pride for what you had done; it was another to use that as a weapon to tear down others. Perhaps a lack of self-worth was why this was so important to her: perhaps finding this predator before anyone else was her way of seeking respect for her abilities. Sadly, Zhol doubted it would make anything better if she succeeded: just a whole lot worse for everyone around her.

He came to a stop as Azira reached the tree, shedding her gear and scampering up into the branches. His eyes narrowed at the trunk, at the illusive handholds, at a loss to fathom how Azira knew where to step and what to hold. There had not been an abundance of trees to climb - or anything else for that matter - back in Zhol's youth, and while five years ago he might have tried to clamber up after her without a second thought, willing to risk the pain and embarrassment of a fall in order to avoid feeling excluded, the him of now merely let out a grunt, and propped himself up against the trunk.

His arms settled across his chest, a sigh escaping from him. Perhaps Azira was right about how lacking his usefulness was; perhaps all he was good for was the monotonous tasks that awaited him back at the city, caring for creatures that most Inarta considered as useless as Azira considered him. Perhaps he had no right being out here, trying to make a difference, trying to help even though he wasn't necessarily sure how. Perhaps he shouldn't be here in Wind Reach at all, wasting food and a bed that could be given to someone more valuable. Perhaps she was right, and it would be best if he never made it back from this trip at all. Perhaps it would be better for everyone, especially for Khara, if he was just -

A frown formed across Zhol's features as a sound distracted his attention; a faint rustle of leaves, a soft crunch of twigs, barely worth noticing at all. Perhaps it was nothing, but an unsettling twist in his gut forced his eyes to sweep his surroundings. He thought he saw a vague glimpse of movement out of the corner of his eye, but when he turned to look directly, he couldn't see anything couldn't quite spot -

The knot in his stomach tightened further. A shape, lurking in the undergrowth. Slowly his arms unfolded, a hand reaching for the hilt of his sword for the faintest shred of reassurance. "Azira?" he said as quietly and carefully as he could, while still being loud enough to be heard, "I think I see something."

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Beasts and Burdens (Azira)

Postby Azira on November 29th, 2014, 6:48 pm

Climbing the tree was obviously the safest option. She could climb up that rock and have her head ripped off when she reached the top or she could make her way to a higher vantage point that would allow her to see any possible danger before putting herself in jeopardy. Climbing was hard enough as it was without having to worry about what might be awaiting you once you reached the top. Just because it was the safest choice didn't mean that it was the easiest though.

Clambering up into trees wasn't something that the huntress did on a regular basis although she'd been forced up onto tree limbs before for different reasons. There was the nearly suicidal boar kill where jumping into a tree had saved her ankles from sharp tusks and given her the wild idea to leap on top of the pig but there was also the incident last winter. That one was far more memorable and she'd been forced to gain height that time, not just jump up onto the lower branches. It had been a terrifying experience, more so than that hunt where a bear had tried to rip her leg open. Back then she hadn't had a chance to register the bear's approach and after it attacked she'd gone into shock. Last winter though with those wolves she'd known what was coming for her. There'd been no one else with her, not at first and there had been no Wind Eagle to sweep in and save her ass.

She'd caught them ripping their... prey to pieces and that had distracted them long enough while she ran and pulled herself up a tree as she expected the snap of their jaws at her feet at any moment. Thankfully this wasn't a life and death situation this time, there was no predator ready to devour her if she didn't move fast enough. It wasn't cold, there wasn't snow and ice on the branches, there were no howls coming from every direction. She was having a hard time drawing similarities between now and then and so she wasn't forced to relive the entire incident as she struggled up the tree.

Starting her climb was the least risky part of the procedure. If she found a branch that wouldn't support her weight and cracked or broke off when she tried then she wouldn't have far to fall. As she went up though, the danger only increased. The branches weren't sturdy like the rocks but shook under her feet so that she could never feel steady. Her hands were forced to close around knobbly wood, wood that had little off shooting twigs that snapped if she tried to pull herself up on them. Azira's hands were going to be full of splinters again it seemed and she'd felt that she'd got enough of them during the moose hunt with Khara. It was a far from a comfortable climb but she struggled onward, occasionally hissing swears when a foot slipped or a hand hold gave way and she was left hugging the tree trunk with a pounding heart.

The huntress had almost reached the level that she needed when the other Avora's voice reached her. It was kept quiet and level but she noted the touch of anxiety in it. Silently cursing whatever had made an appearance, she stopped trying to go upwards and instead crouched on the limb that she was currently on. Her weight was distributed carefully as she crawled on her belly nearer to the end. The branch began to bend downwards but she kept going, terrified that the limb would either give way or bend to a point that was low enough for her to fall off. She needed a clear view down and she wasn't going to get that by playing it safe closer to the middle. By the time she got down there the horse boy could get himself eaten or it could simply be a false alarm. If it was a predator then she could hurry down and risk breaking her neck but she needed to know. At the very least she could tell him what she could see.

Her wriggling brought Zhol into view and she scanned the immediate area. She couldn't see anything near him but she allowed her eyes to flicker over the terrain. A movement in the undergrowth caught her eye and so she focused there. The movement came again and as she watched something started to move out into the open, moving towards Zhol. It looked... spiky! She hadn't seen anything like it but she had heard of something like it. It was about four foot long, slow moving and it was indeed covered with spikes that seemed to sway on its back and on its sides. Spikes that seemed to rise a little as it took in the sight of the man at the tree's base. A ground porcupine, it had to be. They were a rare sight, normally shy and solitary creatures but they didn't like things bigger than them and the man was definitely bigger than it.

"Back away slowly, no sudden movements," she called down the tree, trying to keep her voice quiet but still allow him to hear what she had to say. "It can shoot you with those things on its back but I don't know how far. Don't frighten it and keep your distance and it'll be fine," she cautioned. The huntress became to wriggle her way backwards as soon as her warning was given. She needed to get down the tree, maybe not all the way down and risk a prickly attack but at least down to a spot where she could be useful. With all those spikes she doubted that she'd be able to get a shot at it but maybe it was vulnerable at the back. The important thing was getting down to a point where she could actually do something. If it followed Zhol and she could get down to the bottom then perhaps her blanket could be thrown over all of those dangerous spikes.

As soon as she was able to Azira began to lower herself back down towards the ground.
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