Closed Beasts and Burdens (Azira)

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

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The westernmost tip of Kalea, Wind Reach is home to an amazing group of people and their giant eagle mounts. [Lore]

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Beasts and Burdens (Azira)

Postby Zhol on January 21st, 2015, 1:59 pm


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Zhol probably shouldn't have smirked as Azira asked for help, but it didn't seem to matter much; he was too far up in the tree for her to notice. The expression faded slightly as he realised what that help would actually entail: descending his way back down the blasted tree. He was far less injured from his ascent than Azira had been; or at least, that was what he kept telling himself. He'd been jabbed in places that he didn't particularly want to be jabbed, and his hands were a little worse for wear, but the tanned animal skin of his jacket and pants had protected his comparatively softer skin from too much undue harm. It was the awkwardness that had been the worst part of it though, and to descend to the ground only to have to clamber back up again afterwards - and with every passing moment making the appearance of some kind of predator all the more likely - seemed frustrating, dangerous, and unwise.

He sized up the situation, and their options. The premise was simple: Azira's scrawny biceps, like roasted poultry legs lurking beneath the flesh of her arms, weren't nearly enough to hoist even a modestly sized creature like the porcupine, and she needed Zhol's obviously superior strength to compensate for her shortcomings. That wasn't the way he'd ever phrase it aloud of course, but it was what Zhol knew inside, and was the rationale he clung to. How she managed to be an effective hunter without being able to shift a carcass so small was a mystery, but that didn't matter at this moment. What mattered was how Zhol was going to find a way to prove that he wasn't as useless as she insisted, and ram that irrefutable truth down Azira's throat until she choked on it.

Problem was, this was beyond the scope of his knowledge. He was no hunter, he wasn't used to trees, and he certainly wasn't used to the practice of suspending dead things from them. At first thought it was beyond him, a whole slew of variables that his mind had no knowledge to aid. But it was simpler than that, wasn't it? Forget the specifics, forget the carcass, forget the impending slashing and biting doom from whatever predator showed up to feast on their suspended buffet, and at the base of it all, they were just two people trying to lift something heavy with a rope. That wasn't such a foreign concept, was it? Ropes, and weights, and hoisting - welcome to every day life in the travelling city of Endrykas. It took a family to erect a pavilion, and often more than that to help assemble the larger tents and structures in the city. This wasn't a mystery at all: this was as familiar to him as grass.

Negative thoughts of home encroached on his mind, but he pushed them aside, trying to focus on anything that might help. He thought of hoisting canvas, and how deceptively difficult that could be. He thought of raising the towering pillars that held the larger tents aloft. He thought of the way they used those pillars and their crossbeams to hoist other things, rope thrown over them just the same as this tree, an army of Dyrkas hauling on the rope to hoist the heavy weights from the ground. A fleeting memory floated through his mind from when he was a child, of he and his infant friends so eager to help, trying to do the same and failing miserably. They'd left the ground in fact, so insufficient were their muscles, and it took the strength of five of them to succeed in a task that a single adult could have done with ease.

No, he thought suddenly, realisation dawning. The weight of five of us.

As quickly as his hands could muster, he scrabbled up as much of the slack as he could muster, looping the rope around his waist a few times, tugging it until he was satisfied that the tension would keep it tight around his body. As quickly as he could manage he began to climb downwards; almost instantly the rope began to resist, his hips beginning to feel the weight of the porcupine on the other end of the rope. It was like the merchants at the market, he thought to himself as he insistently descended. It was like the scales they weighed their produce on. The heavier side goes down; the lighter side goes up. Zhol was no expert on hunting, and no expert on the wild creatures of Kalea, but he was willing to bet that a grown man with all his bulk weighed a mite more than a dead porcupine.

The funny part was how much easier it made things; the weight of the carcass was like a helping hand, a friend on the other end of the rope helping to lower him down gently. The branches that had been so problematic on the way up served him better on the way down, shorter steps and less stretching making the descent less of a strain. Parts of the tree still protested the presence of his shins, but the dead weight helped again, the resistance on the rope making it less precarious as he leaned backwards - or at least, making it feel less precarious, and the boldness that inspired translated to speed.

He looked past his boots, first catching a glimpse of the carcass swaying a few feet above the forest floor, feeling the rope tugging against him with the momentum of each swinging motion; then turning his gaze to the huntress below. "How high do you need it to be?" he asked, trying to sound as calm and nonchalant as a man in a tree tied to a dead animal could manage to sound.

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Beasts and Burdens (Azira)

Postby Azira on January 29th, 2015, 10:16 pm

Standing idly by and waiting for someone else to do something for her wasn't Azira's style. The huntress liked to think of herself as independent despite the fact that she relied on others a lot. Other people had to make her food, make her bow and arrows, skin and butcher her kills and clean up after her but all of that was conveniently never thought about. It meant that she was stupid enough to want to lift up the porcupine by herself because she wanted to be the one to do it and all by herself. It was childish and desired somewhat out of spite.

She considered the problem. When she'd pulled on the rope, she'd felt the resistance of the bark as the hemp scratched against it. She had no idea if that made pulling more difficult although she imagined that it did. The huntress had no idea if something like that was helpful information for her to have. So if the tree was fighting back against the rope, did that mean she had to pull more, harder? The Avora had no idea, physics really wasn't her thing. The teen moved to stand directly below the branch, wondering if it would be easier if she pulled from there rather than trying to move away from the branch while she tugged.

The girl stretched her arms above her head, flexing and relaxing her muscles before she made an attempt at tackling the porcupine again. She could pull at the rope again with all her strength, maybe wrap it around the tree trunk so it was less likely to slip. Would that sort of wrapping make things more difficult though? No idea but it was worth a try. A glance was shot upwards to check on Zhol's progress to ensure that she'd have a chance to do what she wanted before he could interfere. It didn't even look as if he'd moved at all yet. That was all the better for her. She took a step forward, ready to take ahold of it and found it disappearing. It wasn't moving the way she'd expect it to be if it was somehow sliding off the other side of the branch and so she found herself looking up to investigate.

It wasn't immediately apparent what the man was doing but it became obvious, despite appearing to have no purpose at all. She gawked as he tied the rope around his waist and began to climb his way down. The carcass hanging on the other end of the rope began to rise as he began to ascend. He'd succeeded in doing what she couldn't. I could have done it if he hadn't moved first. I could have done it if I'd had the chance to try again, she thought grumpily as she watched the slow process.

Despite the fact he'd beaten her to it, she still considered the question carefully. She judged how much height they had to work with, how high a cat might be able to jump if it went after it. She could reach maybe two feet higher than her own height at a jump so that would mean a little over eight feet for her but what about a snowshoe leopard if that was indeed what it was. Ten feet? That seemed a safe number.

"Ten feet or over? To make sure that nothing can jump up at it or catch it. Maybe as high as you can get it? Tie it where you can and come down," she told him. She looked around the place as she considered their next course of action. They needed a good vantage point and a good place to shoot from that would be safe. The tree that the porcupine was in was considered but she wasn't sure if she could find a place with a good, all round view. It seemed her best option though.

"Maybe we should stay in this tree," Azira said abruptly. "Wait, lookout and shoot if something comes. This seems as good a place as any. I'll pass my stuff up to you."

Her pack was collected from where she'd left it and handed up along with anything else might hamper her own climb in among the limbs. When she was ready, she'd hoist herself into the lower branches, raising herself a few feet from the ground. If she had to move higher then she could but only if the need arose. A fast escape might turn out to be important so there was no point being too high and finding that you had to jump for whatever reason. A sturdy place to shoot from was found, seating herself as comfortably as she could before sorting out her short bow. An arrow was nocked but not drawn as she propped the weapon up on her knees.

"Now we wait."
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Beasts and Burdens (Azira)

Postby Zhol on January 31st, 2015, 3:57 am


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Ten feet or over. That's at least two Khara's tall.

Were it not for the limitations of being inside his own skull, he would have glared at himself for thinking of it that way. He was supposed to be thinking about her less, training his mind into avoiding thoughts of the woman he could never be with, not turning her into the eventual destination of every single path his mind wandered down. It was pathetic. Stupid. She deserved better from him.

He focused on his frustration and the task at hand in equal measure, descending until he found a sturdy branch far enough down to provide the height that Azira had instructed. His fingers fumbled at the rope around him, tying to use his weight to stop the porcupine from sliding back downwards. His efforts half succeeded, the corpse dropping a foot or so as the rope slid painfully through his grip, but he caught it in time, looped the hemp fibres around the tree branch, and secured it with the same kind of knot that he used to hitch up horses. His lips mumbled the words that his mother had used to help him remember; a story about rabbits scampering around pavilion polls; an echo of his childhood that he'd never quite managed to dislodge.

Without the help of the dead counterweight, the remainder of Zhol's descent was deeply unappealing; he was half way to his first step down when Azira stopped him; a blessed relief, truth be told. Still, Azira was more than an arm's reach away; a disagreement between the sole of Zhol's boot and a particularly dry section of bark dislodged a scattering of fragments, and sent them skitting into the lower branches. Zhol's stomach chased after them as he stumbled, clinging to the branch above to stop himself from an uncomfortably rapid descent. His movements were more cautious as he edged a little closer to the trunk, relying on the thicker wood and the reassuring balancing post that it provided.

Settling himself astride a branch like a rider on a saddle, Zhol planted a foot against a conveniently placed lower branch, and leaned over as much as he dared, reaching down with one hand to grab everything Azira wanted lofted upwards, clinging to the tree with the other. He thought about offering a hand to Azira as well; she probably wouldn't have taken it, though; something about the way she moved and the way she looked and didn't look at him made it seem like somehow he'd managed to make mistakes just by doing what he was told.

Zhol let out a sigh, shuffling all the way back on the branch to lean against the trunk, waiting silently as Azira situated herself on her branch. He retrieved his bow as well, and an arrow, though made less of a show of preparing it than Azira had, simply letting it rest across his lap as he waited. It was a reassurance more than anything else; better to be armed than unarmed while awaiting a dangerous predator in a tree, he supposed. Idly, he wondered if they were even safe up here. Could snowshoe leopards even climb trees? He supposed probably not; Azira surely wouldn't have suggested they seek refuge up here if they could, and he was content to defer to her judgement - trees and Kalean wildlife were about as far beyond his area of expertise as it was possible to get.

The silence was awkward, and made all the more uncomfortable by the unrelenting surface of the branch that Zhol had chosen. He kept his eyes peeled on the tree line, taking advantage of the fact that his branch was orientated at a different angle to the one Azira had chosen. Azira would the silence of course; were she capable, she would probably shoot fire from her eyes at him for speaking. Zhol couldn't help it though, the words tumbling from his lips before he'd even finished thinking them.

"I'm sorry," he said quietly, loud enough for his words to carry to Azira, but not much further. "For... showing off, I guess. Or trying to. I know you don't think very highly of me, and that's fine, you can think whatever you want. But -"

He sighed.

"Someone I care about has a lot of respect for you. I don't want you to end up thinking less of her, just because she and I are friends. She deserves -" He winced. "- better than some outsider who isn't a scrap of use to anyone."

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Beasts and Burdens (Azira)

Postby Azira on March 15th, 2015, 11:48 pm

Azira wasn't the only one who needed to get herself settled. Zhol had the unenviable task of securing the porcupine without dropping it or falling out of the tree in the process. His frame was too great for navigating among the tangle of tree limbs, the spaces between them too close. He was awkward, almost uncoordinated as he struggled his way down, the huntress smug in the knowledge that such climbing was easier for him. Served him right for thinking he should be the one to go up and down the tree. It was much easier for her to find a branch to sit on too because she didn't have long legs to deal with.

Once their course of action was decided upon, silence settled between them and a welcome one in Azira's opinion. She hadn't wanted Zhol here and if she didn't have to talk to him and acknowledge his presence then maybe she could persuade herself into thinking he wasn't here. This new quiet was more beneficial to the huntress than the tension and bickering she'd already had to endure by having the horse boy with her. It gave her a chance to relax herself, to listen to the noises of the ecosystem that she found herself in. She listened to bird song, to the rustle of leaves and the odd pitter patter of little feet in the undergrowth. Her eyes skimmed the treeline as well, adding the visual stimuli to the aural as she searched for any signs that their prospective prey might be approaching. The teen was hopeful that she might hear something before she saw it as unlikely as that might be but she wanted all her bases covered.

An involuntary jerk went through her as the man spoke, his words, quiet as they might have been, startling the Inarta girl and earning him a cool look. He'd begun with an apology but he'd have been better off remaining silent if he'd known that it would irk her. Couldn't he just have stayed quiet? Wouldn't that have worked out better for both of them? Amber eyes fixed on him sharply, attempting to intimidate him into silence. She might be small and he might wield fire but she felt that she had the advantage here. It was entirely within her power to kill him with either knife or bow and she had an easier time of moving around in the tree than he did. Not that the resolution of the situation would require such desperate measures but the option was there all the same. Her expression softened a little as he spoke, wondering what had prompted this apology. Was she supposed to apologise now too? Probably but if he thought that she found something in her behaviour to be sorry for then he was mistaken.

"Of course, I can think what I want about you," she responded abruptly as he cut himself off. Her companion seemed to sigh (because of what she'd said?) before trying again to get his point across. The Avora's eyebrows rose skeptically. Someone he knew respected Azira a lot? Who? The huntress had no idea, hadn't the faintest clue who could carry such a sentiment for herself. It was a woman because he had said "she" but who could that be? Who did she know that Zhol might know? She couldn't think what person they could possibly have in common. Khara? Drusilla? Someone who the huntress hadn't taken much notice of perhaps? She could ask but maybe he would clam up. He was assuming that she knew who he was talking about but if the man discovered evidence to the contrary, he might change his mind.

Her head tilted to the side a little as she considered him. "All right. I don't judge people by who they know. I judge them on who they are," the huntress answered plainly. "Don't worry about it." She returned her gaze to the surrounding trees, still pondering who he could have been on about. Whoever he was talking about was clearly someone that Zhol respected or cared about or else he wouldn't be so concerned about this. Without looking up, she asked, "Why does it matter anyway?" It was as close as she was going to get to finding out the person's identity without asking for it outright.
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Beasts and Burdens (Azira)

Postby Zhol on March 16th, 2015, 1:04 am


|.
Of course her initial response was abrupt, but then he'd expected that; couldn't have expected anything else, really. Her assurance that Khara wouldn't suffer in Azira's eyes because of their friendship came as a mild relief, but the comment was a double edged sword; if that was true, then Azira's judgemental attitude towards him was a poor reflection indeed on the kind of man she must think he was.

A hollow chuckle escaped him as she asked the question. "It doesn't." That was the honest answer; it didn't matter. How he felt about Khara didn't mean a thing; Inarta society would make sure of that. He was foreign, a misfit, useless. He was an Avora, and she was a Chiet. It didn't work. Couldn't work. Things were bad enough without him and his stupid feelings getting in the way, ruining things for her, making her life harder, painting a target on her because of affection she'd never asked for.

He sighed again, his voice turning quieter still. "It doesn't matter, because all people care about is the first thing they see. They see the Outsider, they see the horses, and then they stop looking. No one cares if there's more than meets the eye, more to a person lurking underneath; no one ever bothers to find out. You are always what you first were; and you're stuck with it, burdened by it, no matter what you do, or feel; no matter who you feel it for."

A bitter silence followed, self-pity lacing the air. Zhol risked a glance in Azira's direction. "It's the same with you too, I bet. I'm sure there's much more to you than anger and arrows, but that's all anyone sees, and no one ever bothers to look for anyone else. They all think they know you, but they don't."

He shrugged, his words becoming little more than a mutter. "Maybe it's better that way. Maybe they're better off not knowing. Maybe you are. Maybe life is just unfair, and no one ever gets to be what they want to be, no matter how much they deserve it."

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Beasts and Burdens (Azira)

Postby Azira on May 20th, 2015, 10:49 pm

The horse boy had become as forthcoming with information as she was; he wasn't going to give anything away. A curious eye flickered his way but the answer wasn't clear in his face, not that she'd expected it to be. Her eyes focused on the trees surrounding the clearing once more although she continued to listen to him.

Her posture became tense from waiting and she made an effort to relax herself. If she wanted to shoot, then she needed to loosen up first or risk hurting herself in the process. It was the last thing that the huntress needed right now, especially given her present company. Her surroundings were doing nothing to help matters. A breeze passed through the clearing every so often, rustling the undergrowth and boughs of the trees. Every time a section shifted in the wind, Azira expected it to be signalling the arrival of the leopard or some other predator. False alarm after false alarm did nothing but set her further on edge. Chances were that she'd have no warning of its presence until it was visible within the clearing. The Avora wouldn't have much time to prepare for a kill.

Her companion had trouble keeping quiet as well, which wasn't doing them any good. He seemed to insist on filling the void between them with noise. The teen rolled her eyes, waiting for an opportunity to tell him to shut up. They didn't need to alert any animals to their presence, they didn't want to become prey themselves. He indulged in a bit of self-pity but if he thought she cared then he had another thing coming to him. She found that it was good to go by first impressions. Her initial impressions of people were usually the same; they weren't to be trusted or liked. It took a lot of work to make her change her mind. They really needed to prove their worth to her. She had no sympathy for Zhol. As far as she was concerned, he ought to do more to make a more worthwhile impression on people rather than moaning about it. Words weren't getting him anywhere, except further into her bad books. He was truly irritating her; he talked too much.

When he fell silent, she thought that he might have chosen to shut up by himself. She breathed a sigh of relief, listening now as well as looking for any signs of the predator. Birds sang in the trees and there were some indistinct, far off sounds but no sign of what she was looking for. It could take a long time before their bait attracted any creature at all and she had no idea what the chances were of them catching the leopard with it. They didn't know if the leopard was close enough to smell it, and they weren't even certain that it was a leopard they were hunting!

Her whipped around, mouth open to reproach Zhol for starting to speak again but her complaint died on her lips. She blinked rapidly for a few moments, her mouth closing again before she appraised the outsider. Anger and arrows? Was that how she looked to people around her? Probably. She'd rarely made an attempt to be friendly in any way and being waspish and threatening had its advantages. It stopped people from making the effort to try to see past the barriers she'd put up between herself and the world. She liked it that way. It was far better being like that too.

One brow raised. "Do you think I care? Why would I want people to see me differently?" she questioned, the corner of her mouth curling up. "You might have a problem with it. I don't. Why would I want anyone to know me?"

What he said about not getting to be what you deserved to be touched a nerve though. You don't deserve to be an Endal! You wouldn't be right for it, she reminded herself. But there were plenty of people who didn't deserve to become Endal. People who she was certain she was better than at any rate. It was unfair but then her companion had a point. The world was unfair.

"Life is unfair. Have you only-" Whatever she was going to say was cut off abruptly at the sound of a snapping branch. She made a quick gesture for his silence although he was sure to have heard it too. Her head swung back and forth, her gaze flitting around the clearing. Where had it come from? She needed to find it, needed to see if it was her prey. The only thing was that animals were usually careful not to move so loudly. Either it had been made by something that was too big to help it or it was a person. She readied her bow just in case. Making sure that an arrow was securely nocked, the string was drawn back a little in preparation as she looked for her possible target.
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Beasts and Burdens (Azira)

Postby Zhol on May 21st, 2015, 11:23 pm


|.
There is was again that judgemental, dismissive attitude; that unnecessary hostility. Zhol was usually a patient, tolerant, accepting man. He sought out the good in everyone he could, and when it proved hard to find it merely convinced him that it must be more deeply buried. Azira though? He had tried, many times, with all the effort he could muster, and yet every tiny step of progress he seemed to make, one false step and he slid all the way back to where he had begun. It was like attempting to push a boulder up a hill, only to have it roll back and crush you each time you made the mistake of pausing for breath, only worse: Azira had more sharp spines to her than the dead creature swinging from the tree beneath him. Zhol didn't entirely believe in futility, but the only other person that he had known whose dire negative opinion of him was so stubbornly and unwaveringly entrenched was his father. Perhaps he should simply accept that striving for anything but ire from the huntress was a waste of his time.

The disturbance in the undergrowth beneath him was fortuitously timed, sparing him from the rest of whatever judgemental rant Azira was about to launch herself into. His hands moved to ready his own bow, but he hesitated. This entire journey, Azira had made it abundantly clear that his help was neither needed or wanted. If he assisted, and all went well, Azira would never acknowledge that she had help from the horse boy; yet if it went wrong, for whatever reason, his participation would bear the brunt of all the blame. On the other hand, if he sat idle and did nothing, and Azira succeeded on her own, he would never hear the end of it; but if she failed, it would be his lack of assistance that she would claim as the reason. There was no option, no outcome that was not insufferable.

"Petch it," he muttered under his breath, tugging an arrow from his quiver and nocking it onto his bow string. And petch her, he silently added as he peered at the undergrowth, searching around for the source of the sound, or any glimpse of movement that might tell him where the creature moving beneath him was.

When Zhol's eyes finally settled on the creature's silhouette, his heart stuttered into total stillness. It was one thing to have seen a drawing of a snowshoe leopard, one thing to read the measurements, to imagine how large such a beast might be; it was something else entirely to witness one in the flesh. Even obscured by brambles and foliage, the leopard cut a menacing figure. From the point of it's nose to the tip of it's tail, the leopard easily matched Zhol's six feet height; but nearly half of the creature was tail, and not just the flimsy tail of a horse or hunting dog - it was as thick as an arm, articulated and muscular. Unlike the sleek lines of smaller felines, the leopard's shoulders rippled with muscle, and it's fur had a matte finish that refused to reflect even a glimmer of light. It's markings, no doubt intended to conceal it in the snowier, rockier reaches higher up Kalea's mountains, still served the leopard in the scrubby undergrowth amongst the trees. There was something both intimidating and majestic about the creature; despite the certain need to protect Thunder Bay and their herds from this predator, he couldn't help but feel a certain sadness about removing something so terrifyingly beautiful from the world.

"To your northeast," Zhol breathed, quiet enough that the leopard had no chance of hearing, making sure that Azira was also aware of which direction danger was approaching from. It wasn't actually northeast, Zhol realised that; but he hoped Azira was smart enough to discern his meaning.

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Beasts and Burdens (Azira)

Postby Azira on June 8th, 2015, 11:03 pm

Her ears pricked at the smallest sounds as she tried to determine the direction her prospective prey. The noise she'd heard had been so quiet and brief that she found it difficult to pinpoint it. Another rustle that sounded from her right side sent her gaze that way, scanning for any unusual silhouettes within the undergrowth. She spotted the shape as Zhol directed her attention to it. The bow was raised higher, the string drawn back in readiness. The arrow was held in place, ready to fire at any moment as the huntress waited for the shape to emerge. She shifted her position carefully so that she wouldn't lose her balance and concentrated on keeping the arrow aimed at the middle of the dark mass. The strain of holding the arrow ready would take its toll within a chime as she waited for the leopard to slink into a better position. Her arm began to tremble, the arrow's point wavering and she had to grit her teeth and maintain a rigid grip so as not to release her missile prematurely.

The beast scanned its surroundings, nose and ears twitching as it took in the smells and sounds too. Azira tried to control her breathing. It would keep her focused as well as quiet or so she hoped. Slow deep breath in through her nose and released out the same way, not a sound escaping from her pressed lips. Once her breathing was under proper control, she searched for a possible target on the prey's body. It was large enough, an animal made up of powerful muscle. It would be nearly impossible to kill it with one arrow so she'd have to find some way to incapacitate it long enough to allow her to get more shots off. A shot through its eye would guarantee a kill but her aim wasn't nearly good enough to pull off that. Besides, one small movement from the animal and she probably wouldn't hit anything while tipping it off to their presence. She'd have to hit a wide enough target if she wanted the assurance of being able to get it at all.

It began to move further into the clearing, moving purposefully towards the porcupine, its tail flicking a little from side to side as it approached. She realised with a start that she would have to shoot it soon or it was going to discover them anyway. It might already know that they were there, or had been here recently - it would be able to smell them. It wouldn't try to pull down its kill until it checked out the possible danger and it would discover them in the tree and succeed in killing two birds with one stone by slaughtering them and having easier access to its prickly find as well.

The Avora couldn't hold the arrow for much longer anyway and she needed to make a shot now so she aimed for the point where its back leg met its underbelly. She hoped that it would be a soft spot to hit. The arrow was released, its flight going slightly awry. Instead of catching it where she'd intended and severely hampering it as she'd hoped, the arrow moved further left. The point jammed into its flank, earning a noise of rage and pain but achieving nothing except to piss it off.

"Petch!" she hissed as she scrabbled for another projectile. The tail twitched angrily now, vibrant eyes fixing on her where she perched among the limbs. She saw the muscles of the back legs ripple as she blindly tried to nock an arrow, the shaft slipping as she found herself more focused on the animal that had tensed itself to spring. As the shaft reached the right place and she began to draw and raise the weapon, the big cat was already bounding towards them. It moved fast, spurred on by the desire to inflict pain and she found herself aiming further down as it advanced rapidly.

The arrow was released quickly, the luxury of time to aim flying out of the nest as valuable ticks of her life rushed away from her. The missile glanced off its back to leave a short red line where the flesh had been nicked. There was a barely perceptible stutter in its movements before it was at the base of the tree and began clambering up it at an alarming rate. The huntress was on her feet, back supported by the tree trunk as one arm was flung out to a branch for balance. Her feet moved higher, her eyes never taken off the dangerous feline. One hand continued to grip the branch, which was proving sturdy enough for now, as she leaned closer to the beast, the bow raised in her left hand as she prepared to smack the wood down on the beast's head. She was ready to hit its nose and eyes to try to get it to retreat because there was no way that she could get an arrow off in time now. You couldn't fight at close range with a bow, or at least she couldn't.

"If you can shoot it in the face, that would help!" she yelled as she swung the weapon down across the beast's nose, narrowly missing its snarling jaws. She drew the bow away, trying to slam the end down into its eyes to gouge them. If it wasn't stupid, it'd probably drop and try a fresh attack but it might just keep coming and then it was likely to sweep her feet from under her. If it got that close then she was jumping down and taking her chances. It might buy her a few ticks to take a slash at it with her knife while it was still up there but it might also mean the end of her. She could only hope that the horse boy could manage to do something when it was really needed.
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Beasts and Burdens (Azira)

Postby Zhol on June 23rd, 2015, 4:23 pm


|.
"Ivak's flames," he cursed under his breath as he watched the arrogant little huntress utterly fail at what she'd been boasting she would be capable of without his assistance. He was under no illusions that archery was easy - he knew well enough from first hand experience that it was quite the opposite - but he had foolishly believed that Azira's overconfidence had a little more basis in reality and skill than it apparently did. That left her utterly reliant on the man who, by her own evaluation, was utterly useless and good for nothing.

He could have waited: that thought definitely occurred. Whatever the outcome of Azira's confrontation with the leopard, it was bound to be less formidable by the time it was done, whether through injury, exhaustion, or just the mere distraction of chewing on Azira's smug little carcass. If it was a matter of his survival, there was even the option of fleeing, hoping that Azira would have the beast too badly distracted to notice his escape. Sadly, while that was almost certainly the option that Azira would have selected, he was not her, and his sense of morality and his obligation to do the right thing stood firmly in the way, blocking his escape route.

Mustering all the concentration and focus he could, steady breaths, steady arms, he sighted down the shaft of his nocked arrow, and launched his first shot. The leopard was far closer to Zhol than it had been when Azira had first attempted to shoot it, and Zhol's position in the tree offered a much more favourable angle - not to mention a larger target. Even so, the frantic motions as it scrambled to claw at Azira made it difficult to aim at anything vital; the best shot that Zhol could muster managed to bury itself in the leopard's side, somewhere behind the predator's rib cage. It may not have pierced anything vital, but the shot certainly caught the leopard's attention. It's forepaws losing purchase on the tree bark, the leopard slid downwards a couple of feet, scrabbling to maintain purchase and balance until it reached a branch slightly below. It wasn't the kind of tumbling from the tree achievement that Zhol had hoped for; worse, the leopard didn't seem smart enough to comprehend that something other than Azira had been responsible. With a feral growl, it snarled up at Azira, already preparing itself to launch at her again.

Zhol thought of trying again. Perhaps if he shot the beast enough times, he could dislodge it from it's perch, send it tumbling back to the ground, perhaps buy enough seconds and enough distance for Azira to manage to shoot the creature more effectively. That rested far too much of a burden on his archery skills though; with the creature so frantically attempting to kill Azira, and with his own bow skills so questionable, there was a risk he'd end up shooting her instead, and while that wasn't necessarily a terrible outcome all things considered, knowing his luck he wouldn't actually shoot Azira well enough to kill her, and she'd end up with a genuine reason to seethe at him instead of all the imaginary ones she'd conjured for himself.

No: if he was going to help, it would have to be with fire; but close as he was, he wasn't close enough to do any real damage with his fire. His control barely extended past arms reach, and while there wasn't a huge amount of control involved in hurling fireballs, the further they travelled the less impact and effect they had. He needed to be closer.

A terrible idea formed in his mind.

Zhol sprung into action before better judgement could interrupt and stop him. Slinging his bow back over his shoulder, he shuffled his position on the branch, focusing not on Azira but on the rope that held the porcupine suspended, swaying back and forth before him, a pendulum nudged into motion at the behest of a gentle breeze. It lay a few inches beyond his outstretched hand; he counted to three in his mind and then launched himself from the branch, grabbing at the rope to try and arrest his fall. Panic swept across him as he felt the rope sliding eagerly through his fingers, the friction burning against the flesh of his palm as he dropped several feet. Determination, another hand, and a leg hooked around the rope brought him to a painful halt. Wincing, he let himself slide a little more, at a much slower rate this time, descending as low as he could on the rope until his boots felt the porcupine carcass beneath him. If this part was bad, the rest would be worse; he braced himself, teasing free his less rope-burned hand, and drew his sword, held it above his head, and began to saw his way though the rope.

The drop came suddenly; Zhol barely had enough time to ensure that his feet were beneath him as he hit the ground, and to ensure that his knees readily crumbled to absorb the impact, rather than locking up as instinct demanded. It wasn't much of a fall, barely twice his own height, but it was enough of one. One foot managed to land flat on the floor, but the other slid, his knee impacting the ground a little harder than he would have liked. His rope-burned hand stung as it was greeted with a palm full of dirt and grit; a grimace was all that Zhol allowed himself before he forced himself back to his feet.

Drawing on all the focus he could muster, he willed res to seep it's way out of his skin, and readied a fireball at his fingertips. The leopard still wasn't much closer than it had been in the tree, but it didn't matter as much now. He didn't need to engulf the leopard in flames: just catch it's attention. "Hey!" he yelled, coiling back his arm before hurling the fireball forward, watching as it soared through the air and splashed against the leopard's flank. "Pick on someone your own size, you furry bastard!"

The action had the desired effect; as the snowshoe leopard turned it's attention from Azira above to Zhol below, the horse boy realised just how recklessly stupid this was, and hoped against hope that Azira would find it within herself to at least pretend to be slightly grateful, assuming he survived. As the leopard pounced back towards the ground, Zhol barely got out of the way in time, the sidestep he'd intended turning into more of a stumbling leap, the strike of his sword far less precise and decisive than he'd wanted. It still worked though, after a fashion: the leopard's snarl mutated into a pained shriek as Zhol's blade sliced open an angry, bloody wound across it's side; the leopard's legs crumpled instead of providing the gentle landing the beast had expected, stunning it for a vital few seconds.

Zhol took advantage of that reprieve to retreat a few paces; when the leopard found it's feet again it was far more hesitant, hissing and snarling as it stared down against it's human opponent. Zhol kept it at bay, splashes of fire thrown at the ground in front of it's paws doing an excellent job of making it rethink the pounce it had prepared, a quick jab with the tip of it's sword punishing it for a clawed swipe it attempted to make towards Zhol's leg. All the while, Zhol paced on careful arcs, sweeping back and forth, positioning the leopard so it presented as broad and inviting a target towards Azira as possible.

"Any time now," he called, hoping that he'd managed to buy Azira enough time to pull herself together and ready her bow again, unable to take his eyes off the leopard long enough to check.

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Beasts and Burdens (Azira)

Postby Azira on August 9th, 2015, 11:57 pm

The arrow she'd called for buried itself in the animal's side rather than in its face as she would have liked. However, it stayed the leopard's attack--which she couldn't complain about--and bought her a few moments of time as it recovered from the blow. Azira risked a quick glance up towards her companion to see how favorable a position he was in. She couldn't judge how well his shots could line up from where he was as there was a definitely possibility that she was in the way, or near to being so, of a good shot at its head. If she was in a dangerous spot from his point of view then she was incredibly glad that he hadn't risked her safety. The last thing she wanted was an arrow in her neck; it would be highly inconvenient.

The beast recovered itself quickly, becoming more vicious than before as the latest arrow seemed to have only pissed it off further. For some reason, the visible shaft of the arrows they'd shot reminded her of the quills on the porcupine and she found a giggle welling up. It burst from her, an hysterical sound that she didn't seem able to stem. She didn't have the ability to slap her own face and smack some sense into herself so she was left fighting off the animal ineptly by trying to stomp on its face with her boot. She couldn't stop it and it couldn't have come at a worse time either. The stress of the day had gotten to her and she'd finally cracked.

She succeeded to catch the side of the leopard's jaw with a wild kick and only managed to move her foot far enough out of the way that only the leather of her boot suffered the consequence. Its teeth grazed the surface, slitting it open easily. She made an attempt to call for Zhol again but the huntress couldn't achieve anything more coherent than spluttering, which descended into snorting and gasps of laughter. She curled her right hand into a fist and shoved her curled knuckles into her mouth. The sound was stifled but she couldn't stop herself until she bit down, teeth digging into the flesh until she drew blood. The pain grounded her, eliciting a gasp as she pulled her hand out again.

Focus! Breathe! The huntress followed her own suggestion, doing her best to gain some height in the tree as she calmed herself properly. She kept her eyes on the beast, searching for a way to climb by feel.

She heard Zhol's movements above her but she didn't dare look up. She couldn't risk it but she hoped that he would help more. She raised her boot, waiting for an opportunity to slam it down. Slam! It hit the beast's chin but the jaws came snapping back again, the leopard even angrier than before.

She caught a movement in the corner of her eye, a strange sound accompanying it before something thumped to the ground below. Her eyes flickered sideways to discover that Zhol had travelled down to the ground along with the porcupine carcass. Her mouth dropped open--the danger of the beast briefly forgotten--as he conjured fire on his fingertips and started yelling at the leopard. A fireball struck it, turning the animal's attention to the horse boy instead. How long could he pull fire out of himself like that? Reimancers had a limit to how much djed they could use and a novice had a far lower limit than a master. How experienced was Zhol? She hadn't a clue and she didn't want to test his limits. You could die if you stretched your djed too thin and as much as the man seemed to be able to rub her up the wrong way, she didn't actually want him to die. Besides she'd get into trouble if he got himself killed when she was supposed to be looking out for him.

He was crazy to try to tackle the big cat the way he was but yet it was something that she'd do. If there was another way of doing something, Azira usually found the most ludicrous way to do it. Hai, she was considering jumping on the thing!

The huntress lowered herself quickly, closing the distance between herself and her prey, hoping that it'd be easier to hit because of it. She prayed to whatever higher being would listen that Zhol wouldn't get ripped to shreds waiting for her. The pressure was on but she grabbed an arrow, nocked it and aimed at the cat. She just wanted to hit it, to get its attention away from her companion. The Avora didn't have enough confidence in her aim to think that she could make a kill shot, especially as it was moving around the place so much. It just wouldn't stay still and the other Avora had it constantly on the move. She needed to hit it as much as possible and as quickly as possible. The slash he opened in its side reminded her that there was no point worrying about preserving its hide.

"When it stops dancing, I shoot," she called back, loosing an arrow anyway. It bounced off its shoulder, not even making a scratch as far as she could see. It must have caught the bone. The teen cursed, nocking another arrow hurriedly and drawing. She squinted one eye, sighting down the shaft more carefully this time only to find that she caught it in the rump. It turned, snarling, searching for the attack before turning back to easy target that Zhol made on the ground. Well, two could play at that game. She slid her body down the trunk, elbows scraping against the rough bark but she took no notice. She nocked another arrow, holding it downwards. Holding it in place as best she could with one hand, she placed two fingers in her mouth and let out a piercing whistle. The sound caught its attention as it danced back a step or two from Zhol and turned its wild gaze towards her. He was closer than she was, he was the one that was currently the greatest threat. That was about to change.

"You're starting to piss me off," she muttered darkly, drawing the string back and letting the arrow fly. It struck its neck. It let out a roar of pain and anger, head jerking as it tried to get the arrow loose. Its head was placed on the ground, its neck rubbed on the hard surface in a wild jerk, snapping the shaft. She was already reaching for another arrow as the leopard tried to choose who to go for now. She seemed the greater threat and she could see that. It was turning, moving away from Zhol but still keeping a wary eye on him because of the sword. She didn't want him in further danger but she needed that sword and she sincerely doubted he was gonna give it to her. Besides, it'd be difficult to get it to her in the current situation.

"Zhol!" she yelled as she backed away from the oncoming animal. It was trying to get itself ready to pounce but its injuries had left it a little unsteady on its feet. "I don't think I can kill it. Not with this!" She drew and shot, the missile burying itself at an angle in its side.

"Can you slash? I'll shoot, try and keep its attention on me. See if you can get close. If you can't, get away from here. Find more hunters, see if they can take it." She left the obvious part unspoken. If he had to leave and she couldn't handle it herself then she was dead and she knew it. Now was not a time of self-preservation. She just hoped that the two of them could take it down and that the man would follow her plan. There was always the chance that he could come up with a better one. Maybe he had more magic up his sleeve. She sure hoped that he was going to be able to do something.
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Azira
Prodigal Daughter
 
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