Solo [Southern Suvan] A New Skill for an Old Svefra

Anais is not impressive

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An inland sea created by Ivak's cataclismic fury during the Valterrian, the Suvan Sea is a major trade route and the foremost hub for piracy in Mizahar. [lore]

[Southern Suvan] A New Skill for an Old Svefra

Postby Anais Seawind on September 3rd, 2018, 10:42 pm

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73rd of Summer, 507AV


Sweat beaded on her brow as she trudged resignedly after her friend. She’d tied her shirt up and rolled her pant legs as far up her legs as the material would allow in an effort to escape the sweltering heat, but she may as well have been swathed in every piece of clothing that she owned for all the relief it had given her. The sea beckoned, its cool waters lapping gently at the shore, and Anais looked at it with bone-deep longing before turning her eyes back to her companion. The Benshiran girl, by contrast, looked obscenely comfortable in the sun and hot sand, practically skipping as she searched out rock after rock, dropping her finds into the bulging pouch tied at her waist. Anais’ own belt pouch was noticeably emptier, laying nearly flat against her hip in a very visible indication of her lack of effort. Sighing, she reached down and plucked a rock up from the sun-warmed sand; it was smooth, but only vaguely round, and Anais tossed it over her shoulder absently. She’d tried to pick up several that had been similarly misshapen, and Rissa had been quick to stop her – “Round stones, Ana. They fly better, straighter. Those odd ones won’t be good ammo.”

The Svefra knew better than to argue the fact with her pod sister – Rissa had grown up in the desert, with a slingshot in her hand, and her familiarity gave her confidence on the subject. Anais didn’t want to do or say anything to take that away from her friend. The dark-haired girl was a mix, Benshira and Svefra, and had only recently taken to the sea. Since joining the pod, Irissa had been learning, or at least attempting to learn all the skills she’d need to be a proper Svefra; it had been hard on her, trying to absorb so much new information all at once, and this afternoon she was taking a well-earned break. It was Anais’ turn to learn a new skill, and Irissa was thrilled to be in a position to teach for a change; the slingshot was barely a weapon, as far as Anais was concerned, more of a toy with its tiny size and simple structure. But she was being a good sport. Or at least, she had started the day trying to be a good sport.

Bending down, she snatched up another small rock, along with a bit of sand and a strand of long-dried seaweed. She brushed the debris from the stone and inspected it closely: not precisely round, but definitely better than the one she’d just thrown away. It went into the pouch, clicking softly against the few others she’d gathered, their combined weight barely noticeable as she hurried to catch up to her friend.

“Rissa,” she wheedled, trying to keep her voice light and casual, “are you sure you wouldn’t rather just go swimming? Eat some pineapple? They’re great – have you ever tasted a pineapple? I can show you where they grow and…” She let the words trail off by themselves. Rissa’s expression said clearly that there would be no avoiding the ‘lesson’ today.

The other girl’s normally open and cheerful face had taken a stern look, dark eyes narrowed on blue ones, and Irissa shook her head firmly. “No. Ana, you promised,” Rissa reminded her, “that if I learned your cutlass, you’d let me show you how to use a slingshot.” Rissa’s hand snaked out, prodding at Anais’ belt pouch before the blonde could block her. “Ana! You’ve hardly got anything in there. How’re you going to learn with no ammo? Here,” she yanked her own pouch open, grabbing a handful of her own stones and dropping them into Anais’ pouch before offering her a toothy grin. “No excuses now. Let’s go shoot at things!”

Rissa’s enthusiasm was catching, and despite her earlier reluctance, Anais returned her friend’s grin. How long could it take to shoot a couple handfuls of rocks, anyway?

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Anais Seawind
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[Southern Suvan] A New Skill for an Old Svefra

Postby Anais Seawind on September 3rd, 2018, 10:45 pm

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Rissa grabbed her arm, dragging her back up the beach until they reached the small landing boats that had ferried the Seawinds from their larger ships to the shore. No two looked alike, and they all leaned in the sand like drunken sailors, pulled up past high tide line and waiting patiently for their owners to load them with crates and containers of spoils from the jungle island: fruit, nuts, and plant materials that would be turned into twine and fibers. Irissa grabbed an empty crate from the nearest boat and set it on its side in the sand, open end facing the jungle. She shifted the crate back and forth in the sand, sinking the back edge a little way down so that the opening angled upward, before pacing away from it in a straight line.

Puzzled, Anais watched her for a few ticks before curiosity overtook her. “What’re you doing, Rissa?” The other girl was walking slowly, carefully placing her feet one in front of the other, leaving a trail of footprints behind her. Her lips moved, but Anais was too far away to make out the words. Without stopping, the other girl raised a hand in the air, palm out, and continued her path away from the crate. Anais opened her mouth to speak again, but the other girl abruptly stopped, dragging her foot across the sand to form a line, and waving her over.

“This is 50 steps. We’ll start here, and aim for that crate over there,” she pointed to the crate she’d set up and pulled her slingshot from its resting place at the small of her back.

It was a tiny thing, and Anais almost giggled at the idea that anyone could consider it a weapon. In Irissa’s hand, it looked like nothing more than a toy, barely longer than her hand, from fingertip to palm, but seeing the expectant look on the other girl’s face, she swallowed, forcing her amusement down and tried for a serious expression. “It’ll shoot that far?” The doubt in her voice was clear, but at least it wasn’t covered in laughter.

Instead of answering, Irissa pulled one of the rocks she’d collected from her pouch, slipped it into place on the slingshot and proceeded to fire it at their target. The crate rocked a tiny bit on its resting place, and Anais looked at her friend in surprise. “Hey, that was great, Rissa!” Her praise was genuine, and clapped the other girl on the shoulder. Rissa had struggled with most of the Svefra skills she’d been learning lately; it was a happy surprise to see her excelling. Even if it was just at something like a slingshot. The small weapon in her hand still seemed more toy than threat, but Irissa’s aim had been perfect. Anais wondered if her friend had any interest in learning to throw a harpoon.

Smugly, Irissa lowered the slingshot. “It can shoot farther. Depends on how long this cord,” she wiggled the stretchy cord that hung from the two prongs of the weapon, “is, and how heavy your ammunition is. A shorter cord will give you more power, and more distance. Breaks faster, though. But it’s better for hunting,” she finished with a shrug. “Just depends on what you want to do with it.”

The slingshot in Irissa’s hand suddenly looked more interesting to Anais. “You can really hunt with that? Not just,” she paused, trying to find a tactful way to voice her disbelief, “not just shoot rocks at things to scare them?” It had been the only benefit Anais could think of when Irissa had set out to teach her. The other girl had mentioned she’d used the weapon to scare away predators in the desert, but Anais had assumed that fear was the only real effect of the weapon.

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Anais Seawind
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[Southern Suvan] A New Skill for an Old Svefra

Postby Anais Seawind on September 3rd, 2018, 11:53 pm

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Laughter bubbled up, and Anais was relieved to see her skepticism had amused her friend rather than insult her. Willing to be the source of amusement, she stuck her tongue out good-naturedly before clarifying. “Well. It looks like a toy, Rissa. It’s tiny. Not intimidating at all,” she insisted, performing a short shadow-fight with an imaginary cutlass. “Remember how scary we agreed I looked with the cutlass? Not possible with that little thing.”

“Well, you’re probably right there, Ana,” Irissa agreed, still chuckling. “But still – yes. You can hunt with this ‘toy.’ Not big stuff, nothing like a bear or a wolf or something, but how often do you run into those at sea? I can drop a vulture with a good-sized rock,” she pulled a rock out of her pouch and held it up, “and something this size can still kill a rat or a weasel. Rabbits, if you’re fast enough. Or scare away a fox, if its worrying the herd,” she offered, a thoughtful look on her face.

Anais could tell she was remembering, the distant look in her eyes hinted that her friend was once again in the desert she’d come from. Not for the first time the Svefra wondered what had happened to make the other girl leave everything she’d known behind. Anais couldn’t imagine walking – sailing – away from her family, her life on the Suvan, especially not to a place that was as far different as the ocean was to Irissa’s desert home. It was a source of pain for the other girl, though, and the Seawind’s had stopped asking after the first few days. All Irissa had ever offered on the subject was that her father had been a Svefra and she’d wanted to experience the life he’d led before meeting her mother. Anais kept quiet now, unwilling to interrupt the other’s silent remembrance.

Ticks later, the other girl resumed her instruction, handing the slingshot to Anais as she spoke. “And it can be used by a child – but it’s definitely not a toy. That’s the first thing a Benshiran learns about her slingshot – never aim it at another person, unless you intend to injure them. Even playing, a rock to the eye is no joke. A blind man is a drain on the whole group; he can’t hunt, he can’t guard the herd, he can’t find water.” Gone was the easy laughter, replaced by a seriousness that hinted at personal experience.

The mystery was too much for Anais. “Did you know someone like that?” In the future, the Svefra would learn things like tact and sensitivity; at 15, these skills were beyond her and the question hung between the girls, awkwardly. Holding the slingshot now, Anais busied herself shifting it around in her hand, trying to find a comfortable grip on the small weapon.

Irissa chose to ignore the question, focusing again on the lesson of the day. “Hold it in your stronger hand, the same one you hold your cutlass in. Take this rock,” she dropped it into Anais’ left hand, “and put it in the pouch on the cord. You might have to hold it there, just pinch it a little bit between your fingers.”

Anais took the hint, dropping her questioning and turning her own attention to the rock in her hand. She fumbled with it for a few ticks before managing to secure it in the scrap of leather attached to the cord of the slingshot.

“Not so tight, Ana,” Irissa corrected her, sounding a lot like Uncle Chelm in that moment, issuing instructions. “Just hold it tight enough that it won’t slip out. Better. Now turn sideways a bit, like this,” she demonstrated the position, standing next to Anais. “And raise the slingshot up to shoulder height, aim through the prongs, pull back the cord and release.”

Anais studied the stance for a moment; it was similar to the one she’d shown Irissa with the cutlass, with an added twist at the middle. After that, though, the instructions seemed to go too fast. Still, she gave it a shot, aiming at the crate, lifting the slingshot, pulling back on the stone pinched between her fingers and releasing as she’d been instructed. The stone sailed a few feet in front of her, but fell unimpressively into the sand just over an arm’s length away.

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Anais Seawind
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[Southern Suvan] A New Skill for an Old Svefra

Postby Anais Seawind on September 4th, 2018, 2:29 am

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“Oh! Well, that was – Good try, Ana!” Rissa’s voice trembled a bit with hidden laughter, but when Anais turned to look at her friend, nothing but sincerity shone from the other girl’s face. Anais studied her suspiciously for a tick; ‘good try’ was a far cry from ‘good job’ – the latter would have been an obvious lie. It was just as obvious that Irissa was enjoying having the upper hand, and Anais couldn’t blame her.

“Right. Good try,” she repeated dryly. “What did I do wrong? Everything?” She fished around in the pouch at her belt, drawing out another pebble and reloaded the slingshot with it. “Go slower this time – I stand like this?” She raised the weapon, careful not to drop the rock as it shifted within the pocket. When her arms were at shoulder height, she stopped, waiting for Rissa to tell her where she’d messed up. Anais was sure it had happened somewhere between loading the slingshot and shooting it.

“Stretch your arm out, as far as you can,” Rissa directed, pushing at Anais’ hand. Both hands moved forward, the stretchy cord on the sling slack and dangling between them. “Now, before you even pull the rock back, set up your aim. You want to see the target, that crate out there, in between these prongs,” her finger touched one then the next before dropping away from the weapon.

Anais closed one eye, focusing on the crate, and moved her hands until it was centered in front of her. As she began to pull back on the stone, Irissa stopped her with a hand on her arm.

“Open your eyes. Both eyes. Close one eye and center the crate. Then try it with the other eye.”

Anais followed the directions, feeling a bit silly – closing her right eye, she moved the slingshot so that the prongs were on either side of the crate. Switching eyes, she was surprised to find that the crate was now completely outside the prongs. “Hey! So which eye is right?”

Rissa chuckled before answering, “that’s why you want to use both eyes. And here,” she reached forward again, this time grabbing the cord and wrapping it over the top of the prongs. “I forgot to tell you – you want the cord to be outside the weapon or on top of it, so when you shoot, your rock can sail right through.”

“Right. It can sail to 2 feet in front of me and drop on to the ground again,” Anais agreed, grinning.

“You’ll be hitting the crate in no time. Or at least hitting the sand closer to the crate,” the other girl assured her. “Now, when you pull back on the stone, hold your other arm still. Line the pouch and the rock up with your eye. It helps keep your arm straight, so your rock is less likely to dive straight down, like last time.”

Now you tell me,” Anais grumped, pulling back on the stone as she did so. “Any last tips?” The leather pouch felt rough against her skin as she lined it up along the side of her face; the cord was stretched taut and Anais struggled a bit to hold her other arm still and centered on the crate. Of course two eyes is better for aim. That’s why it’s so petchin’ hard to keep them both open. Not waiting for an answer to her question, Anais released the rock, feeling it shoot out from the slingshot into the air. The hand holding the slingshot jerked forward instinctively and she bit her lip, waiting to hear any sound of impact.

When none came, she gave Irissa a challenging look, the silent ‘what now?’ hanging in the air between them.

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Anais Seawind
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[Southern Suvan] A New Skill for an Old Svefra

Postby Anais Seawind on September 4th, 2018, 3:17 am

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A wide grin met Anais’ stare – Irissa was much happier with her second shot than Anais was, already moving down the beach to find the point of impact. Anais started to follow her friend, but a quick “Stay there!” stopped her progress. Instead she stood, feeling awkward and a bit grumpy, as Rissa walked halfway out to the crate and stopped to pick something up from the sand.

“I think this is the one you just shot, Ana! Really good job!” She jogged back to the line where Anais stood and held out the rock, oddly triumphantly, for Anais to reclaim.

“Does ‘good’ mean something else in your native language?” Anais shook her head, a smile that was starting to look a bit forced plastered to her face. If this was any indication of how Rissa had felt these past few seasons, Anais wasn’t sure how she kept up her good cheer. The slingshot was basically a piece of wood, a piece of string, a bit of leather and a rock – and it was more challenging than she’d thought, by far. “How long did it take you to hit a target like that?” A nod of her head indicated the crate in front of them, and Anais watched her pod sister expectantly, hoping to hear ‘a day’ or, better, ‘a chime or two.’

Instead, Rissa laughed. “Oh, at least a few days of solid practice, Ana. It’s not something you can master in one or two tries. You have to practice your aim, and your release and, even once you can hit the target, you have to figure out what length your cord should be. Which hold you should use,” she held her hand out for the slingshot, and Anais gladly surrendered the weapon, standing back to watch as Irissa prepared to fire another stone toward the crate.

Loading the sling, Irissa continued to point out the many skills Anais would have to master. “Like this, you can old the slingshot the way you were, straight up and down, with the cords over the top. That’s a pretty easy one. Or you can wrap the cords around the outside,” she adjusted the slingshot to show Anais what she was talking about, and then held it back up in a new position. “Or you can hold it sideways, like this. My brother liked to do it this way…” Rissa stopped, as though the words surprised her, then rushed on, “it just depends on what is easiest for you. But you should learn it one way before you try to learn it another way.”

Pulling back the cord, she let the stone loose, again hitting the crate – this time it rocked backward in the sand, teetering for a tick before settling again in the sand.

“See? Imagine that was… A rat, on the ship, eating through your supplies. You wouldn’t be able to get after it with your cutlass, right?”

Anais was still thinking about the brother Rissa had mentioned and then rushed to distract her from, and almost missed the other girl’s shot. But she nodded along with her friend – her cutlass was pretty useless against things like rats and seabirds that sometimes plagued the pod. But, as long as Irissa was around, she could use the slingshot to get rid of those threats – the rest of the pod would probably be just as impressed as Anais had been with Rissa’s skill, and more eager to learn it from her. And the more of them that want to learn, the less time she’ll have to make me practice.

“You’re right. I can’t hunt rats with a cutlass – been trying to get Aunt Molly to let me have a cat or three, but so far…” the girls shared a look and a laugh. The current Lia of the Seawind pod, Anais’ aunt Molly, was not a fan of land animals, unless they were in a cage or on a spit. The pod had had quail on board for about half the spring season, but Molly had gotten one good whiff of the natural mess they made and made her opinion on the matter known. Loudly, and often.

It was how the girls knew that quail soup was delicious.

On the tail of the happy memory, Anais ventured a more serious question, another attempt to dig for the details of her pod sister’s former life. “I didn’t know you had a brother, Rissa. Is he older than you? Why didn’t he come to sea with you?”

But again, Irissa ignored her attempt to pry, handing her the slingshot once more instead. Anais took it, grumbling a bit, but began to run through the process once more. Loading the stone was getting easier, becoming less of a challenge to get situated in the leather pouch, and the slingshot came up in a smooth movement, held in front of her body. The blond took her time getting the aim right, and pulling back on the cord before releasing the stone and watching it sail into the sand in front of the crate. “Rissa, I am awful at this.”

She tried to hand the slingshot back to her friend, but the girl shook her head and back away. “Nope. You keep trying, Ana. You’re getting better. Promise,” her dark eyes sparkled, and though Anais had a list of questions she wanted to ask about Irissa’s family and her history, she understood the other girl was only prepared to talk about the slingshot today. “If you hit the crate, we can go find some of that pineapple you wanted earlier,” she bargained with a mischievous smile.

Anais knew she was being distracted, but the combination of an end to the slingshot lesson and the pineapple was enough to have her loading the weapon again without hesitation. She patted her belt pouch, happy to note that it was only half full, and put her new knowledge to the test once more.

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Anais Seawind
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