Solo (The Empyreal Desemene) Honing a Herder's Instincts

Anja teaches his dogs to herd goats

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While Sylira is by far the most civilized region of Mizahar, countless surprises and encounters await the traveler in its rural wilderness. Called the Wildlands, Syliran's wilderness is comprised of gradual rolling hills in the south that become deep wilderness in the north. Ruins abound throughout the wildlands, and only the well-marked roads are safe.

(The Empyreal Desemene) Honing a Herder's Instincts

Postby Anja Nightwatcher on August 7th, 2019, 5:21 pm

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Summer 35, 519
The Empyreal Desemene
9th Bell


A cool breeze flew in from the sea beyond the beach, ruffling Anja's curls and cooling the sweat pooling on his brow and neck. The day was hot, but the proximity to the beach made the weather only slightly uncomfortable instead of intolerable. Anja's coat had been draped on a fencepost leaving his arms bare and revealing the black spiral of a tattoo on his left arm. The distant sound of waves beating against the shore helped to ease Anja's nerves a bit. A good thing, considering the fact that Anja was facing a slight sense of unease at the task he had chosen for himself. He had chosen to care for the animals of the Demesne, and that meant all the animals. Even the ones that he had been struggling with. Hopefully, with some work, that would soon be in the past. With Battle and Sayeth sitting at attention on either side of Anja, the Drykas watched the herd of goats casually nibbling at the emerging weeds near the edge of the beach.

Anja liked the idea of letting the goats wander. In Endrykas, no animal was kept tethered and the thought of any creature being confined made Anja itch. But on the other side of things, the Drykas wasn't entirely sure he could trust the goats not to get themselves into trouble. Zibri, the fuzzy cattle of Endrykas, were allowed to wander but carefully watched. As a boy, in the days before he had left the Sea of Grass, Anja had been expected to watch the cattle as well. There were many large predators who would happily snatch a wandering Zibri for a snack, and Zibri, though large and strong, were no Striders. But now, Anja simply didn't have time to keep watch over the animals each and every day. He had his own work for the Homestead, as did many of the other residents of the new home. As Anja pondered the question, a dim memory had risen from the corners of his mind. An uncle, or perhaps a granduncle, letting out piercing whistles and commands in Pavi and a group of dogs moving as one unit to keep the cattle from wandering. Anja wasn't sure it was possible to do with goats. But as he looked down at his two dogs, born and bred to guard and herd, Anja thought it was worth a shot.

"Alright, go ahead," Anja told the pair. "I know you're curious. Go say hello." Anja gestured towards the group of goats, giving the grass sign for 'go'. Battle and Sayeth glanced at Anja in disbelief. Until now, the Drykas had not let the pair approach the goats. Battle moved first, tail flashing in a rapid wag as she trotted towards the strange animals. Sayeth followed several ticks behind her, eyes scanning the area warily before he stalked up towards them. The leader of the goats, a big male with large sweeping horns, turned to face the pair and scraped his hoof. Battle stopped abruptly, and glanced behind her at Anja.

"You need to be in charge of this herd," Anja told the dog patiently. "You can't let him push you around." Battle turned her head back to the goat and stepped up towards him, confidence in her step. The two of them sniffed noses and Anja held his breath. Then, abruptly, the billy bleated something and returned his attention to the weeds at his feet. Battle wagged her tail and went forward to greet each of the goats one by one.

(Words 590, Total 590)
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Anja Nightwatcher
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(The Empyreal Desemene) Honing a Herder's Instincts

Postby Anja Nightwatcher on August 27th, 2019, 10:20 pm

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Anja exhaled as he watched the more outgoing of the twins cheerfully mingle with the herd. Her pale white coat shone in brilliant contrast against the duller colors of the hooves creatures she now mingled with. Both the twins had gotten better at mingling with strange creatures and people, the suspicion that had been instinctive to them while living in the war zone that was Sunberth gradually fading away in the midst of friendly company and unconditional love. Sayeth was still a standoffish boy, only letting down his guard around his sister and Anja, but even so the Drykas had seen the change in the more reserved of the twins. He wasn't always on guard no. Sometimes he would relax a touch, close his eyes, and be at ease. Gentle touches weren't always met with a tense body. Even now, Anja watched as Sayeth followed behind his sister and gently touched noses with one of the female goats. She let out a gentle bleat, and returned his sniff with a nibble before returning to her meal.

Anja could feel a soft, easy smile floating across his face. It was quiet here. The sounds of the busy work from the Homestead echoed in the distance, faint, but a gentle reminder of the presence of family nearby. The soft crash of waves against the shoreline eased the man's nerves. This place, if not the setting itself, but the soul of it, was more like Endrykas than anywhere Anja had ever been since he had left the migrating city of his birth. It brought him such a sense of peace. Animals, nature, and family. He inhaled the scent of pine and felt his easy smile broaden. Tension eased from his tense shoulders. All was at peace, and his mind could drift.

As the Drykas focused back on his twins, a flash of movement from Battle made the man pause. Battle advanced on one of the goats in a dash, causing it to balk and retreat a few steps closer to it's companions. She dashed away, then back forward again when the goat returned to where it was a moment before. Anja's grinned. She was doing exactly what he wanted her to do. Instinctively. As she darted back and forth, around the feet of the goats and drawing their annoyance, Anja glanced at Sayeth. The dark furred twin was laying on his stomach nearby, carefully scanning the shore of the beach. Anja's stroked his chin thoughtfully. Sayeth was going to be trickier to train. He was more of the sort to keep an eye out for trouble then he was to physically drive the goats away from it. This was useful in it's own way of course, but it wasn't what Anja had intended on training them for today. The male was sharp and quick to pick up things though. Perhaps if he awarded Battle for her behavior, then the more reserved twin would pick up on what Anja wanted? It was worth a try anyways.

(Words 502, Total 1092)
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Anja Nightwatcher
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(The Empyreal Desemene) Honing a Herder's Instincts

Postby Anja Nightwatcher on August 27th, 2019, 10:21 pm

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Anja's carefully waited for Battle to make another dart at the goat's feet, then called out to her. "Battle!" Anja said, causing the dog's head to pop up. "Herd," he said in Pavi, with the right hand gesture. "Good girl!" Anja's tossed a slice of jerky onto the ground in front of her. Anja's could see that he had the male twin's attention as Battle cheerfully gulped down her treat. The Drykas was fairly sure that Battle hadn't really realized what it was that she was doing or what he was rewarding her for. But that was okay. Battle would quickly draw the conclusion that she had done something that he liked, and the more he rewarded her for it, the closer she would get to the understanding of what 'herd' meant.

After Battle had calmed down after her initial reward, she returned to hanging out with the goats. It wasn't long before she performed the herding behavior again. "Herd!" Anja told her, and once more rewarded her with a treat. "Good girl!"

Over the next hour, Anja continued to reward Battle every time she engaged in the behavior he wanted. It didn't take very long before Sayeth had moved from his spot where he had been guarding, and was sitting at Anja's feet. When Anja rewarded Battle, the dark colored twin would give the Drykas a look of anticipation. But Sayeth was not performing the behavior that Anja was looking for, and therefore was not being rewarded.

It didn't take long for Anja to see the frustration settle into Sayeth. He inched closer and closer to Anna until he was all but lying on Anja's feet. Every time he rewarded Battle, the male twin would look up at Anja with a pleading look in his eyes. Meanwhile, Battle was starting to get the hang of "herd". She understood that when Anja said the word what it was he wanted her to do, and what it was he was rewarding her for. Finally, Anja began asking Battle to perform the command on cue. It took her a few tries, but after the tenth or so repetition, something clicked.

"Herd!" Anja's said, and Battle leapt towards the goats, sending them scattering away from her. "Good girl!" He said as he rewarded her, this time with a head pat as well as a treat. Sayeth looked up at Anja's sourly, and softly whined. The Drykas sighed and settled down on the grass beside the quieter of the two dogs. He invited Sayeth onto his lap, and gently began rubbing him underneath his ears. "I just want you to herd the way Battle is," Anja's told the dog, wishing his companion had a way of understanding. All his time spent with Maisa made moments like this particularly hard. It was easy to teach a dog to do something that they were naturally inclined to do. How did you teach one when it wasn't interested in the behavior? It was a matter that Anja need to put into serious consideration. Maybe there were some partial behaviors that he could lead Sayeth towards? Maybe start by encouraging the dog to simply interact with the goats? Still deep in thought, Anja's did not notice Sayeth stiffen underneath his hands and stare at a solitary figure moving across the beach.

(Words 553, Total 1645)
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Anja Nightwatcher
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(The Empyreal Desemene) Honing a Herder's Instincts

Postby Anja Nightwatcher on August 27th, 2019, 10:22 pm

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Anja's was yanked from his thoughts about training when a low growl, followed by a bark rumbled from Sayeth's chest. Anja's flinched and for a moment he stared at Sayeth in shock. The male twin was almost completely silent. Anja's rarely heard him make any noises at all, and when he did the noises were very soft. A thin growl continued to rumble from Sayeth's throat, and Anja followed his hard gaze to see what it was that had the dog so disturbed. On the white sanded beach, not far from the unmarked forest that stretched beyond the Homestead's land, a single solitary wolf was staring directly at the herd of goats. Anja's felt a small shudder, and leapt to his feet.

The Drykas had fought wolves before. Granted, they had been possessed by a ghost at the time, so this situation was a little bit different. Still, Anja knew enough about the creatures to realize that if he was seeing it out and about in broad uncovered daylight and not slinking in the shadows, that was a bad sign. Even from this distance, Anja could see the ribs poking out from the animal's flesh. Hunger lead to desperation, and desperation lead to unpredictable behavior. Anja launched himself to his feet and yanked his bastard sword from his sash.

"Away!" Anja's shouted at the wolf. "No free meals here!" The Drykas waved his sword in the wolf's direction, in the hope of scaring it off. He really didn't want to fight the creature if he didn't have to, especially if it was only hungry. But that didn't mean he was going to tolerate it being close to the Homestead either.

Despite Anja's words and threatening gestures, the wolf made no attempt to move. It simply stared, silent and unmoving. Somewhere in that predatory mind, the animal was calculating if this hunt would be worth it.

Behind him, Anja heard Sayeth's growl grow louder. The dog was keeping pace with his master, and had halted at Anja's heel in a defensive manner. The bristles on the dog stood on edge and made him appear large. Briefly, Anja glanced over his shoulder and let out a soft breath of relief. Battle was in the midst of herding the goats away from the beach and back to the Homestead, much to their bleating dismay. The Drykas had a moment to appreciate the white twin's cleverness and skill. The way she wove in between the goats, yapping and snapping to keep them moving in the right direction, was practically artistic.

Anja's attention flashed back to the hungry wolf. It was honestly unbelievable how large the creature was. His two dog companions were perhaps half this beast's size, even regarding it's atrophied muscles and skinny belly. It was practically the size of Anja himself. The Drykas took a deep breath, steeled himself, then took another threatening step towards the wolf. "I said back!" Anja's shouted. The wolf simply stared at him. The creature's gold eyes were deep, unemotive, and cold. Sayeth's snarl grew louder behind Anja as he took his own steps to keep pace at his master's heel.

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(The Empyreal Desemene) Honing a Herder's Instincts

Postby Anja Nightwatcher on August 27th, 2019, 10:47 pm

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Anja's barely had a chance to react as the wolf lunged forward. Primal instinct resonated within the animal. It was hungry. It needed food. And currently there was too potential sources of food standing right in front of it. It made no sound, not even a snarl, as it charged forward, straight for Anja.

For a flash of a moment, the Drykas was terrified that Sayeth was going to run forward and engage the monster twice his size. However, as the animal lunged towards Anja, Sayeth darted to the side of it and charged behind it. The wolf had picked it's target, Anja, and did not go for the smaller target. Instead, the animal's teeth lunged for Anja's leg. The Drykas brought his sword in front of him to defend, but Anja was too sluggish. The teeth sliced into the man's calf. Anja let out a yelp of pain, but to the man's surprise, the wolf quickly released him. Sayeth had darted forward and was attacking the animal's hindquarters. The dog's teeth sliced into the soft flesh of the wolf's genital area, and the wolf spun around to defend itself. The moment the wolf started to turn, Anja's sword sliced into the creature's back.

Finally, it made a noise, a loud yelp. It was enough, apparently, and the wolf turned tail and fled back towards the forest edge. Sayeth pursued for a moment, his loud barks echoing across the beach, but the moment the wolf had vanished into the forest he returned to Anja. The Drykas had eased himself onto the ground, and was gingerly examining his injury. He had been seriously lucky that Sayeth had been there; the wolf hadn't had the time to do more than give him a single chomp before he had released him. Sayeth let out a soft whine and licked the blood off of Anja's leg. The Drykas chuckled and hugged the dark colored twin, ignoring his pain for a moment. "Good boy," Anja told him. "Good good boy. Look at you, what a warrior you are. A proper shepherd you are, defending your family." The Drykas yanked a piece of jerky out of his sash, wincing from the change in position, and offered it to Sayeth. The pup ate it happily, tail wagging. "Good guard," Anja murmured to him. "Good guard."

As Anja sat there, gently rewarding his little shepherd, his mind wandered. Perhaps it wasn't such a bad thing that Sayeth was a better guard than he was a herder. Battle seemed to be doing relatively well herding by herself, and she was far too distractible to keep watch the way Sayeth was. It was a good balance. He could train Sayeth to guard, and Battle to herd. Perhaps one day they would be able to have more dogs and more herds of animals, but for now this would do nicely.

With a sigh and a wince, Anja pushed himself to his feet, leaning heavily on his uninjured leg. He needed to go and see Ebon for healing, and reward Battle for her foresight as well as warn the others about the wolf. Slowly, Anja began limping in the direction of the tents, his quiet guardian keeping step and watchful eyes behind him.

(Words 541, Total 2710)
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Anja Nightwatcher
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