It had been some time since Aster had last worked with Avander. Other things kept getting in the way. That fiasco with the big crossbreed, for example, though fortunately for all of them, it had taken a shine to Rabbit, of all things.
It would have been a lie to say he wasn’t even a little disappointed, but he was at least smart enough to know when to give up. The creature had seemed promising on paper, but even when he was in the process of acquiring it, he knew that there would be some caveats. Why else would it have been on the market in the first place?
He supposed he was lucky he didn’t come out like the last guy who’d had the thing. Well, that would teach him. Best to stick with what he knew best, or rather, who he knew best. And Avander’s credentials were nothing to sniff at either.
Of course, there was always room for improvement, and they hadn’t done anything close to refining everything that Avander could do. Which was why they were out again today, on a part of the estate plot that was empty but still relatively free of any inconvenient plant cover. It wasn’t the park, but they were both familiar enough for it, and it saved a trip to the city, which was always a good thing in Aster’s eyes.
[You look like you mean business today,] said Avander, a slight wistful tone in his voice conveying that maybe he wasn’t exactly eager to get back into the swing of a more intense regime. Aster shot him a wry smile.
“Yeah, well, I figured it was time I stopped letting you get fat,” he said. “Besides, you know how this goes. The sooner we start, the sooner we finish. And we’ll finish even faster if you put some effort into it.”
[Yes, yes, eternally the slave driver,] the drake replied. [Okay, so what is it? What do you want to do today?]
Aster mulled it over. There was actually a lot they could do, but for the moment, he settled on something. “Why don’t we work on your offense a bit? I hear they’re calling for hires to fight some kind of… thing, and I thought we might take a crack at it. But it wouldn’t hurt to learn a few new tricks first.”
[You don’t think I’m fierce enough? I’m wounded,] Avander said, but Aster could smell the bull a mile away. Even by Avander’s own admission, he didn’t particularly care about being fearsome or intimidating, and as a result, he didn’t put much effort into it either. Sometimes territorial instinct kicked in, and he would display against some rival drakes he saw, but even then, he generally found the process tiring and bothersome.
In retrospect, how Aster had managed to turn him into any kind of fighter, let alone a tournament champion, was anyone’s guess. Avander, with his lack of natural drive for overt aggression, was singularly suited to being a lazy, comfortable display animal.
… Well, maybe he was selling Avander a little short here. Avander wasn’t tenacious the way Albion was, but he had a certain… finesse. He was a bit smaller than normal, but he made up for it in speed, and once the chips were down, he could focus like the best of them. There was potential, and with training, they’d managed to refine it together.
Aster just hoped he wasn’t too out of practice. That neither of them were, in fact.
He didn’t bother replying to Avander’s comment, and instead began setting up. Not that there was much to set up this time around.
His equipage amounted to a bunch of wooden sticks, all of a certain thickness and firmness, which he tested now by picking one up. “Here,” Aster said. “Try to break this with your bite.”
Avander’s head drew back slightly, his nose wrinkled in distaste. [That doesn’t exactly look like a great time,] the drake said. [Won’t I just break my teeth?]
“It’s just wood. You can bite through bone, can’t you?” Aster said, arching a brow. He wasn’t surprised that Avander was balking at the initial prospect. They hadn’t actually tried doing this before. “Seems to me like your teeth are more at risk of rotting away from all the nice soft food you’ve been eating.”
When Avander still didn’t take the bait, Aster sighed. “Just try it. If you can’t do it on the first try, we’ll figure something out.” That was always how training had gone, and he hardly expected success on the first try.
Sometimes it happened, but in his experience, this wasn’t the case in the vast majority of cases.
[Well, here I go then,] said Avander. He still sounded doubtful, but he eyed the stick, taking aim, then struck out and bit at it. Aster kept the stick straight and steady for him, wanting to interfere with this as little as he could.
There was a sound like something hard hitting wood, and maybe a sort of groan underneath that, as though the wood were giving way. But the branch remained, if not whole, then at least holding together. Avander released it immediately, his face full of disgust.
[You didn’t even wash these before giving them to me, did you?] he complained.
“They taste bad because I washed them, actually.” Aster said. “That’s the vinegar you’ll be tasting.’’
[Lovely,] Avander said.
Aster inspected the stick, looking at it thoughtfully.
“It’s not a bad attempt, actually. You got pretty close. I think with a little more force, you could break through.”
After hearing that assessment, Avander actually turned his head to look. [You really think so?] Avander said. He sounded dubious about it, but not wholly opposed to the idea. He was coming around. With a little more encouragement, Aster felt that he could probably get Avander to make another go at it, hopefully with some more success.
And Aster hadn’t been lying when he said that either. He knew that Avander had the ability to do it. It was all just a matter of whether he would. Of course, if he had said as much, Avander would have retorted that it was easier said than done, especially when Aster wasn’t the one doing it. And there was maybe some merit to that. But then, Aster knew for a fact he probably couldn’t do it either.
Human jaws just weren’t made to leverage that much biting power. Sarane ones, on the other hand...
“Give it another shot,” Aster said, holding up a fresh stick for Avander to take a bite at.
Avander did as he asked, though he took a moment, presumably to steel himself, then bit down. Aster watched him more closely this time, taking care to note how he was approaching the bite. Disappointingly, Avander didn’t succeed this time either, but at least Aster had a better idea now of what was wrong.
[Ugh,] Avander said.
Aster studied the stick, though he had already drawn the bulk of his conclusion. “You’re overthinking it,” he said, which was a funny thing to be saying to a drake. It was generally more of a people problem. Maybe this was the issue of exposing creatures to telepathy, even if it was in this limited form.
Being in the head of someone else cerebral, maybe it made them a little more cerebral too. “You’re thinking about… what? That it’s going to splinter? That you won’t be able to do it? You’re pulling the force you use at the last second, so of course it’s not going to work. You can do it, but you’re going to need to commit to the idea. You have to believe that you can.”
Avander didn’t seem wholly convinced. Aster sighed. “Alright, let’s try something smaller then. We can work our way up too.” There wasn’t one single solution to the problem, or to any problem really, and building their way up to something was a training method Aster used often.
It took him a little while to find some suitable sticks for this, which he didn’t bother scrubbing this time around.
He did shake off any debris, and roughly peeled off anything that would come off with a hand, but that was the extent to which he cleaned them. Well, they were all natural, and Avander was in good health. He’d seen creatures chew on worse things and come out perfectly fine for it, so he wasn’t too concerned.
“Have at it,” Aster said, holding up the smallest one. It wasn’t very thick at all, and Avander shot him a look.
[Are you mocking me?] the drake said.
“Alright then, which one do you want to try?” Aster replied. He let Avander pull out a somewhat sturdier looking stick, then held that up for him. This time, when Aster gave the signal, Avander didn’t hesitate or give himself a moment to prepare. Aster wondered if his words had gotten through to Avander on some level after all, or if he was simply more at ease because of the more manageable size of the stick.
Either way, he broke clean through with a decisive snap. “There, see? That wasn’t so bad, was it?” Aster said, studying the broken stick in the aftermath of the bite.
[It tastes better without the vinegar, I’ll tell you that much,] Avander said. The fact that he felt good enough to say something like that meant that it had gone well. Aster could feel something like satisfaction coming through their mental link, and smiled. Now they were in business.
And as it turned out, all Avander really needed was a win in his corner after all. Having succeeded at the first stick, Aster challenged him to try the rest, and he managed to snap through progressively sturdier sticks until they came to the kind that Aster had started with originally. Not that Aster told him this when the time came; he didn’t want to psych Avander out with the knowledge. He only held it up and said, “Alright, give it a go.”
Avander was, fortunately, past the point where he was putting much thought into it. He merely bit down as hard as he could. And sure enough, this stick snapped too, as clean a break as anything they had done previously.
“That’s it for today,” Aster announced.
[What, already?] Avander seemed surprised. Aster grinned and shoved him.
“Those were the ones we started out with. See, I told you you could do it if you just committed to them. Though I guess we ought to try again a few times just to be sure.” It was something he generally liked to do with a new skill, but he had been content to shelf it for tomorrow. If Avander was still willing to go though, there was no reason not to do it now.
Avander was game, so Aster presented him with a few more sticks, and Avander worked his way through all of them.
Aster could see him hesitate slightly with the first one, but then he steeled himself and did it anyway. The ones that came after were easier, and by the end of it he wasn’t really thinking about it at all.
“Let’s stop there and give your jaws a break,” Aster said. “Anyway, I think we have that covered. Let’s move on to something else today.” They had gotten off to a somewhat shaky start, but in the end he was pretty satisfied with the results of their first bit of training in quite some time. It was nice to work with a creature he knew well, rather than just the ones he met on the job. There was a certain rewarding aspect to new projects, to seeing a creature starting to build a real repertoire, but there was really something else to be said for a more well-established creature too.
The next thing they were going to work on was something that Aster hoped would be a little easier for Avander. It didn’t require him to push the boundaries of the amount of strength he could exert. The challenge this time was more striking the enemy in the right place.
While Avander was making a show of stretching his jaws after the work of learning to bite hard, Aster was setting up a dummy.
“Here,” Aster said, “let’s try something else. See this dummy?”
Avander left off whatever he was doing and joined Aster at his side. [I’m looking at it,] the drake said.
“Good. We’re going to practice slowing down an opponent today. Or slowing down your prey, if you like that better.” Not that Avander had ever chased a meal of his in his life, at least outside of the games that they had played together with meat scraps when Avander had still been that sickly-pale-colored hatchling.
Silver: Check out the updates thread for character updates! This should be a big bonus for almost everyone so check it out!
Nov 10, 2020 20:03:40 GMT -6
Morgan: You too, Riku!
Nov 9, 2020 16:36:39 GMT -6
Riku: I hope everyone is doing well.
Nov 8, 2020 16:27:01 GMT -6
Silver: Wishing Well has rolled over! For anyone who received late rolls (ie just got their last Oct. roll), please feel free to post in the well for October items if you still need them. :3
Nov 7, 2020 6:25:48 GMT -6
Kadin: Vote for an icon for the discord!
Nov 1, 2020 18:48:32 GMT -6