But as far as real, live prey went, Avander had never had that. It felt unnecessary and not terribly humane, and a hunk of dead meat did just as well without nearly as much hassle.
Of course, training was a little bit different. Real opponents were living flesh, and a dummy couldn’t really emulate that kind of movement. But it was a little premature for that, and Aster didn’t want Avander to get hurt, or to fail in a way that put him off what Aster was trying to teach him.
But even Avander had cottoned on to the discrepancy between what Aster was saying and the dummy that he had set up. The drake was, again, a little dubious. [We’re doing it with a dummy?] Avander said. [This thing can’t even move.]
“Yeah, well, I didn’t want you to end up with a mouthful of dirt chasing after a real life Murp or something. Your pride probably couldn’t take it.” Aster said.
More seriously, he went on. “We’ll move on to something with a bit more fight to it after you get the hang of what to go for.” The possibility of Avander being the one hurt if he wasn't adequately prepared wasn't a joke.
Avander didn’t argue. Aster had the sense that he wasn’t actually all that excited for the prospect of something with more fight to it, but they would cross that bridge when they came to it. For now, he directed the drake’s attention at the dummy again. “You want to go for the legs. Remember, the point is to slow them down, so you really have to get your claws in there and tear up whatever you can catch.”
The drake studied the dummy while Aster gave his explanation. [So all I have to do is grab the legs and tear?] he said.
It sounded simple when Avander put it that way, and privately Aster wondered if he might be underestimating the difficulty of this.
But he had just seen how important it had been to build the drake’s confidence, rather than cast him into doubt about his own abilities, so he didn’t say anything, and tried not to dwell on that doubt in case it bled through their link. “Sure, give it a shot if you’re ready,” Aster said instead, and stepped back to give Avander some room to work.
Avander had been limbered up somewhat by this point, since they had already been training for a while, so it didn’t take him long at all to take a swipe at the dummy. Sarane were well built for this kind of thing, their claws long and wickedly curved. He made short work of the dummy, those long claws digging in and pulling hard. Aster could feel the drake’s satisfaction as they listened to the tear of the leather skinning the dummy’s legs.
“Well, you’ve certainly got the idea,” Aster said. But he was beginning to see that it wasn’t the mechanics of tearing through an opponent’s legs that was the problem. It really was the movement.
That gave him an idea, though he wasn’t sure he liked it much. In fact, he was pretty sure he was going to regret it, but he proposed it all the same.
“Since you’ve got that covered, let’s try something else. I’m going to run, and you’re going to try and trip me,” he said. “Just trip me, mind, not tear my legs open. We’re just practicing your aim here. If you maim me, I’m going to sell you off to the shabbiest ranch I can find.”
Avander snorted in amusement. [Oh, I don’t know. Maybe it’ll be worth it. I’ve always wanted to get a little revenge. Well, I guess I can settle for seeing you face down in the mud.] He was clearly very much on board with the idea, to Aster’s chagrin. This wasn’t going to be fun for him.
“The least you could do is pretend like you’re concerned about me,” Aster said, shaking his head. But he was only delaying the inevitable. The sooner they started, the sooner he could get this phase over with. Besides, as much as they ribbed each other, Aster did actually trust Avander not to hurt him in any serious way. Neither of them were in for a good time if Avander actually hamstrung him. This wasn’t the sort of method he would have chosen with a creature he trusted less, but with Avander, he didn’t feel as uneasy about it as he could have.
Here goes, Aster thought, then took off at a run. “Catch me if you can, you overgrown sack of scales,” Aster said.
[Oh, you’re going to regret that,] Avander replied. He’d been courteous enough to give Aster a head start, but once he began chasing, he didn’t hold back.
Aster was very quickly becoming acquainted with the real terror of a predator of a Sarane’s size bearing down on him. That fight or flight primal fear was no joke. Adrenaline kicked in despite all his high minded thoughts about trust, and he found himself having to force himself not to put on a burst of speed he couldn’t sustain.
Not that it mattered. Avander was faster. Even without the use of his wings, he was faster. The trouble wasn’t that so much as it was whether he could trip an opponent in motion though.
Therein lay the challenge: Avander might be able to catch up, but he had no practice running and reaching at the same time. His first attempt wasn’t all that successful. Aster could feel something brush against his leg, but it didn’t manage to catch him enough to interfere with his stride.
[Aim better,] Aster said over their mental link. It felt a bit demented to be encouraging the creature that was actively chasing him, but he’d done stupider things in the name of training. It was a good thing he had the ribbon though, so he could save his real breath for running, rather than giving pointers.
Avander tried again. This time he took a swipe at Aster, and there was enough force behind it that it might have been bad, but the aim was a little off. Aster only stumbled, and managed to recover. It wasn’t as easy as Avander had anticipated, clearly.
They continued like that for some time, with Avander chasing and Aster running. Of course, it wasn’t as though their endurance was infinite, so they took a couple of breaks to catch their breath. This was especially important for Aster, since as the session wore on, Avander got better at it.
He was beginning to learn the proper timing of when to reach out so as not to interfere with his own gait, and how to do it so that he best caught the legs of what he was chasing. And as he got better at it, Aster got sent sprawling more and more often.
Eventually, Aster pronounced that Avander was ready to move on. Or rather, he pronounced that he had had enough, and that Avander had better practice on something else, or there wouldn’t be much left of him that wasn’t a bruise.
[Just going to remind you that it was your idea,] Avander said smugly. He really was getting too much mileage out of this. Aster sighed but didn’t retort, since it was true.
“Yeah, well, now you can terrorize a Murp instead,” Aster said. “Come on.”
With that, he led Avander to a different part of the property, where there was indeed a Murp lowing unhappily in a corral.
This wasn’t a good day for the Murp. It was probably able to smell the sheer number of predators on the premises, so it hadn't exactly been easy even when it had been left here to grace alone, and now it was coming face to face with one of that number of thus far unknown threats. Its lowing became more unhappy, and a little more frantic too, though they weren’t at a proximity yet for it to go into full blown panic.
“How confident do you feel that you can catch this guy?” Aster said. “Actually, you know what, let’s start with you in the corral too. Mind the fencing. It’s not going to feel great if you crash into it.”
[And you’re not going to be happy if you have to mend it, right?] said Avander, clearly amused. [Alright, you’re the boss.] He did a neat little flight-assisted hop into the corral, landing dainty as a cat.
This was all the excuse Murp needed to begin melting down in earnest.
Bellowing its terror, it ran for its life. Unfortunately for the Murp, there was only so far it could go, since it was corralled in with the predator, and had no way of flying itself. Avander cut to one side, giving chase, and the Murp turned and ran in the other direction to avoid him. Not that this did it any good either. Avander was faster, bearing down on the Murp the same way that he had chased Aster earlier.
No, that wasn’t quite right. With Aster, there had still been the atmosphere of a game, even if Aster didn’t always feel it while he had been chased. Aster could feel the drake’s focus sharpening now, which was probably just as well, since the Murp wasn’t above fighting back either, swinging with horns and hooves when it thought it had an opportunity. Or maybe just when it felt especially cornered.
But Avander avoided them with the deftness of a creature who was used to dodging blows from opponents, and soon he drew up close enough to take a swipe. And here, all the practice that Aster had put him through paid off: he was able to catch the Murp and make it stumble.
And yet, the Murp was still running. Avander hadn’t dug in quite enough with his claws. “Don’t hold back now,” Aster said. “Dig into it. Really shred ‘em up.”
Avander didn’t bother with a retort, putting on a burst of speed to catch up with the Murp again. Maybe the reminder had helped, or maybe he was just better prepared this time around, but his claws hit their mark on the second attempt. The Murp let out a sharp cry, and blood ran in great rivulets down its legs. It tried to run, but it was clearly limping now, and its eyes were rolling with desperation.
Aster sighed. “Better put it out of its misery,” he said. Avander did as he asked, tearing the creature’s throat open, and while Aster didn’t look away, he did grimace at the sight of it.
Avander had his fill, then Aster set about butchering the rest to feed his other creatures. With so many carnivores in his care, at least the carcass wouldn’t go to waste. In the days that followed, they repeated the process with more prey animals, outside of a corral this time to remove the handicap that Aster had given them to start with. Avander caught them all, and he became more efficient with his tactic of tearing up their legs.
Eventually, Aster called an end to it. He was satisfied that Avander could perform the maneuver in a live setting, and that was enough. They were going back to eating pre-butchered things here on this farm.
Dealing with the logistics and the hassle of live prey… No, he was glad that this particular phase of training was over. He’d had quite enough of that to last him a while, to say the least.
That didn't mean the end of live prey necessarily, especially with what they were going to work on in the coming days, but at least this time Aster would hopefully be spared the ordeal of procuring that prey and keeping it happy until Avander was ready. And there was plenty to do in preparation before they hit that stage of it anyway.
Like teaching Avander to lay down, for example.
"Come on, down you go," Aster said, pointing at the ground. "Lower yourself down so your belly touches the ground." This should have been pretty simple, considering that they were operating through the ribbon, and Aster could clearly explain what he wanted Avander to do.
Not that this meant that things went without hiccups anyway.
[Why are we doing this?] Avander asked. He didn't lay down just yet, opting to wait for an explanation, inspecting Aster as though looking for something. [You're not getting too old to climb onto my back, are you?] Evidently he had been inspecting Aster for some sort of new defect.
"Hey, you never know. I'm not going to be young forever," Aster said, though he didn't bother to hide the sardonic note in his voice. "But no, that's not why we're doing this today. We're going to work on your sneaking skills, and for that, you need to learn how to move on your belly. Otherwise they're going to see your big ol' rump coming from a mile away."
Avander shot him a look, but evidently this explanation served its purpose well enough. The drake laid himself down, but it was a restful sort of laying down, like he might do if he were resting in his stall. Or resting pretty much anywhere else, for that matter.
Well, Avander had done as he asked, Aster supposed, which may as well be good enough for a first attempt.
Aster figured they would start easy for now, and let the drake rise again, stretch his legs for a bit, before repeating the command. "Down, Avander," he said.
Avander, who hadn't been doing anything in particular, turned to Aster at the sound of his voice. "Down," Aster said again. The drake made a low grumble, then lowered himself onto his belly again.
"Good, you can get up now," Aster said.
After Avander had been up for a while, Aster issued the command again. "Down, Avander," he said. The drake responded more quickly this time, and Aster had him hold the position for a while before letting him up again. They practiced it a few more times in that manner, until Avander, finally having had enough, said, [Is this some kind of new workout? My legs are sore.]
Now that he had pointed it out, it did kind of resemble squats for dragons if he did it quickly enough in succession. The corner of Aster's mouth twitched in amusement. "It's not, but your legs aren't going to get any more of a rest today," Aster said, thinking of everything else he wanted Avander to learn.
[Oh joy. My favorite,] Avander said.
"Oh, I know," Aster said, nodding. "Alright, down."
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