The small grove of trees were casting shadows longer than they themselves stood tall when she prodded the crossbreed awake. It reacted as if she had stabbed it, as she expected, whirling away from the gentle prodding of the stick as it clicked madly. She let it have a few seconds to remember where it was and who she was, taking the moment to look it over. It was not as spry and quick as it had been when the sun was still high in the sky, and she could see the clumps of dried mud that had not been thrown off in its awakening. It would have been happy to know that she intended to take it back to the kennel as soon as it learned the last thing on the list, though less than happy that she was wondering how to clean it once they got there.
The crossbreed’s breathing slowed, and it’s frantic clicking and ear-swiveling slowed until it yawned. It was odd to see what mouth parts she had only ever seen on insects on a furry creature. 1(Shadow Meld Start) ((Stalker-21.0 Haix-174.4))
She called it over to her as it yawned again, and it walked over to where she stood by the trees. Explaining the plan to the creature was as much to make sure it would fully be awake when the training began as she was trying to iron out the plan for herself. This odd ability of the creature was strange, but she was sure it would be no different from how she had trained the karzik to deliver messages. It was simply a matter of getting the beast to go somewhere else on command, though in this case it would not travel overland or through the air. No,according to the information she had received upon purchasing this one, it had the ability to submerge itself in the shadows and swim within them. She had trained beasts to swim years ago, and that was what she would do here. Albeit she could not throw the crossbreed into a pool of shadows and wait for it to surface. 2
So she stood in the grove, leaning against one of the trees so that it shielded her from both the lingering sunlight and the illuminated glass lights on the path. The crossbreed stood in the same shadow as she informed it that it needed to sink into the shadows, the idea sounding to her just as ridiculous as the idea was the first time she heard it though her invisible wiurn showed no interest in the topic at the time. Stamping her foot down onto the shadow of the tree, she felt the grass beneath her feet bent and break, but there was nothing more than that. She would not magically find herself able to slip into the shadows and draw the crossbreed in with her.
There was more than one way to deal with such things. First, she watched to see if Stalker showed any tendency to sink into the earth below, but it appeared to support the crossbreed just as well as it had her. 3
There was no quicksand effect like she had hoped to cause by calling it to stand in the darkest part of the shadow. Nor did the crossbreed pay any attention to the shadow it stood in at all, merely watching her with unwavering purple eyes. Removing another chunk of sardine from her supplies, she tossed it down between them with an order for it to sink into the shadows. Instead, the crossbreed walked over and ate the fish as she watched, no hint of magical show-travel powers to be seen.
She called it closer, and it slowly came within her reach before sitting on the ground. The shadows hid some of the muck that encrusted its underside and legs. Could the dried muck on its fur be interrupting its ability to journey through the shadows? With a minor amount of grumbling on her part, she reached out to scratch at the dirt in case that was the issue. 4
If it was, she doubted the crossbreed would be able to use such an ability beneath the earth where dust and mud were constants, but there could always be a dry, rocky tunnel.
As she had half-expected, the crossbreed pulled away from her touch. It did not spiral into a complete panic, a blessing now that the stupid thing might fly off and get itself caught by a roving sarane, but it scurried quickly beyond her reach. Not in the mood to chase it, she ordered the crossbreed back, glaring at it as it crept back to her. Warning it that if it dared to move she would make sure there was more than mud taken off of its hide, she reached out again, muttering for it to stay still as it flinched and twitched, but did not move a limb.
It made the sudden drop through the ground all the more surprising. 5
She crouched there, arms outreached stupidly for several seconds as she tried to process what had happened. The beast had been there, she had touched it, hooked a claw in the largest lump of mud and the crossbreed had slid downwards an instant later straight into the dead grass it had been standing on. No, the shadow it had been standing on.
She jerked upright, calling for Stalker to come out, to come to her. A clicking sound from above her mad her dodge to the side, twisting her body at the end of her jump to look into the dead, shadowy branches of the tree she had been standing under. She held up the treat, and the crossbreed gracefully plucked it from her hand as it flapped back down to the ground.
So that was it then. The trick she had been told it was capable of, something that allowed it not only to vanish into the shadow cast by a tree but to appear in the shadowed branches in the time it had taken for her to stand up. 6
Now, that would be useful in a place where darkness was the natural state. Would it be able to traverse through the entire mines so quickly, to find the nests of prey and come back to her to lead her straight to said nest? Well, there would only be one way to find out.
Excited about the possibilities, she attempted to entice it to sink through the ground again, with the commands to stay still and a few commands to sink thrown in as she reached for it. It did it again, but this time she was ready for it. Even so, the entire process was done almost in the time it would have taken her to blink. She barely noticed the flashy colors of the crossbreed muting, fading into the fur as the fur itself darkened. The edges of the beast softened and it begin to sink, not as is if it was being yanked underneath as she had expected for the speed at which it vanished, but as if it was melting into the shadows themselves. 7
It came out a few paces away this time, emerging in much the same way as it had vanished. The speed made it seem as if the beast was somehow warping between the two spaces. She gave it a treat for that.
There were a few more good melds down by the creature before Haix encountered the first real problem to the training. That problem was that the creature stayed. The crossbreed did flinch, it always did as her claws had brushed against the mud that it was dragging with itself through the shadows. But this time, though it shook, it matched gazes with Haix and allowed her to claw away one of the larger chunks. Then another. It was on the third piece that its courage abandoned it and it finally melded with the shadows, upon emerging from which she showered it with as much praise as she could and an extra piece of fish. She did not know why it had decided not to flee immediately, but it could prove to make the training more difficult. 8
It did not meld at all the next time, and Haix was sure that it had regenerated enough poison to make scaring it into the shadows through force a bad idea. She simply cleaned it off the best she could, meeting its wandering purple eyes a few times before looking back to the job at hand. After cleaning most of the mud off, she was still left with the problem that she was not sure how to make it sink into the shadows again.
Crouched in front of it, she looked off to where the last reddish hues clung to the edge of the sky, the shadows of the trees slowly fading into the rest of the night. Then she looked back at Stalker, and patted the grass, telling it to sink back into the ground like before. The crossbreed was no longer quivering, siting much closer than it had ever been willing to before, and watched her pat the ground with mild interest. 9
When Haix pointed, and jabbed a finger at the shadow, the crossbreed stretched out to sniff the spot, and nothing else. Pounding a fist on the spot made it recoil, then it gingerly reached out and pressed one of its paws on the spot, looking backup at Haix in what she could only consider to be confusion. She told it the command word, ready to go grab the stick and force the crossbreed into the shadows or else spear it, and the crossbreed finally sank into the ground as it had so many times before.
From that point on, it was a matter of repetition. She would tell the crossbreed to sink, and it would do do, popping out at increasingly random locations as the grove became less full of shadows and more just pure darkness. Much like the previous command though, simply doing the thing would not be enough. She had to be sure Stalker could control where it would pop up from. 10
So she grabbed the stick, and after a quick test to ensure it remembered how to sting on command, she began pairing the command with the old ones. One time it was to click-click, the crossbreed materializing out of the dark knothole on a tree as it clicked. The calls to attack the stick were the most impressive, the crossbreed clawing its way out out nearby shadows regardless of where she held the stick to nip it. It got to the point that she could not pull the stick away fast enough to avoid the stings at all, the crossbreed’s location impossible to determine until it was leaping out to attack.
Such a thing would be useless in the pit where the bright lights shining down on the bloodstained sands left no shadows beyond that of the creatures fighting in there, tiny shapeless forms of black that disappeared if a beast jumped or flew. That was probably the reason she had never seen it used by any of the soft-skin owned beasts fighting in there. But what a useful ability to have in the mines, where the only lights found were often that which she brought with her.
A few more commands, and she could see the way the crossbreed sagged, though it was still obeying her the moment she gave the command. The magic was obviously wearing on it, and she would have to let it rest a bit before she could use it in the mines.
One last time then. She called it to her and told it to sink and to follow her as she raced across the plot back to where the supplies lay, the sack standing out clearly in the light of the lamps. The crossbreed leapt out at the very edge of the grove, where the light of the lamps kept back the shadows of the trees, and raced back to her. 11(Shadow Meld End?) ((Stalker-23.0 Haix-175.4))
The training of the leashed houluh beside her had begun days ago, before she had even set eyes on the fenced in lot that she now moved towards to claim.
Houluh were valuable now to the soft-skins of the hive, the bitches able to squeeze out whelps without laboratory intervention, the only numbered species known to do so. And the value soft-skins placed on that ability had been abundantly clear in the price she paid for the shivering runt that had been delivered to her kennel. The creature cringed away from her as she looked it over, pressing itself against the bars as if it could somehow force itself through them. The way it bounded to another side the moment she was almost behind it amused her, and she repeated the circle several times as much to make sure the delivered creature had been healthy as to see it hop the short distance the travel-cage allowed. (Hunt Start)
After the creature, a young female she believed though she had heard odd rumors about the houluh in that regard, had shown no intention of not running from her, Haix had picked up the cage. The houluh bared her teeth then, snapping once at the air with a whine before cringing down to the floor as the cage swayed with Haix’s pace. There had not been far to go, the new cage prepared the moment after she had sold the crystal and bought the houluh. In it was food and water bowls, the houluh more than old enough to eat the small brown spheres of kibble awaiting her. There was a mat of fabric, its exterior like that of a burlap sack, laying flat in one corner as suggested by the soft-skin book she had glanced over. And, naturally as the book had also suggested, the hides of dead grubble and other small beasts dangled from its ceiling.
The book had been for vulticus. It had been exceptionally clear on this, with a casual mention that the tactics in the section she had looked over might not work as well on other creatures. That it would also work for a houluh was only a guess, never having trained any of her creatures to do anything as she intended to do with it. Training something to hunt in the city was nearly worthless, the amount of meat and supplies freely supplied by the labs more than enough to keep all of her creatures fed. Even had there not been, that amount of freedom would be risky, whether the creature chose not to return after realizing it could live on its own or another taking that choice from it.
But this creature, this tiny houluh that shivered and held the top of its ears pressed against her head as the heavy ends dangled uselessly, was a slave hound.
They were built to be obedient, made to obey the laws of those who owned them without a thought of its own. They were favored by some godling of ‘order’, and Haix fully intended to get the most use out of the creature. And if the female fell one day, surely she would have had pups enough to replace her by then.
Haix had placed the small cage next to the larger one, sliding open the doors. The houluh had taken off immediately with a glance back at Haix. Her paw found one drooping ear as she did, and she yelped in pain as she tumbled over the floor of the cage. The houluh had shown no interest in the hides dangling out of her reach that day, only warily watching Haix as she sat nearby, grinding up plants into powder and other such mundane tasks. The ssashirk had to remind herself to speak as she did so, so used to working silently that she spent long stretches in silence before remembering the words in the book and starting again.
Fiera Ferella: right??? i was really hoping i could find one of those pachee before the season was out.
May 26, 2020 18:51:32 GMT -6
Fanged: Oh wow that's an awesome garden find FF
May 26, 2020 18:13:26 GMT -6
Riku: Oh how perfect! I woke up wanting to post (unexpected, but yay) and saw I had a reply. <3 Meant to be.
May 26, 2020 6:40:43 GMT -6
Twilight-Claw: I really, really love all the updates that have come~! <3
May 24, 2020 2:12:37 GMT -6
Fiera Ferella: np!!! I hope y'all like it!
May 23, 2020 13:45:06 GMT -6
Riku: What an awesome update, staff! Thanks for that! <3
May 23, 2020 12:06:52 GMT -6
Jack: All have been found!
May 23, 2020 9:53:27 GMT -6
Jack: Might want to be on the lookout for anything... odd
May 22, 2020 23:51:22 GMT -6
Fiera Ferella: Yeah it’s definitely a coincidence but wow did it work out well for us! XD
May 22, 2020 6:43:27 GMT -6
Silver: I'm pretty sure that was just a coincidence, but it sure feels lucky!
May 22, 2020 2:07:09 GMT -6
Riku: So did you guys make this hosting switch perfectly RIGHT before pb broke? >.< Thaz crazy. It’s a huge relief and I’m very glad we’ve come to this. <3
May 22, 2020 1:41:01 GMT -6
Fiera Ferella: It’s free up to a certain number of GB, which we haven’t hit yet.
May 21, 2020 6:46:33 GMT -6
Twilight-Claw: Is the site that is going to be used to host all those images also the type you'd need to pay for? (definitely noticed the broken images yeah. Photobucket feels like it is standing on its last legs. X3 )
May 21, 2020 0:13:57 GMT -6
Morgan: I'm just kinda nervous about them going down before things get moved over completely. It's prolly nothing to be worried about though. :3
May 20, 2020 22:13:15 GMT -6
Fiera Ferella: Thank goodness we're moving out of there? XD
May 20, 2020 21:59:22 GMT -6
Renathan: Ugh, photobucket has the images broke again. x3
May 20, 2020 21:18:53 GMT -6