The three of them did a lap around the table in the centre of the room. Nadia wanted them to feel the weight as they walked, and learn how to deal with it - or how to ignore it, whichever was preferable. They were hardy little things, and were taking to it like ducks to water. Houluh were suited to work. She didn't think she knew any more versatile creatures at her kennel.
Things would increase in intensity as they went. Once they'd done a full loop, she came with the second pair of weights to make their packs heavier. The indignant faces were enough to draw another laugh from her.
"Now, now. Here you go," She gave each pup a treat for their success so far. Inky devoured his without remorse; Indie at least had the manners to sniff at hers before she consumed it. "Good. Let us go again."
The weights were put into their bags with care. With another treat to tempt, Nadia began her turn about the table - they were more receptive this time, knowing that there was food to be had. Even though the load was heavier, their interest in it decreased. That was a good sign.
The surroundings made for plenty of nice sniffs for the pups. Nadia kept an eye on them, but didn't try to distract them if they stepped off course to investigate something. In fact, the more they showed those behaviours, the better. That meant they were forgetting their burden and carrying it easily.
Perhaps she should pick up the pace a little bit? It may be necessary for them to run with their burdens at some point, and it was better to be safe than sorry. Opening the door out into the hall, Nadia took off like a shot with a treat held in her hand - Inky was at her heels instantly, bounding as if nothing stalled him. Indie started out with a gentler jog before she managed to hit her full pace. Good. She kept up the running for a few repetitions, up and down, until she herself had run out of breath and motivation.
"There you go! Good puppies, good," Her words wheezed out of her as she placed the treats in front of them. They weren't getting tired of food rewards, and she didn't think they ever would be. "Doing very well. Just a little bit more, now."
There were two weights left, one for each pup. Nadia would have to continue the training as they grew and bulked up, to make sure they could carry heavier loads, but for now this would suit them fine - she had no doubt about them handling it. She lifted the flaps over the pouches to put the weights into each one, and then petted their heads.
"Good. One more turn about, I promise!" She had expected it to be a job of convincing them, but Indie was already at her side when she started moving, and Inky pursued, ready for the hint of a treat. On autopilot, then. It was a funny thought, puppies on autopilot. "Okay, great! Come along, then!"
They went at a brisk jog. She didn't want to tire them out too badly, but did want to be sure they were managing okay; they seemed more than capable, padding along with their tongues lolling out and tails wagging. Inky gave a jovial bark. Good signs! When they came to a stop, though, Indie flopped down onto her belly, ready to be relieved of her load. Inky sniffed at her, and then followed suit, thinking her wise to do such.
Nadia had originally had greater plans for the pups' learning - there was a larger concept that she had hoped to introduce to them by now - but her own anxieties about teaching it to them at a young age had come back to haunt her. So, to keep things progressing and perhaps work up to such a thing, she had compiled a list of smaller tricks to try.
The first was as easy as easy got. Anyone would be able to do it, but learning to do it on command was the tricky part. Nadia got two treats handy, and was immediately blessed with the pups' attention - they were still hungry, it seemed. She hovered each treat in the air, a decent way above their heads but not too high, and watched as they craned their necks up to get at it.
"Leap! Leap, pups, leap!" She called. The two had no idea what to make of it. Inky sat and lifted his front paws off the ground, failing to see that this didn't make him taller. Indie gave a frustrated little whine. That was okay, she simply had to show them what she wanted! "Okay. Let me try it this way."
Nadia lowered the treats to just above their heads. Both of them were just able to reach; Inky leaned up and tried to nibble it into his mouth, while Indie tried to lift a paw to the height. She didn't relinquish the treats to them. Instead, she lifted them up a little further, to a fraction out of reach.
"Leap, pups," She repeated again. "Leap."
It was all rather confusing. The houluh could recognise that she was giving them a command, but couldn't place it. Inky did the only thing he could imagine would bring him closer to the food, and sprang slightly off the ground, his ears flapping.
"Yes! Yes, good boy!" Nadia instantly relinquished his treat to him upon seeing the jump, and ruffled the fur on his head, delighted. It had only been a tiny bounce, but it was a foundation they could build on. "Now your turn, Indie. Leap!"
The female pup was jealous, and didn't enjoy that Inky had gotten to eat first. After a quick wrestle, she returned her attention to her treat. Okay. What had her friend done, just...? Jumped? There was that word, 'leap'. So she bounced. Yes, yes! The treat was coming down to her to eat.
That was brilliant! They had both gotten off of the ground, and had been rewarded for it. With a bit of encouragement, Nadia hoped they would get the idea; it wasn't too tricky, and she knew they were clever enough to make the connection between the command and the action. Minds had to be as sharp as bodies to help them stay efficient.
"Okay, let's go again," She said as she retrieved two more snacks. This time, she held them at a higher distance, making for a noticeably bigger jump. "Leap! Come on pups, you can do it! Leap! Leap!"
It surprised her that Inky was the one who was connecting the dots faster, this time. Usually, Indie's calmness left her more likely to make links, but it was her friend who was bouncing off of the ground to get to the snack before her. The good thing about that was that she was terribly jealous. The command had barely left her mouth before Indie was making her shot, clumsily throwing herself up in the air in an attempt to impress. It was a good a try as any, and she got her treat too. They were making decent progress.
It was time to start weaning them off of the treats. Holding their attention at that stage was always a pain, but Nadia was determined - they'd shown they were capable, and she wasn't going to let them off for giving anything less than their best effort. It was all a labour of love, after all. Smaller, barely bitesize pieces were chosen for the next step, and she cranked up the height again. They looked daunted before she'd even said a word.
"It is quite alright, dears," She cooed as encouragement. "You needn't reach it, just give it a try. Now, leap!"
Indie was quick off of the mark, now that she realised what was going on. She wasn't going to let Inky beat her! The spring in her step was impressive, but didn't quite get to Nadia's hand. Inky, on the other hand... it was like he was bouncing on a trampoline! She had no idea how he'd managed to get that much height from a standstill.
"Good, good!" Impressed with their learning, she gave them the treats and ruffled their fur. She'd have to get rid of both treats and explicit direction next, which was daunting. "We are almost there."
This time, no hands. Nadia tucked her hands behind her back, not giving them any signals - the houluh stared at her, waiting for her to get out the treat bag. Not this time. Sorry, pups, it was high time to abandon the food motivation.
"Leap!" It was scary and confusing, without any visible direction. Nadia believed in them, though, and wasn't disheartened by the initial worry on their faces, or Inky backing up a few steps. "It's okay. You know this now. How about it? Leap, Inky! Leap!"
He liked the tone of her voice. His tail began to wag, and then - then he sprang once more, straight into the air, tongue lolling out of his mouth. Oh! So that was the game! Indie was quick to follow suit, not wanting to miss out on whatever was going on. Again - "leap!" - and another joyful bounce from the pair of them, accompanied by some excitable barking. Yes!
"Oh, good pups, good pups!" She stooped down so she could pet them both, and Inky leaned in to lick at her face. The kisses made her squirm and wrinkle her nose. "Oh, yucky! Your breath smells like Murp! Yes, yes, good boy, good boy!"
Nadia figured it was time for a break. Keeping them going for long periods of time would not yet be beneficial - plus, she had plans to work on that exact skill next, so they had time to kill beforehand. As nice as the dining room they were situated in was, she was fancying a change of scenery, and moved out into the hall with her pups following her. They were still hyped up about the possibility of treats, no doubt, and wanted to appear like they were on their best behaviour.
"Come on, then," She said. There were a handful of doors in the hall; one slightly ajar, and the others closed tight. She didn't particularly like the idea of the one left open. It seemed a trap, to deliberately lure her in, and she wasn't going to risk it. One of the others, then. Inky began to rub up against one and hook his claws to scrabble under the frame, while Indie watched and said nothing. "Alright, this one it is. Be careful."
Property damage to the mansion could end up with serious consequences, so she did her best to dissuade that behaviour by inserting herself between him and the wood.
"Let me go first," Nadia said, reaching to put her hand around the doorknob. It was cool to the touch, and sent a shiver hurtling down her spine; hopefully, there wouldn't be any nasty surprises lurking behind it. Who knew. "Okay, three... two... and one!"
The door was flung open, and she braced herself for terror, only to find... a pumpkin patch. Hmm. It differed from the usual fare on account of the towering gourds, easily as tall as she was, but was otherwise relatively mundane. That suited her down to the ground. No creepy crawlies or zombies to be seen, and she liked it that way.
Inky was instantly enthused by the presence of plants. He bounced forwards and began to sniff around the leaves, searching something to gnaw on, while Indie hung back around Nadia's legs. She couldn't be sure if it was free of risk yet. If it was, though, she was certain that they would find it, if her luck was anything to go by. Nadia recited a quiet prayer for their better health. Once that was over with, she felt the confidence to step out into the patch, and begin exploring the great unknown herself.
Goodness, they were large pumpkins. The absurdity had been lost on her initially, in her relief that she hadn't fallen through the floor or some similar terrible fate, but Nadia had regained her senses enough to be surprised now. Did the mansion have magic fertiliser or something? She should like to take some home for her own garden. Speaking of which, one of those pumpkins would keep her in soup and pies for months!
Inky agreed with her fascination with them. He had chosen a particular whopper and was circling around it, stealing the occasional lick at its orange flesh. Funny tasting. It wasn't yummy, but he was still intrigued, and was bold enough to try and take a nibble. Indie stuck to her guns at Nadia's heels and refrained from getting herself a snack. They didn't look very tasty - at least, not as tasty as the treats she knew the woman still had.
"You are not meant to eat the outside, my dear," Nadia advised the houluh with a smile. He paid her no heed and kept at his biting, leaving little tooth grooves on the pumpkin's surface. "You shall be at that all evening, I tell you. You have been warned."
Inky was determined, and Nadia was happy to watch. It was amusing, to see him trying desperately to either pierce the hide or drag the giant pumpkin with him, and having no success with it. Houluh were daring little souls who wouldn't give up without a noble fight, from what she had seen of them. Gelert was the same - he grew very annoyed when he couldn't get something right the first time, and would be persistent until he got his way. It was charming, until it wasn't. Training could be a chore with a stubborn beast.
"Shall we take a turn about?" She whispered down to Indie, who wagged her tail. "Yes? Come along, then. We can leave him to it."
It seemed they were outside again, whether it was an illusion or no. This was a sunny autumnal afternoon rather than a night; the sun shone down on them and warmed them with its rays, and a pleasant breeze blew over the rows of crops. It was refreshing, after the darkness and gloom, and a glimmer of hope. The mansion still had the capacity for light even with all the Vai Min Mur celebrations in the height of their swing.
Fallen leaves crunched beneath her feet, and Nadia smiled, taking a deep breath of crisp, autumn air. It was a most welcome deviance from the trend. Indie looked like she was appreciating it too, stretching out her limbs and giving a big yawn. A rest wouldn't go amiss. They had all been working hard on this trip, after all.
Inky had given up on his pumpkin endeavours for now, and came scampering up behind them with a cheerful yip, teeth tipped in orange. Oh dear. Well, it wouldn't hurt him, and she could try wrestling with him to brush them when they got home. Now that the pair had learned tolerance, it was easier to handle them, but they still enjoyed acting up wherever they could. Only natural for pups of a young age, she supposed, to try getting away with anything they could.
"Shall we sit for a while?" There was a towering gourd nearby that offered a comfortable spot of shade in its shadow. The woman was all too eager to set down her heavy rucksack and flop onto the ground; though it was dirt, it was compact and would not stain her clothing. "Come over here, dears."
It wouldn't hurt to have a little nap, would it? Inky came to sit down next to her side, and Indie stopped at her outstretched legs, resting her chin on her knee. The presence of the pups was soothing and warm. Nadia found herself inclined to fall asleep, leaning against the enormous gourd, and soon her eyes were slipping shut.
Her dreams were nothing exciting to speak of. They were what one might expect, after a walk at the mansion; twisting corridors, endless stairs, dead ends and hands reaching out from the darkness. It did not cause her fear, even though it may have been considered nightmarish objectively. This was what she had come to expect of the place, and thus she couldn't be moved to fright.
When she woke, however, all was changed. The sun had set, and the moon beamed down from above her, full and pale. She turned herself to look at the gourd she had rested upon, and found it grinning at her with a jagged jack-o'-lantern smile. A fine trick indeed. Squinting, she looked about for her puppies, suddenly aware that she could not feel their comforting warmth beside her. They were nowhere to be seen.
The newfound terror had Nadia leaping up to her feet in no time at all. Where were they? Anything could have snatched them up while she was wasting her time sleeping! They could be crying for her off in some monster's den, and she would have nothing to defend herself with. How stupid. How terrible of her to leave them defenseless!
A thousand bad thoughts ran through her mind as she frantically paced the pumpkin patch, searching between every bulbous gourd for the pair. It wasn't like they were attack trained or anything. They wouldn't hurt a fly, and wouldn't intimidate anything with their sweet puppy faces. It was imperative they were found, and quickly, or else-- what was that sound? Soft, like claws scratching in the dirt. A bolt of fright struck her - was something coming up from beneath the soil?! She rounded the corner, and there in front of her...
... were the pups. Inky was back at the pumpkin he had tried to drag away earlier, putting more dents in it with his little needle teeth. Indie was watching, but not participating; perhaps she recognised that he didn't have a chance in hell of getting it out of the ground.
Silver: I use google docs for everything now because of stuff like that.
Sept 17, 2023 18:01:49 GMT -6
Riku: I had like 20 tabs open to eventually go through to add up all my character levels and copy/paste all my stuff/pets into my registry thread. When chrome updated all the tabs were gone. Oh well…
Sept 17, 2023 11:45:28 GMT -6
Riku: Muahaha! And you almost got away with it, too.
Sept 17, 2023 11:09:32 GMT -6
Silver: Oops looks like I deleted you two at the end when making an edit, fixing now!
Sept 17, 2023 5:16:05 GMT -6
Xentus: ah am i missing from the show ring?
Sept 17, 2023 2:15:25 GMT -6
Skylos: Oooh, this time I have an acid pet.
Sept 16, 2023 22:27:02 GMT -6
Fiera Ferella: Oh, good point, thanks for the reminder! :0 Gotta pick out something special for my characters, hmmmm
Sept 16, 2023 21:21:34 GMT -6
Silver: Show Ring is up! Reminder: October is Vai Min Mur and therefore a special contest! Train your shadow and acid pets in preparation. :3
Sept 16, 2023 21:14:38 GMT -6
Twilight-Claw: Thanks for this allowing the change in prizes Silver, even if it was forgotten by mistake, I am very happy to get the opportunity for this particular Estharne type. <3
Sept 14, 2023 0:17:37 GMT -6
Twilight-Claw: Oh yes please! Thanks for this information Silver! <3 I would need to contact the npc account then?
Sept 14, 2023 0:00:16 GMT -6
Silver: (I said 'we' a bunch of times but it was totes just me that forgot it. Oops.)
Sept 13, 2023 23:55:16 GMT -6
Silver: Hey Twilight if you want to make a change to how you spent your points now that the River is available, please DM staff. We know we messed up by forgetting to include it so if you want it more than something else you bought we could swap for you.
Sept 13, 2023 23:54:40 GMT -6
Twilight-Claw: I can throw in the Pasha-Sarane Searhorse as well.
Sept 13, 2023 23:43:07 GMT -6
Twilight-Claw: Is there any chance I could buy the river Estharne for 20 usd from someone? I lost the opportunity to get one last year when I forgot to buy one from the Trepuldra.
Sept 13, 2023 23:41:08 GMT -6
Twilight-Claw: Now I wish I had saved some points. ;-;
Sept 13, 2023 23:33:59 GMT -6
Zenjesi: Uggggggh I wish I would've been active a month ago x-x
Sept 13, 2023 22:16:38 GMT -6
Fiera Ferella: We have a gorgeous addition to the Summer Fair prize shop- the river tiger estharne!
Sept 13, 2023 19:35:08 GMT -6
Riku: I really didn’t expect to get my two favorites of this cross. One, sure. But both? Perfect!
Sept 9, 2023 14:22:59 GMT -6
Darky: It was a fun prompt but MAN did I struggle trying to figure out how to make it actually x3
Sept 7, 2023 2:04:09 GMT -6