First Exposure

Description: for Kay

Syral Moon-son

    Green to Gray
  • Warlord Prince
  • Played By: Jones

    Moon King
    Glacia Kaeleer
    10 Posts    318 marks
First Exposure
« on: June 12, 2019, 11:49:45 PM »
White fur on the outside, and thick brown against his skin. Hunting clothes that insulated Syral without making him stand out in the bleak landscape. From any distance he was just another snow drift. All the animals that had gone into its making were hunted by his own hand. Idony’s careful craftwork stitching them together until they were as protective as armor, and light as a feather. Which was good, since he was not hunting in tribe territory today. The icy rain that had trapped them all indoors for days had finally stopped in the night. As soon as dawn broke, he had taken his bow and headed out into the morning. Sky bright blue from one horizon to the other- it was time to hunt something that would fill his family’s bellies for days.

In recent years it had become necessary to stay close to the coast, or risk giving up another inch. So Syral had not wandered east into the flats for hunting as often as he had in the past. They stayed plenty fat with fishing. There were three hunters at home with expectant wives this season, however, and he could not fault them for refusing to go out on the open water. Especially now that it was ten times as dangerous to hunt seals.

So he went alone to bring home a muskox or two. The herd laid out in front of him as he reached the top of a low hill. Pace slow, shields high to keep them from catching his scent or hearing his approach. The only subtle sign of the hunter was the occasional puff of mist caused by his warm breath on the air. In the pocket of shields around him his boots crunched through the surface layer of packed snow. It went ankle deep. His strong legs did not notice the extra work it took to move him forward.

Crouching low he studied the herd carefully. Picking out the groups of slow, pregnant cows from the young and viral bulls. It would be months before there were newborn calves. He wanted to pick off an older, slower animal first. It’s sudden, silent death would be curious instead of alarming. Then, if he was quick and accurate he could pick off a tender young yearling for his own table before they made a defensive wall. Which would give him leave to kill a third before they stampeded off- if he was lucky.

There. First target chosen. A lumbering elder on the outskirts of the herd.

His fingers pulled the bow string taut, arrow notched into place. String released on an exhale. Without a sound it darted through the air, striking the beast in ribs. One short huff caught the attention of the oxen nearest. Who startled away a few steps when the old bull fell sideways but they settled quickly. Sniffing at his face they moved back to grazing. Syral came in closer. Something nagged at the corner of his vision, forgotten in the same instance as a soft breeze stirred the snow on the other side of the herd. Another target was chosen. The half grown calf that would simmer on his table tonight. Arrow notched. When it fell with a cry the herd rumbled into a defensive circle. Roaring cows beating the ground with their hooves as the males displayed their horns for the unseen enemy.

Syral threaded a final arrow through his bow. Lined up his shot, and watched his target fall a full five seconds before his arrow caught it in the head. Eyebrows tipping together he swept the power of his gray through the stampede of frightened animals. Trying to collect his kills before they were trampled. And searching too, for the hunter that had just ruined his hunt. They met over the body of the third beast. Growling through the knitwork that covered his face he waved the smaller person away. Posturing since words were difficult without unwrapping their heads. *Yuka?* He demanded. Surely none of his people were this stupid. This was definitely a Nukti woman, and his tribe were the only ones for miles. He recognized those eyes. He was sure. *What are you doing out here alone?!*

@kayndred

Valeska Spearfang

    Summer-sky to Green
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Re: First Exposure
« Reply #1 on: June 13, 2019, 01:12:12 AM »
It had started off as a day with such promise. Up before the sun to fish and check her traps, diving in her sealskin to search for shellfish on the closer seabeds. The weather had been messy and cold, keeping her inside, worrying away at new arrowheads and and sharpening her knives. Free at last to escape the rookery and its slew of still-new scents, Valeska had seized the opportunity with both hands.

When she'd been alone her traps had been enough to keep her fed, and whenever her stores ran overfull or she found herself put off by something in her net she could trade it, keep her diet varied and robust. But now, with the rookery taken up around her and so many of them unused to feeding themselves in the colder weather, Val found herself pushing to pull in more. More fish, more crabs, more hare and sea bird. But even these weren't enough.

So, appraising her haul that morning, she'd decided to set out towards the flats and typical grazing grounds of the muskox, intent on bringing something of substance back to keep the bellies of her new neighbors full. It wasn't an area she preferred to frequent, especially alone, but there were few among the group who she'd trust to keep pace with her, let alone keep quiet and assist in taking down her prey.

She'd cleansed her scent down to the barest of flickers and wrapped herself tight in an aural shield when they'd finally come into sight, creeping forward either through or around snow drifts, working with the wind and the sunlight to stay hidden. Breathing deep, centering herself, thinking only of the blank white of the snow, the pale blue of the drift shadows. Hunting on land was much like hunting as a seal, when her prey was soft birds and their chicks. Look for the slow, the isolated, the sickly. Pick and choose and keep quiet, quiet, until she could spring her teeth like a trap on them.

Fish, of course, were much easier, but food was food and she would be taking something home.

She missed the first ox fall, although she saw the little commotion of the oxen around it, investigating. Not unusual activity, and disregarded because of it. Bow drawn, humming with the touch of enhancement, she knocked an arrow and scanned the herd, looking for a target.

The second one she didn't ignore, because it sent the herd into a rush of movement, females turning to shelter calves and males displaying their horns. Cursing internally she drew her string back to her cheek, eyes narrowed at one muskox displaced enough in the circle to present an opportunity. Fly true! she hissed to it mentally, releasing on an exhale. She held her breath as it hit and breathed deep in relief when it sank into its thick fur and the beast dropped to its knees, sending the herd into a frenzy while she vanished her bow.

Relief that was short lived when she saw another arrow sticking out of its head before it got obscured by the rush of hairy bodies. It was only when the muskox had left them in the snow-dust that she saw them, over the side of her kill, as camouflaged as she was, although the seems looked somewhat neater. Val had had an alright hand for sewing, but it had only mattered in as much as it could service her.

At their gesture away from the muskox body Val stood taller, calling in one of her long spears from her cabinet. She was short, but she wasn't some green child to be waved away from a kill that was hers. And she certainly wasn't whoever they thought she was. Yuka?

She slipped the buttons keeping her mouth guard wrapped around her face free from their loops, letting it drop enough that she could push her chin over it and answer, eyes narrowed, "I don't know you, but that," she jerked her spear at the body between them, "is mine."

Syral Moon-son

    Green to Gray
  • Warlord Prince
  • Played By: Jones

    Moon King
    Glacia Kaeleer
    10 Posts    318 marks
Re: First Exposure
« Reply #2 on: June 14, 2019, 01:47:49 AM »
In hindsight, the lack of instant recognition should have been a warning sign. Not only was Syral tall for a tribesman, he was one of very few that could don the fur of an isbyr. They were difficult prey, usually requiring the cooperation of a group, which meant the part were divided up between hunters. To have enough hide to make a left boot was a worthy achievement. Syral had lived many years, however, and he wore isbyr from top to bottom.

The spear was a much clearer signal. Mildly surprised he crossed his arms over his chest. Eyebrows disappearing into the low cuff of his hat. She rejected his psychic thread, which was admittedly not un-Yuka like. Sometimes a person needed to prove themselves. Out here it was easy to do simply by surviving. Carrying home a useful kill would be celebration worthy. ONe button at a time the face of a young woman unfamiliar to him popped into view.


Yanking down the scarf that protected his face Syral tipped his lips in almost apologetically. ”No. I mistook you for my friend.” He did not look down at the ox she gestured towards. It did not sit well, the big kill going to any place not his tribe. Rubbing his nose with the back of a mitt he said, ”These are not your hunting grounds, and my shot would have killed him dead just the same.” In fact, he could barely tell the fletching of his arrow from that of hers. They were very similarly made.

Curious.

”What tribe are you from?” He asked, bending down to thrust her arrow up out of the beast. Body language casual but eyes watching for movement at the edges of his vision. He had no intention of getting stabbed over meat he could replace with a seal or two. ”Hm.” Turning the projectile around in his hands he judged the quality of it’s craftsmanship. ”This is Ippik style.” He commented. The way the arrowhead was attached to the shaft was unmistakable. Notched in slightly to keep the stone or bone shard from slipping. Especially useful when using them arrows like a harpoon, because they could punch through several inches of ice.

Years before, before Syral had been born, his tribe had occupied the entire peninsula. There were villages all along the coasts, and inland too. Only the warriors traveled. Then they warred with Stavangar over land rights. Hundreds died. The tribe was pushed to the far north, but they stood their ground. A tentative peace was struck and held to the present day. The core of the tribe had returned to their nomadic roots, but Syral knew that fishing villages with Nukti residents had survived. They lived with the white people, alongside them, slowly losing their culture. This woman, he decided without knowing, must have come from such a place. He had thought them all died or bred out of memory by now. And certainly did not expect one to know how to form a decent weapon.

”I’m called Syral,” He said, holding out her arrow. ”from the Ippik peoples at the coast.”

Valeska Spearfang

    Summer-sky to Green
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Re: First Exposure
« Reply #3 on: June 14, 2019, 06:27:00 PM »
That explained the concern in his psychic-thread, at least. Better to have been assumed a friend than an enemy.

"These are not your hunting grounds either," she said. Only the nomad bands would claim any residency of the muskox lands, and only in as much as they claimed the beasts they killed. "Then you should have shot faster." There had been two other bodies left by the stampede, and they hadn't been her kills, so it was likely that he wouldn't be hurting for meat.

She shifted at his assessment of her arrow, and longed to jerk it from his hands. Her mother and father had taught her how to craft her weapons, and knew that some nomad tribes carried similar work. When she did take them to market to trade it was always with the foreigners or the Firarlith that they sold best, weapons honed through generations to last the cold.

Spear vanished as she watched him, mouth tucked into the loose lip of her hood to warm her face. No memory of his face, although that was unsurprising, given her prior isolation. Proud in his furs, at least, and stronger than her, although she didn't want to try and find that depth.

"Valeska," she said, taking the arrow back cautiously, quickly following her spear. She shifted the curve of her bow across her chest. "My village has no name." Which wasn't a lie, considering Selka had yet to name her settlement, and Val wouldn't have claimed residency even if she had. What her village had been called, the one where her parents had lived, was beyond her now. She didn't know if he would have known it, or known that it was gone.

Looking out across the snow, she debated the time it would take to get back, and what she might catch or be forced into hunting along the way. "You are far from your people, Syral from the coast." She observed. Maybe as far as Val was, although that was a distance lengthened by death, and one she wouldn't cross for some time. Syral, at least, came from a people.

Syral Moon-son

    Green to Gray
  • Warlord Prince
  • Played By: Jones

    Moon King
    Glacia Kaeleer
    10 Posts    318 marks
Re: First Exposure
« Reply #4 on: June 15, 2019, 12:44:39 AM »
”Says who?” Syral grunted, one eyebrow raised in challenge. He was here. He was hunting. That was more claim than anyone else could lay. Even if that claim left with the meat the land provided. With a snort at her sass he tipped his head towards a rising shoulder. ”Next time I will be.”

Faser, and more careful to sweep for other hunters. There was a time when he would have been that thorough by second nature. Now those willing to come this far were few. Only Moon Warriors, mostly. Others happy to make their living on the sea’s wealth. Far from the dangers of the Cities. Still, it would have been sad to kill a pretty Nukti girl when it was easy to prevent.

A pretty, and well taught one. He admired her weapons. One from the palm of his hand, the other with a long gaze. Spear as well made as her arrow. He wondered if there would be a tribe in tow. Sometimes the reminenants came out of the big cities and tried to join up or share land with tribes that had never given theirs up. Syral would not be adverse to absorbing newcomers. But he would not welcome encroachment, not even from other Nukti. ”Valeska.” He repeated with some distaste. Not a name of the People. One of the Firarlith.

’Valeska of the nameless village.” How interesting. ”It’s been a long time since there were any villages near here.” The last three had fallen into the water. No one seemed to know how. Syral had suspicions, but there had only been one survivor. The same he had mistaken this Valeska for. It all begged the questions- who was this woman? She had a round face that reminded him of stories about Mother Moon. Dark, watchful eyes that were filled with distrust but not fear. Either she was stupid, or she was confident in her ability.

Following her gaze out into the snow he saw that they would leave in the same direction. That did not bode well. And his hopes that she was far from home began to fail. ”No. I am Ippik Nukti, my ancestors walk beside me and my sisters wait at home. I’m never far from my people no matter where I go.” He corrected firmly. She was kin. She should have known the same. ”Are you far from your people, Valeska?” Was she a woman at all? A spirit, perhaps, come to tempt or try his own. In which case it would not do to deny her on the petty assumption she would bring this meat to the seals.

”If you make arrows this way, then you may be Ippik too. Sometimes The People forget where they come from.” He offered helpfully before turning back to the real debate. Crossing his arms over his chest he knocked snow off his hat. Looking between the ox and the young woman. ”We could split it.” He tried, the corner of his mouth turning up.

Valeska Spearfang

    Summer-sky to Green
  • hearthwitch
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    7 Posts    388 marks
Re: First Exposure
« Reply #5 on: June 18, 2019, 03:54:26 PM »
One eyebrow ticked up toward her hairline - hopefully he'd catch the ridiculousness of that. At least her snark didn't bruise his ego - an easily riled stranger was one who tended to be quick to turn to the blade to a conversation. Even if he was obviously accomplished and not hideous.

Eyes narrowed at his tone, wanting to take her name back from his mouth. That was her mother's gift to her, a thin veneer of sameness wrapped around both the difference of her person and her animal. Some little thing to ease her way into places more likely to be wary of her. Even the non-shifting children of her village had had non-Nukti names for the most part, parents choosing the Vetha conventions over their own.

Still, it wasn't as if a random Nukti man would know. She let what little tickle of frustration there might have been out on an exhale through her nose, unwinding it. Already she felt the openness of the field, the distance of the water. It would be good to wrap this up and go, at least to start back on her trek to Selka.

"The snows are a dangerous place," she agreed noncommittally. The coast, too, for different reasons and the same. Frequently she was the danger in the water. Or part of it. She wondered what sort of village Syral had, to call it from the coast, how close. She hadn't been particularly belligerent recently to any of the fishermen, trying to keep attention from the Southern orphans, but it was likely she'd harassed his people at some point. Better still to wrap up quickly then.

Her gaze slid back to him, sharp as her spear point, as her teeth. She carried her people in her heart, for all they no longer walked beside her. She didn't want to image that they swam with her on her aimless, empty days, or were witness to the pits of savagery she willingly fell into in both skins. It had been a long time since someone had thrown her history at her, and the bitterness in her mouth felt too keenly like the stretch of her face to accommodate her teeth.

It took a good deal of her restraint to keep from rearing back, or sinking through the ice to find the water and take out that flickering rage on some unsuspecting fish. Better to turn it against something that didn't have people waiting at home, after all. A search party was the last thing she wanted. Her shoulders still bunched at his statement, and the insinuation sat heavy on her chest. No matter what she tried, if she dared to at all, Val would never forget her people.

"I follow the footsteps of my ancestors." She said, as levelly as she could make it. "Their hands guide mine, and my weapons are theirs." More than their weapons, more than their hands. Some days Valeska felt she was made more of what they had left behind than what she had built.

Hip cocking to the side, mouth pursed, eyebrows up. The picture of incredulity. What kind of man had she found across this corpse, that he attempted to negotiate for something that wasn't his? "Share it? When there are two other oxen on the field that are yours without dispute?"

Syral Moon-son

    Green to Gray
  • Warlord Prince
  • Played By: Jones

    Moon King
    Glacia Kaeleer
    10 Posts    318 marks
Re: First Exposure
« Reply #6 on: June 23, 2019, 02:31:32 PM »
Syral watched a tick of emotion shoot through Valeska as his open dissatisfaction over her name. Not a reaction he blamed her for. Either chosen or given it was hers to hold close for whatever reasons she had. Otherwise she would have changed it, or given him a lie. Perhaps it even was one. None of those things made him like it more. Or gave her less reason to like having it criticized no matter how subtly. ”They can be.” He answered back slowly, studying her with care.

The likeness really was quite remarkable around the eyes. So much so he was nearly tempted to bring it up again. In him the warlord prince growled dissent. Yuka was Ippik now no matter who or what she came from. If these two were kin then it was under strange and likely tragic terms. You didn’t find screaming children on the ice by accident. Especially ones that couldn’t even remember their own names.

Still. When Valeska bared her teeth in an unpleasant smile he could not help returning it with one of amusement. That was precisely the way Yuka looked before hissing at him to sit still for healing.

It was his commentary on ancestors that upset her this time. He could not guess why as he had before. Another layer to her mystery. Syral was more than simply curious now. He was fully intrigued. ”Good,” Tone even to match her own he offered a small grin and an upturned palm to signify peace. There was no provocation in the words he chose, just a gentle reminder that in Nukti culture there was a place for heritage in all things. ”Their hands guided storytelling and their voices rose in song too. Keep their in your joyous moments, not just your triumphs little huntress.”

They did not have many of that sort in his tribe. Homemakers and hearthwitches. Their ferocity asleep until it was needed in a last line of defense. A lesson learned with lumps to the head and welts on his bottom during boyhood. Nothing was more terrifying than an angry woman. It only made his interest in this one increase. Why did she hunt? For fun or for food? Did she need refuge or to be left to her own devices? She was Nukti, and tribeless, so he was obligated to offer.

”A chief has many mouths to feed. If I did not require three, I would not have shot at three.” Tongue tasting the frost in the air he traced his bottom lip. Eyes following the curves of her body to rest on her hip. A good hip, even through the thick layers of fur. The sort of hip a chubby babe would look happy sitting on. If she was tribeless she would not be at the meet in spring. And this might be their only meeting. ”Do you have mouths to feed, or is this for you alone? I’m not going to take it either way, I would have by now if that was my intent,” He promised, holding up both palms. Part of Syral knew he couldn’t believe her answer if she said there were. People waiting at home meant there would be consequences to doing her harm. Accountability. Which was enough to stay some violent hands. So he expected her to create people that might miss her even if there were none. ”I can’t help being curious about you. It’s such an unusual coincidence to meet a capable- and attractive- woman this way.”

Only days after telling Idony he was going to choose a wife this year too. Perhaps the ancestors were guiding both their hands today. ”Eat a meal with me,” He tried to tempt, ”I have a quick tent to block the wind, flatbread, and more caribou cheese than either of us could eat.”

Valeska Spearfang

    Summer-sky to Green
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Re: First Exposure
« Reply #7 on: June 25, 2019, 10:08:08 PM »
Syral's lack of response to her temper was mollifying, and Valeska allowed her defensiveness to fall away. Better to keep to the matter at hand, after all, than get into it and potentially lose her temper over a throwaway comment from a man she doesn't know.

Although it only all allayed so much, considering that he mentioned her height in the next breath. She was short and she knew it, thank you -- giant men didn't need to comment on it.

She chose to believe him honest when he explained his intention and his willingness to part with the kill. It softened her frown into a look of mild understanding, although Val wouldn't doubt that there were others among Syral's tribe who were capable hunters. Frequently Val felt she was looking after a group of children just into their offering, and although it was through no fault of their own, it made her skin itch and her mind ache for the solitude of the coast.

"I have dependents," she allowed, unwilling to reveal too much of Selka's people. Better to think her tribeless or tribe adjacent than entirely other. There was no reason to give up any part of her life below the water, and some fisher families held grudges, even though she was sure most of the people crews she'd menaced thought her some type of water spirit or demon when she'd been more active.

It helped that having people waiting meant she could beg off or try and leave faster, too, and maybe inspire some wariness about doing anything rash. Maybe 'dependents' hadn't been the best word for that, then, but it could also lean toward children without outright stating there were young ones she had to take care of. People tended not to kill mothers if they thought there were babes at home. At least, she thought so.

Eyebrows up, Val tilted her chin down further into her face guard at his comment, eyes falling to the muskox gradually losing heat. There weren't -- well -- Darkness. People didn't generally give her compliments, at least not in a capacity that felt personal, and not without knowing her better. The orphans expressed their appreciation because they had to, Val being the only one used to functioning in the chill climate, and she appreciated their words because they appreciated her. The traders from other bands admired her skill because they bought her ares, and her ability to craft and craft well affect their ability to provide. She didn't know Syral, and he really didn't know her, and she'd snatched a kill from him.

The comment warmed her.

"I'd be surprised if you met very many people at all, like this." She said, side stepping the remark with what probably amounted to very little tact. She wanted to sink through the ice for an entirely different reason, and elected to shore herself up instead, focusing on the task at hand.

Crouching, gloved fingers brushing over the fur of the muskox, Val's eyes drew back up at his offer, considering. It startled her. It would be advantageous, to eat with him. Less that she'd have to take from her own cabinet stores and from her kill, and it'd further her energy for whatever she might hunt on the way back. But still, it took a special kind of person to offer food to a strange hunter in the middle of the snowfields. He didn't act like a green youth, and his clothing would have belied that assumption anyway. Val didn't want to try him to test his depth, but he felt Dark. He'd reached out on the Opal, likely in relation to the girl he'd mistaken her for, but that could mean anything for him. Likely Darker then, and a threat to her even if he wasn't.

But why make enemies where one could make friends? Or at least share a meal with a person she'd probably never see again.

"I have dried fish," she said, and it came out more flat than she'd intended. Breathing through her nose at her own lack of control, she elaborated, "If you'd like to share. It's the least I can do." There, not a refusal, closer to an extension of civility. Camaraderie even, two hunters in the snow. She wasn't exactly expected back soon, after all, and the muskox would be worth it. And if she did get caught out in the dark, well, she was heading toward the coast anyway. Better the water than the snowdrifts. 

Syral Moon-son

    Green to Gray
  • Warlord Prince
  • Played By: Jones

    Moon King
    Glacia Kaeleer
    10 Posts    318 marks
Re: First Exposure
« Reply #8 on: July 01, 2019, 05:21:46 PM »
Not children then, with the way she labeled them. At least none of her womb. Syral didn’t mask his curiosity. Brows bobbing up briefly as he grinned. No children did not mean no spouse. The choice of word only deepened his interest. Was she a sister? A step-mother? A devoted daughter with elderly parents? Since Valeska offered no more than the most basic answer he only had two options. Keep her longer so they could talk more, or let her go and wonder- likely forever.

He had never been one to put a puzzle down unfinished.

So he did what any man in his situation would do. Faced with a woman he wanted to admire at length who could walk away never to be seen again. He tried to flirt. Or at least, test the waters with a compliment. After a second to think it over she picked the praise apart with a fine tooth comb. Laughing Syral shrugged, ”I meet all sorts when I’m out hunting. Lost people, other hunters, invaders, traveling healers- I picked up a little orphan girl out on the ice once when I was hauling in a beluga.” Spinning a little extra warming Craft up around his face he shot her a wink, ”Still doesn’t make me less curious, or you less interesting.”

While she examined her kill he tilted his head to one side. Examining her with a head full of educated guesses and nagging questions. The sharing of a meal seemed like a good way to extend the conversation. Looking up at him from the snow she hesitated. Syral let her think it through. Laughing lightly when it felt she had considered it over long. A simple yes or no would suffice. Instead she looked up at him as if he had grown an extra eyeball. Trying to figure him out the same as he was trying to figure her out.

For a second he thought she was refusing. Stating that she had her own food. Before he could explain that he didn’t doubt her ability to feed herself she inhaled sharply and tried again. Pale gold eyes almost shutting as his cheeks rounded he nodded. ”Sure, I like fish.” A little give and take so that neither felt like they were being pitied or imposing on the other. ”Let me get my canopy up.” It was more like a split bowl. Made from whale bones it was a circular tent of sealskin with a round opening on one side. The sort of thing you waited out a sudden storm in. Perfect for immediate shelter, but not enough on it’s own to spend the night in.

He set it up quickly. As simple as laying the pieces in the right place so that the waterproof hide spread out properly. Once he was done he sat inside. Opening the buttons down the front of his thick coat so that he didn’t spill down the front of the stark white fur. Underneath he wore a thick sweater spun from muskox. The color a dark contrast to the bear hide. ”Here we go,” He said cheerfully, laying out the things he had to share. An insulated jug of hot cocoa, a large wedge of soft cheese, a small pile of flat bread rounds and the shredded meat of sea birds that been roasted the night before. ”So, you have dependents. Do you care for them all on your own?” He asked conversationally, trying to ask about a man without actually asking if she had a man.

"When we're done I can help you butcher it if you like. I have all the knives we would need in my kit."

Valeska Spearfang

    Summer-sky to Green
  • hearthwitch
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    Glacia Kaeleer
    7 Posts    388 marks
Re: First Exposure
« Reply #9 on: July 02, 2019, 01:53:01 AM »
It wasn't the whale of Syral's story that dried Val's mouth, although that was an impressive catch, even done with a team.

An orphan girl on the ice. That sounded more like a fable than anything else, and it prickled in her mind. A girl, alone - and he'd said he'd 'picked her up'. How long ago, though? Recently? Or decades past, when the wound of a mother missing was still fresh? There had never been any reason to think anyone had survived, and Val hadn't let herself hope. Why would they never have come back, if there had been survivors? Surely, if they had come anywhere close to her old home, she would have sensed them, or smelled them. She'd roamed so long, looking for someone.

It felt too good to be true, and Val pushed it away.

"I imagine those people are much more interesting than I am," she considered much of her own life to be uninteresting, but that was because it was her normal. Likely there were mundane things in Syral's life she would have found fascinating, at least until the novelty wore off. The one outlier wasn't something she was willing to share, after all, and might have him drawing a blade on her as soon as she finished the change, if not before.

His amicability made her smile, or at least let the corners of her mouth soften enough that it didn't feel like a frown. She stood and watched him draw out his tent, breathing deep to keep in control when she recognized the type of pattern on the fur stretched across the whale bones. Not Moidyn Varrey, thank the Darkness, not even kindred, but still a reminder. Danger, here, in this man and his Craft.

Sinking to her knees just inside the edge of the structure, Val called in her own pack of dried fish and thermos of bone broth. Syral's spread reaffirmed in her mind that wore Dark. Her own rations and proffered water skin suddenly felt revealing, even if she admitted to have planned to hunt and eat on the way back. Either that, or that she was from far closer than she appeared, and that... wasn't a terrible assumption in the long run.

Val kept her own jacket closed, perched as she was just inside the cover, instead reaching up to push the hood off of her hair, pressing heating Craft into it as she passed her hands on either side of her face. Mouth guard secured with a button at her collar bones.

"No," she said, calling in large cups. Or small bowls, depending on the users intent. Val had out grown being picky or covetous of tools, and most of her cabinet stored items had multiple uses. "But I am their best, and it's easier to hunt alone." And she preferred it. As limiting, boxing as that statement was to both Selka's people and herself, it was the truth. Valeska preferred not to lie outright, and both things were true; who would know how to track the snow hare, or net the sea birds without mangling their small bodies? Selka? Boy Geirr?

Brows dipped down a tick, she shelved that thought. She would have to take them out more, every one of them, so that they wouldn't get themselves killed if they got trapped inland alone.

"Thank you, I'm sure you are well equipped." her own knives would likely serve just as well, but four hands were better than two. Judicious use of heating Craft would have to be applied if it got too cold, of course, but it would be easy enough doing. Unless they got buried in a sudden storm, but Val doubted one would be so quick to build after the last night's. Careful arrangement in her cabinet and on her bone-sled would let her trek it home. Head tilted a tick, she asked, "Will you need help with yours? I can't imagine two to take home will be quite so easy as one."

Syral Moon-son

    Green to Gray
  • Warlord Prince
  • Played By: Jones

    Moon King
    Glacia Kaeleer
    10 Posts    318 marks
Re: First Exposure
« Reply #10 on: August 25, 2019, 03:02:39 PM »
She imagined wrong. Words that did not leave Syral’s lips but were etched there anyway. The corners of his mouth turned up while his eyes widened with unsounded laughter. They had been interesting, surely, but not more interesting than Valeska. Who was all the more intriguing for her desire to seem less so. Suspicion crept up the back of the warlord prince’s neck. But curiosity won out.

Curiosity that turned to enjoyment as Valeska revealed a little more about who she was. Or at least, what sort of person she was- which was the part that mattered most to Syral. She did not say if skill, Jewel, or small population made her their best. At the very marrow of his caste he found the candidness with which she claimed the title appealing all the same. It made a wrinkle bend the shape of his brow down towards his eyelid. Nearly puckering over his nose- mouth lifting in a lopsided grin as he weighed that bit of information. She did not sound cocky, or have an air of needing to brag. Their best, stated as a fact she held indifference towards. A very telling statement indeed. ”That makes it sound like you’re not just their best, but that having them along makes things harder. In which case a little training can go a long way.”

Not the wisest information to provide a stranger, either. Syral knew the likeness between hunting and fighting. Weak hunters made even weaker warriors. In the peninsula’s current climate, that could spell disaster for a small village. Concern making his lashes low he offered more advice, ”A pack brings down more prey than a lone wolf, even if the lone wolf moves faster without the pack.” He could speak for hours on the methods of training, and how to keep it from interfering with the work that had to keep being done in the meantime. As he opened his mouth, however, he could hear Idony in the back of his head. Scolding him for being an overserious brute that lectured too much.

Instead he swallowed a sigh. Sharing food and drink instead of suggestions. He gave her his time too. More of it given up in the promise to help turn a long task short. ”Always. Preparation is preservation.” He told her in the same offhand way he would chid any member of his tribe. Pouring equal portions of the heated cocoa milk into the cups she provided he passed one into her hands. Sipping from his own before answering the question when it was turned back his way. ”Help is always appreciated.” It would give him a little more time to talk to this unexpected woman. There was a butcher in the village who could make quick work of the ox. Tanners who could skin it in a matter of minutes. The ancestors stirred something ancient in his chest, whispered at the instincts in his heart to keep this one close while he could. So he would do the work to find out if there would be reward beyond the bounty.

”How will you haul it back? There was a bear on the ice two miles north.” The scent might tempt it, or any manner of other beast. Syral knew that he would be crossing into personal boundaries if he tried to help her back to where she came from. Perhaps even traversing into places he would regret going. So he let those urges lie deep in his chest. Using his restlessness on the food he ate with the quick directness of a man often on the move. Leaving no mess as he finished, and wasting not a bite. Once he had filled the gaping maw of hunger in his stomach he sat back to watch the woman. His Jewel slipped free of his open coat front as he sat beside her with his legs crossed. Half lost in thought as his mind wandered during the silence.

Nose twitching he called in the bundle of knives in his cabinet. They were safely stowed in a leather roll that held each in place. It tied around the middle, and he unlaced the knot so that it could be laid out for their inspection. Every blade was carefully maintained though some were evidently very old. A few handed down from father to son for so long that they were made from single pieces of bone sharpened on one half.  They were still efficient. They still worked. So they were still used. For the sake of conversation he told her, ”One of my sisters is a clothier. She’ll be happy for the leather. And the old women will be happy of the oxhair for their spinning wheels.”

When she had finished he chose a slender skinning knife from the kit, a hand gesturing for her to make her own choice of them. ”There is a tribe meet in the spring. Do you ever go to that sort of thing?” It was an opportunity for trade and short courtships. Syral had never wondered if the Nukti in outlier villages attended. His concerns were fair trades and to bring in people as useful as those they lost to new marriages. Now, though, he couldn’t help wondering.

Valeska Spearfang

    Summer-sky to Green
  • hearthwitch
  • Played By:

    hunter
    Glacia Kaeleer
    7 Posts    388 marks
Re: First Exposure
« Reply #11 on: September 20, 2019, 12:31:50 AM »
"I... agree," she allowed, confided. "It can be trying." She hadn't realized the full effect of her isolated lifestyle until there had been other people forcibly placed in her path. Now, every hunting trip was a gift skirted in the delicate spiderwork of guilt, every deep dive a moment to breathe at the same time as she regretted the necessity of escape. Tired. Val was frequently tired.

"The pack is a larger target," she shot back, voice layered. She'd become disinclined to social hunting, or groups in general, but even her family had been relatively solitary. Distance was safety, even with the landen who had lived with them. Caution was woven into Valeska as much as her fur. She knew he was right, but it still rubbed poorly. On one hand, more hunters would be good for productivity, even if they didn't hunt together. On the other, Val had been sitting with a particularly pointed rage since her brother's death, and the few wolves she'd spotted in her tenure hunting had been pursued with prejudice. And it was easier to track a pack.

Deep breath through her nose, banking the anger. "Apologies," she said, hand to her chest in a way she remembered her mother doing. Something formal, perhaps, but at least a better partner than bared teeth and black eyes. "They are... mine. It is difficult to imagine them in the kind of danger so regular to hunting." Not a lie, at least, if not the whole truth. Trampling, thin ice, other hunters -- and then fishermen, wolves, Kindred or otherwise. So many little things to imagine for a group of people so unused to them. So many parts of Valeska's life that she'd grown used to and hadn't had to consider from any perspective but her own.

She folded into herself a little then, sipping quietly from the drink he poured her. Only after him, of course, because any little thing could be a trap, but Val didn't think he'd be one to do something so indirect. "Indeed," she murmured, trying to maintain a level of placidity after her prior outburst.

"I have a sled for what proves too much to vanish." If she absolutely had to she could move everything from her cabinet to her sled packs and vanish the meat, but she'd prefer not to. There were mementos that she'd rather not expose to the elements, even with her tightly Craft warded bags.

She ate as he did, at the same time, those polite mannerisms one of the few things that had lasted, after. Shreds of routine that she had built on, until Selka's people had appeared before her and thrown it all into the sea. Some things couldn't be shaken, though, and it was a comfort to use the same utensils her family had. No wasted motions, no lagging hands when the only eyes to watch your back were your own.

Surreptitious glances as him over their meal, caution warring with curiosity. Nice, to be interacting with someone who knew nothing of her and her obligations. Who expected nothing but a general civility. It was with one of these little flickering looks that she caught the Gray that fell free of his clothes, and the prickle of apprehension in her grew teeth. Her mouth ached with the sudden desire to shift or go on the defensive, but she smothered that too. She had not shown him her jewel, and the reveal of his had been an accident. She wouldn't treat him differently for something beyond his control, even if it was his open jacket that lead to the display in the first place. Even if the Gray made her suddenly that much more aware of their proximity and how far she'd have to run to find ice thin enough to fall through.

Attention diverted instantly by the appearance of his kit, Val eyed his knives with interest. Blades were the tell of a hunter, right up with their weapons. If you could kill but not skin then you couldn't kill effectively, and the reverse. His knives were a dream, and she downed the dregs of her drink and vanished the cup to lean in slightly, eyes roaming from handles to edges and back.

Eyes slanted back up, her mouth softened to a smirk, she teased, "And here I had thought you had made your clothes yourself. A pity, you appeared so well rounded." It felt silly to say, and Val was woefully out of practice at any sort of friendly banter, so she tucked her chin and called her own knives. A similar mechanism of carriage, the tie instead around a bone anchor at the edge of the leather. She traced the faded edge as she opened it, fingers following the path of decoration with ease. Her father had made it, decades ago, and she had the faintest of memories of her mother dying the leather as a surprise for him.

The weight of their importance to her made it felt strange to be spreading her knives out, to be viewed in a manner that would be more appraising than she was used to. She'd shown them to the fractured rookery to explain what was necessary for hunting, but that had been educational. This felt weirdly intimate. Many of these had been her mother's, and her deceased father's, and very few of them had been replaced. Bone or horn, some of them with blade edges so thin she could only use them on the most delicate of catches. "I hope you won't begrudge me the use my own."

Blinking, she replied. "In the past, yes." Long enough ago that that, too, was faded. She had gone to one or two in search of her family, when she'd pulled herself from her grief enough to not see them in every shadow and snow mirage. But it had been painful to be around that many people, and she had drifted from their reach, too. She wondered where Syral had been, then. Perhaps not yet born. Ha. "There's one soon, I imagine."
 

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