• Graded • Cold Fledging

Atop a stony plateau overlooking the lands of central Idalos, and growing wealthy from the gem stones pulled from the rocky soil, Etzos is a bastion of independence; firm in its belief that man should rule Idalos, not be servants of the vain Immortals who nearly destroyed it. But can the many factions set aside their conflicting agendas and see this through?

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Ivanthe
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Joined: Sat Jan 23, 2016 4:40 am
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Thu Feb 15, 2018 12:31 am

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Cold Fledging
28th of Cylus, 718
Ivanthe should have been afraid. That was the general impression he’d gotten from the old dockworker couple, who had been quietly insistent that he stay longer than the coin had paid for. They had the same look as old Jaxen before his caravan pulled on to Etzos proper: the look of worry every time Ivanthe refused help.

It felt logical for them to worry, and he supposed, then, that he should have been worried for himself. But he wasn’t. At first he’d rationalized it as shock; Yaren had described the effects often enough. Then as he healed in the old couple’s home, he’d thought perhaps he was in denial over Yaren’s death––but the fact he could even contemplate the question proved it to be false.

He’d been on his own for almost a Cycle now now, and was still waiting patiently for anxiety to appear. In the meantime, though, money didn’t make itself.

An outskirt farmer family had been in the midst of thinning their chicken flock for Cylus, and had happily sold him one of their unwanted young cockerels for his supper. The thing was lean and a bit ornery, but it was also quite loud and not especially bright.

Said cockrel was currently half a mile out of Etzos, tethered by both feet to a bush in the center of a large clearing. Ivanthe himself was perched in the branches of a low, knotted tree, peering through the winter skeleton branches with bow in hand and one arrow nocked loosely against the string. He was just close enough to comfortably shoot the cockerel if he wanted, but was so far content to simply watch and wait.

It would have been noon in any cycle other than Cylus. Perhaps it still was by technicality, but there was no light or heat to mark it by. The stars glittered coldly against a purple velvet sky, and if he squinted he could almost make out shifting colors in the grains of light.

The chicken appreciated none of it, ruffling his feathers fearfully at every stray whistle of the wind. He might have known, in some vague way, that he was destined to die either this night or the next––not that there was much difference in Cylus, apart from the slow path of the constellations above.

It didn’t take all that long for the cockerel to catch attention, all things considered; it took a half hour to set it up, then another hour for the forest to settle around Ivanthe’s disturbances. The birds and deer had little to desire, but the coyotes had been pacing almost imperceptibly for awhile. The smarter of them probably remembered the human in the tree and kept their distance, because the first one who dared the clearing did so alone.

Ivanthe stayed still, barely even turning his head to watch the coyote slink curiously forward. His fingers tensed on the string, but did not pull; he didn’t want to risk attention until he was certain he could make the shot.

This one was bolder than the others, and Ivanthe thought perhaps it was a younger member of the pack. Perhaps a yearling, plus a few cycles. That was what he hoped, at least; yearling pelts were the softest.

The coyote didn’t make a straight go for the chicken, instead circling around experimentally and sniffing for other predators. It must have picked up the scent of human, because it looked around for a moment––but it didn’t look up.

Ivanthe waited.

The coyote was joined by a second, this one a bit smaller, but Ivanthe remained trained on the first. As the circling became tighter, he readied his grip on the boy; he knew better than to even hope for two, and all he wanted was a pelt and a whole cockerel for dinner.

He waited until the coyote halted, witnessing the precise moment it decided the bird was sage to kill. The chicken’s terrified fussing covered up the soft rustle of a drawing bow; Ivanthe had all the leeway he needed to level the arrow and sight along the shaft. He let out one slow, meditative exhale.

With a slip of the fingers, Ivanthe set his arrow free.
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Ivanthe
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Thu Feb 15, 2018 1:18 am

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More than hearing it, Ivanthe felt the quiet thud of shaft entering flesh. A sharp, agonized yelp sent the rest of the pack running, while their reckless sibling was left to bleed over the snow.

The arrow had bit through one shoulder and deep into the coyote’s ribcage; the creature stumbled a few frantic steps toward the edge of the clearing, one leg stalling against the wooden invader, then fell onto its chest and thrashed for a few pained moments before growing still.

Ivanthe took a slow, deep breath in and out, then climbed down from his tree.

The first order was to make sure the coyote was dead, which it was. Next was to remove the arrow and slit the throat of his kill, hoisting it by its hind legs and letting the body drain––not that he believed anyone would much want to eat it, but habit commanded him anyway.

He roughly tied the coyote’s hind legs to the tree before seeing to the dazed cockerel, making sure it was uninjured before gathering himself and his dinner and heading back to camp.

The boy had taken shelter in the grave of a dry streambed, where the walls leaned inward and the roots of a knotted oak created a sheltered overhang. He hadn’t brought the horse or wagon, preferring to make as little impact as possible and avoid attracting notice. With darkness to protect him and a few cut bushes serving as a sort of wall, he felt marginally safe for tonight. Or today. Or whatever time it was.

The chicken, though, that was not something he wanted to deal with in the open.

He’d brought along water and extra arrows and all sorts of things he hadn’t needed, just in case he ran across trouble. It had been heavy leaving the city, but returning felt lighter even in spite of the dead coyote slung over his arm. He listened carefully for movement besides his own and tried to keep the cheerful bounce to a minimum; only when the forest ended and the cleared plains below the plateau proved to be empty did Ivanthe let a proud smile blossom on his face.

The guards at the gate didn’t seem thrilled about him, but they tolerated him regardless and let him enter.
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Ivanthe
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Sun Feb 18, 2018 4:00 pm

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“You said furbearers,” Ivanthe pointed out, squinting painfully against the flooding light inside the Chopping Block.

“Aye, I did, and y’delivered,” Farlin said, running his hands over the dead coyote. “This hole in the shoulder’s going to knock a nel off the fetching price, but it’s good work. And you’re on time with it, which is big mark on your side. Here, why don’t’cha find Skep and get him to drain that rooster of yours while I get to chopping this up; a good chicken can turn sour if it ain’t killed proper. Oi, Skep!

“Waddaya want?” chirped a mop of dark hair hiding behind a hanging goat.

“Boy. Chicken. Kill.”

Ivanthe crossed the distance just in time to hear a mumbled “What the shit does that mean?”

“Excuse me,” Ivanthe murmured.

“Huh?” said Skep, a thin, wiry man with greasy hair. “Who’s that?”

“Excuse me,” Ivanthe repeated, managing a bit more volume.

Skep noticed this time, then put the pieces together when he saw the cockerel under his arm. “Give it here,” he said bluntly, taking the chicken by both legs and hanging it upside down expertly. The chicken squawked, flapped for a few moments, then went limp as blood rushed to its head and rendered it immobile.

Ivanthe memorized the motion in amazement, swearing silently to use it in the future.

In an out-of-the-way corner, a metal cone had been riveted to the wall over a bloody bucket. Skep shoved the chicken right in, fishing its confused head out of the small opening at the bottom, then slit its throat with a single stroke of his knife and grabbed back onto the feet. A few seconds passed as blood drained, and then the animal was overtaken by a horrid thrashing that overtook its entire body. Had Skep not been holding its feet, Ivanthe had no doubt that it would have thrashed right out of the cone.

“Never seen a chicken culled before?” Skep chuckled at the boy’s wide-eyed stare.

Ivanthe shook his head without a word.

“They’re feisty buggers. Cut their heads off while they’re standing and they’ll run all over the place like mad. Seen it happen myself, when another apprentice thought he’d just make up what he was supposed to do.”

The chicken stopped moving eventually, and Skep gave the thing an experimental shake before cutting its head right off and yanking the body out of the cone.

“Now,” he said, “over here. We keep hot water around for a lot of things, but here’s a short way to dress a bird.”

There was a steaming cauldron in the back with nothing but boiling water. Skep grabbed a cloth, lifted the lid and dropped the headless bird into the froth.

“Nine trills,” he said, tapping his foot to keep time.

Nine trills passed, and then Skep took a pair of tongs and yanked the bird back out.

“You can’t always have boiling water on hand, I know,” he said, setting the bird on a nearby counter that was relatively clear. “But if you can, nine trills in it and the feathers come off like they’re nothing. Like this.” He began grabbing fistfulls of wet feathers, which came off so smoothly he was practically peeling them. “Works on ducks and geese, too, any bird you can fit in the pot. Cuts your plucking time in half. Here.” He tossed the still-feathered chicken back to Ivanthe. “Advice is free, you can do the rest yourself. Don’t know what your story is, but we like hard workers around here, especially if they’re on time. This work ain’t glorious, but old man Farlin will keep you fed if you stay loyal.” A nod, and Skep turned to go back to whatever he had been doing before. “I’m hoping to see you here again soon.”

Ivanthe nodded back, finding an empty corner to finish plucking the chicken by himself. Then, a bit too softly for Skep to hear, “You will.”
- End -
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Sephira
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Wed Feb 21, 2018 7:34 pm

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Ivanthe

Overview

I did not expect to enjoy the story of a boy learning to butcher a chicken so much, but I did! You have a very humble, honest tone with how you write Ivanthe that really draws the reader in. I found myself getting absorbed into that moment when the coyote was preparing to kill the chicken, unaware that a clever young boy was about to double his haul for the day. An excellent and well written solo. Thank you for the enthralling read!

Points

XP:10
This cannot be used for magic

Fame

N/A

Loot

None

Knowledge

Ranged: Shortbow: relaxed and at attention
Ranged: Shortbow: waiting to draw
Hunting: lure the prey to you
Stealth: stay still, stay quiet
Stealth: few targets look up
Butchery: boiling water equals easy plucking
Non-Skill Knowledge
Location: the Chopping Block
Farlin(NPC): appreciates punctuality
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Sephira
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