The owl in her arms nuzzled her arm, the setting almost as peaceful as the woman and bird on the floor. Books were knocked to the ground, rope strewn about, but it didn’t seem to bother the Naer. Finally, without Curio harassing her for her ignorance on the subjects she was studying, Navyri used her foot to nudge a forgotten book closer. With a bit of effort, she got it near enough to grab, propped it up on one knee and attempted to find the page in which she had last been.
She fussed over the text, relaxing when she finally saw some sentences that were familiar, “Now to really learn,” Navyri lifted a hand, trailing the back of her fingertips along the soft feathers of her companion, idly lost in the motion as she sat in silence.
The last thing she had been reading before her games and cuddle session involved masking one’s scent when setting up a traps, teaching her that animals (mammals, in particular), were capable of smelling humans from simply touching the mechanisms needed for a proper foil, and that plants were allies either. In fact, if you cut at vegetation, it would bleed sap that would no doubt rat you out as well!
“Even the slightest human scent on a trap will alarm the prey and cause it to avoid the area… Actually removing the scent is challenging but masking it can prove relatively easy, even for the novice outdoors man.”
“Or outdoors woman,” Navyri interjected, rolling her eyes at the sexism of the tome. How sad it was that among humans, men were the ones expected to be capable of anything more than cooking and cleaning? The roles could so very easily be reversed, Augiery better off because of it. She continued:
“Use the fluid from the gall and urine bladders of previous kills. Do not use human urine. Mud, in particular, if from the area of which you are trapping or with plenty of rotten vegetation, is also good. Use it to coat your hands when handling the trap and to coat the trap when setting it.”
That was fairly straight forward, although if she was being honest with herself, she wasn’t quite sure what the gallbladder was. Urine bladder, yes. It would be obvious from whatever its location and presumable smell of a slaughtered animal, but what was the gallbladder used for? What was its purpose?
She turned the page, brows raising at its contents. As if capable of reading her mind, the book gave a few common animals - rabbits, deer, boar - followed by small etchings of their anatomical structure. In particular, were the ones listed previously. Navyri took a moment, soaking in the information to commit it to memory, tapping her free hand on the page, “This book is actually very informative.”
Curio seemed content to be stroked in her arms, hardly acknowledging having been spoken to.
“In nearly all corners of Idalos, animals are capable of recognizing the smell of burnt vegetation and smoke. It is only when a fire is actually burning that they become alarmed. Therefore, “smoking” a trap parts can be an effective means to mask hunter contact. If any one of the techniques listed above is not practical, and if time permits, allow a trap to weather for a few days and then set it. This is done by letting it sit out in natural conditions - rain, sun, snow, wind, etc, so that it seems natural in the environment it is being introduced to.”
“You know,” Navyri said, finally looking up from the book, “When I grabbed this book, I kind of expected it to have more… information pertaining to the hunting more than just food.”
Then again, how many books were going to teach you how to trap humans? Each day that passed, Navyri wondered how to make a quick nel, and she kept thinking back to the slavery of her home land. From her limited times in Scalvoris, Navyri noticed a couple things - mostly how they were treated. It depend a bit on where you were. Almund, for instance, was very keen on mistreatment, ordering them about with little interest in the humanity of the victim. Faldruss favored pleasure slaves, most having run around in scantily clad clothing, and Egilrun… well, they were treated the worst.
How hard could it be to catch a few humans, tie ‘em up, and take them to the highest bidder? Surely a pirate or two could see their worth, if nothing else. Now… was there a way to get a ship big enough for Noth and the men back in Etzos? She had left without much of a word, but if she came back with a booming business - even if it wasn’t quite smuggling - she was sure he’d be quite satisfied. Making the bird man happy never seemed a difficult thing to do, no where near as hard as it was to look him in the eye and not feel your nerves shake.
She supposed learning the basics was all part of the process. If she couldn’t catch a rabbit, how could she attempt to snag fully grown mortals?
“Camouflage as naturally as possible… blah blah blah…” Navyri’s leg began to fall asleep and she grimaced, trying to switch up her sitting position on the floor, Curio moving his wings to show his displeasure. Such a overly dramatic creature, “Don’t start. I’m holding you, remember?” She made a face as he resettled.
“Traps and snares placed on a trail or run should utilize funneling or channelization….” Another diagram which she poured over for longer than the last. This one seemed more complicated and the drawing wasn’t particularly clear, “To build a channel, construct a funnel-shaped barrier, extending from the sides of the trail towards the trap…” It reinforced the importance of remained inconspicuous, “Channelization does not have to be impassible. Just inconvenient to any animal wanting to go over or through.”
There was a sharp knock on the frame of the doorway. Navyri tensed, spotting the figure that had materialized at the exit. It was a girl with blonde hair and brown eyes, freckles dotting the entirety of her cheeks, and thick spectacles that consumed her nose. She blinked, surprised by something and began to stammer in words Navyri did not understand. The words were fat, unpracticed, caught at the back of her throat. It reminded Navyri of a honking goose, and she sat up straighter, watching as the young stranger struggled to pull out a small notepad and a stubby pencil.
The girl began to scribble, “I am sorry. I am deaf. I will leave.” She gave a few curious looks at Navyri’s wings and cautiously held up the paper. The Naer read over the words.
Deaf? As in, she couldn’t hear?
Navyri cleared her throat, “You’d be prettier without your glasses. Are you blind too?”
The question was a cruel one, but said mostly to see if there was truth to the written statement. People often had trouble hiding when they were offended, but the emotion that played on the girl’s face was clearly confusion and she checked her paper to make sure she had written the correct thing. Then her fingers began to move, her black shoes edging towards the door.
“Wait,” Navyri said, but the girl began to turn around. Thinking quick, Navyri smacked the ground hard in quick succession. It worked.
The vibrations caught the girl’s attention, and the Naer pointed to the other books in her arms, “What are you reading?” She pointed to the novels. Once, twice.
The girl hesitated and then held out the materials. They were language books. Many Navyri didn’t recognize and a number that she did. One in particular made her do a double take. She didn’t know why… but there were familiar words staring back at her from a worn spine. Once in Common, and once in a script she was sure she had never seen, but still… she recognized? “Written Avrelian for the Absolute Beginner”.
Navyri met the girl’s eye. Normally, she was so adverse to spending time with children. After all, how much could she, a woman of fifty five arcs and many more to go, have in common with someone who had barely begun to live? By the time this girl grew up, she would only be starting adulthood (at least by Naerikk standards). She set aside Curio, ignoring the way in which the girl blinked in shock, the owl suddenly visible to her. She rubbed her eyes, staring in awe at the winged woman, still frozen when Navyri reached for the pad and pencil.
In careful, exceptionally neat writing, the shadow woman wrote, “What is your name? I am Navyri.”
The blonde girl craned her neck, re-tucking the books under her arms and wrote her reply, “I am Ester.” then on a separate line, “Can I pet your owl?”
The Naer noticed her opening and smiled warmly, “Of course.” she followed up the words with a nod, willing Curio to behave. Now on the ground, he was regaining his bearings after having relaxed completely in Navyri’s arms.
Ester wasted no time in crouching before him and offering him a hand to investigate. Once it was decided he was of no threat, she gave two tender strokes along his neck, and then ran a hand down his back. Her lack of fear was admirable. Navyri remembered how terrified she had been of the bird upon their first meeting.
While Curio distracted the child, Navyri wrote out another question, “Ester,” it said, “Would you like to study together?”
She slid the paper towards the girl who glanced down.
Surprised, Ester brightened and nodded furiously. She went to sit at the table, the Naer following suit.
Word Count: 1632