Arc 706, 1st trial of YmidenAlex stood still, the cold wind whipping through her thin clothes. The winter had been a rough one, and the temperature hadn't warmed up as much as it should've by this point.
Ahead of her, there was a thin layer of frost covering the scraggly grass sprouting between the trees. The waves crashed on the rocks along the shore behind her, the buffeting wind pushing past her. Her small tent sat alone atop the cliffside, the stained canvas flapping in the brisk wind. A large steel cage sat beside it, empty. The crates of supplies she had hauled out here sat beside her tent, the solid wood unmoving and solid on the skyline. She slowly turned in a circle, absorbing the sounds and sights of that remote location.
She had led a wagon for the last few trials to get here, in Central Idalos. Her parents couldn't accompany her, nor could she stay with anyone along the way. It was a time-honored ritual. A passage beyond childhood. Alex had spent the last trial of the journey completely isolated, and off the road.
She had, after many debates and discussions with herself, decided on her animal form. She was going to become a Grey Velox. Quhbah had helped her along this path, and she felt a pang of sadness that he couldn’t be here to witness her first attempt. She wriggled her bare toes into the ground, feeling the dark, right earth between her toes. The cool air blowing through the trees wafted across her face, bringing the smell of the pines to her nose.
She thought back to the hundreds of books she had read on the Grey Velox. Over the last arc, she had become aware of an animal part of her, primitive and wild. At first, she had been worried, however after speaking to Vluhome, he had explained that many Yludih begin to feel that way as they become attuned to their animal.
He explained that the intense studying required to achieve that seemed to provoke a biological change, though he admitted that many argue it's simply a side effect of puberty. He continued explaining that it is a phenomenon, and that she should not feel uncomfortable with it. Like that helped.
She brought herself back to the present with a shake, focusing on her body. The light sled attached to her back, and the two vials of tetrodotoxin from a far off salamander were vital to her task, and she patted the case where they were stored, deciding to coat her knife before she headed out.
She re-sheathed the knife, and trotted into the forest, her breath coming in measured puffs. Her eyes scanned the underbrush for any of the signs associated with Grey Velox dens. She paused, and veered off to the right. She knelt beside a waist-high scuffmark, her knees crackling on the icy ground.
Hmm, it looks like its about the right height off the ground, about four feet, but the number of claws is off. It looks like whatever this was had five long claws per foot, not the three that the Grey Velox should have. Besides, the angle is off. It'd be a sharper angle if it was...
She stood, brushing off her knees, and loped off. A brush suddenly shifting to her right startled her, causing her to jump. The small mouse scampering out saved her life, as a blur slammed into the ground next to her
The crash as the shape plummeted beside her caused her to shriek, and leap backwards even further. Her hand dropped to the knife at her waist, coated in a non-lethal dose of a rare tetrodotoxin, but she only had one extra vial of the poison and she needed it to capture a young Grey Velox. She eyed the black shape, but it lay still. She cautiously approached, poking it gingerly at first, and then with increasing confidence as it showed no sign of moving. She slowly touched it, the warm scales heavy against her hand.
She looked in curiosity at it, and wondered if it was a canopy anvil. She had heard about them only as rumors from traders and adventurers who came into her mother’s shop for various cures. Whatever it was, it was curled in a sphere but was slowly straightening. As Alex peered at the small opening it made, she saw a blank orb of an eye staring back at her, when suddenly it blinked!
She yelped again, and looked around ashamedly. Luckily there was no one around to hear her. The shape finished unwravelling, and she recognized it as the Anvil. The beast looked at her, and made as if it was going to come after her, before it sank down to its stomach, heaving up blood to splatter on the ground. She backed off, unsure of how fast the animal was, but it made no move to rise.
Instead, the animal heaved again, and more blood spattered across the ground. It looked up at Alex, and this time she saw no murderous intent. Instead, the animals pain was reflected in its eyes, and the anguish Alex witnessed there stopped her in her tracks. I can’t leave him like this!
Cautiously approaching it again, she watched the animal heave again, this time barely raising its head. She approached it, as if in a dream. The knife appeared in her hand, and she looked in shock down at it, wondering what she was doing. She walked around behind the beast, kneeling on its scaly back. She watched in horror filled fascination as she brought the knife around the neck, and quickly drew back in a swift motion.
Its blood spattered out onto the cold earth, steam rising where it painted the ground. She looked down numbly, to see her hands covered in blood, and she detachedly noticed them shaking. Huh, that’s weird. Alex heard the bubbling of a creek nearby, and somehow managed to get herself over to it. Sitting on the bank, she looked down and saw her reflection. She closed her eyes, and opened herself up to all the sounds and smells of the forest. She let them float through her, and focused on her breathing. In…..Out……In……Out. She remained motionless for a full break, not noticing the cold that began to seep into her bones.