[Sweetwine Woods] Silent Night

1st of Cylus 720

The home to the Induk Sweetwine and populated by fairies, this enchanted forest has many secrets

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Kirei Qe'Azour
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[Sweetwine Woods] Silent Night

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1st Cylus, 720


Kirei gave a contented huff as she settled down on the ground. Kirion and Maerin sat on the floor beside her. Her adopted son sat watching her alertly, waiting for her to "tell" him which book she wanted to read while Maerin sat beside him, ready to take notes on anything she read about.

Kirei truly enjoyed spending time with her adopted children this was. Sometimes Aerin, Eris, and Ryl would join them. But totrial, they had decided that they wanted to make something on their own. Well...sort of. Kirion and Maerin would be helping them with the more difficult tasks, and she herself would be supervising them...as well as she could in her current form, anyway. So while she was reading up on various cooking related subjects, they were picking out a recipe for something that they wanted to make.

"Which book do you want to read, Kirei?" Kirion asked.

Kirei tapped one of the books that Kirion had spread out in front of her with her paw. Rather than discussing various cooking techniques, or cutting methods, it dealt with a variety of ingredients. Some of them were commonly used in many different dishes. Others were far more rare. Some were easy to work with, and others were not. Kirei wanted to learn about them all. The more ingredients she was familiar with, the fewer times she would have to ask one of her coworkers what an ingredient was when she came across it in the recipes she used. Well...at least that would be the case when she finally managed to figure out how to change back to her other form so that she could cook again. If she could ever find a way to change back. There were some trials when she wasn't at all certain that she would. And as of late, there had been a few when she wasn't even sure if she wanted to.

Kirei shook her head in annoyance to shove such thoughts out of her mind. Of course she wanted to change back! Being a caracal was fine and all...but she couldn't cook as long as she was trapped like this. More importantly, she couldn't care for her family properly unless she could change back. Most of her family, anyway.

Her ears twitched as she heard the sound of tussling kittens in the other room. But after a few trills, she was satisfied that her caracal kits were merely playing rather than actually fighting.

"Kirei?"

Kirei blinked at the concern in her adopted son's voice.

"Are you okay? You seem really distracted."

Kirei nodded, and Kirion studied her intently for a few trills before relaxing.

"What chapter do you want to start with?"

Kirei tapped her paw on the floor three times in rapid succession, and Kirion quickly opened the book and flipped through to the correct page. Then Kirei began to read.

A mirepoix is a flavor base that is made from cooked vegetables that have been diced. The vegetables are usually cooked with butter, oil, or another type of fat for a long time on a low heat without coloring or browning them. One type of mirepoix is cooked even longer than most, often with the addition of tomato purée, creating a darkened brown mixture called a pincage. A mirepoix is used as an aromatic, flavorful addition to foods ranging from soups and sauces to braised meats and marinades.

Reading the information about mirepoix brought fond memories back to Kirei. It was one of the ingredients that she, Aris, and Andiron had used when their mentor Elyari had taught them to make a variety of different soup stocks. Hart had been holding an event, and Elyari had been hired to cater to it. As a result, Kirei and her fellow apprentices had been assigned to the task. Kirei wondered how they were all doing now...or even if they were still alive. They had been sent on their journeys to learn about new foods and cooking techniques before the plague had hit Rynmere, but Kirei had never heard back from any of them. She didn't know if any of them had made it back to Rynmere before the island had shut its borders down. If so, they might well have died of the plague before Faith Augustine had found a cure for it.

Kirei shook her head to clear her mind of such thoughts. Then she tapped the passage she had just finished reading while looking directly at Maerin. The young girl blinked in confusion for a trill. Then her eyes widened.

"Do you want me to take notes on that chapter?" she asked to be certain she understood what Kirei wanted of her.

Kirei nodded, and Maerin grinned. She quickly took the book Kirei had been reading, and began taking notes.

"Which book do you want to read next?" Kirion asked.

Kirei glanced at the titles of the books beside her. One had a picture of a bowl of citrus fruits on the front cover. The title hinted that the book was about different types of citrus fruits, and the things that could be made out of them. Intrigued, Kirei tapped her paw on that book. Kirion quickly took it out of the pile, and opened it to the table of contents so that Kirei could get a better idea of what the book was about.

The first few chapters were about the fruits themselves; what they looked and tasted like, how to tell when they were ripe...things like that. There were other chapters that contained recipes that featured different types of citrus fruits in them. Those chapters were of less interest at the moment since she couldn't actually try making anything in her current form. But one of the chapters focused on the parts of a citrus fruit, and what each of them could be used for, and that was of definite interest to her. So she tapped the floor five times with her paw, and Kirion quickly turned to the fifth chapter in the book. Then she began to read once more.

Zest is a food ingredient that comes from the rind of a citrus fruit. It is prepared by scraping or cutting from the rind of unwaxed citrus fruits such as lemons, orange, citrons, and limes. Zest is used to add flavor to foods.

Kirei had never really thought that there was a use for the rind of a citrus fruit before but it did make sense now that she thought about it. The chapter continued to explain how to zest a citrus fruit properly, and Kirei started to read again eagerly, but a sound from Kirion made her pause and look at him.

"Are you planning to go hunting totrial, Kirei? Because if you are, I think you need to go soon. It's cold enough in Cylus during the trial. It will be even colder if you're out there when true night falls."

Her adopted son had a point. And she really did need to go hunting for Cally's totrial. So she tapped the page she had been reading to let Maerin that she wanted her to take notes on this chapter as well. Then, with some reluctance, she stood, and headed out to hunt.



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Kirei Qe'Azour
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Re: [Sweetwine Woods] Silent Night

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There was snow on the ground. That was no surprise this time of arc, but it hindered Kirei's movements considerably. In some areas, the crust on the surface was hard. Her paws slipped on the slippery surface, but as long as she was careful, it wasn't so bad. In other areas, though...where the crust was thinner, it couldn't support her weight. Without warning, she could find herself belly deep in the snow as her paws broke through the surface. When that happened, all she could do was flounder about until she found her footing once more.

As a result, the trip to the Sweetwine Woods took far longer than it would have if she had not been hindered by the snow. And when she did arrive, she was cold, wet, tired, frustrated, irritated...and wanting nothing more than to return home. But she had a job to do, and she wasn't going to return home until she did it.

Kirei took a deep breath, sniffing the air and allowing her instincts to interpret the information that her nose offered her. The strongest scent was that of water; specifically frozen water. With the snow surrounding her, that was hardly a surprise. What did surprise her was the complete lack of prey scents. Normally the forest was teeming with them. She hadn't expected to find her prey at the edge of the forest waiting for her to kill it, but she had expected...something. A hint. An old, stale scent to prove to her that she wasn't completely alone in the forest, if nothing else. As it was, Kirei was going to have to rely on more than her sense of smell if she wanted to catch anything totrial.

After a good three breaks of wandering around randomly in search of prey, Kirei was utterly certain about two things. One was that prey was scarce in Cylus. That wasn't really much of a surprise when Kirei thought about it. After all, some of the animals that Kirei hunted were hibernating until Ashan. Others migrated to warmer climates for the cold seasons. Another thing to consider was that this was the second cold cycle. The icy cold and the snow would keep animals safe in their nests if at all possible. If she was having trouble moving in all of this snow, then smaller animals would have a much harder time.

Kirei snarled in frustration and growing anger. She needed to bring something back for Cally's! If she wasn't able to supply meat for them on a regular basis until she found a way to return to the other self, then she might well lose her job. Even if she didn't, she would have concerned coworkers coming over to check on her, and that would lead to them having all kinds of questions that she wasn't prepared to answer.

After a while, her anger began to fade, and she still had nothing to show for her time. Part of her chided herself, herself for getting angry in the first place. It hadn't helped her any, and she still needed to find some prey she could bring down. So she pushed her anger and frustration out of her mind as best she could, and returned to the hunt.




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Kirei Qe'Azour
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Re: [Sweetwine Woods] Silent Night

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Half a break later, Kirei found a bunch of bird tracks clustered around a fallen branch. Perhaps the branch had had a few seeds left for them to eat. Or perhaps they had been perched on the branch when it had fallen. Kirei didn't know. But she did notice that the light tracks the birds had left were easier for her to see in the snow than they would have been in the dirt. She also noticed that the tracks were only clustered around the branch. There weren't any leading away from it. Nor were there any scent trails for her to follow.

Did they fly away from here, then? she wondered.

Her instincts seemed to confirm this. And it did make a lot of sense when Kirei thought about it. Why would there be tracks leading away from the area if the birds had taken flight? Scent was harder for Kirei to reason out, but her instincts were certain. And further thought provided a tentative answer. She had noticed that when she gave herself over to her instincts to follow a scent trail, the scent clung to things. The ground, branches, or grass...things like that. But if the birds had taken flight, there would be no scent trails to follow because the scent couldn't cling to the air the way it would to the ground. At least that's what Kirei thought.

Either way, the birds were long gone. More importantly than that, she needed bigger game totrial. Unless she lucked her way into bringing down a whole flock of game birds...which seemed extraordinarily unlikely...she needed to find bigger game to offer to Cally's. So once again, she returned to the hunt.

As she headed deeper into the woods, the wind shifted. She froze, sniffing the air. Deer! And judging by how strong the scent was, there had to be several of them. Maybe even a whole herd! She looked around, and sure enough, she found a set of deer tracks leading deeper into the woods. Kirei immediately changed directions to follow the tracks.

The tracks were easier to read in the snow than they would have been otherwise, and the snow seemed to be hindering her prey even more than it was bothering her. When Kirei tried to figure out why, she found her answer when she thought about the shape of her paws compared to the shape of a deer's hooves. As a child, one of the lessons she had attended in school had been about Cylus. One of the things that had been discussed was that if you were ever caught out on ice that was starting to break, you would stand a better chance of getting to safety if you were able to spread your weight out as much as possible and edge back to shore carefully. Her paws were bigger than a deer's hooves were, and as such, offered a larger area to spread her weight over. Added to that, a deer's hooves were harder and sharper than her own paws were. So it only made sense that a deer's hooves would break through the crust of the snow's surface even more often than she did.

This made it possible for her to catch up to the deer faster than she thought she would. Fortunately, the wind was in her favor, blowing her scent away from them. She counted nine deer spread out throughout a clearing. She hid herself in some bushes at the edge of the clearing to observe them for a while. The deer were half starved. Weak from hunger, her instincts assured her. They were searching for any bit of sustenance that they could find. Kirei didn't think that they would survive the season, and her instincts seemed to agree with her. Normally, she would never even think of attempting to bring down more than one, but their weakened state emboldened her. She began picking out her targets, choosing ones her instincts were certain she could bring down.

She decided to go for two. Her first target was the furthest from the rest of the herd. The doe was facing away from the other deer as it searched for food. And it was right near some bushes that would provide cover right up to the last trill. Kirei edged closer cautiously, using the bushes to conceal her presence. Then she gave herself over to her instincts completely. She crouched near where the deer was searching for food, waiting until the doe got closer. Then, when the doe was within range, she lunged for the creature's throat.

It was a tactic she had used when she had encountered the Oh Deer earlier that arc. Back then, the Oh Deer had charged her blindly, and she had used that against it, using its own momentum to tear out its throat. This time she went for the throat again. The cover of the bushes hid her presence right up until she sprang out of them. The deer tried to turn and flee, but by then, she was too close. Her teeth and claws found purchase in the doe's throat, and she ripped it out. The doe collapsed, unable to cry out because of its ruined throat.

Knowing that the doe would bleed out quickly, Kirei backed away, and headed for her next target. The scent of blood filling the air made the herd restless. Some panicked and fled, and Kirei, controlled by her instincts, let them. She wasn't interested in the stronger members of the herd. Her target was the thinnest, weakest member of the herd. The doe she had targeted tried to flee as well, but its weakened state slowed it enough for Kirei to reach it first. She lunged toward her target from the side, her claws biting deep into the doe's side. Somehow, she managed to scramble onto the doe's back. The doe was too weak to withstand her weight, and she collapsed. As she struggled to get back up, Kirei killed her.

By then, the rest of the herd was long gone. It didn't matter, though. Two deer, even ones that were emaciated like these two were were enough for Cally's. Kirei didn't dare leave her kills. If the deer were starving, the predators that made their homes here were too. If she left her prey, it was likely that a predator would find it before she could find Aiden and get him to follow her back. But she had already been hunting for several breaks. She knew that Aiden would come looking for her if she took too long. She would just have to hope that Aiden found her before she was forced to abandon one of her deer and try to bring one of them back herself.

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Re: [Sweetwine Woods] Silent Night

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Kirei

Experience: 10 no magic

Knowledge:

Cooking; Ingredient; Mirepoix: A mirepoix is a flavor base made from cooked, diced vegetables, usually with butter, oil, or other fat, for a long time on a low heat without coloring or browning. The vegetables used to create a mirepoix vary. It is used as an aromatic, flavorful addition to foods ranging from soups and sauces to braised meats and marinades.
Cooking; Ingredient; Zest: Zest is a food ingredient that is prepared by scraping or cutting from the rind of unwaxed citrus fruits such as lemons, oranges, citrons, and limes. It is used to add flavor to foods.
Discipline: getting angry doesn't help anything
Hunting; Caracal: birds don't leave scent trails to follow when they fly away
Hunting: prey is scarce in the icy cold of Cylus
Hunting: half starved prey is weak, and makes for an easy kill

Renown: none

Skill Usage: Mostly appropriate to level. I'd also include strength here, as dragging back two deer carcasses (one young the other full grown, ableit emaciated) still requires strength even if you're shape-changed into a creature with greater strength. The hunting skill use was fair in my opinion, because you were hunting desperate/weakened prey, and do have some xp into novice there. Otherwise imo opinion the skills used were appropriate to level.

Loot/Losses: 2 deer carcasses for Cally's

Injuries/Conditions: none

Consequences: The Staff of Callys will be delighted to have some venison for their restaurant. They may even name the recipe for whatever they make for Kirei.

Comments: Poor Kirei, still trapped in Caracal form? But I feel like she's enjoying it well enough and handling it in good grace. She's even found ways to communicate with her human family, so that's a good thing.

The Hunting sequence was well done and fun through. You described her desperation to provide for Cally's lest she lose her job, but I'm sure they'd understand a lull in the Cylus season surely? Anyway, nice story and enjoy your rewards.

If you have any concerns about this review, please PM me about them.
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