• Completed • Punching Above Your Weight

Nir'wei does some training, but the work is sidetracked by a surprise appearance.

25th of Ymiden 716

The capital city of the of Rynmere, here is seated the only King in Idalos.
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Nir'wei
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Punching Above Your Weight

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25th of Ymiden, 716

"Look, I'm not getting on that thing's back. Has it even had a rider before?"

"Yes you are, no it hasn't, and this is part of your job, not just cleaning out the stables and occasionally feeding it. You're not a stable-hand, although most are forgiven for assuming otherwise."

"You planning on demoting me, is that it?"

"Oh, don't tempt me. The only reason I don't is because we're running surprisingly low on volunteers willing to try and feed a hungry Jacadon. Well, that and the fact that you're not half-bad at working with the animals, you know, when you actually try it," Poppy said, tightening the midriff straps of the training harness around the juvenile Volareon that would be their student for the late afternoon and giving them an experimental tug. She wasn't incorrect, but there wasn't much evidence to say that Nir'weis success was anything more than blind luck mixed with a healthy dose of quick-thinking and circumstantial intuition. This was all because somewhere in last season, he'd calmed a Volareon enough to bring it and its untrained rider safely to the ground before they had to break out the shovel and scrape Ayla's remains off the fields. Apparently that meant he was competent enough to take a more predominant role in the riding and combat training of the 'new additions', that would soon be paired with their respective fresh-faced Skyriders.

It was almost funny when he looked at it from a different perspective. Although it was mandatory to have proficient knowledge in the art of caring for one's own mount, it wasn't considered as important to know how to train them. Sure, they flew in formation and rode their chosen animal into battle but, with the obvious exception of the Jacadon due to their tight bond, they didn't train their own Volareon from the beginning. They weren't the ones that accustomed the beasts to the company of humans, nor battle-trained them to stand strong in the face of danger, against their natural instincts to flee. He didn't doubt that there were some who took their place seriously and decided to take a more wholesome view on the upbringing of their chosen Volareon but for the majority, there was a whole team hidden away behind their shining armour and proud beasts, blacksmiths, leatherworkers, animal handlers, squires and who knew else. None of them would ever get the glory, but without even one of them, the Skyriders wouldn't be anything close to what they were today.

Which was why the mounting pressures being forced down on the Lodge were so damn frustrating. It was as if not only were some of these Majors, the more recently-promoted and inexperienced soldiers just coming to grips with their new status, were completely out of touch with the reality of the situation. Always they asked for more Volareons, thinking that if they threw enough money and shouted loud enough, all of the issues would just vanish. Raising and training domesticated Volareon was a hard task, though; taking them out of the wild for use by the military took even longer. No matter how much money was thrown around, they still lacked the manpower to process the Volareon and keep their training up to the high standards of the Skyriders. The fits of rage of the Jacadon had claimed the lives of more than a few handlers in the past years, he'd been told, and there was still no explanation for these wild bursts, nor any suggestions on how to prevent them. Even the Volareons themselves had claimed lives in the past, whether through attacking their handlers or by tipping too far during aerial training, sending their rider to a splattery death - just as Ayla had learned not too long ago.

If there was ever a better reason to avoid riding an untrained Volareon, it was that. "I'd prefer to work with the animals from down here on the ground, if it's all the same to you." Poppy finished tightening the straps on an incredibly complex-looking saddle filled with intricate buckles and special knee-high slots for the legs; he supposed this was why they were often custom-made for a perfect fit on the fully-grown Volareon. When she turned, she smiled that heart-warming smile that was flashed so often one could accurately class it as just a natural feature of her face.

"Look, we'll start out slow. Stick to the ground for now and then work our way up to low-altitude flight with no obstacles. I'll take you through the whole thing and nothing will go wrong, I promise. Besides, if you fall, I can catch you," she tried to reassure Nir'wei. It didn't work very well. For all the expertise she held, Poppy wasn't the most athletic of military associates. He doubted she could hold his weight at all, let alone catch it from the air. But, how could he resist that smile?
Last edited by Nir'wei on Tue Oct 18, 2016 12:56 am, edited 2 times in total. word count: 862
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Nir'wei
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Punching Above Your Weight

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"Alright, alright." Nir'wei waved his hand, calling off her puppy-dog eyes and reassuring smile. Never a better time than now to become accustomed with his mortality. "Just... give me a leg-up, would you?" The mass on the Volareon's back, and spread out to most of the rest of it's body, had some resemblance of a regular saddle that one would find on a horse; a seat complete with a high cantle, low pommel, all angled forwards to keep the rider pressed down close to their Volareon. Along with the single leather strap wrapped around the chest, a second strap wrapped over the front of the body, just over the joints of the front legs, and a third wrapped around the lower midsection behind the wings. Together, including the leather pieces interlocking between the various attachments, they made a complex harness leaving just enough room for the Volareon to move unhindered, but also kept the saddle extremely secure at the curve of its back just between the neck and the joints of the wings. Instead of stirrups, a pocket-like foothold, complete with yet more straps and buckles to fit around the shin and knee. For now, as he rolled himself over the middle of the seat and started wrestling with the various buckles, he only eased his legs into their respective places and pushed his upper back against the angled backrest, sitting upright in a way that the saddle was clearly designed to prevent.

Poppy tightened the straps too low for Nir'wei to reach, around the ankles and shins on either side. He couldn't detach himself, even if he wanted to. "Don't worry, I won't secure everything, there's still a sure-fire way to escape if there's an emergency. The loop just at the head, tucked underneath the horn, is connected to the knots underneath. You tug that, it'll remove the saddle from the Volareon. Tug it hard, though, it's only meant to be used in emergencies and that knot's pretty damn tight, 'cause if it wasn't, you'd fly backwards the moment she took off," Poppy explained with a pat to the Volareon's muzzle. "Plus, since this is a training harness, like you'd give to little kids when they first start riding horses, it's got a lot of... extra safety features, let's call them, that you wouldn't normally put on an experienced rider. Heavier saddles are great for control, not so much for maneuverability of the animal itself, but that's pretty much universal across most animals you can shove a saddle on." Poppy's attempt at light small-talk to keep focus off the bat-jaguar hybrid growling and shuffling around between his legs uneasily wasn't working as well as either of them wished it was.

"So, can we cut to the chase?"

"Yes, yes. Alright." Poppy stood back and reached into a pocket, tugging out.. wait, grapes? "Y'know what these are?" she asked. Nir'wei scoffed and nodded, unsure where she was going with the display. "Alright, so you already know Volareon diets. Amphibians and small mammals, game, larger prey when they can find it like deer, other predators like dogs and lone wolves. Well, you'll also know, they've got a sweet tooth for fruits..." she trailed off as the gears in his head suddenly clicked together. "Hold these bad-boys up to a Volareon, or any other sweet things you can get your hands on, and they're putty." She pushed her thumb under a solitary grape and flicked it into the air, immediately launching the Volareon under Nir'weis body after it in a sudden buck that would have easily thrown the young trainer from his saddle and several metres through the air, if not for the straps tightening against his legs and slamming his hips straight back into the square of the animal's back.

"IMMORTALS ABOVE!" Nir'wei threw a dark glare at Poppy, but she was just smiling sheepishly, several more grapes in the palm of her hand, already drawing the Volareon's attention. "You know, I'm pretty sure it won't interrupt the training session if you give me some warning before you do that again."

He wasn't sure how much more his ass could take, and they'd hardly begun the training. "Sorry, but I needed to get her hooked. That's the first and, really, the most important thing anyway about training. No matter what animal it is, you've got to know them before you train them. Know what they enjoy, know what foods and what toys and what things they enjoy doing most and use that as a way of getting what behaviour you want out of them, by offering it in exchange for their desires. It's a lot like haggling, in a way; the more intelligent the animal, the more bartering it'll take before you reach a mutual point in the relationship." She took another grape between two fingers and this time held it high enough that it coaxed the Volareon forwards a few steps, before she hid it away again and pressed her free hand against the bat-jaguar's snout. "Stop." It wobbled to a stop, trying to sniff through its covered nostrils for any sign of the fruit, until Poppy suddenly said "Good girl!" and rewarded her with the grape pushed straight against her lips. "See?"
word count: 921
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On paper it sounded deceptively simple. Coax the animal into doing as you wished, rewarding it, repeating the process endlessly until the desired behaviour came with little prompting at all. He was almost a little disappointed, given how simple Poppy made it looked as she effortlessly brought the Volareon around on the palm of her grape-filled hand, bringing it forwards, holding it back, embedding commands with a clear stern voice and rewarding every time with the flick of a grape. "These things take time, a lot of time. They take effort, determination. What you're seeing right now," she said, grabbing one of the straps near the Volareon's neck and tugging it until the beast was literally pressing itself against her side as she walked as casually as one would while walking a dog, "is the culmination of nearly a season's worth of preliminary work." He knew it took arcs to fully train Volareon, to familiarize them with the general requirements, to make them able to respond to the wishes of a handler on the ground and a rider in the air alike, both of which were miles apart, he'd been told. Arcs more to battle-train them in the ways that the Skyriders wished, to make them pounce in the heat of battle, fly in formation, fly comfortably in armour. Hell, it took arcs just to domesticate them, to make the Volareon peaceful around humans in the first place.

There was always a shortage of Skyrider Volareon for this reason. Anyone could go out and find a Volareon in the wild and bond with it, but to domesticate it, to train it, to battle-harden it took a lifetime. What happened here shortened the process significantly but for many it was still far, far too long to accurately account for the endlessly rising demand. One had to anticipate future events up to twenty arcs before they happened; a feat nothing short of clairvoyance.

Poppy released the reigns and took a step back. "Now, you do it." There was a moment of dumb expressions and floundering before she laughed to herself and elaborated. "You move her. Control her with your legs and with your arms, gently ease her in the direction you want to move and coax her there. When she obeys, I'll reward her." Again, it sounded so simple.. but when faced with the task itself, it quickly turned out to be impossible. The Volareon's neck was so thick, so muscular, he found trouble moving it at all without throwing a good portion of his weight into his arms, and even then, it didn't stay in the same place for long. His feet squeezed at the sides, trying to push and guide her in the direction he intended, but it was as if pushing against a literal brick wall. Clicking, whistling, calling her name didn't work either. Did the Volareon even feel anything at all?

"Hahah, alright, let me see if I can help." Poppy stepped in again, leaned over, blew into the Volareon's nose... and that was it. Underneath Nir'wei it squirmed, shook its head, stomped its feet and seemed rather uncomfortable as Poppy continued, following the muzzle and puffing continuously into it every few trills. "There. Now do it. Lean into where you want her to move." He repeated himself, tugging on the reigns, pushing weight onto her sides, leaning to the left, and this time, bizarrely, it worked. The Volareon shifted, turned its head and slowly spun around for him. Before he could even ask what she'd done, Poppy reappeared at his side again and answered his unspoken question. "Sorry, should have mentioned this earlier really, but... positive reinforcement, this technique we use, isn't fullproof. Sometimes everything needs an extra nudge. We never punish, we never hit or starve; our predecessors did, but it just makes the animals more aggressive and less open to advanced training in the future." He wrinkled his nose at the thought of beating up Jacadons and Volareons in order to command them. "General aggressiveness doesn't work well around them, in fact. It just sets off their own mimicking aggressive behaviour... which is why it's important to always stay calm around the animals. You don't know what'll set them off, honestly."

Well, at least Poppy and Gaspard wouldn't have any trouble accidentally setting the animals off. Perhaps that was why they all seemed so mellow in the first place, just keeping themselves calm so the animals would mimic them. "Instead, we just use discomfort treatment. You find an area on the animal, for a Volareon's case by blowing into their nose or ears, which causes mild discomfort and you repeat this over a small amount of time to discourage negative behaviour, as well as encourage positives with treats. Combine the two together and it works a treat. In fa---"

Poppy's instructions were halted mid-sentence by some noise, shouting, coming from the Lodge. As it grew louder and the idle chattering of the other handlers and stablehands grew quieter, it became apparent that it wasn't the kind of concerned yelling most were used to, whenever an injured Volareon, or worse Jacadon and its rider returned for whatever reason and needed immediate assistance. No, this was angry yelling. Nir'wei glanced from the lodge back to Poppy, but the elder handler was staring straight at the house with a furrowed brow. "That's all for today, I think," she suddenly said, unbuckling the straps around Nir'weis ankles and tugging them loose so he could step out. "We'll continue later of course, I can answer whatever questions you might have and I'd really like to include you a little more in the general layout of these training techniques and how they're spread out over seasons, but I think," she said with a pause as the yelling swelled yet again, this time even louder than before and somehow closer, "I think I'm needed elsewhere."
Last edited by Nir'wei on Tue Oct 18, 2016 12:53 am, edited 1 time in total. word count: 1014
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Nir'wei dismounted and walked around to the other side of the Volareon, but when he got there, he found Poppy staring down three knights in their full armour, Gaspard stood behind them looking extremely angry and a small clustering of other Lodge employees peeping from around corners, some standing out in the open with various states of disbelief written across their faces. Of course, it shouldn't have been any surprise to see members of the military milling about the Lodge, as was their right and as was necessary for their duty. To see them so angry though was less welcome. To see Gaspard and Poppy so angry was unheard of.

"You promised us five extra Volareon to make up for the lost numbers." the lead knight spat. Ahh, so they were feeling the pressure of the mounting problems on the horizon too, were they, these knights? "We needed them, last week. You don't understand how low these bastards will go in trying to undermine every single move we make in any direction and the one advantage we still have over the Qe'dreki is worthless," he screamed with his voice growing louder with every word that flew out of his mouth, "we are forced to abandon because you and your dirty lot can't bang heads together long enough to work out a way to shave a few arcs off training a few dumb beasts to kill soldiers, like they're supposed to!" His attitude was enough to make Nir'wei bristle. It was almost painfully obvious that this guy had no respect for the Lodge or its workings.

Gaspard looked like he was inches away from literally seizing the three men by the backs of their necks and tossing them straight back through the open doors without so much as a glance backwards. The armoured men, however, seemed entirely focused on Poppy. "I made no such promise," she replied cooly. "You said you needed five more, I said I'd see what I'd do and that I'd put every resource at my disposal into assisting with the rising demands." Suddenly, it hit Nir'wei in the head. Their training, the pressure, even the Volareon who's side still pressed warmly against his back; this was one of the five? "You need to understand, this takes time."

The knight exploded. "Yes, well, thank you for lovely little lecture, I'm sure you've given it plenty of times before, but I am here to tell you that time is no longer a luxury that we are allowed, and therefore, neither are you! It is nothing short of a damn miracle someone more competent hasn't taken over, but you can be sure it's coming." Nir'wei reached up, grabbed the reigns of the Volareon and started walking towards the three, drawing the Volareon close to his side as he'd seen Poppy repeat so often. He didn't have any grapes on hand, but he'd find some later and reward the creature when he found the time. Meanwhile, oblivious, the knight kept on foaming. "The fact that so few long-lived Volareon have even left this, this shack proves just how lazy, incompetent and frankly poor you are at training. I'm sure an actual Skyrider would do a much better job of it. Perhaps a real knight would have a better grasp of the idea of discipline too. This place is a damn mess. Filthy, stinking hovel." Nir'wei drew right up by Poppy's side and at last the small cluster of knights seemed to realize what they were looking at.

It wasn't huge. It wasn't armoured. But this Volareon was still intimidating as all hell when it beared its teeth at the aggressive trio, only requiring a handful of steps to ease itself into the space between them and Poppy. Just the show of strength was enough to derail the group. Apparently they'd thought marching into a lodge of animal handlers, they wouldn't be met with any real threat... well, unfortunately, they'd thought horribly, horribly wrong. Gaspard leaned over from behind after the Volareon'd stopped giving them all death-stares and with a patronizingly sing-song voice he said, "I'll show you gentlemen the door... and you're more than welcome to return when you're ready to apologize for all those nasty things you said." The knights, the Skyriders, hell even the sailors could whine all they wanted about how they needed more Volareons trained... but anyone with two licks of common sense should have known better than to march into the middle of their field and demand for more.
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Punching Above Your Weight

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Nir'wei


Points!:

Story: 5/5
Collaboration: 0/ 5 (solo thread)
Structure: 5/ 5
Knowledge:

Animal Husbandry: Volareon: Respect and calm are necessary for caring for the animal.
Animal Training: Jacadon anger costs lives.
Animal Training: Volareon: Training saddles
Animal Training: Volareon: Heavier sadddles for control
Animal Training: Volareon: Conditioning behaviour with sweet fruits.
Animal Training: Volareon: Steering
Animal Training: Volareon: Positive reinforcement doesn't always work.
Endurance: Riding on a Volareon hurts your bottom.
Mount: Putting a saddle on your Volareon
Mount: Mounting and riding position on a Volareon
Mount: Steering

Loot:
NA
Fame:
+1 (Good deed)
Magic:
These points may NOT be used for arcana

Overview:

General comments. Great fun thread with lots of detail and lots to read. You really kept my attention all the way through, a very real pleasure to review. I'm so glad that Nir'wei stood up to the bullying Iron Hand man - great stuff!
Story Fun to read, entertaining and interesting. No worries
Structure No issues at all.


Please do PM me if you've got any questions
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