Dark Stag Ch. 02

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“That’s because they are not like dogs. If you under stimulate a raptor, it’ll hate you. It won’t demand affection by giving you loving licks. It’s more likely to dive bomb you and scalp you.” I explained. It seemed like ever since I got here, it was the only thing I said.

“But every time I try to go in the enclosure, he attacks me. He won’t let me get close. He only allows me to bring him something to feed on and then he’s puffing up and hissing and charging at me.” Roi responded.

“All raptors are territorial. You can’t blame an un-socialized bird for protecting the only area he knows. That’s like if two giants captured you and put you in an enclosure for the rest of your life. They never came around and every time they do, there’s uncertainty on what they will do. So as a matter of precaution, I run them away from the tiny area I call my own.” I laughed. He kept his seriousness. He simply stared at me, unsure if my words held any validity.

He pushed the door open, letting me into the enclosure first. He followed, closing the door swiftly after me. There it was a massive silver long wing, high on the perch of its enclosure. It was definitely an underactive bird. It was extremely plump from a lack of energetic outlet…often eating and perching.

It would look out of the mesh onto the pasture behind it, where it’d see other handlers and their raptors coursing the fields. There was no telling how it made the bird feel. Considering how intelligent it was, it maybe was confused, confused as to why these raptors chose to come back to these handlers when they could be free.

“This is sad.” I said. Roi looked at me perplexed. I extended my hand out, asking for the lamb. He handed it to me and proceeded.

“What are you about to do?” He asked.

“Something crazy…” I said.

The raptor watched me as still as a statue. I sat down on middle of the enclosure floor, placing the lamb onto my lap.

“Oh my god…” Roi said, “You’re gonna get raked so bad.”

The raptor continued to look at me. Its head bobbed wildly as I stared off, making my appearance as least threatening as possible. Not long after, the raptor dropped to the floor on spread wings. Its wings slowly retracted as its upright posture changed into a pounce stance. It took a step forward, unsure if I’d make a move. Growing more confident, it took another step.

Suddenly, the bird darted towards me, its jaws snapping loudly around the head of the lamb. It then spread its wings, flapping hard to place distance between me and it. It landed about thirty feet away at the far end of its aviary. I still paid it no mind.

The powerful bird made quick work of the six pound lamb, using its sheer strength to tear large chunks off to swallow whole. Upon finishing, the bird’s eyes locked onto me. My actions seemed to confuse it. Never before had a human who entered its enclosure perched on the floor and did little apart from breathe.

Not feeling confident on the ground, it leapt onto the lower platform that ran the length of the enclosure. Slowly, it made its way around me assessing whether I was a threat. It seemed to have forgotten Roi, its owner, was standing at the door. The bird did this for several minutes. We were operating on its terms, and I would be more than patient with it.

I was waiting for the alert bird to relax with my presence. The only time it did this was when it leapt from the lower platforms to the upper ones and took its proud stance on top of the high perch, some fifty feet above my head. I began whistling triplets followed by a downward scaling trill. The bird looked at me but this time, with no alertness. It returned the whistle.

We exchanged whistles for several minutes until the bird glided from its perch to the ground. Without any hesitation or haste, it walked over to me looking at my hands. It began picking at them with its beak, the same way Bazahra would. This was a clear sign of boredom. With my free hand, I reached under my tunic. The bird became alert and ran to my rear, where I had reached for with my hand.

I pulled out a strong leather lure, one I braided the night before simply for this moment. The bird didn’t know what it was but was intrigued. I twirled the lure and the bird began bobbing its head, thinking the lure was food. I stopped twirling the lure and the bird grew tense with predatory desire. I reached out, placing the lure close to its beak. The bird’s nictitating membrane swept across its eyes as it chomped down on the lower. The powerful raptor began pulling with all its might. Having the leverage, the over thirty pound bird began dragging me. I swept my legs out planting them firmly on the ground.

The bird was definitely into this powerful game of tug of war. It continued to tug for over twenty minutes, not relenting until finally the lure snapped. The bird then went sprinting across the enclosure, leaping from platform to platform. It then paused, staring outside into the pasture. Handlers with their eagles trained on the lure fields. The joy and exhilaration the raptor felt left casino siteleri as it realized again, it was trapped. It began making the faint distress hoots Bazahra would make when something was bothering her.

I remembered an arpeggio triplet that I made Bazahra associate with flapping. It was how I got her to strengthen her wing muscles. However, it was too early to introduce the long wing to this. It was now, in fact, time to leave. I got up and walked towards the door.

“Bye bye.” I said. The bird turned and gave a curious hoot that transitioned into a whistle. I looked at Roi who stood in shocked.

“Say it.” I whispered.

“Bye bye!” He said.

We left the room and headed towards the exit of the Aviary.

“I thought that bird was going to fucking destroy you.” He said.

“It’s really hard not to hate you for this.” I hissed.

“What?” He asked.

“That bird is so smart, smart enough to understand language but is cooped up in that Aviary. All of this could have been avoided by giving it some rather durable prey looking toys, and that enclosure is filthy! There are feces everywhere! You wouldn’t want to live in your on shit, wouldn’t you? That is a respiratory infection waiting to happen in such tight quarters and a bird never makes a recovery from respiratory infections! The sheer negligence…” I said then stopped mid sentence, remembering I was dealing with a prince.

“I’m just learning this stuff.” He pleaded.

“I mean,” I replied, pausing to regain my composure, “Where I come from, a raptor is more than just a pet, it is means for survival. It is damn near heart breaking to see these raptors used for sport, with no effort to build a relationship with them. I find that cruel…”

“So you can do that with all raptors?” He asked.

“Yes.” I said back dryly.

“Well to be honest, all forty raptors are problem raptors.” I said. I looked at him in shock.

“You expect me to train forty raptors? If they’re anything like the long wing then I’m stuck here for years!” I said.

“And what better do you have to do?” He asked, bluntly. It made me have a long evaluating pause.

“I did want to see the world. There are documented vultures far to the west with twenty five foot wing spans, ten feet long. I always wanted to sail there to see them.” I said.

“Vultures..?” He asked, disgusted by the idea.

“Vultures are beautiful animals, some of the most effortless soaring birds in the bird world. You have to be out your mind to be a raptor trainer but not appreciate the flight characteristics of vultures!” I retorted, drawn to anger once again.

“Well the vultures here are gross and every time something dies here, they are the first things to rip it apart. I shoot them every chance I get…..filthy damn animals.” He said. I gave him the bitterest, the most venomous glare my face could muster. There was nothing left I could say. This boy was the equivalent to a monster, killing beautiful vultures, nature’s sanitation experts. He lacked a true appreciation for raptors period.

We left the Aviary, parting paths. He was surprised that I wasn’t heading back with him.

“Wait…” He called out.

“What?” I asked, still not turning back.

“Where are you going?” He asked.

“I got to course Bazahra.” I said back, my tone dryer than desert quartz.

“Can I watch?” He asked.

“Sure.” I responded.

The walk to the stable was silent and awkward. I went over to Rejon who was bored in his pen, separate from the horses. He was not in any state to be ridden. He head butted me then slapped me with his black tongue. He wanted to stretch his legs so badly but his temperament around horses made him quite a danger to them.

“This thing is beautiful.” Roi said, mesmerized by Rejon’s shiny black mane. I looked at Roi, giving an eye roll. He caught it, looking at me, perplexed.

“Um…” He managed to say, somewhat at a loss for words. His arms folded tightly around his chest.

I went into the pin and picked up a brush. I began brushing Rejon who whistled in delight. His mane was tangled, being a jumbled mess of curly plush fur. He loved the feeling of the tangles being un-kinked.

“I thought you said we were going to course your raptor.” Roi asked. Rejon looked at him, sniffing the air to familiarize himself with his scent.

“I’m trying to think. Rejon can’t be ridden. I might rip his stitches with the added pressure on his back. I usually ride on his back and course Bazahra that way, but since I can’t ride him, I’m face with quite the challenge.” I clarified.

“What kind of coursing do you do?” He asked surprised, “And why won’t a horse work.” Rejon snorted a load of mucus onto Roi, simply for uttering the word. He then shook himself wildly.

“Easy,” I said to Rejon before addressing Roi, “Horses are slow. They don’t offer much of a challenge for a bird that can power through the sky at nearly a hundred miles an hour with little effort. Plus, Rejon loves being ridden in tight turns. It’s like killing two birds with canlı casino one stone.”

“Why not use a hand lure?” He asked.

“A hand lure is for small raptors who hunt avian prey. She doesn’t like it very much because the target is so small and close to me. She thinks she’ll graze me with her talons so she refuses.”

“She refuses?”

“Yeah… I might just tell her to terrorize the gazelles but don’t kill them. She’d get bored with that if I’m not involved though. I have an idea.” I said.

“What?”

“I could build some slings that launch a lure into the air as well as catch it, but I’d need two people.” I said.

“And what will that do?”

“While the lure is hurdling over the ground, she can course it and try to catch it. Every time she catches it, she’ll return it, kind of like avian fetch.”

“And what makes you think she’ll comply?”

“She loves new things. She’ll catch on right away.”

“Well you just put the most dangerous bird in the world through a deep therapy session so I have full faith in you.” He said.

“Help me brush him. He has a lot of tangles.” I demanded.

“He just blew snot all on me. I ain’t coming near that!” He protested. I laughed, not surprised by the response.

An hour had passed and I was back to my quarters, carrying several sheets of leather, accompanied by Roi. Bazahra came swooping in, running towards me as I plopped the leather sheets onto the table. I looked at her with a smile.
“We’re gonna make you a new game.” I said to her. She squawked, full of excitement.

“Food…” She demanded.

“Ah,” I said, rushing over to the kitchenette. In the sink was a freshly killed lamb that I placed there for whenever she got hungry. I tossed it across the room and the nimble bird leapt and caught it, talons first. She slammed the baby gazelle to the ground and began shredding it with her beak.

“That’s just gross.” Roi said.

“That’s just nature.” I said. He looked at me, not pleased with my remark.

“You’re kind of…,” He began, “kind of mean.” I chuckled.

“I’m just not used to all of this,” I said as I began to cut the leather into thin strips, measuring by eye, “It feels like a completely different world. I’m used to having to fight a battle for everything that means something to me, and here nothing means anything to anyone. It’s just…wow.”

“What do you mean?” He asked defensively.

“I mean exactly what I stated. No one here appreciates all this luxury. If my grandmother saw this beautiful place, she’d faint. She would refuse living here because our beliefs are that you live how you work and you work your way up. She wouldn’t feel like she worked hard enough for this type of blessing. It’s a shock to how I was raised.” I clarified.

“Wait, that…seriously?” He asked. I looked at him.

“Yes. Our way of living is very humble and reserved. We don’t ask for more than what we need. Not to mention, she thinks it’s a bad omen to own land. Land owned by humans tends to harbor spirits which causes… never mind.” I sighed, not really wanting to continue on.

“You don’t own land?”

“No owning land is just about illegal in Illisia.”

“So where do you live?”

“We build mobile shacks, easy to put up, easy to take down, migrating from one side of the plains to the next every year, following the migration of game.”

“That sounds tedious.” He said, shocked.

“It’s not if you’re raised that way early on. It instills the hard work trait in you. Sometimes I can’t sit still when I’m not active. I always have to have something to do.” I laughed.

“I can’t imagine myself ever living in the wild.” He cringed.

“And I never would have imagined myself being in a lavish court, but look where I am. Life has a way to fuck you over.” I joked. The prince smiled at me, pleased by my rather dry humor.

Hours had elapsed and we were back onto the field. Bazahra was circling over head. I had a paper journal, ready to write down descriptive details on the success of this. The sight of the journal made me sad.
“I can’t believe I have to start from scratch.” I sighed.

“What?” Roi asked.

“I used to write down everything relating to training raptors in my journal for future reference, maybe even to publish one day. But my journals were all in the saddle that fell off of Rejon the day he got shot.” I explained. I squatted down to write.

‘Prototype test one. I don’t even know if this sling is going to work…’

Placing the weighted lure into the basket of the sling, I began twirling as fast as I can. With a toss of the arm, the lure released from the basket, launched far out of sight.

“Damn, that thing works great!” Roi smiled.

“No it doesn’t.” I said, squatting down to right once again.

‘The lure is too small of a target. I need to quadruple the mass and give it more surface area. The next set of tests will be seeing how I can increase size without sacrificing range.’

“Why doesn’t it?” Roi asked.

“How could you, the other catcher see kaçak casino something so small, let alone be able to catch. I need to rethink the design more.” I explained. Roi didn’t think of it that way.

“Ooooh.” He said, seeing it from my perspective. I flipped the page, drawing another prototype. He dropped to his knees to watch me sketch.

“You can build that?” He asked.

“I built this sling off the top of my head. Of course I can build this!” I laughed.

Bazahra came gliding low above the ground, landing before us. Her sixteen foot wingspan startled Roi who was not paying attention to her coming in.

“Game no fun, lure too fast, can’t catch lure…” Bazahra squawked. She stood with the lure in her left foot. She then tossed it to me.

“Really…?” I asked with a smile. She nodded.

“What did she say?” Roi asked. It then dawned on me why everyone couldn’t understand her. She was speaking in Illisian while I was speaking in English. I paused to think, surprised at the fact that I got both languages mixed up. Then again, I was juggling four languages here.

“Was I just speaking English?” I asked, completely unsure. Roi looked at me confused.

“No.” He said.

“Oh my god…” I said, stopping what I was doing.

“What?” He asked with a smile.

“I’m mixing up languages. I’m sitting here thinking that Bazahra is speaking English when she’s speaking Illisian and I’ve been replying to her in Illisian thinking I’m speaking English. I think my mind is stressing a bit…” I laughed, falling back into the grass.

“How long has she been speaking?” Roi asked, looking at Bazahra.

“She’s been speaking for about four days now, a few words here and there but more and more every day.” I explained.

“Well then I’m not surprised you’re tripping up over languages. You said you speak English, Spanish, Arabic and Illisian.” He said, reassuringly.

“Well Illisian is a derivative of English so…I can see how I got the two mixed up. I think I need a break though. I don’t like making mishaps…” I said, clenching my head.

The young prince’s eyes kept scaling me from head to toe. His curious look eventually turned into one of scowling disgust.

“Get off the ground! Horses shit there…” He said. I leaned up looking at him.

“So….” I responded. A smile came across his face. It came across odd. This was going to take a turn soon, much like how Mercury warned.

The young prince wasn’t by any means ugly. He was a rather tall at six foot one inches. He had bright milky skin with caramel freckles, highlighted by thick curly black hair. His brow ridge was gorgeous, sculpted in a way that made the prince look inquisitive. His eyes were round and cheerful, having a soft coffee color that one minute could be warm and inviting, and the next, be piercing rage filled pools of aura. His cheekbone structure had a certain perkiness and forwardness to them that was almost feminine. They sloped down into some rather chubby jaws that gave him adorable boyish charm. His nose was rather thick and chiseled, but not overly large. It was a contrast to his lips which, for a westerner were large and pink. They were lined by budding black hair and a soul patch. It all came down to a chin that was covered in thin black fuzz. Despite the sprouting facial hair, he still looked very young.

His pleasant aesthetics meant nothing. I was not interested in him, or anyone for the matter. The only relationship that mattered to me was connecting with Suroka. Suroka was the goddess of life, purity, and energy. In all honesty, there was no sign she existed but I didn’t care. I was raised to follow her teachings and ultimately I agreed with them. Premarital sex, drugs, piercings, neglecting one’s body all were against my views. Despite my views, I’d not hold it against anyone who does such…maybe neglecting one’s body. However, if their actions affect me, then it’ll become a problem.

Roi would inevitably become a problem, but when? Never could I engage in any sexual activity with anyone, let alone someone who obviously got a lot of sexual activity. That would mean I was nothing special, on top of being a taint. It would mean I could never connect with Suroka and my existence would be worthless. I’d have to be careful around him. Leading him on, the way I mistakenly did to Mercury, could prove disastrous.

The day had been incredibly busy but…fun. I worked with some of the problem short winged and broad winged raptors, flew them on lures and tightened the bond with their owners. These birds were well groomed, well fed, and quite reliable but the issue lied with their temperament. Their issue was different from Silver, the giant metallic long wing which was my main effort. The short wings were over stimulated, and like cats, would lash out with talons and beak snaps. Short wing raptors generally tolerated humans, not craving affection from them apart from lure training and the odd nape stroke here and there. The only reason they came back to their handlers was due to the meat the handlers had tasted much better than the meat they were trained to kill. In fact, these birds didn’t kill anything. They were simply trained to attack a lure and course, given meat as a reward. It undermined the reason these birds existed.

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