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survival tactics
Who: Atreyu and Hunter
What: chance meeting
Where: Koude Reizen Mountain Range

Artax's hooves were unshod, so there was no iron to ring out against the stone. The horse was as accustomed to hunting as his master, just as skilled in moving silently despite the weight of his feet. Artax knew that when they were stalking prey, silence was key.

The boy on his back was likewise silent. His eyes watched the rocky terrain, finding tracks and scrapes of hoof on stone that leg them closer to their target. He guided Artax with his legs, his hands occupied by his bow and arrow.

Artax slowed, scenting the goat on the air. Slowly, completely obedient to his master's unspoken instructions, they edged around the corner of the rocks. There was the goat, it's single horn curving up from the center of its forehead. Its meat would give Atreyu the nutrition his body craved. Its skin would make him a wrap to wear for the cold mountain evenings. Bone for arrows. Each part could be used, saved, stored. Such was the way of the Grass People.

Atreyu sighted the arrow, lined up his shot, and released. The arrow slid from the bow, finding its way directly and smoothly to the goat's heart. It fell with barely a bleat.

Tags: atreyu, hunter

From: [info]whos_afraid Date: 05/03/2007 11:46:35  

Hunter had traveled east from Camlann into the moutain range that rose up between the iron kingdom and Estervale. He hadn't had much chance to hunt there, but now that his trade seemed to involve more dealings in trading skins and furs between vastly different areas, it was time to try another place. A few more skins and he'd head back south to Mehrdadstan again.

He'd only just caught the scent of an animal - goat - his nose told him well before his eyes, when he caught two more scents in rapid succession. Horse. And human. Man. He sniffed. No, boy.

Intriguing he could smell them and not hear them. they were silent as he, well-trained like hunters. He stayed where he was, could tell the boy hunted the goat, and his suspicions were proved right when the goat fell from an arrow straight through the heart. Hunter moved then, unusually impressed by his skill. It was rare, especially in one so young. "That was an exceedingly clean shot," he said, no salutations attached.
From: [info]aurynguidesme Date: 05/03/2007 12:03:00  

Atreyu looked up when the man spoke, eyes immediately narrowed in suspicion. "No need for it to suffer," he responded after a moment. The man had approached silently enough not to startle the goat, and at the right angle of wind so that his scent hadn't drifted towards Arteyu or Artax.

Artax shook his mane, moving towards the goat to claim the kill.
From: [info]whos_afraid Date: 05/03/2007 12:31:31  

Hunter eyed him and his horse for a moment and then spoke again. "It's rare to find someone with such skill. Have you hunted in these mountains often?"

He stood where he was, letting the boy claim his kill while he watched with interest.
From: [info]aurynguidesme Date: 05/03/2007 12:42:53  

Atreyu slid off the horse, drawing a knife from his belt. The golden Gem glistened on his bare neck in the light as he leaned over the goat. "No," he said. "Only passing through."

He looked smaller, younger now that he was on his own feet. His clothing was leather and suede, clearly handmade. A boy barely into his adolescence, but the cuts he made to gut the kill were expert, smooth.

Artax stood close by, watching the man, though the horse may not have understood the words being exchanged. "Is he to eat with us, master?" Artax asked, in the tongue of his kin, which Atreyu knew well.

"I don't know," the boy answered, in his own native speech, which his companion well understood. He looked back up to the man. "You are a hunter as well?" he asked, switching back to the more common speech.

If the an wanted to eat, there was certainly enough meat. But the more used here, the less there would be to salt and preserve for the road ahead. Still, the custom was a grand feast after a hunt, and Atreyu may have missed the company of his tribe.
From: [info]whos_afraid Date: 05/03/2007 12:50:15  

Hunter nodded and watched the boy skin the animal with quick deft movements. He'd have offered help, but stayed his offer for two reasons. He wanted to see how the boy's methods differed from his own, and it was clear the youngster needed no help. In fact, Hunter had no idea whether he'd be offended by the offer.

But that thought was sidetracked when it suddenly became clear the horse had said something, something Hunter couldn't quite follow to the boy, and the boy responded. Their body language made it clear to him they were conversing.

His eyes narrowed. "Yes I am," he responded, and then continued, "What kind of magic is this that you two converse with each other?" His nose twitched, scented, and he smelled magic around them, coupled with their own smells. Magic that seemed to be strongest around that interesting jewel at the boys neck.
From: [info]aurynguidesme Date: 05/03/2007 12:59:00  

Atreyu wrinkled his nose at the question, a sneer on his lips. "It's no magic," he said. "Atrax is my companion for years. We've known each other's language just as long. Why have a companion that you can't speak with?"

Especially when they were alone so often. Even before Atreyu had been named as the Childlike Empress' warrior, Atreyu had been raised by his entire tribe. Though surrounded by family, his best friend and often his only companion had been Artax. The Grass People had long ago learned the language of their steeds, and the horses has done the same. Though their mouths made different sounds, their bodies different movements, the languages has been learned, so both races were to play equal part in communication and friendship.
From: [info]whos_afraid Date: 05/03/2007 13:08:45  

"I have traveled far and wide and never have I come across one who could speak with animals without some kind of magic. Few people have animal companions instead of other people for that reason, I expect."

The boy's reasoning made sense, but it was rarely so simple. Maybe it had something to do with where he was from. "You said you're passing through. Where from?"

From: [info]aurynguidesme Date: 05/03/2007 13:19:19  

Oh. It was that again. Customs. In Fantastica, every race knew at least two languages - their native tongue, and the common speech. The Childlike Empress was ruler over them all, and every creature within Fantastica was equal in her eyes. Each had the right and means to plead a case to her, should they need to.

The man's question was unusual. The Gem still hung about Atreyu's neck. It was an unquestionable symbol of his status to the Childlike Empress - every creature in Fantastica knew of AURYN and that, as its bearer, Atreyu was to be regarded as though speaking on direct behalf of the Childlike Empress herself.

"The Grass Ocean, on the plains of Fantastica," he said, brow still furrowed with light confusion. "That was where we began. I've lost count of the miles since then."
From: [info]whos_afraid Date: 05/03/2007 13:25:06  

The Grass Ocean? Fantastica. Well, Hunter'd never heard of those places. How the hell could an ocean be made of grass? He raised his eyebrows. "Considering I've never heard of Fantastica, I think it's safe to say you've traveled very very many miles since you began."

His eyes flicked down to that gem again. It still smelled of magic, not the misty silvery kind that surrounded Amalthea that had he sneezing. This was a richer, darker kind of smell, less ethereal, more earthy.

"What is that thing?" Hunter asked, his own brows knitting.
From: [info]aurynguidesme Date: 05/03/2007 13:38:37  

"You never heard of Fantastica?" The surprise was all too evident in Atreyu's expression. "Or of AURYN?"

Artax even looked startled, his ears twitching forward at the sound in his master's voice and the name of the Gem. "What is wrong, master?"

Atreyu answered him quickly, his tone hushed. "We've passed the boundaries of Fantastica," he said. "He doesn't know of the Gem."

Artax stomped his feet, nervously. "How is that possible, master? Fantastica has no boundaries."

Atreyu couldn't answer. He turned instead, back to the man. "This is the Gem. It is named AURYN, and it is the talisman of Fantastica, and of the Childlike Empress."
From: [info]whos_afraid Date: 05/03/2007 13:43:04  

"Have you heard of the Sleeping Woods?" Hunter countered. "Of Camlann, of Mehrdadstan, of Estervale? There are places I discover here every day, and not one is the land I came from."

He crossed his arms, watching the horse respond in some sort of nervous confusion. "I know not this Childlike Empress. But I can smell that talisman of yours is full of magic. It is an interesting thing."
From: [info]aurynguidesme Date: 05/03/2007 14:09:58  

Another shock for Atreyu. He didn't even know of the Childlike Empress!

But the warrior of the Grass People didn't know the names the man was speaking. Loathe as he was to admit it... "We've crossed the boundaries of Fantastica," he said, mostly to himself.

But then the man said something interesting. "You can smell the Gem?" he said. "What sort of creature are you? What are you called?"
From: [info]whos_afraid Date: 05/03/2007 14:24:32  

"I am called Hunter. I have heightened senses; it was how I knew you were there to begin with," Hunter responded, neatly evading the core of the question. He told no one of his curse, not in detail. In fact, Scheherazade was the only person to whom he had spoken of it as origianlly a curse and not just an ability.

"I could smell you, your horse, and I suppose this AURYN as well." Hunter watched the boy as he spoke. "And what are you and your horse called then?"
From: [info]aurynguidesme Date: 05/04/2007 13:59:25  

His question hadn't completely been answered. Atreyu was a boy, and a young boy at that, despite his experiences. When he wanted to know something, he questioned until he understood.

"I am Atreyu, of the Grass People. This is Artax." At the sound of his name, the horse tossed his mane proudly and dipped his head in greeting.

"But what are you? You look human, as I do. But humans have no way to move as I do, or speak as I speak. They cannot smell a warrior or his horse or know the scent of magic."
From: [info]whos_afraid Date: 05/05/2007 11:26:46  

"Well met, Atreyu, Artax." It didn't matter to Hunter he hadn't fully answered the question. That was all the information he was giving. He looked pointedly at the boy and answered, "And humans I know cannot speak to horses either. Suffice to say there are 'people' here who are not what they seem, as you and I both seem to be."
From: [info]aurynguidesme Date: 05/05/2007 22:34:03  

Atreyu frowned at that. "I am not human. I am of the Plains People." It was strange. In Fantastica, races could be spotted on sight, when you knew the telltale signs of each.

"What kind of place is this?" he asked.
From: [info]whos_afraid Date: 05/05/2007 23:45:28  

Hunter shrugged. The Plains People meant nothing to him. Apparently the kid wasn't human. Hunter wasn't going to argue. "I know little of these mountains. There are large cities to the immediate east and west, Estervale and Camlann. There are enchanted woods, dangerous wastelands..."

He paused and then continued. There lies a desert kingdom called Mehrdadstan to the south and a very, very strange city called Ozland further south and west." Hunter rattled off the lay of the land as he knew so far. "I know nothing of the middle of the lake in the center of this land, but I would advise caution anywhere you choose to go."
From: [info]aurynguidesme Date: 05/06/2007 10:48:02  

At his words, Atreyu nodded, accepting them as words of caution, not warning or scolding. Hunter was speaking to him like a man. That was good.

"Thank you," he said. "We will step with caution. Well met, Hunter."
From: [info]whos_afraid Date: 05/06/2007 12:44:59  

Boy he may have been, but Hunter could see Atreyu carried himself like a man, like a true hunter, and he gave the boy the credit he was due. "Well met," he responded. "And perhaps we'll meet again."

And that was all Hunter gave by way of parting words. He continued in the direction he'd been heading, his own footfalls soft as Atreyu's had been, and in moments he was gone, so silent is was as if he hadn't been there at all.
Community: [info]pentamerone
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