Ground Hunt (Weyrling Lesson)

Xanadu Weyr - Weyrling Grounds

Cradled in a cup shaped bite out of the mountain, this wide, grassy flat has become home for Xanadu's weyrling dragons. It's set surprisingly high above the level of the beach, visible from the eastern side of the grounds where a long path snakes its way down the hill to the sand dunes below. All other sides to the grounds are bordered by the hard granite cliffs, two entrances clearly visible. One is merely human sized and leads deep into the mountain, to the Caverns. The other is broad and high, the entrance to the Weyrling Barracks.

Late fall and the dragonets are growing nicely. V'dim has watched each with a critical eye and has deemed them ready for the next phase in their training and that is hunting! In preparation for that, a large portable pen has been set up at the far end of the Weyrling grounds with some of the smaller type of herdbeasts in various sizes - all of which have been de-horned. The animals are packed in the pen, bawling uneasily. Having been culled from the herd, they know something is up but not what. A few Herders stand by the gate, waiting for V'dim's word. V'dim, meanwhile, waits for the weyrlings and dragons to assemble and when they are finally settled, he paces before them, gaze inspecting each one. Not that he doesn't already know intimately what condition the young dragons are in, but it's a good example he's setting for them. His voice rasps out in the still clear air, "Today your dragons will make their first kill from the ground. You will use your mind to control your lifemate and keep him or her from getting over-excited." when he pauses to make eye contact with several of them, Jessi gets a long stare and a cheek-twitch before he continues, "Remind them to keep their wings tight to their back, their instinct - and the pounce-roll exercises will do the rest. Please check your dragon's talons and make sure there are no splits or breaks, then we'll get started."

The Weyrwoman and her lifemate have come to watch this important step, but though she might have greeted the Weyrlings when she arrived, she says nothing to interrupt V'dim while he's speaking. She stands off to one side silently, a smile of almost amusement on her face at the suppressed excitement she's seeing on so many faces. Seryth reclines behind her, the picture of calm herself but the queen is intently focused on her offspring.

Jessi and Aisuohkoth were likely first in line when they heard the word hunt. The felinesque green flicking her tail to and fro in anticipation as she watches the beasts bleating in their pen. This is what she was built for, she'll be the best huntress in the group. Jessi chews her lip, she has to control the green's excitement? That will be a tough one. So the petite greenling proceeds to examine her green's talons, which are in pristine shape, thankyouverymuch, and very very sharp. The green grips the ground with them as if to emphasize and Jessi sighs quietly. "You have to calm down, Love, otherwise he won't let you in there." And, to relax her green, she reaches up to scratch at the dragon's silvery moonshape between her eyes.

Volenth's interest in this milestone is clear, as the usually calm young dragon looks like metallic hide over coiled springs - still, but with an obvious air of readiness. M'trin stands beside him, aiming for an appropriately serious mein but failing as faint amusement for his lifemate's twitching tailtip ghosts around his mouth. They are near the rear of the pack, so the lanky weyrling uses a hand for balance as he lifts up on tiptoes to scout out the 'prey'. "Aye, I'm sure you'll be able to take them, Volenth," he quips as he loses the battle with the smirk fighting for his mouth. He hides it from Volenth's quick whirling eyes by crouching to inspect talons with both eyes and fingertips before standing and giving V'dim a firm nod. That done, he flashes that determined grin at Thea and gives her a wink for the near matching smile she wears.

V'dim, meanwhile walks among the weyrlings, running a hand down a leg here, re-examining a claw there. Commenting mostly calming encouragement to nervous weyrlings or finding something approving to say of the shape they're in. At the fore once again, he waits until attention is on him and he instructs, "We'll let one herdbeast at a time go. The beast will run and probably try to head down the field towards the rest of the herd in feeding grounds. I'll call which dragon is to go for it. There should be plenty of time for them to bring the beast down. When your lifemate has got his kill, we'll let another out and so on. Ready?" He turns to signal the herder, standing by the pen and a herdbeast is shooed into a chute. There's a flash of silver and a bawl of pain, then gate swings open, allowing a larger beast out. The animal runs, but it's on three legs instead of four. V'dim's voice is harsh to be heard above the racket, "Volenth!"

Seryth is there to support the effort the weyrlings must make to keep their lifemates calm. And each one will feel the weight of her presence - but only to the extent they need it. Thea's lips twitch wider as she catches M'trin's wink and she nods back to the Harper-Weyrling, glass-green eyes shifting to give others an encouraging smile and a thumbs-up.

Aisuohkoth is hunkered down at the ready, despite the usually calming scratching to her birthmark, she looks about ready to spring as the beast is released, but Jessi keeps her hand on green's forehead. "Not your turn yet." Jess whispers to Aisu. "Soon." The green almost warbles in defiance, but she settles, at least enough not to charge after the poor three-legged beast.

They aren't at the front, ready and waiting - M'trin and Volenth are still there near the rear,so it's surprising to hear his name crack like a whip, breaking through the lowing of the beast and the sudden eruption of excited warbles, rumbles, wingflaps and ensuing soothing lifemates. "Go!" M'trin's grin doesn't quite falter as he swings to give the dark bronzeling an encouraging pat on the rump. The swat isn't needed, however, as Volenth is already moving, slinking quickly through the siblings gathered in front of him, lengthening as he gains speed. No dragon is truly graceful on the land, but he comes close, a dark arrow with flashing talons stirring up dust as he gallops after the herdbeast. A crippled 'beast is no challenge, or at least that is the vaguely dismissive mental sense that seeps out from his mind as he nears his prey and leaps, wings held flush to his supple form. The landing is less sleek than he would like though, as he tries to get his teeth as well as his claws on the bawling thing, and ends up more or less squashing it before both go tumbling over into the dirt, tails and hooves and heads thrashing. He can at least end things quickly by continuing the roll until he is on top and slicing through the thin skin of the beast's underbelly to silence it. He wastes no time in dipping his muzzle in there, dining messily for once as M'trin gives a single excited little whoop.

Already butchered and chilled meat is no comparison to what the young dragons will taste, scent and feel as they sink their teeth into live animals for the first time. V'din knows the mind-link will have the taste of hot blood running down the throats of the weyrlings and yet, there's been no comment to this. His gaze is riveted to the running Volenth, AWLMs circulating amongst the weyrling pairs helping to keep them restrained. Isobeth, who was sitting primly with her tail curled round her talons before this all began, has caught the excitement from the younger dragons and is crouched with talons sunk into the sod of the field. She shrills a note of triumph for Volenth when he catches. V'dim waits to be sure Volenth is successful and the beast is no longer kicking, gives M'trin a "Well-done. You may join him if you wish." Y'know, because there's nothing like the gory close-up sight of a dragon's first meal on a whole animal. He then signals the herder, who already has another herdbeast in the chute. The knife flashes again, crippling the animal, the gate swings open and this one - a much smaller one streaks - out. The Weyrlingmaster calls, "Aisuohkoth!"

Seryth is silent outwardly, watching Volenth's approach, tailtip twitching despite her calm. When the little green is called she whuffs, eyes whirling greenly but that is all. Thea strokes her absently, nodding with satisfaction as Volenth, however unorthodox the method, makes his kill. Likely she's just pleased he didn't get hurt. Her attention swings to Aisuohkoth then.

Volenth senses that Seryth is amused, her waters chuckling in effervescent bubbling over stone, « That's one way to break the bones up without using your jaws. Feed well, young one! »

M'trin was too caught up in the thrill of the chase and Volenth's victorious exclamations breaking across his mind at first. But by the time V'dim is encouraging him, M'trin is looking ever so slightly green about the gills, swallowing hard as Volenth uses his claws to drag entrails out into the spreading pool of gore before slurping them up. "Ah yes, thank you sir," he manages, clearing his throat and running fingers through his hair. But joining Volenth it is, so he squeezes between his fellow weyrlings and heads over to hover a bit awkwardly not far from his lifemate as he warbles a triumphant note before tearing off another mouthful. M'trin flicks a glance toward the next herdbeast as it is released, and he grins wan encouragement Jessi's way when Aisuohkoth's name is called.

Aisuohkoth had been at the ready, chomping at the bit so to speak, even as Volenth had caught his beast. The green's tail remained twitching, the only movement from her as she hunkered down in preparation for the next beast, hoping it would be her turn soon. Jessi tries her best to keep the felinesque green from leaping before the name was called out. When the name does turn out to be her green's, only then does jessi release her tight mental hold on the excitable little green, and she removes her hand from Aisuohkoth's forehead. "Get it!" She hisses to Aisu, who is already slinking towards the pen. If dragons aren't supposed to be graceful even on land, then the green really is a feline rather tha a dragon because with practice(afterall, she came out of the egg stalking and pouncing) she stalks as close as she can to the beast before she digs talons into the ground and sprints after the poor creature. This will prove to be more of a challenge than fishing, but the green seems to take to it like it's some game she's playing. She's already fast, even on land, and as soon as she's within range, a strong push of her hindlegs has her leaping and pouncing upon her prey, aiming out with her muzzle to grab the beast by its neck. And yes, she does remember to keep her wings tucked tightly to her side as she does this. Of course, she may be a natural predator, but she's not perfect just yet, so her maw falls short of the creature's neck and instead latches onto the thing's back, jaws snapping snapping it's spine with a nearly audible snap! Even though the beast goes down, already paralyzed from the blow, Aisuohkoth tucks and rolls, not once letting go of her tasty treat. After a few rolls, the dragon rights herself and warbles proudly, then she hunches down to sink teeth into the delicious hot flesh. Jessi pales at the scene, she always tried to avoid watching the dragons feed, and for good reason. "" She murmurs. But suddenly her green's happiness fills her and she's looking towards the scene again, mentally congratulating the feline green on her first successful hunt.

Seryth senses that Volenth's touch is hazy at first, mired in the gleeful heat and salt of fresh blood and victory that tinges his mind with salt and fire. He wades through it and into cleansing, cooling waters, focusing long enough for self-deprecating amusement to drift upward like so much smoke. « It's gait was unpredictable or I would have had him clean, » he insists. Then the crack of a bone between his teeth is shared like the choice morsel that fills his mouth next, as if the gold might appreciate the offering that fills her mind as much as she might one that would fill her belly.

Aisuohkoth senses that Seryth is with her but only until the signal to attack has been given. Then any mental restraint she'd augmented her rider's is gone and the freedom must surely be palpable. « Well done, little one!» Her tones are warm rain on dry ground. « This is the first of many kills. Enjoy your success! »

And so V'dim calls one after the other until the field is dotted with twelve feeding young dragons scattered about the grounds and the pen is empty. Some kills made after over-leaping and missing have a few beasts downed almost to the edge of the weyrling beach's first dunes. The last released 'beast did not run, but stood outside the chute in terror, trying to back into it but the closed gate prevented the retreat and thus it was downed right there. V'dim, hands clasped behind his back, circulates amongst them when the beast is still and the dragon also feeding. "That the pen will be expanded to allow them to hunt within the next group of twelve culls and these, while de-horned, will not be crippled. When your dragon is hungry next, be sure you get one of the AWLMs to accompany you. They'll have to select one, stalk it and make the kill while watching out for the rest of the herd. No one is to hunt without supervision until I give the order. Clear?" And again he eyes little Aisuohkoth, though she is not singled out verbally.

Volenth senses that Seryth's mist curls with his smoke, « I'm sure you would have. Next time! » The crackle of lightning punctuates her assurance, echoing the snap of bone.

Aisuohkoth is busily devouring her prey, spilling its blood across the ground while red smatters her muzzle. The green doesn't notice that she's eyed, she isn't paying attention to anyone other than her hunger and the beast she's feeding upon. Jessi has moved closer, but one look at the mess that her green is making, and the feelings she gets as the hot meat slides down her green's maw have the poor petite young woman very green around the gills. So much so that she has to pull away from the main group and run somewhere, hopefully out of visual range, and. well, let's just say while Aisuohkoth is filling up..Jessi is likely emptying out. Ew! Okay, so the girly girl beastcrafter is, indeed, weak in the stomach, at least this early in the hunt. It is possible that the greenling may or may not actually hear the weyrlingmaster over her own wrenching.

M'trin seems to be finished with the convulsive swallowing, realizing somewhere along the line that the action isn't actually clearing his mouth of tender raw meat, or his throat of the thick slide of blood. His hands have found his pockets but he straightens a bit to nod solemnly at V'dim over the ruin of Volenth's kill. "Yes sir. Do you have any idea when that might be? It's harder to judge how much he's eating… this way." Snapping bones with glee and tossing them aside when the marrow has been sucked out, trampling this bit of gore into the dirt but swallowing that one whole. M'trin winces sympathetically as Jessi stumbles off, and shifts his attention to Aisuohkoth in the absence of the petite green's equally petite lifemate.

Thea leaves Seryth to wander now, stopping to speak with pairs here and there, admiring the kill-attempts and giving praise to those she passes. As Jessi and M'trin aren't all that far apart, she winds up close to the both of them and stops to watch just as Jessi bolts. Her head tracks the weyrling's path until she's out of sight and she makes a sympathetic noise. "I was just about to tell her she'll get used to it, but then, E'gin never has," she says idly to M'trin, pale eyes taking his measure. "How are you doing?" It's asked lightly, almost as if she expects he'll gloss over any discomfiture.

Chomp chomp, crunch crunch, slurp slurp. Seems Aisuohkoth is rather enjoying her meal, chomping through flesh and bone, tossing bits of beast up and catching them in her mouth. In true feline fashion, she takes an opportunity to play with her food a bit once the edge of hunger has worn off. Jessi? Yeah, she's still out of sight, though the sounds of wrenching have subsided, she staggers away from her own mess, but doesn't think it's wise that she go back to her little green's side, so she finds a nice cool place out of the way and lays down in the cool grass to try and control the remnants of the shared taste from her dragon.

M'trin shakes his head, commiserating silently with Jessi as she creeps out into sight. He clears his throat briefly and summons a light smile past a bit of lingering pallor. "Fine and dandy, ma'am," he says brightly. He even manages to hold both smile and tone through a noisy slurp and gulp from behind the mound of meat beside him. "It is quite different than nice tidy butchered bits though, isn't it?" Glossing indeed, though the color is slowly returning to his cheeks. "Volenth's head might not fit back into the barracks though, even though everyone managed a catch." The bronzeling takes a moment to preen, flicking his tongue out to gather up the blood around his muzzle, arching his neck for Thea's doubtlessly ensuing admiration. M'trin just snorts a laugh and rolls his eyes. "Eat it before it gets cold," he scolds indulgently.

V'dim catches M'trin's question, which sidetracks his oh-so-unsurprised view of Jessi running off to empty her stomach. He had E'gin and Mazunth as weyrlings, after all so he doesn't even shake his head and won't bring it up when the girl returns. IF she returns. He considers the bronze for a few beats, his cheek twitches once and then is still while dry lips purse. After a few moments, he says, "He's still growing, even if the 'beast he took down is the largest of the lot. Three-four days maybe." His blue eyes drift over the nearby green, approving of her healthy appetite, then he addresses the whole group, raising his voice again so all can hear him, "Congratulations, Weyrlings, from this day forward, you won't have to cut up carcasses any longer! After you've bathed and oiled them, checked their talons and teeth, they'll want to sleep for several hours. Hide and bone take longer to digest than butchered meat. You may all have some free time then."

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