Court of the Fallen
Burning it Down - Printable Version

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Burning it Down - Jigano - 06-11-2019

It started as a song, and from that song came a spark, and from that spark bloomed a flower, all red and gold and reaching for the sky.

It started in the woods, far from where the giant flinthopper had first appeared, but whether the creature that birthed it had been large or small none could say, for none had been there to see its beginning.

From a flower grew a bush, burning merrily as it sent out runners across the dry ground, turning all it touched into more like itself: fire and heat and rising smoke beneath the branches. The small things fled first, rustling and bustling in their panic as they scampered and bounded and burrowed away. The birds began to take wing as the smoke rose, songs of territory and braggadocio changing sharply to calls of alarm and warning. The crows cawed harshly as they rose and swirled and flapped away, and as they passed over the Glade a white fox looked up from the squirrel that had been too slow.

His querying thought met images of flame and cries of danger and he dropped his meal in surprise. Trading fur for feathers he leapt for the sky, bursting above the canopy and heading in the direction from which the other birds were fleeing.

Fire! he called out, for once reaching out to any mind in range, anyone who could hear him. He reached out, too, for those birds who would respond to his call for assistance: two blue jays and three ravens were near enough to circle around him in a swirl of wings and feathers as he sent them the task to look for the bloatbeetles he hoped might help put the fire out.


RE: Burning it Down - Amalia - 06-11-2019

An owl hears the call, and responds.

On star-spangled wings the barn owl flies, drawn to a summons she knows as Jigano, for she would know him wherever he was. She has seen the fire blooming in the distance, rising smoke swirling into the sky. Fires are common in LongHeat, a sign of upcoming rebirth, but to see one in the Woodland is more concerning, for the trees usually could withstand flinthopper assault. Narrowing avian eyes Amalia beat her wings, a speck of white against the smoke marking Jigano clearly in the sky.

She comes up alongside him in a flurry of feathers, her greater size dwarfing the jays at his side. What's the plan? Amalia questions, not wasting time with pleasantries, unnecessary questions, introductions. He will know it is her by the pulse of her mind, the familiar anxiety and affection, the stubborn grit. Shifting her wings, she sets off in a circle, wanting to survey the extent of the fire and see how much, if any, is already contained.

RE: Burning it Down - Jigano - 06-11-2019

The smoke was not yet thick, but there was a steady breeze that caught it and sent it dancing up into the sky, a ragged pillar of warning and a call to arms. Jigano had only begun to turn towards it when a mind met his, met and merged with the ease of his heartsister, his dear Amalia . Her form was new to him, beautiful and sleek and soft as Isuma, but the soul was beloved and her presence steadied him, giving him courage and helping to clear his thoughts. I had thought we could drop bloatbeetles on it, he offered, joining her as their wings stretched to catch an updraft and circle over the affected area.

Fire bloomed through the leaves below, peeking up at them in cheeky flickers and tongues of orange and yellow. Though the canopy obscured the worst of it from above the smoke showed the growing fire's path. It was still small, an old log burning merrily near its heart if they dipped lower to investigate. Fingers raced out from that blazing core, bright and hungry as they sought any sustenance they could find across the dry earth - grass, twigs, weary bushes, fallen leaves - but for now the blaze might be containable.

If they acted fast.

The two jays arrowed back to circle them, chattering excitedly as they sent images of the bloatbeetles Jigano had placed in their minds, a sense of knowing where some were, and he croaked in gratitude. Can you hear them? We can follow them to some beetles, I think! His connection to the compelled ravens was growing weak with distance, and he tugged them back to search in another direction while he followed the excitable jays between the trees.

Does this happen often? he thought back at his friend, his guide, the one who knew so much and shared so much with him. What do you usually do?

RE: Burning it Down - Amalia - 06-12-2019

Bloatbeetles? It is not a bad idea, though the beetles would likely die- but more would die inside the blaze, if it reached dangerous levels. She cries her agreement, circling still, looking through the blooming smoke to survey the hungry fire below. The inferno is still relatively contained, mild and moderate, comparatively at least. They should be able to stop it, she thinks, to contain nature's purging rebirth and leave something less charred than would be before.

Amalia follows Jigano and the jays, looking for beetles nearby. She cannot hear them, but she is not surprised - he has always known more than her, been more able than she could be. On swooping wings she makes her pursuit, blinking in the bright light, her senses all alert. They are common in Long Heat, the girl replies. We have systems in place, in case they threaten the farmland. But often we let them run their course.

RE: Burning it Down - Jigano - 06-12-2019

I read about them in the books Safrin gave us, he explained as the investigated the blaze. Maybe we can drop them on the smaller fires and soak the ground around the log so it can't spread further? The log itself was a lost cause, but Jigano thought that so long as they could keep the fire from growing beyond this one clearing that it would be enough.

The owl's silence on the matter of the jays was answer enough, and the fox-turned-raven felt a pang of sadness that they did not yet share that ability. I think it will come with time and practice, he said gently instead, and if they had been in their four-legged forms he would have bounced up to rub his cheek against hers in reassurance. For now, though, he could only wing after his jays, who chattered and then swooped to circle a particularly shady little glade, where three beetles were rooting slowly through the leaf-litter in search of food.

Jigano was born a predator, half-fox or more, and he had no compunction against using the beetles, anymore than he did when Isuma played with their smaller cousins - and often ate them, too. He dropped to close his long taloned toes around one, lifting off again with a grunt and a wheeze of effort, struggling to get airborne again with his cargo. So... should we not... try to stop this one? he asked, confused and a little concerned as he flapped mightily against his burden. The jays were too small to carry a beetle on their own, but he directed them to work together to lift the second, one at its head and the other scrabbling to get toes into its carapace at the rear. They were even more awkward than he was, but at the edge of his thoughts he felt two of his ravens find what he'd sent them to seek. It's a wonder... the whole forest doesn't burn down... every year... he managed, even his thoughts having difficulty flowing smoothly beneath his exertions. Gods least fortunate, but he needed to put on some muscle!

RE: Burning it Down - Amalia - 06-14-2019

Amalia, too, swoops down to catch a beetle, angling for the smallest of the trio she can find. Though larger than the jays, she is smaller than he, and even a light beetle is a struggle for her, difficult cargo for her hollow bones. At least she is strong, muscular and lean- it makes things slightly easier, and she manages to keep up with Jigano despite her slight size. We should stop it before it gets out of hand, she answers simply, for once unconcerned in one way or another. I do not think Rae will mind. Fires are part of the cycle of life, Rae's way of rebuilding, her grandmother would say. But Rae does not mind if their creatures intervene: humans are part of the cycle, too.

Shrugging mentally if not physically (a challenge, with wings and a beetle in her claws), Amalia turns her head to look at Jigano, thoughtful curiosity ripe in her thoughts. Do the forests not burn where you come from? she asks, flapping her wings to take advantage of hot breezes, returning with her bundle to the scene of the crime. Perhaps this is another curse of the barrier, another challenge and flaw for them alone. It would not surprise her, to hear that their world is once again broken. The more she learns of the outside world, the more decrepit the Hollowed Grounds becomes in her mind.

RE: Burning it Down - Jigano - 06-14-2019

I just don't want it... to reach the Glade, he panted, mentally as well as physically as they made their way back towards the source of the smoke, more slowly than they had come. I don't keep much in my den there anymore but... still don't want to risk it. As long as he wasn't in the den when the fire burned over it would probably be fine, but he had some clothing that he kept in a bag there, and a few other odds and ends for when he slept in the woods in foxform and needed to transform back into manshape without going back to the Atheneum first. It had been his first home, after all, and still was one of the three places he laid his head.

The fire was easy enough to find, and the updrafts Amalia cleverly took advantage of aided the last part of their journey. The blaze had started to spread, racing up a nearby tree, and Jigano cawed fiercely as he tucked his wings and dove towards it, releasing his beetle awkwardly but with solid momentum. The fat, water-filled creature pinwheeled in the air, legs kicking slowly, before impacting a sharp branch that burst its bloated body and splashed water across the licking flames, dousing them from above. The two ravens who had found their own cargo - and were flying more strongly than Jigano - arrived a moment later. He ordered one to drop its cargo on the base of the tree to catch the remaining fire there, while its companion was compelled to peck a hole in its own beetle and douse a bush that was just starting to catch fire. Cruel? Yes, but effective.

The bard let his friend choose her own target, busy directing his pair of jays to drop their beetle from high up onto a creeping trail of flame that was smoldering through the dry undergrowth like an insidious, burning snake. Swiftly he sent his small murder back to collect more beetles, even as the third raven lumbered into view with a beetle of its own, to land and pop with its beak near the log, soaking the ground on the eastern side and stopping the flames from finding further purchase in that direction.

They burn, he acknowledged. But rarely. It is cooler there in the summer - Longheat, I mean. And usually less punishingly dry unless it's a year of unusual drought. The forests are more like the Greatwood, though perhaps not quite as lush. He pushed himself back into the air, flapping to gain height and see what they had accomplished.

Only a couple more trips, if it doesn't get ahead of us, he predicted. Do you think you can lead us to more of these beetles?

RE: Burning it Down - Amalia - 06-15-2019

The glade doesn't burn. It is as much reassurance for herself as for him, an affirmed memory of years and year past where the glade stayed greed and lush and verdant. Though now that she thinks about it, Amalia does not know if that is a naturally occurring phenomena or a result of the efforts of those living within. Worry inches into her heart, making her nervous, too. If Amalia were human she would nibble her lips; as it is she ruffles her feathers a bit, the bloatbeetle shifting between her claws.

Amalia drops her own beetle on the back of the log where the fire has yet to fully escape, a retardant against the burn to come. She sings a silent prayer as it falls, asking Mort to guide it to safety: her first kill as a shifted Attuned, and she does not yet have the animal instincts which allow her to take life without a thought. Shifting her wings she rounds back to Jigano, falling in beside him on a plume of hot air, keen eyes surveying the damage below.

His request for more beetles is met with a head tilt, both silent response and tactical motion. Her senses in this form are remarkably keen, and not far away she can hear it: the rustle of wings, the buzz of the bugs. Nearer the glade, away from the smoke, she leads him toward her waiting prey. There are four there waiting, a veritable swarm. With talons outstretched Amalia dives down to capture a beetle between her claws, straining against gravity and its weight, her wings starting to burn as she pivots in the air to carry it back and around to the blaze.

RE: Burning it Down - Jigano - 06-15-2019

Thank the gods for that, he responded fervently, hoping that it would indeed be safe even should their efforts fail... but that was no reason to stop their efforts. Just in case, he told himself, trusting Amalia but still wary of the power of an unchecked forest fire.

It simply hadn't occurred to Jigano that she had never killed an animal that she had hunted before. Growing up as he had, it had been a secretive but normal part of his heritage to go hunting with his parents on occasion, learning to appreciate the gifts of his animal form as well as his more commonly-used human disguise. Had he known what he was asking of her he might have instead shifted his request to something less lethal; asking her to be their beetle-spotter full time while he and his compelled corvids did the dirty work, for instance. Without that knowledge, though, he focused instead on fighting the fire - a task they were well underway with!

His hearing as a fox was keener than that of a raven, who hunted more by sight, and so he relied on Amalia to help them quickly find their next beetle bombardment fodder, trusting her senses over his own. He followed her fearlessly, and was rewarded with additional ammunition to use against their fiery foe. The white raven followed her dive, claiming a beetle of his own and calling two of his ravens to join them while sending the blue jays back to hunting fresh game. His strength was far less than that of his sister's, and he struggled to keep up with her though his size helped to bolster his stamina as they flew back to the smoke-wreathed clearing where their previous efforts had stymied the fire's expansion in several directions already.

With a guttural cry of defiance against the flames Jigano guided his unkindness of ravens into a three-way bombardment of the back length of the log, the beetles flailing briefly before impacting the hard-parched earth and splattering their water over the smoldering grass and leaves, dousing the nascent fire and soaking the earth enough to prevent any more stray sparks from blooming fresh fire in that area. The third raven arrived a bit late, and followed Amalia's attack in much the same way.

Almost there! One more pass should do it! the white raven crowed, even as the chatter of blue joys sounded excitedly from beyond a nearby hill, calling them to their final grim harvest.

RE: Burning it Down - Amalia - 06-17-2019

Amalia leaves her second beetle at the north end of the log, offering another prayer to Vi for the life she is sacrificing. The fire is nearly doused, at least; only a few smoldering embers remain, and some wayward flickers of escaped flame. She pulses her agreement with Jigano's assessment, pushing with tired and powerful wings to pursue him to where the blue jays cry, another flock of beetles clearly in their view.

After this we should shift back to human to stamp out any remaining embers. Her mental voice is beginning to sound strained, the effort of lugging beetles catching up to her at last. Clicking her beak stubbornly, Amalia once again dives, claws outstretched, reaching down to wrap her talons around an unsuspecting bug. And then a surge of adrenaline as she pushes up, wings besting against gravity and weariness as she turns around to once more approach the fire, makeshift brigade of birds in her wake.

RE: Burning it Down - Jigano - 06-18-2019

A good plan, although... four feet might be better than two, he managed with a flicker of his old, sly mischief. White wings powered through the air, sleek body weaving between the branches as he followed his blue jays the final distance. One after another they collected the rest of the beetles - another group of four - and headed back to the guttering, sullenly striving embers. This time Jigano dropped his beetle in front of the log, along with two of his ravens. The third raven flung its beetle at the center of the log, before flapping off with its kin to rest in the branches beyond the burned area.

I, ah, haven't had a chance to show this to anyone other than Rory yet, the raven thought sheepishly to his sister as he flapped to a tired landing just past the burned zone. It still feels a bit strange... With a shiver of feathers the raven grew, wings folding to legs as talons became hooves and feathers shortened to fur and a silky mane and tail - all in white, of course, as his other animal forms were. The Andalusian stallion shook his head, skin twitching as it settled into place over lean muscles, and then he stamped a hoof forward to crush an ember into the dust. Neat hooves made for excellent stompers as he high-stepped across the smoldering ground, grinding out embers as he went and keeping a cautious eye on Amalia to see what her reaction was to his new form.

RE: Burning it Down - Amalia - 06-20-2019

I think our paws would burn, Amalia replies wryly, wholly unaware of his other form. As they fly back with the last of the beetles the girl finds herself relieved, pleased with the outcome of their efforts despite her initial indifference to the mild blaze. One more apology to Vi as her victim drops and Amalia settles into a tree, catching her breath upon a branch before shifting back to her human form.

Jigano does not hesitate. The owl tilts her head curiously at Jigano's words, black eyes blinking down at the raven, then widening in surprise as he begins to grow and change. Wings turn into withers, feathers into fur, until at last a stallion stands before her, far more regal than any horse she has ever seen before. Oh! she says in admiration, and then, a little mischievous- I bet Rory loves this form.

Lighting from her branch, the owl descends down to the horse, her claws weaving gently into the base of his mane. Come, my steed, let us go find a well earned dinner! she exclaims, a screeching laughter leaving her beak as she waits for him to take them home to the farm.

RE: Burning it Down - Jigano - 06-20-2019

The admiration in Amalia's voice was everything he had hoped to hear, and his neck arched proudly at her tone. The sly teasing a moment later had him snorting and shaking his narrow head in pleased embarrassment, his mental tone flustered but happy. He, ah... I think he likes it but... he never seems to know quite what to do with himself when I take it, Jigano admitted sheepishly. I think it might make him a little uncomfortable... Foxes and ravens were one thing for the hunter, but a horse was quite another, after all. Jigano knew it was complicated, and hadn't pressed his lover to put it into words yet, hoping that time would be enough to ease some of the novelty from his new shape.

That Amalia was so delighted with it eased something he hadn't even realized was tense in his heart, a worry that his equine form was less welcome than his others. He laughed through their link as she called him her steed, prancing on the ashen ground to stamp out a final few embers as she clung to his mane before he gathered his haunches. Hang on, then! he warned, wicked mischief coloring his tone as he turned and moved off at a quick canter through the Woods, his gait smooth as he kept a careful mental 'eye' on his avian rider.

Home again, home again, after a job well done!