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Arizeem
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The trial of sore feet

Sun Jul 16, 2017 8:51 am

8th trial of Ymiden, 717


The morning air over Athart was cold despite the current season. Even as the lower parts of Athart benefitted from the presence of the warm sea, the cliffs in the Avriel sector had much lower heat retention. The sun wasn’t up yet, but the horizon was already glowing red with the promise of coming sunrise. The city was, for the most part, still asleep. Avriels tended to leave houses only after the sun heats the cliffs enough to produce a warm, steady thermal updraft. As for the humans below, well, they like to sleep in too.
Arizeem was, unlike the majority of the citizens, already up and airborne, with eyes watering in the streams of cold air. This did, however, also help to wake him up. Maybe by the time he arrives to the Dominion Headquarters, he will be awake enough to pass as a functioning member of the Avriel society. ‘What a daring ambition’, chuckled Arizeem to himself. However, his irony was only half-hearted. He had been somewhat sober for the better part of last four trials, and his body didn’t appreciate the sudden drastic cut in alcohol intake. He still felt a faint taste of vomit in his mouth, despite numerous attempts to get rid of it in a way that wouldn’t involve alcohol. Arizeem washed some saliva over his recently cleaned teeth and spat it out in flight - over his shoulder and after a wing downbeat, of course. There are some unspoken lessons that every Avriel learns during the childhood, and this was one of them.
The silhouette of the Headquarters soon popped into view - a large, monolithic building overseeing one of the largest terraces in the Forest of Stone. Arizeem was here just yesterday to scope out the location beforehand to make extra sure that he doesn’t arrive late today. He already knew that the building itself was just the smaller part of the Headquarters proper and apparently used for representation and other forms of contact with the outside world. Beyond and under the building, many more rooms and corridors were carved in the rock. How wide or deep they went, Arizeem had no clue. The large terrace that consisted the frontyard of the Headquarters was however in plain view. Yesterday, it was almost empty. This morning, however, it was already teeming with activity. Over three dozen Avriels were already present, milling around the yard and standing in small groups. As Arizeem approached, he also noticed several other Avriels in the air, converging toward the yard, apparently with the same destination in mind. Arizeem reached the yard and did a quick fly-around, looking for known faces and feather colorations. His search yielded no known people nor any friends of old, only the bitter realization that he is older than the majority of present recruits. Somewhat disgruntled, he decided to land away from the larger clusters of chatting Avriels and have a while for himself before the madness of the day starts.
Arizeem couldn’t help but overhear the nearest small group of younger Avriels, as they were talking loudly about their hopes, intents and expectations. If their boisterous ambitions and tall tales were anything to go by, the Crown Guard will soon have to triple in size to accommodate all that great talent. Chances are they weren’t processed the same recruiting officer as Arizeem. Arizeem was amused by their naive fervor, but he envied them at the same time. When he was their age, he was already knee deep in depression, robbing himself of the bigger part of his youth. Arizeem shook his head, as if to shake away the sudden glum mood. He looked at the very edge of the rising sun slowly creeping up from the horizon, and hummed to himself the first melody that came to his mind, a little old song for children describing the break of a new trial. This got Arizeem several puzzled stares, not that he cared. After spending several years with a travelling performer troupe, he had very little shame left. He smiled at them and continued, observing the horizon.
Arizeem should have been observing the Headquarters instead. The sudden yelling startled him out of his reverie. Arizeem turned around, and saw about twenty uniformed and armed Avriel. They didn’t even touch down to the ground yet, but they were already yelling in raspy voices, screaming at each other and at the recruits below. It made them look like a cawing flock of overgrown crows. Unfortunately, there was no time to fully appreciate the silly sight, as the ‘crows’ slammed down onto the ground and charged the first larger cluster of recruits, jostling them and pushing them around. Arizeem tried to make out what they were screaming, but it all melded together into grey noise. As the first cluster started to resemble a line, a part of the Dominion soldiers separated, one of them heading toward the smaller group of recruits near Arizeem. Arizeem rushed to join the small group, preferring the relative safety of a group to being caught and pushed around individually.
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The trial of sore feet

Sun Jul 16, 2017 4:29 pm



The group, however, provided only an illusion of safety, as Arizeem quickly realized. The incoming Dominion soldier roughly pushed himself right into the middle and screeched something in a voice that set Arizeem’s ears ringing. Then, the soldier unfolded both of his armored wings as if to split the small group in two, and then forcefully turned half a rotation to swipe the halves of the group into a line of sorts, with him at the center. Arizeem almost stumbled over the legs of somebody that has already fallen to the ground. He quickly looked around and saw that he definitely wasn’t the only one confused here. Before he could voice his confusion, the soldier screeched out again in his hoarse voice. Up close, it was somewhat understandable. “Close ranks, close raaaanks! Noooow!”
Arizeem couldn’t get over the soldier’s voice. It was completely wrecked, no more singing for that guy. Arizeem found himself thinking about how a love poem would be indistinguishable from a raspy death threat in that kind of voice. Maybe it would be even worded the very same way, as the Dominion is said to have some really messed up folks. The moment spent in thought was apparently not brief enough, as he felt his arm being grabbed and used to shove him toward the end of the forming line. “It better be today! Move, damn it!” Arizeem regained his balance after the shove and walked the last few steps to the end of the rank, where he tried to align with the line of the recruits as well as he could. He felt like he already got enough individual attention for this trial. He stared straight ahead and didn’t even try to look behind, even as he heard the scuffle and curses behind him, no doubt created by the soldier’s rough handling of the recruit that had the poor fortune of ending up on the ground. Surely enough, the poor recruit has also been shoved in the rank right next to Arizeem, red in the face, breathing heavily and clutching his ribs. Arizeem sympathized with the guy, it was just plain luck that he wasn’t in his place right now.
“Spacing! Spacing, you fucks!”, screamed the hoarse voice from behind them. Arizeem did a token effort to shuffle to even up the distance between the recruit to his left and the poor guy to his right, unsure what else to do. From the look of it, the recruit at the very left of the line had a different idea and opened up his right wing, using it to measure out the proper size of the gap. That seemed like a great idea! Arizeem started to do just that, only to quickly stop as he saw the soldier jumping at the proactive recruit and punching the extended wing hard enough to shake loose a pair of bright cyan feathers. “Close fucking ranks I said! Close!
The punched recruit promptly retracted his wing and used his hand as a distance measure instead. The rest followed suit, Arizeem too. The soldier now seemed somewhat content with the rank, as he deigned to step at the head of it himself. “Well, that was painful.”, commented the soldier in a quieter voice, as if for himself, before raising his voice again ”Left turn, now!”
Arizeem was already starting to dislike this mindless drill. Still, he turned with all the others, fearful of incurring the soldier’s wrath. He joined the Dominion to do something meaningful for once, and all he was getting was a fiesta unironically celebrating dog-headed obstinance. What’s worse, he wasn’t even allowed to laugh. The soldier up front yelled something and the entire line started moving forward at a brisk pace. Arizeem simply followed, looking around to see several other lines just like the one he was in, being also marched to join a the central formation that was growing in front of the Headquarters building. The formation was already two long ranks deep, with more lines of recruits on the way. The soldiers still leading their lines yelled at their charges while apparently communicating with each other with occasional hand movements, as if coordinating some elaborate dance number. As Arizeem marched along with the line, his gaze tended to follow the leading soldiers more often than not, as they were easily the most interesting sight on the yard. Considering their rigid stature, formal behaviour and overt aggression, they must have had something to prove. Were they competing? Were they some cadets, being judged by the actual brass that was standing around the central formation?
Lost in thought, Arizeem almost bumped into the back of the recruit before him. Apparently, there was an order to stop which Arizeem didn’t catch. He felt the guy behind bump into his back, then heard a mumbled excuse that he dismissed with a little wave of his hand. The guy behind him was either the same kind of daydreaming idiot like himself, or physically bad off. Arizeem saw that the soldier is now occupied by exchanging gestures with the leader of another line, so he chanced a look back. The Avriel behind him was still clutching his side. Was he injured? Before Arizeem could look again, there was a bark of “For-waaaard march!” and his line started moving again. This whole walking around was getting quite tiring. Arizeem never had used his feet over any significant distance. Why won’t they just let the recruits fly to the main formation? This was probably again some stupid- “Halt! Haaalt!”, Arizeem stopped, this time right on the cue. The guy behind him bumped against his back again. There was definitely something wrong with him. ”Right turn!” Arizeem turned to stare at the backs of the two ranks right in front of him. His line was apparently forming the beginning of the third rank of the large formation. Several other lines were on the way to anneal themselves to his. It was funny how one could almost mistake the recruits for soldiers now, if it weren’t for the civilian clothing, slouched posture and dull expressions.
The guy right to Arizeem wasn’t red in the face anymore. He was sweating just as much as before, but now he was shivering and looked very pale. That could be plain old fever, shock or some kind of withdrawal. Or really anything else, as Arizeem had no medical background whatsoever. Should he alert somebody? Would anybody care? Arizeem decided to wait. It took only a few bits for the rest of the incoming lines to form up seamlessly with the rest. Once the commotion settled and the shouts and orders quieted, there was a sight that many wouldn’t believe possible: about a hundred Avriels standing in complete silence. The silence wasn’t to last long. An older, dry-looking officer stepped up. “Roll call! You hear your name, you do one step forward! Name! One. Step. Forward!” He cleared his throat, then squinted at the thick paper scroll in his hands. “Aaseryn! Vikreet Aaseryn!”
One trill of expectant silence went by. Two trills. Somebody in the front rank stepped forward. Immediately, some low officer landed next to him, roughly pinned a white cloth with a number 1 onto his back and shoved him back into his rank. So this is how it’s going to go. Arizeem suppressed a groan. His feet were already starting to hurt.


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The trial of sore feet

Mon Jul 17, 2017 6:51 pm


Arizeem stole a glance at the sun. It moved up significantly since the start of the roll call. The feeling in his feet periodically changed between complete numbness and dull pain. Switching weight around wasn’t helping all that much anymore. His name wasn’t called yet, even though most of the recruits already had their number assigned. What if his name isn’t on the roll at all? What if the old fart that recruited him misplaced the form? Or just threw it away, as some sort of a joke? Arizeem sighed quietly. It was very unlikely. He was probably just projecting his own mischievous nature onto the old geezer. The old-timer probably had no use for such pranks, not while his bony fists still served him so well. Arizeem winced at the memory. He still had the bruise on his stomach.
Without warning, the sick guy next to Arizeem fell forward, right on his face. He didn’t even attempt to break his fall, so his pale cheek smacked against the fine gravel of the yard. In the general silence of the formation, the sound might as well have been a thunderclap. Countless heads swiveled to look at the source of the sudden sound.
Arizeem too stared at the unconscious recruit. Well, shit. Just his luck. What was he supposed to do? About two heartbeats went by in tense silence. Suddenly, a young green-winged Avriel jumped out of his nearby position in the rank, breaking the standstill. This encouraged Arizeem to do the same. He helped the green-winged recruit to flip the unconscious guy on his side and push his head mouth down chin up, though he had no clue why the greenwing insisted on doing exactly that. They didn’t have the time to do much more, as a trio of uniformed Avriels leisurely touched down on their position. A pair of them deftly unfolded a stretcher, while the third one turned to Arizeem. “Hey, fall back in line. We got this.”The whole time, the officer in front of the formation kept screeching something about not locking the knees.
“I think he’s had some trouble before standing here.”, offered Arizeem quietly. The duo of medics was swiftly fixating the sick Avriel onto the stretcher with leather straps. The third one shot him an annoyed glance. “Look, it’s pretty normal, just an early flopper. Many more to come.”
Arizeem wasn’t convinced that it’s just some momentary weakness. “It must be something worse.” Arizeem tried to look at the greenwing for support, but the young Avriel was nowhere to be seen. “He was clutching his side and-”
“I heard you, damn it!”, hissed the medic in an agitated whisper. The officer must have stopped screeching his instructions somewhere in the meantime, as the formation was silent again, all eyes on the medics and, of course, Arizeem. The medic tried to discreetly shove Arizeem away. ”Fall back in before they pluck you! Go!”
Arizeem took the hint and turned to file back, but it was already too late. The soldier that brought Arizeem’s group in barked “Third raaaank, spacing! Spacing!”. The entire line of recruits meandered and readjusted, and the rank slots left behind by Arizeem and the sick guy left were suddenly gone, the gap getting smaller and smaller as it quickly travelled toward the far end of the line. Arizeem now had nowhere to go. Arizeem looked around in confusion, and the soldier simply pointed to the far end of the rank, wearing an ugly smile. ‘That bastard did it on purpose’, realized Arizeem. Spurred by his own anger and the irritated glances of all others, he took off and flew to the end of the rank as fast as he could. He knew full well that all other recruits were waiting because of him, with aching feet and bored out of their skulls. He quite literally dropped at the back of the rank, out of breath. He expected some additional punishment, but all he heard was the next name on the list. Arizeem breathed out in relief. Still, he didn’t think that he make a great first impression.
The sun inched up slowly. More names, more foot pain. Two names were called out without any response. For those, the officer simply made a note on the scroll. One of them might have been the sick guy. In the meantime, Arizeem dwelled on the very cavalier attitude of the medics when they were treating an obviously unconscious person. They just dumped him onto the strainer and took off, only to reemerge few moments later with an empty strainer. The one positive sign was that there was only a pair of them visible instead of the previous three. Does that mean that the sick Avriel is receiving some care after all? Arizeem wondered why was he so distressed about some random guy’s collapse. Was that a result of his sheltered upbringing? And anyways, what did the medic mean by ‘many more to come’?
“Marquallan! Arizeem Marquallan!” called out the officer. Arizeem stepped forward with a strange sense of relief. He was on the list after all. A pair of soldiers was immediately upon him, affixing a number onto his back. He didn’t know which number, as he has lost the track of them long ago. He just hoped that they won’t ruin his shirt with the pin, as it was his only usable one. He saw the officer with the list squint in his direction. That can’t be good.
“Ah, that’s our corpsman advisor! Make sure he’s numbered properly, can’t afford to lose such treasure!” There was a low hum of vindictive chuckles. Arizeem felt his cheeks redden, even as he was shoved back into the line. Many comebacks were burning at the tip of his tongue, some about just looting the fallen guy first, others about following him to cover. Wisely, he decided to just smolder in silence. Between his peers already annoyed with him and the officer’s position of authority, there simply was no victory to be had. Soon, next name came up and the window of opportunity closed for good.
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The trial of sore feet

Wed Jul 19, 2017 10:22 pm


More names, more numbers, more foot pain, more boredom. Arizeem switched the weight from one foot to another yet again. The Ymiden sun was now higher in the sky. Its sharp rays were beginning to be uncomfortable, as the yard provided no shadow whatsoever. The numbered piece of cloth pinned to Arizeem’s back was also baking in the sun, releasing and acrid stench of stale sweat. At least, Arizeem chose to believe that the smell was coming from the cloth. Either way, it was funny to think that the path to glory would be so stinky. The officer’s voice changed its rhythm significantly enough for Arizeem to notice and start listening again.
“... not aware, we are in a state of war!”, screeched the officer.
Hearing this rejuvenated Arizeem. No more names, so the roll call had to be over! He, however, had to admit that the officer had a pretty solid voice. It had been subjected to more than a break of constant shouting, and it still sounded crisp, without any signs of vocal fatigue.
“If you came here for the cushy posts, there are none to be had! In times like this, there is no easy flight in the force!” The officer raised a fist, as if to hammer the point home. “But for those motivated enough, this is a time of unprecedented opportunity!”
‘To catch an arrow,’ added Arizeem petulantly for himself, being still sour over the earlier mockery. He remembered the sceptic attitude of his veteran recruiter. Was the speaking officer trying to sound motivational? Arizeem wasn’t feeling it.
The officer went on without knowledge nor care about Arizeem’s unspoken doubts. “While we usually accommodate individual requests for specific weapon training, the unstable global situation doesn’t allow for overlong training that would take arcs to produce effective fighters! There is only limited time to fix your shortcomings, and the trainers have already full hands as it is!” The officer screeched out the last sentence in an accusatory manner, as if it all somehow was the recruits’ fault. He waved his handful of scrolls demonstratively. “There are regiment quotas to fill! A present, battle-ready squadron of spearmen has much more impact on our efforts, much more value, than some promised squadron of master duelists to be fielded when we are all grey!”
This confirmed Arizeem’s mounting suspicions, sown by the old veteran just few trials ago. They already got all the expensive elite forces they need. They have probably trained them up in the time of relative peace, no expense spared. Now they must be looking for the meat, the fodder to fill their ranks with. After all, a longbow volley will rake both the normal soldiers and the elites much the same way, making them equal at that particular ‘job’. Arizeem shuddered. It made plenty of sense, it was probably even the best thing to do for all involved, with the exception of the poor grunts themselves. When he was signing the contract, he was convinced that he has made his peace with being another faceless soldier. Now, he wasn’t so sure.
”So, the Dominion has no time for hero wannabes! Athart needs a solid backbone of regulars! Spearmen! Marksmen! Cuirassiers!” The crescendo of the officer’s voice broke, and he returned back to his usual shouting volume. “And because we don’t want to burden you with unnecessary decisions, we will do a little exercise to sort you out according to your individual physical aptitude. Every single one of you has been deemed fit for service, so you have nothing to worry about! Though, some of you might find the test more… unpleasant than others!” The officer didn’t even try to hide the twisted glee that permeated his last sentence. He turned toward the soldier that was leading the first rank. “All yours.”
The leading soldier offered a brisk salute, then stepped forward to address the recruits. “We will start with a little guided tour!“, cackled the soldier. ”A small fly-around to get the blood pumping! Follow your rank leader’s track exactly! No cutting corners, no updraft hunting and other shenanigans, or you get an extra personalized tour! Do exactly and immediately what you are told! Understood?” The soldier looked expectantly at the recruits, and received only a low murmur of hesitant acknowledgement. The disappointment was plainly visible on his face, and his next words had an irritated edge to them. “First rank, left turn! ...what the...? No! Just the first one! Fiiiirst!” The soldier rolled his upper lip as if to spit, but stopped just short of the act, probably because of the present officers. Instead, he continued with the orders. “Fine! Finally! First rank - and I mean only the first rank - follow me closely!”
As soon as the leading soldier finished his final bark, he forcefully took off toward the cliff ridge, picking up speed even as he gained altitude. The recruits in the first rank followed suit, even though their formation immediately broke a became rather a noisy and disoriented flock of Avriel, hastily following its leader to the ridge and then diving down after him, away from sight.
A few heartbeats later, the soldier at the head of the previously second, now first rank stepped forward. “Same! First rank, left turn!” This time, the recruits did as asked without much confusion. “Great! Follow!” Screeched the soldier in a mildly pleased tone, then took off quickly much like his predecessor. Again, the whole rank soon disappeared beneath the ridge, dissolving into a shapeless Avriel swarm. Then, the soldier leading Arizeem’s line stepped forward. Arizeem stretched as much as he dared to in the formation. It didn’t take a genius to deduce what is going to happen.
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The trial of sore feet

Fri Jul 21, 2017 4:43 pm


No surprises came. “First rank, left turn!”, screeched the rank-leading soldier. Crunching noises filled the yard, as over two dozen recruits shifted their feet on the gravel. Arizeem, being in the last position in the rank, shifted with them. He was now staring at the wide back of the recruit that was previously to his left, so he couldn’t even see the leading soldier anymore. He felt strangely vulnerable, now that there was nobody behind him.
“Follow me!”, barked the voice of the leading soldier somewhere in the front of the rank. Immediately, Arizeem saw the soldier taking flight, closely pursued by the first of the recruits. The font of the rank was quickly disintegrating into a rising flock of Avriel. Arizeem sighed quietly. If they are being recruited as simple meat, why can’t they just let them properly age in peace somewhere where it’s cold and dark?
The recruit in front of Arizeem unfolded his wings in preparation. Arizeem took a step back and followed suit. He didn’t want to mess up for the second time today, so he steeled himself to put in at least some token effort. The recruit took flight in one powerful wingbeat, leaving Arizeem as the last member of the rank still on the ground. Arizeem didn’t rush quite as much, and allowed himself several steps for a gentler running start. Once in air, Arizeem followed the flock. The rush of wind provided immediate relief from the blazing sun. Also, being able to extend one’s wings after breaks of standing in formation was very pleasant, and Arizeem enjoyed both while he could. Based on what the officer and the medics said, this wasn’t to last long.
The flock was led off the cliff, then down into a steep dive, one that forced them to actively and strenuously brake, if they didn’t want to crater at the bottom of the cliff. It was a tremendously wasteful bleed of both potential and kinetic energy. The air around the braking flock roiled and twisted in a way that was almost nauseating to the Avriel eyes. Arizeem braked with all the rest, trying to break his freefall on the outer edges of the wake turbulences left behind by the main body of the flock, thus saving himself some downbeats. The ground quickly approached. The leading Avriels of the flock have already leveled their flight and were now tracing the contours of the valley terrain at a low but rapid flight. Arizeem was also running out of sky, so he braced against the air in a hard pull-up, and immediately hissed in pain caused by the air resistance threatening to tear the muscles and tendons of his wings. Even as he finally and painfully leveled, he flew by several Avriels that were on the ground, at least three of which were definitely recruits. There was also an unmoving recruit on the ground, attended by two corpsmen. Arizeem didn’t see anybody hitting the ground, so it probably was somebody from the previous ranks.
The low flight was exhausting, forcing everyone to flap their wings quickly. The dips and rises of the ground, meticulously contoured by the leading soldier, didn’t even allow to settle into any kind of comfortable rhythm. Arizeem’s limited acrobatic experience allowed him to optimize his flight somewhat, but he could feel his muscles burning anyway. Lacking anything to focus on, Arizeem’s thoughts wandered back to the recruits that have fallen to the ground. Will the Dominion simply chuck them into the least desirable positions for the rest of their service? What would even serving in those positions entail? Probably some lighter duty, doing anything necessary that could be done without brains or brawn. Slave’s work? Logistics? Cleaning? Dirt, feces, corpses?
Arizeem was so engrossed in his dark musings that he only narrowly avoided a heavily breathing guy that had apparently decided to slow down for landing, already having enough. ‘Who can blame him?’, thought Arizeem. The officer made it very clear that they are not looking for any kind of champions, so this exercise must be done solely to separate the dregs from the brutes. Arizeem saw very little difference between the two, and his already bad mood tanked. He just kept following the flock, one strenuous wingbeat after another, thinking about the absurdity of it all. What was he doing here again? He had a falling out with his family and enlisted into the Dominion precisely because he didn’t want to be reduced to a pair of hands holding up a weapon, and a pair of wings to move it around. And now, he was competing with others for the dubious privilege of becoming just that. And, what’s worse, with a contract binding him to that role.
A group of four younglings lagged behind the flock, enough to force Arizeem to overtake them. Even as they fell behind, they still seemed to compete against each other for the lead. They were probably racing right behind the leading soldier for a time, until their foolhardy ambition robbed them of strength. What great prize were they thinking that they are competing for? Arizeem would have laughed, if his lungs weren’t so busy. He had to settle for a bitter grin.
Wingbeat after wingbeat, one ragged breath after another, the endurance flight gradually faded into a haze for Arizeem. Arizeem didn’t know the path they were taking, nor could he tell the time spent on the track. All that existed were the wings of the first person in front of him. They seemed to change colors every now and then. Even as they approached the bottom of the cliff where they originally plunged down, it took Arizeem some time to recognize it as such. The head of the flock seemed to be somewhat smaller now. He must have passed a few more recruits at some point, but he couldn’t quite remember when.
The amount of recruits and medical personnel under the cliff was much higher than when they descended. Many recruits from the previous ranks must have gotten stuck here. He looked up the cliff, and its impossibly high edge. He observed the dozens of Avriel feverishly flapping, wheezing, coughing, using every little speck of their remaining strength to lift themselves up another step, to fight gravity for one more heartbeat.
“Hey! You! Thirty nine! No damn soaring!”, screeched somebody up on the cliffside. ”One more time and I will send you all the way down to start again!”
Lower on the cliff, there was a pair of soldiers holding an unconscious recruit by the hands, gliding him down to the medical station on the ground. There were many more soldiers swarming around, keeping close watch on the straining recruits. Arizeem observed his leading soldier directing what was left of his rank into this steep, purely wing-powered climb. Arizeem tried to gulp, but the inside of his mouth felt as dry and foul as leather of old boots. He was warned about the Dominion, and the Dominion definitely didn’t disappoint.
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The trial of sore feet

Sat Jul 22, 2017 10:48 pm


The steep climb was the most physically demanding thing Arizeem ever did, and it had barely even begun. Even the strongest wingbeat seemed to push him up only a little bit, whereas a single missed flap allowed him to be yanked down by gravity’s merciless choke. Despite all the effort, the cliff edge didn’t seem to come any closer. If only he were even a little bit less tired, or in a little better shape, it would have made all the difference. However, in the current circumstances, the edge might have been as high as the sun itself. The strenuous horizontal flight had done its damage, or, in other words, fulfilled its purpose.
There were, of course, many other Avriels. Some had little issues, and moved up quickly. More were on the ground, recuperating after having given up. Most were struggling on the cliffside just as he was, stuck between triumph and defeat. Arizeem was quickly approaching the latter. His climb rate was slow, and even though he managed to conserve some strength by pacing himself during the horizontal flight phase, he began to suspect that he can’t sustain the strenuous climb for long enough to reach the cliff edge. Arizeem smiled without any mirth. Apparently, he was unfit to be an Athart brute. The thought was insulting, yet strangely calming at the same time.
So, why was he even trying? He couldn’t rightly tell. But it was something to do, something that didn’t involve banging his head against his artist block or binge drinking to keep the malaise at bay. Moreover, having lost so many times, even a small hope for victory in whatever form appealed to him. He wanted to confirm his belief that he is no worse than any other recruit, no matter how little it actually mattered. He was going to reach that cliff edge, by hook or crook. He widened his climbing spiral ever so subtly. It was safe to assume he was being watched; all recruits were. He could almost feel the eyes of the overseeing soldiers upon him. It had to be done with some subtlety. As his climbing spiral turn took him near the side of the cliff, he angled his torso and head into the spiral to act as if he were doing a normal turn, but reached out with his outer wing to discreetly skim the cliffside updraft. The kick of the rising air came immediately, and Arizeem had to awkwardly tilt the wing to transfer the powerful impulse into speed instead of climb. Quick climbing at the slope would make his efforts very obvious, whereas the speed could be bled into the climb gradually in a controlled manner. When he finally had to break from the cliffside, he did so far from any other recruit to make the speed difference less obvious. For a time, his upward flaps now needed much less strength for the same result. Even after he spent all the kinetic energy, his somewhat rested wings could bite into the air with renewed vigor. Arizeem was surprised with how well his little ruse worked. His experience in acting was certainly the last thing he expected to use today.
With another turn of the climbing spiral, Arizeem stealthily dipped into the cliffside upstream once more. The progress was much faster this way; he was now well over half way up. He reused the same method every turn of the spiral, again and again. It was on the fourth turn when he ran out of luck. An overseeing soldier, a young lightly built guy with blue-on-grey speckled feathers, dove down on him with evident purpose. The soldier hovered next to Arizeem, easily keeping up with him. “Hey, seventy three! You better knock that off!”
“Huh?” Arizeem decided to play dumb. He was told on several occasions that he was good at it. Well, in retrospect, much of that praise might have been meant as backhanded compliments.
“I saw what you were doing, so save that expression for the officers.” The soldier laughed. ”But seriously, don’t make me send you all the way down!”
Arizeem’s jig was up, and there was no way he could reach the cliff edge without his little cheat. “You might... as well... now.”, panted Arizeem. He was thoroughly disappointed, the bitter, well known taste of defeat already tugging his lips downwards.
The soldier’s features sank. “Hey, I know it sucks! I was flapping up this damn cliff less than two arcs ago… you just have to do it!”
“Damn... can’t.”, gasped Arizeem. The burn in his wings was picking up again, as they had to keep him afloat solely under their own power. Arizeem felt that they might soon cramp up, and that will be it. He hated the soldier. If he really wanted him to succeed, he wouldn’t have interfered. It was a little too late to play at being helpful. At least he had the courtesy to look guilty.
“Don’t you fucking give up now!”, yelled the soldier into Arizeem’s face, ”You are almost there! Go!”
“Why… trying...” Arizeem tried to question both the soldier’s motives and sanity, but the words refused to come out. His progress was slow, almost non-existent. The cliff edge was indeed closer now, but both of his wings seemed to be made of lead.
“Why try?! Don’t you want the better training? To do more interesting stuff?!”, misinterpreted the soldier.
Arizeem, as pissed as he was at the apparently quite dull soldier, couldn’t help but to latch onto the last two words. What does ‘interesting stuff’ even mean? Worthy? Challenging? Engaging? Meaningful? Whatever it meant, Arizeem would of course prefer to do ‘interesting stuff’. Too bad that his body wasn’t going to make it. “Cramps… ”
“Cramps?! Don’t flap around! Up! Fast!”, barked the soldier insistently.
The dumb soldier was probably right for once, Arizeem realized. His air time is limited. A final, all out push might serve him better than playing a prolonged tug-of-war with gravity. Steeling himself for the bit to come, he drastically increased his climb angle and started beating with all his wavering might. The cliff wall was passing by quickly. So was Arizeem’s energy. He felt light-headed.
”Yes! All out! I got you if you flop!” The voice came from as if from a distance, barely hearable against the heartbeat in Arizeem’s ears. However, the words of assurance were welcome. Once unconscious, he wouldn’t even be able to glide into safety.
”Up! Kill it! Push!” More words. The pain from the wings stopped, they were numb. Somehow, they still worked, they still pulled him up one wingbeat after another. The racing heartbeat and quick, ragged breath amalgamated into one disordered cacophony, no longer distinguishable from each other. There were more words, some even from other voices, but they had no meaning. An eternity passed and the edge was right there, the line between rock and sky, but it was also moving; twisting and turning in nauseating patterns, threatening to slip away at any moment. Like a child that was only just developing hand-eye coordination, Arizeem touched the edge to keep it from spinning. It only made his hand spin with it. Luckily, the blackness was there to dim the wild imagery a little. The second hand was placed on the edge, probing it with its claws. It was hard, as if made of rock. Figures. The claws scraped against it, as the previously steady and uniform bumps provided by the wings slipped, now coming only from one side. He had to hold fast, if he didn’t want the edge to shake him off completely. On the next wingbeat, he threw the leg onto and over it. Then, the rest of his body. The edge turned out to have a very comfortable side, filled with soft, soft gravel. It hurt his right wing every now and then, but it was still bliss compared to the trills before.
“Seventy three up!”, said some voice.
“You can stop beating that wing now, you idiot!”, said some other voice.
word count: 1370
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Arizeem
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The trial of sore feet

Mon Jul 24, 2017 11:46 pm


Physically, Arizeem was sitting in the gravel yard on top of the cliff. Mentally, he was standing on top of the world. By his own efforts, he had ensured the best outcome given the circumstance. Whatever that outcome might be was secondary at the moment, the success alone felt divine to somebody so accustomed to disappointment. And he did it himself, in straight contest! Well, maybe he cheated for a large part of the climb, but he has gotten away with it! Well, yes, he was caught, but he still managed to get there in the end. That was all that mattered. Arizeem drank out of the metal field flask in his hand again. At this point, the lukewarm water tasted almost as good as booze. He didn’t remember how he got the flask, but he was in no mood to question the sources of his good fortune. A shadow fell on Arizeem’s feet. He looked up, and saw the very same grey-and-blue feathered soldier who first caught him cheating and then proceeded to cheer him the rest of the way. The weird soldier was standing over him with a smile on his face, hand extended in an inviting gesture.
Arizem grabbed the offered hand. There was a moment of hesitation, then he was pulled up onto his feet. Arizeem dusted himself off, then remembered his manners. “Thanks!”
“I just wanted the flask back, but you are welcome anyway.”
“Oh. There.” Arizeem handed the flask back to the soldier. The flask mystery was solved before it could even properly develop. “Thanks again.”
“No problem! Good thing you are up. Let’s see if we can still get you a chance!”, chirped the soldier. His over-motivated, saccharine enthusiasm was already grating on Arizeem, but it was the last sentence that gave Arizeem a pause. What did that that airhead mean? Arizeem was done - in all possible senses of the word! He glanced around, and his blood ran cold. There were at least thirty other recruits sparring with the soldiers, and with each other. Two of them were even exhaustedly fluttering in the air just above the ground, trying to avoid thrown red pebbles while lunging to catch the yellow ones. It looked like some bizarre, prolonged kind of stoning. There were soldiers with cushioned training spears beating on several poor recruits at once. They didn’t always use the soft end, either. Other soldiers, equipped with training swords, also ‘duelled’ the dog-tired recruits. Arizeem didn’t believe in fate, but this had him wondering. It probably wasn’t even noon yet, but he already felt several years older.
Arizeem’s self-styled helper, oblivious to the despair of his unwilling charge, made a beeline for a particularly menacing swordsman. Of course. “Hey, Neezam! The quotas still aren’t filled, right? Give this one a go!”
The swordsman nodded in greeting, then indicated Arizeem with his helmeted chin. “That’s seventy three? No way. He was completely out of it when he arrived. Took him long, too.”
“Well, he got back on his feet real quick!”
“Yeah, but the whole fucking point of this test is to allow no recuperation. I say he’s out.”
“He did everything he was asked to. He got no further order.”
“Because he was out. What’s the deal anyway? Is he your protege or something?”
“No, I just saw him...” the airhead apparently still had enough brain in his skull to cut that sentence short. Arizeem suppressed a sigh of relief. The soldier switched angles. “Oh come on, Neezam! Are you afraid that he will embarrass you now that he had some five bits of rest?”
“Pah! But have it your way, Vaadyr. I would rather spend my day sparring than arguing.” The swordsman tossed a spare training blade at Arizeem. “Here you go, champ. These are a bit top-heavy, but they feel right otherwise.”
Arizeem wasn’t quite on guard, so the thrown training sword bounced off his chest and fell to the ground. Arizeem had to pick it up awkwardly. It was lighter than he imagined.
The swordsman lowered himself into a fighting stance, which was much lower that the heroic poses used in acting to depict fights. It looked less heroic and more… vicious. “Now impress me, seventy three.”
Arizeem looked at the swordsman, unsure where to even begin. He tried to go around to find some better angle, but the swordsman simply realigned himself. Every one of his steps negated three or four of Arizeem’s. It wasn’t working at all, and the swordsman started to look impatient. Arizeem took a swing at swordsman’s hand in an attempt to bat it aside. The swordsman raised his guard to avoid Arizeem’s blade. Just as the blade passed, he stabbed Arizeem right in the face. Arizeem reeled.
The swordsman tapped the training blade against his own armored thigh. “Oh, come on, don’t sit on your ass if you fail to connect! Reset! One flap back and you would have been clear, I gave you plenty of time! No excuses, you had rest!”
‘You aren’t giving me time, just shit.’, thought Arizeem bitterly, massaging the bruised cheek with his free hand. He decided for a more careful approach. He acted as if he is going to stab straight at the chest, but he let the wrist fall limp at the apex, thus converting the stab into a strange backhanded diagonal cut. He managed to confuse even himself.
The swordsman stepped away from the messy attack, hitting Arizeem’s exposed elbow on the way back. ”What was that supposed to be? Show me something! Anything!”
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The trial of sore feet

Tue Jul 25, 2017 11:37 pm


Arizeem’s frustration was growing. The swordsman was humiliating him without even trying. The hesitant, measured strikes were always dodged and punished. Arizeem had to take away any opportunity for the soldier to dance around. He jumped directly at the soldier as if to go right through him, launching a brutal vertical hew. Let him try and dodge that!
Arizeem cried out in pain and clutched his wrist. His sword flew a few good steps through the air before landing in the gravel.
“That’s because you swing it like damn hammer! Even the legwork is shit.”
Arizeem sighed, shook his hurting wrist one last time and moved to retrieve the fallen training sword.
”No, don’t bother.”, interrupted the soldier. ”We are done. There’s nothing to build upon.”
Damning words. There was no success for Arizeem. Despite all the effort, he never had a chance. He should have known better than to allow vain hope to torment him for the entire day. Yet, there was no sadness. Arizeem felt his insides burning, full of bile. He got an irresistible urge to share his misery with the person who has killed his newfound joy and self-respect in the cradle. He welcomed the fury as an old friend. It took him back to his troupe days, before the colleagues learned to sedate him with booze. All fatigue was forgotten for the moment, as his heart was now pumping pure rage instead of thin blood. However, his face retained its grimace of desperation, his shoulders remained slouched. He chose to keep up the act of utter defeat. He took a step toward the swordsman, avoiding any eye contact.
“Just sit down before you pull something.”, sneered the soldier, tapping Arizeem’s chest with the tip of the training sword.
Arizeem took one more step forward, crowding the swordsman.
The swordsman tapped Arizeem again, with more force. “Are you deaf?! It’s over! Fuck off!” He went for another warning tap. At this distance, the swordsman had no time to react when Arizeem grabbed his hand with speed and strength that defied any previous signs of fatigue.
Arizeem secured the swordsman’s hand at the elbow. Finally, a fight he knew. No more silly stick-dancing, just two people armed with nothing but their murderous intent. The last time he was this pissed off, that fucking jester was lucky to survive with half of his face. He aimed to raise that bar today. His right hand forcefully struck the swordsman’s face. The claws noisily scraped against the helmet visor, finding no soft flesh to rend nor eyes to gouge. However, that seemed to shake the swordsman from his surprised stupor, as he angled his head away and tried to use his other hand to free up Arizeem’s grasp. Arizeem went with that push, sidestepping the swordsman and pulling the swordsman’s captured arm into a standing lock. The swordsman lost his grip on the training sword, which fell to the ground. Arizeem moved further to the side to get more leverage on the swordsman’s locked elbow. He really wanted to hear that joint crack open. He was going to hurt the guy, armor or not.
The swordsman twisted his torso and pushed his shoulder into Arizeem, denying any leverage on the locked joint. Meanwhile, his free hand delivered two low, nasty gutshots into Arizeem’s stomach. He was no stranger to hand-to-hand fighting, either.
The gutshots barely registered with Arizeem, given his mental state. He, however, felt the swordsman pushing into the arm lock. The lock wasn’t going to hold and the chance to break the swordsman’s elbow was definitely gone, but all that frantic shoulder pushing presented an even better target - the swordsman’s head. He dropped the lock suddenly and allowed the surprised swordsman to stagger past him. From that point, a single step took him behind the swordsman. He didn’t go for the face this time. Instead, grabbed the swordsman’s neck with ferocity that can only be born of rage. He pressed his chest against the soldier’s back to prevent him from turning. The swordsman tried just that, without success. Arizeem’s glee didn’t last long - his digging claws met the neck-protecting gorget. The presence of armor was completely maddening! In the meantime, his foot got stomped on several times. He moved his right hand up to grab the bottom of the helmet and pull it off. That attempt was stopped by the chin strap. However, the swordsman’s pained gargle sounded very promising. The chin strap also seemed to double as a garotte when pulled backwards. Arizeem put his weight behind it. The choking sounds intensified into a magnificent choir. Ignoring the swordsman’s desperate wingbeats, Arizeem moved back the tiniest bit, just so he could prop his knee against the swordsman’s back. He was going to choke that bastard out proper.
The swordsman’s helmeted head snapped back with sudden force, it’s back connecting with Arizeem’s forehead. The was a very sharp white flash followed by dull pain. An elbow hit him in the ribs. Something, either a wing or a hand, clipped the side of his head. There might have been a kick to the back of his knee. When he opened his eyes again, he was staring into the sky. He must have fallen at some point. His face was wet. He licked his lips, and they tasted of blood. Even breathing was causing him pain now. The swordsman was standing over him, his boot firmly held on Arizeem’s chest to keep him in place. Vaadyr was there too, with a distraught expression and a drawn blade in his hand. A very real blade.
The swordsman massaged his neck. The chin strap left a clearly visible imprint on it. “See, Vaadyr? He is mental, flips like a coin. Look, you are way too nice for your own good. You really need to learn to avoid guys like this. They always drag others into their issues. Relying on them will get you killed.” He made a chopping motion with his fingers. “And put that steel away, there’s no need for that.”
Vaadyr sheathed his sword. “I am sorry for that, Neezam. My fault. We should talk later… I will go grab an officer.”
“Nah and nah. It’s fine. We wind people up to see what they are like; sometimes it’s not pretty. The sly fuck blindsided me, and we sorted it out. Involving brass in this won’t help anyone, trust me.”
“So, what are you going to do about him?”
”He’s a slugger with all the right instincts, but completely fucking rabid. Unstable. Unskilled. Way too much work.”
“So, plain basic with the flops?”
”Oh no, I will recommend him! Somewhere well away from the core troops. I don’t want to ever depend on him to secure our flanks with a spear, and I sure don’t want to see him in my sword squadron. I’m thinking heavies. They will give him some huge fucking bardiche or a halberd to swing around. They are nutters, they might actually like him enough to train him.”
“Will they now?”
“Eh. Either way, he won’t be our problem anymore.”
“Am I even supposed to hear this?”
, piped up Arizeem from the ground. Having no way to act itself out, the rage left him and took all the remaining strength away with it. It went even quicker once he realized that he will have his victory after all. Moreover, his body was very, very angry with him. Nausea and pain battled for dominance.
“Yes, of course! Congratu-fucking-lations on your recommendation, seventy three! You even managed to simmer down in time to hear the reason!”
“Oh, thank you so very much.”, shot Arizeem back with venom in his voice. He tapped the boot that was still uncomfortably pinning his torso down. “I thought I was going to be on the carpet duty forever.”
”Hm? No.” The swordsman readjusted the chin strap of his helmet. ”The boot stays for now.”
Arizeem sighed, unwilling to fight anything anymore. No matter the why’s and how’s, he was leaving with the recommendation. Later, he will have to figure out what to do with it. Now, there were more pressing concerns. “Uh, Vaadyr? Do you have any water left in that flask?”
The two soldiers simply exchanged a glance.
Arizeem laughed.
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The trial of sore feet

Wed Aug 09, 2017 4:04 am

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Arizeem


Points Gained: 10

Knowledge:
Endurance: Postponing onset of muscle cramps
Acting: Feigning resignation
Unarmed combat, Grappling: Evading joint locks by pushing into the attacker
Unarmed combat, Grappling: Some helmet chin straps can be (ab)used as garrottes
Vaadyr: A naive twit
Neezam: A jaded grouch

Injuries: Heavy bruising, a strained wing

Fame: -1

Comments: Your writing is so descriptive, I can see and feel everything. I really enjoyed reading this thread, and I can't wait to see more of what Arizeem can do. Also, thank you for your impeccable grammar. It is often only noted when it is lacking, and I don't wish for that to be the case.



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word count: 120
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