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Author Topic: [EVENT] The Final Furlong [Survival Hike]  (Read 1918 times)

The Final Furlong [Survival Hike]
« on: February 21, 2018, 10:13:35 PM »
Survival Hike
Open to one or two other cadets!
Struna | Nack | ?

Physical and skill-based challenges - built around ideas of survival and teamwork, and intended to test their learning - were a continual feature of the past three years.  But if their instructors were to be believed, this was their final trial of this nature.  Thank fuck for that.

Tongue pressed against the inside of her cheek, Struna checked over one of the horses assigned to her team.  A begrudging hand slipped between the girth and its warm, sleek hair.  There was room enough to tighten the band further, so that is precisely what she chose to do, leaning against the solid weight of the steed, pulling hard to move the buckle up a notch.  “Ah, why can’t you just breathe in…?!” Struna hissed, irritated that the mare chose this moment to puff up and make the cinching all the more difficult.  After a brief moment of struggle, the girth was refastened.

Satisfied in this small victory, Struna ran her hand up the creature’s smooth neck, wearing an expression of evident mistrust.  Her movements were confident - defiant, even - as though her very presence might be enough to cow their mount into good behaviour.  Hooking a strong finger through the noseband, she pulled, dragging the steed’s head downwards, so that violet shades could bore into brown.

Brown eyes were unlucky.  Horses were unlucky.

This did not bode well for them.

“Listen, mate.  You do right by me and I’ll do right by you,”  Struna murmured, her voice low though not unkind.  A girl who lived for lakespray, for the roll and crash of waves, who spent as much time in water as she did on land, could not bring herself to trust a small-minded creature many times her own size and strength.  “I didn’t come this far to break my neck in a five foot fall…”  There were no saddlebags, no backpacks, only Struna as she was and the tacked horse stood before her.  Huffing unruly black hair out of her eyes, she looked to her teammates. 

With so little to prepare, it seemed they were ready to ride. « Last Edit: June 09, 2019, 10:51:10 PM by Struna Mayberry »

Re: The Final Furlong [Survival Hike]
« Reply #1 on: March 13, 2018, 01:46:08 AM »
Shoulder pressed against a trunk, boot pushed against a rock, Nack bent over to lace his boots. Scruffy as they were, fraying at the ends and dangerously loose, it looked both shoes might just fall apart as he walked. One coarse end slipped beneath the other, sliding through the dainty hole with threads trailing backwards before pushing through. His fingers worked deftly to pull them tight, sealing a gap with the tongue of his boot, until a rough, uneven bow was tied on one. The other followed.

A survival hike wasn't quite the worse challenge in his opinion. The very first winter aptitute test had sent him off with chattering teeth and a chill that pierced every layer of him. Then, to cross the lake, they'd had to decide between braving the licking waves of water or traversing uneven banks. This time, they were simply somewhere vaguely familiar: a forest of trees that could squash even a small Titan. Not perfect territory by any means, but he felt calmer here. He liked his boots planted on the ground. Plus, they had a ride.

Brown eyes lifted from his second awkward loops of string to gaze across at Struna and the horse. An amused snort left his nostrils as he watched her tackle the horse. But he made no comment, content on preparing himself. With boots done, he looked around their immediate surroundings. A short nod of contentment followed. This wasn't awful.

"I'll hold the horse if you like," he offered. Horses weren't so bad, he'd found over the years, and they were surprisingly comfortable with him. Something he could boast was because of some childhood riding contest or a stablehand cousin's influence or something. They didn't seem so intimidating, despite their size. He was aware of their dangers, and he knew he probably didn't need to excel with handling them, but he enjoyed their company all the same.

With another look around, he bit his lip. "D'you think they'd let us starve to death out here?" Could always eat the horse. No, that thought was pushed out as quickly as possible. They had to get any horses back to safety. Plus, it'd only take an hour or so walking before he got attached enough to this one to be (hopefully secretly) sad to pat it goodbye.

Re: The Final Furlong [Survival Hike]
« Reply #2 on: March 18, 2018, 09:47:50 PM »
“Am I ever glad to see you!”  Struna exclaimed, hurriedly surrendering her spot so that Nack could step closer and grasp the horse’s reins.  He was good with the creatures, she knew, as had been quietly demonstrated time and again in their horsemanship lessons.  An undeniably thick ribbon of confidence ran through the boy from Karanes - perhaps the horses were drawn to that?  Or maybe it was the brown eyes that matched their own?  Whatever the truth, Struna’s happiness at being on the same team as Nack was twofold.  Firstly for her friend’s laughter, which would light their journey, and secondly, for his mastery of those distrustful beasts.

“Starve to death…?” Struna echoed, blinking in surprise.  Thoughtful at first, she seriously considered the question, but that changed the moment a far more appealing answer popped into her head.  A grin gave away that she was about to respond in jest.  “Ain’t no risk of starvin’.  I mean, between me and the nag, you’ll be grand.”  Snickering softly, Struna silently reassured herself that, if they could find a river, there would be fish and, wherever there were fish, a Mayberry was sure to make a catch.  And snares were a thing they could improvise… right?

As she stood, waiting to see if another cadet was earmarked to join their team, Struna fidgeted with her bracelets.  Threads and leather thongs, burdened with beads and small treasures, they clicked faintly as she twisted them with her fingers.  “Apparently, its name’s Badly…”  Struna offered, nodding towards their steed.  It sounded like a joke she might have concocted but, this time, it wasn’t so.  The moniker was etched on a little silver plate, which was stitched onto the cheekpiece of the bridle.  Someone, most likely their red-haired instructor, had actually looked at the beast and settled on Badly.  Not a good sign.

Re: The Final Furlong [Survival Hike]
« Reply #3 on: April 13, 2018, 10:51:20 PM »
Nack chuckled at her rush to escape responsibility of the horse, and stepped into her place to take hold of the reins. A hand raised, he brushed it along the horse's short hair, relaxing into the companionship of the creature. They might well come to rely a lot on the mare, and making sure she trusted him to help her survive as he needed to trust her to keep them alive, well, it just made sense for him. Even if Struna struggled, he'd just have to do his best for both of them.

His mouth twitched at Struna's response. "Yeah, you should last me, what, a day or two?" he winked at her. "Guess we've learned the secret goal of those moustachiod morons gorging on our food, huh? Get all these peasants to starve enough to eat each other, that'll solve all the problems." His voice changed as he spoke, taking on the affected accent he so liked to mock the idiots with when with her, a deep but 'upperclass' way of speaking.

"Badly," he repeated, looking into the horse's eyes. He patted it on the muzzle and smiled. "You're going to be alright with us, Badly. Don't mind her. Just keep your distance," he directed to the horse, passing a wink over at his companion. They'd do just fine together. Though maybe it was good if he kept hold of the reins for most of the trip. He'd just have to keep up his joking around to settle Struna, he decided, and have some fun too.

Looking around to see if there would be another to join them, his eyes traced the area until they glanced up to the sky. "You looking forward to tempting death with this hike? Whether from bear, wolf, horse, or hunger?"  the brunet asked, teasing twisting into his words.

Re: The Final Furlong [Survival Hike]
« Reply #4 on: May 17, 2018, 06:06:33 PM »
Laughing, Struna folded her arms over her chest and playfully narrowed her eyes at Nack.  “A day tops.  Unless you’re tryin’ t’ tell me all this military fare’s makin’ me thick in the middle?”  She delighted in the shift in his voice, the inflection that mimicked stuffy, noble accents; it reminded her of long afternoons that might have been boring, save for the company of Nack and the joyful irreverence they shared.  Struna laughed again and relaxed her stance, hands falling to her sides where her thumbs hooked comfortably through her belt loops.

She watched as her friend spoke softly to their steed, no doubt earning the creature’s trust with his words and the gentle, coaxing touch of his hand.  Even this was done with humour, Nack’s wink answered by a brief flash of Struna’s tongue.  “That’s sound advice, Badly.  Better listen to Dr. Tierce.”

Lingering a few paces away, glad to have some distance between her and the horse, Struna cast her eyes about the yard, looking for any who might be joining them on this hike.  Her attention was drawn back to Nack when he asked his teasing question.  “Ugh,” was her initial, less than enthusiastic response.  “I guess.  I mean, if I die ‘cause Badly has a fit and boots me in the head, you gotta swear t’ me you’ll tell no-one.  Not a livin’ soul.  Otherwise I’ll come back t’ haunt you.”  A wicked smirk played on her lips, a low sound of amusement rising in her throat.  “Same goes for starvin’.  Ain’t nothin’ excitin’ about that.  If a bear or wolf gets me though?  You make damn sure every cadet knows.  Tell ‘em I fought ‘em with my bare hands…”  A sudden thought caused the cadet to snicker softly.  “Which I guess we’ll have to, eh?  I don’t see any axes bein’ handed out.”

Re: The Final Furlong [Survival Hike]
« Reply #5 on: March 16, 2019, 09:28:25 PM »
Nack squinted at her, looking her up and down, before responding, "A day and a bit sounds fairer." He loved to tease her, to do away with the boring militant strictness. This was a chance of freedom for them both. To be away from the others, alone to prove themselves, but also to have more fun than half their fellow cadets would have. She always found a way to lighten his day.

Spotting her quick flick of a tongue, Nack grinned at Struna. "Careful," he warned, "wouldn't want to tempt my stomach."

He felt relaxed as she spoke, even when she brought up the fact that they had nothing to defend themselves with. "Huh." He did a quick check around, then clucked his tongue against the roof of his mouth. "Tell you what, we'll get some headway and then we'll fashion our own. Might not have any blades but spears can't do too badly. Might be able to use your fishing expertise if we find a river too," he suggested. That was the point of surviving this hike, wasn't it?

"I think it's just us anyway. Onwards, steed!" Masking his voice again with the affected accent, Nack was much more gentle in pulling the reins forwards between the trees.

Re: The Final Furlong [Survival Hike]
« Reply #6 on: June 09, 2019, 06:10:17 PM »
A day and a bit? Struna's return squint was supposed to be one of reproach, but her amusement was too great for it to be convincing, the quirk of her mouth assurance of her continued glee. Careful, wouldn't want to tempt my stomach. Those words were not as easily answered as those that had come before, not when they - coupled with that brilliant, familiar grin - triggered a strangely exhilarating and tingling rush of warmth. It bloomed low in her stomach and seemed to radiate outwards throughout every inch of her body. For a moment, Struna was flustered, her response coming slower than she would have liked. "Oh, wouldn't I?" It was the only retort she could manage, baring her teeth in a wide grin and snapping her jaws at him, teeth clicking quietly as they met.

As the conversation moved to weaponry, Struna casually brought her hand to her face, in a gesture of contrived thoughtfulness, curious as to whether that muddled moment had caused her cheeks to flush. As far as she could tell, her skin was no warmer than usual. With a soft exhale, she nodded her agreement to Nack's suggestions. Spears were easily enough made, and perfect for fishing. Against larger quarry they might prove a little primitive but, for better or worse, the cadet wasn't too concerned about creatures armed with teeth and claws.

That it was just the two of them came as further relief. Nack could be trusted not to judge her, at least not unkindly, for her reticence around horses. Hilda or Mara would also have been welcome, as far as Struna was concerned, but others beyond that small circle mightn't be so patient. Better that it was just the two of them. Fewer mouths to feed, at the very least, and decisions ought to be easily enough agreed upon.

As they moved off, Struna lengthened her stride to walk a little ahead of Nack and their equine companion. Into the forest, where it was cool and pleasant, the shifting leaves above casting dappled patterns on the ground.

Onwards steed. Struna played Nack's words over in her head, with its affected accent. It proved too tempting an opportunity to let pass. Pivoting, so that she was walking backwards, she observed her friend through tendrils of dark hair. The beast walked quietly at Nack's side, requiring little coaxing. Choosing to ignore the unwelcome company, the cadet flashed her friend a mischievous smile, before twirling again to straighten her course, imagining she could feel the pleasant weight of his brown eyes on her back. The last thing they needed was for her to twist an ankle mere minutes into their task.

"Where to, my good sir?" She queried, adopting a distinctly noble lilt, paying particular care to her normally lazy enunciation. "Please do say we will tarry at the summer palace. How I long to drink plum wine and wile away hours on the lawn. The servants snip every blade by hand, and I have heard it said that they are quite a sight to see, with their silver shears sparkling in the sun…" Struna snickered quietly, for a moment her own self as the guise slipped. It was with considerable effort she twisted the sound into something more girlish and becoming. Pivoting again, this time turning a full circle - mindful of ancient roots that erupted from the ground - she flashed Nack a grin, inviting him to play along with her.

Re: The Final Furlong [Survival Hike]
« Reply #7 on: October 16, 2019, 08:08:29 PM »
It was so easy to get caught up in Struna's presence, to feel how good and warm everything was when they were together. She liked his jokes, his impressions, his embellishments - and matched just as well. Leading the horse, he grinned as he watched her, and as she turned around to continue the game, he almost beamed.

Then calmed himself to continue the impression.

"Pah! Their workmanship is shoddy and hardly worth the most brittle of coins," he scoffed, stroking a hand along Badly's mane. "They'd do better to take up those urchins, the orphans, and put them to work somewhere their unskilled messiness wouldn't be so obvious. Hmph." He wondered whether that was even accurate, but he supposed the ignorance played into the character he was playing. "Still, I suppose we'll have plenty of time gorging ourselves with the delicacies of the palace kitchen," he sniffed, leading Badly around a ditch.

The steed seemed to be quite relaxed, if a little impatient to go, though suddenly their ears pricked forwards, stiffening. Nack looked around, scanning the area to work out what had alarmed them. "It's just another team making noise," he assured them, stroking and patting the muscled neck gently and dropping his accent. "We should be away from them soon," he threw to Struna, "right?" « Last Edit: October 16, 2019, 08:08:40 PM by Nack Tierce »

Re: The Final Furlong [Survival Hike]
« Reply #8 on: October 27, 2019, 10:01:16 PM »
Nack could always be counted upon. As he played along, slipping into character with ease, Struna beamed. This time her laughter was all her own, ringing out bright and clear. Not even the prospect of having to orienteer could tarnish the smile that played on her lips, as she plucked the compass from her pocket. "I daresay you will have to roll me from the kitchen, sir!" Struna answered cheerfully, in her feigned noble accent, calling over her shoulder so that her gaze could remain trained on the instrument in her hands.

A distant, muffled sound drifted through the trees and, although she didn't witness Badly's reaction, Nack's words of reassurance alerted her to the fact that their horse was unsettled. "Sure," Struna replied, trying to glimpse a little of the surrounding topography through the thick blanket of trees. "In fact, I'm thinkin' we start ascendin' now, at an angle…" Trailing off, the cadet chewed her lip, wishing they had a better vantage point - and wondering if it would be worth her climbing the tallest tree they could find. "Gentle, y'know? It's that or follow the valley and risk a steep climb at the end. But I think slow and steady's best, no? Besides, we meet a sheer face there's no way t' get Badly topside." Struna had slowed her pace, so that she now walked level with her comrade. "We get t' higher ground and we'll've a better idea where we are. We can make camp, maybe find somethin' t' eat…"

Re: The Final Furlong [Survival Hike]
« Reply #9 on: January 03, 2020, 03:29:12 PM »
Listening to her reasoning, he gazed at the horse thoughtfully. "A steep climb'll be no good," he agreed, glancing to his companion. The reasoning made plenty of sense, and they had a plan. That was better than anything he could come up with right now. "Let's do it. That looks like a good enough path." He nodded to a slight incline, as flat a climb as they could ask for for ease, enough to keep Badly on track and get a touch higher at any rate. Had they hiked in this part of the forest before? Fuck knows. He sure hadn't paid attention back then. Hadn't cared either. Though he wished he had.

Nack clicked his tongue against the roof of his mouth, pulling the reins enough to guide the horse up the path he'd chosen. They had enough hours ahead of them to find some sort of entertainment together. More stories and impressions to last. "Guess we should look out for anything handy?" he supposed. Food, if there was anything worth it out. Sticks'd be good too. "We can bundle shit up on Badly with a bit of twine or ivy or something, right?"

Whatever was easiest. He did want to make it out of this damn place as soon as possible. Not that he'd ever turn down more time with Struna.


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