1-18: Aside 8: On trees and Elves

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1-18: Aside 8: On trees and Elves

Post by Kim »

Outskirts of Azalea Company Camp, Tree line
Morning after the rescue.

Where the half-elf tries to teach the Mud Elf how to climb trees.

The ginger haired half elf stood beneath a tall, gnarled tree, staring up at the twists of the ancient branches with an appreciative whistle. It was daylight and she was off-duty, so she was not wearing her stealth suit, instead was wearing a short red pleated skirt over thigh-highed stockings paired with a black tank top. Her rifle was slung across her back and her grappling lines were strapped to her forearms. "This should be an easy one if it's not rotten through," she said appreciatively as she walked up to the rough bark, giving the trunk a solid knock, listening to the sound.

It sounded solid. Before she could continue, Lukina could hear someone walking up behind her. "Hey! You are that half elf sniper I keep hearing about, right?" The feminine voice asked.

Lukina turned her head slightly to look over her shoulder at the newcomer. Evergreen eyes appraising the speaker with a nod. "I am she. What can I help you with?" She idly pushed a messy strand of hair hanging free of her twin tails back behind her ear.

Esaria walked the last bit of distance between her and Lukina, wearing her usual utilitarian attire. Fancy techy bow slung over her back with its quiver at her hip. "Yeah, I heard you were really awesome moving round in the trees and such. That and it would be nice to have another elf around. Thought we could get to know each other," The young girl said, smiling sheepishly, scratching her short hair with closed eyes. "I don't have much in the way of friends I can relate too here is all."

"Thank you. I saw all the exploding arrows! That was kinda new meets old world, ne?" Lukina smiled, turning to face Esaria properly. "There will be more of us around before you know it. The Lady Blackspear is drawing attention from the old-timers and the wandering ones. I think many of us have been pretending to be Taianese or older mao zhanshi for a while... so there are probably more of us around than you think."

"I had that idea, but I've never really lied about being an elf. Proud of it I suppose," Esaria commented, looking at the tree Lukina was examining. "So... What are you doing?"

"Well, I figure that up there is a couple of nests with eggs I can raid for breakfast. I saw the bird signs so I'm going to climb up there and have some delicious bioluminescent eggs." Lukina pointed up to one of the higher branches that were spotted white against the dark grey bark. "Feel like a climb?"

Esaria looked at the tall tree, blinking with uncertainty in her eyes. "Uh... I'm not exactly good at climbing. I spent most of my time growing up learning how to shoot a bow. Never really thought about how to climb."

Lukina patted the thick trunk for a moment. "It's easy after a while." To demonstrate she reached up and grabbed the bark and started pulling herself up. She looked down at Esaria with a smile. "Give it a try! If you get stuck, I can lend you one of my lines."

Esaria stared at the tree, watching the half elf start to climb up the tree. Seeing what she did, Esaria started up the tree in a similar way, only far slower. Uncertainty in each step kept her second guessing where was going to use as an anchor to climb up a little more, going slow.

"The trick is to keep 3 points of contact. Wait to move your grip until you've found a place to put it above you... and don't look down. When you move up, try to place your foot where it finds purchase," Lukina advised as she looked down to check on Esaria. "The cool tree jumping parts don't happen until you get higher up. The hardest part is getting up to the branches for the jump."

"Don't look do-" Esaria started to ask, before doing exactly that and freezing. It wasn't all that high up. Maybe a couple meters, but the look on her face was of fear as she clung to the tree. "Th-that... That’s high..." She mumbled, shaking a little. "I... Oh dear..."

"Don't give up!" Lukina called down. "You can do it, keep climbing! There's a branch a few feet up we can rest on," she encouraged the other elf from above her.

The first thing Lukina got in response was a shrill whine as Esaria pressed her head against the tree trunk. "I-I don't think I can!" She shouted, white knuckling the tree as she started hyperventilating.

The sniper's eyes went wide with concern. "Okay, just hold on. I'll be right there." She flicked her right wrist up, deploying one of their grappling hooks solidly into the branch above her with a loud PLUNK.

Esaria continued to panic, before the look o her face went to a strange mix of confusion and concern. "Hurry. I... I feel funny," She said, her hands suddenly losing their strength, falling backwards towards the ground.

Lukina pushed off the tree and half dropped/half jumped after the falling elf, rapidly paying out line to fall to catch Esaria around the waist before she touched the ground. She reached out for the other girl, "I'm here! I got you!"

Esaria was rather speechless when she was caught, from a combination of the disorientation of falling, and the fact she was caught. She looked around for a moment, now that she wasn't free climbing, she seemed to look a lot better. "O-oh. This isn't so bad once you're not stuck to the tree..." She said, trying to calm herself down a little. Then she started laughing. "I must seem useless! Yeesh I need to practice something more useful that flinging exploding sticks at people!" She giggled, shaking her head. "Thanks for catching me. That probably would have hurt."

They jerked to a stop as she stopped the line from paying out more. Lukina let out a sigh of relief, "Okay, we'll try this again with equipment, ne? Let's get you up to the branch?" The line slowly started to retract, pulling them back up towards the branch that was their original rest destination.

Esaria sat on the branch, kicking her feet around as she looked around. "Yeah. Not so bad when you're just sitting here or are anchored to the tree by more than a bit of bark. I don't even know why I was scared anymore..." She muttered frowning in annoyance.

Lukina disengaged the hook in the branch and the line pulled back into her forearm rig. "So, we need to training wheel this a bit. I have another rig here," she pointed to her left forearm rig. "Do you want to try to use it or I can deploy it and you can try to climb up the tree attached to it and I can follow after you."

Esaria looked at the hook system and shrugged. "Wouldn't mind trying to use the system. Would probably work out well enough if you show me how to aim. Maybe it's like a bow?"

"Uh... kinda. You wear it and point your wrist in the direction you want the hook to deploy and flex your wrist. It'll shoot the hook into whatever and then you'll have the line to use as a safety to climb until you figure out how to control the line retraction." Lukina tried to explain as she removed the rig from her left forearm and held it up for Esaria. "It shouldn't explode."

Esaria took the rig from the half elf and started looking it over, placing it on her wrist and strapping it down. "Is there a way to get the hooks to not stick? Like, I get it to stick, and then I want the hook back?" She asked.

"Bend your wrist down towards your forearm," Lukina watched Esaria curiously as she put on the rig.

Esaria nodded, looking over the rig one more time. "And getting the spool to ravel up again?" She asked.

"Once there is tension, pull your arm back to retract the line. Having 2 allows me more options for quick redirection of movement but for now, just aim for that branch above us and try to retract it without flexing your wrist down... because that would be bad." Lukina helpfully offered the smaller elf.

Esaria checked the system on last time, having it on her left wrist. She thought about it for a moment, then seemed to lift her arms as if she were trying to shoot a bow. With a slight flex, backwards the hook shot out and stuck to the thick branch above them. "Hey! Talk about transferable skills!" She laughed, pulling back on the string without thinking, sending her up the tree with a surprised yelp. The machine hand no problem lifting her up until she was just dangling under the branch, blinking. Her face red. "I... Did not mean to do that..."

Lukina smiled up at the mud elf and deployed her own hook and followed after her to the next branch. "The branch we want is 2 more branches up." She pointed to the branch above them. "Then delicious glowing omelets."

"Oh, maybe I can fry up some of the Deer thing I bagged the other day. Possibly find some roots in the forest as a side?" Esaria asked, climbing up onto the branch. This time, she shot and pulled herself up a little more deliberately, catching the branch this time to pull herself up.

"There are lots of edible plants in this forest. There are some nice mushrooms a few trees down from this one. Just watch out for the purple ones," the sniper followed Esaria again, keeping an eye of the shorter elf to make sure she was going to be okay. "There some nice saplings that taste like carrots too."

Esaria nodded, standing up balanced on the branch. "Sounds like a plan. Let's see if I can get over to the other tree with this while you grab the eggs," She said, aiming the launcher like a bow again, and aiming for a nice thick looking branch. The hook fired, sailing through the air before slamming into the branch...

... Which then exploded into splintered fragments, the hook carrying on.

Esaria stared. "Wut... w-woah woah woah," She started as the hook hit its maximum and the momentum pulled her off balance, her arms wind milling like crazy before the hook caught on something while it retracted, pulling her off the branch with a scream.

Lukina's eyes went wide and she cursed like a marine as she watched the girl flail. Her eyes followed the trajectory of the hook and she followed. "Easy! Straighten your arm to stop the retraction!" She tried to swing in a cross path to catch Esaria again.

Esaria eventually stopped, hanging a couple feet off the ground by the grappling hook. She looked like she was almost in tears, lips scrunched back into a strange frown. "... Why does everything explode..." She whimpered, rubbing her eyes.

Lukina swung beside Esaria, dangling with a sigh. "Tell you what, I will get the eggs and we can work on this tree thing with you tomorrow? I can get you a more... static safety rig?" She offered the girl a reassuring smile as she smoothed her skirt down.

"You must think I'm an idiot!" Esaria whimpered, trying to get the hook to retract and let her down, but was far to frustrated to get it to work, making her even more frustrated. "I... I need help..."

"No, just inexperienced. My gramps drilled me on this gear for years to get me proficient and then my mother took me only to cities for work. That was an awkward transition, you'll get it with time and practice." Lukina moved over slightly, grabbing Esaria around the waist and gently moved her arm to retract the hook and adjusted her own rig to lower them safely on the ground.

"I might definitely need practice if I were to keep doing this. Tell you what. You get the eggs, I'll grab everything else, and I'll cook you breakfast, alright?" She asked, checking her bow and quiver to make sure everything was still there. "Who knows. Maybe I'll bag us something fresh to eat. Meet at the fire pit in camp?" She asked, pointing in that direction.

"Sounds good, if the critter explodes, it'll just be easier to prepare," the half elf added with a wink before her retracting line pulled her quickly up into the tree above. "Happy hunting!"

It wasn't long before the two converged. Esaria had a bloody bag strapped to her back along with a pelt, walking up to the bench. "I found something. Looked to be about 30 pounds in all so I figured why not. Hope you like... Whatever this thing is" she said as she dropped the bag on the table. "Did you happen to grab some stuff from the kitchen tent?" She asked, looking around.

"I have some cooking things, yeah." Lukina had a large pouch of items that she gathered from her trees. She gestured to another pouch of items over her shoulder. "We can butcher that and get this food thing rolling without exploding it."

"Already butchered it while I was out. That's what took me so long," Esaria explained. "I'm... I'm better at shooting than people seem to think. I don't know what's up with everything exploding though. Seems I joined you guys and I was infected with the chaos," The tiny elf muttered.

"It makes you more efficient. More clean-up but people are less likely to walk away from a battle with you," Lukina smiled as she started to set-up their cooking fire and prep area. "This group is nothing but loosely structured chaos. I wouldn't dwell on it too much."

"I'll try not to," Esaria said, taking the cooking supplies and starting to do exactly what she offered. There was silence for a few minutes, broken only by the sizzling of cooking food until Esaria spoke next.

"So, you're a wood elf?" She asked, turning to Lukina as she prodded at the food with a fork, checking to make sure it was done.

"Yes, my mother was a Bloodtree but I am only half. My father is some human out there in the galaxy that I have no real knowledge of. I've tried looking for him but my mother would not speak of him and my grandfather did not know," Lukina settled neatly on the ground with her legs tucked under her body and her skirt straightened over her thighs. "I assume my surname was his but I have not found him."

"Oh... I wasn't very close with my parents. Mud elves have gotten rather strange over the last few decades. I was born just in time for our assimilation into Tai Pan," She explained. "I was less an elf and more a Taianese the second I was born, but I wanted to be an elf..."

"We are whomever we want to become," Lukina replied thoughtfully. "I have pretended to be whatever the situation demands so I can become invisible if I need to. I like to blend in even when I'm not in my stealthsuit. Most people like Creature assume I'm a teenager and leave me alone."

"Most people assume I'm a child, but I suppose I don't give much reason for people to believe otherwise," Esaria sighed, moving food over onto a plate and handing it to Lukina. "At least I can hunt and cook. I can be somewhat useful..."

"Do you think that you're useless?" She accepted the plate with a grateful smile. "Thank you. How did you come to be here on Piyapon?" The bioluminscent egg yolk had dulled to a glittering sheen of green in the cooking process, the mushrooms had gained more of the luster that the eggs had and glowed a dull red on the plate.

Esaria shrugged. "Well, I'm not totally useless, as you can see, but I'm also not exactly suited for war, which is what I have gotten myself into at this point. So, I'm pretty out of my depth here," She said with a shrug.

"I would suggest not being a part of war, but no one is safe in a warzone. You can learn to fight and defend yourself. They are taking women of all ages... so it is best to be ready to kill anyone that would try to take you by force," Lukina added as she poked one of her eggs. "I was raised for it and trained for it, but that doesn't make me any better of a person than you. What do you do outside of this in real life?"

Esaria just waved here hand at the food. "I'm a Hunter. That's about all there is to me. Tracking game, shooting bows, understanding nature. I'm useful to catch food for the camp but I know they will put me in combat positions. Why else would they give me a now with explosive arrows?"

"Explosive arrows could come in handy. Who knows when we might need to breech something like tank armor or power armor?" Lukina commented with a laugh. "Hunting is a great skill to have, not everyone can live off the land. I wouldn't count yourself out! Tracking is also super useful, I could use your help as a scout."

"Well, honestly, I don't think that the armor of a tank is going to notice my arrows. Though I will be sure to try that out. Creature commented that they wouldn't work on tanks... A few times..." She sighed, starting to eat her own food.

"Exploding arrows are good against foot troops," Lukina suggested with a shrug. "Just have to get you a rig that won't explode what you anchor into. I have never seen my rig explode a branch before."

"I suppose it's just a curse I have with this company. Never had an exploding problem before," She sighed, leaving the conversation about war alone. She was silent for a few minutes, then she looked at Lukina. "Did you hear about what happened to that one woman? The one who was always so infatuated with the alien lizard man?" She asked, half way done her plate.

"You mean the one that's been crying?" Lukina asked thoughtfully after thinking it over for a few moments. "Not really, what happened?"

"Her baby was killed by a spider... The medics don't know how it got into the tent... Was a baby boy. Really unfair don't you think?" She asked, placing her plate down.

Lukina set her plate down now that she was finished eating. "That's horrible. This planet is full of dangerous creatures, big and small. But it is unfair to lose your child. A horrible thing for someone so young to not know life."
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