Boy meets Bird

The farms and houses of Shim, a single inn known as the Red Chalice, and an old manor on a hill overlooking it all to the north.
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Caden
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Re: Boy meets Bird

Post by Caden » Wed Sep 21, 2011 1:07 pm

There was that annoying but admirable glibness again. Caden could pick up the insinuations behind it even if he couldn’t employ that subtlety of speech himself. Eloquence was never his strong suite.

If this rhetoric was coming from a human, Caden would have been long gone by now. Ever since Triss, he maintained a frosty distance from any fellow crows or hawks wishing to collaborate with him. But Sam was different - he was a bird for goodness sakes. And even though Caden was still highly averse to entering into any sort of partnership, he was undeniably intrigued by the thought of what Sam might be able to teach him. For Caden, this was the first solid link beyond the confines of his old life, and he couldn’t just walk away from it.

‘So you fly with plenty of street kids, do you?’ Caden sniped. ‘Pecked plenty more on the finger, too?’

He decided to be blunt. He had no way to get an angle on Sam - the realm of magical talking birds was far outside his area of expertise - and this was probably he only way he was going to get that irritating parrot to talk straight. ‘What do you want, Sam? I set you free, ain’t you got somewhere to go? Or m’I wrong to say you want something from me specially?’

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Re: Boy meets Bird

Post by Sam » Sun Sep 25, 2011 5:22 pm

Play straight. Yeah. Go for it. It was risky, but the kid might not hang around much longer if he didn't.

Sam flew back down to a branch the kid could reach. He was far enough away that he could escape if Caden actually went for him, of course, but he needed to look like he didn't expect any sort of confrontation. They were all friends now.

"The last kid I bit wasn't a street kid," he said. "He was an accomplished magician's nephew. And he was an illusionist. With me, he was a great illusionist. Until he made some enemies who figured out that illusions can't hurt you.

"You're my wizard, Caden. I'm your familiar; that's the bond that was created when I drew your blood. I need a wizard. I chose you. I was created to be a magical reserve, to provide extra power to a magic-user's spells. And you are a magic-user. It's probably subconscious, and I haven't figured out exactly what you do, yet, but it was bleeding off you in the marketplace. Whatever you were doing there wasn't a normal trick. It was magic. I can help you a lot, Caden, and in terms of your magic I can do something unique; I can make it better. Once we figure out how it works, that is." He considered stopping right there, but he knew that leaving the rest out would just cause problems later on. "I can't make you accept me," he said reluctantly. "Our bond goes two ways; you can sever it at any time through force of will. But I hope you'll consider what we can do for each other."

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Re: Boy meets Bird

Post by Caden » Mon Sep 26, 2011 2:40 am

Caden made a noncommittal noise and stood. He regarded Sam in silence with his arms folded for a few moments, then started pacing around the tree, thinking hard.

Yes, the bird could talk and it was probably as intelligent as any ordinary person (perhaps more intelligent, if compared to some people Caden had known). That did mean it was magical in some way. However, that didn’t mean that the rest of what it said was true - intelligence might be the only gift that magic had bestowed on Sam.

From the subtlety the bird had displayed so far, Caden didn’t doubt that Sam was capable enough to be extremely manipulative. This entire chat might just be a ploy for the bird to hitch a free ride on the back of a crow, and playing the “You have subconscious magic we need to figure out” card could be the long, long leash it - he? No, it - planned to put Caden on.

And yet... and yet... what if Sam was telling the truth? Wasn’t there that strange, inexplicable sensation when Sam bit him? Could it really be that Caden the crow-turned-hawk-turned-crow was a magic-user?

And more importantly, could he walk away from all this without some attempt to confirm the truth of that possibility?

He finally stopped pacing and looked up at Sam.

‘We’re s’posed to be bonded somehow, right? Any way you can prove that? ‘Cause I don’t feel very special towards you right now,’ he said dryly.

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Re: Boy meets Bird

Post by Sam » Tue Sep 27, 2011 1:01 pm

Sam thought for a minute. If Caden's magic was flashy and exhausting, this would be easy. But it clearly wasn't. He was going to have to try something else.

Sam's ability to manipulate the bond was... underdeveloped. That was the word his creator had used, shaking his head in puzzlement. "Underdeveloped." But he was full of magic and the bond was young and fresh and he might, might be able to get away with something extremely simple. Not words, not images; they were too complicated. But basic, raw emotions... those he might be able to do.

"Maybe. I'll try. If this works, don't be afraid."

He could see the bond between them, the one thread of magic that was his. He collected his thoughts and summoned a raw, instinctive sensation of fear, the kind of fear that screamed 'Go! Get out now!' He shoved the feeling through the bond. According to his creator's explanation, the kid wouldn't feel it as his own feeling -- it was merely a message from an outside source, and a pale imaginary copy of an emotion in any case -- but he should be able to understand it as well as he could his own feelings. "That," said Sam, "is a great way to secretly send the message 'run'."

He summoned another kind of fear, the kind you heard in a womans scream, and pushed it through. "This is 'help'." Finally, he calmed his pulse and brought to mind a feeling of peace, an absence of defensiveness. He pushed that through. "This is 'safe'. Although," he added as an afterthought, "I can't think of any situation in which that message would have to be transmitted secretly. Anybody who's safe shouldn't be at any risk by saying so, by definition." He watched Caden closely. If the kid was going to freak out and flee from the magic parrot, this would probably be the time to do it.

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Re: Boy meets Bird

Post by Caden » Mon Oct 03, 2011 12:39 am

Caden stood rooted to the spot while the phantom emotions from Sam came through their link and reached him. While none of them affected him in the same way real emotions would, it was a profoundly unsettling feeling to experience familiar emotions that reached him not through the heart, but through some other external means. For a moment or two he was simply confounded, struggling to come to terms with that sensation of feeling and yet not feeling.

But once he mastered that initial impulse to shudder at the strangeness of it all, what he felt was a fresh thrill of excitement.

It was true.

The implications crowded in on Caden and now he was at a loss as to what he ought to do with himself, and with Sam. The thought of him actually possessing magic was nothing short of life-changing and it left him quite speechless.

It took him almost a full two minutes before he realised where he was, and that Sam was still perched up there watching him. He looked up at the parrot with a wide grin.

‘So... I’m magic, then? Teach me something!’

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Re: Boy meets Bird

Post by Sam » Sat Oct 08, 2011 4:49 pm

"First, we need to figure out how your magic works." Excitement. That was good. Sam decided that he could probably be completely honest with his new wizard; any fear he might have of his own magic was clearly outweighed by an understanding of its potential usefulness.

"The thing about magic is, it takes energy. Different amounts of energy for different people to do different things. It's complicated. But it always takes energy. Now, having a familiar is... like having an extra reserve of energy. I don't change how your magic works, I just make it better by giving you extra power if you need it. So until we figure out exactly what you do, it's hard for me to help you.

"My magic is the bond. I can send you power. As I demonstrated, I can also sent you crude emotional messages. You might be able to do the same, and if you can't, you will with practice. Over time, our bond should strengthen and we can learn to send messages to each other in words, or even see through each others' eyes. I can also sense magic, and see how it flows, giving me an idea of how it might work. That's how I found you in the marketplace. So our first step is probably just doing that again. Can you show me what you did? What you called 'being careful'?"

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Re: Boy meets Bird

Post by Caden » Sun Oct 16, 2011 6:08 pm

Sam’s short explanation on magic was simple enough for Caden to grasp. He had no actual experience with it, so all of it was theoretical knowledge, but Caden thought he understood the basic principle of magic requiring energy - he supposed it wasn’t all that different from how running, jumping or any other physical activity would require some energy.

It did beg the question of where that energy came from (was there magical food you had to eat, just like you ate normal food for physical energy?) though he shelved it for now. What occupied most of his attention was the prospect of actually discovering and being able to direct the magic that Sam claimed he saw. He didn’t much care for the idea of being able to sent and receive mental impressions - for some reason the idea of that kind of intimacy with anyone or anything made him shudder - so he brushed aside Sam’s instruction on that point.

‘What, here?’ He asked incredulously. The idea of trying to hide from the parrot while in front of the parrot struck him as just a little bit silly.

‘Look, I’ve gotta crow anyway. For food. I guess you’d want some too, being stuck in that cage. I can crow, and you can watch for the magic, ‘cause I think this en’t going to work here. I can’t do it if I know you know I’m here.’

His mind was already racing ahead, back to the marketplace to plot out a route. He’d have to give the trapper’s store a wide berth as far as possible, just in case. It was a bit of a pity because the toymaker’s stall happened to be the best place to pick unattended pockets, but Caden could work around that. He set off, expecting Sam to follow. And if the parrot didn’t agree, well... Caden couldn’t stay there and try to ‘be careful’ anyway, because he was sure he couldn’t pretend to crow right in front of Sam at that tree. That was just weird.

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Re: Boy meets Bird

Post by Sam » Tue Oct 18, 2011 5:00 am

Sam supposed a response wasn't required of him when Caden took off. He gave him a few minutes head start. He wasn't concerned with finding the boy again; the he could feel the bond, sharp and strong, and it would be easy to follow.

The bond! He hadn't realised how much he'd missed it. He'd taken it for granted the last time, and he'd pushed its absence out of his mind all that time in the forest. He knew that Caden was working magic when he felt the tiny trickle drain out of him. He clamped down, modifying the amount carefully; he had to be very, very careful not to give the boy more than he could handle. Only a negligible amount was flowing from the overcautious bird, but it was flowing.

He kept his mind on it, terrified that if he stopped paying attention it would disappear. He still remembered that time, in the heat and smoke of the burning building, that he'd reached for the bond and it just wasn't there; Jason had cut him off, rejected him, and he kept that pain fresh in his mind as he searched, hoping it was true, because if Jason hadn't cut the bond himself then its absence meant...

Then they pulled the bodies out, and he hadn't been able to pretend any longer.

But not this time.

Sam followed his new wizard once the boy started using magic. He kept his distance, fluttering between caravan and stall roofs. He wasn't concerned about being conspicuous; few people knew enough about birds to know that a lone timneh parrot was strange, and even fewer looked up. Sam could see that the boy's magic was targeted at the people around him, lashing and pushing at people by some criterion that Sam couldn't discern. Sam kept an eye on Caden's hands and watched him pick pockets; nobody else seemed to notice. The magic, Sam noticed, strengthened when Caden took something.

Active magic. That was good. Sam's magical absorption wouldn't drain energy from Caden's actively powered magic. No double takes or anything from the victims suggesting an unfamiliar sensation. Mind affecting? Or just really subtle? It seemed a little bit like Jason's illusion magic in some ways, but that had never targetted other people.

A suspicious-looking shopkeeper watched Caden carefully as he walked past. The magic pushed at him, and his gaze drifted away.

Ah. That would make sense.

Sam kept watching Caden work. When the boy was alone again, he'd swoop down and meet him.

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Re: Boy meets Bird

Post by Caden » Sat Oct 22, 2011 3:53 pm

The thrill of discovery stayed with Caden as he made his way back to the marketplace. It was a quiet bubble at the base of his heart that buoyed him up and even though he didn’t go about grinning like an idiot, he felt a strange inner happiness, a childish kind of joy that was tempered with some appreciation of how the future looked brighter now, with magic.

He didn’t feel exceptionally different, but he was more aware of his actions as he tried to pinpoint exactly what it was that triggered his use of magic. As he slipped back into the throng, he was aware of a slight stoop he adopted; a subtle shift in body language that made him less obtrusive in a crowd. He noted for the first time how he almost unconsciously picked out specific people to watch and avoid because he was somehow able to tell from the way they moved or looked around that they were more perceptive than the average person. He was aware of how he kept a mental tab on these figures as he navigated through the crowd, and how he made sure that something either blocked the line of sight or served as a suitable distraction for these people. He realised how he never looked at anyone directly in the eyes so that he could avoid engaging even their peripheral attention.

He also noticed how quickly he marked out potential targets, all characterised by a certain air of inattentiveness or intense focus on something else. He knew, by some primal sense, that they hadn’t even peripherally registered his existence in the teeming masses, and that he could slip in and out of their lives in one short window of opportunity without them being any the wiser.

Caden went one round around the market to scope the place afresh, marking targets and those to avoid. There were plenty of women laden with baskets, some covered with only a cloth, and these were easy enough to steal from. On his second round, he procured a carrot, a bun and a potato, and as he left the marketplace he swiped a few loose Bishani left as change whilst the owner was attending another customer. It wasn’t much, but it was good enough for about ten minutes’ work.

The sense of satisfaction he felt was somewhat dulled by the fact that for some strange reason, he knew that Sam was around. He couldn’t tell exactly where the parrot was, but he could definitely ‘feel’ his presence; a hazy blotch in his mind that told him he wasn’t really alone and unmarked. Caden would have loved to actually spot the parrot - not being able to mark him out was a thorn in his side, since it ran counter to his habit of keeping track of who might be watching him - but he knew he couldn’t go around looking up at the sky or he’d draw too much attention. So he walked on, mildly disturbed by that feeling, and made his way back to the copse where he waited for Sam to show up again.

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Re: Boy meets Bird

Post by Sam » Sun Oct 23, 2011 11:54 am

Sam swooped in to meet Caden as soon as the boy was alone. "It's definitely when you're working," he said without preamble. "I think you're pushing people's attention away, or you might be feeling for their attention and then avoiding it by normal means. Possibly some combination of the two, it's hard to be sure. Either way, it seems incredibly useful." Sam thought to himself. Applications? Thieving, obviously. But Sam didn't want his wizard to be some urchin scraping a living. They could do better than that. More high class thieving, perhaps... very risky. This wasn't the town to be caught as a magical accessory to major crime. Spying? Risky to spy against the government. Besides, the boy was probably illiterate. Might be accepted as a government spy, but Sam wasn't sure he himself would be so welcome, and even if he was he'd probably be sequestered in a cage for the rest of his life or something. Merchant spy, maybe.

Sam didn't consider a future for Caden which didn't feature the use of his magic. If Caden didn't use magic, Sam couldn't channel it. He needed to channel. That was his purpose. Nor did it occur to him to leave Caden's future up to himself.

Sam fluttered down to peer closely at Caden's hands. Even watching the boy's hands as he worked, he hadn't been able to see a lot of what he'd taken. "What did you get?"

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Re: Boy meets Bird

Post by Caden » Sun Oct 23, 2011 4:00 pm

Even with Sam’s observations, Caden wasn’t able to pinpoint exactly what he had done. For all his increased awareness of his own habits on this round, he couldn’t place his finger on anything that felt remotely magical. Much of his ability to spot the perceptive ones was based on on-the-job training and some pointers offered by fellow crows, likewise with the know-how on how to avoid those with sharper eyes.

He was hoping that Sam would’ve been able to shed more light on the situation, but now it was beginning to register that this magic business wasn’t going to usher in a sudden, sweeping change in his life. He was going to have to work at it, just like everything else. It was a slightly sobering thought, but Caden still retained the quiet glow in his heart at the prospect of some greater future, nebulous though it was at the moment.

‘Got a carrot, some bread, a potato. Got some Bishani too, but that’s for another time. What’cha want?’ Caden asked, producing the items of food.

‘So how’m I gonna start trying to use my magic more? Any way for me to sense my own magic when I use it? Can I learn to see it?’

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Re: Boy meets Bird

Post by Sam » Sat Nov 05, 2011 3:21 pm

Caden didn't need to know that Sam could probably scrounge a living from the forest and farms of Shim. "I'll have some bread," he said. Self-respecting parrots did not say 'please'.

"The next thing is to practise," he continued between mouthfuls of food. "I'd guess you've been doing that for years, but now we should be able to do it faster. I reckon we have to see how much of what you do is magic, and how much is mundane. Why don't we try..." he considered. "Let's try getting people to not pay attention to you while you're not... crowing. Maybe if we just go for a walk somewhere without any crowds to hide in, you might be able to trigger the magic part of your hiding without using any tricks. We could see if it works or not. What do you think?"

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