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.
Sam
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Boy meets Bird

Post by Sam » Tue Aug 30, 2011 9:48 am

Sam pecked halfheartedly at the small wooden cage holding him. He should be more indignant about being caught, but he was going to have to seek humans out again soon anyway. The pressure of magic building inside his small form was almost painful now, and he had no idea what would happen if he let it keep building.

The cage, though, that was an insult. Not that he was in one, that he was in a poorly made one. It was just twigs tied with twine. It barely qualified as a child's stick house. He was sure that, if he needed to, he could just pull the twine apart with his beak and leave. What kind of incompetent trappers were these? Had they never caught a parrot before?

But there was no point in escaping, not yet. A marketplace was the perfect place to be. With luck, he should be abel to charm the right person into buying him. So long as he didn't get himself killed first; some people could be touchy about magical parrots.

Sam behaved himself as his cage was gently set on a stall next to some kind of giant cricket. It was getting harder and harder not to insult the trapper's stupid moustache every time the man picked up his cage, but it didn't matter. Soon he'd have a new wizard.

Soon, he'd be able to make as many withering remarks about moustaches as he wanted.

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Re: Boy meets Bird

Post by Caden » Tue Aug 30, 2011 5:26 pm

Shim was probably the last place anyone would think of visiting in order to find a new future. Everyone knew that Marn effectively dwarfed the little settlement. Marn was the thriving city, the bustling heart of Thar Shaddin, and Shim was just a sleepy village nestling quietly in its shadow. If someone was looking for a place with more opportunity, Marn would be the obvious choice.

Caden knew all this, but there was something that still compelled him to visit Shim on a semi-regular basis. There was little chance of him gaining much from the visit, materially speaking (crowing there was a bad idea since the crowd was always so thin), but he kept going back anyway just to walk through its quiet streets, peek in the Red Chalice, and study the people in the marketplace. Somewhere, he knew (or imagined), there was an opportunity waiting for him to do... something with himself.

The journey wasn’t an easy one (or entirely safe for a lone boy), but Caden always managed it by joining small groups that usually set out from Marn before the crack of dawn. The stores that sold fresh produce made it a regular affair to send some goods to Shim to make the morning market there, and some of the larger stores felt it wise to make their presence felt by delivering all manner of goods as well, from textiles to toys. If one was patient and unobtrusive enough, it was easy enough to simply quietly join one of these parties and share in the protection of numbers without being chased off.

So once every few weeks, Caden found himself in Shim. It had become a sort of regular retreat after days of crowing or keeping tabs on things in the city. Here, he felt more relaxed, and away from the everyday bustle of life in the city he had time to think a little about his future.

For some time now, his thoughts had drifted towards taking on a job of sorts. He was sure that he had enough to offer - he just needed to find someone willing to trust him, and willing to pay him to do something, anything. His most recent visits to Shim were therefore more purposeful than before, and he stalked the marketplace with increasing frequency, hoping to find some sort of opening that would allow him to make the jump from theft to employment.

Today, he had come to watch a small shop selling items that had come from Joran Vondan’s smithy. It carried mostly small woodworking tools, but Caden noticed that the shopkeeper usually brought items meant specifically for delivery or collection by individuals. With enough time, Caden hoped to be able to identify a need, and present himself to fill it.

For now, though, it was a little too early. While the rest of the marketplace was in full swing, the shops that didn’t rely on the freshness of their produce weren’t fully set up yet. He had perhaps an hour or two before the store selling tools would be ready, so he had that much time to take a look at the rest of the market.

And even though he had been here many times before, he couldn’t help but feel that small stirring of excitement every time he realised he was strolling through Shim, not Marn. With that tiny glow in his heart and a small smile on his face, he slipped into the crowd and was quickly lost to casual sight as he peeked into the goings-on behind each stall.

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Re: Boy meets Bird

Post by Sam » Wed Aug 31, 2011 2:04 pm

Sam perched in his cage, watching the crowd.

It was a village. A dingy farming village in the middle of nowhere, were his trappers insane? He'd gotten the impression from random snatcdhes of conversation that this area was a little more Puradyne than he was used to, but he still saw snatches of magic. A couple of people with the stuff moving slowly through their veins. A particularly daring entertainer whose words curled around her audience and drew heads. A street kid, prowling the stalls, lit up like a campfire in the darkness.

Sam couldn't tell what he was doing, but whatever it was radiated from him, pushing at others. It didn't look powerful, but it was always hard to tell. He didn't seem to be hurting anyone, at any rate. He looked about... young teens? Sam was sure his previous wizard had been a teen when he looked about that old. Don't think about that now. You have to move on. It had been so easy to forget in the forest...

Sam waited for the kid to move close to his cage and made sure his trapper was out of earshot before muttering as quietly as he dared while being sure the boy would hear him, "Hey. Kid. Get me out of here, I'll make it worth your while."

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Re: Boy meets Bird

Post by Caden » Sat Sep 03, 2011 5:09 am

For the most part, things hadn’t changed since his last visit. The routine of the shopkeepers remained largely the same, allowing for a few minor variations. Life in Shim’s marketplace went on much like it always had, and Caden passed through the hustle and bustle feeling very much at ease. By now he knew a handful of people by their faces, and he spotted them speaking with their friends in their favoured spots, or making the same purchases from the same stalls, going through the comfortable motions of haggling with shopkeepers they were on good terms with.

There was a little toy shop that Caden was particularly enarmoured with; it was one of the few things that almost always changed whenever he visited. There were some pieces that stayed for several weeks, but the collection of items on sale changed on a very regular basis. He spent a bit more time here, admiring the things on display, before moving past the trapper’s stall. There were several small animals like rabbits up for sale, fated to be turned into broth or stew some time later in the day, but there were also other more interesting creatures like a giant cricket and a rather forlorn-looking grey parrot.

‘Hey. Kid. Get me out of here, I'll make it worth your while.’

Caden froze, but only momentarily. He managed only a quick glance at the trapper’s inventory before he had to move along; if he stayed still would attract the attention of the trapper, who might think he was a customer stopping to survey the goods. But instead of continuing on his course through the rest of the market, he slipped out of the crowd and circled back behind the stalls.

Was it the parrot or the cricket that talked? Caden wondered for a moment, then allowed himself a quiet chortle at the strangeness of the question. Well, something talked.

His found that his heart was beating excitedly as he hid in the shadow of a house close to the marketplace. It wasn’t the sneaking around, no; he was an old hand at that. It was the thought that he had stumbled across something truly extraordinary. A talking creature? Did the trapper even know what he had?

The trapper was presently standing in front of his stall, on the side that was further away from both the cricket and parrot. Caden took in the general position of the crowd and decided that the best spot for him to hide would be that little nook between the trapper’s and the toymaker’s stall. A small box with the toymaker’s stamp served as a convenient shield from the rest of the crowd, so he wouldn’t be too conspicuous if he crouched behind it. He just needed to get to that spot without either the trapper or the toymaker noticing.

Two minutes passed. The trapper was now busy haggling over a brace of grouse and the toymaker was entertaining a bunch of smaller children who had broken away from their mothers. Caden quietly slipped out from the cover of the houses and darted straight for the nook between the stalls. He peeked over the rim of the stall and was treated to an uncomfortably close view of the giant cricket.

He felt extremely stupid doing this, but he was sure that what he heard wasn’t just his imagination. ‘I’m here,’ he whispered uncertainly at both the cricket and the parrot. ‘Eh... what’m I looking at here?’

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Re: Boy meets Bird

Post by Sam » Sat Sep 03, 2011 2:13 pm

"Up here, kid. What're you looking at the cricket for? Have you ever heard a cricket talk?" Sam reminded himself to be patient with the boy. The last thing he needed was his best shot to walk off in a huff. "Name's Sam. Perfectly normal name for a perfectly normal magical talking parrot. Now are you gonna let me outta here or not? I know, I know... you're gonna say, 'But Sam, your trapper will surely see us leave and catch us, and it'll be even harder for you to escape!' And you're right, except for the part where I'm a genius. Now keep your head down."

Parrots, Sam knew, made great imitators, and unusually intelligent parrots who had the foresight to practice made even better ones. His voice when he said, loud enough for the toymaker to hear, "don't buy any of that toymaker's rubbish, I've been set up next to him all day and I can tell you it's all trash" didn't sound exactly like his trapper, but it was close enough. The toymaker spun around and stalked over to the trapper, who was engaged in conversation with a young man buying a rabbit.

"Say that to my face," the toymaker snapped.

"Say what to your face? 'These rabbits hace enough meat on 'em for at least two meals'?"

"Say what you said about my toys, you coward."

"Excuse me?"

While they argued, children, in the manner of unsupervised children everywhere, started to inspect the toymaker's merchandise with more enthusiasm. Sam hoped the boy was quick enough to help encourage this, but even without him, somebody would steal something sooner or later. The toymaker was an experienced salesman, however, and wouldn't leave his stall unmonitored for that long. He was already marching back.

Dammit. Sam shouted, "last one to touch the cricket's cage is a Changer!" and was gratified when at least a few of the children, bored without the toymaker entertaining them, ran over. He hissed to the boy, "Quick, knock the table! Make some of the cages fall over!"

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Re: Boy meets Bird

Post by Caden » Mon Sep 05, 2011 2:55 pm

Magic.

Caden felt a cold thrill run down his spine. It made sense that the parrot was magical - who’d ever heard of a parrot that actually talked, instead of just cawing out token phrases? - but to hear it straight from the proverbial horse’s mouth was still something of a surprise. In all his fourteen years, Caden had never so much as caught a sniff of real magic; his experience with it was largely the within the realm of fraud. To actually be face-to-face with a puradyne’s nightmare was both exciting and slightly terrifying, even if it was in the modest form of a woebegone grey parrot.

Despite that, though, Caden couldn’t help but feel a stab of annoyance. The parrot’s attitude bore an uncanny resemblance to some of the mouthier street rats he’d met in his time, and he never had a high opinion of any of them. Yes, it was a great deal more eloquent, but the cadence of its speech carried that undeniable sense of haughtiness which was extremely at odds with its physical stature - Caden was more used to that kind of self-important bluster coming from kids who generally had something to boast about, even if it was something as banal as size.

But to the parrot’s credit, it did marvelously well in creating a scene. Caden wasn’t too concerned with taking a more active part in it; the children had already availed themselves to the toys on display, probably without any intention to steal just yet, but simply seizing the opportunity to actually touch the toys. It would be enough of a distraction for the toymaker.

But what about the trapper? Caden peeked over the rim again and--

‘Last one to touch the cricket’s cage is a Changer!’

--slapped the cricket’s cage onto the floor, where it was immediately mobbed by some of the children who weren’t busy trying out the toys. The trapper gave out a cry of general distress at the sight and dove into the fray, quickly seizing the cage and holding it aloft with one hand, while delivering admonishing smacks to any child within reach. In a few moments he had chased them away, and he placed the cricket cage back on the stall with a sigh of relief.

A moment later, he let out another cry of distress when he noticed the missing parrot, but Caden and Sam were already a safe distance away from the marketplace, and did not hear it. Caden was in no hurry; the trapper would likely search the crowd instead of sallying forth from the market. In any case, running with a cage was an extremely bad idea, so he simply walked down a quieter street, looking for all the world like an ordinary lad who had just made a novelty purchase.

‘So... how’s this worth m’while?’ He asked Sam as offhandedly as he could, and quietly enough so that it wasn’t immediately apparent to passers-by that he was actually trying to hold a conversation with an animal.

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Re: Boy meets Bird

Post by Sam » Tue Sep 06, 2011 10:21 am

Sam didn't want to hold a conversation in earshot of a crowd, but coldly ignoring the boy would probably get himself abandonded. Still inside the cage, if he was unlucky. Which he could break out of, but it would be a bother.

He gave the annoying whistle that everyone seemed to teach their pet parrots and said, "Not here! People!" in a singsong tone. After the crowd had thinned a bit, he muttered, "What do you do, kid? You seem like the stealthy type. Seem used to not being noticed." Sam hadn't seen the kid steal anything at the market (other than himself), but he was clearly practised at sneaking about, either for fun or profit. It was worth a stab. "I'm used to not being noticed to. Know what I mean? Just an everyday parrot, nobody pays attention." He preened one of his wings casually.

Should he bring up magic? No. The kid might get scared that Sam had seen his magic so easily. They didn't like magic in Shim. That could wait.

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Re: Boy meets Bird

Post by Caden » Thu Sep 08, 2011 1:15 pm

Being with a parrot was definitely different. If Caden was with another street rat, neither of them would have bothered about being overheard since people rarely paid any attention to children like him in the first place. He duly kept his silence until Caden took a smaller street that would eventually lead them to a secluded spot on the edge of Shim.

There were fewer and fewer people as Caden brought them to that spot, and finally the parrot felt comfortable enough to talk. Caden’s attention was only half here - part of him was thinking about how secluded that spot actually was, and if it was a safe place to hold a proper conversation with a parrot - but he was possessed with enough acumen to know the parrot was probably trying to get a handle on him.

That was a bizarre thought, but from what Caden had seen, the parrot was every bit as smart as a real person.

‘Don’t get what you’re tryin’ to get at,’ Caden said shortly as he brought them out of the village proper and onto one of the farmsteads. A chicken coup sat at the edge of a field where some cows were grazing, but Caden stayed well away from these so it wouldn’t appear as if he was here to cause any mischief. Instead, he took himself to the far side of the field where a small copse provided a private enough spot for his purposes.

He set the cage down on the soft grass and leaned himself against a tree. ‘So what now?’ He asked the parrot, while he mentally rearranged his plans for the day, trying to see where this would take him.

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Re: Boy meets Bird

Post by Sam » Sun Sep 11, 2011 4:44 pm

Sam carefully preened a wing. He hadn't thought this far ahead, but this was no time to be admitting things like that. He had a soft spot for this kid -- he wasn't exactly like Jason, not much like him at all in fact, but he was the closest thing Sam had seen in a while and he was going to protect and guide his wizard. Even if he didn't seem to need much protection and guidance. Even if he wasn't actually his wizard yet.

"First," he said, "you should open this cage, 'cause wandering around with this thing looks suspicious. Only rich kids would be coming home with a grand, beautiful bird like me, and you don't look rich. Then you should tell me your name. I'm Sam but I don't know who you are. And then... you should tell me where you want your life to go. You've heard the old tales, haven't you? You save a magic animal and it grants you a wish." Please let this work.

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Re: Boy meets Bird

Post by Caden » Tue Sep 13, 2011 4:35 pm

The hazy idea that had formed when Caden first heard the bird talking to him had been to find some collector who would be interested and just sell the parrot off, but now that the thrill of the steal was over, he realised that no bird in its right mind would prove to a buyer that it could talk. He was hoping for some stroke of inspiration to point out exactly how this could work to his benefit, but as Sam introduced himself, he felt the chances of that happening were quickly dwindling.

A silence descended following Sam’s last words. Caden didn’t really believe it, but even if it was true Caden wasn’t sure if he’d put any stock in something as otherworldly as a parrot’s wish-granting abilities. He did admire Sam’s glibness, though, even if it was a little irritating at the moment.

‘You ain’t grand,’ Caden muttered after a moment, a little disgruntled since he wasn’t sure what he could do with this bird. ‘You’re grey.’

He had to concede that the parrot had a point, though. Not many kids actually bought parrots from the street market and wandered about with them.

It was then that Caden realised that the bird was too smart to be dismissed at just another animal, and Caden couldn’t bring himself to sell or otherwise harm something as special as Sam. Keenly aware that he was possibly setting free the most valuable thing he’d ever held, he let out a sigh of dissatisfaction and produced his paring knife.

‘Name’s Caden,’ he mumbled, methodically cutting through the twine that bound the wooden cage together. In moments, Sam was free. ‘Keep your wish, don’t want it. You’re free. Now shoo, before I change m’mind.’

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Re: Boy meets Bird

Post by Sam » Wed Sep 14, 2011 3:55 am

"I'll have you know, kid, that to a female parrot I'm as grand as it gets." Sam would be the first to admit that he wasn't the best judge of human emotions. He'd learned to judge Jason's by trial and error, and that's all he'd ever needed. But the kid certainly seemed sad or regretful about sometrhing. He hopped out of the cage.

"And you, my boy, can't get rid of me that easily. A favour for a favour, that's the rule. So I'll give you a little gift. I'll help you along with your magic." With that, he darted forward and nipped Caden's finger hard enough to draw blood without doing any real injury. Then he flew for a high tree branch in case the kid decided to hit him. "There. A bit of extra energy reserve. You should be able to push your magic further without tiring now, although I doubt that's ever been much of an issue for you, has it?"

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Re: Boy meets Bird

Post by Caden » Wed Sep 14, 2011 3:54 pm

‘Oy!’

Caden waved the parrot away and put his finger in his mouth. He belatedly realised that it probably wasn’t the wisest thing to do if the parrot was poisonous or something - who knew with magical, talking ones? - and quickly removed the finger and spat. On closer inspection, it seemed like a normal tiny cut and it’d probably heal up in a day, but he fixed Sam with a suspicious eye.

‘What’re you going on about? Only one of us is magic, and that’s you. You ain’t poisonous and talkative, are you?’

There was definitely some strange sensation that Caden couldn't place, but the pecked finger actually felt pretty good. Actually, he felt pretty good. Despite that, though, he shuddered slightly, unnerved by the odd feeling.

'What'd you do?' He demanded.

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Re: Boy meets Bird

Post by Sam » Thu Sep 15, 2011 7:58 am

"Nothing dangerous," Sam lied. But it should be safer for this kid, surely? His magic didn't read as... active as Jason's. Admittedly it was very similar to Jason's in its pattern, if more centred onb the kid itself, but it wasn't illusions. There was no reason to think he'd overtax himself and burn out like that. It was something simpler... probably. And Sam could protect him, be better at controlling the flow. Probably. "I just gave your magic a bit of a boost. And you do have it. I could see it pouring off you, in the marketplace. What were you doing?" It might've been unconscious, he realised. That might make things difficult.

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Re: Boy meets Bird

Post by Caden » Sat Sep 17, 2011 5:04 pm

‘It’s not magic,’ Caden said irritably. ‘If I did...’

He trailed off, indulging momentarily in the daydream of how so many things could have been changed if he had possessed even a fraction of the kind of power that the Changers had. He’d have been able to find his parents... to get off the streets...

... to save Triss...

‘I was just being careful,’ Caden continued, wrenching his mind back to the present. ‘Just like any crow. That’s us street kids. Ain’t no magic to it.’

He briefly contemplated leaving the parrot here and going about his business again, but it probably wasn’t such a good idea to return to the marketplace today. Someone might have spotted him taking off with the cage earlier, and he didn’t want to risk being spotted. With a mental sigh he threw away his plans for the day and focused on the present.

‘So...’ Now that he wasn’t busy being annoyed and eager to go off, he realised that there were A LOT of questions he had for the parrot. In fact, it was just beginning to really sink in that the silly thing could actually talk.

‘Sam, right? How’d you learn to talk?’

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Re: Boy meets Bird

Post by Sam » Mon Sep 19, 2011 3:12 am

Sam wished, not for the first time, that he could snort derisively. But the ability to snort without sounding pathetic was not one of his many skills. "I talk like you talk, kid. How'd you learn to talk?" Being careful, eh? Unconscious magic. That made things far less convenient. But it would still work. "My trapper..." that didn't sound right, not any more. He didn't want to compare the man who'd made him to the idiot who'd dragged him to Shim. His creator, maybe? "My wizard's father taught me. When I was a kid." If Caden's magic was unconscious, it could still be brought out. Sam just needed to encourage the sort of circumstances that brought it out. And that was 'being careful', apparently. "You said you were a street kid? I don't wanna cast aspersions on your fine character..." the fine character that would just steal a bird from the marketplace for no important reason "... but most the street kids I know are... stealthy by nature. Gotta survive, right?" Sam ruffled his feathers. "Creatures like me, creatures with wings that nobody notices... we're good at survivin'. Good at helpin' others survive, too. We're real careful creatures, parrots, even if we do like shiny things." That may have been laying it on too thick, but Sam's first attempt at this proposal had been missed (or ignored, it was hard for him to tell), and he was getting impatient.

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