The air was starting to feel frigid. Rain was on the way again, after just a few days of light sunshine. Dragonfly felt the chill of the morning air dig into her bones. But on a day like this when the winds were gentle, there was prey to be caught and bellies to be filled. Many creatures disappeared under the shroud and muck of the rain. She and the other scouts would need to be ready.
There was nothing more appealing than the Rugged Cliffs today. She had planned the day carefully. In the generous new-leaf season, there would be birds around there. She remembered she had not taught her to-be, Bumble, how to snag flying creatures just yet. If they were lucky, they might even find a few eggs or young baby birds. It would be a valuable opportunity for Bumble that would only occur once a year. Licking her lips, the lithe and creamy scout rose to her feet to begin her morning.
"Bumble," she prodded her to-be with a paw. "Come on, wake up. I planned a special treat for us today."
She waited patiently outside the cave, watching her breath fog in the morning air. Life was good when hunting was good. It brought her joy that Flamewatcher had trusted her with the young to-be. It was her first one, and she was still often nervous about teaching. Bumble was a strange one, Dragonfly had to admit, but she swore that the large ears would make her a ferocious hunter. She glanced back into the cave again, too eager to share her love of the hunt. "You ready, Bumble?"
The cool air poked and prodded at the youngster's short hide making sleep more difficult than she'd like to admit. It didn't take much to stir her like this and the call of her new mentor was more than enough to gather her attention. A large white ear flopped up and back. It almost looked like it had been blanketed over the To-be's face in her sleep. Even now, the weight of it still left it rather floppy, but it was soon followed by the rest of her. Her mouth spread open wide showing all of her teeth as a yawn forced it's way out of her and she rose to her multi colored feet. "I'm coming!"She mumbled through yet another yawn, letting her long frame stretch out as she walked before coming face to face with the beautiful she-cat.
She was still new to the whole training idea, but was eager to learn from the experienced Scout. Looking up with eager, yet drowsy eyes, her ears looking like they were trying to pull her whole head back down, she managed to ask through another forced yawn in the morning air. "What kind of special treat?" As her mouth was forced back shut, a shiver ran through her slim frame, bristling down to the fur in the end of her tail, but by the time it worked it's way through her, she seemed to regain some kind of bounce in her step.
Skirting around Dragonfly, she bounded a few paces, ears bouncing along with her, threatening to fly her away as she looked back over her shoulder. "Are weeeee... Training in a new place? A new techinique? Oh, are we training with someone else today? She chirped the last part in excitement at getting to training in a group.
She couldn't help but give a slight chuckle because she had predicted the young cat's enthusiasm. Dragonfly remembered the days when she was just as eager and just as energetic. She knew the words that got her energy going, and Bumble seemed to respond quite positively.
"No, no other cats today," she meowed steadily in response to the chirpy molly. "Today we're going to hunt some birds... so we need to be extra quiet. Those creatures fly away at any slight sound. More cats would only make it harder."
"But on that note, they're extra plentiful during new leaf, so it's a great time for you to practice." This new leaf had been generous, Dragonfly noted to herself. She had already spotted quite a few robins flitting among the rocks. Gulls and ravens also visited the mountains quite often to try their luck.
Dragonfly paused as they began to climb the rocky path of the Rugged Cliffs. There would be a flat, nice area beyond this where to-be's are often trained. However, it would take a while to get there. Judging from Bumble's size and age, Dragonfly thought it might be a little more difficult than she initially planned. "I forget if I've taken you up here yet," she said hesitantly. She could already feel the soft soil change into stony ground beneath her paws. She looked back at Bumble. "It's quite a climb, isn't it? Do let me know if you get tired. And be careful not to cut your pads."
She hung back and decided to climb behind Bumble just in case the young to-be slipped or fell.
At the mention of hunting birds, Bumble's face lit up. If they thought her eyes couldn't get any bigger, they were wrong. Her mouth curled at the edges as her lips parted to say something in her excitement, but froze like that suddenly. Letting a thought sink in, she lowered her head, still bubbling with excitement, but instead said softly, "I can be quiet."
She followed after the silver feline, trying to matching the same paw steps as her mentor. Placing her feet in the same spots until they came to the rocky cropping. Her gaze drifted up, once folded ears now flopping back to appear open, a set of sails perched on her head catching the breeze as it came through.
She wasn't quite prepared for such a climb though. Air caught in her throat before swallowing it back and pushing herself up. She seemed to have the hang of it at first, but the further they went, the more she struggled. She wasn't sure of the footing, but didn't yet have the size about her to just climb, often time hopping from one spot to the next. There were a few moments of panic as either where she landed wasn't quite so stable or Bumble herself just hadn't aimed herself right. Despite the harsher terrain though, Bumble's excitement never really seemed to waver. A challenge only made the reward all the more enticing. If something is not impossible, it's not worth doing.
"I can hear a bird," She said, the end of her tail swishing back and forth with anticipation. Surely it wouldn't be too long now.
Dragonfly could not help but stifle a meow of amusement at Bumble's ears flapping in the breeze. After the climb, the rocky ravine was a relatively flat one. She was impressed with the to-be's tenacity, after all, she as a young cat had struggled many times to get up here.
She had to admit, the young to-be was keen. Dragonfly herself had not noticed birds yet, but a look at Bumble's ears told her the whole story. They might have to wait a while, birds were easily startled and their climb certainly was noisy. "We should be at about a good spot," she stopped at the edge of the climb, where the ground was beginning to pave out into flat stones. "I'll leave it up to you to pinpoint your first catch? It won't be easy the first time, but we gotta start somewhere."
Dragonfly crouched down low to the ground. Spiky bushes and small trees were their only cover here, with a few jutting rocks and lucky bushes. She motioned toward the lightly shrubbed area. Birds would likely land around here, looking for seeds or berries. She could hear the twittering of many birds around. "Don't be overwhelmed by all the sounds," she whispered to Bumble. There was definitely a few wrens or robins nearby. "Pick one and let's go for it."
Dual colored ears twisted and folded back against, not even her head, but against her neck at this point with their sheer size. She stretched herself up and peered up, trying to look and see where the sounds were coming from, but it was a bit overwhelming. She hadn't actually hunted yet. Dragonfly showed her how to do the motions, sure. How to crouch and stalk, but this was the first time against actual prey. She looked over at her mentor wide-eyed and unsure. "You want me to pick?" She swallowed hard, not wanting to disappoint her, but she also didn't think she was good enough yet to try and catch real prey.
She opened her ears back up, though they drooped more than usual as she listened in. There was more noise than she had expected and it was rather overwhelming as it bounced around her brain. She tried to hone in on just one sound, but every time she thought she had picked out just one, another one barged it's way through and threw her off. Clenching her eyes shut, she tried again, but even then it was iffy. When she opened her eyes again, she noticed two small birds pecking around near the bottom of one of the bushes. Deciding that was the best bet, she hopped herself up, pressing her small frame as close to the ground as she could. Her belly nearly drug on the ground as her long limbs slunk her around towards the pair of them.
Black paw, white paw, red paw, and so on, one after another until she got near the bush, but as soon as she got close to it, they both fluttered further away. Unsure, she looked back over her shoulder to her mentor for something, anything. A hint or something to help calm her nerves.
A smile crossed Dragonfly's face as she silently watched the young to-be give it her best shot. The birds didn't seem to care that it was anyone's first time. At the sight rustle of her footsteps and the scent on the breeze, they easily took flight, soaring out of reach. Birds were easily startled creatures; Dragonfly had done more or less the same thing when she was younger.
"Oh, you gotta be a little braver than that," she gave Bumble a rather warm smile. Usually when it came to birds, patience and confidence was the key. "You did a lot correct, actually. Approach the birds from downwind, and ideally behind the prey, and make very little movements, one paw in front of the other."
Dragonfly crouched the way Bumble had done. "If the birds don't notice you, you continue stalking, closer until you can do one quick lunge for the kill."
"But, they are birds, and their keen senses likely pick up on you if you take too long. At this point, you need to just go for it. The moment they spread their wings to fly, aim your paws slightly above them. Don't be afraid to jump and hook them out of the air, they don't put up too much of a fight."
The first few times, Dragonfly doubted Bumble would be quick enough, so a demonstration would be good. She motioned to the two birds that had fluttered further away, and dropped into a crouch herself. I better not mess this up, Dragonfly reminded herself. Despite all their time spent training, she still became nervous when demonstrating the unpredictable skill of hunting to her to-be.
She waited, for what seemed like an agonizingly long time, pinning her eyes on the closer bird. As it settled down from Bumble's initial scare, she crept forward. The bird spotted her as she had predicted. Dragonfly launched herself away from the ground, claws outstretched. Both birds attempted to take off upward, but she cleanly hooked the one she was aiming for and slammed it to the ground.
She glanced over at Bumble and grinned. "How's that for a clean catch? Ready to give it a try?"
Her ears drooped as her mentor spoke to her, looking at the skilled hunter with her wide eyes, desperately drinking in any wisdom she could siphon off the she-cat. She remained in her crouched position as Dragonfly did the same, explaining to the wee To-be the process of catching a bird. Bumble seemed to perhaps have a hidden talent for the art buried in her, but she lacked the confidence to let it bloom like it should and often never even made the leap at prey.
Bumble watcher her mentor move with the grace of a well oiled machine. She was slick, graceful, and the reflexes of a coiled cobra as Dragonfly sprung forward, hooking the bird from the air as if it were fruit from a tree. The young calico was awestruck, left staring with her mouth slightly agape as both the silver molly and the bird alike reconnected with the earth.
She sprung up from her crouch, all four paws coming off the ground for the briefest moment before she scampered over. "You make it look so cool!" She chirped, trying to get a look at the bird that lay lifeless on the ground. "I'll be a great hunter if I can manage to be half as skilled as you." She cooed. "I'll try again, I can do it, promise."
She hopped around, her ears seeming to try and fly her away as she looked around eagerly for another bird, wanting to prove her worth to the molly, but Bumble's little outburst of excitement may have startled the birds off a little bit. That and the catch, at least right near by, the birds didn't want any part of the two felines.
Dragonfly gave a purr of amusement at the young cat's enthusiasm. She used to feel the same way about hunting. The thrill and the precision made it all the more appealing to her. When she was younger, she often watched skilled cats and their satisfyingly smooth movements, wondering if one day she could accomplish the same feat.
"Oh, it's easier than it looks. You will be twice as skilled as me in no time," she brushed her tail over Bumble's large ears. "I have no doubt in that."
Their brief excitement, however, startled the rest of the birds in the area. Dragonfly gave a quick glance around and rolled her eyes in amusement. She scrapped a shallow hole and dropped the bird, burying it to retrieve later.
"Let's move further. Prey don't usually stick around for very long after watching one of their friends die at cat's claws," she joked. She led Bumble to a slightly more lush area. A little bit of undergrowth could go a long way in concealing a hunter. She didn't think Bumble needed too much help on the crouch. The problem seemed to lie in the approach and lunge.
Perhaps some bushes could help conceal them a little longer while the more timid to-be honed her skills. There was no need to take things too quickly.
"Alright," she whispered to Bumble. There were definitely birds around, pecking at the seeds that fell out of berry bushes during this season. "It's a little harder for them to see you here, so let's try again. Remember, it's alright to make a brave lunge for it when they notice you! You got this."