OOC: She's probably near the mansion, possibly in it, but kind of "out of the way" so no one can see her fail lol. Up to you.
Vesper could not recall the last time she’d made anything with her hands, let alone fletched arrows.
Possibly it had been wartime, or back when she actually practiced archery. She knew that if she tried to draw a bowstring now her muscles would cry out. She had never gotten very good with the projectile weapon in the first place, despite frequent practice, and what meager skill she had atrophied from lack of use. She’d just plain not had a reason to touch the weapon again, not when she had other things to worry about.
But she’d dreamed of a soft, domestic face, amber eyes and a wily grin, and when she found stray turkey feathers in the yard had not let them go to waste.
Now she was regretting her decision.
The Aquila vaguely recalled the process, though she couldn’t get her fingers to work. Splitting the quills down the middle, she often went off-center or trimmed too much, and when she grabbed for sinew strings found issue with wrapping it tight enough. Even when she had succeeded in fletching one arrow, she realized she couldn’t remember anymore whether they were in the right position.
The coywolf groaned, and dropped her head against her hand, the other gripping the arrow tight enough her scarred fingers hurt.
One of the ravens seemed to be going through a molt, plucking at her feathers in an itchy display as they dropped and renewed, and Briarblack was never far behind to pluck up any of the dark feathers that Inferni's dutiful companions ever dropped. They were stowed away in a bag, saved - for what she didn't yet know, outside of decoration for her mane.
The mansion was quiet this time of day, but she could swear she heard the working, something quiet, shuffling, diligent -and with small ears pricked high and forward to attention, she followed, only to find the Aquila, her head in her hand, the other clutching onto an arrow with white-knuckled grip.
The cocoa hybrid furrowed her brow with worry, quietly stepped into the room and rapping a small few precussive notes against the door.
"Aunt Vesper?" Briarblack addressed, hardly waiting as she closed the space between them, wrapping an arm about the aging leader's shoulders, placing a palm on her upper arm, wrought with worry. "Are you okay?"
It was her responsibility, she had told herself, to take care of, to take mind, to keep watch over her relative, for all the kindness she had been paid in kind. Blue eyes looked down, to the arrow, and back to the scarred, sandy-pelted woman.
Asher would have teased her about the off-center arrows; she could almost hear his voice, see his encouraging if wily smile. “Practice makes perfect, babydoll.”
She could almost imagine that she smelled him again, but it was probably just the scent of the sinew, the feathers, the wood. She glanced down at the arrow, a soft flick of her eyes as she peered between white fingers, then looked up as knuckles knocked against the wooden door and saw the dainty dark shape of her niece.
Briarblack slinked over to her, blue eyes wide with concern, and slipped an arm around her shoulders. It was a touch both affectionate and bracing, not something that Vesper was used to, but she could feel her muscles slowly relax and she forced a smile.
“I’m fine, hon.” She reached for her niece’s pale hand to remove it, though she gave the slender fingers a gentle, grateful squeeze when she did so. The Aquila then glanced back at her collection of feathers and arrows, and allowed more characteristic frustration to cross her scarred features as she clucked her acidic tongue. “It’s just this fletching bullshit, I used to—well, not be good at it, but I knew what I was doing.”
She shrugged and sighed, casting her arrow off into the pile. “I could use help, if I even want to keep working on these, who knows.” She looked at the girl. “Did your mom show you how to fletch? I think she knew how. She was good with her hands—making rope and traps and things like that. Better than I ever was.” They had been opposites in so many ways, more like strangers than sisters.
The Aquila had reassured her, squeezed her hand, the older woman's expression sharp and fettered by the offending feathers and arrow shafts - a sharp contrast to her niece's patient, albeit worried features. Vesper spat her cindered ire at her lopsided work, and Briarblack clicked her tongue, going to pick up the discarded arrow to examine the off-set fletching.
"She showed me a little bit of it. She was always so... Patient with such things, it was hard to keep my attention on it for lessons, but I can try to help."
The mellow warble was resigned -- hopeful, but resigned, and she inwardly cursed herself for not paying more attention in the past, and that tongue pressed firmly to the roof of her mouth as she set down that arrow, and her satchel, before going to pluck up one of those turkey feathers and appraised them, twiddling the quill of the shaft between her fingers.
"These are pretty, Aunt Vesper. I like the banding," she idly commented, reflecting on some of her first attempts at her mother's teachings. Clumsy things, the arrows were lopsided and haphazardly flung together, and they always missed their target. Terribly innaccurate, she was disheartened; after all, if she was not good at something immediately, it was deeply frustrating. With a steadying breath, the Moineau child clipped the quill from the feather, and delicately split the shaft up the center, gently blowing air on it to be rid of the somewhat fuzzy core that dared to spill everywhere, and narrowed down the quill end, cutting the feather to shape.
"How are your eyes treating you?" the girl hazarded, blue eyes flitting up from her work a moment as she reached for one of the blank arrows and one of her trimmed fletches, free hand plucking up sinew thread.
To say her curiosity stemmed from innocent prattling was to be a lie - Briarblack was deeply concerned with the health and well being of the aging Aquila. She did her best to hide her ailments well, but the twinges in her step and the narrowed and bunched look about her eyes betrayed her squinting, betrayed her aching joints, and the girl could feel her heart leap into her throat at such obvious signs of mortality.
The dark coywolf offered help and twirled a feather, remarking on its beauty. Vesper snorted at that, crossing arms and rolling eyes; it wasn’t as if she had created the turkey who produced such a pretty banded quill. But she wasn’t all sourness; a smile played at the corners of her lips, a slanted smirk characteristic to her.
“I think these things helped Sparrow relax. Whether she used it as time to organize her thoughts, or focus on something else entirely… I think some of the rope she made is still here. She had small, clever hands too.”
Her voice was not quite nostalgic or affectionate, but there was a heaviness to it, a gentle musing tone. Sparrow’s mind had been a mystery to her still. Whisked away by a father driven by ego that waned over the years (was he still alive?), she had grown up in a dark place while the stronger sister braved the wilds. Her anxiety and melancholy lingered, and the disasters in the clan as the siblings fought to create some semblance of a proper relationship had not helped matters.
Vesper only hoped she was happy now.
She wasn’t quite paying attention to what Briar was doing, and it took her a moment to process that she’d asked her a question. Vesper’s snort this time was far more irritable, as narrow eyes flicked toward the girl and she asked sharply, “Just fine, why?” She cast another irritated glance at the arrows. “They don’t look that bad, do they?”
Briarblack's blue eyes glimpsed up, the girl pausing in her work to observe her aunt as she spoke of her mother. A small smile twisted those dark lips as she glimpsed back down, listened, learned. Sparrow was not here, no, but listening to the nostalgia made her feel... Wistful. Like she wasn't so far from home as she had felt some days. She only wished that she could possess an ounce of her mother's nimble handiwork, though the path of practice was one hard taken.
The snort, though, had made her jump slightly, brows shooting up and ears perking forward as the Aquila retorted in her sharp, straightforward way, defensive, and there was a somewhat nervous sounding laugh from the darkling niece.
"Oh! No, they're a little lopsided, but no, it's not that. They're fine," she promptly adjusted, her words clipping off as she focused on tying off the sinews and offering the arrow over to Vesper for inspection. "I just... I worry. I worry about you. I worry about time. I worry."
Jaws parted again, as though to say more, before she closed her lips and drew them to a thin line, etched into her features that looked distant and pensive, glimpsing over to feathers, before her attentions turned back onto Vesper, though something like melancholy hung at the edges of her eyes as she studied the hardened and battle-worn features of her relative.
"I don't even need to ask if you worry, too. Sometimes I just... Catch it. When you're working with the birds, when you're patrolling - how do you hide it so well?"
Fingers reached for another feather, carefully working to split this one as she had before.
Vesper flattened her ears defensively until the girl handed her an arrow, and she inspected the handiwork critically like she had some idea of what a good arrow actually looked like. The feather was split a bit differently than Ves had done it, but she was pleased to see that it didn’t look altogether different. If she hadn’t stopped working with her hands, she might make a good fletcher—but so many of her Optime-based skills had atrophied over the years.
She knew she wouldn’t be able to shoot a single one of these damn arrows, for instance.
Briarblack babbled softly that she worried, and her expressive features fell as those big blue eyes (Winter’s eyes) stared at the Aquila, whose shoulders hunched and bristled at the implication that she’d let her own worries slip.
Then she realized what she was doing, and shame flooded her.
She wouldn’t have hesitated to speak of these worries with Cartier, or Fang, or one of her other friends and family members she trusted. And in this, she realized that she didn’t trust Briarblack, that despite their immediate bond and her deep affection for her niece, she couldn’t bring herself to connect with her with so little effort, just as she hadn’t been able to with Sparrow.
She shouldn’t have hesitated at all. She should have been able to respond at once, but there was a long process to earning Vesper’s honesty, and shared blood did not help this. If anything, she thought (of Sparrow, of Brumaire), it hindered it.
She cleared her throat when her voice came out a ragged croak.
“I’ve had a lot of practice.”
Vesper forced a smile then, weary at the corners of her eyes but slanted and smirking as was characteristic to her. “Worry is natural, when you love so many people,” she said, and reached out to stroke the girl’s raven hair, curling a lock around her finger. “I worry about the clan, about my children, about you.”
She dropped her hand into her lap, spinning the arrow. “But I know that dwelling on my worries makes me miserable. It’s better to use that worry to fuel action—something you can control. I can worry all day about whether we have enough arrows, for instance, but in that case I should just make more.”
Then she sighed and shook her head, her hand reaching up to rub at a scar on her temple as she glanced back at Briar. “You shouldn’t worry about me, though,” she chastised lightly. “Old people worry about young’uns. Otherwise gray will shoot through your fur and it’ll be you squinting.”
Vesper didn't so much choke on her words as she just failed to summon them - her Aquila, her Aunt, merely stared at her a solid moment with eyes not too different from her own, and suddenly the dark colored girl felt very, very small. She did not see much of Sparrow in her - did not see her mother, but her brother was there, in the soft sand of her coat, in the slate there, and there was a pang in her chest of homesickness, and while she felt her eyes water, they cast up a moment, willed the sad away and merely made a soft and nervous sound - perhaps something that in a different circumstance could've been a laugh, to break that silence.
Vesper didn't trust her with that answer.
The rasp and her following sentence shattered her silence, and the small falter in Briarblack's wolfish ears ceased as they perked back forward to soak in her Aunt's wisdom, to heed and listen. Fingers curled into her dark hair, and eyes cast back down to that arrow as it was her turn to feel that silence wrap its way tightly around her throat, her chest compressing in on itself and causing the girl to deflate somewhat as she reached for another wooden shaft and more sinuous thread to tie off her halved feathers, immediately busying herself as she took a moment to collect her disorganized thoughts, all focused deeply on one single point. She wanted Vesper to like her, to trust her. She wanted her mom, and pink tongue wet over her lips in a quick motion before she sighed a little, her own smile returning with force, more tight this time.
"I can't help it. 'Sides, maybe a little salt in my coat'll suit me, don't you think?"