[15:41] A bright shine at the edge of her perception, subconscious but no less vivid, stirred Nadani into a sluggish wakefulness. She'd lost count of the number of days she'd woken this way, but it still stirred a bristling, instinctual fear up her spine for the first few moments, as though that light truly had a life of its own and what had woken her was a physical assault. She gave her mane a lazy-looking shake, dislodging the feeling, then regarding the white stone in the shaft of light as though with suspicion. Her very privately held opinion that her feathers were sufficient protection most of the time crept into her mind, soothing the unease inspired by the light.
Watching. The first phase of Dusk Watching was to look for the Dawn Watchers. Dawn Watcher, singular. If he hadn't woken her before the stone, he would have lost track of the time, or something had demanded his attention and he'd found it more pressing to brave an investigation than to stay put. Sometimes such investigations were frivolous, the product of the mental boredom of Watching.
Regardless the reason, he wasn't here now. Quietly, she leant across and nudged her muzzle against Idarago.
[16:02] At the touch his neck attempted to retreat deeper into his plume with a plaintive hiss, but within a few seconds his eyes were forcing themselves open and blinking against the dim lights of their patch of shade and the brighter lights of "hiss, it is too early, let me go back to sleep".
It took a few beats longer for Idarago's brain to rouse enough to remind him that no, it was his JOB to be awake far too early so others got to sleep safely. Which was an improvement; when Nadini had first taken him as apprentice his waking time was measured in minutes.
[16:22] The situation with Idarago was unique in that it often required something usually absent in the job of a Watcher: Conversation. It was the trainee days that Idarago was rapidly growing out of that demanded it. Outside of them, verbal communication was kept to a minimum as not to disturb those clan mates they were sworn to protect. As such it was with non-verbal communication that Nadani greeted him, nipping briefly at the feathers near the back of his head. Then she raised her dark forepaw and gestured first to their white 'alarm' stone, tugging at his feathers a little to remind him that its brightness technically should have woken him as well, regardless how subtle an overall change in the landscape it was – and that it had indeed worked to wake her. They would collect it once the sun moved on. Then another gesture swept through the landscape in a way Idarago by now recognised as 'notice anything amiss?'.
[16:50] A soft noise of 'okay, I'm up' and a shake of his own was his response to the day greeting, and then he followed her paw to their waking stone. Idarago stilled in embarassment. It had not woken him. Had possibly registered on some level, given how his muzzle had been firmly tucked under his own feathers, but the annoying brightness was meant to translate into properly waking up instead of hiding from it.
Hiding from bright sunlight was sensible and survival instinct and understandable in every way, but he was still supposed to be learning to overcome that. Or at least to WAKE UP, which he told his body was also sensible survival instinct because it was easier to hide from sunlight when you knew which direction to go.
Not that he had a lot of practice using the stone. Today's Dawn Watcher was supposed to rouse the Dusk Watchers when it was their turn. Was Nadini using this as a lesson and had left him to sleep? Idarago twisted to look over the sleeping piles of kavkem curled in their nests. Apparently not. No missing Watcher prowling around, or standing next to Nadini, or — he peered upwards — daringly perched in a tree.
[16:58] He was quicker on his feet than Nadani, that much had been clear for a while now – less experienced, perhaps more easily distracted (time would tell), but far more willing to invest all of his attention a few seconds after waking than Nadani was, who firmly needed ritual to guide her into the waking world. She was fluent at her ritual... but ultimately it didn't involve looking up and likely never would now that she'd internalised its current form. In half an hour, that sort of thing would have occurred to her, but not this early into a Watching.
[16:59] Reasonably sure that he had identified the absence of the Dawn Watcher, she leant across to him to whisper right into his ear: "Do you recall him saying anything last night that might have predicted his absence now?" The tone conveyed was, given her authority position, likely much as though she were issuing an exam – though she herself could not recall anything like it, either, and meant it as a simple enquiry.
[17:14] Wracking his brain for anything mentioned the night before he nodded his head in denial. "No, nothing. So... that means he noticed something and is investigating it?" he checked.
[17:26] The affirmative gesture merged with a firm nuzzle. After a moment's contemplation, Nadani reached the only reasonable conclusion: "Track him."
Even if it was a meander out of boredom, the exercise would be welcome experience for Idarago. Tracking a missing group member was an important skill he should possess – one they had previously tried in several controlled contexts, focussing on a cautious investigation, laying low, skills useful to uncover even the hopefully at most once in a lifetime events of someone having tried to lead Nayabaru away from a dangerous vicinity to the group, tragically misjudging some detail and ending up a captive. This was less controlled – it could be any degree of dangerous or harmless. It was now on Idarago to investigate and determine which way their luck leant.
[17:10@bnc] Tracking. He fluffed nervously. Tracking was hard. There was just /so much/ world around them and he had to pay attention to /all/ of it and try to figure out what was different to how it 'should' be. The Dawn Watcher should be here. He wasn't, which meant he was at the end of the trail. The trail would trace backwards to the spot he was supposed to be, so that was the starting point. Find the start, find the disturbances, follow them as far as you can, then assess. That was tricky enough, but then there was having to be stealthy while you did it, because if you were tracking it usually meant there was prey or predators around.
[17:11@bnc] Here was safe though. So he needed to start by finding the start where the Watcher should be. Idarago took a calming breath and started carefully picking his way towards where he'd remembered seeing the Dawn Watcher as they were settling in for the day. From there there should be traces to wherever he'd resettled as the morning went on or where he'd gone investigating.
[23:44] There was hesitance in Idarago's manner, Nadani mused. Perhaps this was an exercise they should repeat again in a controlled environment, allow him to grow more comfortable with the approach. On the other hand, there was a chance he just needed practical experience, and despite his extreme caution now would gain more from this interaction than from the previous ones. She rose, silent, planning to follow him as far as she could without losing sight of the group. Cautious, wary of the individual shafts of sunlight coming down not to far away from the lip of shade, both sceptical and fearful of them, she stalked across to Idarago. There was a subtly muddier mark in the ground amongst the shade of the steep but curt precipice that they'd sought their shelter beside – the ferns were slightly bent out of shape, suggesting something had spent some time here and wiggled around occasionally. An excellent starting point.
[16:55] The dip looked like someone had rested in it for a while, with a few ferns crushed flat around the edges and not starting to curl upwards again. And some that were, which meant... only a few hours of resting, he thought? He needed to pay more attention to his own nests.
Follow the trail. There, a scrap in the dirt where claws may have gripped. And slightly further was a bit of soil on a bare rock where a brisk wind would dislodge it. Walk a few steps, stop and listen. Watch. Glance back nervously and hope nobody was going to ambush the camp while you were chasing your missing Watcher. A little further. Scowl at a beam of sunlight curling up the edge of the path and carefully pick your way around it. Look some more.
[20:20] A motion catches Idarago's eye – a bird's dropped from a tree, almost out of his visual reach given the trees in the way, and gliding to his left, perhaps a little toward him, without a sound, before vanishing behind a tree, maybe having landed on its bark. There are enough other birds making up for it in an even greater distance, granting him a familiar background noise, and the assurance that nothing large was stalking him... or the Dawn Watcher if he was close.
The trail is tricky to follow. Somewhere behind him, Nadani serves as a kind of relay – quietly watching his progress, perhaps verifying the trail he's following inasmuch as she's seen it, alert and ready to bound back toward the group in silence to rouse them at the first sign of danger. Gradually, she fades into his peripheral vision.
After what feels like half an hour of searching, the trail becomes alarmingly easy to follow, its signs increasingly in the form of crushed foliage, leading in a straight line cutting through the underbrush in a direction almost precisely away from the group. For a moment, he's left to wonder if he's lost the Dawn Watcher's trail and accidentally discovered that of large game, but his confusion is quickly resolved as he almost trips across the Dawn Watcher.
It makes for an alarming sight. It's not immediately obvious what he's seeing, if the Dawn Watcher is alive or in his last moments of dying. His chest is moving, but at strange intervals, and his eyes seem glassy. If he can see Idarago or hear his approach, he's given no indication of it.
[20:21] Something seems to have bitten into his ankle – though whatever it was, it's since been dislodged.
[19:44] The trail straightening and growing clear enough for a hatchling to trace is alarming. He has a mental image of a Nayabaru chasing his packmate and flinches. That can't be what happened. For one, Nayabaru don't chase. For another, if there was a Nayabaru in close pursuit, close enough that a Watcher's only hope is to draw them away from the clan, then a Watcher should be doing so LOUDLY. It may lead them into thinking there were others around but they would think that anyway and in such circumstances even a lone kavkem was entired to scream, in his opinion.
[19:45] Idarago is so focused on potential larger-than-him threats that he nearly trips over a pile of wounded feathers and skitters backwards in alarm. Task 'Find the Watcher' complete. Task 'Find out what happened to the Watcher' very much not. "Hello?" he asks softly while looking for further injuries. A venomous bite on the ankle, maybe? But that didn't explain the trail. Trampled or gored by some large prey? Except that didn't fit the bite mark. Bitten by something WHILE trying not to be trampled? He looked back towards Nadani, hoping she has a better suggestion than "was monumentally unlucky".
[17:18] It's as though Idarago's hail ripples through the Dawn Watcher like a physical blow – a tension that looks as though born from discomfort or dread. His eyes move, although their purported focus misses its mark, as though he's forgotten how to use them, or they've ceased their usefulness.
Nadani is too far away to as much as see the Dawn Watcher from any angle, regardless how alert her posture and how fixed her attention. At this point, she's likely waiting whether Idarago is going to signal for her to run back and warn the others.
One of the Dawn Watcher's forepaws rises, an awkward tension in the blooming gesture – then he sweeps, silently, for Idarago to go away. Whatever his ailment, he appears lucid enough, but either can't or doesn't want to speak.
[16:34] He wants to ask what's wrong. He wants to shake the other Watcher until he shares details on the threat. He wants Nadani to tell him what's going on. But if the more experienced Watcher is signalling to leave that means there is a threat that Idarago isn't capable of handling, and it's /his/ job to keep everyone else safe.
Once more the younger kavkem cranes his neck to look above them. There was plenty of cover here, plenty of shade. There didn't look to be any approaching beams of evil sunlight. If they had to leave the Dawn Watcher alone until dusk, he should be safe from the skies. Clearly he wasn't safe from everything else and Idarago still felt they should be dumping a few armfuls of concealing leaf litter on him just in case but that wasn't his call.
Senses still on alert he picked his way backwards to Nadani and whispers, "He's alive, injured foot, wouldn't or couldn't talk, something's wrong with his eyes, and signalled me to leave him." And he couldn't think of anything that would match those symptoms and found himself glancing around uncertainly, tensing ready to run.
[16:55] Nadani's already alert posture adopts a bristle, her shoulders hunching subtly as she lowers her muzzle in some aborted, defensive instinct. Her eyes widen enough to reveal sharp white crescents around her dark irides and her muzzle opens ever so slightly. For a moment, that demeanour of alarm is her only reaction, then her tongue begins flicking at her teeth, breaking the tension with a rather casual gesture, and she inches back from Idarago to right herself. Her neck cranes, her attention cast over to the Dawn Watcher, another aborted motion in her shoulders, evidently tempted to bound across to him but thinking better of it.
It was a strange dilemma for her to be in right now. She had been firmly trained to listen to the word of a Watcher and she had no particular doubt that Idarago might be misrepresenting the Watcher's wish for solitude, but she, too, was a seasoned Watcher and her ideas were quite different. If someone was injured, they had to take him back to the others. If he could not be moved, he had to be concealed and someone should stay with him until circumstances changed. These were fundamentals – and it was all the more disturbing that the Dawn Watcher was rejecting them.
Something's wrong with his eyes, but in a manner that could not be specified – no obvious damage, then. "Poison," she explained, minimalistically. All the more reason to take him back to the others. If he rejected that, it either meant he thought himself a danger to the group, or he had lost enough of his mind to the poison that the notion of being a burden overrode his common sense – and if he truly thought himself a danger, his mental integrity would be questionable regardless whether it was true or not. She gave her muzzle and neck a shake. "We need to take him back," she said, sternly but lowly, then began stalking cautiously and quietly toward the fallen kavkem.
[17:38] Poison. It could be a Nayabaru trap. Or it could be something natural like a snake. Either way leaving him lying about here in the open was more dangerous than leaving him lying about with everyone else, and maybe one of the others would be able to treat the poison instead of hoping his body could burn through it.
Idarago watched where he was placing his feet as they approached the fallen Watcher. There was no way the kavkem would be able to walk back even with assistance. If they each took an arm his injured foot would drag on the ground and worsen the wound. He doubted Nadani could carry him across her back unaided and he certainly couldn't. Which really left them one choice. "Should I take his shoulders or his tail?"
[17:52] Nadani was about to answer, reaching down toward the Dawn Watcher's muzzle with her forepaws, when the injured kavkem, with a pained whimper at the strain of the motion, snapped it up and bit at her wrist. It was a light nip only, but so unexpected that Nadani jerked back, bristling anew. "Sss-" he hissed, trailing off. Then, with the abruptness of a compact exhale, the whole word followed: "Serrata."
It was an imposing sequence of syllables. Unfortunately, Nadani did not know what it was. "You'll be okay," she whispered, half soothing in tone, half perturbed and irritated at the bite. Her attention swerved between the injured Watcher and her hand, concerned that perhaps he might have transferred something to her with his bite – but her skin was unbroken beneath the feathers, suggesting no harm. "Just relax and Ago and I will take you back to the others."
"No," the Watcher barked, hoarsely, the syllable a bit too loud for polite company, more cry of pain than verbal communication.
[14:36] He froze. Serrata. They had to move, they had to warn the others, they had to protect the Watcher so that he didn't bring the Nayabaru's curse down ON the others. "No," Idarago echoed. "We need to muzzle him with something, quickly, before it finishes taking hold." What did they have? What could they use? Would binding his jaws be enough or should they stuff something in there first, and if they did how could they prevent it suffocating him?
But then he'd still be in the open, even if he wasn't actively drawing their enemies in. They couldn't leave him like that. "And then we can hide you under some leaves and get you afterwards," he offered the Watcher in a tone that was more worried and less soothing than he'd hoped.
[15:04] ...muzzle... him? Nadani's confusion froze her for a moment as she tried to arrange the information she had into some kind of coherent framework, while aggravated and perturbed that Idarago had potentially heard of a toxin she hadn't. But what kind of toxin would require that he get muzzled while away from the group? Given the nip, she might have understood a muzzling if the plan was to take him along, but he had very vehemently- oh, wait.
Her muzzle butted against Idarago's shoulder in a gesture like a half-hearted push. "We cover him," she agreed, even as she started to tug on the base of nearby fern leaves, careful not to tear them out in a way that was in itself easily visible, considering uprooting the entire plant.
To the Dawn Watcher, she said: "We'll try to send you help." While it was a good idea to keep someone who might struggle keeping their vocalisations in check away from the group, sending a single mobile kavkem to assist was an acceptable risk – assuming someone could be found that understood the poison well enough.