Alaria wasn’t always the skilled archer she is today. In fact, she didn’t learn the art of long range weaponry until just a couple of years ago.
Thieving is an up close and personal business. Daggers and deception proved the most useful tools on accomplishing her objectives. After all, a long-range thief is nothing but a murderer. It wasn’t until her Uncle Biro established the Assassin’s Guild that Alaria even picked up a crossbow. Uncle Biro warned her that versatility was a more valuable weapon than any she would loot in her travels and encouraged her to become adept in more than blades.
At first she was clumsy with the bow. Her small frame couldn’t seem to fit the clunky device. It felt jarring and unnatural to carry ammo separately. In a dangerous scenario, she worried she’d fumble the bolts and fall to her foe before she could load and aim.
Her perceived inadequacy drove her to practice several times a week. One foggy morning, she ventured into the woods to practice. She brought some breakfast scraps- orange peels, bread crusts and the odd apple core- for targets. The fog made practice more difficult than she’d anticipated. The moisture in the air dampened the bread crusts until they were too soggy to shoot. Alaria tossed an apple core into the air, aimed and missed. She was getting frustrated and tired of retrieving bolts.
“One more shot. Just one more and I’ll call it a day,” she said as she pulled the bolt out of a tree.
She reconfigured herself. Took a deep breath. Then in one swift movement she threw a curl of orange peel into the sky, swung her crossbow into position, eyed the peel as it hit the peak of its flight and squeezed the trigger.
She could almost feel the bolt pierce the flesh. A sense of pride and satisfaction washed over her… until she heard the squealing high note of pain.
A curious hawk made a dive for the peel at exactly the wrong moment and Alaria’s bolt tore through his left wing, rendering the poor creature flightless mid-flight.
Alaria gasped. Surprise. Shock. Horror. The hawk seemed to tumble out of the sky in slow motion. Alaria darted towards him. She caught him, gently cradling his frozen body. He stared at her, eyes wide, his chest fluttering in which shallow breaths.
“I know it hurts, but it doesn’t look so bad,” Alaria said soothingly. “Let’s get you fixed up.”
She returned to the Guild as quickly as she could without jostling the bird and found the medic. He took one look at Alaria holding the pitiful creature and rolled his eyes.
“Do I LOOK like a vet to you?” He grumbled.
“Please! A life is a life. Besides, you owe me.”
“…fine. I’ll take a look. But no promises. I’m no avian specialist.”
He laid the bird on the table, wings outstretched, and carefully touched the bolt. The hawk flinched, but seemed calm. Understanding, even.
“Looks like the bolt missed doing some major damage by a thumbnail or two.” He looked up at Alaria. “Bird’ll fly again. But your aim could use some work.”
“I wasn’t TRYING to shoot him! Dummy went after the orange peel I was sporting.”
“Probably looked like a worm to ‘im.” He slid the bolt out of the wing in one smooth, steady motion. The hawk tried immediately to fold his wing, but jerked it back half open and lying at his side.
“Not so fast, pal.” The medic dressed the wound with cotton and gauze. “It’s gonna be a mite before you’re sky worthy again.”
“How long do you think?” Alaria asked.
“Couple weeks maybe. You gon’ look after him?”
Alaria gave this some thought. She knew nothing about caring for creatures. She had only ever looked after herself. But she felt indebted to the hawk for causing his pain and plight.
When he mended up, she took him to her quarters and gave him some bread.
“I’m really sorry. I never meant to… you know.” She sat on her bed and kicked her feet out. The hawk looked at the pitiful tiefling and cocked his head to the side, seemingly sizing her up.
“Can you forgive me?” She held out a small cube of cheese. The hawk fanned out his red tail and squawked before taking the cheese from her hand. Alaria giggled.
“I suppose you’ll need a name if you’re staying here. How’s Ragnar? Ragnar Redtail!”
Ragnar cocked his head again and blinked twice, seeming to try the name on. Then he squawked his approval.
Ragnar and Alaria grew close. When Ragnar healed, he didn’t fly off as Alaria expected. He returned time and time again. Often, he brought her berries or trinkets he found on his flights.
“Your vantage point sure makes finding shiny a cinche!” Alaria kept her collection displayed in her quarters so Ragnar could admire his treasures.
Eventually, Alaria began sketching coins and gems and keys. She showed these things to Ragnar and sent him off. Sometimes he was gone for stretches at a time and Alaria worries. But he always found her and returned with a treasure resembling her doodle. Alaria always rewarded his good worth with a cube of cheese.
Presently, Ragnar is off looking for items while Alaria journeys with Dany. She’s a bit worried he won’t be able to find her since she ran off from the Guild… but she’s hopeful.