The Director himself was teaching the zardukar of the new flock, while they waited for everyone to converge on them at the wadi. He'd been a featherspitter of some note in his youth, in Trovi. Dag was poised on her saddle, toes in the loops, clinging hard with her knees, the silk in Silly's beak lay loosely coiled around the saddle horn and her arms were outstretched at shoulder height while the bird played this marvellous new game. All of the new flock with their riders, except for the scouts and those on duty, were ringed loosely around the impromptu training ground. Everyone had managed to teach their birds to not pile in and join the chase.
The birds hissed and complained and clearly jostled each other for the next turn playing 'bait the birdie'.
Zazu and Shonyita had long, long whippy fronds from the asparagus trees, with shed feathers and ribbons of torn rags fluttering and they giggled as they led Sill through wilder rushes and bounces as Dag tried not to grab the saddle with her hands. “Do I have to put silks between your knees and the bird?!” His bellow made her want to clamp her hands over her ears but that would just make him bellow louder so she just stretched her fingertips out and struggled to not put her seat-bones on the saddle as Silly ran and doubled back and hopped and jumped after the fronds. They even trailed their lures up trees and rocks.
“Spat-fingered owner diarrhoea slimed underclouted code breaking deecliner's rotted off dick-smelling...” Her voice rose as Zazu lured Silly up the cliff face. Dag bit her lip as Silly leaped for the vertical, claws squealing as he scrambled straight up, beak stretched to snatch feather. Her legs ached and her breath came hard and she leaned forward far enough that she lay over her bird's neck, nearly standing straight. At the top of the arc of Zazu's reach, Silly screeched and jumped right off the cliff.
“Bend your...” Dag couldn't hear but clamped so hard on the saddle, anticipating the impact that something went 'pop' in her left knee as Silly landed and scrambled after the lure. Dag couldn't hold on through that and slid sideways, rolling in a jumble of silks in the sand, making Squawk and Nibbler sidestep, and fetched up a little too hard against the mushy trunk of a fern tree. Silly stood, with the lure in his beak and one foot, happily shredding it to bits.
“...knees. Are you all right?”
Dag managed to right herself and probed at her knee. It was tender, but not actively painful. She pulled her veil, that had been tucked hard into her sarband and her tunic and was now hung over one ear, back into place so she could suck enough air into her abused lungs. “I'm in one piece.”
“Good work, Dagdohva. That was excellent!” Sander slapped his gloves together. “Shon... do the same lure to Zazu next... we'll see how people manage... though not so high this time.”
“Director! Director!” The shout came from a scout riding in hard enough to skip through a pitter field. “Dust cloud! We have a dust cloud from the Milari border!”
“All right! Dag... have that knee seen to... get a cliner to draw off that fluid and get back on your bird. Zardukar, we're going to need everybody to see the Milari settled. His Radiance is only a day out.”