Long before Tanin Stormrush flew campaigns against the Narn, raised roc hatchlings, or set out on a quest to fulfill his wife’s last wish, he was an apprentice. As with any profession, roc riders have to learn the ropes before they can do it themselves, and flying on the backs of giant raptors is no different.
In a series of blogs we’ll explore the rigorous training needed to become a roc rider, and the hardships an apprentice endures before they’re ever allowed to strap themselves into a harness.
Before a young person can start on the path of roc riding, they have to prove they have the right mindset. Rocs cannot be tamed by those who do not have the proper respect for them, for it is upon this that the mutual trust needed for flying is built.
The first test a prospective apprentice must pass is to hunt as the rocs do. With only a blade they must set out into the wilderness and kill, cook, and eat their own prey. Ranged weapons like javelins, bows, or slings are strictly forbidden, but the prospective apprentice is not told why.
Upon their successful return from the hunt, the second test is a simple question: why were ranged weapons forbidden in the first test? Apprentices are allowed as much time as they need to come up the correct answer and can try as many times as they need to get it right. Often the process an apprentice goes through to come up with the correct answer tells the elder rider much about whether they will be a good apprentice or not.
Those who realize the real reason for the restriction provide the following answer, “Because a roc hunts with their talons, and there is nothing between their body and their prey. How can I ask them to fly and hunt with me if I’m not willing to take the same risk?”
Finally, before being accepted for apprenticeship a young person must prove they can handle eggs with care. Prospective apprentices are given a basket of another bird’s eggs and are tasked to transport it to a certain location without any of the eggs breaking. This is usually through very rough terrain, and tough masters have even been known to hire thugs to accost the apprentice on their path as well.
Once a young person is accepted as an apprentice, the first year of their training is spent learning how to earn the trust of the rocs they wish to ride. The queen of raptors does not place her trust in just anyone and earning it can be difficult for those who don’t know how.
Some riders will make their apprentices flounder for the first two weeks, giving them no information on what to do and only supervising enough to make sure the apprentice doesn’t end up with a beak or talon through their skull. Others look down on this practice as being too dangerous and teach the proper methods right away.
The first year of apprenticeship is spent caring for and pampering the master’s roc. Preening, hand applied dust baths, cleaning beaks and talons, and any other number of tasks that will both get the apprentice used to dealing with the birds and build trust. This regimen can be so demanding that some roc riders complain their mounts become fat and lazy after they take on an apprentice.
After this year is up is when the real work of an apprenticeship begins.
Look out for the next installment to learn more about how a roc rider apprenticeship progresses. Don’t forget to sign-up for the newsletter, to be the first to know when book two arrives.