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John Umland
Fantastic beasts: here's where to find them!
Tue Feb 14, 2017 20:10

By the time the festival officially began, John had been preparing for it for hours. He was sure of his facts, so studying as such was no more necessary than it ever was, but he wanted to make sure he could present. Speaking with others, people he was unfamiliar with in situations he was unfamiliar with, was not easy for him, and while he thought his enthusiasm for his subject matter ought to make him largely unaware of anything else about the situation, he did not want to stammer if he took a few minutes to get into his stride at the Fair. Therefore, he had prepared cards with little speeches about each creature and spent the morning reading over them, rehearsing what to say and how to pace it if he was uncomfortable when he began.

Finally, though, he grew bored with reading out loud and the clock said it was time to get ready for it. John had joined Barnaby in resisting full costume, but he did wear black shoes and black trousers with a plain white button-down shirt, something vaguely evocative of pictures he vaguely remembered seeing when he’d read about nineteenth-century Eastern European emigration to North America when he was younger and had donned a stupid red hat. Wearing the right hat, he had once heard his sister say, could change one’s whole outlook on life, and he had to say he thought that Julian might have a point. It brought home that he had a specific role to play today and that was probably going to be helpful.

On the Pitch, he had relatively little to do to be ready for his own part, so he helped anyone else who needed it and remembered to compliment Sutton again on her drawings. It was awkward, their situation, but she was a talented artist and he suspected her drawings would make much more of an impression on the audience than his knowledge would. He also complimented Barnaby warmly on his timeline, which looked fantastic and which John planned to take notes from later. Then there was nothing to do but try to sneak pieces of the sweets and try not to be too visibly fidgety while they waited for the rest of the school to arrive.

Professor Taransay had not, it had to be said, steered him wrong when he had suggested focusing on the Białowieża Forest. John had been particularly pleased to learn that it was a popular spot for ornithologists, both the magi- and normal types, and he had to admit that he had maybe come up with more detailed notes on the Żar-ptak, a magical bird, than he had on some other creatures. He had asked Sutton to make it the largest drawing and to place it centrally in the exhibit. The bird was interesting not just on its own account (there was some documentation that suggested it might have prophetic powers and high intelligence, but it was hard to be sure when the creature was actively unfriendly to humans and also attributed with the ability to bring first fortune and then doom to those it ran across, though John suspected that was more of a self-fulfilling prophecy brought on by the rarity and prestige associated with catching one than anything), but it was also part of a ‘family’ of birds that John had been informally researching since he was a first year. The dodo, the phoenix, and the chicken were all very different, but they all had interesting similarities, too, and he had quickly realized that the firebird was like them in several ways, particularly resembling the phoenix but very likely having a relationship to the chicken as well – he did not think the presence of the zilant, a less dangerous relative of the basilisk, in Poland was a coincidence. He really, really hoped it was possible to extract DNA from these highly magical birds and that he got a chance to do so someday.

For now, he had asked Sutton to put the zilant, a snake with the wings and feet of a rooster, next to the central image of the Żar-ptak. He had asked that the other things with wings (the gamayun, a sphinx-like bird-creature with a humanoid face, the three-headed, bipedal, related-to-dragons zmey, and the egg-laying, amphibious ‘flying mermaid’ alkonost) be sort of near the center, too, and then had butted out of the organizing game. Graphorns and the various sub-types of troll were somewhat interesting, and John would happily dissect a nogtail or a dugbog if he got the chance, but they weren’t his particular area of study and he had just included them in the display so Taransay wouldn’t accuse him of being too limited in his interests. He was, after all, doing all this in no small part to get into the professor’s good books.

He unrolled a long, narrow sheet of parchment, one which gave a very brief description of each creature in the pre-determined arrangement order, and set it up just beneath Sutton’s portraits. That done, he conjured himself up a stool, adjusted his hat, opened the tab that covered the sipping opening in his travel cup of tea, slipped a bit of the krówki while no-one was looking at him, and waited to see if anyone would actually ask him to ramble on at them about magical creatures.

OOC: Żar-ptak is the Polish name for the “firebird,” a creature from Slavic mythology. Being unfriendly, a bringer of fortune and doom, and possibly prophetic are traits Wikipedia says it has in said mythology. Being related to dodos, phoenixes, and chickens biologically is something that I made up. The other creatures John mentions are also from folklore; some liberties were taken, the alkonost description is particularly based on one image of the creatures that has a mermaid-like tail, but they were said to lay their eggs in the sea and cause storms by doing so.

  • Poland!Rory Taransay, Mon Feb 13 15:04
    Rory was proud of what his group had come up with. The initial meeting had boded well, everyone having ideas and sorting out who would do what, and the productivity had continued. Looking around at... more
    • Admiring the artwork.Lionel Layne, Wed Feb 22 22:04
      His last night at Sonora. It didn’t quite seem real. Lionel had opted out of participating in the Fair so he could study for his RATS (how he had done on them after all that was…something he was... more
      • Pleased at the admiration.Sutton Nicolls, Wed Feb 22 22:26
        Sutton was thankful that she hadn’t had to do much of the academic work required for the booth. She had been content to do the artwork and to study John Umland. She still couldn’t fathom Aislinn’s... more
        • Pleased to be noticed.Lionel, Thu Feb 23 22:07
          Lionel knew it wasn’t very nice of him, but he couldn’t help but smile when he saw Sutton look at John when talking about people who might scare him (or, he guessed, anyone; he doubted she had been... more
    • Fantastic beasts: here's where to find them! — John Umland, Tue Feb 14 20:10
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