[Training] Saddling Up

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This northernmost city is the home of Morwen, The Goddess of Winter, and her followers who dwell year round in a land of frozen wonder. [Lore]

[Training] Saddling Up

Postby Siana Skyglow on March 3rd, 2010, 9:38 pm

Day 12 of Spring, 510 AV
Riding training (self-mod)

For anyone who had met her, it would have been difficult indeed to believe the attention-loving, show-stealing Siana could remain comfortably by herself for any period of time longer than a few minutes. Yet here she was, seated cross-legged on a cushion in a small anteroom adjoining the Arvinta's communal meeting hall, muttering to herself intently and scratching notes on a scrap of parchment. As much as she enjoyed the spotlight, even Siana knew that some of the most important moments of a performer's life were spent in solitude creating, preparing and rehearsing a show. Besides, the raised voices from the meeting hall kept her company, while providing her with a surprising amount of privacy. She could wail, shriek, sing, or drum her heels or fingers, and for sure, she could practice her recitation.

During the last week or so, she had been working on a tale about a brave messenger who rode across Taldera to reach the Ice Palace on the first day of spring and seek out Queen Morwen's divine aid for his winter-ravaged Hold. It was said he arrived at the Ice Palace on the verge of death and had gasped out his message with his final breath. The messenger's journey had merited only a brief mention in a greater epic about the devastating storms that raged across Taldera during the three-hundredth winter after the Valterrian. However, something in the heroism and tragedy of the tale had fired Siana's imagination, and she resolved to retell it in honor of the nameless messenger's courage. Perhaps someday, her tale would even be included as part of the great epic.

Scrunching her nose, Siana crossed out a redundant simile and nodded in satisfaction. Now, she just had to rehearse it. She closed her eyes, the better to hear just how her voice sounded as the words rolled off her tongue. How the story was told mattered just as much as what it told. Siana cleared her throat.

"Times had been very hard in the north," she intoned, "where the people lived their entire lives not only on the edge of the world but also on the edge between life and death…"

On she continued, describing the straits to which the messenger's Hold had been reduced. She tried it out with different tones of voice, from soft and sorrowful to shrill and alarmed. She proceeded with the families of the Hold coming together and deciding to send a messenger to Queen Morwen as soon as she returned to Avanthal to beg her help. Siana warmed to her subject, spontaneously making wide, sweeping gestures with her arms to illustrate her points.

But when she came to the part where the messenger saddled his trusted windrunner and prepared to ride through chest-high snowfall, Siana heard a faint but unmistakable snicker. She pauses and tilted her head curiously, wondering if someone else had come inside the room. Perhaps she'd just imagined it, or maybe it had come from the meeting hall outside. She went on with her story.

Then she heard snickering again when she lingered over describing the horse in detail, from its flowing mane to its smooth, gleaming coat to its distance-devouring stride. Siana gritted her teeth and tried to ignore it. As she went on narrating the messenger's journey, though, the snickers verged on outright laughter, until she could hardly stand it.

Finally, during the climactic chase scene where the messenger was being pursued by a pack of dire wolves, she heard a loud chortle. Siana's eyes flew open. "Gods have mercy," she growled. "Whoever is making that noise, just…just… argh! Just show yourself!"

From the doorway, a tall, lanky figure stepped out from the shadows and waved hello. Siana narrowed her eyes when she recognized it as one of the boys who worked in the Hold's stables. There were five or six of them in all, and she saw them all so seldom in her everyday life that she couldn't even recall this one's name. Rial, was it? Something like that? No, Kiali – that was his name. Curly-haired and olive-skinned, he was a year or two older than she was and reputed to be much better around horses than around people.

"Took you long enough to notice," he said by way of greeting. "I thought I heard some funny noises coming from the back rooms, so I decided to check. It turned out the noises were even funnier than I thought!"

"How long have you been standing there?" she demanded, glaring at him. "And what's so funny? Was there something wrong with the story?"

Kiali shrugged, though his eyes flashed a brilliant green that Siana sensed indicated amusement. "No, the story wasn't too bad. Kind of slow and needs more action, but it's decently entertaining. No, I was laughing because it's obvious you don't know anything about horses. When's the last time you stopped by the stables, girl?"

Bursts of color danced across Siana's eyes in response to the question, which left her perplexed and irritated. "Girl? My name is Siana, thank you," she replied, lifting her small chin haughtily. "As for the stables, I pass by it every day. I'm not a complete stranger to horses."

"Well, you were right that messengers usually favor windrunners, Siana," the boy conceded. "But first of all, you described your windrunner as being…uh…how did you put it? 'As red as blood, with a mane like fire?' Very pretty, except windrunners always have pale coats, like white or grey. If you saw a red horse in our stables, it was probably a sleigh horse, not a windrunner at all."

Mentally, Siana started adjusting some lines of her story, replacing incorrect adjectives with new ones. "That doesn't sound like an awful mistake," she said at last. "I can easily change the horse's color."

"Of course," Kiali replied. "But there's more. Second, you'd have to be a fool to ride a Windrunner through the kind of snow you were talking about in your story. Anytime there's snow above your ankles, a good rider would choose a frostmarch. Windrunners are much faster, but they're just not surefooted enough to navigate through heavy snow or ice. A frostmarch won't travel at the same pace, but it won't break a leg during the trip either."

"But a frostmarch just doesn't sound right! " Siana cried out. She knew she sounded foolish, and the knowledge made her feel all the more defensive. "When you think of making swift journeys, you think of windrunners. Even the word 'frostmarch' sounds slow and plodding."

Kiali stared at her incredulously. "You've never ridden a frostmarch, have you?"

Siana opened her mouth, then closed it, and then opened it again. "I've never ridden a horse at all," she admitted. "I don't know how to."

"You don't know how to ride a horse?" Kiali gaped at her as though she had just sprouted antlers from her head. "No wonder you were getting everything wrong in your story. Come with me, right now. I'm going to teach you how."

"Now?" Siana exclaimed, startled.

"Now," the boy repeated, taking her arm. He glanced out the window. "There's nothing but a mild spring snow outside, so it won't be too cold if you bundle up a little. Besides, you want to get your story right as soon as possible, don't you? Think of all the audiences that'll laugh at you if you tell any more stories with horses in them. Put on your furs and let's go."

In a much shorter time than Siana could have believed or would have liked, she found herself being dragged outside toward the Hold's stables. Inwardly, she had to admit that, while she did pass by the stables every day, she'd never been inside once. He opened the door for them and hurried past to check on the horses, who let out soft whinnies of greeting when they saw him. As Siana watched, he strode before the stalls for a few minutes before stopping at one and gently leading out a sturdy, graceful horse with a dappled grey-and-white coat. When the horse stopped alongside her, she realized the top of her head barely cleared its back.

"This is Misty. She's the horse we use to teach children how to ride," Kiali told her, as solemnly as though he were making formal introductions. He began to take down bit and bridle, saddle and other riding tack down from the wall. "Saddle up, gi- I mean, Siana. Let's start with your first lesson."
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Siana Skyglow
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Re: [Training] Saddling Up

Postby Siana Skyglow on March 8th, 2010, 5:55 pm

Her first attempt at mounting the horse was a disaster.

Until then, learning about horseback riding had been going fairly smoothly for Siana. Admittedly, there hadn't been a great deal to learn, much less get wrong, at first. First, Kiali had given her a handful of carrot pieces and dried apples to feed Misty, instructing her to hold her hand high and flat to allow the horse to receive the treats easily. Just as Kiali had told her, the well-mannered Misty had graciously accepted the carrots and apples using her lips more than teeth, causing Siana to giggle with pleasure. Tentatively, she stroked the mare's nose, feeling much less intimidated by the tall, sturdy frostmarch than she had when Kiali first brought her out.

After that, Kiali had shown her how to saddle and bridle a horse. Siana had been amazed at the number of components, straps, ties and buckles involved; she couldn't imagine how Kiali could keep track of all of them, yet he made it look like second nature. While Misty stood by without a fuss, he positioned the saddle pad on her back, gently lowered the saddle into place, buckled the girth beneath the horse, tightened the straps, and adjusted the fit. Then, taking up the bridle, he coaxed Misty's mouth open, slid the bit into place between her teeth, pulled the top loops over her ears, and buckled it comfortably around her head. Siana watched round-eyed, hoping she'd be able to remember everything if she ever had to do it by herself.

"It's not as hard as it looks," Kiali promised her, when he noticed her expression. His tone had become markedly friendlier now, as opposed to the rather mocking way he had addressed her during their initial encounter. "I'll be watching you when you do it later, in case you forget or need help with a step."

She had nodded, reassured by his competence and clear superiority to her in all matters equestrian. To be sure, if it hadn't been for Kiali, she wouldn't have been anywhere near the stables today. But then, she couldn't help feeling a little curious about learning how to ride well. At this point, she could probably scramble atop a horse and even get it moving, but she knew she'd feel more like a sack tied to its back than a horsewoman in control of her steed.

Besides, as Kiali said, if Siana knew more about the mechanics of horseback riding, she would do a much better job describing them in future stories. That was important too. So, she watched patiently, trying to absorb every detail for later reference.

After saddling and bridling Misty, Kiali had led her out into the stableyard and positioned the mare next to a mounting block, motioning for Siana to follow. "You won't be using the mounting block every time, but it helps for your first time, especially as you're not very tall. Don't look at me like that; most people need the mounting block at first."

He positioned her so that she stood near the horse's shoulder, facing toward the back rather than the front. Mounting this way had felt counter-intuitive and much harder to Siana, but he had assured her that this method was safer in the long run. Hesitantly, she had slipped her left foot into the stirrup and gripped the pommel of the saddle with her left hand. At Kiali's urging, she boosted herself up with her right foot and pushed her body up toward the saddle.

Though Siana normally had good balance, she found herself wavering as she shifted her weight onto her arms. This was no wall or table she was pushing herself over, but a living, breathing creature with much more unpredictable contours and handholds. She felt her left foot tremble and put her right hand on the back of the saddle to steady herself. Unfortunately, this just made her left foot sink further into the stirrup and she felt the saddle start to slide under the horse. In her attempt to catch herself and regain her galance, Siana's toe brushed against Misty's side.

Before Kiali could catch her reins, the mare was off at a brisk walk. To her horror, Siana realized Misty had thought the nudge in her side had been a signal to start moving, even though she hadn't even gotten into the saddle yet. If anything, she was still off-balance, especially with her right hand too far back on the saddle to grab the reins herself. She shrieked in alarm as the mare kept going while she clung desperately to the saddle, only one foot in the stirrup. To make things worse, she still felt like she was about to go sliding under the horse at any moment, and a terrible fear of being trampled by Misty's hooves lanced her heart.

Of course, the situation couldn't go on as it was for much longer. Eventually, Siana's left foot went out from under her, and she went flying backward toward the ground. Thankfully, the stable-yard was thickly blanketed with springtime snow, which helped break her fall. Even so, she landed on her back with a jolt, sending up sparkling flurries of white all around her. She lay there for a moment with a resigned huff, while Misty continued walking for a few minutes more before stopping near the fence.

"Are you all right?" Kiali asked as he caught up to her. To his credit, she saw only concern in his face, even though she knew she'd made a comical sight trying to climb atop Misty's back and failing in rather spectacular fashion.

Siana climbed back to her feet, brushing snow off her cloak and hood with both hands. "I'm fine," she replied stubbornly. "Let me try again. And don't you dare laugh at me."

Kiali was already turning away to retrieve Misty and return her to the mounting block for her second attempt at mounting. At her last words, he turned back and grinned at her. "Don't worry. I wouldn't dream of it."
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Siana Skyglow
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Re: [Training] Saddling Up

Postby Siana Skyglow on March 11th, 2010, 8:43 pm

Once she had actually gotten into the saddle, Siana thought the hardest part of learning to ride a horse must surely be behind her. After all, getting atop the horse required both strength and coordination, but the actual riding looked like little more than sitting still and straight while the horse walked, galloped or trotted underneath you. Of course, the rider had to direct the horse now and then with the reins, but she figured that wouldn't require more than a light twitch or tug every now and then to indicate what she wanted the horse to do.

Predictably, Kiali nearly split his sides laughing when she communicated this sentiment to him. Perched on the saddle, she looked down at him --- for now she could actually look down at people for once, a sensation that felt both vertiginous and surprisingly empowering --- with a disgruntled frown. "What in Morwen's name did I say now that was so funny?" she demanded.

"It's just that…oh gods…you think…you think the hardest part is over with," Kiali gasped out, between trying to control his laughter. "That spill you took in the stable-yard isn't going to be your last. Not by a long shot."

Making a face at him, Siana resolved to prove him wrong. She wasn't some clumsy child who'd never done more than stumble through the snow, after all. Years of learning and practicing traditional Vantha dances had given her good balance and flexibility. She would show him, and then he'd never laugh at her in that infuriating way again.

Calming himself at last, Kiali moved closer. He was tall enough that he had to duck slightly, lest he bump his head against her elbow as he studied the way she sat in the saddle. When he placed a hand on her stomach and in the small of her back, Siana flinched, even under her furs. "Just relax," he said softly. "I'm just trying to straighten your posture. Try to sit as tall as you can and put your shoulders back. No, don't stiffen up. Stay loose, but keep your back vertical. Good. That's good."

He kept murmuring similar things as he showed her how to shorten the length of the stirrups for riding, instead of mounting. Then he checked her grip on the reins and made sure she could see past Misty's ears. Siana felt rather like one of the animals he handled, but oddly, she felt no resentment. It was a far pleasanter way to ease into the learning process than, say, being plopped in front of a horse and told to figure it out on her own.

At the thought of learning, Siana suddenly sat straight up in the saddle and immediately felt how the horse tensed under her. She made a conscious effort to relax, and Misty very slowly did the same. Now she understood why Kialia had warned her against sitting too rigidly; the horse would sense it and tense up as well, which would definitely make for an unpleasant riding experience.

"I should be paying you something for teaching me, shouldn't I?" she asked.

Kiali looked up from where he was carefully placing her feet properly in the stirrups, resting on the widest part of the foot instead of the arch. "Paying me? What do you mean?"

"Well, you're doing me a service, aren't you? You're teaching me how to ride," she explained. "You're taking time out of feeding the horses, mucking the stalls, whatever it is you do here, to help me. So, that means I should pay you for your time."

"I guess so, if you put it that way. It's really not a big deal, you know," Kiali replied hesitantly. Then, he chuckled, his eyes rippling to an all-too-familiar brilliant green. "Or you could just owe me a favor for the rest of your life, until I choose to call it in."

"Not on your life," Siana said decisively. "I'd rather return the favor now than have you call in my debt years and years from now. Let's see. I know how to cook and sew, or I can help you with your chores or something."

Kiali shook his head. "I can do my own chores perfectly fine, and I can cook and sew too, at least a little. Hmm. How about this? You like telling stories, right?" She nodded. "Why don't you tell me a story, after you've finished learning? Stories are always good payment."

"Just nothing with horses in it, right?" Siana said, grinning. "All right. If you teach me really well, I'll tell you a really good story."

They shook hands on the deal with appropriate solemnity, and then Kiali patted the horse's neck. "If you're really looking to repay someone, though, you should be thinking of Misty instead of me. Believe me, you're going to learn a lot more about riding from her than you'd ever get from me. Come on, let's start you off at a walk. Nice and easy." He gathered up the lead rope attached to Misty's bridle. "Now, signal her to start walking by squeezing lightly with your legs behind the girth of the saddle and push your, uh, your seat forward in the saddle a little. Just a small forward motion with your hips."

Siana took a moment to calculate how to do both at the same time, then cautiously nudged with her legs and hips as he said. It took her by surprise when Misty obediently moved forward at a slow walk. Constrained by the lead rope in Kiali's hand, the frostmarch moved patiently in a circle around the stable-yard. Siana quickly learned she couldn't simply sit while the horse moved, after all; the gentle rocking motion of the walk meant she had to ride actively.

"Don't forget to breathe," Kiali said, from the center of the circle the frostmarch was making.

To her surprise, Siana realized she was holding her breath while concentrating on keeping her body straight yet supple. She took a deep breath, then another, and felt her body relax on its own.

"No, don't grip the reins like that," Kiali added five minutes later, when he saw her tightening her fists. "No, don't dig into the stirrups either. The key to good riding is using your knees. Grip Misty's body and look straight ahead. Good."

"How do I stop?" Siana called out, after ten more minutes. While the walk had not been too difficult to get used to, she was using muscles in a way she'd never had to before.

"Close your fingers on the reins and squeeze backwards," Kiali replied. "Don't jerk or jab the reins."

She did as he said, trying to keep the motion subtle, and Misty eventually gradually came to a stop. Kiali let go of the lead rope and hurried over to help her dismount. In many ways, it was like mounting, only with the steps reversed. Under his careful scrutiny, she kicked her feet loose of the stirrups, placed her hands on Misty's withers, shifted her weight onto them and lifted her right leg over the horse's back. As she came dropping toward the ground, his hands came up to catch her at the waist and helped lower her smoothly onto her feet. This time, Siana didn't flinch at the contact but turned around with aplomb.

"See," she said, smiling up at him. "I didn't fall once, did I?"

A faint smile flitted across his lips. He reached down and patted her on the head. "Oh, you will, Siana. You will."
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Siana Skyglow
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Re: [Training] Saddling Up

Postby Siana Skyglow on March 15th, 2010, 3:09 pm

"Well, you only fell seven or eight times today, all told," Kiali said three days later. Before today, he had been teaching Siana to trot, and the quickness with which she learned how to rise and fall with the horse's up-and-down motion had surprised and impressed him. This morning, he'd decided to start teaching her the canter, with mixed results. "All your falls were broken by the snow too, so you couldn't have gotten more than a bruise or two. That's not too bad, considering this is your first time."

"Kiali," Siana half-growled and half-panted, from where she had fallen to her knees after wearily dismounting in the snow. "If I could get up, I swear I would kill you. See this bracelet I'm wearing? This eagle feather charm has a very, very sharp point. I'd stab you with it, you know. I really would."

"I'm shivering with fright," the boy chuckled. "Siana, you did fine today. In fact, you did so well that you might as well take tomorrow off."

She looked up, feeling encouraged. "Really? I did that well?"

"Well, no, not exactly," Kiali amended. "Mostly because you're going to feel so sore tomorrow that you won't want to move. If you do want to come anyway, we'll just go at a nice soft pace for the day. If you think you're tired now, it's nothing to what you'll feel tomorrow morning."

Siana made a face at him and rose unsteadily to her feet. "Kiali, I think I've met sleigh dogs with more tact than you."

"You agreed to learn from me," he reminded her mercilessly. "In fact, you promised to tell me a story when you were done training."

"Ugh," Siana groaned. With unexpected quickness, she pulled the delicate bracelet of glass beads off her right wrist and flung it at Kiali, the eagle feather charm aimed point-first. With almost no force behind the throw, though, the bracelet fell almost straight down into the snow. With an air of mock resignation, she quickly bent to retrieve the precious bracelet. It had been a gift, years ago. "I'd hoped you would've forgotten about that. I have no idea what story I'm going to tell you, even."

He watched as she carefully slipped the bracelet back on and tucked it under her sleeve. "You can tell me the story behind that pretty trinket, maybe. Was it a gift from an admirer? Part of a bride price offer, perhaps?"

"No!" The word came out with more force than Siana had intended. Kiali's eyebrow instantly rose in curiosity, but she shook her head. "No. There's a sad story behind it, and I'd rather not tell it."

Studying her expression and the muted dark-rose of her eyes, Kiali replied quietly, "All right, I won't ask anymore, then. I do like sad stories, though, so you can tell me about it later if you want."

She started to shake her head again, but then rubbed her chin thoughtfully as she considered his last statement. "So, you like sad stories, do you? Why is that?"

Kiali thought about it for a while, as they walked back inside the stables. Misty followed behind them, no doubt eager to return to her warm stall after having spent several hours out in a chilly spring day. While his hands moved automatically to remove her riding tack and saddle, he pondered his answer. "I think it's because I feel like I can identify with people in tragic stories," he replied at last. "Funny comedies usually involve characters acting silly and getting themselves in trouble in ways I don't think real people would do. Or if they did, it wouldn't be very funny in real life. But tragic stories are more about people suffering through terrible circumstances or falling prey to their own human shortcomings, which is very believable. I could see real people acting like that. The gods know, I could see myself acting like that."

"That may be the most profound thing you've ever said to me," Siana remarked, warming to the subject. "But what about stories like that that do have happy endings? There are plenty of stories about people who struggle to overcome their faults and actually succeed. You don't like those stories?"

"Well, I guess I do," Kiali responded thoughtfully. "I mean, who doesn't like to hear that things can turn out well in the end? But the stories that stay with me most are the ones that have really tragic, gripping endings. I remember them because they always make me think about all the potential that was wasted and the terrible loss of all that promise."

As much as she tried to hide it, Siana had to admit she was impressed with his answer. Indeed, she was not only impressed, but inspired. His last sentence had sent her searching her memory for something she had half-heard months ago: a whispered account of strange events that had happened some years ago in Avanthal, woven of secondhand gossip, rumors and speculation. She had gleaned only the bare bones of the story, having overheard it in the crowded communal room during the evening meal, but those bones suggested a rich marrow of narrative delight within. Looking up at Kiali's face, Siana now wondered if she could re-knit those broken bones into a living, breathing story that would entertain him and make fair recompense for his teaching.

"I think I know something that might interest you then," she said slowly. "I heard a tale once of a Konti woman who saw too much and a man who saw too little. Would that interest you?"

"Hmm. It's not much to go on," Kiali muttered, "but I guess it sounds all right." He finished taking off Misty's gear and picked up a brush to clean and groom her. "Anyway, what are you still doing here? You survived your first canter today, after two days of learning the trot. You're doing fine. Go home and rest. Unless you're just staying here to enjoy my handsome looks and incredible charm."

Siana smacked his arm playfully. "Not on your life. I still haven't forgotten about killing you with my bracelet."

That night, after the evening meal was over, their family gathered together as usual to share the day's news, work their crafts and tell stories. Usually, Siana spent this time either preparing stories or telling them, and tonight she applied her mind to the former. Sprawled on her stomach on the fur rug at her mother's feet, she scribbled notes on a scrap of parchment --- the back of the scrap she had been using for the messenger's story that Kiali had found so hilarious, in fact. The irony amused Siana enough that she decided to use the same scrap, even though it didn't have enough room to contain all her thoughts about the story of the Konti.

"Pure and pale as snow," she murmured to herself, liking the alliteration in the beginning. "Penetrating, pearlescent eyes. No, no. That's enough of that, I think."

For the rest of the night, she worked in much the same manner, hammering out phrases and stringing together narrative events for full dramatic effect. Her parents had to shepherd her to bed when it was time. For a while, she lay in bed, her head ringing with too many ideas and fancies to allow her to fall asleep. She finally drifted off around midnight and spent the night dreaming of pale maidens weeping tears that sparkled and danced in the air like winter's first snowflakes.

When the next day dawned, Kiali's prophecy was proven all too well. Siana groaned as she shifted in bed, feeling so sore all over her body that she barely dared to move. It hadn't even been the falls that did it, for most of the aches were centered on her lower body. She had felt somewhat like this while learning the trot, but trotting had been more a matter of getting accustomed to the horse's up-and-down rhythm instead of clinging onto its body for dear life as it thundered through the snow. Kiali's instructions to "sit straight and grip with your knees" had sounded so simple to obey at first, but she was learning that nothing about riding was ever simple at first. She groaned again as she watched the others rousing and getting ready for their daily chores.

"Tell them I'm not coming to work today. I just hurt too much," she said to the nearest girl passing by, catching her sleeve. The words and her cautious, painful motion seemed to make the correct impression on the girl, who nodded rapidly and bounded away toward the door.

Rolling over slowly and carefully onto her stomach, Siana reached for the scrap of parchment where she had been recording her thoughts for Kiali's story. By chance, it landed onto her pillow with the original messenger's tale face-up. She grinned ruefully when she saw several references to the windrunner's speed and power scattered all over the page.

"Slow and plodding," she muttered, recalling how she had first described frostmarches. After the lesson yesterday, she would never make that mistake again.
Last edited by Siana Skyglow on March 19th, 2010, 5:07 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Siana Skyglow
Fire and ice
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Joined roleplay: February 18th, 2010, 11:49 am
Location: Avanthal
Race: Human, Vantha
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Re: [Training] Saddling Up

Postby Siana Skyglow on March 16th, 2010, 2:22 pm

As the riding lessons continued, Siana's muscles hardened and she fell and fumbled less and less often on horseback. The saddle sores from the first few days slowly faded, as did the blisters on her fingertips from the reins and the ache in her thighs and back. As Kiali had told her the first day, the mare proved to be her real teacher. While he instructed her in the basics of riding, the ever-patient Misty taught Siana the subtleties of good horsemanship. As she grew familiar with how the mare moved, responded to cues and stimuli, or communicated through ear movements, facial expressions and whinnies, she gained a deeper understanding of Misty's capabilities and moods. With every passing day, Siana felt a little surer of her seat and more at home astride.

Now that she had gotten the feel of walking, trotting, cantering, and galloping, Kiali would saddle up his own horse, a lean steel-grey stallion, and take her on excursions into the tundra around Avanthal. At this point, it was practice and endurance she needed most. "Riding a horse for a few hours a day around the stable-yard," Kiali assured her, "is very different from riding several miles in unfamiliar terrain from afternoon to sundown."

"The area around the city isn't unfamiliar," Siana protested. "I've been outside Avanthal a dozen times."

"You also walked around the stable-yard a dozen times on foot, but look how different it felt when you were riding in it," Kiali pointed out.

Of course, much to Siana's vexation, he was right. During every excursion, she could feel the difference between her earlier forays and the uninterrupted hours of riding that now comprised her daily lessons. "Let's trot here for a while," Kiali would call out to her, or "What a fine place for a gallop!" and off they would go, racing side by side, Misty not losing a stride on Kiali's grey stallion. Sometimes, Siana thought she could actually feel the calluses forming on her hands and thighs. Afterward, she would stagger back home, still aching but looking forward to the next day's ride.

By now, spring had arrived in earnest to the northern reaches. Snowdrops and ice-bells poked their pale heads and wide green leaves above the drifts, and now and then they even saw sprays of Talderian wild roses in bloom. The huge blossoms with their vivid blue petals and dizzyingly sweet fragrance delighted Siana's heart. She begged to stop and pick one or two to take home, but Kiali explained that the roses' stems were so thick and tough that they had to be hacked apart with a saw.

"Otherwise, I'd pick you one to wear in your hair like a wide-brimmed floppy hat," he teased.

At that, Siana had to giggle, her eyes shading to lavender. The image of herself wearing a drooping hat made of Talderian rose petals was just too funny. "I wonder how the Valterrian changed the animals and plants into giants, but not people like us," she commented after a while. Maintaining conversation while on horseback was still a challenge for her, as she had to divide her attention between guiding the horse and talking. "I've heard that to the south of us, there are forests whose treetops reach so high that you can't see them for the clouds."

"Yes, and bears and wolves to match." To her surprise, Kiali's voice was full of longing. He took his hands from the reins and mimed drawing a bow and shooting an arrow. "Not to mention moose and deer with antlers so vast they blot out the sky. I bet one of those could feed Avanthal for a week!"

"Ooooh," Siana murmured, fascinated by the idea. "Do you hunt, Kiali?"

"Not as much as I'd like," came his rather glum-sounding response. Bands of gloomy blue-grey darkened his eyes. "I can use a spear well enough, but the skill I most want to learn is horse archery, and I've heard that takes years to master. But just think how marvelous it would be to shoot and then flee faster than your enemy can catch you!"

While Kiali drifted off into daydreams of hunting and tracking, Siana frowned, struggling to envision the lanky stable boy wielding a bow and arrow, let alone a spear. For a moment, the only sound was their horses' hooves crunching softly through the snow. Then she grinned. "Well, whenever you become a great hunter, we can visit the southern forests together. It'll be a great adventure!"

"Together?" His voice rose in pitch, causing his own stallion to dance sideways in alarm. Siana's fingers tensed on the reins, but Misty continued placidly onward, to her relief. "Why do you have to come along?"

"Why, to tell what happened, of course!" Siana exclaimed. "Who do you expect to narrate your heroic exploits of slaying wild beasts and overcoming terrifying odds, while you stand by modestly and all the girls swoon over you? It's obviously not enough just to do legendary and amazing things. You have to have someone spread your legend so you can be famous and remembered forever."

"That's the silliest thing I've ever…" Kiali started.

"It's decided, then!" Siana interrupted blithely. She laughed when she saw his eyes shade to a stormy blue, the color she had learned to associate with frustration and stubbornness on his part. Sitting up straight, she pressed her heels into Misty's sides. "Come on, I'll race you back to the city!"

"I…I…you…" he sputtered. As the dappled grey mare quickened her pace and sped through the snow, however, Kiali recovered his wits. Spurring on his own horse, he shouted after her, "I swear, Siana, if you fall and break your neck and die, I'm not cleaning up the mess!"
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Siana Skyglow
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Re: [Training] Saddling Up

Postby Siana Skyglow on March 19th, 2010, 5:06 pm

After two weeks, Kiali finally judged Siana to be proficient enough that she could leave his tutelage. By now, she had learned to saddle and bridle her horse and to mount without needing to use a block. She'd memorized the various signals and cues that prompted a horse to walk, trot, jog, or gallop and had been endlessly drilled on riding safety and caring for her horse. She now sat comfortably, even gracefully, in the saddle and did her best never to yank on the reins, injure the horse's mouth, dig her heels into the horse's sides, or otherwise take any harsh or inconsiderate action that could harm it. Kiali especially approved of this latter quality, though he warned her against being too soft-hearted, as horses could often be externally motivated to achieve much greater things than they would have on their own. They were much like people in that way.

On her last afternoon of lessons, Kiali arranged a final test to gauge the skill she had gained. When she arrived at the stables, expecting to saddle and ride Misty as usual, Siana instead met with an unusual instruction. "Pick any of the other horses in the stables but Misty," Kiali told her. "This way, I can see if you're doing so well just because you and she have grown used to each other. You might want to choose from the stalls on the left side near the front, by the way. The ones on the right are for pulling sleighs or plows, not for riding, and the horses in the back are much friskier and harder to control."

Biting back the urge to utter a snappish response, Siana merely sighed. "Are there any horses you'd recommend? I don't want to end up picking some raging beast that tries to throw me off every chance he gets."

"Trust me, none of our horses are like that," Kiali declared. "Not even the most willful stallions. Think of it this way: this could finally be your chance to experience the legendary speed of a windrunner!"

She stuck her tongue out at him. "I definitely think not. The horse would break its leg, I'd probably break my neck, and losing both of us would just break your heart."

"Nice," Kiali said admiringly. "If you just made that up right now, I can't wait to hear what my story's going to sound like."

"Your story?" Siana said laughingly. "Psh. It's my story. I'm just giving you the privilege to hear it first!" She paused and looked a little shamefaced. "I didn't prepare any masks or props for it, though. All I have are the words for the story."

"Don't worry about it," Kiali answered reassuringly. "Come inside and pick your horse. There's a hunting lodge an hour's ride northeast from Avanthal that I'd like to show you. It'll give us quiet and privacy, so you can tell me m- I mean, your story once we get there."

Somewhat apprehensively, Siana walked along the stalls after him and studied each horse in turn. At length, she chose a handsome, snow-white gelding with calm brown eyes, who Kiali told her was named Moondance. As she had done with Misty, she offered him a handful of diced carrots, as well as some of the early fruits of spring, and Moondance accepted the treats with the same courtesy and gratitude. He then allowed Siana to lead him from his stall, tie his halter to a post, and take out his riding tack.

Side by side, she and Kiali fitted the saddle pad, saddle and bridle on their horses, untied their halters and mounted them. Because Moondance was even taller than Misty, Siana had to adjust the stirrup on the left side quite low just so she could slip her foot into it. She then propelled herself into the saddle and readjusted the stirrup for riding. While she doubted she could ever swing easily into the saddle the way Kiali did, Siana felt satisfied that she no longer plopped into the saddle or came sliding out of it as she had before.

Once Kiali's grey stallion had left the stable-yard, she picked up the reins and pressed very gently with her legs to cue Moondance to walk. The gelding responded a little more slowly than Misty had, but he was well-trained enough that he needed only a few moments to recognize her cues. After she pressed again, he started forward at an easy, unhurried walk. Here, his height became an advantage, for his long legs made his paces feel silken-smooth. After a few more moments of walking, Siana began to wonder how his trot --- normally the most jarring of equine gaits --- would feel. Without even looking to Kiali for direction, she lifted herself slightly out the saddle and cued Moondance with a light tap of her heels.

Almost immediately, Moondance broke into a trot that was indeed much more comfortable than Misty's had been. The thought made Siana feel almost disloyal to the patient mare who had taught her so much. Yet, Moondance hardly bounced at all while trotting, making the task of raising and lowering herself in the saddle almost unnecessary.

Eventually, she became aware of Kiali's horse catching up to her. "What are you thinking about so hard?" he called teasingly.

"I'm just feeling glad I chose Moondance. Why didn't you let me train on him?" Siana replied.

Kiali's face broke into a grin. "Tell him to canter. I think you'll see why!"

Creasing her brow in a quizzical frown, Siana obediently slid her left leg outside the girth and applied pressure to Moondance's body with both legs. Her right leg stayed on the girth, encouraging the horse to lean slightly toward the right when beginning the canter. When she felt the strong muscles bunching in Moondance's hindquarters, Siana thought she understood why she had started her riding lessons astride the gentler mare. When the gelding took off with a burst of swiftness that nearly sent her reeling back in the saddle, she knew she understood.

Even as she struggled to keep her hips loose and follow the horse's rocking motion, Siana felt herself laughing aloud with the thrill of sheer speed. The natural, effortless way that Moondance's long strides devoured the miles made her feel like she could ride forever, into the horizon itself. The afternoon sun hung in the west, casting slanting rays of dusty golden light over the ground. Fields of snow hurtled past in a blur as she and Moondance raced forward.

Kiali had been right. There was no way she could've ridden Moondance before and kept her seat. But now she shouted for joy as the horse's legs churned up waves of snow on either side, tumbling outward in tempestuous white cataracts. Later, her legs and back would punish her for her reckless riding, but for now Siana utterly loved the experience.

By her side, Kiali had also urged his stallion into a fast canter, and the two horses thundered side by side. Startled by the sound of their laughter and the rhythm of the horses' hooves, snowshoe hares and other tundra denizens peeked out from their dens to investigate. Siana thought she could sense Moondance's own enjoyment of their fast pace, and it almost saddened her to have to nudge him to follow Kiali's lead and turn away from their straight plunge toward the horizon. The gelding proved more stubborn than Misty too. She was always afraid to be too authoritarian with horses, for fear that they might dislike her, but Kiali's admonitions to be firm when instructing her steed came back to her. She tugged gently on the left or right rein as needed and pressed either leg into Moondance's side, stopping immediately once he obeyed her cue.

At last, yet all too soon, Kiali held up a hand to signal them to slow down and pointed ahead into the distance. Squinting, Siana could make out the outline of a building built of ice against the expanse of snow and the darkening sky. This must be the hunting lodge he had mentioned earlier. She squeezed back on the reins to prompt a halt. Moondance had already slowed down from the canter, and it took little time for both horses to reduce their pace to a trot, then a walk, and finally a stop a fair distance from the ice lodge.

After dismounting, Kiali showed her the small stable behind the lodge, only large enough to fit their two horses. They walked the horses a while in the cool afternoon air and then removed their tack, brushed out their coats, and led them into their stalls. "How did I do?" Siana asked as she followed Kiali back outside to the lodge door.

"Pretty well," he acknowledged. "You looked like you were having a lot of fun. Moondance is a fine riding horse, but he's not quite for beginners. You handled him well enough, though." He opened the front door. "Ah, here we are!"

Like the exterior, the hunting lodge's interior was all built with tight-packed snow and ice. The smooth walls sloped upward to form a rough dome that stood without any additional supporting structures. The floor was of clean, dry earth, with a handful of wooden benches scattered around the lodge. Weapon racks and shelves were lined against the curving walls, boasting a variety of spears, harpoons and bows. At the center of the lodge was a brazier that Kiali hurried over to light, which gradually sent warmth rising through the lodge without melting the walls.

Kiali motioned her to sit at one of the benches and took a seat opposite her, crossing his legs under him. She settled into place, feeling much more comfortable in the snow house than she'd expected. "So," he said, smiling, "tell me your story."
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Siana Skyglow
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Re: [Training] Saddling Up

Postby Siana Skyglow on March 23rd, 2010, 3:59 am

Siana settled onto the bench with her legs folded under her, closed her eyes and let her mind wander amid pristine fields of glistening white snow, as she always did before beginning a story. Her tales came from equal parts preparation and inspiration, so that each telling was unique and never to be repeated. Presently, the figure of a fair woman in dove-colored furs appeared; Siana saw her far-seeing blue eyes and her slender hands, which had known the touch of so many others. She began her story. Siana had been told that when she was storytelling, she slipped into using a voice that, while still recognizably hers, sounded more resonant and haunting, as though it rose up from the ageless tundra itself through her body. Across from her, Kiali grew still. Lifting her hands to gesture, Siana began telling the story of the strange events that occurred three years ago in Avanthal, based on the information and rumors that she herself had heard.

"When Gregoire's men finally found the white witch, she was weeping over the corpses of Gregoire and his lover," she began, her voice soft and measured. Kiali's eyes widened. "On her knees in the snow, she wept as if her heart was breaking. At first, his men were too horrified to react. Once they came to their wits, they did the only thing they could. They took the white witch in hand and placed her under arrest. For, as much as they feared the white witch, they had loved Gregoire more.

"In life, Gregoire had been a handsome and charismatic man. He had been born the second son in his father's house and could not inherit any lands or titles. But in all other ways, it seemed that fortune favored him. When he came of age, his father gifted him with the keys to a great house in Avanthal, where he would reside as lord and master. Gregoire graciously assumed his place at the house his father built for him. Through the years, he earned his place so well that no one ever contested his leadership. He earned the devotion and fealty of the men who served him. Best of all, he earned the service of a remarkable woman, the woman that everyone called the white witch.

"In truth, she was no witch at all, though many would have called her powers eldritch and magical, even unnatural. Her hair and skin were as pure and pale as newly fallen snow, and her clear, sharp eyes were an unchanging blue. They seemed to see past the visible, everyday world into the realm of the unseen and unspoken. There were those who said she could look into the future, others who claimed she could read a person's past, and even some who credited her with the ability to do both. Her name was Sondra.

"When she first arrived in Avanthal, Sondra told Gregoire she had been 'called' to become his advisor. He accepted her as soon as he heard the first words from her mouth. She slipped off her glove and took his hand in hers. 'You took your little sister's favorite toy from her as a child,' she said, almost in wonder, 'and made her cry. When you saw her tears, you felt so guilty that you had hurt her. It was like a spear of ice in your chest.'"

"'How did you know that?' demanded Gregoire.'I had never told anyone how I felt, but you described it exactly. How could you have seen that?'"

When she spoke the woman's part, Siana's voice became rich and musical, as she had imagined Sondra's voice would have sounded. For Gregoire's speech, her voice grew deep and confident, approximating the tones of a mature, commanding man as best she could. She switched between the two voices with barely a pause, emulating the immediacy of real conversation.

"Rather than answer with words, she simply drew back the edge of her sleeve and displayed her hand to him. Instead of skin, a pattern of iridescent white scales adorned the back of her hand, like the scales of a fish. It was a clear sign that she was nothing human."

"Wait a minute," Kiali interrupted, raising his own hand. "Scales? What in Morwen's name is she? I thought she was some kind of crazy fortune-teller or something."

Siana rolled her eyes with a condescending air. In her ordinary voice, she said impatiently, "Don't you know it's rude to interrupt a storyteller in the middle of a tale? If you'd waited a little longer, I would've answered your question."

"All right, all right," Kiali muttered, looking apologetic. "Sorry about that. Go on."

Clearing her throat, Siana resumed. Her voice deepened as she resumed using Gregoire's voice. "'You are a Konti,' breathed Gregoire, gazing at the pale woman in awe. 'One of the prophetesses from the White Isle. I had heard the stories of your kind, but I never dreamed I would see one with my own eyes. My lady, I welcome you to my home. '

"The Konti called Sondra had been shivering as she stood in the snow. But when she looked up and met Gregoire's earnest eyes, the chill seemed to leave her body and soul, as though the warmth he radiated had melted her coldness. A smile broke across her face like sunrise over the tundra. 'I hope to serve you well,' said she. 'By coming here, I have pledged my life to yours. It is a sacred vow, and only death will break it.'

"Gregoire smiled into her eyes and offered her his arm. 'It shall never come to that, my lady. From this day forward, you shall be my most trusted counselor, for you have the power to see into the hearts of men.'

"True to her word, Sondra dedicated her life to serving Gregoire. Every day, she sat at his right hand and offered her gift of divination for his asking. She only had to take a person's hand to see the true nature of that person, from their brightest triumphs to their darkest crimes." Siana paused and wrinkled her brow at this point, for she had heard varied accounts about the precise workings of the Konti's power, and she wasn't quite sure if her description was accurate. At this point, though, she figured it was likely to be as accurate as any other. She continued, "Sometimes those triumphs or crimes lay in the past and other times in the future. Indeed, even an incidental brushing of hands could precipitate an unwanted flood of insight into a stranger's life. Only to Gregoire did she reveal what she saw. He alone did not fear or detest her for her abilities, but accepted her tidings with wisdom, whether they were for good or ill.

"Eventually, even those who dreaded her and called her the 'white witch' could not remember a time when Sondra was not part of Gregoire's household. Like a pale shadow, she followed him wherever he went. It slowly became clear to everyone that she was bound to Gregoire by more than a simple vow. Her eyes shone when she looked at him, and his happiness mattered as much to her as her own.

"After all, Gregoire was that sort of man. He could arouse love from all those who served him. Even from the heart of a Konti seeress.

"One day, Gregoire took her aside and gently slipped the gloves off her hands. He had taken to giving her gloves every year, as a sign of his appreciation for her services. 'Is it true you can see the future?' he asked huskily.

"'I see what will happen should nothing change,' Sondra answered. 'But the future can always be changed.'

"He held her hands in his and pressed them to his cheek. 'What do you see for me?'

"The Konti woman closed her eyes briefly, then smiled at him. 'I see joy,' she said, 'and love. You will live long and do great things, if all things remain as they are.'

"Gregoire returned her smile with all the warmth of summertime. 'I promise you, nothing will change from what they are now. I will always want you by my side, Sondra.'"
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Siana Skyglow
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Re: [Training] Saddling Up

Postby Siana Skyglow on March 26th, 2010, 5:14 pm

"In Gregoire's house," Siana said, continuing her story, "Sondra's chief duty was to hold the hands of those who sought to join the ranks of his guardsmen and servants. In the touch of their skin, she would read their innermost hearts and whisper their secrets in Gregoire's ear. In the five years since Sondra had arrived in Avanthal, she had held over a hundred hands. Yet, she only saw favorable things from a few of their owners. Few could have guessed the sort of grim tidings she whispered to Gregoire, for the graceful, beautiful Konti woman seemed too fragile and pure to bear such ill knowledge. Despite the horrors she saw, Sondra was utterly devoted to Gregoire. She never flinched from telling the truths of others' hearts to him, just as her shining face never failed to tell the truth of her heart as well."

Kiali grinned with approval at the last sentence. Siana couldn't help pausing to bask in the moment of unspoken praise, before she resumed her story. Her voice took on a tone of foreboding.

"Perhaps her tide of dark insights blackened Gregoire's heart in the end, causing him to mistake gaudy glitter for true glory. Perhaps the memory of them merely made the Konti's presence painful to him, making him unwilling to heed her counsel. The truth can never be known. All that remain are the facts of what occurred in the fifth year of Sondra's service to Gregoire.

"Gregoire often left his house in Avanthal on hunting trips and trading expeditions, accompanied by an honor guard. When he returned from these trips, he always brought back prizes from his journeys: pelts, ivory, strings of jewels, or rich spices. At the end of one such trip, though, Gregoire returned bearing no such gifts. Instead, he brought with him a woman, Lorna, the only person who ever entered his house without touching Sondra's hand.

"Oh, Lorna was stunning, to be sure. Everything about her was desirable. Even withered grandfathers would burn with lust when she passed by. It was clear that Gregoire could keep neither his eyes nor his hands off her voluptuous body. Because he could not refuse even her smallest whim, Lorna soon turned the entire household upside-down.

"Her constant demands for costly jewels and rare fruit depleted Gregoire's long-accumulated treasury. Her nightly embraces," Siana blushed at this part, but forged on without a pause, "her nightly embraces left Gregoire exhausted and reluctant to fulfill his duties. Worst of all, her words made their way into Gregoire's ears, filling them with blandishments of love and venomous slander against those who loved Gregoire until the man grew dizzy and drowsy with passion and confusion.

"Though he was always careful to include her in his councils, Sondra quickly realized that Gregoire no longer heeded her as he once had. He only half-listened to her whispers, before issuing orders that had Lorna's best interests written all over them. Though Sondra might accept the loss of Gregoire's heart to a rival, she could not bear to watch the loss of his wisdom and the fruits of his long years of hard work as well. The more she watched Lorna with Gregoire, the more certain she felt that the foreign woman was manipulating him for her own profit and cared nothing about ruining his life or his honor in the process.

"Sondra tried to warn Gregoire. 'Lorna will bring harm to your house, Gregoire. She means nothing but trouble to you and yours.'

"'And how do you know this?' he demanded. 'Did you read it in her hands, as you read everyone else's sins?' His face darkened as he spat out the last few words.

"'No. She shuns my touch,' Sondra told him. 'That makes me suspect her even more.'

"'Perhaps she only wants some privacy,' Gregoire retorted.'If only I had a little privacy from your touch as well.'

"Sondra recoiled at the sound of his harsh tone as though she had been slapped. After that, no matter how she tried to warn him against Lorna, Gregoire turned a deaf ear to her predictions. She begged him to listen to sense, she argued rationally and logically, and she shouted at him until her throat went dry and hoarse. Still, Gregoire would not listen. Instead, he became increasingly infatuated with Lorna, while ignoring the loyal Konti woman who had loved him and served him faithfully for years.

"At last, unable to endure the decay she saw all around her, Sondra confronted Lorna herself. One day, as Lorna arrived at the council chamber to greet Gregoire, half-naked in a translucent gown, the Konti woman lingered at the doorway rather than departing immediately. When Lorna passed nearby, Sondra seized her hand and drank in the visions that Lorna's touch revealed to her. What she saw horrified her. Her body arched and spasmed, and she released Lorna and fled to her rooms to escape the abomination that Gregoire had introduced into his home.

"When she emerged from her rooms at last, Sondra looked more like the white witch that people had nicknamed her than ever. For days, no one dared approach her for fear of her stony, deathly-pale face and icy eyes. Her already thin frame wasted away to nothing as she brooded in silence over what she had seen.

"Finally, Gregoire himself came to her and demanded, 'What's gotten into you, Sondra? Why are you acting like such a lunatic?'

"Sondra replied coldly, 'What do you see when you touch Lorna's flesh?'

"When Gregoire did not answer, she continued, 'I saw what she did in the past and what she will do to you. But I know you will not believe me if I told you. So, I will have to force her to tell you herself.' With that, she snatched Gregoire's hand with her gloved fingers and leaped to her feet, leading him firmly to the snowy garden where Lorna awaited him.

Siana pronounced Sondra's last sentence in an almost lupine growl, making Kiali jump a little to hear her changed tone.

"Of course, Lorna had no desire to share her past with Gregoire. She merely smiled as Sondra ordered her to describe the cold-hearted seductions and murders of her former lovers. Nor did she blink when the Konti spoke of how she planned to stab Gregoire to death. 'How can you believe the tales of that white whore?' she asked Gregoire. 'She is full of jealousy. She wants you for herself. She will do anything to make you stop loving me.'

"'You have not denied anything I said,' Sondra declared. 'Leave this place now. Walk out the gate until you forget this house and Gregoire.'

"'All that way in the snow? I think not,' Lorna hissed.

"Baring her teeth, she lunged at Sondra and tried to claw her back. Shocked, Gregoire stepped in to try to restrain her. The three of them twisted and strained. Sondra was trying to escape from Lorna's claws, Lorna was trying to silence the Konti woman's divinations forever, and Gregoire was trying to separate them both. He moved like a man numbed in his whole body, unable to believe that Sondra's accusations might be true or that Lorna was capable of such violence.

"Because he was so numbed, he did not understand at first what had happened when he wrenched the two women apart and sent them flying. Sondra fell in the snow, unhurt, but Lorna's head crashed into a sharp rock, cracking it open. Blood poured from the hideous wound. Her lips worked slowly, drooling pink spittle into the snow.

"'Sh…she was right, you know,' she croaked. 'I was going to cut out your…your heart. M…maybe I still will.'

"To Sondra's horror, Lorna was holding a dagger she had grabbed from Gregoire's waist sheath during the struggle. With a last burst of strength, she sank it deep into his unresisting flesh, piercing his gut. Sondra let out a cry of despair as Gregoire's eyes went dark and his body slumped on top of Lorna's to join her in death. He was still wearing an expression of stunned incomprehension as he fell.

"Kneeling in the snow, she wept as though the world were ending. In a way, it had, for Gregoire had been her whole world and now he was dead. If only he had listened to her, she could have saved him.

"That was how the house guard found her. As the snow fell around them, Sondra told them about how Gregoire and Lorna had killed each other. At first, they suspected her, but those who had been with Gregoire the longest knew she had never lied in his service. They also knew how much she had loved him and tried to save him from his own doom. So, they let her go. Sondra left Avanthal as suddenly as she had come, her tears like drifting snowflakes as she left behind the only home she had ever wanted and the only man she had ever loved."

After she finished, absolute silence reigned for the space of a dozen heartbeats inside the hunting lodge. Finally, Kiali cleared his throat and declared, "Wow. Not bad. Where did you hear this story?"

"I heard someone talking about a Konti woman named Sondra trying to warn the man she loved against his lover, but was never believed," Siana replied. "I asked him afterward about the events, because it sounded interesting. Then I imagined the rest. So, it was only 'not bad'? Is that all you can say about it?"

"Well, I was expecting something totally different," Kiali said, "but it was very…well, wow. Very interesting. My head is still spinning a little. That was…powerful. Could use some work, but that ending was…wow."

"What were you expecting?" Siana asked curiously.

"The story of the messenger and his horse, of course," Kiali answered, grinning. "I thought you'd seize the chance to show off how much you've learned about horses since I first started teaching you."

Siana thought it over for a moment. "You're right, that would have made a good story to tell you in the end. Then everything would have come full circle, like in a story. Sadly, I still haven't finished developing the messenger story yet, so it wasn't going to happen. Besides," she added, sticking her tongue out at him, "I thought you said you liked really tragic, harrowing stories anyway, instead of somewhat-tragic stories with sad but hopeful endings."

"That's true, I do," Kiali admitted, "and your Konti story was definitely tragic." He glanced at the brazier for the first time since they arrived and whistled. "Just like how it's going to be tragic if we don't head back to Avanthal soon. Come on, Siana," he said, pulling her up from her bench, "let's head home.

"And Siana?" he added, as she followed him to the small stable. "Let me know when you're done with the story about the messenger and his horse. I can't wait to hear that one someday."
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Siana Skyglow
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Re: [Training] Saddling Up

Postby Gossamer on March 26th, 2010, 7:53 pm


Experience: +5 Riding, +2 Storytelling, +2 Interrogation, +2 Observation
Lore: Lore of Horse Breeds
Additional Notes: Very nice read.
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