Solo [The Sanctuary] Riding for Distraction

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Built into the cliffs overlooking the Suvan Sea, Riverfall resides on the edge of grasslands of Cyphrus where the Bluevein River plunges off the plain and cascades down to the inland sea below. Home of the Akalak, Riverfall is a self-supporting city populated by devoted warriors. [Riverfall Codex]

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[The Sanctuary] Riding for Distraction

Postby Lian Windrunner on January 13th, 2016, 6:09 am

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12th Day of Winter, 515 AV


Rumors had come to the Sanctuary. The kids Lian had taught in his earlier riding lesson were unable to focus on what they were supposed to be doing. All they could think about was an announcement that had been made in the city earlier today. Some of the kids claimed to have been there to hear the announcement personally. Others had a parent or friend who had heard the news for themselves. Still others were repeating what they had heard "someone said."

Lian didn't know if the rumors were true or not. He had heard the news from children, after all. And children got things wrong. They exaggerated things. Or they didn't understand what they were being told, and they filled in the blanks with their own limited understanding of how the world worked. But as different as the rumors were from one another, and as vastly unlikely some of them were to be true, they all held a common factor. Each rumor said that the announcement had been about the strange powers that had been cropping up all over the city.

If the rumors were true, and there really had been an announcement, Lian wished he had been there to hear it for himself. He was curious to know if someone had figured out where the powers were coming from. Were they a gift from one of the gods? If so, which god? If Lian knew, he would go out and bring down a deer to sacrifice in thanks for the gifts. Part of him felt that he should do that, anyway. Perhaps as a gift to all of the gods he knew. The only thing that stopped him was the fear of angering the god who had sent the mysterious powers if he thanked the wrong god or gods for the gift. It would be a very bad idea indeed to anger a god. Losing his newfound ability to talk to Talise and understand other animals would likely be the least of his worries were that to happen.

There was also the chance that the strange powers were not a gift from the gods at all. Though, if that were true, Lian had no idea who or what could have caused them. He wondered if he would ever learn the truth. Then again, even if he didn't, he wasn't sure that it mattered. He loved his new found ability, and was deeply grateful to whoever or whatever had given it to him.

Lian pushed his current train of thought to the back of his mind. Announcement or not, rumors or not, mysterious powers or not...he had another riding lesson to prepare for. He found himself looking forward to giving this next lesson. He had greatly enjoyed giving the riding lesson earlier, as well.

With his newfound ability to understand animals, it was a lot easier to teach people how to ride. The horses themselves were able to communicate how they felt about their riders. That in turn told him if there was a problem developing even if he missed seeing it for himself. And then there was the sheer amusement value to be had. Talise had started watching whenever he gave a riding lesson, and she always had something to say about it. Sometimes her comments were about the people he was teaching. But she also had plenty to say about his less than perfect teaching skills. He often felt a deep impatience, and annoyance when someone failed to grasp a concept that to him seemed perfectly obvious. And whenever he was close to letting his feelings get the better of him, Talise was quick to say something that made him take a deep breath, and regain control of himself. And with the running commentary in the back of his mind, Lian was often hard pressed not to laugh.


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[The Sanctuary] Riding for Distraction

Postby Lian Windrunner on January 15th, 2016, 1:12 am

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The woman Lian was supposed to teach entered the Sanctuary accompanied by one of the blue skinned Akalaks. She was a pretty woman; small, with wavy black hair that dangled just below her waist, and bright green eyes that seemed to miss nothing as she took in the world around her. Her features were delicate, giving her an almost fragile appearance, especially in comparison to the broad shouldered, muscular man that stood beside her with one arm wrapped around her waist as if he were trying to show the world that she belonged to him.

It was even possible that the woman did belong to him. Lian's eyes were drawn to the gold armband on the woman's right arm. It was the mark of an Nakivak, if Lian remembered correctly. A breeder. A captive, essentially. Lian couldn't resist the urge to glance at the woman's stomach discretely. Sure enough, the slight rounded swell of her belly told him that she was pregnant. Given the way her companion was acting towards her, it was pretty obvious that he was the father of the unborn child.

The man said something to the woman, causing her to nod, as if in agreement, or acknowledgement. His words were brisk, spoken in a language unlike anything Lian could remember hearing before. Part of him wanted to ask what language the man had spoken in. But he refrained. It was none of his business, really. And he didn't want to risk his student, or her master thinking he was trying to pry into their affairs.

After a few chimes, the Akalak said something else that Lian didn't understand. Then he looked at Lian directly, as if taking his measure. He seemed to pass whatever silent test the man had given him, because he nodded once, then left. The look the man had given him lingered in Lian's mind. She's mine. it had said. It was true enough. The gold armband on the woman's arm was plain for everyone to see. Take care of them. the look had cautioned. Again, the meaning was plain. Do nothing to harm the woman, or the child sleeping within her. Lian nodded back, making the signs for agreement, and acceptance out of sheer habit.

Lian turned his attention back to the woman he was supposed to teach. Tension ran out of her shoulders when her master left, and she relaxed visibly. She gave Lian a timid, uncertain smile. Lian smiled back, wanting to reassure the woman. If he was going to teach her properly, she needed to be fully relaxed, and calm. Tension and anxiety in his student would communicate themselves to the horse she was riding, making the lesson difficult, and unpleasant for them both.

"My name's Lian Windrunner, of the Sapphire Clan." he said in heavily accented Common.

The words had come automatically, startling Lian. Until now, he had been unable to remember what Clan he was from. But the words felt right, true. He didn't question them. Instead, he was happy to have regained one more piece of himself. He was of the Sapphire Clan. And with that piece of information, he knew what his clan was known for among his people. His Clan was known for both Reimancy, and Webbing, the magic that foreigners were forbidden to know of. Lian quickly pushed his newly remembered knowledge aside in favor of paying attention to the present.

"May I ask what your name is?"

Lian was uncertain of what the customs were for dealing with Nakivaks. Obviously it was okay for him to teach her since she wouldn't be here if it wasn't. But the woman was claimed by another man. How personal was too personal when Nakivaks were involved? Lian had no desire to risk angering the giant blue man who had claimed the woman.

"Raine."

Lian nodded.

"How much do you know about horses, and riding? Is this your first lesson?"

Raine shook her head.

"I wouldn't pretend to claim that I know what I'd doing, really. But I have had a few lessons, and I've practiced a few times on my own, as well."

"Then why don't we start by you showing me what you do know?" Lian suggested.


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[The Sanctuary] Riding for Distraction

Postby Lian Windrunner on January 26th, 2016, 7:07 pm

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Raine smiled shyly, and nodded.

"Let's get started, then. You can choose any horse you'd like to use for this lesson."

Talise snorted sharply, and nudged him in the back. Lian chuckled ruefully as he turned, and stroked her neck gently.

"Except for Talise here, of course."

Raine grinned, and nodded.

"Of course." she said with a small laugh.

Raine's tone suggested that she knew something of the Drykas, and their striders. Lian watched carefully as she looked around the riding arena. This was a bit of a test for her. Since he had had no idea of what her skill level was before she arrived, Lian had selected several horses that he could use for the lesson. Some were more challenging than others, and were not suitable for a complete novice. But Raine claimed to have some knowledge of horses. So Lian wanted to see if she knew enough to choose a horse that she was skilled enough to work with. He also wanted to know if she knew how to approach a strange horse.

As he watched, Raine's eyes studied each of the horses Lian had selected. She started to move towards one a couple of times only to change her mind, and keep looking. Lian took that as a good sign. She wasn't simply taking the nearest horse, or the prettiest horse to work with. The woman was taking the time to compare each horse against a series of qualifications that had meaning to her.

After a while, Raine made her decision. She chose a young sungold mare. She was a spirited horse. Not one that Lian would offer to a complete beginner. But she wasn't the most challenging horse that he had selected, either. She required a rider that knew the basics, and one who was alert enough not to fall for any of her tricks. But she was a sweet mare who was willing to work hard when asked, and didn't have a mean bone in her body. If Raine had chosen the mare based on more than just looks as Lian suspected she had, then she had a good eye for horses.

Lian continued to watch as the woman approached the mare. She approached slowly, which was good. But when she started to mount the mare before she introduced herself to her properly, he frowned, and called for her to stop. Raine turned to look at him, with questioning eyes as he walked towards her.

"Look at her." he commanded softly.

He could sense the young sungold's unease at the approach of a stranger. She held herself tensely. Her ears were pointed forward sharply, and alert.

"Horses fear the unknown. They have good reason to do so. In the wild, they have many predators. You're a stranger to her. Unknown. This horse has been trained to trust humans, and work with them. But she does not know you. She does not trust you. You must earn her trust before she will work well for you." Lian said sternly in heavily accented Common.

He signed a quick basic knowledge.

"Here. Let me show you."

Lian could sense the young mare's anxiety. It felt like a nagging, persistent whisper in the back of his mind. The emotion itself didn't tell Lian what the mare was anxious about. He didn't seem to be able to sense as much from this mare as he could from Talise. And she certainly wasn't talking to him the way his strider did. Perhaps it was because he didn't know the mare as well as he knew Talise?

In the end, it didn't matter. He knew exactly what was making the mare anxious. He had seen it happen for himself. Lian extended his hand towards the mare with his hand open, and the palm facing the sky. Then he approached her slowly. He stopped a few feet away, and allowed the mare to come to him. The freedom of being able to make that decision seemed to help calm the mare a little.

He waited patiently for the young mare to approach him. She sniffed his hand cautiously, then she settled down. The tension left her body, and the nagging whisper in the back of his mind faded. Lian glanced at his student.

"Did you see how I approached her?"

Raine nodded.

"That's how you introduce yourself to an unfamiliar horse. Why don't you try it?"


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[The Sanctuary] Riding for Distraction

Postby Lian Windrunner on January 26th, 2016, 7:09 pm

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Raine nodded in agreement, and Lian stepped back to allow her to try and approach the mare properly. He watched while the woman approached the mare slowly. That part was good. But she didn't extend her hand until she was closer than the mare was truly comfortable with. Lian could feel her starting to grow anxious once more.

But when Raine extended her hand palm up, and allowed the mare to sniff it, she settled. Raine turned back to Lian, and grinned at him.

"That wasn't so hard." she said.

"No, it really isn't." Lian agreed.

"It's only polite, really. And it builds trust between you and the horse. Without that, a truly wonderful experience can quickly become difficult, and unpleasant for you both. Now, let's see what you can do when you're actually up on a horse."

Lian watched as his student mounted the sungold mare, and noticed a problem immediately. As she sat in the yvas, she wasn't sitting forward enough. Because of that, her legs weren't resting in the right position. Her seat wasn't as secure as it should be. And although, it wasn't guaranteed that she would fall if the mare moved too quickly, or suddenly, there was a good chance of it. The way that Raine was sitting in the yvas was likely to cause her to grip the horse with her legs more than was needed. That would send conflicted messages to the mare, and be uncomfortable for them both.

It was a mistake that few Drykas over the age of five would make. But since Lian had come to live at the Sanctuary, he had seen the saddle that most non Drykas used when they rode. And after seeing someone use it, he could see why someone who was used to riding with one would make such a basic mistake. He himself would be likely to make equally simple mistakes if he were forced to use a saddle instead of a yvas.

"You're not used to using a yvas, are you?" Lian questioned his student.

Raine looked startled as she looked down on him.

"How did you know? Is it that easy to tell?"

Instead of answering Raine's questions directly, Lian considered his words carefully. He didn't want to insult the woman, after all. She was a paying customer, and if she got upset with him, she might not return for more lessons. But tempering his response wasn't easy with Talise laughing in the back of his head.

"It's the way you're sitting on the horse." Lian explained.

"Here, let me show you."

Lian mounted Talise, and directed her to move closer to Raine so she could see the difference in the way they were sitting.

"Do you see the difference?" he asked.

"By sitting more forward like this, my legs rest along the crease between Talise's barrel, and her shoulder muscles. As a result, my seat is more secure, and I don't have to grip Talise with my legs as much as you are gripping your horse."

Raine studied him for several chimes while Lian waited patiently for her to see the difference for herself. Then she nodded, and shifted her position. When she did, she noticed the difference immediately, and she smiled.

"I do see the difference. This is much better. Thank you."

"Show me your paces."

Raine leaned forward, requesting a walk out of the mare she was riding. As she did so, Lian noticed another basic mistake. Her toes were pointed down instead of her heels. Lian frowned. Riding that way could easily lead to the woman digging her heels into the horse's sides, or clutching at the horse with her lower legs. Both were cues that would tell the horse that she wanted to go faster. That could easily lead to a nasty fall if she wasn't prepared. And from what Lian had seen so far, he didn't think that she was skilled enough to handle a horse moving faster than a brisk walk yet.

With a thought, Lian asked Talise to move into the sungold mare's path. Talise obeyed readily, and the other mare stopped immediately, snorting in protest.

"What was I doing wrong?" Raine asked in confusion.

"You need to keep your ankles flexed when you ride. Your heels need to be lower than your toes. With the way you are riding now, it would be very easy for you to accidentally dig your heels into your horse's sides, or clutch at her with your lower legs. Doing either would tell her that you want to go faster." he explained.

Raine's eyes widened.

"I don't want that." she said quickly.

Lian refrained from responding to that comment. He tried to ignore Talise's laughter as he watched his student move her feet into the position he had told her. Once she had, he moved back, and gestured for her to continue showing him what she could do. She seemed to have the most basic commands down. At the very least, Raine knew how to get a horse to move forward, and stop. He wasn't confident that she was able to handle any more than that at her current level of knowledge. But it was important for him to know what she was capable of, because it gave him an idea of what she still needed to learn.


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[The Sanctuary] Riding for Distraction

Postby Lian Windrunner on January 27th, 2016, 5:54 pm

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"Why do you want to learn how to ride?" Lian asked.

He asked partly out of curiosity, but her answer would also tell him how serious she was about wanting to learn how to ride. It would tell him if this was merely a hobby, something of mild interest, or a passion of hers.

"Riding is...a distraction for me. An illusion of freedom, in a way."

Lian wondered if he looked as startled as he felt at the answer to his question. He realized that he must when the woman laughed. It wasn't a sound of amusement, or joy the way a laugh was supposed to be. Instead, it was filled with bitterness and pain.

"You may have guessed that I am a Nakivak?"

Lian nodded. His eyes drifted briefly to the gold armband on his student's arm before meeting her own once more.

"That means that I am a slave. A well treated one, perhaps, but a slave all the same. One whose only value is in the child that I carry. The child that will almost certainly kill me."

Lian's eyes widened slightly in surprise.

"Lots of women have children, Raine. I can't say that can't say that giving birth to a child isn't dangerous. Women do die of it. But many survive. You can't say for certain that giving birth to your unborn child will kill you."

The image of a woman screaming in pain as she gave birth rose up in his mind. He didn't recognize her, but he felt that he should. And he felt as though the child she was giving birth to was his.

"That may be true normally, but this is different. Akalaks...have you ever seen a female Akalak before?"

Lian shook his head. He hadn't been in Riverfall for that long, but it did seem strange to him that he had never seen a single blue skinned woman among all the men.

"That's because there aren't any. Akalaks have to look to other races to bear their young. And the women from those races usually don't fare well. When a woman gets pregnant with an Akalak's child, she is pregnant for an entire year. By the time the baby is ready to be born, it is so big, that birthing it is fatal to most of the women who bear them. That's why Nakivaks exist. It is very rare for a woman to agree to bear an Akalak's child willingly, knowing that it is likely to kill them. So they have to turn to women that owe them something. Women that they save from zith raids, like I was. That sort of thing. Or women who commit a crime in Riverfall, and get caught for it."

Lian wasn't sure what to think. He knew that his people took captives, and that those women were rarely happy being forced to bear the children of the men who claim them. But at least those women were likely to survive the experience. On the other hand, it would be wrong to condemn a race of people to death because they were unable to sire another generation...

"I know that I am probably going to die. And I don't blame the Akalaks for it. I owe them my life. And while I don't want to repay that debt with my life, the debt remains. Riding distracts me from all of that. Horses look so free when they run. I think it must be like flying. If I could learn to ride a horse like that, I could pretend that I was flying free. Leaving all of my problems behind...even if only for a short time."

Lian nodded slowly. It was all he could do. Raine's words effected him deeply. He could hear the fear underlying her words. But there was courage there as well. The courage it took simply to face each day as each day that passed brought her one day closer to what might well be an agonizingly painful death. Lian wondered if he would have as much courage as Raine did if he were in her position. Would he be able to accept his fate and live each day to the best of his ability as she seemed to be? Or would he fall apart under the dread of what awaited him? Lian was glad that he would never have to find out.

"Then let's work towards that goal. The relationship between horse and rider can be a very special thing if it is allowed to thrive. And you're right. Racing on a horse...feeling the wind flow past you...it's as close to flying as a person can possibly get." Lian said with a warm, genuine smile.

Raine smiled back, and thanked him for his willingness to help. Lian told her to start riding laps around the riding arena. He and Talise rode beside her. As they rode, Lian paid close attention to his student's posture. He wanted her to practice riding with her legs and feet in the proper position so that it would start to feel natural to her. When her feet or legs started to change position, Lian corrected her. And the more longer they rode, the fewer times he saw her reverting back to her old habits.

After a couple of bells, Lian was satisfied that his student had gotten the hang of it. Only practice would make what he had showed her feel completely natural to her, but Lian was confidant that she was determined enough to put the work in to get that practice. Lian could see that Raine was starting to get tired. He was about to tell her to call it a day. But it turned out not to be necessary. He saw the Akalak that had brought Raine to the Sanctuary approach the riding arena. The man leaned on the fence, watching them with an unreadable expression on his face.

Lian squeezed Talise's sides with his calfs gently, requesting that she speed up a bit. When she obeyed, Lian moved in front of Raine's path, stopping her.

"That's enough for today. It isn't good for a beginner to ride for too long at a time. You're muscles aren't used to it, and if you push yourself too far, you'll be very sore tomorrow. Besides, I think we have company."

Raine looked up, and sighed when she saw the Akalak. She thanked Lian for teaching her, and dismounted slowly. Lian dismounted as well, moving to stand beside the mare Raine had been riding. Raine patted the young sungold's neck, thanking her for a good ride. Then she walked towards her master. The Akalak nodded at him in what might have been thanks, or just a simple acknowledgement. Then they left. As Lian watched them go, Raine's words echoed in his mind. Most of the Nakivaks died giving birth to the children they carried. That implied that some did survive. Kavala herself had once been a Nakivak, so it was definitely possible for some to survive. Lian hoped that Raine would be one of the survivors. From what he had seen, she was a very strong woman. And the world would be better for that kind of strength.


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