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 Soulbond: The Beginning

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Pascale d'Artagne
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PostSubject: Re: Soulbond: The Beginning   Thu Aug 16, 2012 9:08 pm

Water is wonderful. Right now, it's more than wonderful. After dumping me on the edge of a respectably sized pond, Kanna had gone back to see if Aithne was awake. Taking advantage of the privacy, I took off my dirty yet valuable boots and my dirty and worthless pants. Water....so soothing. Wish I could lay here all day. After soaking for a couple minutes, I pushed off from the bank and backfloated towards the center of the lake. Closing my eyes, I allowed the lapping waves to fill my senses. Whispering winds wove playfully through the tall grass, water swished on pebbles. Small paws scratched in dirt, some foot crunched gravel....! Someone was here! Breaking out of my trance, I floundered in the water. Ignoring screaming limbs, I tore through the water to the shore, rapidly throwing my pants and boots on. I really needed to find a shirt somewhere. As I stood dripping and panting, Aithne emerged from the grass. A frown darkened her face, drawing sly lips downwards.
"We need to get going." It was a statement.
"Why?"
"Just..." she glanced around uneasily. "...I'll tell you once we're gone." She looked up into my eyes. "We need to go. Now."
"Okay," I held up my hands, sadly making myself grimace. She remained serious. Turning on her heel, she departed on the squelching gravel.
"I'll have Kanna bring the horses here," her voice trailed back.
<Venser?>
<Yes. I'm coming.>
Venser landed on my shoulder just before Kanna and Aithne also arrived. Aithne, still dead serious, mounted her horse, while a perplexed Kanna did likewise. Bracing myself, I hobbled to my horse did it have a name? and vaulted onto it's back, landing a little harder than I'd like.
"I'm a little out of practice," I mumbled. However, no one heard, as just at that moment, a swarm of field gnomes flooded our horses.
"Flee! Flee!" they screeched in high pitched squeaks before rushing off into the plain. Whoa, where'd they come from?
Aithne looked a bit shaken. "What are those things?" One was still sitting on her head, directing a few stragglers towards the still running pack. With a cheery wave, it doffed its hat in a quick bow and bounced off to join the rest of its people running over the grass.
"Isn't that why you told us to leave?" I asked. The gnomes didn't seem to be a problem.
"No, that is." She turned and pointed towards an ominous column of smoke.
Oh my goodness, what is that thing?!
<It's the fire from the village. It spread.> Venser said sagely.
Kanna made a noise to the horses, and they began galloping in the direction the gnomes had fled. "Let's get going," she yelled.
Aithne was concerned. "We can't outrun a fire."
I was incredulous. "You wanted to run earlier."
"Yeah, but it seems to be growing."
Hmm, can't go in the forest, can't go back towards the village, ocean way too far...plains burned too easily...no villages...Aha!
"Hey, there's a river that way," I pointed towards the disappearing gnomes. "That's prolly where they're going. We'll be safe once we cro-- Whoa!"
As soon as I said it, the horses had bolted in that direction. Smart things. Oh, yeah, Kanna told them what to do. Oh, well, they're still reasonably smart.
<I hope they're faster than they are smart,> Venser remarked casually.
<Shut up.>
<No!> he snorted.

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PostSubject: Re: Soulbond: The Beginning   Thu Aug 16, 2012 9:57 pm

I will not be silenced! I will speak my thoughts, whatever they may be! Okay, well, those gnomes were annoying. I hate gnomes! One time, I saw two of them in a garden burning aloe plants! When I pounced on them, they pleaded that the aloe wanted to be burned, but I didn't believe them. They spent the next week floating down a river while I buried the aloe ashes. Poor aloe. Evil gnomes!
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PostSubject: Re: Soulbond: The Beginning   Thu Aug 16, 2012 11:53 pm

The jolly little gnomes bounced along the ground, running towards the safety of a swift river. Alternately laughing and panicking, they didn't notice when one straggler was plucked off the ground by a black gloved hand. Kicking and screaming he tried to get free, but the hand wouldn't budge. A large finger covered his face, so he couldn't see.
"Where are they?" a black voice demanded.
"Mmm hmm ummhmm," the gnome wormed through the hand.
"No, I won't let you go. Now, tell me where they are! I know you saw them. You reek of Soulbond," the voice went on. The fist shifted, allowing the gnome to breathe. "Where are they?"
"R-run-ning f-from the f-fire!" the gnome stuttered. Then, his eyes bulged under his cap. He'd given away the Soulbond's whereabouts! It was against the gnome creed! He would be stripped of his pointy cap and shamed!
"Well, that's extremely helpful," the voice drawled sarcastically. He shook the gnome. "Be more specific."
The gnome shook with fear. What was vague, but not vague? "They're heading towards the nearest water." Hopefully, the voice didn't know where that was. The gnome was fond of his new azterpalian hat. He fell to the ground with a thud as the voice released him.
"Thanks so much," it drawled, and then it was gone. The only thing left was a disoriented gnome in a large footprint.
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PostSubject: Re: Soulbond: The Beginning   Sat Aug 18, 2012 12:30 am

Star rolled her eyes and started to frantically weave in and out of the running gnomes, bobbing and weaving so that only a skilled rider could have stayed on. Gnomes!! Eh gods, how I hate those miniature dwarfs!
"Easy there girl, easy there." I soothed the panicking horse. I glanced over my shoulder to see how Aithne and Pascale were holding up.
Aithne, well, she could have ridden better. But anyone, and I mean anyone, could have ridden better than Pascal. He was hunched awkwardly over the horses withers, his seat slamming into the saddle every time the horse put a foot down, and he was inexplicably sliding forward off Storm's right shoulder.
I rolled my eyes. "We better help him out, Star."
"Oi! Idiot boy!" I yelled at him, "You're falling off your horse!"
He looked around in surprise, thus making him even more off-balance. I tugged on Star's reins slightly, and pulled up next to Pascal. I tied Star's reins to the saddle horn, and began adjusting Pascal's seat.
"I don't need help!" He glared at me as I shoved his shoulder to make him even out his weight on the saddle.
"Look, Idiot-Boy, this is my horse, my saddle, and my rules. you ride the way I tell you, or you walk." I growled. I gave him a parting glare as Star sped up to regain her position as lead mare.
Annoying
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PostSubject: Re: Soulbond: The Beginning   Sat Aug 18, 2012 10:29 am

I continued to glare after Kanna's retreating form, herself riding perfectly on Star. I opened my mouth to shout after her, but gagged on the encroaching cloud of soot. Digging my heels into my horse's sides, I gained a small iota of speed. Of course it's easier to ride when one can control what the horse does. I'm usually not too bad of a rider, but my burns were not helping the matter. Looking around, I saw we didn't have much time left. Either, we found the river in five minutes, or we were in for it.
On the ground, small bags and parcels were strewn on the ground, remnants of a gnome exodus. At least they all kept their hats, I thought, with misplaced enthusiasm.
<Good riddance,> Venser snorted from my lap. How did he manage to hang on? <I have my ways,> he smirked, before his tone shifted. <But seriously, look at Aithne and Kanna. Get this fleabag to speed up, or we'll be left behind.>
Widening my gaze, I took in the ten foot gap between myself and Aithne, and the fifty feet Kanna had placed behind her. The unburndened horses ran along in front, parting the dry grass in wide swaths. I kicked the horse more vigorously, and it sped up to be just even with Aithne. She looked over and gave a weary thumbs up before returning to clutching the reigns.
I dared not let go, so I just gave a sort of grimacing smile. Turning to look forward again, I was shocked to only see Kanna on Star. All the other horses had disappeared! Did they run fast enough to get over the horizon? I looked to Aithne for a response, but none was forthcoming. This time, when I looked forward, I couldn't even see Kanna. Where'd she go? It was so weird. Sensing my confusion, my horse slowed, so I didn't hit the edge of the ravine when Aithne did. She screamed as her horse galloped full on over the edge. Gasping, I jumped off my horse and crouched on the edge, sighing in relief when I saw her hand clutching a protruding rock.
"Hang on!" I yelled, upending my right boot to pull out some rope.
"Well, I'm not about to let go," she pointed out. Yeah. I let down the rope, and Aithne grabbed the knot on the end.
"Can you climb up?" She tried, and shook her head as her arms gave out. "Okay, I'll pull you up then. Use your feet to guide you." She nodded, setting the soles of her feet flat against the cliff. I hope I can do this, I thought, before yanking up on the rope. It was slow going at first, but Aithne climbed up over the lip after four excruciating minutes. A loud pop alerted me that a burning ember had landed at our feet. Grabbing her hand, I half dragged her after my stupid horse. Kanna must have found this path down the ravine, and compelled my horse to follow. I don't know why Aithne's horse didn't. Maybe it was a confused horse, the fear of the fire was a stronger influence than Kanna. As we followed my horse down a narrow winding track, I breathed a sigh of relief. Almost there.
Somewhere along the line, I had dropped Aithne's hand. Looking back, I saw that she had slowed to almost a halt, the fire burning bright behind her. Running back, I took a breath, then picked her up and slung her over my shoulder.
<Shouldn't you be a bit more...I don't know, delicate?> Venser entered my head.
<Look, I don't have the strength required of carrying her in both arms, so a bony shoulder is going to have to do.>
<Okay,> he smirked.
I felt growing heat at my back. The fire was coming.
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PostSubject: Re: Soulbond: The Beginning   Sat Aug 18, 2012 11:27 am

Shoving aside the pain, I picked up my pace and full out ran down the windy path. As I came closer to the bottom, I heard the knickering of horses and the slight trickle of water. Almost there, I silently promised myself. I think Aithne was unconscious for a time, but she was awake by the time I spotted Kanna floating with the horses in the middle of a river.
"You can put me down now," she grumbled. Quickly, I released my hold and slid her into the river.
"We've got to cross the river," I said, beginning to wade in. When she still hadn't moved, I came back. "You coming?"
She seemed mortified. "I-I can't swim," she finally whispered. Now I was stunned. I looked to Kanna for help, but she had her hands full with the horses, and they were almost on the other side. Slowly, I slid down onto my knees in the water. Smoke invaded my nostrils, the acrid stench all too familiar. "Here, link your arms around my neck." As soon as I fellt her hands clasp under my chin, I plunged into the heart of the river, swimming for the opposite shore with long, pain-wracked strokes. I could feel Aithne's fear climbing off her and down my spine, but I tried to ignore it. Just stay focused on the other shore.
<Yes, just don't drown,> Venser put in sarcastically. He flew over my head, looking down with amusement and concern.

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PostSubject: Re: Soulbond: The Beginning   Sun Aug 19, 2012 8:19 pm

Pascal really gave me a scare, I have to admit, staying behind to pull Aithne up the cliff. I thought he would have galloped right over the edge like that other horse... Where had it got to? Dragging my gaze from Pascal in the river, I scanned the water upstream. The horse may still be alive, if it fell in the water. I shook my head. What did I care? It was just a horse. Yeah, but it's also an animal, like you... Shivering slightly, I turned and flew upstream, the ashes from above raining down. I quickly spotted a horse shoe glinting in the mud. Swooping down, my eyes alighted upon a trail of hoof prints. It's alive! Hopefully Pascal didn't hear that. Can't have him think I actually care. Tilting my wintips up, I executed a playful loop before returning to Pascal. The horse would return to Kanna by itself. Pascal...well, he needed some encouragement.
<Come on,> I joked, <you're halfway across. Only fifty grueling feet to go, against the current under falling ashes and gravel.>
<Be quiet.>
<Hah.>
Next instant I felt a searing pain rip through my wingjoints and continue down my spine. <That's what it feels like. Now be quiet.>
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PostSubject: Re: Soulbond: The Beginning   Tue Aug 21, 2012 8:47 pm

Venser really is a pain. At least I know he cares. Taking in a deep breath, I plunged my head back into the water, my arms rotating in wide circles to push me and Aithne through the water. Hope we get there soon.
<How much farther?> I asked Venser, coming up for air again.
<Uhh...I would put it at twenty feet. No, fifteen. The beach extends a ways into the river.>
Almost there. Although it weighed me down, I was glad I didn't lose my boots in the water. A minute later, I felt my feet touch the gravelly river bed, slipping on the loose rocks. Aithne stood and wobbled slightly before walking over to Kanna. She seemed to have calmed the horses down. I wonder how long it'll take for our clothes to dry...
<When are you going to find a shirt?> Venser asked.
<I don't know. It hasn't been a priority. Why?>
<I'm tired of staring at your scrawny self.>
<Why thank you for your opinion Venser. I'll make a note of it next time I'm running from a deadly fire,> I replied acidly. Really, he was annoying.
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PostSubject: Re: Soulbond: The Beginning   Wed Aug 22, 2012 1:03 am

Are we still running from the fire? We should be safe, now we crossed the river. Wasn't that the point?
<We're still trying to find a safe place to rest,> Pascal intruded on my thought.
Grr...Why couldn't I be the only one to be able to read minds? I flew down to land on Kanna's head. She was too flustered with the horses to notice. Better to not distract her, I thought. Wonder if I could get some more aloe...
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PostSubject: Re: Soulbond: The Beginning   Wed Aug 22, 2012 11:05 pm

Shaking my head to ignore Venser, I walked stiffly over to the others. Kanna was tightening one of the straps on a saddle. A girth? I don't know. Anyways, Aithne was digging through a saddle bag.
"What're you looking for?" I asked. A sharp pang echoed in my stomach. "Is there any food?"
"No!" Kanna snapped, and I turned in surprise, tripping on the slippery gravel. "There isn't any food. And the horses are spooked, and we're stuck in a rocky gorge with fire on one side, and a sheer cliff on the other."
I steadied myself, and took a step back. "Hey, I'm not complaining. There's got to be a way out somewhere. Worst case, we follow the river, right?" I turned to Aithne for support.
She grimaced. "That's absolutely worst case. How do we know there's no path out?"
"Well, I don't know. Gosh, we'd better fly around and look for one," Kanna spat out. Note to self: don't get Kanna cranky. I exchanged glances with Aithne. Raising my eyebrows, I tried to ask telepathically, any ideas? She nodded firmly, understanding my intent. Going up to Kanna, she carefully placed all of the reins in her hands.
Speaking in a slow, slightly sardonic voice, she began, "Okay, there's probably a way out. Venser can go look for one, since he actually can fly." At this point, a spike of indignation ran through me.
<I'll what?> Venser screeched, still perched on Kanna's head. He puffed up his chest. <I"m more important than a mere scout.>
Aithne rolled her eyes at his display of doubt. "I'll give you aloe." Venser jumped into the air and disappeared. As he left, I felt a distinct feeling of determination.
Kanna seemed to have calmed a little, the lines on her face relaxing. A bit of reddish hair split her forehead, brining to mind the little bit in front of a horse's mane. Forelock?
"Okay," Aithne began again, consulting a little thing in her palm before striding off upstream. "There's a cave this way. We can wait for Venser there." Kanna nodded and followed. That horse witch stuff must be exhausting.
I ambled along behind. "How do you know there's a cave?"
"Smuggler's route," she called back. "This river is ideal for their type of travel. They leave caves all over."
Sure enough, only forty yards further, there was a large cave in the cliff. "Whoa, this place is pretty big." I strode in, gazing at the high ceiling and wide walls. "Any torches?"
Aithne smirked. "What do you think? This ain't the palace city boy."
When I realized she wasn't following me, I went back to the cave entrance and found Aithne and Kanna struggling with one of the horses. Sweat streamed down Kanna's face as she tried to will it to enter the dark cave. I grabbed Aithne and pulled her towards the other, less panicked horses. "Let's tie these ones down. It'll help her if she only has to concentrate on one horse." She nodded, looking through a pack for a hammer and stakes. She handed them to me, and I picketed the horses in the clay like ground. Behind us, the sounds of struggling ceased, and Kanna led in the last horse. We were out of stakes, so we tied his lead rope to another horse's. The ever practical Aithne produced some wood, and began hunting for flint.
"Fire. Gotta have fire," she muttered, searching various pockets. I fought the urge to laugh. As if there wasn't enough burning already.
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PostSubject: Re: Soulbond: The Beginning   Thu Aug 23, 2012 12:54 am

I sat on the dark, slightly damp soil of the river in silence. Panda's, the horse that had run off the edge, death had affected me deeply. Of course, I didn't show it, but on the inside I was silently grieving for the splashy black and white ex-circus pony.
"Hey, where's my horse?" Aithne called from the other end of the cave. I really didn't want to deal with her now. I really just didn't want to deal with humans.
"She's gone." I had to tell her sometime.
"What? Like, she's missing?"
I nearly snorted at her naivety. "No. She's dead." The words, harder then they should have been, forced themselves out of my mouth.
"But... But how?" Aithne said, looking confused and alarmed. Then, quite suddenly, my temper snapped. Maybe it was seeing Aithne's face, devoid of concern for me, for my horse, or maybe it was just because I had so much anger inside of me and it finally had a way out. I leapt to my feet, my eyes flashing like with anger and malice.
"She ran off a cliff!" I snarled at her. "What did you thing would happen? That she would miraculously survive by falling into a deep part of the river? Or that her thin delicate legs would completely escape being touched by the rocks on the way down? Well, I've got something to say to you, princess. This ain't a fairly tale, so stop living a dream. She's dead, and so will we if we slip up even the tiniest bit."
I sat down with my back to them, and in the deep silence that followed, I could almost hear the look Aithne and Pascale were exchanging.
"But that doesn't make sense. Venser saw hoof prints and a horseshoe near the river, leading back here." Pascal. The stupidest one on this trip, and, in fact, the reason we were on this trip at all. He was the reason, I had come to realize, that they were all gone. The baker with his sweet-smelling loaves, the little girl that was infatuated with my horses and was constantly reminding me that she would be Head Groomer when she was my age, too. And my horses, my dear horses.
Old Banner, with his sad gray pelt and aging bones, Molly's first foal, a little speck of ice in her flame-filled stall who didn't even have a name yet. How many countless lives had he snuffed out that night? And now he had added my dear little Panda to his list.
"Sometimes, if a horse is killed suddenly enough, it won't have realized it's dead until it's spirit drifts away in the winds. No doubt Panda tried to get back to camp, not even realizing that she was already dead."
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PostSubject: Re: Soulbond: The Beginning   Thu Aug 23, 2012 1:58 am

I repeatedly shot glaring daggers at Kanna as I undid the lining of my jacket. After all of the exertion he had just been through, I knew that Pascal would need more aloe. And then there was Kanna...stupid horse girl. Her harsh, ignorant words had definitely pushed more than a few buttons. But I took a deep breath and calmed my anger. Gazing back at Kanna with my gaze unclouded by rage, I realized the deep sense of grief that emanated from her. Making up my mind, I retrieved several aloe leaves and handed them to Pascal. "Sorry, but you'll have to put it on yourself this time." I commented to him. I cut a few feet of rope and tied it around me waist. As I strode purposefully out of the cave, I announced that I would be back in a bit. Kanna glared up at me, and continued brooding and talking to her horses. Poor girl...still annoying, but I feel for her. She, unlike Pascal and I, had attachments to the village. I set off towards the ravine at a steady pace. When I arrived at the cliff, I carefully picked the safest rout to the bottom and started my descent. While the climb was precarious, I had been trained in these sort of things by Vakrom, and the wind was at my back, supporting me against the cliff. After about eight minutes, I touched down at the bottom of the ravine. It wasn't hard to find the horse from there. It was the only thing protruding from the landscape, aside from the river. It lay lifeless on its side, as dead as a horse can be. I took the rope that had been secured around my waist and cut it into two equal lengths. Then, I bound the horses' hooves together, and with an exerted grunt, I heaved the horse onto my shoulders. I swayed where I stood for half a minute, extremely unbalanced and dizzy from standing up with such a weight on my shoulders. Once I felt I was steady enough to continue, continue I did. My gaze never left the distant horizon where the cliff curved down to meet the ground at a less steep slope. It was further away from the cave, but I would loop around to get back to the others. There was no way I could scale the walls with a horse on my shoulders. Adjusting my grip around the animal's torso, I slowly made my way to the slope. When I finally reached it and climbed to the top, night had fallen and darkness blanketed my surroundings. At the top of the ravine, I carefully set down to horse - Panda, was it? Yes, I think so - and took a seat on the ground, resting and waiting for my eyes to adjust to the darkness so that I could safely make my way back to the cave. After twenty minutes, the world was splayed before me in soft grays and blacks. I took on the burden of the horse once again and set off in the direction of the cave. It was another hour until I arrived, utterly exhausted, at the mouth of the cave. Kanna had finished what I had left of the fire, which in that moment, looked the most inviting thing of anything I had ever seen. Pascal looked up at me and gave a cry of disbelief upon seeing the dead horse I had on my back. I groaned as I carefully slid the cold corpse from my back gently onto the floor. The last thing I saw before I lost consciousness was Kanna running towards me, shock and gratefulness etched on her face. "Your horse...so you can bury it..." I murmured. My world went black, and all of my senses went numb.
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PostSubject: Re: Soulbond: The Beginning   Thu Aug 23, 2012 2:18 am

A shadowed figure in a dark cloak strode slowly to the bank of a river. This figure, a man by the name of Vakrom, studied the dark landscape before him. This place was the nearest water source to where he had interrogated the stupidly jolly gnome, and yet he could see no sign of his former pupil and the Soulbonder boy. He doubted that the gnome would have dared lie to him, but that didn't change the fact that his prey was nowhere to be seen. He was about to take a step into the river, but hesitated for some reason. A hissing sounded from a emerald green amulet the man wore around his neck. <Vakrom...you know I don't apprecsssssiate water....> the hiss murmured softly into Vakrom's mind. <I would ssssuggesssst that you wait until dawn to find a...dryer way acrossss....however, Renyx issss about to arrive here any moment. Apparenly sssshe hassss a messssssage from your sssssecond in command girl.> Vakrom's eyebrows knitted together with frustration. Of all the times a problem would arise, it just had to be when he was hunting down his subordinate's sister. What an inconvenience... he thought to himself. A moment later, a falcon, as black as the night sky, alighted on Vakrom's shoulder. Uncharacteristically, his eye's widened as he focused on the bird, and immediately took of at a dead sprint to the east. The black falcon took only a few wingspans to catch up with him. It cannot be...it simply cannot be! Vakrom's thoughts were only these words, jumbled up and tossed together. He could kill off Aithne and Venser, but this pressing news took first priority. There was a war to be started, an allegiance treaty to be signed, and these things took priority - for the moment.
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PostSubject: Re: Soulbond: The Beginning   Thu Aug 23, 2012 9:26 pm

Running toward Aithne, I forced my mouth closed. How in the world...! That horse is heavy! Kanna got there first, checking Aithne's pulse. She looked up at me, nodded, then moved over to the body of the horse.
"Oh...oh...Panda....why..," she murmured, caressing Panda's head. Sitting down next to Aithne, I checked for signs of life, and was relieved to find them. Why is Kanna more worried with the horse? Checking my sudden anger, I took a breath and tried to think.
<It's probably something to do with her bond to the horse,> Venser commented.
<I suppose, that does make sense.>
<Of course,> he smugly replied. <Wouldn't you be devastated if I died?>
<No. Well, yeah, but you can't die. Well, not really die...Where are you anyways?> I asked brusquely. Pushing my arms under Aithne, I picked her up and lay her down next to the fire. Now what?
<Get some blankets. And try to wake her up. Don't want to catch hypothermia.> Venser faded from my awareness.
"Right," I muttered, hurrying towards the still living horses. Going up to Kanna's horse, I reached up, but stopped. Wouldn't Kanna be mad if I was just digging through her stuff? I looked over at her, but she was still unmoving before Panda's dead gaze. Maybe another horse... A largish brown mare was closest, and her packs contained two blankets, a wad of fabric, and a small package. Dragging the bag over to Aithne, I lay out one of the blankets, careful to keep a good distance from the fire. Grabbing Aithne to move her, I realized she still had her violin attached to her back with a leather strap. Oh my goodness! I hope it survived the river! I couldn't have two travelling companions overwhelmed with grief! Quickly, I removed the instrument case, and lay Aithne down again, putting the second blanket under her head. Gah! Her hair's just gonna soak it with water...Oh well. Her clothes were also more than damp, but there wasn't anything I could do about that either. I can take off the jacket and boots. Feeling slightly indecent, I looked over at Kanna, but she was dragging the horse's body, erm I mean Panda, out of the cave. I guess she's going to bury it somewhere. We both have a task then, I sighed. Gulping in the stale air, I carefully extracted Aithne's limp form from her jacket, and lay it out to dry. Good thing Venser's not here to eat the aloe. Speaking of which, I'd used the ones Aithne gave me earlier, and I left the wrung out leaves in the corner of the cave. I wasn't sure if Venser should have them. They would be a good bribe, but it's not fun being bonded to a hallucinating dragon that shouts "Balooga!"
Removing Aithne's boots, I dumped out the water, and stood them next to her jacket. Hearing my own boots squelch, I took off my own and put them next to hers, making them look really shabby in comparison. My bare feet made contact with the stone floor, reminding me to remove Aithne's stockings. When was the last time I wore socks?
Opening the small package from the saddle bag, I found a package of jerky. That's not going to help anyone right now. As far as I know, it doesn't bury horses or reawaken the subconscious. Right! Tea leaves! The aroma should wake up Aithne!
Jumping up, I dug through my boot, searching around the sodden mass of leather until I found a small bag of leaves. Now, where am I going to find a pot? My gaze drifted across Aithne's still pale face, and landed on her violin. Aha! Going over to it, I undid the clasp, dreading finding a wasted violin inside. Much to my relief, it was still dry. I took out the pot of rosin, and dumped the glazed puck into the case. I filled the pot with water, and set the leaves in it. Then, I screwed the lid back on, before dumping it into the middle of the fire. Immediately, a harsh smell began to float up from it.
I coughed slightly, and backed away. However, Aithne didn't stir. Sitting with my legs crossed, I felt her pulse at the neck. It's the same. Why hadn't it gone up? Revitalizing herbs generally always work. Unless...
Gah! Dummkopf! I smacked myself on the head, accidentally brushing the side of Aithne's as well. She was a bounty hunter, so of course she would know... I began to search through all of her pockets. Those who have a dangerous trade are practiced at going into the deep sleep. Unconsciousness is a way to escape pain. Some, like bounty hunters, have mastered the art of remaining that way, so that if they're captured by an enemy, they can't wake them to torture them. The only way to get them awake was to hit upon some really important memory that only a friend would know. That way, they'd only wake up when they were safe. Dumbfounded, I sat back. Nothing Aithne had on her hinted to what her waking key was. I didn't have one myself, so I wasn't quite sure what it would be. For some, it was names, but I couldn't try saying any, because I didn't really know any names associated with her. Hmmm....My gaze once again slid over to the violin. ....! Of course, the music from it would awaken her! That seemed rather impractical, but... Reaching over, I carefully took the violin and bow out of the case. You can do this. Just play a little, it shouldn't take much. You've played before. Yeah, I felt really under confident, if that makes sense. Bringing it up under my chin, I positioned my fingers on the bow; thumb in the niche between wood and hair, index finger crooked forward, third and ring finger rest on top, small finger lightly touches the frog, or just hangs off the end. I took a deep breath, the wooden smell bringing back memories. I shook my head, placing the bow on the A string. Not now. Just play a song.... Slowly, I began a classic piece, The Rose It began with long bow strokes and long tones, nice review for a rusty player. It was sad and mournful in the beginning, I guess to represent someones grave. Aithne's breathing was better, but she still wasn't awake. Picking up the tempo, I began the second part. The Rose was a piece made by a master craftsman in the Capital, and he taught it to me, a street thief, eight years ago. It was the story of a rose; it was planted on a grave, so it began with a funeral. Then, it began in a minor tone, portraying the gloomy earth, and eerie night. Then, the next part was complicated runs and trills that, although I could play them before, gave me some difficulty as I sat, trying to reawaken Aithne. The last bit was the budding of the rose, and it was a mixture of all out pomp and ceremony with lilting beauty. I was so wrapped up in it I didn't realized Aithne was awake. When I released the last note, I turned and jumped a little because she was sitting and staring at me.
"Erm, you were unconscious, so, yeah..," I attempted lamely.
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PostSubject: Re: Soulbond: The Beginning   Thu Aug 23, 2012 11:31 pm

I was relieved that I had woken to the sound of my violin, despite the screechy sounds that it had released every few notes. A shadow of a smile crossed my lips. How appropriate that my cousin would also know how to play the violin. When Pascal finished the song he was playing - The Rose, I recognized it as, he turned and saw me. I chuckled as he started in surprise, then I gave a quiet applause. "Impressive for someone who I'd guess hasn't touched a violin in years. Though I can't say I'm surprised seeing as..." My voice trailed off as I realized what I had just almost said. Pascal looked at me quizzically, and I knew what he was going to say next. Oops...well, I have to tell him at some point. I don't see Kanna around, so this is probably the best opportunity for it I'll have for a while... The predicted words came from Pascal. "What do you mean, not surprised seeing as...? How would me playing the violin not surprise you?" I turned my gaze to the ground for a moment, debating in my mind the best way to tell him. I decided upon telling him the story of my - no, our - family, then letting him connect the dots. It would be easier for him to accept it that way, since if people come to a conclusion themselves, they already believe it to be true. I took a deep breath, exhaled, and looked seriously into Pascal's eyes. As I retold the story my mother and father told me, so long ago, the expression of Pascal's face changed from confusion, to shock, to more confusion. We sat in silence when I had finished, and I could just see the wheels turning. His eyes widened, and he looked at me with new realization, and I knew it had clicked in his mind. I smiled. "So you see...it's not surprising that my..cousin..(oh, how the word was unfamiliar to my tongue!) would also know how to play the violin." I commented. He struggled for words for a few moments, before finally getting out, "But...how long have you known? How did you find out?" I smiled sympathetically and replied, "It's very new for me as well...I realized it when you told me about your family and past." A question I had been pondering earlier came to me now. "Pascal...does this mean that I could have a Soulbond as well?"
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PostSubject: Re: Soulbond: The Beginning   Thu Aug 23, 2012 11:51 pm

Flying through the smoky air, I suddenly tipped and spun before righting myself.
<What was that?> I snapped at Pascal. He seemed off balance.
<Shh. Just listen,> he snapped back. Obeying, I listened as Aithne told her story.
<Oh, so now you have relatives?>
<Do you think she could?> he asked, sounding hopeful. I flew in to examine a possible pathway, then swerved out when the cliff ended a possible trail.
<Could what?> I asked, to gain time. This smoke was hard to breathe. I flew up and landed on top of the cliff. I began walking on all fours, pondering Aithne.
<You know what I mean.> Curiousity softened his voice.
<I guess so. I mean, we've already thought it is hereditary. Would she be the heir to d'Artagne and Konninger then, or was your father eldest?>
<Erm, from the memories of my father you watched, I think he was elder. I'm still the heir.> He sighed sort of sadly.
I smirked. <You can give all of your gold to me, if you don't want it.>
<And have you use it to buy aloe? No thanks.>
<Well, I wouldn't use all of -->
<Venser?!>
As I was walking, I had slipped and fallen into a hole. Sliding on a stone chute, I whirled round and round, too dizzy to respond until I was spat out of the torturous spiral right into Aithne's lap.
"Oh, hello." She seemed surprised, and pleased. "I guess you found a way out then."
Pascal still seemed glum. "Yeah, but it's Venser sized. Kanna's horses won't fit, maybe not even us."
"Still," Aithne persisted. "If we didn't see this hole, we may have overlooked others."
"True. We weren't really looking. And where's Kanna?"
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PostSubject: Re: Soulbond: The Beginning   Fri Aug 24, 2012 12:03 am

I thought I could rely on Pascal. In some weird way, I had formed a comradeship with him in my mind. We were both from the streets, both from the bad end of town. But he had betrayed me. He knew how to play the violin of all instruments. Only the reasonably wealthy and empowered learned to play, and indeed could keep, such a delicate instrument. And there they were, smiling, laughing, sharing secrets, and growing closer.
These unreasonable, irrational thoughts crashed through my mind as I buried one of my dearest friends in this nondescript stretch of riverbed. The tears started to leak out of my eyes once more as I surveyed my handiwork.
It was a grave Panda would have been proud of. A rough hole, nothing much, but then again she was a horse, and would have been content with anything if I had made it. I turned to her waterlogged, dirty body and decided to remove her saddle. I quickly tugged at the cinch and slipped the saddle off. My arms automatically reached for her, seeked comfort from her, but there was nothing there. Just an empty, cold shell of her former beauty.
My arms seemed to control themselves as they pulled her over to her grave. They balanced her body by the edge themselves, and they tipped her over into her grave, her last home. The crunch and whump of her body hitting the ground forced my eyes to squeeze shut, and I nearly lost it. I could barely force myself to go on, could barely force myself to look at her broken body. But I must. If not for me than for her. I glanced down.
Her legs weren't caught underneath her body, like I thought they would be. In fact she could almost have sleeping.
Two beautiful yellow flowers drifted and alighted on her side.
Pascale and Aithne stood behind me, looking into the occupied grave.
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PostSubject: Re: Soulbond: The Beginning   Fri Aug 24, 2012 12:41 am

Where those flowers came from, I'll never know. Some part of me thinks Aithne pulled them out of somewhere, while another thinks Venser found them while flying around. And yet, I also think, maybe they came from the world beyond, giving just a taste of what Panda's spirit is enjoying right now. Kanna's body looked sad, her shoulders drooped and back hunched, but her eyes were bright and accusing. What'd I do? Mentally, I did a quick scan of the past hour, but I couldn't find anything of reproach. We'd come out because Venser said he knew where Kanna was, and we wanted to tell her there might be a way out in the back of the cave. It had seemed like a good idea, but now, with Kanna glaring at me, I felt, well, naked in a sense. Like she was glaring into my soul, and my soul was trembling. Scary, right? I was glad when Aithne stepped forward to speak.
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PostSubject: Re: Soulbond: The Beginning   Sat Aug 25, 2012 2:17 am

I had stepped forward to tell Kanna that I was sorry for her loss, but suddenly, I sensed tension in the air. Not there there hadn't been any since before I had went to retrieve the horse, but this tension was...sharper, somehow. More angry. I looked steadily into Kanna's eyes from where I stood, never wavering my gaze. Searching her eyes which I could tell searched me just the same, I detected several things. Some surprised me, some didn't. First off, overwhealming all else, there was grief. This, I understood completely. Unbeknownst to her, I too had lost much that I loved. Except that it was more than a horse, but who was I to say that this horse wasn't like her family? Next, I saw anger, blazing brightly, clearly directed at me and...Pascal? I took note that her eyes darted from me back to Pascal several times. This led me to my last, and most surprising, conclusion of what I could see in her eyes. That being, jealousy. It was like the anger, but darker. I held her gaze for several minutes in silence, Pascal watching apprehensively from behind me, until finally, her eyes seemed to shiver, and she dropped her gaze to the ground. I unlocked my eyes from where hers had been and let out a small sigh, only audible to myself. She was strong, I could tell. But not as trained in such things as myself. As much as I hated to admit it due to the recent turn of events, Vakrom had been an incredible mentor. Shaking the though aside, I chose this moment to speak, before Kanna's attitude and defiance flared up again. "I am...truly sorry for your loss. I have not known you for long, but I have been able to...perceive, lets say, your strong bond to your horses...and while there are things I'll admit I'd like to ask you about concerning it, I shall withhold them for now. I brought back your horse so that you could properly grieve, and grieve you shall. It's not healthy to keep such things sealed inside of you. When you decide it is time to bury him...bury your despair with him. Leave it behind, and instead keep inside of you any good memories or feelings you harbored towards him. I will leave you to yourself for now...if you need anything, I'll be in the cave." With that, I turned and retreated to the interior of the smuggler's cave. I had been to this particular one several times, both with Vakrom and on my own, in the times when I took on jobs independently. It was one of the most popular camp and trade site for smugglers in the area. Not having anything else to do, I sat down once again and took up my violin. Preparing the bow on the string, I brought to mind a particular piece that I was taught in a tribal village once, several years ago. Vakrom and I had been tracking a horse thief that was reported to us by the chief of the tribe. In the first few nights of our stay there, when we spent time preparing for a long chase, one of the elders of the tribe died, and as did his horse. Both had been old and worn, but full of much life. I remember, it had been a hard blow to the entire tribe at the time. That night, they held a sort of funeral ceremony. They buried the body and burned the patch of land under which the body lay, then planted a tree as a grave marker. While all of this was happening, a song was being played on the violin. As soon as the first note had been played, I had felt tears well up in my eyes and over-pour onto my cheeks. It was a rich, deep song, packed full of emotion. It was the embodiment of grief in the form of sound. It held a lilting melody, somewhat simple rather than over-embellished, yet it was the type of song that pierced straight to your soul with each note. After the ceremony, I had approached the man who had played the piece and questioned him of it. He told me that it was written by an old sage a hundred years before, and explained that it was meant to be the feeling that engulfs one of their people when their "bonded horse", he called it, passes on. Not only that, but of the journey of moving through life without that horse, that piece of their soul, until one day when they pass on to be with the spirits, the two are reunited once again. "It is a song filled with grief, melancholy, and sadness. However, threaded into the seams of all of these things, is hope." The musician had told me. He saw the tear stains on my face and smiled, saying, "I could teach it to you if you like? Word around here has it that you play violin." I had readily accepted, and as promised, he had taught me the song in the time I was in the tribe village.. My mind returned to the present moment in the cave, my violin poised. I had long ago mastered that song, as the man had been an amazing teacher, and I quickly drew up the song in my mind, going over it before taking the first, long down-bow. As I played, I dredged up all of my griefs about my family, pouring my feelings into each note. I masterfully played my way through the song, inputting grief, sadness, and melancholy. However, as I entered into the last movement of the song, my mind turned again to what the man had said, about hope of reuniting with those lost. This blossomed a flourish of warmth in my breast, spreading throughout my entire being. My fingers danced across the fingerboard, and though the song still occupied a minor key, it danced along, full of hope. Hope that, on my end, was for someday being reunited with my family after death, as the horses were supposedly reunited with their masters. The last note whispered from my bow, and a silence followed. I looked up to see Kanna at the mouth of the cave, staring in at me. Her face was drenched wet with her tears, and her eyes were red and blotchy. She took a step towards me, but a sob wracked through her, and her legs gave out, so she sat and cried, and cried, and cried.
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PostSubject: Re: Soulbond: The Beginning   Sat Aug 25, 2012 8:06 pm

Tall, extremely angry, grief ridden sixteen year old girls are not exactly the best travelling companions. Cold water lapped at my ankles, creeping up the tattered hem of my pants. The pebbles under my feet were hard and slippery, constantly shifting under my weight. I don't want to go inside. I was scared of Kanna. The way she glared at me, her eyes more deadly than her swords.
<Why is she so mad?> Venser asked, seemingly genuine for once. Lifting my gaze from the flowing water, I traced the path he painted in the smoky sky.
<I don't know. I didn't do anything.>
He snorted, <You must have done something.> Flicking his tail up, he arched down to the glistening current, just skimming the mist riding the crests of the waves. <Hah!> he laughed at the water. <You can't get me!>
I thought about Kanna. The first time I saw her, a fortnight ago?, I was following her master home. He was obviously drunk, and on the brink of unconsciousness. Planning to loot his inebriated figure, I was stopped by Kanna's appearance at the gate to the farm. Not wanting to be seen, I slipped away. During my time in the village, I encountered her a relatively small number of times, and always very briefly. She wasn't one to hang around gossiping in the village square, or flirt from doorways with passersby. I think the first time we actually talked was when I was about to leave town, and I went to get a horse.
Venser interrupted my thoughts.
<Why were you leaving?> I was suprised.
<You don't know?>
<Now I do, since you thought about it.> I was skeptical of his omniscience, and he continued, <You realized Aldon/Valdor wasn't there, so it was time to move on.>
<Yeah.>
He flew in lazy circles around me, occassionally letting a wingtip brush my shoulder. <I think you really need to find a shirt somewhere. Maybe even a robe.> I was about to respond, but he cut me off. <Well, obviously, the cause for hurt does not lie in your time in the village. What've you done since then?>
Hmmm...
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PostSubject: Re: Soulbond: The Beginning   Sat Aug 25, 2012 10:45 pm

What have I done? Well, there was waiting for Kanna to get horses, and Aithne unearthing my past. Then, I found out some of Kanna's history, mainly, she was a horse witch from a tribe that is now extinct, and she has cool swords. Being flooded by gnomes and running from a fire followed, and basically, that was it.
<You're leaving out a lot of details,> Venser commented absently, coming to land on my head. I winced slightly as his claws made contact with my burned scalp.
<Hey, how come I can feel you now?>
I had a distinct awareness of his weight shifting as he cocked his head. <Oh, I suppose you couldn't before. I think over time I become more and more physical, and you become more and more spirit like until we are both half and half.>
I was really confused. Splashing my feet to make sure they were still actually there, I turned to go back to the cave. <So, will I be invisible?>
<No,> he snorted, wrapping a shimmering tail around my neck. <It means you will be able to meld your essence to mine, so we can act as one.>
Now it was my turn to snort. <Okay.>
<It's true.>
<I believe you,> I sighed. Walking to the cave, I was astonished to see Kanna weeping on the ground, with an astonished Aithne before her, holding her violin. Aithne's eyes begged for help, but I had no idea what to do.

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PostSubject: Re: Soulbond: The Beginning   Sun Aug 26, 2012 10:06 pm

I had no idea what to do. Kanna had broken down, and Pascal stood shocked at the mouth of the cave. I set down my violin and knelt next to Kanna. Judging by the way she was crying - and she really didn't seem like the show-your-emotions type, I guessed that this was about more than just a dead horse. I considered what I should do, and decided that we all needed to get some sleep. I gently took Kanna by the shoulders and guided her into the cave, several feet from the fire. Quietly, I advised, "Lay down, alright? Just try to get some sleep...you'll feel better in the morning." Oddly cooperatively for her, she grunted and curled up in a ball on the floor, her crying slowly melding into soft sleeping sounds. After I was sure she was asleep, I carefully walked over to Pascal, who still stood observing from the mouth of the cave. "We should get some sleep too...I don't doubt that she'll be more than a little cranky in the morning. From what I could tell of her from the past couple days, she's not the type to cry like that...she'll probably try and make up for it somehow tomorrow by being more...callus than usual. You and I will need our rest." I told him, and he nodded. He lay down opposite of Kanna, and I put out the fire. Despite what I had told Pascal and the exhaustion that permeated my body, I found my mind was restless. Thus, I decided to keep watch for a while. I sat leaning against the side of the cave near the mouth, sharpening my knife with a stone. Nothing of interest disturbed my companions, so I was able to sit and watch the stars and the moon for a while. After a few hours, I felt that my mind was ready for sleep. Silently, I strode back to the fire pit, lay down, and slipped into a soft darkness.
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PostSubject: Re: Soulbond: The Beginning   Mon Aug 27, 2012 11:02 pm

An itch crept into my snout, and I twitched my tail, trying to keep from sneezing. Stupid flies, I thought irritably as a buzzing filled my ears. Finally, my sneeze got the better of me, and I snorted out a single flame. The fly buzzed on imperviously. Why couldn't I have at least scared it off? Jumping up in alarm, I settled back down, realizing that the noise was just someone snoring. I twisted my neck to see Pascal.
<Hey, cut it out would you?> Immediately afterwards, I regretted trying to talk to him. People tend to be grumpy when woken up. However, he just continued snoring. Okay, it's not really snoring. It's just more like whuffling, or hiccuping. I guess we aren't as connected when one of us is sleeping. Speaking of hiccups, I was pretty thirsty. Yawning, I waddled out of the cave on lazy legs. He knows what I hallucinate about, but we don't connect while sleeping. I reached out to his being with my mind, but all I felt was the normal stuff I got from Kanna or Aithne. Maybe he just isn't dreaming right now. Scaly rocks rubbed my scaly feet, and I bent my head to drink. The water was murky, reflecting the smoke in the sky. I gazed into the swirling blackness, hypnotized by the colours. Dark brown, orangey brown, reddish brown, deep black....azterpalian?! The bright colour flashed in only for an instant, but I recognized the gnome in the hat. What're they doing here? Racking my memory I tried to remember the knowledge I was given by the tree that exploded, releasing my spirit into the world. Gnomes...Ah, yes, they are part of the Bondprotectorate. I snorted. Whatever that meant. Oh well. They couldn't mean harm. I turned back to the cave, and lay down on Pascal's chest. His soft breathing and my direct contact with his skin warmed me. My feeling of touch grew, and I felt a weird warmth spread through me.
I suppose this is part of the bonding experience, I mumbled, drifting off.
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PostSubject: Re: Soulbond: The Beginning   Mon Aug 27, 2012 11:54 pm

The morning dawned bright and pale. It was still hazy from the fire that had burned away the forest and the homes and the lives. The morning seemed to dull and darken around me as I remembered.
Was it really less than a week ago? It seems so far away... like a distant dream that I have half forgotten. The tear trickled down my cheek and barely made it past my nose when I wiped it away.
My conduct from the night before disgusts me. No woman from the Northern Plains tribe had ever cried like I had yesterday. It was unprofessional, and disdainful, and... and downright disgusting! But understandable. The soft little voice in my mind drifted into my thoughts.
I recognized that voice. Almost half of the Plains Tribe had that secret voice in their head. I was no different.
Shut up. I told the voice. Stop making amends for what I have done, like you always do.
I am sorry... The voice drifted away in the wind.
I sighed. Hearing voices in my head did nothing to help my perspective on life. I grabbed my twin swords, and decided to practice. At least swords were real, caused real callouses and real blisters, shed real blood. Just as my hands grasped the hilts, just as my long fingers touched the soft and supple leather that bound them, a voice spoke.
"Do you sword fight?" Aithne was staring at my swords with a keen interest akin to a hawk eying a bobcat's kittens. Wary, but interested.
"Yes." The short single word held no leftover quaver of emotion last night.
"What are their names?" She took a step closer, and eyed my bag with nothing but plain curiosity in her face. But Aithne was good at hiding her emotions like that.
"Yes. Their names are Kawa and Tatsu. The River and the Dragon." Suddenly, or so it must have seemed to her, the brilliant blades swung through the air, reflecting the sun's brilliance.
"The left-handed one is Kawa. She protects me with liquid grace and agility. The one in my right hand is Tatsu. He is the fierce attacker, and jabs and slashes with the sudden ferocity of a dragon." Aithne was looking at me strangely as I described my swords. It was then that I realized that my face had softened into a smile pf pure happiness that she always wore when cradling and playing hr violin.
My swishing, twisting blades stopped, with Kawa in the guard position diagonally in front of my chest, and Tatsu stretched in front and to the the side on me, ready to attack.
"Will you spar with me, Aithne?"
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PostSubject: Re: Soulbond: The Beginning   Tue Aug 28, 2012 6:58 pm

I grinned at the question. Before the village fire, Vakrom had made me spar with him or by myself on a daily basis. "One of the most important skills of a bounty hunter," he had told me, "is fighting. And not just one style; you must master as many as you can, for not all of those who you will be fighting will use the same style and technique." And so, over the years I had learned and mastered at least a dozen different fighting styles, and perfected wielding as many, if not more, various weapons. I missed my daily spar. Pulling my long daggers soundlessly out of their sheath, I replied, "It would be my pleasure." I observed her every movement as she readied herself into a stance. Hm...so she uses the Dragon style of fighting...this should be fun. I smoothly set my stance, with my feet slightly more than shoulder width apart, my right foot slightly more forward than my left. I kept my weight off my feet so that they were as light as possible. I straightened my spine and held my blades at a ninety degree angle. This was a fighting style that I learned when Master and I traveled to a small village on the edge of a river. This village belonged to a group of people that taught fluidity to be present in all that they do. Their existence seemed to be like water, slipping through the universe around them. It was from these people that I had learned this style, and remembered it well. We stood still for several silent, thick seconds. She intently studied my face, watching. Waiting, for any sign of movement about to come. I twitched my right eye, and she lunged. Perfect, just what I had wanted. At the last second before her blade would have met my neck, I twisted out of the way, arcing my left dagger up to slide down the shaft of her Tatsu blade. With a light flick of my wrist, I unbalanced her, forcing her unguarded side to turn in my direction. She adjusted quickly, pivoting her feet to face me and lowering her guard blade slightly. This would be an evenly matched opponent, I could tell. She was fast and strong. But so was I. She jabbed Tatsu at my, and again I raised my blade and, with a flick of the wrist in the right place and time, redirected her blow. I swirled around behind her in a blur of motion, heard a light swish in the air, and dropped down to a light crouch, Tatsu swinging above my head. I pushed off of my feet and twisted to her side, locking her Kawa at the hilt with my left dagger and at the same time raising my right to block her Tatsu, which darted down towards me. The blades produced a satisfying clash! . My eyes never left hers, and we braced ourselves where we were for several moments, tension strung between us, before we both pushed and leaped back. A short moment passed and we were at it again, this time both of us a flurry of body and blade. Echoes of our sparing spread through the cave, waking Pascal.
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PostSubject: Re: Soulbond: The Beginning   

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Soulbond: The Beginning
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