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Our Dead Drink the Sea [1x1]

Discussion in 'Fantasy' started by Skagosi, Feb 11, 2019.

  1. Skagosi

    Skagosi Stoneborn Cannibal

    Once back up on the cliffs, I loosen my hold on Falcon. He’s more trustworthy on grass than he is on sand. As the guards move their horses into a trot, my aughisky picks up his pace as well, moving smoothly alongside Neora’s smaller palomino mare. Most of them don’t view horses as prey but it isn’t uncommon for some to attack a horse. However, Falcon doesn’t care. He had sniffed at the mare earlier, but otherwise he has not reacted in the way I have known other aughisky to.

    Her next question catches me by surprise. I’ve been asked at least a hundred times by riders, young lords, buyers and the like, but hearing it from a girl’s mouth throws me off. She must be truly interested in them to be so curious. “You have to convince them that you are a part of the ocean, that you belong with them. It is not an easy process. I have spent my entire life trying to learn to sing to them the way the ocean does.”

    Or at least that is the way it should be done. Every man has his own method but nearly all of them completely ineffective. Magic is so far beyond mere human understanding, yet sideshow oddities would have men believe otherwise. Books wrote about concoctions and special brews that would calm the aughisky. I’d also seen others talk of how bells or iron or certain herbs would somehow bring them to heel. It was all false. Yet, every year without fail riders would use these lies. And every year riders would die.
  2. Appletree

    Appletree Resident Fruit Tree

    A part of the ocean. Sing to them the way it does. Callaghans words resonate inside me in a way little in my life ever has. Up here on the cliff I can’t see the beach any more, but I can still hear the crash and swell of the surf. It sounds as though it wants to pull me back.

    I have a decent singing voice, but somehow I don’t think his words were meant quite that way. Even so, if the Salt Temple has any truth to its teachings, I belong to the sea more than any rider in history, simply because of my sex. I do not want to peg my hope on the words of the Temple, but I am willing to take what help I can get.

    There are 5 days left till dark night, the deadline for potential riders to capture an aughisky and officially register for the race. The fanciful idea that has been swirling around my head since my father’s official proclamation has only strengthened after the time spent with Callaghan and Falcon and strengthens still more with each sigh of the waves below us.

    I am so lost in thought I only realise we are back at the castle as we clatter into the courtyard. My guards mill around me, more confident now they are back in their domain, rather than Callaghan’s watery one. They somehow manage to get between my Willow and Falcon, a living wall between me and the water horse, which I think is rather rude, even if it is sort of their job.

    I have to raise my voice a little to talk around them as a groom comes to take my reins. “Thank you for taking the time for me today Lord Callaghan. It was a wonderfully enlightening experience.”

    I slide off Willows back into the waiting arms of my guard, who sets me gently on my feet. I nod my thanks and turn to recapture Willow from the groom. “Thank you. I will see to my horse myself.”
    I take a moment to stroke the mares soft snuffling nose as my posse starts to move towards the stable, watching Callaghan from under my lashes. He looks a little lonely, slightly apart from the rest of us, still atop Falcon. They make quite the imposing figure, both in greyscale, backlit against the pale sky.
  3. Skagosi

    Skagosi Stoneborn Cannibal

    I try to ignore her guards for the most part. They have no reason to protect her from me or Falcon. I’d never hurt her and I like to think her father trusts me in that aspect else he wouldn’t have let her come ride with me. But it is their job, quite possibly a habit for them at this point, so I try not to let the slight irritation root too deeply inside.

    “The pleasure was all mine, your highness.” I dip my head to her then, it’s all I can offer as a bow from my water horse’s back.

    I nudge one heel against him gently and Falcon turns from the group, setting off towards the opposite end of the stable. Darkness has fallen around the world now, the moon gone from view with stars beginning to spread across the black sky. The cold from earlier has turned into something completely bitter. At least here though the torches keep the worst of the frozen air at bay.

    The walk back to Gradlon’s castle feels different this night. I have grown comfortable being alone and I have made this trek more times than I can count, but something is off now. There is an emptiness weighing heavily on my chest, one I haven’t felt since I was sixteen when I had to ride here without my father. His loss hurt more than I let on though by now I have learned to keep those feelings buried. The feeling plagues me still as I lie awake in bed, listening to the waves. For the first time in my life, they can’t carry me away into sleep.
  4. Appletree

    Appletree Resident Fruit Tree

    Only when Callaghan has disappeared around the corner to the aughisky stables do I lead Willow towards her own stall. I take my time stowing away her tack and grooming her till her coat shines even in the dim light of the stables. It is a welcome task, my hands kept busy as my mind whirls in circles.

    Finally, when I can stall no longer, I make my way outside where two of my guards are still more or less patiently waiting. If I had any capacity to spare, I would feel guilty for keeping them out so long, but I am far too preoccupied. With my silent companions I make my way back to my rooms, only just remembering my manners to wish them a good night as they leave me outside my door.
    Laila is waiting for me with a warm bath, which I sink gratefully into. The sea breeze had chilled me more than I realised. My maid seems to pick up on my quiet mood and talks only a little, not even asking me about my ride, though I am sure she saw me all but run away with Callaghan. I’m not even sure what I would tell her if she asked anything.

    In the stables I had debated inducting Laila into my plans, but ultimately decided against it. She could be a formidable ally, but just as formidable an opponent if she thought it was a bad idea, as she probably would. It was also for her safety. A servant is much more easily punished for something than a princess, and far more severely too.

    Once in bed, I lie awake for a long time, listening to the sound of the ocean through the cracked window, trying to ingrain the sound into my very being. I don’t even notice falling asleep.


    The next day I fidget even worse than the day before, distracted by anything and everything. Laila quickly gives up trying to recapture my attention when I stare blankly at her instead of answering her. Finally deciding I must have caught a cold or something while outside, she carts me off to bed, which is even worse. I feel smothered by the sheets and by her watchful eye from the chair by my bedside. I manage a fitful nap, which speeds time along just a little.

    After what seems an eternity the light outside the window starts to fade. After what feels like a thousand reassurances that I am fine and just need some more rest (a difficult fib to tell considering the fact that I feel ready to bounce around the room any second) Laila heads to her own room. I listen to her moving around, then wait even longer after she has fallen silent, just to be safe, despite it almost killing me.

    When I can stand it no longer, I quietly creep out of bed and into my dressing room, pulling out warm and sturdy clothes as quickly as possible. The clock in my sitting room tells me it is not half as late as I thought it was, but I decide to still risk it. Boots in hand and cloak over one arm I slip out the door and down the stairs. Only a whole two floors down do I slip on cloak and boots, pulling up my hood to conceal my bright hair and continue on my way, trying to walk as though I have business being there.
  5. Skagosi

    Skagosi Stoneborn Cannibal

    The following morning finds me with William Grady and his new bay mare. I do not train during the day, things are far too chaotic and noisy, but that’s just what William needs. Though he rode terribly last year, his heart is in the right place when it comes to respect for the aughisky and somehow he managed to talk me into helping him.

    We go far down the beach until all the other riders are blurs in the distance. His mare is focused on the ocean but she is not overly aggressive; a good thing to have in a naturally predatory animal. I watch them work in circles for most of the session, making him exercise her mind rather than her body. She’s light on her feet already with more than enough power, but if she only thinks of the sea then she will get the boy killed when February comes. To end the day, I let the pair sprint a few furlongs. She’s fast but it will take a lot more before she can keep her track in front of her instead of for the water.

    Evening falls and Falcon trots eagerly ahead, feeding off my own excitement. We hardly trained at all last night so I aim to push him tonight. The beach is mostly silent except for the tide as it rolls in and out. Falcon screams, throwing his head with joy. I make him trot a few different patterns on the sand closer to the cliffs to warm his muscles, but also to bring his mind back to me. Once I feel he is with me instead of the ocean, I take him to where the sand becomes damp from saltwater and send him ahead in a bold gallop.

    He runs as straight and strong as he always has. I’ve been on many aughisky but Falcon’s speed is something truly insurmountable. After a few sprints I bring him down to a walk to let him cool down before we cover some real distance.
  6. Appletree

    Appletree Resident Fruit Tree

    By some miracle I manage to make my way out of the castle, across the courtyard and through the gates without being stopped by anybody. I don’t set off down the trail to the beach immediately, but climb to the point where the castle wall stops at the cliff edge. The wall blocks any homely sounds from the castle, leaving me free to experience the ocean below.

    If someone were to see me standing there, toes almost over the edge, arms spread wide into the wind, they would probably think I was going to jump, but that is the furthest thought in my mind. The salty breeze whips the fire inside me to a whirling inferno, burning away any doubts I may have still had. Somewhere below an aughisky screams.

    The path down to the beach is treacherous in the dark. Clouds race through the sky, periodically blocking the moonlight, before retreating to let the light almost blind me in comparison to the dark. Somehow I manage to get down without turning an ankle and stare out at the glittering water for a moment. My jaw sets stubbornly and I march forwards, pausing only to remove my shoes and stockings and place them on a rock out of reach of the surf.

    A shiver runs through my body as the first wavelet spills over my toes, caused more by excitement than cold. Ankle deep in sea water, I trus up my skirts as high as I can to give me more freedom of movement. In the same movement, I check to make sure that the things I had tucked into my pockets are still there and in easy reach.

    Preparations complete, I wade forwards until the retreating water pulls at my knees and the swell of the waves reaches almost to my waist at times. Here I plant my feet in the sand and prepare to wait, breath falling into sink with the rhythm of the waves.
  7. Skagosi

    Skagosi Stoneborn Cannibal

    Falcon’s breathing slows after several minutes and I am ready to let him truly stretch his legs, but then he shifts underneath me. His body becomes stiff, as still as I have ever seen him. His ears point toward the black ocean a good hundred yards ahead of us. The noise that escapes from his lips is one I never want to hear again. It is so shrill, but long and deep, a warning sound that nearly qualifies as a roar. I’m reminded that he is a predator, a meat-eater, not the mostly docile horse he can sometimes be farther up on land.

    I search frantically for what could have made him so upset, but my eyes are useless in the darkness. Instead I wait, trying to keep calm. Falcon lets loose another one of those terrible cries. And finally, after an agonizingly slow minute, I hear the aughisky breaking from the water to the beach. He’s too far off for me to really see, but I know Falcon can. He screams yet again and throws himself up into a rear this time, catching me off balance to the point where I lose my seat, landing on my back on the sand.

    Everything happens in only a matter of minutes after his hooves touch the ground again though it feels like an eternity. Another aughisky finds its’ way out of the ocean. There are two on the beach now though I can’t see either up until one of them is feet away. It charges for my gray stallion, mouth wide with all its’ sharp white teeth on display. Falcon rears again, his hooves striking the other water horse’s chest. There are several bone-chilling screams, flashes of teeth, but their movements throw sand that burns my vision into blurs.

    All I can think to do is scramble backwards as far as I can. Some may call it cowardice, but stopping an aughisky fight is nothing but a death wish. When the crying finally dies I have cleared my eyes enough to see Falcon standing over an aughisky corpse. Black blood falls from his lips, coats his face and legs. He doesn’t look at me. Rather, he tears into the body. I watch him as he eats a portion of the water horse. If I have ever been afraid of him, it is now.

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