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Stranger in a Strange Land

Posted on Thu Dec 15th, 2016 @ 2:40am by Mikhael Stormdanovich & Sofiya Grace & Hawke Windwalker & Aereth Archive & Oréas of Moonhunter Pride

Chapter: The Thinning Veil
Location: Thunder River Woodlands, Harkania March, Cymeria
Timeline: October 3550

The day was one of those glorious fall days when it seemed a sin against nature to stay indoors. Sun glinted off the raging waters of Thunder River and turned the fall foliage into a glory of brilliant colors. Hundreds of shades of red, gold, amber and orange vied for dominance dotted by the deep colors of the evergreens. A gentle breeze stirred the leaves, crisp and refreshing but not too cold while the sun warmed the day to tolerable levels. The beauty of the Harkanian Highlands was on full display.

Harkania March was the first region settled by the powerful race of sorcerer-warriors known as the Cymry. They had come with the remnants of their fellow Chimeran race, the Wyr, long and long before the races of Menfolk. Despite the encroachment of Chimera and Menfolk into the ancient mountains, the land remained wild for the most part. Those that settled in the region had not sought to tame the land, but to live in concert with it. Farms had been built within the natural contours of the land where agriculture and livestock farming could be supported. Homestead rose within natural clearings instead of cutting vast swaths of forest to make way for them. Hunting of the land’s wildlife was done, but with respect and care. The philosophy was 'take what you need, but take nothing away.' The last part of the phrase was a warning not to hunt something into extinction simply because it could be done. And the land responded by embracing the Chimera and, eventually, the race of Menfolk that became the modern Celts of Cymeria.

For the High Lord of Cymeria, it had been a rare day of relaxation while indulging in a chance to be outdoors. Mikhael had finally managed to escape his duties for an often delayed morning and afternoon of riding with stops to fish the waters of the great Thunder River and its adjacent streams and tributaries. To appease the ever watchful Ryndar, Hawke Windwalker, Mikhael had agreed to stay close to home. This suited him well as he had not wanted to spend all of his time getting to his destination with little of the day left in which to enjoy it. Although he rode armed, carrying his usual array of a sword, dagger, and whip, he also carried a pack full of food and his fishing gear. A last minute decision had him mounted on his favorite war stallion, Wraith, instead of a horse with a milder temperament. Despite having not been out for exercise in several days, the weather and surroundings seemed to have a mollifying effect on the big horse’s usual nasty temper. Although he pranced and snorted at make believe shadows, Wraith had not yet tried to eat his rider or anyone else.

The bulk of the day had been spent along one of the great river’s tributaries at a quiet pool at the foot of a low waterfall. The deep pool was an old favorite of Mikhael’s. A place he enjoyed going to fish and swim. It was not far distant from the mighty Thunder River, in fact, one could hear the roar of the river over the sound of the falls. It was easily accessed via a wide, winding game trail and was known as the habitat of several varieties of trout and catfish. It felt far away although the bulk of Daranau Eira and Stormholm Caer cast its shadow over the glade. Raising his eyes to see the great fortress-hold keeping watch over the river gorge and the lands beyond reminded Mikhael of the duties he had left behind for the day and provided the comfort of knowing home was near to hand.

It had been with reluctance that the three men had removed the feedbags from their horses, saddled them and doused the fire used to cook a portion of their catch for an afternoon repast. Mikhael had altered between catching a fair share of fish and dozing on a flat rock near the water, lulled into relaxation by the sound of the falls and the river beyond. Although relaxed, like his companions, one part of Mikhael remained alert for trouble. The vast and wild forests abounded with wildlife. Much of it could pose a threat to humans, but plentiful game and prey animals tended to keep the predators well fed, content and unlikely to seek prey that could fight back. Once, they had heard the sound of one of the ten foot tall Kels, a massive, flightless, carnivorous birds and even caught a glimpse of it as it paused, no doubt attracted by the smell of the fish or even contemplating one of the horses as a meal. The presence of the men had discouraged it, and after staring at the camp for a few seconds, it had uttered a short, sharp call and retired into the depths of the forest.

The remaining uncooked fish had been gutted and salted, the offal tossed back into the water to feed the creatures of the pool. The fish had also been wrapped to conceal its odor and carefully packed away in saddle bags. Now, they rode along one of the wide tracks that wound along the base of a woodland hillock as they made toward the river. They would have to follow another track back to the ford where they would cross and make their way up to the road that led into the cavern tunnels beneath and behind the keep.

Oréas had opted to run parts of the way back on his four paws. He actually preferred it that way, but in this case, it also allowed Hawke and the High Lord some time among friends with minimum backup. He understood the Ryndar’s worries. The High Lord was not a man to worry much about dangers, and thus running in wolf shape was his choice this day. Simply because his nose and ears would give him much more warning of a danger than his human nose ever would. Not to mention that few people equated a “tame” wolf with a full flung fight when it came down to it.

Hawke watched the shape of the wolf loping along the track ahead of the horses. “I don’t care how many times I see it, it still amazes me.” The Ryndar shook his head then brought a gloved fist to his mouth as he burped softly. “Ugh...too much fish…” He said and glanced over at Mikhael as their horses ambled along the trail.

On the tail of Hawke’s words and before Mikhael could reply came a terrified shriek followed by the distinct sound of wyvern snarling and shrieking, the sounds of the hunt. Almost immediately, a shift in the wind brought the rank odor of carrion their way, and he knew that some poor soul had stumbled into a group of wyvern feeding. Feeding almost always triggered a frenzy type of reaction in the creatures.

Holding his hand up as a signal and giving a sharp whistle to alert Oréas, Mikhael whirled Wraith and sent the horse plunging through the brush and onto a narrow rock-strewn track. The sounds had come from the direction where he knew an ancient cylch lay in ruins and disarray. Wraith, who had been unusually tractable during their outing was now snorting and pulling at the bit as he sensed a battle in the offing. It was to their benefit that the massive gray stallion hated wyvern with a vengeance. Of course, almost any small animal was in danger from the horse’s hooves, but wyvern - and frogs - were high on Wraith’s list of things he hated.

Hawke’s mouth opened to stop the High Lord, but he decided to turn it into a muttered curse as he yanked rein and spurred Snake down the same bank in pursuit of Mikhael and his mount.

The first thing that Sofi noticed, even before opening her eyes, was how bright everything seemed. Sunlight burned through her eyelids, and the first actual thought that flickered through her mind was that she’d fully collapsed the night before and was just now coming around. Seeing as she remembered feeling lightheaded and dizzy, it seemed a logical explanation.

When she actually opened her eyes a moment later and looked up, confusion quickly set in. Instead of the pale blue New Mexico desert sky, Sofi found herself blinking at a leafy canopy of tree limbs. “What the hell?” She muttered as she pushed herself up into a sitting position. Running a hand through her hair, Sofi pulled out a couple of leaves and a tiny twig, then paused. Hadn’t she pulled her hair into a ponytail last night before scattering her sister’s ashes? Ok, so the hair band broke, no big deal. Her leather messenger bag was still slung across her chest but her windbreaker, which had been tied around her waist, was gone. Gone was the dry and arid desert of home, replaced by somewhere that was cooler, damper and a lot more green. Grass and trees along with several pilings of rocks.

A sudden snarling made Sofi turn her head toward the sound, her eyes widening. Close to a dozen feet away, several creatures, which Sofi could only describe them as baby dragons, were feasting on something that looked, and smelled, long past dead. “What the hell are you?” The young woman murmured, though not quietly enough as her voice drew the attention of one of the creatures, and then another, and another until they were all looking right at her. There was a split second where UH OH! rang loudly through Sofi’s head. She’d never seen anything like what she was looking at, not outside of storybooks and fairytales, and she very slowly reached over for her hiking stick, wrapping her fingers around it. That split second was all the time she got before the small hoard of nasties racing toward her.

A terrified shriek filled the air, echoing off the trees as Sofi scampered backward on her butt, trying to scramble to her feet...her socked feet. Where the hell were her boots!? Swinging her hiking stick, Sofi managed to smack one of the creatures across the face, sending it skittering back, but only for a second before it regained its bearings and came after her again. Still swinging her stick, Sofi looked around frantically for anything that might be able to help her. If she could just...YES! There looked to be a small opening where some of the rocks had formed, and if she was lucky enough, please God let her be lucky enough, she might just fit.

Running like a bat out of hell and still trying to fend off the little winged bastards, Sofi bolted for that opening. Please don’t be a lair or nest, please don’t be a lair or nest…

The track wound up a steep ridge opening out into what had once been a clearing but was now a tangled mass of fallen stones, trees and scrub grass. It was easy to see that, over time, depressions in the ground had formed, tearing out the great menhirs by their roots. Despite that, the wellspring that marked the apex of all cylchs continued to burble up through a tangle of broken rock and thorns. As Wraith leaped clear of a fallen capstone, Mikhael caught a glimpse of someone jammed between two fallen stones that had formed a bit of a crevice, almost a cave. Surrounding the upended trilithon were the wyvern, snapping and snarling at the person they had trapped.

The shrieks from the woman, for now, it was easy to tell that the voice belonged to a female, were equal parts anger and fear. The wyvern was uncharacteristically focused on getting to her instead of returning to their easier to get at carrion. Mikhael sprang from Wraith’s back and pulled his whip from its holder at his belt. It was his thought that the whip, augmented by lightning would burn some of the wyverns and the smell of their charred flesh would scatter the others. It was well known that wyvern would flee the stench of burned wyvern flesh. It was the only way to clear an area of the things, burn out their lair once they had nested for the night. A flick of his wrist uncoiled it, and he whirled it overhead bringing it down on the back of one of the animals. The wyvern shrieked in rage, but rather than being deterred, it turned its attention on the three newcomers.

“Hawke, Oréas! Hold them off!” Mikhael whirled and lashed out with the whip again, this time subdued lightning crackled along its length. He could not call the element in full force and at such close range to his friends and the trapped woman. Snapping the whip at the animals which seemed to be lashed into an attack frenzy instead of being frightened off, Mikhael reached the stonefall, “Come out...stay behind me!” He ordered the woman within.

Hawke pulled Snake up so hard his back legs slid. Leaping from the saddle and reaching for the scabbard, he drew Ravencall with a smooth motion. Catching both hands to the hilt, he advanced to the Mikhael's side while spinning the blade a few times to make it cut the air, making large motions to attract the other creatures’ attention. “Come on…” Hawke muttered to himself as he watched the animals turning away from their harder meal.

The smell of burnt wyvern flesh stung Oreás nose before he could even react to Mikhael’s command. A growl rose in his throat. If the man went on as he had begun, he’d scatter the entire pack across the landscape, providing much trouble for the guard in the next weeks. With a sharp bark, the wolf leapt forward, towards those wyverns not attracted by Hawke’s bold movements. Suddenly returning to human form, he came out in a crouched position, grabbing a few rocks from the ground. In one fluid movement, he came up, throwing the rocks at the wyverns, striking them hard enough to attract their attention. Their annoyed shrieks were telling him that they had just taken exception to his person. Drawing sword and dagger Oreás stood ready for them. “Now we dance…”

Seemingly out of nowhere, a pair of horses thundered, accompanied by a large wolf but Sofi was much more focused on trying to keep the bitey little dragons from getting her in her hidey-hole. Slowly, each of the creatures found themselves distracted by the newcomers, allowing Sofi the chance to breathe...somewhat.

She heard one voice calling out to her to come out and move behind him, and by the tone of his voice, it wasn’t a request. Slowly and with her hands still wrapped tightly around her hiking stick, Sofi inched out from the crevice, keeping an eye on all of the monsters. Her heart was pounding like a jackrabbit in her chest, and her breathing had quickened to frightened little hitches, but she carefully crawled out.

Now, Sofi was usually the sort of person who stayed calm and collected under pressure, most paramedics are, but she had no freaking clue what the hell was going on or where she was, and it terrified the heck out of her. With the little dragons distracted for the moment, the young woman scampered out fully and moved behind the gigantic man wielding….was that a WHIP!?


Mikhael snapped the whip, and again lightning rippled along its length and this time the strike killed one of the wyverns but using the whip in such close quarters was difficult. Also, he could not risk calling in a full lightning strike with the angry war horses milling about as well as Hawke, Oréas and the unknown girl so close. Not willing to lose the whip, Mikhael looped it around his neck as he reached to pull Taranau from the scabbard that rested across his back, simultaneously drawing Gwerth as well. Taranau’s great blade rippled with light and thunder rumbled in response to the freeing of the blade. Mikhael moved in as if dancing to keep the woman behind and between himself, Hawke and Oréas so that the three men formed something of a wall between her and the attacking wyverns.

The wyvern would scatter and then close back in, hopping and fluttering about their prey. Occasionally, one or two of the animals would take wing, trying to find another opening or diving at the two massive war stallions who were using teeth and hooves to significant effect. Wraith reared, screaming the sound of a wild horse’s challenge, fury in the sound as he snatched one of the winged reptiles from the air in his teeth and shook it before dropping it to be crushed under killing hooves. Snake, Hawke’s big war horse, was also dealing out death beneath his heavy hooves, his dappled blue dun coat splattered with blood.

A surprising feint by a large male wyvern caught Mikhael off balance as a female raced into the attack. A collision with the male and a hard strike to her spiked head by the pommel of Mikhael’s sword kept her from doing more than on her upper fangs along the top and outside of his right leg near the mid-thigh region. Immediately, Mikhael felt the flaming burn of the creature’s venom, but pausing to inspect the damage was not an option. Shadows were lengthening toward evening. If he and his companions did not end the fight soon, they might find themselves trapped for the night which, in light of his wounding, was not a pleasant thought.

Parrying another attack with his long, slightly curved duty sword, Gwerth, Mikhael slashed downward, neatly beheading yet another animal. “We need to end this,” Mikhael called to Hawke and Oréas.

Hawke’s eyes were locked on the wyvern crawling toward him and carefully gauging it’s timing...he gripped Ravencall carefully as he moved slowly, the wyvern coiled itself and leaped. Hawke danced aside with a fluid motion and the wyvern partly sprawled, jaws clamping shut on air as it hit the ground, stretched out where the ryndar had been standing. Hawke brought his sword up and then over in a great overhand cut. The unearthly metal bit into the neck and penetrated almost halfway. Hawke stomped a boot on the side of the cut where the head was and swung his blade again. The second cut finally went through the tough muscle and bone, sending the head and front part of the neck rolling across the ground. Hawke booted it farther away and turned, looking for another target amidst the chaos.

We need to end this. The words echoed through the whirlwind of stabbing, ducking and dodging that Oreás was in. This was taking too long. The little critters were too tough, and cost them too much time. Time for what he did not know, but he had heard the order. He ducked away from his first attacker, who overshot him and not for the first time. The second came close, jaws wide open ready to bite and spit. With one fluid move, Oreás came up and rammed his sword down the wyvern’s gullet, yanking it back almost as fast, just so evading contact with the teeth. The creature fell to the ground, no scream announcing the death. The second came back, angered by it’s continued misses. Time to end this. Oreás crouched, letting it come close, then he jumped changing back into Windhunter. The wolf collided with the confused wyvern mid-air, bringing it down to the ground to bury his teeth deep into the softer flesh of the neck below the wyvern’s jaw. A bitter, ugly taste ran through Oreás senses and from afar he suddenly felt the rolling echo of the drum, warning him that he just had dared tread on ground that it once had granted protection against. With the wyvern dying beneath his paws, he changed back, spitting away any blood that was still in his mouth.

There was so much going on that it was hard for Sofi to focus on anything specific. There were the tiny dragon creatures, though they were beginning to dwindle. A lot of what she was seeing wasn't making any sense. The muscled guy using the whip, okay, she could deal with that. The lightning that seemed to crackle its way along said whip...that didn't make sense, not unless the whip itself was electrified, but the smell of ozone and static were evident in the air.

Blood was also heavy in the air, but its scent was sharper and more metallic than any blood Sofi had ever come across, and as a paramedic, she'd smelt her fair share. It was so strong and pungent that it made her stomach roll over on itself, as did the image of rolling dragon heads. She tried not to look at the enormous horses that were stomping the dragons into the dirt and part of her wanted to do nothing more than close her eyes, click her heels three times and wake up back home in her bedroom.

This was a nightmare, there was no other way to explain it. A dream, a hallucination. That's all. Somehow, she'd been bitten by something, a spider, a snake or she'd gone and hugged a Sonoran Desert Toad, though why she'd do that, she had no freaking clue. But it made more sense than anything she was experiencing here! Mini dragons, screaming deadly horses and good-looking men with whips and swords, one of whom kept shifting from human to wolf....

Yeah, she was losing her damned mind!

The blood would attract every predator in the vicinity and Mikhael was tiring. The pain from the venomous bite and wounds on his leg were forcing him to compensate with the other leg. He was not innately suicidal and knew he had to get back to the keep. Holding the girl safely between them, Mikhael moved so that he was back to back with Oréas and Hawke. “Try to keep them back until I get the girl on Wraith. Oréas, as soon as Hawke is mounted, change back to Windhunter. We will need to move fast to get free of these things.”

Hawke wove Ravencall in a slow infinity loop, the blade whooshing low during the loops. “Just to keep score...this is your fault!” Hawke then moved forward, swinging the black blade back and forth, slashing the side of a wyvern that got too close then turning and driving the point a foot deep in the neck of another as they tried to approach. Hawke twisted the blade to create space, then yanked it free as he kept moving in a circle to watch his own back.

“I will only claim this incident if you own up to Thoreson that it was you that opened the gate to the pony herd when we were ten years old,” Mikhael responded with a note of laughter in his voice despite the situation. The light of battle shone brilliantly in his eyes.

Hawke’s head snapped around at Mikhael’s words. “Blackmail is unbecoming of a High Lord…” He swept Ravencall around to slash another wyvern. “...remind me to have a talk with you about your faulty memory when this is over…”

A piercing whistle summoned Wraith. The big gray had some bad habits, attempting to eat any nearby humans being one of the worst. However, the horse was superbly trained and immediately responded to his owner’s summons. The stallion skidded to a snorting stop beside him and with fast, economical movements, Mikhael sheathed his weapons and whirled to grab the girl and fling her bodily into the saddle, idly registering her bare feet. The rest of her clothing was odd as well, but there was no time for him to process the thought completely. He sprang into the saddle behind the girl and reached around her to gather the reins in one hand while taking the whip in his other. Pulling it from around his neck, he laid about him with it, calling on the lightning. The wyvern scattered as bolts crackled from the whip, but he knew it would not last long. They were in a feeding and killing frenzy and would not back down until the prey was out of their reach. At the same time that Mikhael was lashing out with the whip, Wraith was using his hooves to real advantage, eyes wild with rage and the light of battle.

Hawke turned and backed toward Snake, sword waving back and forth to keep the other wyvern honest. After another step his back bumped the haunches of his mount and Snake’s head swing around, teeth snapping short of Hawke’s arm. The Ryndar recoiled at the sound and glared at his horse. Snake snorted and turned as Hawke sheathed Ravencall and swung himself up into the saddle, boots finding the stirrups as he gathered the reins and sidled closer to Mikhael and his charge.

Mikhael held Wraith in check, whirling the horse on his hind legs in a tight circle while he liberally wielded the whip, cutting a swath of destruction amongst the wyvern now that potential human and equine targets were safely out of the way. Wyvern now fell under the onslaught of the lightning in enough numbers that their companions were hesitating and even pulling back. Some were even leaping on their fallen companions in a renewed feeding frenzy. The distraction gave Mikhael, Oréas, and Hawke the time needed to get out of sight and, hopefully, out of mind. “Go!” He commanded. “I am on your heels.”

In the space of a breath, Hawke had taken the lead and plunged his big stallion through the brush and onto the narrow, rough track. Oréas disappeared into the forest although Mikhael knew the big wolf would be pacing his and Hawke’s progress, ever watchful and on alert. Wraith spun on his hind legs, leaped a fallen log and lashed out with his back legs as he propelled himself through the dense foliage. Once on the track, Mikhael expertly coiled the whip while guiding Wraith using heel and leg aids. He attached it to a small hook on the side of the saddle’s pommel. Retrieving the reins from off the horse’s neck, he then shifted the girl slightly, which was a bit of an effort as she huddled against him, face buried in his chest and hands holding tightly to his tunic. Instinctively, he murmured comforting words in Heniaith just as he would have to a frightened Vasily.

Oréas had followed Mikhael’s order at once, they needed to get away, and hopefully the wyvern would return to their other prey or dine on the ones already slain. A strange smell still stung his nose, a scent of blood oddly wrong. But there was neither time to think nor to check, not with the High Lord at risk and the strange girl in no shape to fight. Sticking to wolf form, Oreás shadowed Mikhael’s and Hawke’s escape, ready to jump at any wyvern or other enemy getting in their backs, but keeping up with the horses in a fast wolf trot. Even while running and keeping eye and nose on the High Lord’s trail, something tugged on Oreás mind, something was not right. But he could not say what. His senses were still tingling from Mikhael’s use of magic, while he had been surprised that Mikhael had resolved to its use, it told him how dangerous Mikhael had judged the situation. In another moment Oreás would have trusted the High Lord to wade into a wyvern den and come out on top. So something had made Mikhael judge the situation differently, had he sensed a larger creature close by? Oreás had not picked up any scent, except that girl, who seemed to have escaped a bathing house before entering the wyvern’s den. How else could she smell so flowery?

With a last mighty leap, the two war horses landed on the riverside track which allowed them to stretch their legs. Once well away from the hillock and its cylch full of wyverns, Mikhael slowed Wraith to a collected gallop, allowing the horse a breather. The fight and flight had kept his mind on survival and off the wounds in his leg, but it was becoming harder and harder to disregard the fire spreading through his body. Being stoic and manly was not the reason he continued to grit his teeth and say nothing. Stopping was not an option and, besides, there was nothing to be done on the trail even if they stopped. He was not a healer but knew enough about wyvern bite triage to know they could not dress the wounds or add a tourniquet.

When she’d first been picked up and set on the saddle, Sofi had been in a state of shock. Her brain was still trying to process everything; being attacked by the nasty dragon-like creatures, the men appearing seemingly out of nowhere, horses that screamed and fought like they were human, whips and lightning, just all of it. Once settled on the horse with the largest of the men behind her, Sofi had clung to three things; her messenger bag, her hiking stick, which was still looped around her wrist, and the man himself. She’d even gone so far as to bury her face into his broad, muscular chest for a few minutes.

The whispered words, which had been meant to comfort by the man that spoke them, did more the opposite. Hearing something spoken in a language that wasn’t anywhere near familiar pulled Sofi out of her own head, and she took in a sharp breath, one that held a touch of fear and panic. “Stop!” She said, her voice first barely audible over the hoofbeats of the horses as she tried pulling herself free from the man’s embrace. She squirmed more, wanting to get free but as she did, she felt his arm wrap tighter around her.

“No! Let me go.” She said, louder and more forcefully this time. “I demand you stop and tell me what’s going on, who you are and where I am!” As she spoke, Sofi struggled more against the hold, wanting, even more than being let go, answers.

The girl’s struggles were hard to ignore, but Mikhael had to get back to the keep. They were only a few minutes away but the pain flaring through his body made every moment in the saddle an agony. She squirmed and kicked as she demanded her release. One small, sharp heel landed hard against his leg near the wounds left by the wyvern causing Mikhael to see stars as he hissed in silently as possible. His temper flared. Could not the silly child see they were trying to save her...and their own...lives!

With a powerful pull on the reins, he brought Wraith skidding to a stop. In the same moment, he used his free arm to hoist the girl off the saddle, leaned down and firmly dropped her on her backside at the side of the track. He remained in the saddle, cold blue eyes blazing as he looked down at her. “You will fare better with us than with the wyvern or, perhaps, the next rider on this trail. But I always try to honor a lady’s demands!” He glared down at the girl from atop the large gray stallion who, for once, seemed to think better of trying to savage every human in his vicinity.

The entire scene unfolding gave Oreás the wish to sit back on his hind paws and howl. Only it was neither funny nor remotely normal. The girl’s smell had changed, she was sweating, panicking and clearly short of running for the hills screaming. The High Lord on the other side… Oreás knew that tone of voice, and when it came, anger would follow. The wolf peered to the skies expecting the familiar rolling sound of thunder, or clouds gathering at a distance. He jumped closer, but not so close as to risk annoying Wraith, before shifting back to human form. Time to do what was usually Nighthunter’s approach. “Lady,” he said, keeping his voice calm and steady. “What you are is: in danger. The wyverns will eat us all four if we do not outrun them. Whatever your fears, or your questions - this is not the time.” He gazed back the way they had come, without Windrunner’s senses he could not smell them anymore, but he still could feel the faraway echo inside his blood that warned him.

Pain flared in Mikhael’s leg as the poison deepened its hold over him. Thunder rumbled in the distance. Mentally, he acknowledged Oréas’ attempt to persuade the girl and he would make sure to thank him later. Right now, he needed to be home. Glaring at the defiant young woman, he snapped, “Stay or go, girl! I have no time to tarry.”

Hawke sat his horse close by. He had turned Snake and returned up the trail when he realized no one was with him. He exhaled heavily as he watched the confrontation. The Ryndar leaned forward a bit and crossed his arms on the pommel of his saddle. “You have no supplies to speak weapons...and no horse. Just what other options do you have besides becoming a meal for the local wildlife?”

Being unceremoniously dropped off the saddle and onto her posterior had taken her breath away and Sofi looked up at the man up on the horse with a mixture of insolence and irritation. “That was rude.” She muttered, still giving her rescuer a glare. The expression softened, shifting from indignation to worry and panic as she looked around a little frantically, praying that there were no more of those creatures, wyverns as they were apparently called.

If she had been at home or even the slightest clue where she was, Sofi might’ve chosen to stay until she got the answers she sought. But she wasn’t, and like it or not, these three men were the only thing that stood between her and whatever other dangers roamed this land. She didn’t even want to allow herself to consider exactly what those other dangers might be. “Fine, I’ll go but will you please answer my questions when we get...wherever we’re going?”

Mikhael continued to regard the woman for a moment or two as if trying to decide if he really wanted to take her along. Finally, he extended his hand and with a nod to Oréas to help her, she had settled across the saddle again. With a gentle touch of his heels, Wraith sprang forward, closely followed by Snake as Oréas again shifted to Windrunner and loped alongside.


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