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A Poet By Any Other Name

Posted on Sat Jul 29th, 2017 @ 10:55pm by Mikhael Stormdanovich & Laryn Stormdanovich

Chapter: Light's Journey
Location: Riding Arena, Stormholm Caer, Daranau Eira, Harkania March
Timeline: Morning, Early November, 3550

Mikhael Stormdanovich crossed the massive main courtyard that lay between Stormhold Keep, its Guardhouse and the mountain, Daranau Eira. Pausing for a moment, he inhaled deeply and grinned. November usually saw the mountains blanketed in thick snow. So far, however, the weather was mild, and the High Lord was determined to take advantage of the spring-like temperature. The wind circled the ancient keep and whistled through the caverns that lay over, under, and behind it and it carried a promise of winter’s bite. As it filled the courtyard, it brought the faint scent of horses and hay. This morning, Mikhael was clad in his favorite riding gear, a russet colored sleeveless tunic slit at the thighs for riding, layered over a long-sleeved shirt, form-fitting leggings with leather patches on the inside of the knees, and knee-length black leather boots. Both clothing and boots were well-worn and comfortable.

Opposite the Guard House wall were two openings into the massive cavern system inside Daranau Eira and beneath the holm where Stormholm Caer was solidly perched. The one to his left provided direct access to the cavern trail that led to the main entrance near the foot of the mountain. The other was a manmade, or Cymry-made, entrance into the massive cavern that served as a mustering area as well as a riding and training arena for the valuable Dikaya that, along with the mountain grown coffee beans, were the Stormdanovich’s bread and butter. Both entrances had been formed into stone-lined arches.

Moving easily, enjoying the crisp morning air, Mikhael passed through the arch into the arena. The arena’s cavern was immense, allowing enough room for two enclosures. The main arena was first and rectangular in shape. It was large enough to allow the working of several horses in quadrilles. At its far end, a gate gave onto a smaller circular arena that could be used to turn horses loose for exercise or for working on one animal at a time. All along the sides of both enclosures, just behind the low stacked stone wall that lined them, was a raised dais with stone benches for observers. Both riding arenas had gates that led through arched openings into the equally huge stable complex, but the big arena also had a gated opening giving access to the trails that led to the outside world. At this early hour, Mikhael had the area to himself.

Mikhael crossed the arena and through the gate leading to the stables. The sound of a commotion from the wing that housed his mounts immediately caught his attention and made him grin. Waving off a handful of stable attendants that would have assisted him, Mikhael walked the several yards down the main stable aisle before turning down a smaller corridor. Just as he did, one of the stall doors rolled open, and a smallish stable lad hurtled out of the opening while raining curses on the stall’s occupant. Moving fast, Mikhael leaped forward and dragged the heavy door closed, just in time to thwart the great golden chestnut stallion inside. He laughed and shook his head as the horse opened his mouth and raked his teeth across the iron bars of the door’s window.

Turning to the boy, Mikhael pulled him to his feet and helped him dust the shavings and loamy earth of the stable floor off his clothes. “Are you alright, lad?”

The boy’s eyes widened slightly, and he nodded, for the moment speechless to find himself facing the High Lord, “Aye, m’lord. The beast didna’ hurt me.”

“Good, then off you go. I will attend to this rogue and the rest of my animals.” The boy scampered away, and Mikhael turned back to the stall. Glancing in through the barred opening on the front of the stall’s wall, he saw the bedding was clean. The boy had been trying to put in a net of fresh hay when the horse had attacked. The stone water trough that was perpetually filled with water piped in from one of the cavern’s many springs was also clean.

The stall’s occupant was a fiery colored chestnut with golden red mane and tail. There was a white sock on his right fetlock and a white stocking on his right rear leg. Unlike the majority of Dikaya, Dragon did not sport the feathering over his fetlocks. This was rare but not unheard of in the breed. His face was marked by a narrow white blaze that ran from his forehead to muzzle. Dragon was the four-year-old son of Mikhael’s war horse, Wraith, and proving to be just as temperamental and even possibly more vicious. The big chestnut was near Wraith’s height at seventeen hands, but lighter in confirmation. If trainable, he would be a formidable war horse. At four years old, he was just now going under saddle. He had at least another four years of training to go.

Warning the stallion to back up, Mikhael grabbed the dropped net full of hay and fastened it to the hook above the stallion’s grain bucket. He gave the horse a friendly slap on the neck and admonished, “You know, if you do not stop eating the stable lads, you will not get fed.” The stallion snorted irritably and stretched his neck toward the hay before suddenly swinging his head in Mikhael’s direction, ears flat and teeth bared. The High Lord deftly stepped out of reach and met the horse’s nose with his fist. “You will never learn, will you?”

An hour later, Mikhael had fed his remaining stock and cleaned any stalls not yet attended to. With a leading rein coiled over his shoulder, he returned to one of the stalls and rolled the door open. He was immediately greeted by a welcoming whinny. The stall’s occupant was six years old and almost ready to be handed to his new owner - whoever that might be. He was also one of Wraith’s offspring, but out of a Herák mare. Mikhael’s hope had been to get a strong war horse without it having an appetite for humans. So far, the experiment was a success.

The stallion was a golden dapple color, although, except for the dappled pattern to his coat, he could be considered a palomino. The color was also often referred to as a golden dun or a dappled sorrel. His neck, shoulders, and forequarters were a lighter gold, shading to a much deeper hue on his haunches and upper legs. Mane, tail, and feathers were all creamy colored and, like most Dikaya or Herák horses, these were silky and longer than average. The horse had inherited his Dikaya sire’s height, standing nearly sixteen and a half hands at the withers although he had the more powerful build of his Herák dam. Mikhael had named him Síoda which meant Silk in the ancient tongue.

Mikhael clipped the long leading rein onto Síoda’s halter and led him over to a saddling enclosure where he got a thorough grooming, including picking his hooves clean, before saddling and bridling the big horse. He gave the stallion a pat on the shoulder as he adjusted the double reined bit to rest more comfortably in the animal’s mouth. A single reined bit would be the one used for actual battle duty, but Síoda was technically still being schooled. Lastly, Mikhael attached the flexible check reins that led from bit to saddle. These did not restrain Síoda’s head but helped him remember how to set and carry it as well aiding him in overall balance.

Mikhael removed the stirrups from the saddle and hung them on a nearby hook; riding without stirrups was an exercise in discipline and balance for Mikhael as well as making him feel he had closer contact with his mount. Mikhael then unfastened the crossties and led Síoda to the big arena, feeling the firm, yet springy turf underfoot that had been carefully nurtured and tended to provide the best footing for the horses. The transplanted earth and grass added a slight loamy scent to mingle with those of the horses, leather and leather polish, and the faint smell of hay and fodder. Cleverly built and disguised air shafts, carved into the very rock of the cavern system kept any of the odors from becoming overwhelming by funneling them out and fresh air in. On days such as this one, when the winds were high, it almost seemed like the mountain was breathing.

Stepping to the horse’s left side, he gathered a handful of the near knee-length mane and vaulted lightly into the saddle, automatically gripping gently with his knees and lowering his heels. Heads up, heels down! He remembered his old riding master’s constant reminders. Taking hold of the reins in each hand, he straightened his posture and gathered the horse with hands and legs. Subtle signals from both squared the stallion up before the next command sent him into a high-stepping collected trot.

Mikhael guided Síoda down the center of the arena, taking him into a perfect turn at the end. As they came along the long side of the enclosure, he signaled the horse to extend his trot. The golden stallion lengthened his stride without pause while Mikhael shifted his weight slightly allowing him to sit to the trot comfortably. Drawing rein, he began putting Síoda through the most basic of dressage moves as he warmed the horse up. From the extended trot, he signaled for the stallion to move into a slow, collected canter, before putting the horse through the more complex maneuver of the flying change of leads. The flying change was a lead change performed by a horse in which the lead changes at the canter while in the air between two strides. It required a great deal of balance and communication between horse and rider.

Progressing around the arena, Mikhael set Síoda up for the final movement for the day, a series of tempi changes. Tempi changes were very difficult movements, as the horse was required to perform multiple flying changes in a row. In the past, Mikhael’s old riding master would use tempi changes as a test. He would request changes at every stride (one-tempis), every two strides (two tempis), three strides (threes), or four strides (fours). The number of strides per change asked in the tests began at four, to give the horse and rider more time to prepare, and as the horse and rider became more proficient the number decreased to one-tempis. When a horse performed the one-tempi changes, it appeared to be skipping. Mikhael put Síoda through the varying tempi changes on the diagonal and then in a circle, finally pulling the horse to a four-square stop.

Mikhael allowed Síoda to stand quietly while he listened to him breathe, noting that the horse was not heaving although his sweat dampened coat showed the exertion of the workout. It was a good sign as it meant that the stallion was fit and in good condition for the often idle upcoming winter months. Access to indoor arenas had become standard at all forts and garrisons. It gave the cavalry another advantage come spring when there was a larger chance that they would find themselves engaged in battle.

Movement caught Mikhael’s sharp blue eyes, and he turned his head toward the low inside wall that separated the arena from the stone benches. Setting heels to the horse’s flank, Mikhael guided him over to the wall and turned him, slowing to an easy walk, to match pace with the woman making her way along the walkway next to the observer’s gallery. “Greetings,” Mikhael said to his youngest sister, “taking advantage of the unusual November warmth?”

With the weather cooperating and behaving for the time being, Laryn would be a fool not to leave the confines of Stormhold to enjoy the warmth of the day’s sunshine. It also gave her a prime opportunity to take Ceinder out into the indoor arena. Ceinder, her newest horse, had been a gift from her sister Stasya a short while after they had returned from D'hassa, taking Laryn quite by surprise as she had only admired the young mare a few times while watching Stasya work with her before the winter's cold would take hold of Cymeria.

She had named the mare Ceinder, meaning Beauty in the Old Tongue. While Ceinder appeared to be pure white, she was actually considered a gray Dikaya, where her coat appeared pure white, but the skin beneath was fully pigmented and not the tell-tale pink of a true white. Ceinder had passed her fifth year in age a few weeks before but hold business had kept the young courier from working on her training.

Laryn would not be starting the full saddle training today, but simply fitting Ceinder with her bridle and taking her out on a long lead to get her used to it. Stasya had not had the time to work with the horse, which suited Laryn as she loved to train her horses. As she had no intention of riding today, she was clad not in leggings and a tunic but in one of her favored gowns; an emerald with a darker shade of green as an overlay with floral printed bands around her upper arms and waist. Her shoes were a hard-soled leather boot, and she wore a matching green cloak over her shoulders, though if the day warmed up any further, she would cast that aside.

Making her way through the hold to the indoor arena, Laryn found that she was not alone in her desires to work her horse. She smiled when Mikhael slowed his mount down to greet her. "Good morning, Highlord." She replied warmly. "Yes, I am taking advantage before winter shuts us in. I am starting training on a new mare. I see we are of the same mind?" She asked, nodding to the beautiful golden dun Mikhael rode. "I do not remember ever seeing you with him,” she said, her voice rising in question. "Is he a new acquisition?"

Mikhael swung his leg over the low pommel of the training saddle and dropped to the spongy turf. Shaking his head, he pulled Síoda’s head around to rub the horse gently between the eyes, “No, but I have been working him at the fort until this fall. He is an experiment in animal husbandry. I bred Wraith to a Herák, hoping for a milder tempered horse that could still be effective in battle.” The High Lord grinned amiably.

Laryn stepped closer so that she could lift a hand out, palm up to the majestic creature. She smiled when she was rewarded with a warm nuzzle. “He is simply breathtaking.” There was a nod of understanding about temperament, though the thought brought forth a question. “I have only trained a few horses of my own to date, and all of them for personal or pleasure riding, never a war horse. I should suppose there is a difference in training styles?”

“It is more a case of level than style,” Mikhael told Laryn as he seated himself on the stone wall, “There is little need to take a saddle horse through more than the first or second level of dressage training. I prefer more balance and responsiveness to hand and leg aids which is why I generally choose a war horse that is near retirement age or one that simply is not geared temperamentally for battle although gelding a war stallion will adjust the temperament some.” He paused and looked at Síoda for a few moments, noting the horse was breathing easily and not so hot that standing would harm him. He glanced at her, “You would be welcome to join me as I work Dragon although I likely won’t bring him out today. We had a long session yesterday, and you do not want to sour a horse on a routine.”

She watched as Mikhael gracefully jumped down and took a seat on the edge of the stone wall, nodding an understanding to his words. Thinking back, Laryn could not recall a time in recent history, or at all in fact, where she and Mikhael had spoken for such a length of time when it was not duty related, and this pleased her.

Laryn's smile brightened when an offer was extended for her to join him when he worked on Dragon. "I would very much like that." She replied. "Thank you, and of course, whenever you see fit to work him again, please send for me." She told him. "I do not think I will be training any war horses in the near future, but I would love to learn how even if just a little bit."

“When I started, I learned to ride and train the battle horses at the same time. I know you would have been given rudimentary training on war horses during your service, at least until you were assigned to the Courier Corps,” Mikhael said, his voice not quite uncertain.

The arrival of his son, Vasily, five years previous had been the first bridge between Mikhael and one of his nearly unknown sisters. His eldest sister, Oksana, had taken the baby under her protective wing and, at the same time, had done the same for her brother, helping to teach him how to care for his infant son. Now, he was feeling his way toward building another of those bridges. “Perhaps you would like to ride Síoda on the days I need to work Dragon or Wraith in formation?”

Laryn offered her brother a nod. “Yes, I’ve had some, but nothing extensive.” She stated, her lips curling into a smile at his offer. “I would, thank you.” She told him, always eager to ride when she could, and it was always smart to branch out beyond her own horses.

Síoda made a soft whuffling sound and extended his neck, nuzzling at Mikhael. The High Lord laughed and fished several apple slices from a pocket. “Here you are,” he told the horse as he fed him the slices, smiling as the big teeth chomped the treat with enthusiasm. He fell silent again as memories of spending time in the big training arena with his father flitted through his mind as well as the even rarer times spent like this, as he and Laryn were doing, just talking and relaxing. As Síoda took another slice of apple from his palm, Mikhael nodded at the arena, “This is one of my favorite places. It is where I spent time with…” he paused and sighed softly, almost to himself, “...with our father. Good times.” Mikhael’s relationship with Kimber had not always been easy, but they had rarely met in anger in the arena.

She could not speak for Mikhael's own upbringing. As he was the male, and the heir to the Stormdanovich family, he had been raised apart from the girls. For Laryn, she had been passed into the hands of tutors and governesses, her education and social etiquette made the priority. She had also been taught to ride at a young age, which had cut into any personal free time she might have had then. It was the early teachings of discipline that had helped shape Laryn into the young woman she was becoming.

Her laughter was soft as she watched Síoda work his animal charm on Mikhael. Pulling a hand from a pocket in her cloak, Laryn opened her palm to reveal a pair of sugar cubes. "May I?" She asked, wanting to get permission before offering the sweet treat to the horse.

Mikhael had started pulling the tack off Síoda as Laryn spoke, keeping one ear open to her words. He nodded when she asked about giving the stallion the sugar cubes although he smiled slightly and admonished, “But do not make it a habit. It is not good for them, makes them nippy.”

Laryn nodded her understanding of his admonishment and smiled as the horse gently lipped the cubes of sugar from her palm. Her voice was reflective when she spoke, "I am quite fond of this spot myself, though not for the same reason." No, Laryn could not recount, even with her eidetic memory, a time when she had shared this space with Kimber. "Will you... tell me more about him? The man that you knew and not just as the High Lord? My memories of him are few and far between now."

His youngest sister’s second request took him by surprise, and he sucked in a quiet breath as he finished with the saddle and slipped the bit from the horse’s mouth once Síoda finished crunching the sugar cubes. Giving the horse a gentle slap on the haunch sent the animal trotting away. Once he realized he was truly free in the big arena, he kicked up his heels and cantered around the perimeter before shying, snorting and taking off in the opposite direction. Horses could be such silly creatures.

Finally, he moved back over to the low wall and took a seat, dropping Síoda’s tack on the ground at his feet. What could he tell Laryn about Kimber without sounding bitter or like he harbored anger against their father? Years ago, when his father had stated he never wanted to lay eyes on him again, he had been hurt and furiously angry. The time away had eased much of that and maturity had taken the rest. Now, he could look back and cherish memories of the good times and own his responsibility in the bad well as recognize Kimber’s fears where his son had been concerned. He understood even more now that he had a small son. The instinct was to wrap them up and keep them safe from the world.

A memory came back to him, and he smiled slightly. It softened the cold look of his silvery blue eyes for a moment. Leaning back, he rested his shoulders against the wall behind them that was meant to be used for seating. When he spoke, he allowed his voice to drop into the almost sing-song storytelling mode that he used with Vasily and Aeonar in the evenings. “A long, long time ago, before the land is as we know it now, there lived a Princess. Her name was Casperdan. Her father was the ruler of a great kingdom in Atlantis, but as so often happens in great kingdoms, a neighboring kingdom wanted what was not theirs. So, Casperdan was to marry the Prince of the rival kingdom to keep the peace.”

Laryn turned her gaze back to her brother when he took a seat on the low wall, wondering what, if anything, he was going to say. When he smiled, she did the same. It wasn't often that Laryn had the opportunity to speak to Mika in this manner, and seeing the smile soften the normally icy look to his blue eyes made her feel as if they were truly related, by heart and blood instead of simply by name. That connection, that bond, was something Laryn craved among all of her siblings.

“On a lovely morning, much like this, the royal household’s dog came to the door and announced they had a visitor. You see, in this far away land and place, animals were no longer dumb servants. They shared the same intellect as menfolk and worked for a wage. No one was allowed to mistreat them or force them to do things considered demeaning. When asked who the visitor was, the dog told Casperdan that it was a horse named Pericles and Pericles stated he was a genius, a philosopher and a poet. He was there to help Casperdan out of her troubles. Curious, as any young woman would be, Casperdan bade the dog bring the horse in.”

“Pericles was a fair sized horse although not huge by our standards. His coat was as dark as midnight, his mane and tail just as black and flowing like silk. The only mark on him was a streak of pure white that ran through his forelock. On his head, Pericles wore a velvet hat with a jaunty feather sticking out of it and two holes that allowed his ears to fit through and, no doubt, helped hold the hat on his head.”

“Dear Sir Pericles,’ Casperdan spoke in an amused voice. ‘I understand that you are a genius, a philosopher, and a poet. But, can you tell me how that will help me?”

“The horse nodded his head in the same way as old men and women nod when they are trying to show how wise they are. I can indeed help you, your highness. I can show you how to bring so much prosperity to your kingdom that you can share it with all and not have to marry the Prince.”

“Though an intelligent girl and not easily fooled, Casperdan was, nonetheless, curious. How can you, a genius, a philosopher and a poet, help me avoid wedding Prince Calbert?”

“I may not show you here, but if you come with me to the Meadow of Dreams, I will show you there.”

“Casperdan agreed and away she went with Pericles. A few days later they returned, and Casperdan set to work. Within months, thanks to the genius of the horse, Pericles, her kingdom was becoming so wealthy, they had to give cartloads of gold, silver, and gems away because there was nowhere left to store it. Prince Calbert was happy, of course, to take it off their hands and with so much wealth, he no longer insisted on marrying Princess Casperdan to take what belonged to her kingdom.”

“Many long years passed and Pericles continued to assist and advise. The streak of white in his forelock was now matched by similar streaks in his mane and tail. Casperdan’s once shining black hair was also touched with white, but she had lived a long life and a good one, becoming Queen after the deaths of her parents, marrying for love and having many healthy, happy children. But this morning she was restless, and finally, she went to find Pericles who lay in a bed of clean straw in a room on the ground floor. I want to return to the Meadow of Dreams, Pericles. Casperdan told him.”

“And as I promised, so we shall, said Pericles as he rose to his feet, more slowly than in years gone by. At the meadow, Casperdan stripped off her robes of state and threw her crown to the ground. Clad only in simple trousers and tunic, she turned to look at her old friend. Please, may I have back what we shared that day so long ago?”

“Pericles nodded and bowed one knee to the ground, I have only been waiting for you to ask, mistress. I have longed for it too.”

“In a fluid motion, Casperdan caught a handful of mane and leaped to his back. With a high-spirited whinny, his old eyes bright, Pericles whirled and galloped down the meadow, scattering flowers and butterflies beneath his pounding hooves giving to the woman what horses and humans had not shared for many thousands of years. Casperdan lay along his neck, hands tangled in his mane as she laughed in pure happiness.”

Mikhael paused and smiled, his eyes watching Laryn for her reaction, “So, we know Pericles was a genius, he proved that by showing Casperdan how to make her kingdom wealthy. We know he was a philosopher by the way he taught her how to continue her kingdom’s prosperity in her own happiness. But never was there a sign that Pericles was a poet…for you see…the poetry was when he moved!” Mika glanced to where Síoda now stood, his neck stretched over the wall that divided the two enclosures as he searched for bits of hay and dipped his muzzle into the water trough. “That was the story Kimber told me on the day he brought me to this arena to select my first horse and give me my first riding lesson. It was one of the few times that I can remember him being at ease with me, lost in the story and enraptured by the horses being led out for our inspection.”

When Mika began speaking, his voice deep and rich, Laryn was silent, listening intently. The tale that he spoke of, at first, made little sense relating to their father, Kimber. At the very end, however, Laryn understood why Mikhael had chosen to repeat the story Father had shared with him all those years ago. She smiled, tucking a few wayward strands of dark chestnut hair back behind a delicate ear. "Thank you." She said once he was finished. "Neither Father nor Mother was in attendance the first time I took a mount. I do wish that I had shared more time with the both of them." The wish was merely that, a wish. Fate had chosen to take her parents while she was young, and while she did miss them, Laryn knew that she might not have been shaped into the same young woman she now was had they lived.

“What horse did you and Father end up choosing that day?” She asked.

Mikhael laughed easily, “Two actually. The first one was a fine animal, lightly built and spirited, probably from one of the desert breeds, perhaps Stygian. He proved a bit much to manage, so I changed to an old war horse. He was colored much like Dragon, still enough spirit to challenge but well set and trained. I kept him as one of my riding horses in my train for many years after I moved on in riding skill.”

He paused again, searching for words. “Neither Kimber nor Sonja meant to neglect us. There was already unrest in the land when Kimber...when I went away. I think he knew a war was coming and that was something the High Lord dreaded and sought to avert with all his being. Kimber was truly the land first and then to our mother. He fought to keep Cymeria from reverting to the Old Ways, even though those ways were what saved us although I believe unleashing such power contributed to his demise and brought him to the point where Crossing was his only choice. Killing with a weapon is hard enough - or should be; killing with the kind of power the Cymry can wield, leaves a …” Mikhael paused, again seeking words to explain how it felt to kill one with a power you controlled, “...mark or a stain, a taint. The rush of power is exhilarating, the aftermath leaves you...hollow. I think that when Kimber unleashed the land against Darian of Aquilonia, his spirit could not cope with having killed using what he so feared and even loathed. Along with his injuries, it was just more than Kimber was able to absorb and deal with. Because they shared the Cymry marriage bond so deeply, our mother could not survive without his spirit. Sometimes our choices in life dictate how that life will end.”

For a reason tucked away deep in her heart, it pleased Laryn to know that it seemed she shared something else with her older brother. She smiled softly, looking over at him while he continued to speak. "I have never placed blame with Father nor Mother for my upbringing. They did the best they could during the time they lived. Yes, I wish I could have spent more time with them, but I was the youngest, that thought may be one I share with other last-born children." She said, her voice warm. "No matter what age parents leave us, there is never enough time," Laryn stated, looking at Mikhail.

"You speak as if you know about using Cymry power in such a manner." Of course, he did, he had struck down his foe at the D'hassa Ceremony only two months before. It was just something Laryn herself never let herself think about for the most part as she preferred peace over violence herself. She wondered if she'd ever find a partner that loved her as much as her father had loved her mother, but those were also thoughts seemed random, and out of place, so she put them aside for later.

"Does every choice we make shape our life? Why do you think it is only sometimes?" She asked her brother.

“Perhaps I misspoke. Every choice we make does have an impact on our lives and can be far reaching. Yet some choices shape how our lives end more than others,” Mikhael answered, attempting to clarify to the much younger woman what he meant about their father’s choices in his life regarding training and the use of his magical abilities playing a large factor in how his life finally ended. “Laryn, to put it in simpler terms, how we choose to live can play a part in how we die...for the lack of a better word...and, I guess, it is applicable as choosing to Cross makes us dead to this world.”

Mikhael looked down, studying his hands for a few moments. His belief in the Old Ways and his use of his powers was a complex subject. One that even after many years of training, it was difficult to articulate. If younger members of the House were becoming interested in learning the Old Ways, he might have to enlist Riordan and Ynella’s aid in training them...or augment what he could teach them with other training. The vestige of an idea stirred in his head, but he set it aside for later examination.

“Our arcane powers in and of themselves are nothing more than a tool. The nature of the person using that tool and the intent behind its use is what determines whether it is for good or ill.” Mikhael turned his silver-flecked blue eyes on his younger sister, “An eating dagger is merely a utensil until it is used to murder a person. On the other hand, use of our powers comes with consequences over and above the motivation in using them. At D’hassa, I had little time to think on the philosophies of using magic as a defense. There was little choice as the powers of the Dark Templars had to be countered to save people.”

There was the faintest tinge of pink warmth to Laryn's cheeks when she realized that she had misunderstood. Still, the attention and focus she placed onto her brother were crisp and as clear as the cool air around them. She watched him quietly, letting him speak and taking in his words.

When he turned to speak more of the Arcane powers that laid within their family's blood, and his eyes met hers, she nodded and gave him an understanding smile. It was true, even the most simple of items could be wielded as dangerous in the wrong hands. It was the same with animals. Treat them properly with love and kindness, and you had a friend for life, but handle them poorly or mistreat them, and one could find a hoof planted squarely on their chest. "I will not deny that I have thought about the Arcane in my own hands, whether I should follow Father's rule and abstain, or if I wish to learn more."

"That day, at D'Hassa, you did what you needed to do to protect your people. I was surprised as I had never seen you wield such power but the strength and love it took to make that choice, even as quickly as the choice was made, I was, and still am, proud to call you brother." The young woman stated.

It was Mikhael’s turn to blush slightly. He had not, nor would he seek praise for his actions on that day. Neither would he summarily dismiss the compliment that Laryn was seeking to pay him. As there was no good response that accomplished both, he simply inclined his head in acknowledgment of her words before directing the conversation back to her previous comment, “Kimber had good reason to fear the powers the Cymry can wield yet the call of those gifts is strong. It is the final connection to the land and all that we are. Choosing to learn the Old Ways should not be done lightly. Perhaps you should ask Song or another of the Theurgy to speak with you on the ethics of magic?”

Laryn nodded. “I think that is a wise idea.” She agreed with a gentle smile. “I will seek out Song and see if she has time to speak, and if not, then I will find one of the others.” There was much to think about, as her brother had said, and she knew she’d have to give everything proper time and not make any decisions lightly.

After talking for a few more minutes, Mikhael and Laryn parted company. Crossing the arena to catch Síoda and take him in for grooming, Mikhael felt that more had been accomplished that day than simply training a new war horse.


*footnote: Mika's story about the horse and the girl was a version of the Alan Dean Foster short story, Dream Done Green. His version is so much better than mine!


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