Chapter Two ~
Across the universe the wind blows, the same wind that visits each beaming star and quiet planet, whispers in the ears of all creatures and is a part of them, from the first breath to the last. Passing through the Gate was like being without breath, and the first thing the travels discovered on the other side was that they could breath. Air rushed into their nostrils and filled their lungs, and it was sweet; even in this land so far from their own, their was familiarity in the wind, and the Unicorns and their Guardians were reassured by the teasing and gentle presence.
The land they were in was not Kalidore, though it did in some way bare resemblance to the realm of Singing Sands. The sky was stretched long and low, jutted by harsh rocks and scruffs of meek vegetation. They had landed in a clump of trees, for trees always invigorated the flow of magic, but beyond them scene was quite sparse. A strange bird let out a shrill cry before taking wing. Already the morning sun was hot, and the temperature would only increase as it rose.
As the gate had closed, Rhaine felt her knees crumple and sunk to the ground unwillingly. Beside her she could see Liliani was suffering the same. Just before consciousness left her, she saw a flash of light flicker through the entrance of the portal, and her mind reached out to help the struggling figures instinctively. The effort was too much, and drained from the spell casting, she passed out.
Lilaini suddenly felt short of breath and her head began to swim. Time seemed to be moving slower, yet she was unable to react to her surroundings. The ground was slowly moving closer to her, or she was moving closer to the ground; she couldn’t tell which was happening. She tried to put her arms out to protect her from the impact she seemed to know was coming but her arms were not cooperative and she hit the ground with a deadening thud. All the air rushed out of her lungs, leaving her gasping for breath. Between her desperate gasps for breath she began aware of the gate not closing as it it should. She felt the interruption to the magic and tried to look to see what was happening. Suddenly, the air flooded into her lungs just when she felt for sure she couldn’t take it any longer. She was still unable to move any part of her body, the exhaustion was so profound. Turning her head she saw Rhaine next to her, her eyes were closed and she wasn’t moving. Beyond her friend she saw a golden Kore with Tyden trapped underneath her. In an instance she felt her limbs properly again, the weariness seemed to be slowly leaving them. She no longer felt pinned to the ground and turning her head the other way her eyes met another much older pair of eyes that were filled with concern.
Noting the change in her companion, Gypsy lifted her horn which had been firmly pressed into Lilaini’s chest and took a step backwards, the concern never left her eyes and she stayed close. “Are you ok?” she asked out loud.
“Yes, I think I am now. You’ve made me feel much better, I hope you did not drain yourself too much by doing so,” Lilaini replied as she reached up to grab hold of the mare’s mane. “I had no idea trying to hold the gate open would be so draining, I thought with both of us, it would be ok.” She pulled herself using the grip she had on Gypsy’s mane for leverage, still unsteady on her feet she swayed slightly. Keeping hold of her companion’s mane she looked around at the scene before her. Nearly all of the Unicorns were standing together in a large cluster and to the other side of her were two humans and a Kore. “Please, help me over there,” she said with a tone of urgency in her voice to the bronze coloured mare at her side.
“Look, Mare Imbrium is taking care of them. Come let us check on the others.” Gypsy nodded her head towards the group of very anxious unicorns nearby.
“Yes, yes of course you are right.” Lilaini responded and slowly made her way towards them with her companion’s help. They stopped only a few feet in front of the others, and began to look them over. “Is everyone alright?” Lilaini asked, trying to distinguish if anyone had been harmed in the cross through the portal. No one should have been physically harmed, but the shock of what had happened as the gate closed could have greatly alarmed the others.
The first thing Xanthe realized when she opened her eyes was that she was alive. The second was that she hurt all over. The third was that she had just done a very, very stupid thing. The fourth was that she was sitting on Tyden. “Sorry!” she muffled, rolling groggily to her side, her legs feeling like they did when she was just born, wobbling and useless.
Tyden groaned, rolling onto his stomach to suck the the air into his lungs. He winced at the effort, but turned to golden Korë without malice. “Are you okay?”
“Yes,” she answered very quietly.
He nodded with assurance, and glanced to the others. Maintaining the gate had drained the Guardians as much as his stunt had him – more, probably – and while Lilaini was on her feet, she still looked pale and unsteady. Mare Imbrium was at Rhaine’s side, and the young woman was slowly coming to. The ebony mare nudged her gently into a sitting position.
“Better?” Imbri smiled.
“Almost,” Rhaine breathed deeply. Then the full recall of what just happened hit her like a second wave. “Xanthe!” she called out, twisting to see where they had landed. “Xanthe, are you–”
“She’s fine,” Tyden answered. “Glad to see you’re concerned about me, too.”
Rhaine covered her face with her hands, rubbing her temples distractedly. “We should never have pulled on so much magic,” she murmured. “It was foolish of us to build such a Gate.”
“Hush,” Imbri soothed. “You did your best, and it was wonderful. Everyone has arrived safely, and that is the most we can ask.”
Somehow, Rhaine didn’t feel comforted. Something didn’t feel right, but she couldn’t put her finger on what it was. She let the dark mare nuzzle the back of her neck, and took comfort from her presence. When she was just small, and had first wandered into Kalidore, it was Imbri who met her at the Gate and stayed with her all through her whole journey. I felt good to have her here, as she began a journey anew. That, at least, seemed fitting, even if nothing else did. She breathed deeply, and turned to Tyden again. “Are you alright?” she asked at last.
“Just fine,” he grunted, getting to his feet. “Leaping through collapsing portals and being crushed by Kore… not to mention having no idea where I am… it’s got the makings of a GREAT day written all over it.” Some of the frustration seemed to have run its course and he sighed. “Are you okay?”
Using Imbri for support, she was now on her feet too. “I suppose,” she said curtly, her eyes narrowing just a bit, “under the circumstances… ” She looked to where Lilaini was checking the others, and began to make her way over with Imbri’s help.
Spirit eyed her surroundings with tired, if true interest – she and Pasiphaë had ridden hard to reach the others before the gate was opened, and even though she was weary from the night’s exertions, the excitement had brightened her eyes with adrenaline and curious expectation.
Tossing her head and prancing a bit, she jostled against Pasiphaë excitedly. “A Companion, ‘Phaë! Of our very own! Can you believe it? It’s like the legends come true…! Our own fairy tale! Ours! Mine, yours!” she shivered with joy at the prospect.
Pasiphaë smiled, if a bit wanly, at Spirit’s barely contained euphoria. A … companion, another person to explain herself to – and another one to share Spirit with – someone “closer than siblings” or mothers or something. She sighed, inwardly, but brightened her smile outwardly a bit, to disguise her trepidation.
“Oh yes, Spirit – a companion, can’t wait..!” She tried for a lilt in her response, but fell woefully flat. She couldn’t imagine anyone closer, or more understanding than Spirit – someone who would put up with her ’bouts of temper or sulking – who didn’t just shake her head at her crazy schemes and intuitions – who would listen dreams, and help through troubles. No, no – she had a feeling any Companion she found would be more like her mother – mostly disapproval and desire to be quiet and proper. But Spirit, Spirit would find someone better to befriend, someone who was less trouble to deal with, and would eventually just … go away. “Yes, it will be … great” her voice shook a bit, and she closed her mouth with a snap, and turned away.
Spirit stopped her dancing in place at the slight crack Pasiphaë’s attempted exultation. She frowned, a bit puzzled, and nuzzled her friend’s neck.
“Something wrong, ‘Phaë? What’s worrying you? Surely you’re not worried about this Companion business …! Why, it’s the best thing that could happen to either of us…! A Companion ‘Phaë! I’d have thought you’d be the FIRST to start jumping for jo…”
Pasiphaë snorted, cutting Spirit off. “No no – it’s not the companions. I’m just … tired, and I think I ate too much honeysuckle – bit of a stomach upset.” she blustered, hurriedly, attempting to dissuade Spirit from following up on her insight.
She cast around desperately for some sort of further distraction. “Oh! Oh look! Xanthe has joined the ride, it looks like it was more than a bit of an upset …! I hope she’s alright!” she turned and moved quickly towards the foal and unicorns clustered around her and her human pillow.
As she walked, she concentrated on looking concerned and upset for the foal, trying hard not to let her thoughts bleed through into her expressions. No, she was not interested in a Companion – whatever the scrolls or others might say. And if – no, no when – Spirit found one (she couldn’t imagine sweet, deserving Spirit NOT finding a Companion), she would fade gracefully into the background, and let whatever happened take course without her meddling. She nodded, slightly, and put all other thoughts behind her – this was the decision, then, and there was no turning back.
For the moment, Xanthe liked being ignored. After ensuring she was fine, Tyden and Rhaine had moved off to check the other unicorns. That gave her time to engage in some serious composure-grazing – not because she was hungry, but because sticking your head to the ground and eating seemed like the least conspicuous thing to do. The grass was coarse and dry, but she swallowed anyways, and hoped that no one had noticed her arrogant tumble into the world.
She caught Pasiphaë approaching out of her peripheral vision, and at first pretend she hadn’t seen her, but after another mouthful of that horrid scrub she changed her mind. Besides, as the embarrassment left, now she just wanted the comfort of the herd, some familiarity, stranded out here in this strange world. And for the first time, her mother wasn’t there – either grazing nearby or gently nagging in her head – and again, it surprised the foal how much she missed that contact now it was gone. So she turned to Pasiphaë and hoped she would stay and possibly even talk to her.
Pasiphaë pushed her troubles from her mind as she approached the young foal. She smiled slightly as she noticed covert Xanthe’s sideways glances as she neared. She came to a stop just shy of the foal’s grazing patch.
“Not exactly top notch fodder material, is it?” She nosed the scrub bush diffidently, and gingerly snipped off a couple of prickled leaves and chewed. “Tastes like … dirt.” She swallowed with a grimace. “Can’t say I’ll be sorry to leave THIS behind…” She arched her neck and pricked her ears at Xanthe. “That was some jump, sweetling! Think you caught more than a few of’em off-guard with that – impressive, if a bit risky.” Pasiphaë smiled softly. “I’m assuming it was more than a bee-bite that made you hop-too, eh?” she nudged the foal gently with her nose.
Xanthe flicked her tail like a foal, happy for the company. “Would you believe I tripped?” she replied, spitting out the last of the grass. (It really was deplorable, and she hoped this didn’t set the bar for the rest of the place!) “It’s not exactly what I expected it to be,” she said with the first true inkling of maturity. “I was just hoping for an adventure.”
Nearby, Fiera blinked… than blinked again. She let a breathe out that she didn’t even know that she was keeping in. Her muscles slightly ached, maybe from being so tense during the whole event. That was going to be something she would never forget in her long life span… She made a stiff walk towards Pasiphaë and Xanthe. This had to wear off sometime, right? “I don’t know if I’m hungry after that event.” Fiera breathed, looking at the two others trying out some of the plants. It was an eye-raising situation, but she let it pass. “And I agree! I don’t know if I’d try the same thing though…”
Pasiphaë had choked on a laugh at Xanthe’s comment. “Tripped? Hrm. Don’t know of I’ve seen a trip with quite that much forward momentum before. But if you say you tripped – we’ll not say otherwise.” She tilted her head and gave a small smile and a wink at Fiera.
Xanthe looked over to where the people stood talking to the other unicorns, but stayed close to the two crimson-hued unicorns. “Do you think they know where we are? Or what we’re supposed to be doing here? Or if we’re even in the right place?” she wondered out loud. For the moment, her two companions were at odds to answer.
Meanwhile, Lilaini turned her head and looked behind her, sensing Rhaine’s approach. She seemed much better although she did still hold onto Mare Imbrium for support. As this thought ran through her mind, she instinctively untangled her hand from Gypsy’s mane and then looked back at the crowd before her. She continued to scan them, checking to ensure they had all arrived safely. Her eyes flitted over a flea-bitten grey mare, and just as her gaze was about to move on she sensed something and stopped. A sense of restlessness was being emitted from the mare and Lilaini focused on her.
“Sierra,” she said after a moment reflection. “You are restless, I can tell you are feeling the calling stronger than before.” Her eyes lit up as she watched the mare. “Your companion must be the one who has called us to this place, I believe it is here, in this land, you and your companion will find one another.” The exhausted expression was now wiped from the Guardian’s face and a warm smiled had replaced it. She looked away from Sierra momentarily to smile at her own companion and could tell Gypsy was feeling the same way.
Gypsy ‘s ears pricked forward in interest as her companion singled Sierra out. Watching the mare intently for a few moments her attention was quickly drawn away by the sight of two Kore standing together. She moved away from Lilaini, as the human seemed able to stand on her own now and head in the direction of Ambriel and Lailah. She cast an eye in the direction of Xanthe but saw that she was now standing with two other mares and so she continued on her course. Her hooves sank into the deep sand and she observed the rough shrubbery with mild interest. Upon reaching the fillies she stopped and spoke, “I see Xanthe is not the only Kore who wanted to come on this journey.” There was no tone of judgment or annoyance in her voice, as her lip curled into a small grin.
The twins were standing side by side, taking in the world all at once. Like Xanthe, they were without a chaperone, and perhaps the notion of that fed some of the excitement, too. It had taken them a moment, as they had first seen the others begin to approach the portal, to realize what was happening. And though, perhaps, Lailah with her excitement might have been the expectant one to hold her head up and trot right through the portal, she was left standing, slightly unsure.
It had been Ambriel that stood straighter and with a swish of the growing length of her tail, she stepped forward first. She didn’t stop, or hesitiate, or even wait for her sister. There wasn’t a worry as to if, or if not, she was allowed to enter and go on this adventure, only those sullen azure eyes that seemed to be alight with deviousness.
Only words for her sister, to usher her along with her sister, came from Ambriel. “Scared, sister?” It was a call that sent her little head upward in a small emote of satisfaction.
But, the egging of Ambriel seemed to bring about Lailah’s sure-footededness, and she took to hoof in a way that spoke leaps and bounds of her supposed bravery. And Ambriel recieved a nip to her side for the tease.
Upon reaching the other side of the portal, the two were left slightly disoriented, whether from the new smells or feel of the difference in the new world, they both seemed to simple stare about themselves. Slightly lost in the new world, they seemed to smoosh themselves together, side-to-side.
Ambriel took notice of all the others that had come through, eyeing the ones she knew and examining the ones she didn’t. It was, however, when Gypsy came to them that both Kore finally let their matching eyes rest on the same unicorn.
Ambriel looked to Lailah, because for all their differences she knew well enough that Lailah was by far the more social one.
And so, as if on cue, Lailah spoke… even if it was clearly her sister’s urging that had brought them along, truthfully. “We wanted to see the companions… and maybe try to find our own.” While Lailah spoke, Ambriel circled around her sister, to stand just at her rear and look to the other unicorn.
Gypsy watched the twin unicorns as one took charge to speak on both of their behalves. Twins were a rare occurrence in Kalidore, so twins were always of great interest to her. “We should stay near the other Unicorns, we do not want to get separated in this strange place.” Turning to glance at where the others were standing she waited for the foals to move towards the group with her. They had crossed the portal alone, and Gypsy therefore wanted to keep an eye on them.
Meadow Song let out a sigh of relief as she and her Unikore came out safely on the other side of the portal. She drank deeply of the sweet air about her, blinking slightly at the scenery. She was not accustomed to such terrain, even though she had visited the Singing Sands as a younger Unicorn.
She glanced down at Aquila, the one of her two daughters who had accompanied her. Meadow Song giggled mentally. It’s more like I accompanied her here, she thought to herself. The bay mare looked at the other Unikore that stepped through to this other world with them. There were a few. Meadow Song berated herself for being surprised, hadn’t Aquila come through, after all?
“Aquila… Aquila?” Meadow Song looked down again, only to see her little one looking around with amazement. She giggled and nudged the foal to get her attention. “Aquila, why don’t you go talk to one of the other Unikore? Just stay within sight and don’t touch anything unless you ask me first.”
Aquila was still dazed by the extraordinary journey to the place called “earth.” She really didn’t understand why they had to go through a portal to find earth though. Wasn’t there plenty of earth to walk on in Kalidore? She lowered her head to the earth, blinking when a hard exhalation blew up some sand. Meadow Song may have seen something like this before, but it was all new to Aquila. Aquila thought it was a shame that Sunset Glow hadn’t wanted to come (being too preoccupied with her sunsets) because the new land seemed very cool.
She felt a nuzzle from her mother and looked up at her, blue eyes questioning. “Ooh, can I? Yay!” It didn’t take much to convince Aquila to run off and play with Unikore. She noticed two her age speaking with Gypsy and bounded over. She was getting better at not tripping herself up when she ran. She didn’t know the foals’ names yet, but she was eager to make friends. “Greetings!” She nodded her head respectfully to Gypsy before turning to the foals. “I’m Aquila! What are your names?”
The bronze mare paused as the kore came bounding up to them. She seemed to be radiating excitement. She stopped her forward momentum and returned the greeting. “Well hello Aquila, glad to see you have joined us on this adventure. Have you come as well in hopes of finding a companion?” It looked like they might have their hands full with Kore on this journey!
Meadow Song watched her daughter bounce off before looking at the other mares. She noticed Llamrei and walked over. As she was walking she heard what Lilaini was saying about Companions. She smiled warmly at Llamrei when she got closer. “Sounds like one of us will be finding our Companion pretty soon. I wonder how it works.” Meadow Song could barely contain herself, the excitement already building up. Just when would she find her own Companion?
Llamrei flicked her ears and turned, giving a warm greeting. “Indeed, Although I am quite curious to see if companions are like the ones like Gypsy’s, or very different.”
Meadow Song returned the friendly bump, her sunny mood returning as the shock of the travel wore off. She nodded thoughtfully as Llamrei brought up a good conversation point. “At first I think it will be different, after all Gypsy’s companion has been with her longer. I don’t mind if my companion is like any other unicorn’s companion, so long as they are a good person at heart.” Meadow Song looked around her, noticing that they were preparing to start out on the search. “Looks like we’ll be moving out. I’ll miss the trees and grass here. It looks pretty barren out there,” She told Llamrei, looking out across the sandy desert.
Aquila hopped a little, nodding vigorously. “Yes I did! I can’t wait. My sis didn’t want to come though. She would much rather watch her sunsets….” The look of bewilderment always made her mother laugh when she saw it. “Aaaanyways, I don’t just hope to find a companion, I will find one! Just watch, Gypsy!” One could tell she was very proud of herself already.
Spirit had frowned as Pasiphaë trotted towards Xanthe and started up conversation. She shook her head and turned aside, choosing to wait before she attempted to confront ‘Phaë about whatever burr she had gotten in her head now. Instead, she moved towards the other knot of unicorns, and pricked her ears as she caught the Lilaini’s further mentions of Companions.
“Here? Have we truly came to the right place?” She eyed the surrounding countryside dubiously, but lifted her muzzle to the breeze – trying scent something special or magical in hot dry wind.
However, the flea-bitten Sierra did indeed sense what Lilaini said, for shortly after crossing through the gate the mare’s ears had gone erect, like fuzzy radar dishes, and her legs had locked. In an odd way she appeared very statuesque, standing as she did. The words of the others were lost on her, the lack of vegetation, the miracle arrival of Xanthe and Tyden. All of it was lost to the mare.
The sensation was akin to magnets, in Sierra’s belly. Somewhere out there was her destined Companion.
Her legs still wouldn’t move.
“I feel…. I ….” words were no good to the rosey mare as she continued to stare hard into the horizon as if she could see something no other could, that she was being pulled towards something no one else could feel.
Xanthe had been watching the other Korè with her nose twitching, but her feet stayed planted between Pasiphae and Feira. She liked that they took her seriously and hadn’t laughed – which is something the Korè didn’t always do, what with her strange ideas and all. Part of her did want to know what they were talking about…. but at the same time, she felt that she’d better stay out of Tyden and the Gaurdians’ way just a little bit longer…
Tyden had checked each unicorn in turn, and no one seemed worst for wear; most of the complaints were simply from the shock and disorientation of their first portal walk. And talking about walking, as he eyed the sun rising steadily higher, he knew it was something they had better start doing. He found Rhaine and Lilani with Sierra Rose, and was given a momentary pause by the look of intensity on the mare’s face. Her companion couldn’t be far away.
“Do you know where we’re going?” he asked the women quietly.
Lilaini’s attention had been with Sierra Rose as she spoke. The mare seemed to be getting an overwhelming sense of emotion when she felt the pull from her companion, and she closed her eyes. She was annoyed by his comment. Do we know where we are going? What is that supposed to mean? she angrily thought to herself. She felt he was making a jab at what had happened with the portal and a look of annoyance crossed her face. Refocusing, she tried to concentrate and find the human companion she was looking for. To pinpoint the proper orb that should come forward. And instantly she knew something was wrong.
Her eyes opened and sent a incredulously thought at Rhaine, for she saw nothing…. not the proper orb or the wrong orb. A deep look of concern and confusion flickered across her face but she quickly hid it away and looked back at the fleabitten mare. “You feel the pull Sierra,” she raised her voice bravely. “Lead us in the direction of your companion. I can tell you know the way. We will follow you!”
Imbri sensed the Guardian’s distress, and Lilaini’s attempt to conceal it. She cast Rhaine a questioning look, and felt her reply touch her mind. She nodded briskly, and stepped up to gather the rest of the mares around her. “Stay close, everyone, we have a bit of traveling to do!”
The unicorns’ eyes were bright and they were eager to go. Imbri trotted around the outside of the group, pulling the stragglers in. She gave Llamrei an encouraging nudge to get moving, and sent a gentle query to Pasiphae and Fiera to make sure they were content with the robust Xanthe in their midst. “Stay close to Gypsy,” she told the twins as she passed along side. Gypsy would be bringing up the rear, and she herself would join Sierra leading the band. Earth was familiar to the ebony mare, but it was such a new experience for the rest of the party she was worried they would not realize the gravity of the situation.
Gypsy paused, seeing Imbri approaching. The mare spoke to the foals, but the comment was more a statement of approval at Gypsy’s choice of traveling companions. Nodding her head slightly she watched as the black mare moved towards the front of the group to walk with Sierra Rose as she lead them towards her companion. Turning her full attention back to the three foals near her she waited until the rest of the herd began to move and then she too picked up her feet and fell in line at the end. This gave her a good viewpoint of where everyone was and she could keep an eye from here. Aquila’s exuberance amused the copper coloured mare and she snorted to show this amusement. “Well, then I must say I do hope you find what you feel you are looking for. I hope you will too feel the pull our friend Sierra is feeling.” Turning to look behind her she noticed the twins were lagging behind slightly and she turned, giving them a bump with her muzzle. “Stay up here with us,” she said. “I’ll stay at the very back, you all stay slightly in front of her, we can still talk from there we do not want to be left behind!”
“Will we see people?” a familiar golden head peered at her from between the mares.
“I expect we will,” Mare Imbrium replied.
Xanthe considered this a moment, then asked, “Will they see us?”
Mare Imbrium cocked her head thoughtfully at the Kore. “Well, it depends. Some people might, so we must do our best to stay out of sight. But most people wouldn’t realizes what a unicorn is if it came over and put its head in their lap. Many people see only what they expect to see, and would simply mistake us for a horse.”
“A HORSE?!” Xanthe’s nostrils flared at the thought. How could someone mistake a unicorn for anything but it really was? Shaking her head, she dashed back to Pasiphae and Fiera’s side, her brain turning somersaults over the possibilities.
Imbri chuckled to herself at the Kore’s reaction, and finally pulled herself alongside Sierra – who was so eager to go and tired of waiting she was practically dancing in place. “Are you ready?” she grinned. “Lead on!”
Fiera gave a brisk toss of her mane, a reply that she understood Imbri’s request and that it would be fun looking after the Kore. What ever Xanthe wanted that is. Pawing the the earth, studying the surroundings was something that she was unlikely to do.
A bit of laughter rumbled out of Fiera’s throat. “A horse? That’d be interesting, yes indeed! But for some of us, I believe we’re much more… godly in appearance so to say.” She shook her mane, then letting her eyes acknowledge Imbri’s dark starfield coat compared to her own, vibrant chestnut color. A big difference if one never saw a unicorn before. “What would you think?” She was asking Pashiphae with interest.
Even if all seemed well to Fiera, there was one mare who seemed tense… She must have felt or sensed something in the mists of their herd. She gave a warm look towards Sierra Rose and the guardians, hoping for the best in what ever that the flea bitten mare needed to find.
Pasiphaë nods slightly at Gypsy’s query – trying to be subtle so as not to give any indication to Xanthe that there was anything going on above her head. She remembered well, her gangly awkward years as a yearling – all bumble and knees – and how she had hated being treated as “too young” by the adults. Now, finally grown, it was a personal point of honor that she went out of her way to treat the Kore as more than just a “silly yearling”. (Inwardly she hoped it had to do more with what was fair and good than the fact that she always felt more at ease with the younger ones than most of the adults – aside from Spirit, of course.)
Suddenly – she snapped to out of her internal monologue with the realization that Fiera was looking towards her expectantly…
“Oh, hrm? What was that, something about horses…? Are we off to meet some or something?” she asked, trying to tack on a winsome smile towards the end. “Sorry about that – got distracted. Must be still a bit shaken from the jump.”
Looking around she noticed that Gypsy had left, and that the rest of the group was stretching out as they gathered together to follow Sierra. Fairly desperate for a distraction, so that Fiera didn’t chalk up her as an addlepated fluffhead, Pasiphaë nuzzled Xanthe before nodding her head towards the movements of the others.
“It looks like we’re off – hrm? Guess we’d better get a move on if we don’t want to be left behind with this scrub…” she huffed at the prickled bushes before taking a couple of steps towards the others – but turned her head towards Xanthe – wanting to be sure she was following before she set out in earnest. “So, sweetling – did Gypsy tell you where we were going?”
As the unicorns fell eagerly into line behind the two mares, ready for the adventure to start, Lilaini pulled Rhaine aside. “What is going on?” she whispered, and then turning again realizing Tyden’s presence. “And yes, of course we know where we are going,” she hissed. “What are you trying to imply?” Her eyes shone in annoyance at the site of him.
Rhaine’s head still felt full of tiny firework, and she closed her eyes for a moment and tried to summon the magic, but those glittery sparklers refused to cooperate. She returned Lilaini’s look gravely. “I can’t call it either… I’m still too… scattered. That Gate took more out of us then I expected…” She sighed inwardly with some relief as the band started moving though; Imbri brushed against her mind again, asking if she wanted to ride, but the young woman insisted the walk would do her good.
Tyden looked between the two with dismay. “Then I suppose summoning one to get us back home is out of the question.” He could practically feel Lilaini’s eyes burning into the back of his head, and made a point not to turn around. “I guess it’s lucky I ended up here with you two.”
Even if there was an edge of smugness to it, neither of the guardians cared to disagree. Without magic, things would be difficult enough as they were. Any and all help was welcomed. Though if it kept it’s mouth shut… well, all the better!
Meanwhile, in another part of the world, in another time…
Trinity had been wandering the woods for days now after having left her home village. She had come to one other village and had stayed the night there, though come the morning light, she was off once more. Her food had been restocked when she came to a small village or farm.
Now traveling the hills, her long red hair loose and blowing softly in the breeze, she had taken out her tin whistle and begun to play. Her cloak was about her shoulders, protecting her from the light rain that had begun to fall, thankful it was only a light rain.
Soon she came once more to the woods, the rain having gotten heavier. She dashed along the path, looking for anything that could serve as a shelter to wait out the rain. Down, down it came, soaking the cloak and soon beginning to soak her as the maid ran, looking for shelter till suddenly…there! A cave was spotted! Dashing for the cave she ran inside, noting that it was large enough and deep enough that she would have it as a shelter.
“Saints be praised,” she said softly as she sat on the floor and pulled the hood down. She looked around, the cave was a good nine feet high, ten feet wide, and twelve feet deep(from entrance to back wall). “Guess this’ll do for now.”
She huddled against the back, listening to the rain as it fell. She knew she couldn’t make a fire as any sticks or twigs were soaked, so she would have to rub her arms to keep herself warm. Closing her eyes a little, she soon fell asleep to the sound of the rain, letting one of her many dreams take over her mind and carry her away for the time being…
~ * ~
One of Sierra’s ears had flickered in confusion and worry at Lilaini’s comment – she knew the way? The mare couldn’t have explained what the “way” was, other then feeling a pull as if someone had looped an indivisible lariat around her neck and was steadily applying pressure, so that by hook or by crook, she knew there was no escaping the draw to her Companion. Wasn’t this what she wanted anyway? Now it seemed foreign, and scary… the world was so different, so vast, so … dead? The desert didn’t seem like a very “happy” place, and she could only wonder what was in store for her.
As Imbri pulled along side her though the mare found she wasn’t rooted to the spot, that the ground beneath her feet was not quicksand, and indeed she could move. She was so startled as she took her first few steps that she ended up frisking forward, bounding a bit like a foal finally discovering the use of it’s legs and leaping with joy. The more she moved, the more Sierra felt an urgency to pick up the pace; her hooves moved from the gentle gait of a walk, to a steady jog.
No communication had been made by the mare, at least not that was audible by either human ears or Kore minds; the whole demeanor of the flea bitten mare was of focus, total focus.
It had been a lousy idea to leave the safety of the house and it’s air conditioned interior, the summer was setting out to make record highs every day for the season it was, however being confined for any length of time gave Raven a severe case of cabin fever. Besides, there was a lot of desert out there, it’s not like anyone was going to jump out from behind a sage brush and mug her. Anyway it wasn’t like she had a purse with her.
She’d been walking for a goodly while, which was odd, normally Raven favored meandering here and there, finding perhaps something interesting to study, but her path had oddly been altered and she couldn’t have explained why. There was simply no rhyme or reason behind why she needed to go /that/ way suddenly, there was no scientific reasoning, nothing, about the only thing she could have blamed it on was … fate.
It was hot out though, and the sun’s reflection upon the sands sent heat waves dancing in her vision, creating mirage’s, or optical illusions. The wind lifted slightly, carrying some of the famed dirt so fine it was more like powder, into her vision; so much for the sheer dusky-rose scarf she had wrapped around her face to protect her eyes and mouth from the stinging sand. Not for the first time did she wipe tears from her eyes … had her beloved Sierra Rose not passed away some time ago she’d be out riding her Arabian across the desert sands instead of hoofing it in her old riding boots.
Her toes sank beneath the hot sand as she walked, she heard Tyden talking again and she tried to ignore him to not avail. Clenching her jaw she swung her head around towards him, more in annoyance that his comments were on some level correct, but they infuriated none the less. Her eyes were aflame, and through clenched teeth she venomously said, “Rhaine and I are completely capable of handling this situation on our own. The Daiga trusts us, and she knows how capable we are. This is just a minor set back, you know as well as we do that there are naturally occurring portals throughout Earth if we need one. ” She paused in an attempt to keep her voice at the whispered tone it was currently at. “But we won’t need one, our abilities will regenerate themselves by the time Sierra Rose finds her companion. We don’t need magic right now anyways!”
Her voice rose slightly as she finished this sentence and she imagined using magic to open a hole in front of Tyden in the sand, allowing him to fall into it so great was her annoyance with him. Unfortunately, she didn’t even have enough magic for that and all she could do to satisfy her urge was stick her leg out in front of him as they continued to walk hoping to trip him up and have him fall flat on his race in the sand. She didn’t turn to look at Rhaine as any of this occurred, she knew her friend would not approve. She felt Gypsy brush up against her mind, trying to comfort her but she blocked most of it, preferring to remain in her more foul mood. Why did Tyden need to always act as if he doubted her? There was a reason she had been chosen, there had to have been. So The Daiga couldn’t be wrong, there was a reason she was now a Guardian to be. Becoming lost deep in thought, she continued to quickly move through the arid climate following behind the herd of unicorns.
A feeling of angry flashed through Gypsy’s mind, but it was not her own. Raising her head slightly to see better, she searched among the herd for her companion. She found her in between Rhaine and Tyden and the mare knew all too well what had caused the feeling that was so strong it had invaded the mare’s mind. She felt her companion took Tyden too seriously, but then in comparison to Gypsy, Lilaini and Rhaine were still really quite young. Reaching out to Lilaini she offered some comfort and support, but neither the human seemed to want so she would leave her be until she was calmer. The copper mare lowered her head and again, turned her attention to the three Kore. All the while, she kept on watch though, looking around them and trying to ensure she was alert and ready for anything that might occur.
Imbri matched her pace beside Sierra, and the ground flew away beneath them in measured strides. From time to time she would toss her head up, to glance back at the rest of the band and make sure that everyone was together and still moving. They were spread out across the sun-bleached sands like a flock of birds, the light gleaming on their polished backs and setting their horns aglow. She had to chuckle inwardly here, remembering Xanthe’s comment. Mistaken for horses indeed! But humans were a strange bunch; as the ages passed it seemed to the ebony mare that bonds which had once joined all the universe together during the Golden Age had worn the most thin on Earth. Even now she had strain to hear the Old Songs, whispered ever so faintly on the breeze.
A new thought struck her, and she chased it down quickly. It was silly! But…. but what if so much time had passed, that all humans had forgotten unicorns? Was it possible that Sierra’s Companion might not even recognize her? What if she didn’t want to see her? Didn’t want to believe? She cast a glance at the fleabitten mare, her eyes clear and fixed on some unknown point the dark mare couldn’t see. What then of all the other unicorns, seeking their companions on this quest? There was so much at stake, and she had a feeling that most of them thought this was going to be easy.
She sensed some unrest from Rhaine, and reeled her mind in to question the issue. Ah, so that was it – Lilaini and Tyden were at it again. She shook her head. Rarely, if ever, were things easy. Even on Kalidore.
She returned her gaze forward, seeking what the grey mare sought, and prayed to Kala that she would not be disappointed…
Tyden had avoided Liliani’s leg, but half-hop over a suspiciously placed stumped he could have sworn wasn’t there a moment ago. “That’s not what I meant,” he winced, looking to Rhaine for support. “Tell her that’s not what I meant!”
Rhaine shrugged. “Well then, what did you mean?”
“I meant that, I meant – I’m here, I could help you! You’re not the only people on Kalidore with some kind of magical ability, you know.”
“And how much of it do you have left after forcing that Gate open?”
Tyden was silent. They walked that way for sometime. The mares kept a good pace, and it was just within the human’s ability to keep with it. Lilaini kept a stride ahead, never looking back, her cloak wrapped around her to protect her from blowing sand. Rhaine had done the same, though her long red robe proved to be an unfortunate choice of attire for the cracked and pitted terrain before them, and in one hand gathered the hem to her knees while clasping her satchel of spells with the other. “Let me help,” he said at last.
“You’re limping,” she told him.
“It’s just a pull,” he brushed it aside.
“Then let me look at it.”
He began to protest, but caught the seriousness of her brown eyes, and slowly nodded. Rhaine let the satchel slump to the ground as she turned to face him. She didn’t look at him as her hand hovered briefly over his person and she closed her eyes in concentration. Very, very faintly, there was a tingling in the air. “Your rib, it’s broken,” she said at last.
“Xanthe is a little heavy,” he shrugged.
“I’m not sure if I can fix it,” she frowned. Gingerly she rested her fingers over the rib, noting the strained look on his face when she did and pulled away instantly, but he caught her hand. “You can,” he said simply, “try.” She met his gaze, and the look was of complete trust; for all his hot air, Tyden never doubted her, either of them. She nodded slowly and spread out her fingers to cover the area. They tingled as before, and stronger this time. The sound of dancing hooves fell away entirely.
A pinch in Rhaine’s mind drew her back to earth with a touch of disorientation, momentarily unaware of how much time had actually passed. She glanced ahead to where Lilaini was waiting, possibly fuming, some distance away, and turned back to Tyden with a flush. “Better?” she asked hastily as she reached for her satchel again. He grabbed it before she did and swung it over his shoulder with an ease of movement that wasn’t there before. “Never a doubt,” he grinned. “Say we catch up before she comes back here and makes us hurry.”
No argument there, and they took off after the herd.
Meanwhile in the cave~
Trinity had come awake after hours to see that it was dark, the storm having passed while she slept. The stars were out now in the sky as was the moon, not yet full. Deciding to move on, she would gather her things and once more walk along the path. It was dark, yet she could make out the path well enough, so she stayed upon it, pausing only so often if she heard something.
Once more hours passed and she soon needed to rest again. Hearing water, she followed it till she found a creek. She knew she could find food in the morning by means of berries and if there were fish in the water, she could catch some. Settling at the base of a tall tree, she would keep to being hidden behind it where there were bushes to hide her from sight. Using her satchel as a pillow, her cloak as a blanket, she would settle and sleep once more.
Green eyes narrowed as Raven struggled to close the distance and see better the lead horse, but the heat shimmered off the pale coat, and in truth there was a flash of light from the front of the horse, something reflective… Wait, they all seemed to have it. Surely she had just been out in the sun to long, she must be dreaming, what she saw heading her way wasn’t real, her mind was playing games.
And with those thoughts so tangled in her mind she forgot where she was putting her feet, tripped over one boot, and landed upon hands and knees in the shifting sand staring incredulous, like a fish out of water, at the odd sight before her…
Sierra meanwhile could feel she was getting closer and tossed her head in a near mirror of Mare Imbri, but it was not to check on the herd behind her, in fact the single-minded mare had nearly forgotten she was traveling with a rather large group of Kore of various ages and stages. All that mattered now, was that pull, and finding it.
Hearing Xanthe’s comment for a heart beat she wondered some of those very things; what if her companion didn’t know her? What if she couldn’t even see her? Nonsense! She would have not been summoned to answer the call, to be brought here, only to be ignored by her Chosen! * I know you’re out there * the mare thought, her mind’s touch gentle, tentative. Would her Companion already hear her? Would she, or he, feel the gentle brush of her mind’s voice? What would happen when she did find her? So many questions she had not thought to ask, instead just leaping blindly into the adventure. So it was the same attitude she adopted to brush her worries aside and realize it would not matter, she would merely discover the truth of it when it happened.
“We’re close!” she whispered in an excited tone, her nostrils quivering as she checked the smells upon the wind, delicate ears swiveling this way and that as if trying to pick up some radio signal half way around the world! There… on the horizon, a figure, shrouded against the land, face partially hidden behind sheer fabric so all one could make out were eyes so green they appeared as emeralds. Black hair blew in the gentle breeze as the figure toppled forward to hands and knees, the raven hair glinting red in the light, and broken only by a single streak of white. Her clothing seemed suited for the terrain; worn blue pants of some odd material, with sections seeming thin and worn, her shirt seemed a nice compliment to the item covering her face being white stitched with red, and shod in boots of black with red.
But that wasn’t the most amazing thing about the odd figure ahead. It was the fact that for Sierra everything inside her told her that was who she was looking for. And like the human, who’d fallen to her knees, though she didn’t trip (how ungraceful that would have been!) she did plant her feet and slide/jerk to a halt so that sand sprayed about her hooves in all directions as she skidded to an abrupt halt.
Mare Imbrium snorted in surprise, a sound rather unbecoming of a unicorn, but so abrupt was the grey mare’s halt that she had bounded a couple strides ahead before she realized Sierra wasn’t there. Twisting her neck around she saw the unicorns behind her part like the waves of a great sea, flowing past Sierra, a grey stone in their current, as graceful and lithe as deer through the first dawn. The mare spun on her hooves with her ebony hair swirling, retracing her steps towards the other’s side. The others had flanked out across the crest of the dune and turned in same, heads high, ears pricked forward, watching.
She moved to speak, but the look on Sierra’s face made it clear she wouldn’t have heard her anyway. Every part of her being was directed to what was waiting just across the field of sage, and now Imbri’s eyes spied the small figure on the ground before them. Her Companion. Around them the world seemed to still and slow so that even the heartbeat of a moth was audible, perceivable. Motes of pure essence danced and shimmered in the air. The world seemed to hold its breath in a suspended moment of anticipation…
The sea of beautiful bodies were lost to Raven, though had she noticed she might have realized this herd was rather odd indeed, but that didn’t matter to her; all that mattered was the grey mare. It was as if the mare herself had read her mind, or sensed her thoughts, for she too had frozen in place so that a second mare, as black as her own hair, had wheeled back to check on her. They were beautiful side by side for a second, light and dark as they were, and it made the paler horse stand out all the more.
Carefully the girl found her footing and stood once more. Somehow she knew if she approached this mystery horse, or whatever it was, it would not flee her touch…
As the girl got to her feet Sierra’s own legs seemed to remember they had a will to move, and a mission to accomplish. She was so close now, how could she fail and cease the journey she came to complete? There was a flash of black, and Sierra knew for a moment Mare Imbrium was there again, only if she could have found her voice she would have asked her pardon if she could hold that thought for a moment… she had something more pressing to attend to. A little rude as it was, she said nothing, and had only eyes for the black haired human.
Unicorn and human crossed the distance to one another, a compromise to come half way, and neither stopped when they neared the other. Raven was struck speechless by the fact that the creature before her, in all her dazzling beauty, was a near copy of the equine companion she had not long ago lost. And for Sierra it was odd to suddenly feel this flood of emotions, of joy and grief, awe, a dash of sorrow, and even more hope. For never before had the Unicorn had a Companion, nor realized what it entailed, and she now felt herself overwhelmed with Raven’s every sensation as the two gazed into each others eyes.
At the same time Raven was suddenly so overjoyed, and then sad, and then soothed and quieted, like someone had draped a giant mental blanket around her, a balm to cool and heal her wounds, and somehow she realized it was coming from this … this …
Raven gasped softly, a delicate hand reaching up to revertly touch Sierra’s face as one word was shared by both, one in a tone of question and wonderment, and the other in reassurance; *Unicorn*
And it was in that moment, that blissfully magical moment, that Companion found Companion, a piece that had been missing from each other finally found, their souls completed though never realizing what they were missing till they felt the call to one another. Tears filled Raven’s eyes as she reached out to embrace the delicate mare, and Sierra returned the gesture, nuzzling the tears from her human’s cheek before stepping in close to lay her head over the girl’s shoulder and tuck back her chin — a hug of sorts. Locked together the world seemed frozen to the two of them and each now knew a peace they had never experienced before in their lives, be they however so short or long.
So mesmerized by this scene was Mare Imbrium that she didn’t noticed Rhaine until the girl threw her arms around the black mare’s neck in a moment of joyful abandonment. “She found her! Look, Imbri — look how happy they are!”
“Yes,” Mare Imbrium felt her voice grow thick in her throat. “How they are…”
Rhaine sighed deeply, and perhaps her hand on the dark unicorn was as much for emotional support as it was physical. She pressed her face against the sleek neck and closed her eyes, feeling the radiance wash over her. “We should go meet them,” she whispered dutifully, pushing herself through the mild disorientation. She straightened, turning to Lilaini and said, “Let’s go welcome our newest member… I think we might have some explaining to do as well. Though… perhaps the others should wait here until we’ve done that, as this might be… a little overwhelming.”
“You think?” Tyden grinned good-naturedly. “You girls go, I’ll keep them here.”
With a nod to Imbri and Gypsy, the women and unicorns crossed the windswept dunes. The pair were completely unaware of their approach until they were nearly upon them, and Imbri’s gentle voice in her head cause Sierra to turn in greeting. The mare’s warm brown eyes were bright and full, just as they had been the day she’d introduced them to her newborn Kore, Namid. The dark-haired woman had noticed them at this point too, and her eyes were equally wide and bright, though the expression was far more inclusive.
“Salutations,” Rhaine smiled warmly. “I am Rhaine, and this is Mare Imbrium. Forgive us for coming upon you so suddenly. This must all be quite a surprise, but my friends and I have been looking for you; Sierra Rose knew exactly where to find you.”
At the mention of that name, the woman seemed to shiver inside, her eyes drawn back to the majestic creature before.
“I am Lilaini,” the second woman spoke, “and this is my companion Gypsy. Trust that you are among friends, and this will all make sense in time,” she glanced at the bronze unicorn beside her and it looked to Raven that they were communicating without spoken words. “I hope it is not too improper to ask if we might accompany you somewhere to rest? The band has been traveling all morning and the Korë are be tired; I’m sure you have lots you want to ask us, too, and I think it would be best to do that in a place of comfort.”
“My home,” Raven heard herself speaking, but her voice sounded very distant from herself. “It’s just over those hills. Please come, all of you. You may rest there.” Beyond the dunes she saw the rest of the band began a gentle decent towards them, urged on by another unspoken command.
Rhaine’s gentle touch on her shoulder made her turn. “Sierra can carry you there if you like. You look like you’ve had quite the day already,” she smiled warmly. “I’m so glad we’ve met you!”