Seeking a Companion – Chapter 4

Chapter Four ~

Under the soulful afternoon sun, the Unicorns of Kalidore basked in the bright green Georgian meadow, some grazing on the sweet grass while Korè frolicked, others snoozing lightly in the shade of the big old trees. The Gate anchored there was quiet now, but not quite sleeping; every now and then a butterfly would swing lazily through the air then get caught in a whorl – the magical equivalent to a hiccup – and go tumbling, wing-over-antenna, before righting itself and go sputtering off in search of a more auspicious pastures.

Now that everyone was back together, and the new companions had been met and stories shared, there was a renewed feeling of hopefulness and achievement among the group, the unicorns less uncertain and more eager for the adventure ahead, none of this lost on the Guardians, either. While initially daunted by the Daiga’s words, now they were beginning believe them a little more themselves; plus, by tapping into natural Gates, they were finding new and more efficient ways to use their powers – and that was a boon.

Lana’s picknick basic had been spread out under one of the trees, and the human herdmates had finally eaten their fill too; some of them remained lolling in the shade, just watching the unicorns with glee. As the sun began to ease into the western sky, it would soon be time to get moving again – but for the now, it was nice just to have a moment to sit and enjoy the view…

Llamrei was enjoying grazing the sweet grass. Her ears flickered, hearing a butterfly and she looked at it with amusement. She was feeling a little unusual, and built up with energy she decided to run – the day was good and warm and running around in this field wouldn’t hurt! Thinking about it, she set out to explore the field a little, feeling like a little kore all over again…

Aquila pranced around the field happily, but something seemed missing. She nor her mother had found their companion yet! She was getting impatient, truthfully. Meadow Song knew it too and wondered when her young kore would bring it up with the others. She was such an energetic young thing. Aquila suddenly pranced over and nuzzled her mother. “We’ll find ours, right? Right! But when?”

The older mare nuzzled back with great amusement. “Soon, my sweet. Soon.” A rebellious expression crossed the unikore’s features. Very, very soon, Meadow Song thought to herself.

Indeed, the young unicorn pranced over to the Guardians and their unicorns with a bit of a challenging look. “I want my companion now!” Surprisingly, there was no plaintive whine in her voice, just a startling determination. It may have seemed imperious, and even rude, but it didn’t matter to the youngling. This was one thing she would not be told ‘no’ to. Still, a small twinkle in her eyes bespoke of her normal adventurous and playful spirit.

Meadow Song wandered over and stood next to her foal. “Aquila, be polite now. The others probably want to rest a while longer,” she said, casting an apologetic look at the Guardians. “She is insatiable sometimes, but maybe this isn’t too imperious a request?”

Lilaini had been very quiet every since Tyden’s group had rejoined them. She had been very concerned about their well-being, but annoyed with Tyden all the same for sneaking off with them in the middle of the night. Or perhaps her annoyance was more that he had returned with two companions on his own. He’s trying to show up Rhaine and I, she thought to herself. Make us look bad to the Daiga.

Gypsy broke in upon these thoughts, “Don’t be silly, Tyden was only trying to help. He did some things he shouldn’t have but it was with the best of intentions.”

Lilaini cast a sideways glance at Tyden who was sitting at a safe distance from her and appeared to be, as always, in good spirits. The Guardian scowled slightly at Gypsy’s remark, because at heart she knew that was true. Maybe I’m not entirely cut out for this Guardian buisness she thought . Maybe I’m in over my head. She had been sitting near Gypsy, but turned and laid down on her back, staring up at the white puff clouds that danced across the sky. Her dark hair spread out across the grass and she laid for several moments with the sun’s ray’s warming her body.
 
*You know the Daiga would not have made you Guardian unless you were meant to be one* broke in Gypsy again, *You have powers which you have not yet had to show. You will prove yourself in time*
 
Lilaini mulled over what her companion had said, but before she could respond a shadow crossed over her and she turned her head to the side, coming face to face with a Kore muzzle. The young Kore spoke and the look of determination on her face made the Guardian smile. “Aquila”, she said sitting back up. “You certainly do appear determined. Do you feel the calling? Reach deep down inside you, do you feel your companion calling you?” Her green eyes sparkled because the moment the young Kore had gotten close to her she knew she felt the calling. But for one so young, she wasn’t sure if the Kore would be able to decipher what she was feeling, if she would know that it was her companion’s call that she she was sensing. Gypsy had turned and was intently watching Aquila as well, waiting to her what the Kore had to say.

Rhaine yawned and stretched, breathing in the warm grass which always smelled, well, like green to her. She’d just lost her pillow, as Xanthe had bounded up moments before, eager to join a game of chase-the-Kore which had started up across the way. It was probably just as well; it was best they be moving again before dark. She glanced over at Lilaini, but her friend was apparently being silent and stubborn, fuming at Tyden with a good show of effort. Tyden, meanwhile, was propped up against a nearby tree, a blade of grass between his thumbs and managing a few harsh notes each time he blew. Moved on to other forms of torture, apparently, she smiled to herself, wondering how long he could keep that up before Lilaini beaned him with something. It was generally fun to watch, and Lilaini usually didn’t throw anything hard anyways. She sunk back onto her elbow, half closing her eyes, watching his figure and the tree fusing and unfusing as her focus relaxed.

A shadow fell across her as Imbri returned from grazing, nudging her shoulder gently. “I’m up,” she sighed, straightening for real this time.

“Have you noticed Aquila?” the mare nodded towards the buckskin foal. She was making her way towards them, and bounded right up to Lilaini in her enthusiasm. “The pull is strong….”

“But she’s so young,” Rhaine turned.

“Age matters not,” the old mare chuckled. “And how old were you when Muse was first met to you?”

“I was older then that… wasn’t I?” she frowned.

“Grows up so fast,” Imbri sighed, and Rhaine wasn’t sure if she was talking about Aquila or her. But she decided she ought to see what it was all about, and the pair made their way across the grass towards them.

Imbri gave Gypsy a small nibble as she approached. *How is Lilani holding up?* she queried gently. *They can be so hard on themselves, the two of them. Do you think we’re ready to go try again?*

The bronze coloured mare had been awaiting Aquila’s reply when she sensed Rhaine and Mare Imbrium approaching. Diverting her attention, she reached out and touched Mare Imbri’s muzzle with her own, returning the other mares greeting. Her tail flicked back and forth, lazily shooing flies off to find another source of entertainment.

”She is alright, full of self doubt as always, and if Tyden pulls another stunt I’m not sure I’ll be able to intervene in time to save him. She really misreads a lot of his actions.” As she spoke, her eyes traveled across the field to where Tyden was sitting. He appeared to be rather impressed with himself as every few minutes or so he managed to make a blade of grass produce a rather obnoxious noise. “Yes I think we are about to be on the move again”, she said, returning her attention to the black mare next to her. “I know you’ve sensed it too, the calling is strong in Aquila. But will one so young be able to find her companion? Even with such a strong calling?” Gypsy was glad that they were going to be moving off again soon, for she was a traveler and staying in one spot for very long never suited her.

Lilaini’s attention was momentarily taken away from Aquila as a noise penetrated her consciousness. Her eyes looked off to her right, in search of the cause of the disturbance. Her eyes narrowed as she saw Tyden was the source of the noise. She huffed slightly and then a small smile crept across her face. Telekinesis had always been her strong point, and it seemed like a good opportunity to use it. She mentally grabbed onto the lowest hanging tree branch (for Tyden was conveniently sitting underneath a tree), and wrapped the branch around his ankles. The Guardian then mentally had the tree branch quickly pull up into the air, dragging Tyden along with it ankle’s first. Satisfied with her herself, she turned her attention back to Aquila.

One moment, he’d been sitting innocently under a tree…. the next, he was being yanked skywards by his ankles. The moment after that he was headed to earth again, and then, he landed. It all happened before he his brain had a chance to piece any of it together. He leapt to his feet, rubbing a jabbed elbow with dismay and looking around widely for an explanation – like a rogue gate whorl, spontaneous deciduous motivation, or –his eye narrowed suddenly, catching the fraction of grin on Lilaini’s face– telekinesis. He glanced around to see who else had noticed, but the unicorns seemed mostly disinterest, and Rhiane had her face in her palms. He pushed up his sleeves and headed over.
 
*Possibly not the best time* Imbri’s words nudged him, firmly, but her dark hazel-green eyes were mirthful.

He gave her his best wounded look. “Did you see what she did?” When the mare offered nothing in return he turned to Rhaine. “And you?”

She’d uncovered her eyes but remained silent and observed him practically for a moment. “You have a twig in your hair,” she said at last. She stood on tiptoes and plucked it out, then smoothed the thick lock down again with the back of her hand. “You’re not hurt.” It said mostly for her own reassurance then anything else as she brushed the dust from his shirt, “and you knew she was in a mood,” she gave his collar a brisk tug to straighten it, “yet you had to go and egg her on….”

Try as he might, he found it impossible to stay furiously mad at Lilaini with Rhaine fussing like that, even if she was scolding him while she did it. “She… set a tree on me,” he protested meekly.

“I didn’t say she was right,” Rhaine shrugged. “But could we all possibly try to get back to Kalidore in one piece?”

He considered this, but already the grin was tugging at the corner of his mouth. “I’ll try,” he said solemnly enough. “But I can’t promise….”

“Oh, you’re horrible,” she rolled her eyes.

“Well then, I how about I stick you in a tree and we’ll see if your world view changes any–” he made a move towards her, grinning broadly, which she side-stepped neatly before ducking behind Imbri as he lunged again. Laughter peeled after long after they were out of view.

Mare Imbrium gave her mane a shake, *shall we consider that one crisis avoided….?* she nuged Gypsy again, and turned her attention back to Lilaini and the eager wide-eyed Korè.

The young foal seemed puzzled at first by Lilaini’s words. Feel the pull? Oh yes, she did feel something. Was that what the companion’s call was like? She tried to get a good grip on it, the urgency of that feeling. She was about to reply when she noticed Tyden hanging upside down. “How would I do that…?” She muttered, ever the curious. Well, at least it temporarily shifted their attention. The young kore closed her bright eyes and felt for the thing that was calling for her so strongly. It was definitely her companion, although she wouldn’t have noticed without the Guardians’ help.

When she opened her eyes again attention was back on her as well. “I feel something that I think is my companion. It needs me, I can tell that much,” was Aquila’s confident reply. She appeared edgy, clearly wanting to be off, to find that other part of her. The bay mother, Meadow Song, was very proud of her foal. What a great and wonderful mare she would be, the same as her twin. Her buckskin daughter watched the Guardians curiously. She wanted so to get to the one who needed her so bad, but she needed their help to go through a portal…

~ * ~
As Trinity contunued along the path to the next village or town, she let her mind wander of little things she often thought of. She thought of unicorns and where they could be hiding. Thought of faeries and how she had often snuck from her house at night to leave a bowl of creme near a thorn bush for them only to find it empty the next morning. She had always thought that they had taken the offer….or perhaps a cat had gotten to it, but a cat would have known better…wouldn’t it?

She thought of the items in the saddle bags, then of the necklace that was now around her neck. Taking it out, she looked over it, looking at how regal the unicorn upon it looked. Tucking it away once more she smiled softly. I’m sure you’re out there somewhere and perhaps I’ll find you. she thought to herself as she looked over the great rolling green that was land.

~ * ~
Pasiphaë had to admit that, in hindsight, perhaps snarling at Spirit quite so loudly mightn’t have been the best way to go about things. It wasn’t that she hadn’t been utterly relieved to see her (and the others) all in one piece, or even that she blamed Spirit for sneaking off in the middle of the night (after all, she winced to remember her absolutely abominable behavior of the day before) – it was more that she was simply so overwhelmed with emotion it just broke out. All of the worry and frustration that Pasiphaë had held at bay while she waited for some word of their safety finally bubbled to the surface when she saw them safe and sound – and all of the snappish things that had come to mind while she fretted just flung themselves out of her mouth without a thought.

Spirit had taken it well, considering – going still and champing a bit before laying into Pasiphaë herself – mentioning Pasiphaë’s supreme reluctance to even crack open an eyelid that night, much less tag along (an event that Pasiphaë had no memory of, so sleep-addled had she apparently been). It was a few moments after their growling had lapsed into a chilly silence, letting Pasiphaë roundly regret her first verbal spars, before she finally registered the person that leaned against Spirit’s rear flank.

“Err – hello?” she said, cocking her head and peering at Lana quizzically. “And who might you be?”

“Her name is Lana.” Spirit grudgingly replied, her voice softening slightly on the last syllables of the name. “And she’s pleased to meet you, although considering your current behaviour, I can’t imagine WHY.” She huffed grumpily at Pasiphaë.

Pasiphaë’s eyes went wide as she took in the exchange, and something inside clicked. She took a few unconscious steps back. “She’s not … is she really … did you find…” she stammered, her gaze flitting back and forth between the wheatened bay and the girl.

“My Companion?” Spirit asked, her tone arch and slightly imperious. “Yes, I did. With a little help.” she shot a side glance at Tyden and Xanthe, who seemed in the midst of telling the tales of their little adventure to yet another knot of unicorns; Xanthe seemed particularly pleased with herself.

Lana swatted Spirit’s flank lightly. ‘Oh, stop being such a insufferable ninny. From what you’ve told me, goodness knows if I were in HER shoes, or err… hooves, I’d probably give you a piece of my mind, wandering off like that.’ she thought-cast at the mare, and rolled her eyes.
 
‘But it’s not like I didn’t TRY to tell her and …’ Spirit sent back, arching her neck around to frown at the girl.

‘Pfft. You’re just being silly, so she was a bit snarly – so? You were so excited to introduce me just minutes ago, and now you’re going to get prickly about it? Well – I’m not going to wait on your little drama, I’d rather to get to know her right now, she seems lovely.’ Lana mentally replied, and stepped forward with determination.

“Lana.” she said, and pressed a hand to her chest before curtseying. “H’lo!” The words were a bit stilted, but clear – and when she held out a hand, palm up and flat, towards Pasiphaë the blood bay mare felt moved to nose it gently.

“Hello.” she said timidly, and whickered softly at the girl. “It is very nice to meet you. My name is Pasiphaë, if Spirit hasn’t told you,” she snuck a glance at the other mare, but was chagrined to see all attention was apparently on Lana.”..but you can call me ‘Phaë, most everyone does.” she smiled, suddenly shy and unsure of how to proceed.

Her plan of only a day or two ago felt sad and strange – she had thought there would still be time to get used to the idea of Spirit with a Companion, and yet here she was, without any sort of warning. Pasiphaë abruptly felt a basic need to somehow ingratiate herself to this girl, blindly hoping that if she could find a way into her good graces than perhaps not all was lost, and even if most of Spirit’s attention went to this new Companion, with her ‘permission’ of sorts, some of might still spill over onto her as well.

“Ff…aaai?” Lana spoke, awkwardly, turning a questioning glance towards Spirit.

Spirit whickered loudly, and lipped at Lana’s hair. “Oh, well done, dearheart. Indeed!” she spoke and sent simultaneously at the girl. Lana gave a bright smile and turned back towards Pasiphaë, still grinning.

“She’s quite pleased to meet you, as she said earlier. And that I’ve told her quite a lot about you.” Spirit trailed off slightly and huffed before continuing. “And that as soon as I’m done with being a pest, that she hopes you’ll tell her all about Kalidore, yourself and me as well. Although apparently the order is inconsequential.” The mare gave Lana a mock glare, before nuzzling her fondly.

“Err… ahh …” Pasiphaë looked between the two confusedly.

“Oh, sorry – yes. I’m already forgetting, funny how fast it goes…” Spirit smiled to herself and shook her head before continuing. “She can’t hear you herself, she’s completely deaf, but I’m helping with that. And we’re just learning how to talk again, so it’s easier if I translate most everything for now.”

Lana nodded, and suddenly moved forward to hug Pasiphaë about the neck. The red mare stood still, her head a-whirl and barely able to make sense of the whole thing.

“Apparently,” Spirit mused aloud, a quiet amusement resonating in her voice, “she is of the opinion that we are all going to be fast friends. And I don’t think either of us have any say in the matter.” and with that, she laughed.

Pasiphaë often found it horribly ironic that a mare as impulsive and socially thoughtless as she considered herself had been named ‘Daughter of Contemplation’. In her darker moments, she felt convinced that it was just another way that the universe conspired to mock her…

Silent stared into the seemingly never-ending meadow of grass. Was the air so soft, and the land beneath her so relaxing all the while when the sun shone above, radiating the warmth and contentment that she so dearly enjoyed. Her belly full and the soft breathes that strummed from Fiera, her dearest companion, made the world so tranquil. Though, she couldn’t help it if her mind wandered back to home, to family. Tyden had said that little time passes here on Earth when on Kalidore, but it was already past a day or maybe even two. Did her parents find her missing already? Did the kids at school realize that? A grim smile crossed her lips, threatening to destroy the happy mood.

Fiera sensed her little friend’s distress and quickly eased her mind. “You know that they’ll be fine love. So don’t worry to much.”

“Worry to much?” She replied in slight dismay. “I’m just wondering, it’s hard to let go of such things when I have experienced it all my life but a day or two.”

“Then tell me dear, why is it that I call you Silent? It’s been rather long since I’ve comed back to earth, and if I remember, maybe not all. It doesn’t seem to be a rather… fitting name for a human. Kinda ridiculous, I’ll say. How has it come to be such?” The orangey mare inquired softly, trying her best to take the poor girl’s mind off her depression and unease.

“Oh, that.” Silent laughed, but shot her a side glance, one that told the mare to not say things like that. Though on the other hand, it was almost useless to break through the feistiness of a unicorn like Fiera. Along with the stubborness she could hold. Then wondering how she never got to telling Fiera that, of all people! Or erm, unicorns. “I used to be very quiet in school, non-sociable at home too. And most of the people I knew called me that. I don’t know how to say it, but it was odd to call me such, but none really paid any attention to that. And it grew to everyone I knew. I guess.”

“Then what is your real name?”

“My real name? Oh, it’s Alison or Ali, depending on what you prefer.” Silent shrugged.

Fiera snorted, as if her next response was clear cut and predictable. “Then I’ll call you Ali. I find that rather… well I’d not say, but really. What would it be to not call you your real name huh dear?”

“Well, I don’t know. Call me whatever, but you’ll be the one explaining if anyone asks why the sudden name change.” Silent chuckled, wondering if the others would find this news interesting. When she let her mind drift off, like far far off, she really got to admire the unicorns. Upon returning back with the others, well, Sient was estatic. They came in such brilliant colors, it was rather hard not to stare at them for to long. And if she did, her four legged companion would tug on her hair (with teeth!) and draw her attention away before everyone thought nonsense.

Llamrei, still racing about the field, would slow down now and then and give out a snort. She stood in the grass beneath the warm sun, looking over to the two guardians at play. She actually wanted to go and trot off and explore some more, but held herself back as the prospect of moving on grew near.

Lilaini watched the young Kore as she spoke, the episode with Tyden that occurred only seconds before had already been erased from her mind. She had been the last human companion to enter into Kalidore, so until this journey, she had never seen what a Unicorn went through during the process of finding their human counterpart. The process had been explained to her many times, but to see it in practice was amazing, to see others feeling the things she herself had felt so many years ago. Her mind momentarily drifted to a time long ago, long before she knew anything of Kalidore. A painful memory flashed into her mind and she gasped slightly, clenching her eyes shut as if to block the image from her mind’s eye. The memory quickly faded, and she opened her eyes again glad to see that Aquila hadn’t noticed anything that had just transpired. Lilaini was very skilled at locking away memories she didn’t want to recall, and the memory that had just surfaced was one she hadn’t had to relive in many hundreds of years. She felt Gypsy’s mind brush up against her own but she ignored it, while casting a sideways glance to see if Rhaine or Tydenn had felt her mental outburst. Shaking her head slightly, trying to refocus she turned her attention back to Aquila. It took her a moment to process what the Kore had said, but it was obvious that she was indeed feeling the calling and could identify it.

“Then if you feel the calling we certainly should be off.” Placing her hand on Aquila’s muzzle, she petted it affectionately before getting to her feet. “Stay close to me”, she whispered to the buckskin Kore, and then thoughtcast to the rest of the group. “It’s time that we keep moving”. And with that she began slowly walking towards the gate, placing her hand on Aquila’s back as they went. When they reached the gate she paused and turned around to see that everyone else was following. When she was sure they were all close by she turned and looked at Aquila. “Are you ready?”

Gypsy had been about to reply to Mare Imbrium when Lilaini’s mental image intruded upon her mind. The emotion that slammed into her from her companion was more troubling than the image, but both faded away as quickly as they had arrived. She was about to step forward and go to her, but Lilaini seemed to regroup herself and was speaking with Aquila. Within moments she was on her feet as if nothing had happened and was ushering everyone towards the gate. The bronze mare shifted her weight from one side to the next, and her green eyes followed the willowy human figured for several moments. Uncertainly whether the emotion had been strong enough that it had intruded upon the black mare next to her, she kept quiet about it.

Picking up her hooves, she began to move along towards the gate as well. ”What was it you were saying?” she finally questioned Mare Imbrium. ”Ah yes, about Tyden. Well lets hope so, otherwise this certainly could be a very long trip.” Her voice trailed off as she watched the interaction between Rhaine and Tyden. “What do you make of those two?” she asked nudging the black mares shoulder in the direction the two humans were

Mare Imbrium’s eyes softened as her gaze lifted towards the pair. *All I see when I look is little two children who used to play tag between my legs and tie daisies into my hair….*

Half-forgotten dreams flitted through conscious, dancing like laughter before her mind’s eye. Her gaze became inwards, her voice in Gypsy’s head so soft the other mare would have to strain to hear. *Ah… such a wee thing she was then… so much spirit, so eager to know everything… it was all the Daiga and I could do to keep up! But I was younger then too, I suppose, and foolish, and if she asked, I’d have gone and fetched her the moon if I could! And she used to look to me, her eyes so full of wonder, and say–* The mare closed her eyes suddenly, and turned away. Her tail lashed at a deerfly, catching Gypsy full across the rump in an angry swipe. If he breaks her heart, I will kill him. But then she shook her head, vehemently, and snorted at copper mare’s remark. “Nay, they are children still.”

She turned to Lilaini and said, “Prepare the Gate. I will gather the others.”

Tyden meanwhile, [all six feet of him] having failed to convene Rhaine up a tree, was now working on catching his breath. The Guardian herself, cheeks flushed a healthy shade that match her dress, was in the process of retrieving her scroll bag from where she’d forgotten it in grass, imagining the scolding from Muse to be a good one if she’d actually left it there. Fine mark of a Gaurdian you’d make then, she frowned. Plus she knew Muse would make her copy them all out again, and probably multiple times. She gathered the ones she’d been reading and fastened the leather strap to keep them all snugly inside.
 
Muse must be worried sick by now, another thought tickled her. What with both she and Xanthe gone, and it being Xanthe’s first time away from home… her gaze found the lively kore still playing blissfully with the others, darting off every now and then to explore some new sound and smell. She caught Rhaine’s sight and whistled gamely before dashing back to her sport as the young woman laughed — she certainly wasn’t any worse for wear! As her companion’s daughter, Xanthe was as much a sister as she’d ever had, save Lilaini. She wondered suddenly if Lilaini felt the same way about Gypsy’s daughter and realized she couldn’t say that was so; then again, Cosmic hardly made the point to nose her way into everything with the veracity of Xanthe!

Tyden had regained his breath and now came to offer her a hand up from the grass. She hesitated just slightly, scrutinizing his intention, because sometimes with Tyden you could never quite tell. As talented an empath as she was this never failed to irk her slightly, and was something he enjoyed taking full advantage of when the opportunity presented itself. Not that his intentions were ever cruel or ill-minded, just…. well, juvenile, as Lilaini would say if she was in one of her better moods, or, on occasions like now, simply regarded the whole of him with utter disdain. Not that she meant any of it either – and all of them knew that. Tomorrow they would be chatting and laughing again on Kalidore as if none of it happened.

Providing they got back to Kalidore…

The natural gates were a huge boon, and she marveled at Tyden for finding such a good one — he’d always been lucky, you had to give him that — but Rhaine just wasn’t sure if it was enough to take them beyond earthly boundaries to the Isle beyond the mist. When the time arose, would they be able to? And from what she understood, it was easier to leave Kalidore through a gate then get back to it… if it had take so much of the both of them just to get here, would their powers even be enough?

Maybe it was the creep of worry that flushed across her face for an instant (Rhaine was generally transparent about what she was feeling, perhaps a side affect of being so in tuned with most everyone else as well) that she found herself helped neatly to her feet and that was all. Tyden adjusted the strap on her shoulder bag with simple care as he’d done a hundred times before over the years as her helper and friend. It was funny sometimes how the smallest gestures could do so much, and she felt her nerves settled and brows relax, consoled that some things remained constant in the universe.

She hadn’t caught Lilaini’s small outburst, which was actually unusual for her sensitive abilities, and it wasn’t until Imbri began trotting back and forth to gather the others did she realize the time upon them and that her friend just might need her help. *I’m coming*, she sent to Lilaini guiltily, her duties as Guardian painfully and obviously unmet. “You’d better bring the others,” she told Tyden, nodding towards the Unicorns and their companions as she headed down to the Gate.

He nodded agreement, stepping aside to let her pass and catching Imbri’s gaze for a brief second as she narrowed her eyes. Tyden frowned, unwilling to even guess what the moody mare was fixated on this time, shrugged it off and began towards where Fiera and Silent – or Ali, as Fiera seemed insistent on – were lolling in the grass.

“Ready to go?” he asked lightly, quite sure they’d be eager for whatever lay ahead. Beyond them a little ways the remnants of lunch, or what was left of it, had already been packed neatly into Lana’s carpet bag. He snatched up the worn satchel and brought it to where Spirit and Lana herself stood with Phae hovering just to the side. “Time to move on,” he said. The carpet bag had been fitted with a length of rope so that it might swing neatly over Spirit’s back, and he offer to help them get it into place; out of the corner of his eye he spotted a familiar golden dun rump investigating a brumblebush, and sent Xanthe running towards the others, too. Last thing they needed was to discover them short one Korè!

At the Gate, Rhaine slipped in beside Lilaini and gave her arm a quick squeeze as Aquila stood before shimmering, ripple portal to a world beyond…

~ * ~
The hours passed by and Trinity had not seen sign of another village for hours. She didn’t worry as she was sure she could find a suitable place to bed for the night if she so needed to. The hourse would be fine and she would stay close to it incase she had to move quickly.

she soon came upon a field as the sun began to set and saw a man there working or struggling with something. She nudged the horse gently in the side and rode over to where he was, stopping near the fence.

“Do ye need any ‘elp?” she called to the man and saw he was trying to get a cart wheel out of a divit.

“Some ‘elp would be nice, me son’s back at the farm bein’ a lazy bum jus’ cause he’s sick,” the farmer said and would look over as Trinity dismounted and came over.

“A son should ‘elp ‘is faither, even if ‘e’s sick an’ still able te walk,” she said softly and looked at the problem.

Kneeling down she would begin to move some of the dirt away from in front of the wheel that was stuck. After a couple minutes of moving it, she would stand up and move to the back of the cart and brace her shoulder against it.

“A’right, pull an’ I’ll push,” she said.

The farmer nodded and would pull on the cart as Trinity pushed from the back. It took all of a few moments before the cart moved from the divit and was free of it. The man was thankful and invited Trinity to stay for the night fi she wished. Not one to miss the oppurtunity to sleep in an acutal bed, she took the offer and took the reins of the horse and would follow the man towards his home.

After a little while of traveling, Trinity and Corin had made it back to his home. He placed the cart near the barn and showed Trinity where she could place her horse for now. She had of course explained about herself and Corin seemed to understand, not seeming to disapprove of her leaving. Once the horse was taken care of, they would walk towards the home.

“I’ll warn ye now about me son, ‘e’ll try an’ charm ye off yer feet,” Corin said and would open the door for her, then followed behind after she had walked in. “Devlin? Ye still in bed ye lazy lump?!”

There was a groan from one room and then the sound of shuffling feet. Trinity watched as from one room a head would peek out, then duck back inside the room. Seconds later the man would come from the room dressed in a clean tunic and breeches, smoothing his hair back.

“Trinity, this is me son, Devlin, lazy lump. Devlin, this is Trinity. She ‘elped me with the cart when it got stuck,” he said and would watch. “She’s stayin’ the night, so don’t go gettin’ attatched to ‘er.”

“Na sure wha’ me da’s been tellin’ ye about me, but I’m na tha’ lazy,” he grinned and would give a slight bow.

“Aside from the fact tha’ ye’d charm me off me feet, ‘e said ye were sick. I’m sure I could cook somethin’ up for tha’,” she said and looked to Corin.

Corin nodded and smiled, showed her to the kitchen and said she could make whatever she wished. Of course she knew a couple things she could make, so she got right to it. Some would think it strange for a guest to cook in another’s home, but Trinity could tell that there was no other woman around the house, so she didn’t mind making a meal for them. As dark came, the meal had been finished and put upon the table. She had made a lamb stew, sliced some bread and added a couple desserts to go with it. She poured some juice into cups for them and settled at the table.

“Smells good,” Devlin said as he would look over it all.

“Thanks,” Trinity said and would take a slice of bread.

The meal was enjoyed, Devlin helped clear the table after it was all finished. By the fire they told stories and Trinity graced them with song. The night wore on and soon they felt it time to sleep. Devlin of course offered his room to her and she tried to say no but he insisted, so she gave in and would sleep in his bed, her hand wrapped around the unicorn pendant.

~ * ~
Aquila was a little surprised at how smoothly and quickly things happened. Good! She would not let herself be overlooked in this grand journey, and she was happy to see the Guardians weren’t forgetting her desire to find her companion either. She leaned into the hand gladly and wondered what it would be like if her own companion petted her. Aquila gladly followed Lilaini’s instruction to keep close. The Gate before her lead to an unknown place, so very different from home. A shiver went through the kore and she hesitated.

Looking back she realized everyone was following her, including her mother. As young as she was, she still craved her mother’s protection. Every mare knew that she’ have to let her foals grow up though. Meadow Song nodded her head encouragingly but did not go to her daughter. Aquila was a little dismayed but tried not to she it in front of everyone. She looked up at Lilaini and appeared happy. The call was just too strong to resist any longer. She looked at all the others and reared as high as she could to address them. “Let’s go!”

She dropped to all hooves again and strode confidently through the portal, slowly enough so that Lilaini could make sure she was in no danger. The earth on the other side was warm and very quiet. It was night time, the sun not shining where they appeared. If Aquila thought the call before crossing the gate was strong it was now impossible to ignore. She had aligned herself with where it was pulling her but she reluctantly waited for everyone else to pass through the gate too. Her body was tensed, ears forward, and her breath slow and meaningful. Her companion was most certainly around!
 
Somewhere beyond the Gate…

Ada had a problem. A huge one. Was her way of solving it right? No, it painfully was not. She thought she could do this though, for no better reason than she had to. If she didn’t the her life and the lives of her crew members…Darn that man for putting her in such a situation! The pirate captain paced quietly in front of a house. Her crew was currently robbing the small seaside village. Normally they only took food and medical supplies but this time was different. They were instructed to take valuable goods in order to pay off a debt (why she even had a debt she wasn’t sure) to another captain. Problem was, Ada had a huge problem with stealing such things.

Ada could not account for the nervousness she felt deep down. She was quick and silent. Never had the alarm been sounded when her crew raided a village, so why was she feeling this way? Upon further reflection she realized that it was not a case of nerves. This feeling was foreign and unexplainable. It felt like something momentous was about to occur that she couldn’t even imagine. The tanned woman had paused her pacing and was now solely aware of her strange feeling. What was coming to turn her world upside down?

*
Lilaini turned her head slightly when she felt Rhaine touch her arm. She was comforted by her friends presence and all previous memories had again been wiped clear from her mind. Taking a step forward, she followed Aquila through the portal with Rhaine at her side and all the others following closely after. It took a moment to adjust to their new surroundings. The young woman looked around and breathed in deeply, the smell of salt flowed into her nostril’s and the warm air gently brushed through her hair. It was dark, and everything around them was quiet. She turned to watch as the other’s too crossed through the portal. When she was sure everyone had made it she turned back to Rhainee, Well what do you make of this place? she thought cast. Her attention next went down to the young Kore who’s entire seemed to be a bundle of tension and nerves. Placing her hand on her golden back she spoke, “I can tell you feel the calling much stronger now, your companion is near by. You lead the way, we will follow you.”

Gypsy watched and felt the series of emotions the dark mare next to her was going through. She waited to see if Mare Imbrium was going to say more but she didn’t, and the bronze coloured mare didn’t push the topic. She could tell something was bothering the other mare but if she wanted to talk about it she would. Following her lead, she helped gather up the others and the two mares took up the rear of the group, ensuring everyone made it through safely before they too crossed through the gate. When they did, darkness surrounded them. Gypsy looked around curiously at their new surroundings. This is certainly a different kind of place, she said to Mare Imbrium. I wonder what type of companion the young Kore is destined to have. She continued to nose around at the vegetation in curiosity as she mentally checked on everyone to ensure they had no issues with the gate crossing.

Silent got up and brush the dirt and loose grass of her pants and shirt. During the time, she wandered if time really had gone so soon. Seemed like it was just awhile ago that…

A portal shimmered in the distance before everyone. It was pretty, she had to admit. “No time for portal slash gate staring. We have to go, I don’t even want to think what would happen if we got left behind.” Fiera grunted, nosing her companion in the back to hurry up.

“Ok, ok, I’m going. It’s just that… well, never got to see one close enough.” Silent gave a sly grin, wandering if that was just to much thinking on her behalf. The two crossed with ease, and onto the other side.

Portals. Gates. They left Fiera feeling tingly and strange, a twitchy kind of strange. But Ali -new names could get some getting used to- seemed to be fine, which was wonderful. But the mare felt slightly disoriented with the uncoordination and the sudden waft of seawater. It was salty, kinda stale which made her nose wrinkle. “I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to this fishy salt air.” She commented. Silent lay a hand on her shoulder, staring past into complete darkness but where she guessed the ocean might be.

“I can. Reminds of the beaches and stuff when I was younger. Say, if there’s unicorns, is it possible to have wave riders too? You know, half horse and uh…. fish?”

“Fish?? I don’t know love, but I don’t want to find out,” Fiera said, wandering that was a possibility all the while taking in the new surroundings.

It was new moon, and the black hours before the first light. The air was warm and thick, heavy with salt and the sent of flowers of every spice and sweetness. Insects filled the night air with their drone, rising and falling like an eternal breath blown in from the sea, swathing the island in lingering summer since the first dawn.

They were on a beach, long and strewn silver-black in the light of a sliver-thin crescent moon that hid the sea in darkness, save for the crest of waves that broke a-glint and gleaming on the shore. There crabs scuttled and a huge turtle ambled, slowly, one meditated lurch at a time. A night bird watched them a moment before taking flight, beating its way up the beach. Towards their back the forest grew up and out of the sand – there was no graduation, simply beach, then jungle. Along this beach they could see many had passed before them, for it was littered with causal cooking huts and refuse, small fishermen’s boats tied to palm mooring out of reach of the tide. In the distance, lights flickered. There was a village, nestled between the jungle and the rolling blanket of sea.

“It’s so beautiful,” Rhaine breathed deeply, struck by the urge to throw off her shoes and feel sand between her toes. How long had it been? ages, at least! She listened to the song of the wild and marveled at the how the cacophony of so many mottled sounds could produce together a harmonious and singular hum; the sound of the night in its multitude.

She could see the others around her gazing at their new location with similar wonder – all but Aquila that is, who seemed acutely focused and oblivious to everything but the reason she had arrived – to find her companion. The determination on her small face was immense, and Rhaine felt struck by the intensity that reverberated through her small stature. “It pulls her so fiercely,” she marveled softly, whispering to Lilaini who stood with her hand on the Korè’s back. “Was it really that way when our companions were first met?”

Lilaini waited for the young Kore to discover which direction they should travel in order to find her long anticipated companion. The Guardian was currently mesmerized by the sound of the waves as they lapped at the beach. One such wave caught hold of a crab who had ventured too close to the water, and came within the water reach. The wave sent the crab sputtering towards them, and deposited him within inches of Lilaini’s toes. She smiled as the crab thrashed around on his back, legs desperately trying to right himself. Reaching down she gently picked up the crustation and placed him gently, feet first back onto the sand. Without looking back, the crab immediately scuttled off into the darkness once he felt his feet were again on terra ferma. The young woman looked up just as Rhaine began to speak.

“Yes, it is very beautiful.” She nodded in agreement, it had been a very long time since she had been to such a beach. “It pulled me that fiercely too yes. Although,” she paused, remembering that day, the best and worst day of her life. “I did not understand what the feeling was, I didn’t know anything about Kalidore and companions back then, I was barely 20.” Her voice broke wistfully at this point. Looking over at her friend she smiled though. “Don’t you remember? You were there when I first came to Kalidore.”

Her voice unconsciously had raised when retelling this story and the other’s around her were sure to hear it as well that didn’t matter to her. “It was the day we were supposed to leave together. Finally, we were going to leave together and there was going to be nothing my father could do to change that. We had the meeting place set and everything was going according to plan. I snuck out of the house and had been travelling for nearly half an hour. A strange feeling had been pulling at me all week, but it had intensified that day to the point I felt compelled to not go to the meeting place but to go in another direction entirely. But the more I thought about him, the more I wanted to go to the meeting place, and I ignored the feeling and continued on my way. But…” her voice trailed off slightly, emotion being to rise. “My father found out about what our plan was before I had even left, and he got to the meeting place moment before I did and, I arrived just in time to see him standing over him….” Again her voice broke, she closed her eyes, trying to push the mental picture out of her mind. A single tear rolled down her cheek, unable to control the emotion that hit her even after many hundreds of years. “….and I just ran. I knew he was dead, and I just didn’t know what to do, I was grief stricken. I ran through the forest until I felt like my legs were going to give out or my lungs were going to burst. That desperate feeling inside of me was pulling me in a certain direction and I think I unconsciously followed it. And then I remember tripping and collapsing. I must have actually fallen through a gate,” she smiled at this point, the good part of the story now being told and the negative portion behind her. “because when I woke up, Gypsy was standing over me with this perplexed look on her face that I don’t think I’ve ever seen since, and you were there as well, and Tyden, and Mare Imbrium, and Muse….that’s why it was the best and worst day ever. Coming to Kalidore was the best thing that ever happened to me. Was it the same for you Rhainee? Didn’t you feel this strong calling from Muse?”

Rhaine smiled as she sensed the small audience drawing around them, and the way Lilaini raised her voice so that they might hear. The stories of how they themselves had once arrived on Kalidore might have been retold countlessly, but there were those among them now who were hearing them for the first time. And, like all good tales, they just seemed to get better with each telling!

She gave her friend’s arm a squeeze as tear rolled down her cheek, but knew this would pass too and didn’t want to interrupt. She always admired the fairytale quality of Lilaini’s story. It seemed so… heroic, stealing away in the dead of night, and the tragedy of two star-crossed lovers who’d never meet… And then, to find yourself on Kalidore, and your companion met, and to discover a whole side of yourself you never knew you had….? She sighed; Lilaini, since the first, had always been so brave, strong, and worldly. She carried with her an innate air of authority, a passion for justice, and keen sense of duty and decorum. That’s what made her so suited to the role of Guardian. That’s what Rhaine admired most about her and looked up to whenever she herself was unsure.

Lilaini’s question drew her back from her rambling thoughts and to the beach. She tucked a wind-blown wisp of hair behind her ear absentmindedly, mulling the over the question. “You know…. I don’t… recall, exactly…” she sighed deeply, because her own story always seemed inelegantly wrought in comparison. “I guess I was young, and don’t remember. I was nine – and had snuck out of my father’s tent after my mare, Bassira… and instead it was Mare Imbrium I found drinking by our pool. I did not know such a creature could exist until that day, and was filled with such childish determination to find out all I could! Of course, my first crossing into Kalidore to find them was sorely disappointing, seeing as it was not a unicorn I found at all—” she glanced at Tyden, eyes bright and mirthful—“but soon I met the Daiga and as many unicorns as any child’s heart could hold!” She sighed again, but this time it was full and dreamy, the memory playing across and illuminating her quiet features. Then she paused, thoughtfully, and continued her tale. “I did not meet my companion right away; it was not until my family was lost to me that I first met Muse. I don’t remember much about that time. Only that Mare Imbri brought me to her before she left, and when I was with her at last, I… felt… safe again. Warm. Home. And the feeling has never left me since,” she looked up, eye moist, but she was smiling. “I guess in the end it is the same for all of us.”

Silent walked around in the sand, then decided to take off her shoes so she could feel the soft grains her feet. It was cool from the night, smooth and soft. With the early rays of morning fast approaching, she bent down to draw something in the sand. Her fingers drew a line up then made a circle. Secondly, she made slender ovals protruding from the circle.

She was about to finish when Fiera nudged her on her back. “Listen to the Guardian’s stories.” She whispered, not in the mood to interrupt Lilaini’s heartfelt story. She nodded and brushed the sand from her legs and hands.

After listening, Silent sat and pondered slightly, “So… you never got to see him again did you?” She quietly asked Lilaini, but it was probably obvious to everyone. Silent was just slow most of the time. She wanted to reach out and comfort the guardian, like she would any person, but something kept her back. Probably the unfamiliarity that she had with everyone.

Fiera suppressed a laugh when Rhaine shared her story, then pausing to look at Tyden. “I don’t usually stay around you guardians most of the time, since I like to be at other places… But I don’t remember you being around until well, maybe after awhile. I would also say that I don’t know many of our sisters who roam Kalidore, but Muse… I think I should have known,” said Fiera without a stutter or a hint of embarrassment. She was strong in her words and confidence (and maybe stubborn, too.)

Fiera took a peak at Ali, who stood wriggling her toes in sand and trying to pay attention at the same time. Maybe it was all the same in the end afterall…. the mare looked away and looked towards the distant miles of seawater. “So, what now? I suppose we should be moving along. I want to see more of this place. Salty and stale and all.” Fiera shook her head, horn and hair swinging side to side.

Rhaine laughed gently at Fiera’s bold remark, and had to admire the red mare’s tenacity. “I’m sure you know Muse, after all, most anyone on Kalidore has gone through her at some point or another… she keeps records of everything in that temple of hers, not simply a library of old scrolls! Recently, she has even begun teaching some of the younger unicorns the old arts, at Falling Star’s appeal; it’s mostly on a request basis, as the art of reading and writing aren’t nearly as important to all unicorns,” she smiled at the red mare warmly.

She paused, reflecting lightly over the traditions of the isle; indeed, Muse had made her attend Falling Star’s lectures – old tales of Kalidore, told through the tradition of a teller’s song, recounted to the young Kore & Koros on warm summer evenings. Rhaine had always adored those tales. Reading them from musty scrolls was one thing, but to hear them brought to life in the gentle stallion’s voice gave them new significance. Rhaine had always wished one day to be half a good a storyteller as him, and Muse had dutifully encouraged her; when she wasn’t busy with her own lessons (learning to read and write in a multitude of different languages had not been optional for her!) she spent the time scrawling her own tales on scraps of parchment and paper.

“As for knowing us…” she continued, noting the mare’s eyes were still on her, “I suppose as children we kept mostly to ourselves… though to the unicorns who knew us I think we were always underfoot. I spent most of my time with Muse at the Temple lake, when I was not apprenticing with the Daiga, and Tyden was with Odin in the Skylands, when he was not away at school. I suppose it was not until after Lilaini’s arrival that the Daiga said we would be trained as Guardians, and only then did we make a point of having the whole of Kalidore and it people known to us. That was then part of our duties, after all. And I for one am pleased to have such an opportunity.”

“If for no other reason that it gives you and Lilaini a chance to tell that tale over and over again,” Tyden grinned roguishly.

“I’m sure there are worse things in the world – they could be stuck listening to you,” she shot back a little more hotly then she intended. Criticize the teller all you wanted, but tread carefully when berating their art! She turned briskly before he could respond further, giving her full attention back to Feira. “We may as well move on – though this time I request we keep ourselves together! Fair enough?” she ran her fingers fondly through the fiery red mane.

It took little prompting for Aquila to set off in search of her companion. There was no doubt where her companion was and so she began moving down the coastline at a brisk pace. Before too long a small seaside village was revealed. It seemed to be more a group of huts than a proper village but the young Kore wasn’t sure. The only thing that mattered at that moment was that pull guiding her to where her companion was. The foal stopped, puzzled as she saw people rushing around at night. What were they doing? She looked at the Guardians in askance. Should she proceed?

Rhaine looked up from Fiera to discover Aquila had wandered a good ways up the beach. She was almost upon the village and nearly lost in the moonless night, the sound of ways dissolving her footsteps. She sensed the hesitation within her, the conflict between the strange yet determined pull from that unknown source, and the familiarity of her bandmates ambling too slowly behind her.

*Is she near?* she sent to the kore, letting her thoughts find her with gentle reassurance. *You know the way, so follow closely. We will be right behind you. Do you want us close at side?*

She thought she saw the foal quiver at the go-ahead, the but it was hard to tell in the darkness. She had to smile, regardless. *Just, mind yourself… and those people…* was the after thought.

Persephone followed after the kore, smiling at the determination she had with following the pull from her companion. She, herself, knew what that pull was like – her own was gaining momentum.

Leaving the beach and its glorious waves behind, Persephone looked with curiosity at the village they had entered – more to the point – the people still awake within it. Glancing up at the moon and then back to the humans, she couldn’t help thinking to herself What are they still doing awake? Do these people never get tired? Now having her full attention she watched silently as they moved about through the village, trying to discern any patterns or meaning to their movements.

~ * ~
The night in the cottage had gone quietly. Trinity had been thankful to be sleeping in a real bed and not on the ground, though she didn’t mind the ground sometimes. As morning came though, she was up early to fix breakfast for herself and the two men. they awoke with the smell and were quick to dress, seemed they hadn’t had a woman’s cooking for a while. They enjoyed the breakfast, but after it was done, Trinity bid them a farewell as she wanted to continue on her way to find where she belonged.

The day was grey, threatening of more rain, so if it did begin to rain, she would have to find someplace large enough to shelter her and the horse. As she traveled, she would look at the charm on the necklace that she now wore, letting her mind wander as it had come to do many times before.

The day wore on and soon the sun began to set. Trinity was nowhere near another village or town, so she knew she would have to find a place to sleep. Somewhere safe for her and the horse was what she needed and so she would scan the area for anyplace that would do for them.

Soon a place was found and she removed the saddle from the horse’s back, but using a rope that was in one saddle bag, would tie it to the bridle and the other end around a tree. There was enough slack in the rope that the horse could move around a bit. A stream nearby, she was able to catch a couple fish for herself for a meal. Once her stomach was happy, she bedded down, wanting to get another good night’s rest. The horse soon had joined her, laying near her as if saying she could use him to lay against. Thankful, she pet his neck and drift off to sleep.

~ * ~
 
Fast Forward ~

Aquila’s companion is named Ada. She’s in a bit of trouble with another pirate captain. Basically if she can’t pay him back he’ll destroy her ship and take over her crew, leaving her marooned on an island. This forces Ada to reluctantly steal from a small village. She sends her men off to get what they can before going off to do her share of the looting. She winds up standing in front of a house, trying to decide if she really wants to rob for such a reason.

This is when Aquila and the herd come in. Aquila finds Ada standing in front of the house and knows right away that the woman is her companion. After a brief talk (asking what Ada’s doing, if she wants to go to a place where she doesn’t have to worry about her crew, etc.) Ada decides to leave. Her crew would likely be better off on their own or under a male’s command instead of hers. Just as they’re about to go through the portal the first mate sees Ada with Aquila before they step through and the portal closes….
 
And off we go again ~

Persephone gazed over towards guardians, recently returned from a successfully found companion, and could wait no longer. She couldn’t quite explain how – but she felt something had gone seriously awry, something that would need urgent attention, something to do with her companion. No longer able to fully contain the unease she was feeling, she trotted over towards the guardians and unicorns, tail swishing in agitation at non-existent irritants.

“I am going to require the use of the gate. My companion requires aide. I feel we must act quickly or all will be lost.” Failing to maintain composure, she skittered, almost knocking guardians and unicorns alike in her attempt to convey the urgency and near panic she felt.

* * *
She was in trouble and she knew it. After all her shadow games with the foreigner’s inquisition, relocating those deemed blasphemers along with their families, or just their families when they had arrived to late, her charade was over. Bound as she was, she had no escape from the rhetoric some lower ranked catholic official was giving, which in some ways now seemed worse than anything they had already put her through.

‘Aislinn Brádaigh, you are here by convicted of witchcraft, of aiding other criminals charged with blasphemy and gathering rebels in a blatant attempt to attack the Church and corrupt the god-faring citizens of Ireland. You are hereby sentenced to death by burning to be carried out immediately least your sinful ways corrupt even in your last moments.’

He nodded at one of the guards as the crowd of villagers looked on, Aislinn looked at neither the guards or the villagers, she had friends and supporters in both and vowed not to condemn them to her fate if one of the catholic officials should follow her gaze. They new she had supporters, it’s why she had lived this long after her capture, but she had surrendered no names, no new information.

The official looked back at Aislinn, without attempt to hide the loathing in his gaze. ‘Any last words to try and save your immortal soul?’ Meeting his gaze with an icy stare of her own, she spat in the man’s face, not entirely trusting her voice any longer.

* * *
Rhaine felt the mare’s anxiety spill over her and for a moment nearly felt physically sick; she caught hold of the dark mane as Persephone lumbered into them, and held herself there until it had passed. The mare’s red coat was starting to shine with sweat, and it was all she could do to keep from completely knocking them both over.

“We will go,” she said simply, meeting the mare’s wild eyes, trying to calm her with her with words. Across her back she saw the others, previously caught up in the merriment of Aquila’s new companion, but now looking at Persephone with perplexity and concern. “Let us go now, and be quick about it,” she said quietly, and that was all the urging they needed; they filed in behind one another as one, following to the Gate between the trees.

When they reached the portal, Rhaine turned to Lilaini, certain that she was feeling the mare’s urgency as clearly; it continued to buffet her acute sensitivities in undulating waves, and she needed her friend’s iron composure for support. That, and she had no idea what might await them beyond the gate…

A shimmer, soft and subtle, appeared between the trees and the gate grew strong. As the colours swirled and danced, an image took shape. It was blushing emerald green and wrapped in mist – not much unlike home. It looked… marvelously inviting, actually. Was this really the place? But the look in Persephone’s eyes was unmistakable. She touched the mare’s shoulder, gently. “Lead the way….”

Slowing walking through the gate, Persephone felt some minor relief to be finally heading for her companion. The agitation and unease had been building for awhile now and was starting to reach limits she didn’t know even existed, let alone that she was capable of.

The relief however was short lived.

Reaching the other side of the gate, she found herself under a few trees, with lush green grass underfoot. A worn road just a few strides away, a village visible in the distance. All of this practically went unnoticed due to the intensified pull of her companion now that they were close, something she was expecting, what she wasn’t expecting was her agitation growing in a similar fashion.

‘Something is wrong.’ Unsure of how loud she’d said it, or even if it had been said aloud or to anyone at all, Persephone took a few skittered steps towards the road and village beyond, impatient for the guardians, unicorns and companions to complete their own crossing.

* * *
Pulling out a small cloth, the official wiped her saliva from his face before turning back to Aislinn. Drawing back his arm, he belted it across her face, a blow that would have knocked her to the ground had she not been tied up.

Looking around her, she decided her last view in this life was not going to be this barbarians face. The village she was in was relatively typical for Ireland in the 1700’s, a decent sized square in the center surrounded by some weathered timber buildings, the town hall, the inn, people’s homes. Strong buildings, perhaps not the prettiest, but filled with warmth and an aura of family. The only thing that marked it as being a little wealthier than some of its peers was the large stone building she was placed in front of. The foreigner’s church. A cold building in contrast to the rest of the village, the stone was grey, the metal black. It’s large bulk faced west, so that in the morning it cast the village in shadow, and when the sun started to make its decline, it made it gleam blood red. Ominous and oppressive.

Turning her gaze away from the building, she faced the crowd. They were restless, and she was unsure if it was in eagerness or fear. To her right, some seating had been arranged, filled with the rest of the clergy, appearing garish and inhuman in their bright red and purple garb. They were sectioned off from the crowd by the church guard, who were also stationed around the perimeter of her pyre and the village. A squad of mounted soldiers, near 20 strong, stood at their ease, there in case the crowd turned rowdy, or if any of her fellow rebels should reveal themselves in a futile rescue attempt.

Laughter broke her focus, and she turned towards the noise, the food and beverages vendors where selling where starting to take effect on those here purely for the festivities. She had never understood how anyone could enjoy this, less so now that she was at the core of it.

* * *
Fiera watched Persephone slide into and right through the gate hastily. Something was terribly upsetting here and it pulled out a protective side of her for Ali.

“We’d better go,” Ali said in haste, quickly making towards the gate before the distressed mare whirled by. The sudden action made her jump back a step, shock and heart pounding all in one.

“Not so fast there. You’re going to get trampled over,” the orange mare said firmly, a tint of coldness in her voice. Ali, ignoring her mare friend’s voice, followed right after. Fiera grumbled, but she too made a quick cross. Clean, clear and pushed passed the tingle that was the after effect away. What she saw was strange. Something bad was going to happen, she was sure of it. But what would beautiful grass this color and sky let away to something bad?

“I think we’re in Ireland. The air’s kind of stale and the grass is way to green. I’ve read about it a couple of imes. We’ll figure it out soon enough. C’mon Fiera. Don’t want be left behind now do we?” Silent was looking forward, scanning the area with curious eyes.

“Hmm, I don’t like this though. Seems like Persephone is too restless. No where near how I was before I met you.”

“Maybe. I’m still pretty new remember?”

“I guess. Stay close though. I’m a peculiar creature and being,” Fiera said, stepping a bit closer to her human companion.

Nodding faintly, Silent wandered closely to Rhaine. “Should we stay hidden for a bit? I know it sounds… well, a bit cautious, but our friend seems to be… worried about something?” Silent whispered quietly, wondering if she was asking the right thing to begin with.

Rhaine heard Ali speak, but at first the voice sounded more like something from a dream. The nearly overwhelming press of Persephone’s anxiety was ebbing as the mare physically stepped away. Rhaine took a breath, felt Lilaini and Tyden’s gaze on her, and did her best to pull herself back together. Besides, she was still sore at Tyden for that storyteller jab, and the last thing she wanted right now was to accept any of his offered help. Instead, she turned to the young girl in full, smiling bravely, and placed a hand upon her shoulder. The later was more to help keep her own balances then an offer of support, but she hoped the girl wouldn’t notice, or mind.

“I’m afraid it’s a little hard to tell what the crux of the matter might be, but I trust Persephone’s feeling. We can only hope whatever trouble afflicts her companion, it is not something that cannot be easily overcome, nor that which would seek to trouble us as well.”

She felt the tension ease as her strength returned. “I don’t think we quite need to go into hiding,” she addressed Ali’s concern, “but we should do our best to stay out of the way just the same. Here’s a good a spot as any, I suppose,” she took in her surrounds fully this time, admiring the rolling hills that swept across her field of view to the velvet grey sky. She noted Fiera standing a close different away, fuming quietly in their general direction. “It isn’t a terrible place, at least from here,” she concluded. “Until we have a better idea of what we’re up against, we hold tight. Though Persephone does seem quite consumed…”

“And compelled,” said Mare Imbrium, interrupting the woman with a firm nudge to the small of her back. “She’s leaving.”

They turned to find it was true enough. Rhaine knitted her brows. “On second thought, stay close. If there is something horrible lurking out there, I don’t want anyone left behind…”

She gave the girl another brisk look she hope conveyed assurance, and moved off to gather the others.

 

Continue to Chapter Five ~

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