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[Urbem Amissam] True Hearts of the Mountains

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Several days after the turmoil in Veelos…

 

 

The midday sun shines brightly overhead, the threat of winter long since passed through by the bustle of spring. The air, though heavy with humidity in the coming showers, smells clean and fresh. After the destruction of the city, it barely registers on the faces of those still moving around. Clean up had begun a week or so ago. Broken and burned buildings, even down to their skeletons or less, are being rebuilt. The sounds of hammers against nails echo all around. The love of their Queen, strong and diligent, brought aid to the city. With new hands to care for it, it came time for this Knight to leave.

 

A sturdy mount, nearly seventeen hands high, stands patiently while brush and comb smooth out any disarranged hairs. The long black tail, now swishing at flies, is braided quite neatly. A few more touches of cleanliness are breathed upon the steady mare. The metal shoes are inspected, checking to ensure nails are all present and secure, frogs are emptied of dirt and dead flesh, then the hooves are polished and painted. Once all is approved of, a saddle, dull in its black leather, is laid on the gentle curve of its back. With all straps looped, hooked, and tied then tightened, the stall halter is removed. Only to be replaced by one matching the saddle. The bay, quite content in the capable hands of its caretaker, accepts small cubes of sugar from a pale palm. Its thick lips lift them away with a soft pinch.  

 

With horse ready, the saddle bags are inspected. Food, water, and armor. Supplies for the journey, and armor not much needed right now, cleansed of the bloodshed it fought through. Satisfied with what is seen, they too are attached to the saddle, black leather straps loop through silver o-rings. And silver buckles with a prong seal their appropriate attachment.

 

“Valius, can you please feed and water her. I need to fetch Caelum from the other stall.”

 

“Yes Miss Lyrae.” The young man scoops grain from a large bin into a feeder bag, attaching it to the halter for the mare to munch. In truth he was too afraid to fetch the animal himself. Lyrae knew this. Most people shied away from the beast that was Caelum. Not to any fault of their own. His sheer size, even in his breed, baffles most people.

 

A peek over the hinged wooden door shows nothing but a large silvery black lump curled up in the hay. A snort sounds as the beast snores. Before attempting to awaken him, she checks her own person. Her usual armor—packed away-had been replaced by thickly oiled leather. Black with hints of red and brown. Fitting colors for her homeland. Lighter and more easily mobile in, especially for riding. The heavy oil would help to keep it from drying too quickly and cracking, as well as reduce any sound made while walking the road. The leatherworker had been kind enough to give her a skin of oil. Lyrae having explained to him the extreme conditions in which she would be traversing.

 

It isn’t new by any means, hand crafted by the calloused fingers of her very own cousin many years ago. Leather armor made to withstand heavy blows from the creatures dwelling in the lava pits of the mountains. Pleased with the wear and stretch of her body beneath it, she proceeds to contain long red hair in a braid, tucking it under itself and tying a leather ribbon about it to hold it in place. Still with the customary flowers and vines woven in—a weapon all their own—keeps her appearance her own, the only difference now is with her new choice in attire.  

 

Attire she would wear on the trip back home and while on leave there. As a Knight of the Order, she wasn’t truly on vacation, but merely making a trip back home to make rounds. Though a few days of rest couldn't bring further damage to sore bones and weary muscles after the fight they’d been through.

 

“A message for the Knight of Reverence.”

 

Her pendant of the Black Heart, hung from her neck by a silver chain, is pulled from the recesses between the leather and her hidden tunic. “Aye, I’m here.” She shows it before tucking it back in.

 

“The outpost at the base and to the west of the mountains is ready to receive you. They know you’re coming ma’am.”

 

“Alright, better be off with me then.” Pleasant in tone, but not so much in expression where the smile hides in the recesses of bright sapphire eyes. The messengers nods and back away before running off to deliver more elsewhere. For a moment she watches him run from the stable. Hoping and skipping over a few baskets before rounding the corner of another wood and rock building. 

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It is said that if one need to find love, they need seek only the hands of a trouper as he makes music. It could not be found in the rhymes of poets, for they rhapsodize and lie in their songs; it cannot be found on the faces of sailors as they stare mutely at the slow-rolling swell of the sea; nor could it be see in the teary-eyes of soldiers as they see the colors of their monarch stretched against the wind. It was neither in pretty words nor longing eyes, but in the ministrations of the hands, and the sweet sounds they bring from instrument and lover alike. 
 
A musician knew what love was. 
 
Quinn rode through Veelos on Camria, a commoner by look, paladin by design and a knight of faith by choice. The knight of faith, christened by Irene Gabriela DuGrace herself with the flat of his sword. He surveyed the disaster that had been the Fete Ghede with a sad, almost whimsical look, and pulled from his lute chords both melancholic and romantic. He was sad for the beauty that was lost, but full of hope that from disaster a new city could be born. It was not something he cared to see. Around every corner and through every street, the paladin only saw the carnage he had partaken in, and the lengths he and others had to go through to survive. 
 
Veelos was den of foul memories besmirched by blood, pain and death. So it was that he rode through the streets playing his instrument, his formal paladin armor stowed away in Camria's packs, his sword wrapped up and secured in a bedroll, and his heart set on a sojourn, if not another adventure. He rode with purpose and played with ease, and might have sung quietly were he not making his way passed throngs of men and women. He might have missed Lyrae entirely had a youth not threatened to crash into Camria, startling the ugly roan and sending her rearing. 
 
Quinn ceased his playing and took hold of the reins, dragging his horse away from the man with an apologetic smile. Quinn might have been affable and easy to please, but his horse was not. Her disposition left much and more to be desired concerning the world at large, the savage beast. "Easy," the knight said from above with exaggeration, rounding the horse around the corner. "I know, but we're almost gone." Old but spry, Camria snorted and laid her eyes back, unsatisfied. Quinn shrugged and straightened in his saddle, looking about for more runaway messengers before catching sight of the stable, and Lyrae within. 
 
Furrowing his brows and craning his neck, Quinn dragged Camria closer to get a better look. "Is that--?" he trailed off with a cock of his chin, followed suite by a beatific smile full of wonder. "It is!" Adjusting the lute and slinging it over his back, Quinn jumped down from Camria's saddle and handed the reins to a groom before strolling over to Caelum's stall and the Knight of Reverence within. He was dressed simply, and casually. A loose-fitting shirt the color of cream and dark breeches stuffed into the tops of darker riding boots. It was a startling contrast to the armored paladin who laid his enemies low with a fiery sword in hand and prayers on his lips. 
 
He wiped his sweat-beaded brow on his sleeve and then pressed against the stall door, leaning an arm over the top of it as he looked in on his sister-knight and her mount. "Ah, I knew I saw you. Well-met, Lyrae. What are you up to these days?" 
Edited by Roen

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After all was said and done, the knights were honor bound to continue on back to the capital or their respective cities. Mayhap, he was already on his way out when he stopped in for a quick farewell?  With her hand now raised in a gesture of greeting she follows it with a nod. “Aye. Well met Quinn, well met.” As empty as her features could be, they are. There were plenty of times when she was believed to be dimwitted in the face of emotion, whether it be fear, joy, or sorrow. “I’m headed home for a spell.  And you, Sir... Whereabouts are you headed?”

 

Without warning the body stretched across the ground in the stall over her left shoulder quakes and rises, shaking until most if not all of the stall bedding flecking its coat is clear of its massive and loose skinned coat. A very large maw comes to rest on the top of the iron braced wooden door revealing a head wider than Lyrae’s torso. Droopy lids hang over a pair of marbles silver eyes deeply set in the slope of its brow. Instinctively Lyrae reaches up to gently scratch an ear shrouded jowl while the beast parts its jaws in a great yawn.

 

Teeth almost entirely white, reside in slate colored gums with a lolling tongue to match. In truth, his abnormal size is quite startling to those who’ve never before seen him or those like him. Magma Hounds. Due to being about 12 hands in height and double the stature and width of a horse, they tend to be seen as fierce and terrifying.

 

His head moves in close for the rubbing before realizing a new scent has mingled with those more commonly known to him. Here his jaw slides across the stall door to follow his nose in Quinn’s direction. Lazy eyes regard him as flaring nostrils snort in an attempt to acquaint himself with the Knight. “Quinn, this is Caelum, my companion.” The scoundrel moved in no further attempt than to poke his wet slimy nose at Quinn’s chest. Lyrae’s calm keeping him calm as well.

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Rolling his shoulders in a lazy shrug, Quinn favored Lyrae with a small, enigmatic smile. "Morgana City," he said simply, unperturbed by the Knight of Reverence's impassive expression. Instead his gaze flicks to the shifting of monumental weight beyond her, to the Magma Hound. What he had mistakenly taken as a uniquely large horse proved to be much more than that, and this realization dawned on the knight's face. A quick, sudden pallor took the color from his cheeks while his eyes widened. Fresh from Fete Ghede's horrors, Quinn might have bolted for Camria's saddle and drew his blade, but commonsense took a firm hold of his instinct and rooted him in place. Fear was replaced by warranted trepidation, and Quinn stepped back in prudence. He was a knight, not a fool; and what was safe for Lyrae to be beside was not necessarily safe for him. 

 

"Oh." One soft, simple expression that retained volumes of shock and awe. With it came a coarse, forced laughed, Quinn mocking the start Lyrae's mount gave him. Watching the beast swivel it's attention towards him, Quinn swallows and cants his head to ward off the tremor down the length of his spine. All too aware that the Magma Hound could burst through the stall and crush him were it so inclined, the knight steps forward to reoccupy the spot he had retreated from and raises his hand palm down, fingers limp for the hound to sniff. "He's big," the knight says stupidly after introductions. A master of overstatement, the paladin was. He could only imagine what craft had to be plied to make a saddle for such a creature. 

 

Nose pressing against his chest, Quinn's smile turns more genuine while the color returns to his cheeks. Without stopping to consider the danger, he lowers his outstretched hand down to the magma hound's head, settling his palm there. The stablehand that had taken Camria's reins from Quinn turned up not a moment later, standing a respectful distance. The ugly roan's nose flared and her ears flicked nervously, prompting the boy to take a firmer hold of her bridle. Turning his head, Quinn regards the horse, chuckling and shaking his head. "She's not used to seeing bigger things than her," he explains, turning back to Lyrae with yet another slow, indolent shrug. "Say, I've got an idea." He hesitated, reluctant to share for fear of being too forward. In all frankness, the Knight of Faith had taken it upon himself to learn about his fellow brothers and sisters of the Blackheart, or at least as much of their history as was recorded. Lyrae's home was far north, if memory served. "I'm heading north, too. How about some company for the road?" 

Glancing towards Caelum, Quinn's eyes twinkle in merriment. "I'm sure this one provides a great deal of listening, but how's his conversation?" He looked back at Lyrae, seeing how she took his proposal. So calm, so steadfast, he briefly considered traveling alone suited her. To assuage this, he raises his hands and splays his fingers palms up, assuming what he considered his friendliest smile. "I mean, as long as we're going the same direction." 

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