He was a knife through the whipping wind, cutting through the cold currents with the ease of a blade through blood. Soaring through the sun-stained skies, reveling in the synergy between him and his mount; there was no separation between them. Her wings were his, and his strength hers. Every twitch of a muscle, every shuddering breath was shared between the two. There was no Cassidy, there was no Sevra; there was just, for a fleeting moment, freedom. They had slipped the chains of a cruel world, breaking the bonds of gravity that shackled them to reality and finding true freedom in their furious flight.
First flight, and there was no feeling even close to it.
As much as the youth wanted to revel in the moment, in the beauty of world whose rules had just been broken, he forced himself to refocus on the animal he was astride. Riding Volareon wasn't even close to the horseback lessons he had from highwaymen in his training. The rhythm was completely different. With a horse, one could count the hoof-beats against the ground and fall into a sort of dance with the beast. Wing-beats were a different tempo entirely, as if someone had switched the song halfway through a festival and Cassidy was the poor fool trying to play catch-up. The dance had more steps to it, and the meter of the movement could change in an instant. Challenging didn't begin to cover it, but the Kane found himself thriving in the adversity of it all.
Poppy wasn't kidding about weight distribution when she had him grounded as it was essential to guiding Sevra's movements. A half-shift in the pressure of his right thigh could send a signal for the beast to pull back, while that same shift not a inch lower could be the indicator for her to enter into a dead-drop. It was complexity that escaped him while he was earthbound, but something that spoke deep and true while the pair was airborne. When Poppy pressed for the reason behind his sudden improvement, Cassidy couldn't explain. Perhaps he needed to be in the animal's environment to really understand the method of their movement. Perhaps he was just a natural. Or perhaps Xiur had taken it upon himself to bless this Skyrider-in-training's first attempts at touching his domain.
Whatever the reason, Cassidy was glad he had gotten a handle on how to soar. The finer details of flight escaped him for now, but he'd figure them out soon enough. Tasting the clouds for the first time, he'd sooner die than be dragged down from the sky. He was born for this. He felt it, burning deep within his ashen bones. That same burning he felt when he took his first life. He was born this.
"I never get tired of this,"
Poppy's voice sang out among the air's gentle currents, filling the calm sky with the pleasant melody of her sound. Her Volareon, a quiet thing the color of dusk, drifted on lazy winds closer to Cassidy's training mount. They flew in a simple formation, wingtips outstretched so that they almost touched. The way the animals flew together, there was certain, subtle intimacy to it. Or perhaps Cassidy was projecting.
"How could you? It'd be like tiring of beauty, or of flame. I never want leave!"
He called back, happy to have her company. The wind swept back her red-blonde hair, framing it against the flame-stained sky of sunset. If Cassidy was a painter or a poet, he would have immortalized her forever as she was in this moment. Powerful. Kind. Gentle. However, he wasn't an artist. He was soldier, always on the look-out for the next threat.
And that threat was flying next to him, a smile whispering to life on her lips.
Putting his weight fully forward, Cassidy put Sevra into the full dive that he had learned from Poppy. The air roared past him as shot downward, its raucous noise only matched by Poppy's shout of surprise. The Kane could feel his mouth open wide with unrepentant joy as adrenaline filled his veins with cold fire. His scream joined the roar of the air as he and his mount pressed closer and closer to farmland below them. He found his love of flight nearly matched by the feeling of falling, and it was great regret that he finally pulled up; still hundreds of feet above the ground which beckoned him from below.
Poppy's Volareon wasn't even a tick behind, the expert rider at her back easily catching up with an admittedly talented novice. Cassidy met her gaze easily, enjoying that instead of worry or irritation he found humor in her eyes. She was starting to get used to him and all the extremities of his emotions.
However, that amusement swiftly shifted into concern. His brow furrowed in response, confused by her obvious switch in emotion. Had he done something wrong after all?
He opened his mouth to speak, but Poppy blew past him in an instant. Cassidy whipped his head in the direction the woman and her mount were moving, and understanding suddenly dawned on him. Even from this distance and even in the fading the light, the sight struck him.
Billowing towers of white smoke, and beneath them, a raging inferno where no fire should have been. A farmstead set aflame, and as Cassidy struggled to keep pace with his trainer, he could hear the distant screams of terror join the wind.