• Closed • Trapped Under The Wagon, Part One (Tristan)

50th of Ashan 720

The untamed wilderness of Melrath is vast and encompasses frigid mountain ranges, glacial fields, deep alpine lakes, dark ancient forests as well as the expansive shoreline of the nation. Here creatures and spirits dwell together in the remote places of the world, far from the hustle and bustle of civilization.
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Trapped Under The Wagon, Part One (Tristan)

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Trapped Under the Wagon
58h - 62 Ashan 720



Ashling had struck a deal with the mage Adèle Air’ryn in Zida and expected to bring the woman with her to Fensalir. But, the plans were now changed. Some of the mages the Aesir and Ragnari had abducted in Vhalar had returned to Raelia on the 50th of Ashan 720. Adèle found it impossible to leave the city. Her husband might come back! She was going to stay put in Raelia and wait for his return, forever if it would come to that. And so, to Ashling’s relief, they had cancelled the troublesome deal.

Instead, Ashling was going to ride to Fensalir in more pleasant company. She and her dear betrothed, Tristan Venora, were both aiming to take part in a prestigious contest in Fensalir a bit later in the season. (The Tournament of Plants and Potions, an event hosted by the noble houses Namdalen and Magnus.) Ashling was also going to spend a few trials at Lake Svariella, she hoped. She had found it best to not try and meddle in Tristan’s plans. It was enough that they had agreed to ride on horseback and they would begin the journey to-trial.


Ashling owned a horse, the lovely grey palfrey mare Granegal. So far so good. But, as the horse was a former jester horse and full of tricks and Ashling was a beginner rider it would be a challenge. But, Tristan had said that he would help out and teach Ashling to ride. She hoped that would compensate for her lack of experience.

Feeling positive, she had packed all the necessary things for a journey in her saddlebags. She (and Silver, her dog) were ready to leave, but she didn’t know about Tristan. Was he, for example, going to bring his small daughter Ayla and servants and everything? She hadn’t wanted to seem like a busybody so she had abstained from asking for details. She didn’t need to know everything in advance ... it was no problem for her if he would bring a lot of stuff and people with him.

All she personally needed was her horse and her dog, a set of dry clothes to shift into if the weather would be bad and some basic wilderness equipment. Waxed tarp, knife, waterskin, rope, that kind of items. She brought her bow and arrows too. She wasn’t much of an archer and she seldom found a reason to use the weapon but she felt that it was best to arm up. A journey was much like hiking in the wilds, only on mud roads instead of paths. Things could happen. As a healer, she, of course, brought a first aid kit too. Oh, and empty bags, if she would stumble over useful herbs.

Granegal wore a saddle and gear of used quality. Ashling didn’t see any reason to not recycle the good items. Her contact at the stables had sold them at a very affordable price. Come to think of it, her dear Tristan had a bad habit of being ... wasteful ... but so far she had put up with his tendency to wallow in luxury.

She didn’t want to nag. As a healer, she had treated the consequences of domestic arguments many times. Demanding “perfect” matching of every detail was a safe way to ruin a relationship. Tolerance was key and you had to think of people's upsides and let other things slide. Tristan was a wonderful man. He did good things like donations to orphans. He created potions that could help people a great deal. Art ... In that light, it seemed a bit petty to frown upon his taste for luxury. Still. The best for the world was to not consume too much!

Anyways ... the weather was getting warmer. The temperature had been rising with each trial since the beginning of the season. The trials had grown longer and it was light for 10 breaks now. A rainstorm had cleared away the snow and ice of the winder and now. It was sometimes nice and warm in the spring sun. The grass was growing lush and the leafy trees and bushes were getting new small light green leaves. It was the time of the year when baby animals were born, birds were singing and early flowers began to bloom. But, it could be cold in the mornings and mist was often followed by rain.

Rains were common but they were often brief. The rain was water, a gift from the great Induk Vynmur and a good for all life and for farmers and their crops. It was a necessity for the flourishing nature. Some people were already saying that it was going to be one of the best spring in decades.

From a traveller point of view, it could be inconvenient with unsteady weather though. If they would be lucky the sun would shine on them all the way to Svariella and Fensalir. If not ... would that be a sign of how much Vynmur appreciated their attendance at their sacrifice in Cylus? Would the Induk’s benevolence keep them dry or would it soak them in well-meant rain and cover them in the road mud? The ways of the Induks could be unfathomable.

In any case, she would see it as good. There was no bad weather, they said, only bad clothing. This thought had made her worry a bit about Tristan. What if he would travel dressed in light blue frippery? It became him, the light blue attire, but Ashling worried that he would catch a cold or even pneumonia. She had added extra woollen blankets and a used but warm good old Melrathi sheepskin coat to her packing! (She was ready to fuss over him if he would show the slightest sign of illness.)

Ashling arrived at their agreed meeting place, leading Granegal by the reins and Silver at a long leash. She was feeling ready to go.
Last edited by Ashling on Tue Apr 14, 2020 6:21 pm, edited 1 time in total. word count: 1004
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Re: Trapped Under The Wagon (Tristan)

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Tristan had never really cared about winning for the sake of winning. He didn’t need to be the best or the most famous – with one exception. He wanted to be better than Padraig Augustin. Padraig had married Faith, the woman that he had loved once. Of course, he wasn’t in love with Faith anymore – he had Ashling now who had the most wonderful grey skin and black eyes and who was just so incredibly lovely – but his goal to become better at alchemy than Padraig remained.

Winning the potions tournament would bring him another step closer to that goal; and besides, it sounded like it would be a lot of fun. He couldn’t wait to see what the other contestants (and the judges, of course) thought of his ideas; and of course, he was curious about their creations as well. He hadn’t had a lot of contact with other alchemists, apart from Padraig so far and was quite looking forward to interacting with a few colleagues.

The best thing was that Ashling would be accompanying him. She would take part in another part of the contest which meant that he would get to spend time with her. He was really looking forward to that!

While Ashling was being very reasonable and packed a lot of useful (and occasionally used) stuff, Tristan couldn’t help but indulge a little. He didn’t want to brag about his wealth; he just saw no reason to not pack nice stuff when he had it. Some of the things that he put in the saddlebags of his beloved horse Maxos (who, as he had told his fiancée, had been named after Peake Maxos Andaris, the former heir of House Andaris, one of the most dangerous men in Rynmere and one of his favourite models) were practical though, such as food, drinks and a lantern, among other things.

He did of course also pack his crossbow in case they encountered trouble on the road. It was a rather extravagant crossbow – it had been painted blue – but it shot bolts just as well as any of those boring brown or black crossbows, if not even better since it was masterfully made. Finally, there was a bag with a second set of clothes, a blanket, a warm coat and a small tent behind the saddle.

Ashling was likely already waiting for him though, so he quickly checked if he had everything one last time before he led Maxos out of the stable. The young Melrathi woman would be pleased to note that her Outlander fiancé was dressed a bit less extravagantly than he normally was. He had opted for a dark blue outfit without any embroidery or other fancy details this time; it was fashionable and obviously of high quality, but comparatively suited for travelling – or at least more suited than most other clothes that he owned.

She would likely also be pleased to note that he had not insisted on bringing his entire household, including his daughter and his servants and his pets. Ayla would stay behind, the care of Lianne, his oldest and most trusted bodyguard who was also a close friend. A journey on horseback would be too exhausting for a girl of Ayla’s age. He would miss her though!

The horse that was attached to the reins that the young noble held in his right hand was definitely a bit on the unusual side. Maxos was just as big as his namesake had been (and Peake had been very big!). In fact, he was absolutely gigantic! He was midnight black, with thick muscles, black eyes and a luxurious mane, and he let out a loud sound when he saw Ashling’s horse.

“Are you ready to go? Do you have everything that you need?” Tristan asked Ashling and smiled at her because he was just so happy to see her again – even though he had last seen her only a few bits earlier. “You have ridden Grenegal before, haven’t you?” he wanted to know a few moments later. Ashling had told him that she was a beginner when it came to riding a horse. He hadn’t asked her for any details as he hadn’t wanted to embarrass her. Now, he couldn’t help but be a little worried though.

He hoped that she did at least know how to climb onto Granegal’s back and get her mount to move in the direction that she wanted it to move! Otherwise, their trip would be … challenging!
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Aaaawwwww…Tristan was the most handsome man in the whole world! And, it would only be the two of them, no servants watching them. Not putting little Ayla at risk for the sake of a contest was very sensible of him. Such a good father, Tristan! So beautiful too! Her betrothed! He was looking so good in the dark blue outfit he wore to-trial. She felt like it brought out something she hadn’t seen in him before. It felt this “something” so far had hidden beneath cerulean blue extravagance. Embroideries, lace and other elegant adornments had covered it. She wasn’t able to describe that impression, but she felt it.

Oh! Emotion had carried her away there, for a moment. More correct, she had felt enthralled. She gave herself a silent order to shape up. She couldn't stand there like a lovestruck fool (even if she was one). Tristan had asked her if she was ready to go and if she knew how to ride Granegal so she ought to answer.

“I’m ready!” She gave Tristan a happy smile.

Silver barked in agreement and Granegal looked expectant. The two animals seemed to get that a long and fun time of outdoors life awaited them. Ashling smiled. She knew how to take care of them, but she wished that she had put more effort into animal training and riding. But, the investigation of the fate of the abducted stormtouched had taken up her time.

It had been a fruitless search for information. From the encounter with the stalker in Zi'da, she knew that they might be in prison. She had never been able to verify it. Also, the shifty Adèle hadn't shared the knowledge she had claimed to have. Nothing had become clearer. It wasn’t until recently there had been any news at all. Alas, the news had been disappointing. It had only been about releasing some mages who didn’t tell anything.

That had come in the way. She hadn’t found time to learn as much about animal training as she had aimed at. The riding lessons had been so few that she was little more than an absolute beginner.

“I have ridden on Granegal before ... but not very much. I was thinking that it can be good to begin at a slower pace so I can get my bearings...”

This meant that she thought she knew how to mount the horse, not that she was any good at it (or at getting down). She believedshe knew the very basic things about how to control a horse. But, she still lacked experience in practice.

Granegal was a very nice and collaborative palfrey though. She was docile and eager to learn and please her rider. So far, so good. But there was a downside of this personality and the horse’s high ability to learn. Granegal had learnt an unknown number of tricks. She had belonged to jesters and participated in their performances. Ashling had made the experience of getting subjected to a performance trick. It had happened the first time she had met Granegal. The horse had dragged her into a never-ending happy dance with many steps and turns. It had gone on until an animal handler had managed to stop it. Now when Ashling knew to not mention the words “dance” or “dancing” it wouldn’t happen again though!

“Your horse is gorgeous.” She had to admire the elegant animal. Tristan’s horse was as high quality as everything he owned, but in this case, she didn’t worry that it might be wasteful. A horse like that was expensive but a good animal was always well worth the money.

She hoped the two horses would get along. Recalling what she had learnt about horses’ enormous need of company she hoped they would like each other. Otherwise, it could become complicated.

As they were outdoors, a chatty bypassing man interrupted them. “Are you going on a trip?” He spoke to Ashling only and ignored Tristan. "A lovely Melrathi girl, alone with bad company? Young woman! I feel compelled to warn you! I’ll tell you a few things ...”

The gleam in his eyes suggested that he was the kind who relish an opportunity to be a killjoy. Without waiting for an answer or permission he began to tell her a dampening story.

“Rumor has it that there have been incidents with Myrkvior’s Kin on the roads. Not close to Raelia, but near Vorkund. Well, not on the glacier, but let's say on the forest road below. Also, the road from there to Alivilda is getting more dangerous these days, rumour has it. The settlement at Svariella draws The Kin like sugar draws wasps. I wouldn’t feel surprised if the roads between Alivilda and Fensalir are risky too! They say that a lot of Stormie weirdo’s avoided the raids in Vhalar and they are living in the wilderness now. It wouldn’t surprise me if those are as troublesome as The Kin are.”

At this point, the man had to draw breath and Ashling got in a reply. “Thanks, but we must be on our way now. We don’t have time to chat.”

The man shrugged. “Travelling with an outlander softie who isn’t able to carry his own weight is like inviting trouble. You’re going to get in trouble with them all! Mark my words! You shouldn’t take the job. Let the outlander find another guide.”

“Begone! Fek off! ” Ashling spit out the words in her best aggressive Melrathi tone. Silver joined in and barked in his best aggressive Melrathi sheepdog tone. He looked ready to attack.

The man shrugged again. "Mind your manners, greyskin." He gave her a smug smile and continued down the street. Ashling breathed in and sighed, doing her best to compose. My. She had bitched at the man. the man. She had been swearing at him too (she worried that Tristan might find it unappealing).

“I don’t use to lose my temper,” she assured him. “I don’t want to listen to that kind of insults though! ”

Pretending to want to help me! That rude malevolent babbling grendel!

Grendels. There were those too. Come to think of it. “There can be some truth to what he said about some incidents on the roads.” Ashling didn’t want to sound like that negative man though, “No need to exaggerate the risks but I brought my bow. Are you armed, Tristan?”

The intermezzo was over. She turned her attention to the riding. She tied Silver’s leash to the saddle and then she embarked on mounting up. There was no suitable mounting block or big stone around. But, it was only to grab the reins and a tuft of mane, put her foot into the stirrup and pull herself up. She would swing the right leg over the horses back in the process.

It seemed easy, but she had only mounted from a mounting block before and it had been the animal handler Hakon holding the horse, not the dog Silver... Ashling was too inexperienced to realize that she already had done something wrong.

Feeling very tense she concentrated hard and held her breath. (She had no idea what a common beginner mistake that was.) She held on to reins and mane with the left hand. Then she took the stirrup in her right hand. She lifted her left foot and rammed it hard into the stirrup to make it stay put there. This done she began to pull herself up ... and Granegal moved away from her a wee bit.

The horse felt intrigued by its new buddy Silver who had tired of standing still and was doing nosework. The mare focused on the dog. Ashling clung to the horse and the saddle, jumping after the animal on her right foot. That was her only option. Having rammed the left foot into the stirrup to make it stay there had stuck her boot there. As she didn’t want to scare the horse she suppressed a scream. Only a muffled moan passed over her lips.
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Re: Trapped Under The Wagon (Tristan)

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Ashling smiled at him so radiantly that it nearly melted Tristan’s heart, and he abruptly let go of Maxos’ reins and came a bit closer to her. He wanted to take her into his arms and kiss her before they embarked on their trip. It was just as he stepped towards her that Silver began to bark though. The young noble turned around and stared at the dog dumbfoundedly for a moment before he laughed out loud. It was a laughter of pure joy. He didn’t mind the animal’s behaviour at all. On the contrary, it amused him. Even the animals were excited, it seemed!

“He is, isn’t he?” he agreed as Ashling complimented Maxos and patted the huge stallion’s side. “I wonder what his namesake is up to at the moment though and whether he managed to escape the plague”, he mused. “The last time I saw Lord Andaris, he had just lost a leg”, he remarked. He didn’t say more as the story of how Peake had lost his leg was rather gruesome (it had been during a fight against a Sessfiend), and he didn’t want to think about such gruesome things right now. He was much too happy!

He was just about to mount Maxos (and help Ashling mount her horse, in case she had trouble getting on Granegal’s back) when a man approached them. He didn’t mind people approaching them and talking to them – in fact, he loved meeting new people. So, when the stranger asked them if they were going on a trip he smiled in a friendly way. He was just about to explain that they were going to take part in the potions tournament when the man warned Ashling about the bad company that she was supposedly in.

Another man might have been offended. Tristan on the other hand merely cocked his head a little to the side, his eyes twinkled, and the corners of his mouth twitched in amusement as he found it quite funny that anybody might consider him to be bad company – and that the man thought that Ashling was his guide. When the man proceeded to make a derogatory comment about his fiancée’s skin color though, he abruptly stopped smiling and narrowed his eyes.

“This outlander softie here is the duke of Oakleigh, one of the most powerful men in Rynmere – and quite skilled with a crossbow – and this grey-skinned beauty here happens to be my fiancée, so watch your mouth, sir!” he warned him and crossed his arms over his chest, glaring at him. Tristan was normally a calm and peaceful man and disliked violence and threats, but he stopped being a pacifist where the people he cared about were concerned. He would even take on the Immortals for them if he had to!

“Bah”, he muttered once the man had finally taken his leave. “What an unpleasant fellow. Are you all right, Ashling?” he asked and looked at his fiancée, his tone of voice laced with concern. “I have this here”, he replied and removed his crossbow from the saddlebag. “Do you think it will do?” he asked, smiling slightly as he absolutely refused to let the rude man to ruin the mood.

“I wasn’t lying, by the way”, he informed her. “I do know how to use a crossbow. I was trained by a knight back in Rynmere.” He’d originally asked for somebody to show him how to fight with a sword, but there had been a mix-up, and the knights had sent him a fellow named Kylar that had had a crossbow. He’d been a little mad about that, but had decided to give it a try nevertheless – and found that he really enjoyed shooting things. Sometimes, he even used his old sculptures for target practice.

He was about to explain to Ashling how to mount a horse as it didn’t seem as if she knew a lot about it when she simply went ahead and put her right foot in a stirrup. He furrowed his brow for a moment, but didn’t intervene as he wasn’t sure if she’d appreciate that. She might want to do this on her own. When he noticed that something had gone wrong though and her boot had gotten stuck, he immediately let go of Maxos though and rushed to her aid. “Careful”, he told her as she touched her foot and tried to free it, holding onto Granegal’s reins at the same time in order to get the horse to stop moving.

“Are you hurt?” he asked Ashling once he had hopefully managed to pull her foot loose.
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“Oh, spirits!” Ashling drew a deep breath and tried her best to compose. “She moved away, right when I...” She regained her normal breathing and gave a small laugh. “Thanks for saving me! I’m not hurt, only a bit shaky. ”

And feeling foolish ...

Ashling looked down at her stuck foot. She realized that she had rammed it too hard into the stirrup. That was a mistake she had learnt to avoid in the future! If she had been alone, if Tristan hadn’t been there to take control of the horse, it could have ended with an accident. What if she had lost her balance and fallen on the ground, one foot caught in the stirrup? Ashling didn’t even want to think of it. As they were still in Raelia somebody would have come to her sooner or later, but she might have been injured.

As she looked at the foot, Tristan was freeing it from the stirrup. So far so good, but it revealed a brand new thing to Ashling. She hadn’t used to look at his hands much. His beautiful face, his eyes and his dazzling smile was what she used to look at. Sometimes she also admired the beauty of his well-proportioned body and the way he carried his elegant attire. She hadn’t paid attention to his hands. But, now she did...

Black nails?

For a moment she was on the verge to ask why his nails were so dirty. Then, a closer look at the nails told her that they didn’t look dirty. They were only...black.

Painted nails? Like those red lacquered nails some people favour... but black? Is this some outlandish custom? Does it have a special reason?

That felt like a very far-fetched explanation. But, a less far-fetched explanation was growing in her thoughts! This was an explanation that made sense to Ashling. It fit right into a context which was important and meaningful to her.

He has claws. He’s a stormtouched!

It looks like a lighter case, as his skin colour isn’t affected. As far as I know, that is. I can’t know how he looked before the storms. There can be changes I’m unaware of. There can be subtle signs. Things I haven’t noticed, like his ... claws. I’ve got to keep my eyes open. He may need help!


Ashling had all the time seen the stormtouched as people and not as freaks. Now, realizing that her own beloved Tristan, her husband to be was a stormtouched, it didn’t deter her from marrying him. She didn’t even see him as ill, as the stormtouched weren’t ill, only different. Also, it didn’t even occur to her to pity him. Tristan was no weakling in need of pity. For example, he hadn’t hesitated to confront that unpleasant bypasser. The way he had stared that man down, arms crossed over his chest had spoken volumes. It had shown her that her betrothed’s good manners were politeness, not weakness. Not that Ashling had ever thought anything else. Tristan had even attended the ritual sacrifices without blinking or making a fool of himself.

He had the common sense to arm up too. His Crossbow, like many other things he owned, looked expensive and extravagant. It didn’t make the weapon less dangerous. Ashling, of course, had taken it for granted that he could use it! (He had once told her about how he had saved the life of a king!) She had assured him that it was enough!

But, about the nails that revealed that he was a stormtouched.

For a start, she would only observe him. Well, she would also attempt to figure out which kind of animalistic traits he might have gained. Continuous observation of his behaviour (and appearance) might reveal subtle signs that could tell her more. For now, she found it too early to speculate. Many animals had claws. She would also not ask Tristan any questions about his stormtouched-ness. She would wait and see!

In the trials to come, her gaze and her constant attention would follow him. (Ashling would attempt to be discrete.) Then again, it might be appropriate to ask him questions once in a while. She would keep potential questions subtle. Finesse was key in such a delicate situation as this.


Her foot was free and Tristan moved his hand out of sight for her. Ashling felt ready to make a new attempt to get up on the back of the merry Granegal. The horse stood there calm and docile now when Tristan was holding the reins. His horse, Maxos, watched them, looking unaffected. For a moment Ashling wondered what Maxos was thinking of her amateur rider mishaps. It felt like it was a good thing that horses couldn't speak.

Ashling laughed one more time. She turned a bit and gave Tristan a spontaneous hug. They were standing so close and it felt natural to show him her love, especially now when she knew ...

“I seem to be doing it wrong.”
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Re: Trapped Under The Wagon (Tristan)

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“I’m relieved that you are alright”, Tristan remarked when his fiancée let him know that she wasn’t hurt and smiled reassuringly at her while he tried to free her foot. His heart was still beating a bit faster due to what he had just witnessed. He wasn’t sure how exactly Ashling had managed to get her foot stuck in the stirrup. It was quite a feat in his opinion. Of course, he didn’t say anything about that. Instead he remarked, because she might be embarrassed and he wanted to make her feel better about her mistake, “I still remember when I learned to ride. I actually managed to fall off the other side of the horse before I finally figured out how to mount it – and stay on its back!”

He wasn’t lying or exaggerating. He had struggled a bit when he had first taken riding lessons, when he had been a boy of less than ten arcs of age, because his grandmother, the esteemed Duchess Ebony Venora, had insisted that a noble should know how to ride.

“Here you are”, he added once he had finally managed to disentangle her foot and looked up, meeting her gaze. There was something strange about the way that she gazed at him, something curious, but he didn’t dwell too much on it. He thought that she was looking at him like that because she was still a bit shaky from her near-accident. He definitely didn’t suspect that she was looking at his nails that had more or less been a gift from Ayla’s uncle Vri and that she had come to the absolutely wrong conclusion that he was a stormtouched. Not that he had a problem with the stormtouched. He just wasn’t one!

“I’m relieved that you think this crossbow here is enough, by the way”, he remarked. “Truth to be told, I considered packing my cane sword as well, just in case!” he admitted, smirking slightly as if he’d made a bit of a joke. She’d probably seen him use it every once in a while, in place of a conventional walking stick. He’d mostly gotten it because cane swords had been a popular fashion accessory in Rynmere at the time. His had a handle that looked like a dragon’s head and was black and decorated with pieces of actual gold.

When Ashling spontaneously hugged him, he stopped thinking about cane swords and such again though and hugged her back before he placed a very gentle kiss on her lips and finally withdrew again, his blue eyes sparkling.

“Let me help you”, he said when she remarked that she seemed to be doing it wrong. Truth to be told, Tristan wasn’t the best rider either, but he knew how to mount a horse and how to get it to move in the direction that he wanted it to move, and he also managed to not look like a fool while he was riding it – as long as the horse in question didn’t go too fast and was halfway calm and docile. Which Maxos fortunately was, most of the time, unless somebody that was not Tristan tried to climb on his back (in which case, he was prone to angry outbursts and even occasionally tried to bite the person that dared to touch him).

“Grab the reins”, he instructed her, standing next to her, still smiling reassuringly. “And put your left foot in the left stirrup. Shift your body weight onto your mounting foot and swing your other leg over the top of the horse. If you want to, you can grab the pommel of your saddle for extra support. Here, I’ll show you how”, he offered before he proceeded to mount Maxos as watching him might be more helpful than simply explaining it to her – only to dismount again a moment later, in case he had to help her onto Granegal’s back.
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Ashling watched Tristan mount up. He followed the steps he had told her. There was no attempt to show off only useful instruction. She felt reassured. This was something she might be able to do!

To be honest, the animal trainer Hakon Grude had daunted her by seeming to fly up onto the horse. He had been riding on Jarl too. The aggressive stallion had accepted Hakon after Ashling had provided sedative herbs. It would be a lie to say that Jarl had been nice though. The fiery steed had seemed as explosive as ever and but Hakon had been calm. He had for sure been an expert or even a master at riding. Tristan seemed more like an average rider. The gap between their proficiencies seemed smaller. It felt easier to learn from him!

“Please hold the horse for me.” She wasn’t going to trust the dog silver with that task again. Learning from her previous mistakes felt important. She was also going to avoid ramming her boot too hard into the stirrup. Tristan hadn’t said anything about it. But, she had been under the impression that he had found her situation a bit unusual.

When he took the reins she saw his black claws again. For a moment she lost focus. She gazed into his eyes. So blue! Was blue eyes a sign? Was the blue colour natural or had mysterious storms affected them? Had there been any telltale signs of specific animal traits when he had mounted his horse? She had forgotten to think of it. Hence, she still didn’t have the slightest idea. She must make sure to be more observant the next time!

Oh, spirits how beautiful those blue eyes were! She could lose herself in them forever ...

Enough! Ashling composed. They were going to Fensalir. She was getting help to mount up and ought to mount up now, not keep him standing there until he would find it weird. So! She grabbed the saddle with her right hand. Then she almost drew her breath and braced herself like it was about climbing a mountain. But, in the last moment, she recalled that Hakon had told her that a nervous rider would get a nervous horse. The rider’s mood would spread to the horse at once, he had said. Being herd animals and prey animals. horses were sensitive to even tiny signs of danger. Ashling relaxed a bit and maintained her natural breath.

She put her left foot in the stirrup, shifted her weight to her mounting foot and then she lifted herself and ... after sort of falling onto the horse halfway over she crawled into position. She was too busy with this manoeuvre to be sure, but it felt like Tristan helped her a bit there. When she had her right leg on the other side she found the stirrup and got her foot into it. Now, she felt like she had done awesome progress. She was sitting in the saddle and ready to go! Fabulous! Ashling knew that she was far from awesome, but to her, it felt fantastic nonetheless.

Words of Hakon echoed in her memory. She ought to be friendly to Granegal now and show affection for the animal. Ashling patted the horse a bit and spoke to it in a soft and nice voice. She could see Granagal's ears move a wee bit. Was the horse listening for orders? Ashling wasn't going to say anything Granegal might take as a cue to carry out some of the secret tricks is knew. Dancing or dance was, for example, forbidden words. Ashling wished that she had remembered to tell Tristan about it. It was too late now. Granegal was listening!

“I made it!” She beamed at Tristan, looking at him from her place on the horse. “Thanks!”

She supposed they were ready to go so she reached for the reins. Holding her hands high in the air to better keep her balance she was doing it wrong, but she wasn’t aware of that. If left the reins too long and so, the would give her little control over the horse. Clenching her upper legs in a tight grip on the horse seemed smart too. She didn’t want to fall off. But, it was a bad idea, because Granegal reacted by moving forward. The horse seemed displeased! Ashling found that the reins didn’t work as expected either. She tried to not grip it with her legs anymore but the horse was already walking. The pace was slow but relentless. Silver liked that they were moving on already and ran beside the horse. The outing was starting right now and all were ready to go - except Ashling. She tried to pull in the reins but it was hard. After struggling with it she found that if she held her hands at hip level it worked better. She tensed the reins a bit and Granegal stopped.

“Tristan?” She turned her head a bit and looked back over her shoulder.

Maybe she would still get a new chance to watch him mount Maxos ... would he do it in a birdlike manner or would he move like a cat ... or something else ... she was itching to see it!


“Eh ... Tristan? Are you coming?”
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Re: Trapped Under The Wagon (Tristan)

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“Of course“, Tristan replied when Ashling asked him to hold the horse for her, walked over to Granegal and took her reins into his hands which would allow the young Melrathi woman to take another good look at his nails before she finally faced the challenge of climbing onto the mare’s back. He didn’t just hold the reins though; he gentle stroke Granegal in order to calm her down and distract her and whispered different words to her at the same time, how nice she was, how beautiful she was and what a good girl she was, words that might have made one jealous, if Granegal weren’t a mere animal.

Part of his attention was on Ashling nevertheless though. In fact, his gaze flittered towards her every other trill, in order to make sure that she was doing it correctly and to intervene in case it seemed as if she might be at risk of suffering another near-accident. “You are doing great”, he complimented her when she lifted herself, because she really was, especially for someone that was pretty much an absolute beginner – and helped her with the last couple of inches so that she was where she was supposed to be before long – on Granegal’s back. She looked so beautiful when she sat there like that!

He didn’t doubt that she would master the art of horseback riding in no time – and become better than him, if what he had observed when she had first met Ayla’s four-eyed dog was anything to go by. In his opinion, Ashling had a gift when it came to animals!

“You did!” he agreed when she said that she had made it and returned the smile. “Wait a bit for me though, will you?” he asked with a hint of amusement as Granegal had already started to move forward. “If you want your horse to stop, apply pressure with our legs, tighten your grip on the reins and pull them towards your body”, he added, in case she knew how to make Granegal to move forward, but not how to make her stop. At least he thought that was how it worked. Maxos obeyed when he did that, most of the time at least. Sometimes he did what he wanted regardless. Now was fortunately not one of those times though. In fact, he waited patiently for Tristan to climb on his back.

Which the duke did. “Give me a moment!” he informed Ashling when she asked him if he was coming before he put his left foot in the stirrup and swung his body across the black stallion’s back, wobbling momentarily before he sat up straight. Ashling was wondering if he did it in a birdlike manner or like a cat. Apart from the fact, that the movement had not been entirely flawless, Tristan seemed to be fairly graceful, which was in part due to his slender build that lent itself more to things that required dexterity rather than strength. Whether she considered that to be catlike, was up to her though.

“Let’s go!” he proclaimed and gave Maxos the signal to start moving – and then a more insistent signal as the stallion ignored him the first time after which he finally started to walk. “I’m really excited about our trip”, he added as they began to ride away from Raelia, towards their destination. “Do you have any idea what will await us at the tournament? I’ve never taken part in a potions tournament before – or any tournament at all. I just occasionally watched tournaments when I was still living in Rynmere. Those were usually signing contests or involved knights that wanted to prove that they were the best at jousting or fighting with a sword though.”

“They were kind of repetitive in my opinion, but my relatives really loved them …”

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Re: Trapped Under The Wagon (Tristan)

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Now, when they had left Raelia and were on the road to Fensalir, Ashling took in the beauty of spring in Fensalir. The tender new foliage of leafy trees and bushes painted the world light green and made it so bright and pretty. The winter seemed like a dark old frozen memory when she looked at the spring flowers in the lush grass on the roadsides. The forest stood full of life. The sun was shining and the warm air was full of birdsong.

Ashling practised the advice Tristan had given her. She felt that she did well enough, for a beginner rider. But, to be honest, the road they were on was so far an easy road and her horse Granegal was an easy horse to ride. Tristan seemed to also do well enough. Oh, and riding on Maxos he looked more handsome than ever!

She had already explained the route to Tristan before they left Raelia, so she assumed that she would have to repeat it unless he asked about it. She mulled a bit over it in her thoughts though.

As Ashling wanted to travel via Lake Svariella they crossed Vynmur bit to the east of Ashara Citadel. They continued southward on the western side of the river. Being the native Melrathi with knowledge about the geography she had planned the route for them. It wasn’t a complicated plan (if nothing would happen to disturb it). For people like Ashling, who wasn’t used to long trips on horseback, the journey from Raelia to Svariella might take something like four trials, perhaps more. Hence, they had started early. It was better to arrive in advance than to be late to the tournament.

The first couple of trials they would mostly ride on forest roads between high trees and through glens and meadows. Later, where a bend of Vynmur brought the river closer on the eastern side of the route and they had Ymir mountains and Vorkund to the west they would cross meadows and farmlands, the take the forest roads to Alivilda and Lake Svariella. They were rebuilding the settlement there and people were moving there again like they didn’t care that it had ended with bloodshed in Vhalar. Ashling was going to investigate the situation and find out what was going on this time. She counted on spending few trials there before they would ride to Fensalir and the tournament.

But, she knew that many things could happen on a journey. The wildlife was active this time of the arc and they had cubs, puppies, fawns and other young animals to protect. The bulk of Myrkvior, the big wilds, was on the eastern side of the river though. (And so was Fensalir.) Robbers, assaults, incidents on the road ... she couldn’t help thinking of the warnings the unpleasant bypasser in Raelia had been so happy to give them. The killjoy! He had probably lied about the problems on the roads just to be mean to them!


When Tristan struck up a conversation she focused on him instead.

“The tournament ...” Ashling laughed when she heard Tristan’s describe the tournaments of his own country. “Bard tournaments are not unknown in Melrath. Battle tournaments where warriors meet and take the measure of each other are also popular events. But, The Tournament of Plants and Potions is unique. It’s the first time it happens.”

She told him the details she remembered. The Jarls of the houses Namdalen and Magnus hosted the event. It was partly an attempt of house Magnus to encourage alchemists. They were looking or more to their network of employees, partners and contacts. Namdalen seemed to want to encourage healers?

The information they had released so far was only of a general kind. The dates.The place. Medicine and alchemy contests. Ashling guessed that they wouldn’t get more details until it was time for the tournament to start. Otherwise, some people might try to get a head start and win by cheating.

She kept looking at Tristan. It was natural to look at people when speaking with them. It was also natural to often look a beloved betrothal. She hoped that she didn’t come off as staring. But, she was still looking for telltale stormtouched traits. Small signs might bring her closer to the discovery of the (supposed) animal traits in him.

He had moved with the grace of some kind of feline when he mounted Maxos. She realized that it didn’t have to mean anything. His build was elegant and agile, not clumsy. If he hadn’t been a foreign duke, alchemist and sculptor, he might have been a dancer, a fencer, a playful acrobat with awesome balance or an art rider of the kind that performed on horseback, one with his horse... it was easy to imagine all this.

That also matched a whole lot of feline traits. The horse Maxos seemed to like to carry Tristan too. Ashling thought of Kettil Cat, the best friend of a horse she had given herbal treatments. Horses like cats, right?

But, despite this, she didn’t feel sure that Tristan reminded her of a cat. It was for example very hard to imagine Tristan showing the cruelty of a cat. They were predators, known for their relentless stalking of prey. The cats also subjected their little victims to torture. They used them as toys before they killed and ate them. Cats were so cute, soft and fluffy but they were also murderous little things.

So ... in that case ... if not cat traits ... what?

What could his black claws mean?


“I wonder how far we will be able to ride before the evening comes,” she said. “What do you think, Tristan?”

If Tristan would ask her how long time this journey used to take she wouldn’t be able to give him any exact answers. They said an experienced rider travelling at breakneck speed could make it in a couple of trials. She didn’t know if that was true. And it might ruin their horse. It upset her a bit. She was not into abusing animals for the sake of her own convenience.

Ashling believed that the best would be to make a camp in a nice glen. A glen with grass for the horses to eat and a stream where they all could get water. But, sometimes there were also roadside taverns where travellers could stay the night. Those taverns used to be small and simple places. Many didn’t last a long time before they closed again but they might run into one that was open.

How they would do was still an open question. She wanted to hear Tristan’s opinion. It was still early in the evening. They weren't in a hurry to make a decision.

Ashling pointed a the silent log house they were passing by right now. “That one, for example, is a former tavern. It closed a long time ago but logs are durable and one day a new owner may open it again. You never know.”

Even as she spoke this proved true. A woman armed with a loaded crossbow came around the corner of the log house. For a moment it seemed like she was ready to shoot people at sight. But, when she had given them a once over, she lowered the weapon.

"Sorry, but you can never be too cautious these days. The stories I could tell you!”

She seemed ready to tell those stories at once but stopped there. “But, I don't want to be a croaker. Name's Erna! If you are looking for a rest I've recently opened this place. I brew the mead myself. It's a secret old family recipe!"

Erna was a tall woman dressed in practical brown working clothes spruced up by a colourful apron. She had braided her light brown hair and put the braids up like a crown on her head. It created a neat and trustworthy look. Now, she smiled a tavern owner kind of smile at them, inviting and good-humoured. Ashling guessed the roadside inn business was as bad as it used to be. Erna seemed eager to earn a few nel.
Last edited by Ashling on Mon Apr 13, 2020 9:52 am, edited 1 time in total. word count: 1378
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Re: Trapped Under The Wagon (Tristan)

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Fensalir was truly beautiful in spring. Tristan couldn’t help but admire the landscape. At the same time, seeing the trees that sported new, green leaves and, in some cases, little blossoms in white and pink, and the spring flowers made him slightly melancholic though – because it reminded him of what his native Venora had been like in the springtime. Of course, it was entirely possible that the Venora that he remembered was gone now.

The plague had ravaged the land of his ancestors as well.

Fortunately, the aforementioned melancholy didn’t last. He couldn’t be sad for long when the sun was shining and warming his face, when the birds were chirping in the trees, and when his fiancée was riding next to him. Ashling was already doing much better, he observed. In fact, she did exceptionally well for someone that hadn’t even known how to mount a horse correctly prior to that trial. By the time that they returned home, she would probably be better than him!

“The first time?” he asked and raised an eyebrow as Ashling had told him that they had never been a potions tournament before. “So, I could be the first winner ever!” he concluded, smiling brightly. “I know that the Magnuses are pretty powerful alchemists – I’ve been meaning to get in contact with them – but what does House Namdalen do?” he wanted to know. He had only arrived in Melrath the cycle before and was still trying to familiarize himself with the culture and the politics of his new home.

“Do you have any idea what you’ll make for the tournament, by the way?” he asked. He didn’t mind that she constantly stared at him, and he didn’t consider it to be strange either. He kept on looking at her all the time as well after all, because she was so lovely, and he couldn’t believe his luck that he had met her, even though their engagement had started out a bit unusual – or maybe because of the way that they had met.

He loved it when things were a bit unusual!

“I have no idea”, he admitted when she asked him how far they would be able to ride and furrowed his brow, pulling at the reins of Maxos in order to tell him to slow down a little. He was a better rider than Ashling, but sometimes, talking and riding a horse (and getting it to do what you wanted it to do) at the same time still posed a challenge to him. “It depends on the condition of the roads, if the weather holds up and how fast we ride.”

“I honestly wouldn’t mind taking things slow though, as long as we reach Fensalir in time. I … I’m quite enjoying this trip, Ashling”, he admitted. “If it’s alright with you, I’d rather spend the night at an inn than camp in a tent in the forest though”,
he added. “I’m really looking forward to a hot meal and a soft bed!”

When Ashling pointed at the log house that they were just passing by, Tristan turned his head and looked at it curiously. “Do you know why it closed? Did they not have enough business, or did something happen to the former owner?” he wanted to know. It was just then that a woman that was armed with a crossbow walked around the corner, and the young duke instantly tensed as that was rather unexpected – and concerning.

When she lowered her weapon again after a moment, he smiled at her though. “It’s okay. I would have done the same if I had been in your place, Erna. It’s better to be careful in times like these”, he assured her in a friendly tone of voice before he eyed her weapon again, because he actually quite enjoyed meeting a fellow crossbow user now that she didn’t seem to want to shoot them anymore. And what more, her crossbow actually looked quite nice!

Maybe he’d talk to her about it later on!

Right now, there were a few more pressing concerns though!

“Tell me, Erna, what happened here?” he wanted to know. “Why exactly are you so worried? Did anybody unusual pass through before the two of us? I’m Tristan Venora, by the way”, he introduced himself before he gestured towards Ashling and finally dismounted in order to lead Maxos to the tavern. “And this is my fiancée, Ashling.”

“Somebody did indeed pass through a break or two earlier”,
Erna said, eying her two newest guests. “There was a man who was dressed in finery, said he was involved with House Magnus. He took the road to Fensalir. And then there were …” she continued.

What followed was a most interesting and perhaps slightly paranoid collection of stories that involved anything from missing people and Myrkvior’s Kin over to the Grendels the Stormtouched and Mages on a rampage that made Tristan’s eyes widen, in mixture of alarm, disbelief and, strangely enough, fascination because it actually sounded quite exciting!

“… and then there is the tree that won’t stop growing, of course!” she finished and looked at the Outlander noble who was gaping at her openly now and his Melrathi fiancée. “Why don’t you put your horses into the stable and come in though?” she asked.

“What do you think, Ashling?” Tristan asked and turned to the young, grey-skinned woman next to him again. “Shall we spend the night here? I’m quite looking forward to trying out Miss Erna’s mead!” he admitted because he was quite thirsty after the lengthy ride.

He didn’t drink as much alcohol anymore now that he was a father because he wanted to be a responsible parent and set a good example for his little daughter; but every now and then he wanted to indulge a little, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to do so.

“I’m really curious about that tree she mentioned, by the way”, he continued. “Do you think there’s alchemy involved? I could probably craft a potion that makes plants grow very quickly and even to an above average height if I had access to a potent enough metabolizer”, he mused, in a fairly casual tone, as if he did such amazing things every trial.
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