Fable - Ask Shedding Skin

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Ralene

Magic Battering Ram
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The morning following What Happens After.

Dreadlord Academy Stables
Daybreak


Following the events of their graduation, the stillness and quiet lingered throughout the academy like a bad sickness. There was yet any real closure to anything for most, but Ralene had the answers she needed to confidently leave this place and never return. A short talk with Proctor Mars gave Ral the assurance she'd not be carted away in irons for the murder of Charon and that, for all intents and purposes, she was now a fully fledged Dreadlord. Rank 3.

The 3 stung less than she thought, but Mars had also assured her the only one in their class that might have ranked higher was no longer among them. He didn't say who, but he didn't need to. Everyone knew who it was. Elsewise, just like every other graduate, she'd have to work her way up the ranks in time. Aside from the facts, Mars offered no warm wishes in departure and that was just fine by her. Ralene didn't envy him the mess he and the other remaining Proctors would be expected to clean up.

The palest light had only just touched the sky on this dreary, overcast dawn when she arrived to the stables. Ral made her way to the horse she'd ridden the most on her missions and greeted it with a slice of apple from her pocket. A large, stocky brown mare who had likely been broken to pull a plow if only her pernicious attitude would have allowed for such a dull life. She could be a bit flighty and opinionated at times, but after a few years they'd come to more or less understand one another.

As much as an unfeeling, uncaring, heartless Dreadlord could be expected to.

"You're comin with me," Ral muttered quietly to the mare as she ran a hand over her forelock and down her nose, "sound good to you?"

No answer. Not even the romanticized snort or whinny the media would have served you. Horses were quiet creatures, but they weren't above nose-shoving for more snacks when they could smell them on you. Ral oof'd, smirked, and gave the mare what she was after. While the horse munched, she tacked her up. She wouldn't be waiting up for Davi - he'd either be here or he wouldn't.
 
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Davi

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Everything Davi owned or cared about in the world fit into a depressingly small bag. He stared at it from his perch on the narrow windows ledge and debated unpacking it all again; it was not too late. The bet he had made with Ralene had been made under duress of fever, exhaustion, and some sense of gratitude towards her for having saved his life - and doomed her soul in the same instance if someone like Kristen were to be believed. But he knew that if he decided not to go she would not hold it against him or harbour resentment. She'd merely think him an idiot then cast him from her mind.

Somehow that thought stung more.

And what actually remained for him here? The Marshall badge would have been a comforting weight, and a town that he could have called his own would have been nice, but would the dream he had concocted for himself in that future have actually come to pass? What was to say the people there did not resent or spit at him to? And if it was everything he had dreamt of, would he be content or would he - like Ral predicted - grow bored and forever wonder what if?

* * *
Several horses put their heads over their stalls as Davi entered. A few turned back to their hay when they saw it was not their rider whilst others waited in the hopes of a treat which he sometimes gave out on his days there. In his right hand he held the reins of his own horse - a young blue roan gelding who stood on the smaller, stockier side - and who paused to unwisely put his head into the stall of a mare who squealed her irritation then attempted to take a chunk of his black mane as tribute.

Davi paid no mind to the warring horses.

"Where exactly are we going?" No greetings or niceties; Davi was always a man of little words.
 
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Ralene

Magic Battering Ram
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Her mare's opinions were flying free this morning. A bloated belly responded to the girthing, pinned ears to the gelding next door, a flash of whites when asked to leave her hay. She was in a smart state and Ralene took it all in humored stride. Best not to react sharply unless teeth or hooves made contact. Sometimes you just needed to get the piss and vinegar out.

By the time Davi arrived to saddle up, Ralene was just about ready to pull her mare out of her stall. She lifted a brow to him in passing, offering a silent morning nod of recognition as though this were simply a routine mission departure, and lead her mare out to the sound of rousing nickers for breakfast and iron shoes on stone.

"Vel Draza," she answered while she walked, "Captain Holstag works under General Blackforge in the Western Army and headquarters his team there. It's about a three day ride northwest from here."

Three days of distance between herself and the Academy wasn't far enough, if you asked her, but it was a start. The route they would travel was one she knew like the back of her hand by now. Ral and her mare could have taken it blind, what with all the missions and training she'd done with Holstag for the last half of her life.

"There's a ruin about halfway we'll stop at to rest, otherwise we don't stop. You can piss with your pants down at the gallop, needs be." She threw him a smirk over her shoulder at that one before bringing her mare in a circle and mounting up, "Good?"
 
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Davi

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Davi fell into step behind her as she led the way out of the stables, the mare in the stall giving his gelding a final flat-eared glare before returning to her hay. He listened quietly to her description and tried to place it on the memorised maps of the Anirian territory he kept tucked in the recesses of his mind. Most of his missions had been focused in the East and South and so he had not paid much heed to what lay to the West. Even her comment about pissing his breeches earned a stoic nod of agreement.

"So, you've had missions with this General before?" Davi asked as he put a foot in the stirrup and eased himself onto the horse with great care. The roan's ears pricked forward and he lengthened his stride with eagerness to be on the road with a pretty mare, whom he sniffed at when they were shoulder to shoulder. Davi wisely reined his head back before he got a chunk bitten out of it. "How... He just offered you a position there?"

The exact ins and outs of how Ralene had been given this position before graduation was what piqued his interest.
 

Ralene

Magic Battering Ram
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Ralene set off at a clipped walk, not intending to wind the horses before dawn had properly set in. A brow curved upward at the roan sniffing her mount, who in turned replied with a most horrid mare stare and show of teeth. She nudged her forward to keep her mind on the road.

"Captain," she corrected Davi with a sidelong glance. A fair question. Some knew how she'd come to be recruited into the Knights, most didn't. "Proctor Mars' doing, actually. Commander Bailiir of the Western Army wanted to try something new with the Initiates at the Academy and came to scope out recruits for the Knights. Proctor Mars put a group from our year in front of him because of the nature of our..." she frowned, nosed scrunching in a brief facial grimace that pinched the fresh scar over the bridge, "gifts. The Commander chose me and three others to groom to become Knights upon graduation. I was eight at the time and I was the only one that survived."

"Bailiir died in battle when I was 10 and his project would have been abandoned if Captain Holstag hadn't picked it up. So the majority of the missions I was assigned to since then have been with him and his crew in some capacity. I've probably spent as much time with them over the last eight years as I have at the Academy. I'm as much a fully trained Knight as I am a Dreadlord."
 
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Davi

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"I see."

Ralene's explanation alleviated no small amount of the doubt he had had in her abilities to convince this... Captain to let him join. He had thought their relationship a passing thing or some residual friendship between her family and the man, and as such he hadn't fully trusted in her being able to sway the man to letting Davi stay too. Proving oneself, training and fighting, earning loyalty. Well, that was another position altogether from which to barter. A little more calm spread over him and relaxed his hunched shoulders. The gelding felt it too and eased into the walk instead of jogging every few seconds with his riders impatience.

"I have to admit, the Western army was never one I had looked at much. It sounded like an army for those who wanted to be close to home," his eyes flickered towards her. "For someone so eager to put as many miles between her and the capital, it doesn't seem like the... obvious choice."
 
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Ralene

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"I didn't have a choice in the matter," Ralene responded flatly, "my life has been decided for me since Mars put me in front of that Commander."

Though she supposed maybe the Revolution had changed some things. Maybe she did have a choice now, but backing out after all those years spent training and working with Holstag didn't feel right. Felt like a betrayal to the only adult in her life that had given her any ounce of respect or care.

"Vel Draza isn't as far away as I'd like... but the missions will keep me farther afield. It works out."
 
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Davi

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Wasn't that the story of every Dreadlord? Until now. He envied the next generation, or even more, the generations who would enter those doors only knowing choice and nothing more. So he sympathised with Ralene, but he envied her too. Davi would have preferred to have had a sense of direction even if it was one forced upon him.

"From what I hear about the Empire and Cortos, we must be putting more forces along our boarder out that way," that would put them weeks - maybe even a month or more - between them and Vel Anir. The thought was comforting. "Are you... sure he will take me on?" It was one thing risking the ire of the Academy for a initiate you already saw as your own, but a stranger? His brows furrowed, casting his eyes into shadows.
 
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Ralene

Magic Battering Ram
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Ralene made a sound of thought at the mention of the Empire. She hadn't dealt too much with that region, even in her missions with Holstag. Mostly they kept to the northwest and the Cortosi Coast. Likely to keep a young Initiate from fucking anything up with the Empire - delicate as that peace was right now.

"The Captain trusts my judgement," she replied, waited a beat, then turned a playful look his way, "and he likes dogs."

"And if he doesn't, you're getting a small fortune out of it from me. You can go get your Marshall badge and settle down in some sleepy little village no one has heard about. What have you got to lose."
 
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Davi

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Davi gave a huff that some might have kindly called a bark of a laugh.

"Several layers of skin on my arse?"
he half muttered beneath his breath with a crooked attempt at a smile. Several days in the saddle was no bother to most Dreadlords, certainly not one who took as many missions away from the Academy as he could. A little louder he continued with, "You know I don't just turn into wolves, right?" he raised a brow. He wasn't entirely sure if many initiates were sure about what exactly he could do. Hells, he wasn't. It had only been this past year that they had let him try anything beyond human.

"Wolf was just the easiest to learn first,"
he admitted softly.
 

Ralene

Magic Battering Ram
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That bark grew a smug grin on his companion's face and that comment got a short cackle out of her too. They'd have to work on his ass-callous.

"I figured you could probably do more," Ral admitted once her humor had settled, "just never seen it."

Which begged the question and curiosity out of her. She wasn't usually one to needle or poke but ... "So what else can you?"
 
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Davi

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Nobody had ever wanted to talk about his magic, not even the Proctors who shifted uncomfortably and tried not to look at him when he shifted. He'd given up attending lessons and they'd seemed relieved. Everything he had learnt had been self taught from books or pure instinct. The roan beneath him took his life into his hooves once more and chanced a sly sniff of the mare again.

"I can do most... normal animals you'd see around here. Bears, elks, I tried copying a tiger shark I saw once in Vel Luin," he sounded amused at the memory though it didn't show on his face. "I've been experimenting more with the more unusual things, the ones that could be... helpful in battle. Like the Sabre tiger the other day."
 
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