Private Tales Unexpected Encounters

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Of all the things to run into out in the wildlands, a wildcat was not precisely what she had imagined when she woke up that morning. A normal cat - a puma, perhaps, or a tiger, she could see. Maybe.

But not the four hundred pounds of striped, enraged feline that was hot on her tail, spitting and hissing in its rage. The ancient Sidhe had not encountered a dire animal of any kind for quite some time. Something about the aura she exuded seemed to keep most of them at bay. It was something that she cherished, as it kept a lot of problems at arms length. Here, in the forest, she was without another to throw between herself and whatever threatened her. Except her pony, which of course she would never do.

That animal was tearing chunks of the wagon path that they were pelting down up, sending them flying behind her as she ran. The mare could manage a surprising turn of speed, when she needed to. The ancient sorceress hung on to the beasts neck for dear life, the wind of their passage making her eyes water. The same wind whipped the skirts of her dress, divided for riding, so that it expose the pale flesh beneath which might have been disconcerting if there was anyone around.

It had been a while since she wished for anyone to be around.

The feral roar of the big, yellow eyed beast shattered the quasi-silence of the woodlands, and seemed to spur Nightwind on even faster, even harder. Just as well, for the place she sought was some few miles back, where the road crossed an ancient, sun-bleached bridge of hard-as-stone wood crossing a chasm that dropped to a river channel some three or four hundred feet below the road bed. This mountainous terrain was, for once, proving to be useful to her.

Her journey to Fal'addas to look down her nose at a bunch of posturing children had been ruined by the ill stroke of luck that put her between this beast and one of its cubs. Chalk one up to bad luck and poor timing.

The smell of turbid water was sharp in the air as she rounded a bend in the road, the cat somehow still not caught up with her. The hillside to her right dropped steeply to the river below, and to the left it fell away, leaving a wood patch of ground on the edge of a rather precipitous drop. She spurred her pony and steered her off the road and into the woodlands, praying that the beast did not trip in a hole or on a log and break a leg.

The cat followed.

A few hundred yards in, she sawed the reins, to the whinnying complaint of her companion, and slipped off the back of the pony to stand in the path she had just blazed. She slid the staff she always carried with her from beneath the saddle strap, and swatted Nightwind on the rump to send the shaggy little mare galloping into the woods, leaving herself alone.

Facing down a charging dire mountain lion.

This is either my greatest stroke of genius yet, or the stupidest fucking thing I have ever done, she thought to herself as she stood her ground. The wildcat was just now coming off the road, and charging straight for her, rage in its eyes. She thought to herself, that the cliff leading into the river was only thirty yards or so behind her. It should be enough for her purposes, anyway.

Taking a deep breath, she steadied herself...and embraced the wellspring of power within her. It flooded through her, torrents of unbridled power flowing through every inch of her flesh, making her wish to yell to the heavens for the invigorating life it gave her. There was no sweeter thing than the ply the ancient Art of her people, although it was something never truly, well and truly, done. Not in ten thousand years or more, anyway.

Taking just a fraction of that awesome power, she quickly crafted a pattern of mana, giving it shape and form. Giving it purpose.

The diminutive sorceress, silver hair streaming in the wind blowing in her face, seemed to blur, and then shift several feet to the right, pale purple eyes grim with determination and a touch of the ecstasy she felt at that moment. The cat bore down upon her and, a dozen yards away, took flight.

The image of the sorceress flickered and faded, and suddenly she was standing there, plainly visible. The illusion was simple enough, and had served its purpose. Woven magic, prepared carefully as she waiting, suddenly took shape as the beast went airborne. Right hand held before her as if she were carrying something at arms length, she spun, silver hair flying, she flung the hand forward. A tremendous roar cut through the peace of the woodlands, drowning out the cat as it screamed it feral cry, its head snapping to the side as it caught sight of the slight woman - who looked my like a child in truth - but unable to change its direction. Something unseen slammed into it, and it was punched forward violently. Leaves and dirt kicked up by the colossal wind almost obscured the view, even as a few trees toppled in front of it.

The cat, carried by those sorcerous winds, sailed out into the empty gulf, slamming against the far cliff, and then falling out of sight.

The flow of power within her winked out suddenly, and she sagged a moment as it drained away, a faint throb in her forehead predicting the headache that would come later. She almost took hold of that sweet source again, to savor it...but refrained. There was nothing to be gained by such juvenile displays.

Brushing her skirts off, the sorceress put two fingers to her lips, and blew a piercing whistle. She waited for a long moment, but heard nothing in the sudden silence following the confrontation. "Nightwind!" she called in a strangely child-like voice, high pitched and completely out of keeping with her age. There was nary a sound in the woods.

With a grimace, the woman hitched her skirts up, and set off into the woods to find her pony.
 
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Esme

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Esme had been sleeping perfectly comfortably on a bed of leaves when she felt it-- a ripple of magic disturbing the energy she had tune into during a pre-nap meditation exercise.

She jolted up, eyes sharp and alert in an instant. It wasn't the size of the disruption that had stirred her, but the closeness of it. Bloody hell how did another mage end up so close to her in the middle of nothing like this?

She shoved herself onto her feet, dusting off her hands and plucking leaves off her body as she tried to-- a huff sounded behind her. She turned, dropping her hands in a distressed motion and gave the horse a dishearten look. "Oh come on. Now they're gonna come here."

Esme had always had quite the touch with horses-- a small portion of her youth once spent wandering enchanted woods with the white-horned variety until she had been retrieved from the enchantment. Horses, as a result, always found their way to her. In this moment, it was nothing short of an inconvenience.

"Come on, shoo! Shoo!" She looked warily over her shoulder, hearing the call of the owner's voice. "Don't you know it's rude to watch people sleep! Go!" It stared her down unflinching, the echo of the spell communicating she would do no harm.

Fucking A.
 
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Traveling through the woods was irritating beyond all measures. Her legs were too short to cover ground quickly, but more importantly, it was difficult to get over fallen logs, branches, and through the blessedly sparse undergrowth. If it were something other than her horse she was after, she might not have been inclined to deal with it, instead waiting for whatever it was to return of its own volition.

The mare's path was easy enough to follow, at least. Perhaps a quarter of a mile off of the road, maybe more, is when she heard the low voice, pointed ears twitching ever so slightly at the sound. A stranger, out here in the woods quite literally.

Caution? Perhaps it was best to move forward with such.

Climbing up and over another fallen tree, moss making the barkless bole slick, she slipped and fell down the other side with a curse. Upon sitting up, she found herself not very far from the Nightwind's hind end, and a nondescript human woman that looked very much irritated to have been found by the pony.

The ancient sorceress picked up her staff and brushed her dress off, rather ineffectually. Then thought better of it, and dropped the ineffective weapon, and raised her hands in a non-threatening way. "Why, hello there," she said in a calm tone, then clicked her teeth at the mare. The horse didn't move a muscle. "It seems you've appropriated my pony," she added.
 
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Esme jolted back a step at the sudden intrusion, a dagger pulled out of gods knows where with a blur of motion.

She glared down the woman, her small frame every bit tense and ready to lash out of needed. After a moment of observing the woman's open-palmed position, she relented into relaxing ... ever so slightly. "I did no such thing," she huffed, indignant.

"It found me. Sleeping. And now won't leave." A half truth, the woman keeping out the exact reasons for the horses draw to her and its stubborness to leave. The myths never spoke about the after affects of being a unicorn's thrall.

Some things were best not mentioning.

"You shoulda tied him up. Their are creatures out here that will gladly take him for a meal in a heart beat." Or Seska, but Esme was unaware of that.

As she spoke, she gently strung her awareness outside her mind-- gently feeling and probbing for any touch of magical threat to the stranger before.
 
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It wasn't only Esme who was probing and questing to see of there was anything more to this human than met the eye. The ancient sorceress' face remained carefully neutral. She could feel the echo of some kind of magic upon this woman, and something else besides. Nothing malevolent, or at least not outwardly so. She relaxed.

"I would have," she replied in a painfully polite voice, "except for the fact that I was busy at the moment." A mirthless smirk appeared on her face, then. "I hadn't noticed," she added, drily. "Although, it should be pointed out that sleeping out here is perhaps a little less than....brilliant."
 
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Esme primed. "I am perfectly capable of looking after myself. Now here, call your horse away before I eat him for dinner," she dismissed, grumpy.

She looked at said horse, narrowing her eyes at it and abruptly going 'bah!'

It did not flinch, instead reaching out to nibble her hair in a silent request for treats. Esme sighed in exasperation, touching his snout. "He's hungry," she accused, almost childlike in tone. "Give him apples."
 
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"Her, actually," the diminutive woman said, clicking her teeth to entice the mare away from the stranger. Nightwind wouldn't move, and the ancient sorceress gave a huff of annoyance. "You must have some apples on you, she doesn't wish to move," the Sidhe observed as the horse nibbled on Esme's hair.

"Do you mind if I approach?" she asked, still a touch wary. It was clear this woman did not like being disturbed by her or her horse, either one. But until she could get the horse away, there was nothing for it. "Nightwind, you are being a pest." she said, a touch testily.
 
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Esme sighed, relenting to the fact that there was no avoiding going down this rodeo again.

"No, just me." She held out her hands, the pack on the ground rather small and limp. She gestured for the woman to try, already knowing that there was simply nothing that would deter the horse from her spare time and distance. This didn't happen every time. Not any horse that passed her became caught up in the echos of the enthrallment. But when it did it could be quite hilarious.

On more than one occasion she had turned to find one trailing her on a busy street.

"He's not going to go. You need apples. Or like... 20 sugar cubes." Which neither were likely to stumble across so deep on the road.
 
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"Apples I do not have," she remarked ruefully as she approached the horse. Even a light touch on her haunches did not make the mare do anything but look back at her, large liquid eyes regarding the Sidhe placidly before returning to nuzzle the human woman gently.

"She is a pest when she wants some affection given," Seska added. She moved far enough forward to be within easy striking distance of this woman if that was her intent. Rather than worrying about it, she stroked Nightwind's nose softly. She really did love the little pony in a way she could not other, more sentient beings.

"Forgive my boldness, but what are you doing out here?"
 
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Esme slid the dagger back into the folds of her cloak, shoulders falling a little further away from their tense perch by her ears.


The horse nuzzled her further again, causing some of the lines in her forehead to melt away. "Sleeping. Or. I was. It's quiet out here," came the peculiar answer. Like one had to lay unprotected in the middle of dangerous woods just to get a solid night sleep. She rubbed at the mare's neck, it's plea for affection finally relented to.

She ever so gently reached out with her mind, her presence brushing against the horses awareness. Go back to your Master, she encouraged.
 
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"Silence," she breathed. Long moments passed without any other word being spoken as the ancient woman considered the idea, its appeal. Its impossibility, at least for her. She stroked the mare as she thought, hands idly doing as they had done a million times before. The echo of the magic in the woman, the thrall of the unicorn, was but one flavor to be found here. She could feel it, though she couldn't understand it. The horse herself was a different thing altogether, the aura of something powerful and persistent, infused in the equine flesh. It seemed to...push back on the world.

Time did not touch Nightwind. The diminutive sorceress would have given her last breath to keep her cherished companion alive, and it was growing more difficult to hold back the eroding sands of time. Not a thing she wished to think on, overlong.

"I would love to live in silence," she said finally, after many long minutes had passed. "The ghosts of my past do not present me with that option very often. You accumulate a fair number of them over the years," she ruefully remarked.
 
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Esme began to feel the thickness of magic intertwined with the horses being. It did not make sense to her, her abilities telling her nothing more than the fact that energy outside of its life force was there, and in surprising quantities. But with all the magic Esme had experienced, some conclusions were easily made.

She glanced up at the woman at her words, silent as she took in the signs of her race with a reserved expression. "Ya, I would think so," came the heavy response, recognition for what Seska was easily gained.The silence that followed was thick. Esme patted the horses snout one last time before pulling away, moving to swipe up her bag.

"He'll pitch a fit, but he will be fine. Walk straight in the other direction. I'll be out of your hair." She fixed her clothing, straps tightened for travel.
 
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The Sidhe was about to reply when a roar crashed through the relative silence of the woodlands. The same, feral feline howl of rage that the woman had thought herself well and truly rid of already, and either its mate had stumbled across her path and followed the feline that had chased Seska or...

There was no way the bastard could have survived plummeting over a cliff and into a river, some hundred feet below. And yet, the evidence indicated that, perhaps, she was wrong. Another screeching yowl, and then the sound of something, still distant, but growing closer very rapidly. Tearing through the undergrowth with a will and a very definite purpose.

"Looks like no peace and quiet today," the sorceress hastily replied, and vaulted onto the back of the horse, which shied sideways a moment. She didn't bother to adjust the skirts of her dress, offering the human woman a hand. "Best climb aboard, lady. I know this feline a bit more personally than I would like," she said, voice urgent. Be damned if I end up a snack for some kitty cat, she thought, frantic.
 
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Believe it or not, this was not Esme's first encounter with a wild cat of this magnitude. It barely took the sound of its yowl to have Esme snap back into a tense position, understanding for what it meant found in an instant. She grabbed the woman's hand, her movements liquid as she slid up behind her with no hesitation.

"A horse cannot outrun a wild cat," Esme hissed in her ear. She could be felt moving behind the woman, fussing with something on her. Her right hand flicked out at their side, the long end of a metal, weighted whip uncoiling into the air. Not meant for horses, clearly. The end was sharp and pointed.

The cat screamed, closer now as the bush to their right quivered at his chaotic approach.
 
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The Sidhe patted her horse on her neck affectionately, said: "Maybe any old horse. Nightwind is no ordinary horse." Not anymore, anyway. The constant flux of magic and mana over hundreds of years had changed the animal, even if those changes were somewhat less than dramatic.

She kicked the pony into motion, but the truth was it wasn't needed. The equine had already scented the predator, and was already in motion, kicking up clods of rich humus as she went. Nightwind did not appear to be greatly affected by the added weight of an extra rider - although, the pony was used to carrying the weight if a child, and Esme hardly seemed to weigh that much extra.

"Back to the road, my darling," she whispered into the mare's ear as she leaned over her neck, hands gripping mares neck. The horse veered hard around at terrifying speed, easily keeping the distance between them and the big cat, which growled in frustration as its quarry eluded it.
 

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Esme road easily behind her, her free hand light yet present on the woman's hip as she leaned out and deterred any close advances with the flick of her impromptu whip. For all the fright the cat caused, the moment was over fast enough. They were left no worse for wear as the cat growled and dropped its approach.

Esme watched their back tensely for another minute before relaxing into the saddle, the whip hanging limp.

"We've lost it," she called out over the wind.
 
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"Not yet we haven't", the silver haired woman replied loudly over the wind of passage. The frustrated cries of the big cat could still be heard behind them, ever so slowly becoming more distant. "I threw this one into a river gorge not long ago. After it chased me and Nightwind for several miles."

It was hard to think the big feline had a territory so large as that. "Know of any higher place I can try that again?"
 

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"What, did you kill it's uncle or something?" Esme grumbled, straining in the saddle to look around them. They were unlikely to find any such thing again, and clearly the creature was not going to drop the chase so easily.

"Right there." She gestured to a clearing up ahead through the trees. "Let me off." Even as they were approaching it, Esme was kicking her legs over the horse, tossing herself off before a full stomp could even be achieved.

A source of power flared to life under her-- unfathomably large and hanging at the base of her neck. A look of fierce determination crossed over Esme as she stepped away, towards the tree line.

"Ride hard," she ordered.

Goodbye Nightwind.
 
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The Sidhe was grimly amused by this woman and her assumption of sacrifice to be made on her part. There was no way she was going to abandon this woman, no matter how sure she was or capable. Besides...she could feel something here, some card in play that was familiar even if she could not put a finger on it.

The woman slipped off, and despite no commands being given, the horse slowed, dropping to a trot. Even as that happened, the ancient sorceress opened herself to the power lurking in her flesh. It suffused her being with a familiar sense of light and life. That deadly, seductive feeling was as eagerly ignored by one so well versed.

But the horse itself also lent something to the woman. That wellspring if power lay there, in her mind. In potential, as a storm cloud could potentially do something at any moment.

She brought the animal around, wordless, and waited. To see what the charges feeling of the world around her would bring.
 

Esme

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Esme stood her ground, her heel digging into the mossy dirt beneath her. The whip was dropped, discarded on the ground. She drew neither the bow on her back nor the half sword on her hip. She merely glowered at the space in the clearing the growls had come from.

The creature leapt over a bush, fangs barred and ivory claws out. The air around Esme grew stale. The ground underneath her shriveled, death stretching out in away from her in withered veins. There was something so inherently draining about being in that clearing at that moment. Despite the fact that the magic was clearly not directed at those behind her, their very presence was another factor for her to work through, and to a degree she could not spare them from the costs.

The ferocious gleam to the cat's eyes relaxed into a lethargic shock, a pained squeal erupting from it as it froze in midair.

It hung there, suspended by nothing visible as its thrashing slowly... grew... weaker...

Esme's body hummed at the energy amassing in it, a layer energy building over her skin, emitting a glow. It was glorious, frighteningly so, and she could not mask this from her features as she absorbed every last bit of energy from the animal's limp form.

It dropped to the ground with a dull thud, dead.

Esme didn't turn around, her hand shaking to the power inside of them as she clenched them into a fist. Was that all really necessary? With the eyes of the Sidhe on her back, she'd say yes. Unspoken words would reach the edges of Seska's mind, grim and threatening in nature.

Go away.

The enchantment to the horse snapped.
 
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That display...was awe inspiring. She could not recall an ability quite like it in all her long life. It was terrifying to think that someone could do such a thing.

The nervous whinny of her little mare seemed a million miles distant, the stab of fear that lurched through their bond ignored for now. The menace broadcast by this woman was ignored as well, as the Sidhe slowly approached. There was no wariness, little outward concern displayed.

"That," shecaaid amiably, "is a unique skill. Deadly dangerous, yet effective." She looked upon the woman, defiance of the unspoken demand in her eyes. I will not be run off, that look seemed to say. Her interest was piqued, and if Esme thought anything shy of trying to kill her would make her leave...
 

Esme

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Esme clenched her fist, trying to keep herself steady. Though in truth she felt a million miles away from her own two feet.

"And I could use it on you," she bluffed, gritting through her teeth. The energy was kept inside the palm of her hand, massive and chaotic for how compact she held it-- a vibrant glow of light shinning through her fingers and thin skin.

"You'll find your horse will leave now." The hand went numb, feeling as if it floated away from her too. Then the arm... She reached for more words. Maybe a 'leave now'. Or another 'I'll hurt you'. All she managed was a defeated grunt, seeing the dangerous curiosity in the woman's eyes just as specks of white light clouded hers.

"It's really not wise to mix yourself with strangers..."
 
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The sorceress snorted at the woman, did some reassessment and shook her head. Not a woman, a child and one with a temper. Curiosity was one thing, but bad manners were something else altogether.

"Child, you can try to use it on me, but I do not know that would get you anywhere. Your advice is appreciated, but I was telling children the same thing before your species was born."

She did not move. She did not try to call her mare back, instead opting to stand tall (relatively, of course) and proud. "Would you like to start over, or keep threatening me?" Do I have to put you over my knee and spank you? An amusing and distinctly childish thought of her own.
 

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Esme's jaw clenched. While that energy sat over her skin, the strangest thing could be felt to those that stood close to her. Her feelings were perceptible. They radiated off her, like a reverse empath. Seska's words hit several cords deep inside of her, bringing about a wave of bubbling, indignant anger and the distinct feeling of being suffocated.

The energy in her palm grew hotter for a moment, and then she snuffed it out alongside the urge to smack the woman into the sea.

"Unseelie," she practically cursed, dismissing her with the turn of her shoulder. She bent down to retrieve her things, picking them up with sharp motions. As the energy dissipated and absorbed into her, the strange metallic taste to the air left their tongues, leaving the world feeling strangely still and... dull.

"The woods are safe now, you can go."