Disclaimer: It's probably quite clear that I have no ownership claims to the characters, world, etc. I'm simply playing in the world Ms. Pierce created.
Author's Notes: Written for the LJ community 1sentence, using theme set Gamma. The community challenge is to write a response using all 50 prompts (hence the "50 themes" moniker) in one sentence per prompt. This turned into something more like 50 drabbles than 50 sentences—consider it 1sentence on steroids. This fic was originally posted at The Dancing Dove. Enjoy.
Thanks be to Lady Silvamord for starting the 1sentence/50themes craze at The Dancing Dove.
"Bridles, Bits, and Pieces"
A Rider Love 50themes
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"I'm just full of useless talents," Evin introduces himself, grinning easily, while Miri sees mirrored in Daine's face the same astonishment she'd once had at the sight of quite random objects appearing from equally random places.
"Why's Miri on Goblin?"
"She's scared he's going to run away with her."
"Again, why is Miri on Goblin?"
"Because he's going to run away with her. Now ask him to go—ah, there he goes. Hang on—HANG ON! Ride him out! See, she's fine."
Sarge looks down at Buri. "You have unusual teaching methods."
"But they work."
High block, thrust, parry, low block.
High block, thrust, parry, low block.
High block, thrust, parry—trip.
Sigh. "Again, lambs."
High block, thrust, parry, low block.
Miri wonders if somehow the names they chose for their ponies unconsciously reflect the rider. Sarge has Ox and General. Onua has Whisper and Silk. She supposes Evin never saw the irony in naming his ponies Loverboy and Bliss.
"You ride like a girl, trainee!" Sarge roars.
"I am a girl!" she yells right back, trying to avoid a direct run-in with the Queen, who isn't helping. Realizing what she's done, Miri's mouth closes with a snap.
Sarge looks askance at her for a bare second, then his laughter echoes across the meadow.
Eating dirt. Checking your girth from the bottom. Making sure gravity still works. Just seeing if the officers were paying attention. Evin comes up with some of the more creative names, but no matter what they call it, falling off still hurts like hell.
Evin once fell off of his pony while trying to do a complicated riding trick. No one ever found out how he sprained his wrist, so he'd really like to know how Commander Tourakom knew. For this reason he spends the longest time believing that she actually can read minds.
Though she knows it's impossible for a human to fly, Miri comes close to believing that perhaps it is possible, if one is content to soar above the ground at the approximate height of a pony's back.
Out of everything they'd expected of training camp, this wasn't anything that had come up in speculation. Evin finds her sitting with her back to one of the battlement walls, quiver and bow in her lap. He slouches down across from her.
"Can I ask you something?" she says after a moment.
He shifts the strap on his own quiver to the side. "Sure."
"Are you scared?"
He looks over his shoulder and peers over the wall at the fog. "Terrified."
"Glad I'm not the only one."
"Think we're going to make it through this?"
"I used to be scared of horses," Miri answers. She pulls out an arrow and scrutinizes the sharp head with frightening equanimity. "But I've never been scared of men. I think we've got a chance."
Evin grins. "Glad I'm not the only one."
Just days after their first battle, it feels as though the same force that threw their unblooded ranks into a tizzy is battering away outside at the walls of the Swoop. Evin presses his nose against the window, staring with unconcealed awe as the powerful wind whips trees and ships about and lightning crackles angrily down into the bay, though he can barely see it through the rain streaked glass. When he asks later, Miri tells him that such a thing is called a hurricane, and that it is a very bad idea to go out sailing in one.
Buri's first realization that Evin and Miri are a volatile combination is when she has to call them both to her office in regards to how exactly the small supply of liquor kept by the King's Own caught fire after someone (reportedly seen in a blue tunic) made off with the Riders' own cache.
When Miri climbs matter-of-factly into the saddle of the half-trained pony, sticks on through an impressive series of bucks and crow hops, coaxes the stubborn beast into moving forward, and then has the pluck to declare, "That was fun," even the most cynical of the Riders has to admit she's come a long way from the half scared fisher-child that showed up on the Riders' doorstep a year ago.
Miri discovers she still has a lot to learn about the world when she scoffs, "I've ridden out bucking horses; I doubt a man would be any different, or worse," and Onua enlightens her, "Bucking, perhaps, but a horse doesn't…"
Finding a good name is easier said than done. The First calls themselves that because, well, they are the First. No one in the Seventeenth wants to call themselves anything so girly as 'Soft Lightning,' though all agree 'Spiderdeath' and 'Royal Arrows' are excellent names and why hadn't they thought of that first? It isn't until a fight gone horribly off kilter—in which someone misinterprets the map, a third of the group end up hanging less than gracefully out of their ponies' saddles, a storm blows their camp's tents at odd angles while they're gone, and yet they still manage to capture the bandits while Buri grouses that she's never seen a screwier series of events in her life—that they dub themselves Group Askew.
When only Loverboy returns to the stable, Miri isn't really all that worried because a mile down the road she can see a blond figure stomping its way back.
In the mischief war of Group Askew versus Nightbreath during what is known as the great Fisher-Larse battle, members of the Queen's Riders learn quickly that unless you are fond of surprises, it is a good idea to lock the door to your room upon leaving.
And your gear box.
Your pony's stall probably isn't a bad idea, either.
When asked, Miri doesn't know how see feels about going into war at only eighteen, though she supposes 'cold' might be accurate, even if it is the middle of summer.
After a while, Miri comes to ignore the reeking, clinging, overpowering stench of Stormwings that is everywhere—but she knows she'll never be able to forget it.
The day the Immortals War ends, somehow Evin's tongue ends up in Miri's mouth and her hands under his shirt. For weeks afterward, no one can mention "Port Legann" and "whiskey" in the same breath without either of them becoming distinctly uncomfortable.
"That Larse boy has potential," Buri says abruptly one night.
"Potential for what?" Thayet asks. "I assume you mean for other than making trouble, that is."
"I can't be Commander forever, you know."
The water is shockingly cold in the fountain, but at this point Evin decides it's the least he deserves and drops himself flat to the tiled bottom. He pulls his head up when he can hold his breath no longer. The merry splashing sounds of the fountain cover up his sputtering while he hangs over the edge, glad to see Lord Whatshisname and his flunkies disappearing around a far corner.
He drags himself up with a minimum of thrashing and manages to get his feet on dry ground with an unpleasant squish. He sits on the rim of the fountain and yanks off a boot. A stream of water pours out when he upends it. To add insult to injury, a breeze rustles through the garden and chills him right through his soaked clothes.
If he comes down with a fever after this, Evin supposes he deserves that, too.
Black for lies and gold for truth, the mage tells him. Later, he opens the box and the crystal gleams out at him, so he gives it a shot: "She's just a friend."
The stupid rock turns gray.
"You can get off me now."
"Sorry Miri, I didn't mean to slip on that patch of ice there."
"I suppose you didn't mean to land on me, either."
"I suppose not. Do you like it?"
"I'm getting snow down my back."
"Really? I think this is quite cozy."
"As I was saying, you can get off me now, or your groin is going to become acquainted with my knee, Larse."
When his Great-Aunt Sebila announces him as a hero of the realm, one word can describe Raoul: clenched. Clenched jaw, clenched fingers around the water goblet, clenched fist that Buri lays a sympathetic hand on, unseen below the table. At the point where Sebila would customarily start hinting broadly about the unmarried ladies present, she instead gifts Buri with a none-too-focused glare, turns to the lord next to her, and loudly inquires as to the health of his son. Raoul brightens considerably at this. On the pretense of retrieving a dropped napkin, he murmurs in Buri's ear, "If anyone here tonight is a hero, it's you. Thank you."
The music isn't as loud in the library just off of Sebila's ballroom. It becomes muted when Raoul, unexpectedly, comes in behind her and shuts the door. She barely hears it as he declares, "I don't know why I haven't done this sooner." When he kisses her, she can't hear it at all.
Not that she wants to, anymore.
After little contemplation, one stiflingly proper evening followed by a particularly magnificent night, and the feel of silk sliding from beneath his fingers, Raoul decides that red is his new favorite color, but only if Buri is wearing it.
Sitting on the back of her pony, Buri realizes that she is at the perfect height to look directly eye-to-eye with Raoul. The view proves most advantageous, and for more than one reason.
If any of her Riders happen to see their superior officer kissing the Commander of the King's Own outside the stables, they know better than to bring it up.
There's been other men, of course. Other touches, other kisses, even a few other nights. But Evin is always first in her mind, and, to the stupid romantic inside of her that refuses to die no matter how many times she shoots it down, she wants him to be the last. She tries to be optimistic about her less than stellar showing in the field of romance, but it doesn't help matters at all when Commander Tourakom suddenly acquires a love life. Miri decides to become a pessimist when she catches Onua flirting with one of the palace hostlers and Daine tells her that Numair attempted another proposal. Whenever that stupid romantic inside asks about Evin, she lies and tells it she doesn't care.
It took Buri suggesting he invest in a truth crystal for Evin to see that Miri had begun wearing a mask whenever he recounted his latest romantic escapades: a polite, vaguely interested, diplomatically vacant non-expression. For the longest time he thought it'd gone away after he grew up a little and started exercising more discretion, but lately it seems as though he's been seeing it a lot: whenever the name of a former lover comes up, or his own is said in the same breath as an unattached lady's, and even when someone pries into her own love life, jokingly or not.
Perhaps the biggest surprise Evin ever receives is when Commander Tourakom pulls him aside and tells him very quietly—and very forcefully—that he better get his mind made up or else she's going to lock both of them in the tack room and not let them out until she's burned every single candle in the palace to a stub, one by one.
"In case you haven't noticed, that crystal of mine is used purely for business these days," Evin says, and lays a hand on Miri's mouth when she opens it to say something, adding, "Let me do the talking, otherwise I might forget to say something that I really ought to have said a long time before this."
He hadn't expected her to find the box that held his truth crystal. She takes it out, cradling the gem in her palms.
"Do you think this…us...we…do you think we can work? Do you want this?" she asks, the detached tone of her voice sounding forced and rapidly falling into anxiety.
He puts his hands around hers. "Do you?"
The silence and the clear glow of the crystal are more of an answer than either of them could have given.
He'd always recognized that she was more boyish, leaner, thinner than the softness and curves he'd become accustomed to, but it's altogether a startlingly different experience to hold her body that close to his, and even more so to realize that he prefers it.
"Miri," he whispers, his voice low and husky to his own ears, and bends his head to brush a kiss across her lips. "Breathe."
"It will be much easier to stay covered," Evin says with affectionate frustration, simultaneously dragging her close and rearranging the blankets, "if you would just stay put," and squeezes her until she squeaks.
"…and I suppose you're going to raise a battalion of little K'miri warrior giants, too," he finishes despairingly.
"Spare me the dramatics, Larse," Buri simply replies, slouching indolently in the chair behind the desk she's attempting to bequeath to her successor. Horse Lords, she'll be glad to never see the backside of the thing again, literally. "It's been years since you left the Players—you'd think we'd have broken you of the habit by now."
Evin turns to her with as close an approximation to a pout a man of his looks can get away with and not come off an effeminate fop. Out the window he has been ranting to she catches sight of a trainee and pony in the practice field, careening headlong on what long experience has shown her is likely to become a path to disaster.
"Is it really necessary for you to leave now?" he asks, taking on a distinctly kicked-puppy look that had been effective for all of the first week of his trainee days until she'd learned better. As if to help his case, there comes a loud crash from outside, immediately followed by Sarge's characteristic bellow.
Both of them wince. The pony comes careening back past the window in the opposite direction, this time riderless, reins and stirrups flapping wildly.
"Yes, I'm leaving now, or else I miss my ship to Frasrlund. Besides," she adds with a crooked smile, "it's not as though you're going to be completely rid of me."
Evin glances back out the window with a sigh, just in time for the hapless trainee to come hop-skipping on a limp across their view, in pursuit of his loose mount. She isn't quite sure, but Buri thinks she hears Evin mutter, "Thank the gods."
Buri keeps four stone-carved horse figurines on the bookshelf in her office, one for each K'miri Horse Lord. When she officially passes command on to Evin, she gives him a replica of the carved horse devoted to Vau Eastwind, the god of strength, and tells him, "You're going to need it."
It only takes him a week to realize that Buri was right.
The look on Raoul's face when she rides through the gates of Fort Steadfast is more than worth the long voyage up the coast, and even more worth it is the look on his face when she tells him she isn't going to wait any longer and that he had better hurry up and marry her now before she changes her mind.
Given his age and current position—especially his recent upgrade in aforementioned position—he ought to know better, but given the occasion he thinks it might be excusable. It's all too easy to accomplish that it'd be a shame not to, his Player heritage decrees. All it takes is a few whispers here and there, and an unexpected, uninvited, scantily clad guest greets Lord Raoul and his friends on the knight commander's last night of his famed bachelorhood.
A shadow falls across his work, lantern light blocked out entirely. Evin looks up at the huge bulk of one Lord Sir Raoul of Goldenlake and Malorie's Peak, Knight Commander of the King's Own, husband-to-be of ex-Commander Buriram Tourakom of the Queen's Riders, and can only squeak one thing:
Evin is unusually well-behaved throughout the entire ceremony, an interesting occurrence which Buri later asks her husband about. All he says is that he hasn't a clue what'd gotten into the boy.
For the better part of her life, Buri had never thought to imagine that one day she would look down upon her left hand and have a fine gold band glimmer back at her.
"Hey, remember that one time when you jumped out of the balcony into—"
"Miri, don't bring that up!"
"What about when you fell off of Ox?"
"Speaking of which, didn't you once kiss a sheep, Evin? Or was it a pig?"
"Oh? I perfectly recall an incident involving a goat and a bottle of brandy."
"No one was there!"
"Ha! I was!"
"Anyone remember that day he ripped the backside of his britches—"
"Shut up, Farant!"
Miri struggles to get through the stables, barely avoiding being bitten by an ill-tempered chestnut and almost run over by a handful of frantic trainees. "How do you deal with this all summer?" she asks, wincing as she sees a young lad take a kick. "I can barely stand my own memories of it."
From his vantage point where he controls the mass chaos with benevolent tyranny, Evin hooks an arm around her shoulders. He tugs her close and with no regard for decorum in front of his subordinates, plants a rough kiss on her neck. "You keep me sane."
When Evin gets the idea of replacing some of the Rider ponies with horses, Miri almost upends a keg of spiced cider over his head. Almost.
Miri knows he's still awake from the magelight that filters under the door to his office. He murmurs a weary, unintelligible greeting when she quietly steps in, not bothering to look up from his reports, the pen barely pausing in its path across another paper.
"It's past midnight," she says, crossing the room and circling around behind his chair. Her steps ring unnaturally loud in the quiet.
She places her hands on his shoulders in pretense of leaning over to read what he's going over. "That's my report." Her hands start kneading his shoulders, her thumbs rubbing the base of his neck in a way she knows is most tempting to him.
All he replies with is a sigh that's halfway to a rumbling purr, flexing his shoulders and tilting his head back into her hands. He sets his pen down and shifts to look back at her.
"Come to bed," she insists, "and I'll give you my report there—personally."
"I want you to come with me."
Miri blinks. "What?"
"Please?" There is no small amount of pleading in his voice, which for a Commander is quite unbecoming. But for Evin Larse, it's endearing.
She looks at him sideways, arms crossed and mouth set mulishly. "No one will protest if you go to a Midwinter party alone," she says at length. "Buri did it all the time."
"But I want you to be there with me."
"It's not proper, the Commander escorting a group leader. It'll create a scandal!"
He sits down on his desk, heedless of the documents scattered across its surface, and grins. "Since when has that stopped us?"
One night while they lay staring at the stars in the meadow, ignoring the world, Evin catches her hand and runs his thumb over the knuckles, and asks, "Mir, is there anyone else?"
Surprised, she murmurs, "No. Why? Is there anyone else for you?"
"This job," he groans, and she laughs. He rolls to his side, presses up against her, hands still entwined, and pushes up on one elbow to look down at her. "I feel married to this job, but…if there's ever time—will you promise me?"
He saw her smile in the dark, felt her squeeze his hand. "Only if you promise me."
"I promise," he whispers against her mouth.
"Then I promise."
Sometimes he wonders if it's all been a dream, but then he wakes up and there's still the gold Commander's circle on his tunic, he's still served through two wars with his hide (somewhat) intact, there's still two ponies waiting for him in the stable, there's still Miri burrowed under the blankets next to him, there's still at least five major problems and a hundred smaller crises waiting in his office. There's still Onua and Sarge and Daine and the Queen and Buri (wherever Raoul is hiding her). And there's still time for more dreams tomorrow.
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Additional Notes: If a few drabbles look familiar, yes, I poached my own fics for ideas. For the sake of continuity and why-things-are-where, this is the canon timeline I used:
449 – Evin and Miri enter the Riders as trainees, Daine arrives in Tortall
452 – Immortals War
460 – Scanran War officially begins, Buri passes Command to Evin
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