Three years passed, aging young Azith remarkably. He grew from wee foal to yearling, and soon a strapping lad. The encounters with other Renegades were rare on the plain. Once, they encountered a Hill unicorn, a red mare who was obviously some sort of healer, come to aid one of the Plainsdwellers who was ill and too far from aid among his own for the immediate illness. She smelled odd to the red grulla colt, much like milk, though the mare's only foal was weaned. Milkwood, explained the mare, was the cause of her scent. All her life she mingled in it with her fellows, and it gave them that smell. It wasn't unpleasant. Far from it, though he was weaned at the time, it reminded him of a warm safe place where one might go to escape a storm. The encounter was far too brief for Azith, and he found himself eager to learn more about the dwellers of the Hallow Hills.
But then again, Azith wanted to know about everything. He was incredibly curious, and always sticking his nose where it didn't belong. Usually it just got him a sharp rebuke, but occasionally he could find people willing to teach him and reveal things he never know that he never knew. His father was always willing to talk to him and tell him about the world, understanding such things since once he was as curious as his son. He felt his son had seers blood, for only one with sight could ever strive to drink in all knowledge about themselves.
Azith's blocky and stilt-like foal legs had become steady, his body growing into them. His mane was no longer short and soft as down, grown into long strands that whipped about his neck. Even the little stub of mane at the end of his whip of a tail had turned long and silky. Though no beard grew on his chin and his horn remained blunt and soft, Azith would need but two or three more years before he would be a halfgrown and able to depart his mother, if he so wished. Though, the thought seemed impossible to him at the moment. He still very much loved her and wasn't yet ready to go forth and "love all" as his father would say. Whatever such a phrase meant. How could one love all? Azith most certainly didn't love the pard that skulked in the grass, or the wolves that ambushed loners on cold winter nights.
The red grulla colt ended his musings, snorting and shaking his cranium. A whinny from the east caught his attention, and he turned his gaze, pricking his ears forward. A black form dappled white appeared, one with the same blue eyes as Azith's own. The colt whinnied merrily, galloping forth towards the new arrival. "Brother!" he exclaimed. "Brother Night!" The stallion turned, and then snorted in bemusement at his half-brother. Azith beamed at him. Indeed, the only other brood of Bitter Flower was perhaps the most frequent visitor to his little family. His other half-siblings were more inclined to mingle with their mothers, rather than Javit, their sire.
Delightedly, Azith frisked with his brother, tumbling down one of the slopes. Unlike Hill unicorns, they did not knock horns for play. Rather, they raced, preferring more peaceful folly than sparring. The plainsfolk were still quite stubborn in their lack of any violent ways. After a few moments of tumbling, the two males had given up running down the hopelessly steep hill and lay down, rolling on their bellies and backs until they reached the bottom and splayed, legs extended at full length and their chests heaving with their romp. "Azith, you're enough to wear a stallion out," teased Night Runner. Azith simply laughed heartily, stumbling to his feet just as Javit and Flower found them.
"Night!" exclaimed Flower, eyes twinkling at seeing her eldest son. "Simply running off to play with your brother without even greeting your own mother?"
The young male champed his teeth in mock terror. "Forgive me, mother. There's still a foals heart in me," the young stallion implored in falsely quivering voice. Night was quite the good actor.
The mare snorted with humor. "Ah, Night. And still haven't got a mare with you? For shame. Find yourself a lovely lady and make me a granddam, boy!"
Her son scowled, and this time it seemed half-jest, half-real. Indeed, Night had failed in courting any mare to this point. Azith wondered why it seemed to be a topic that sprang up every time his brother showed his face. He didn't yet understand attraction to a mare, and barely grasped such things. Javit often told Azith he would understand later, but the colt doubted that.
"Don't worry, mother, there is a mare I'm going to try and court this coming summer. Her band is actually traveling nearby, and I've been wandering with her. Perhaps we will intercept, and I'll have her as mine?"
Flower rolled her blazing blue eyes, but she was indeed delighted at such news. Suddenly, her face brightened even further. "Night, I must ask, is there any other young in this mare's group?"
Startled, Night nodded, though seemed puzzled by such a question. "Yes. There's a filly called Rilla. In fact, I do believe she was born on the same day as my sib." Suddenly, her intentions dawned on him. "Ahhh. I see."
Flashing a mysterious look at her eldest son, Flower turned to the younger. "Azith, in but two years you will be halfgrown, and ready to depart. It is thus that you must have your first day apart from our company."
Staring stupidly at his mother, Azith gaped. Apart from his mother and father? For a full night? He knew that all must leave their dams at some point, but it dismayed the colt at the idea. "Alone?" he squeaked, looking out across the plains. Though three-years of age, the thought of being apart, traveling with someone other than Javit and Bitter Flower seemed to be impossible.
"No, no!" exclaimed Javit, giving a booming laugh as he entered the conversation for the first time, having previously observed, content to watch the exchange between his mate and her previous love's brood. "You will be off with this other filly."
"But why? Why must I leave you now and not when I am halfgrown?" implored Azith desperately.
Javit nuzzled his only son, snuffling softly to reassure the colt. "You are not leaving. It is but one night, and you will make a friend. It will make you used to being without our presence, you see. You'll become a handsome stallion one day, but if your bonds are too strong with us, then you might never find your own true love, instead simply staying with us and never getting a family of your own."
It was all too complicated for Azith. He pouted, looking at his father with a pleading expression. But the stallion seemed immune, so he turned to Flower. She looked innocently away. Even Night seemed to be watching him expectantly, waiting for the foal to give in to the inevitable.
"Fine," came the small whimper from Azith.
"Take him to Rilla, and request her to spend her lone-night with Azith, would you Night?" inquired Flower, turning to the young stallion. He nodded.
"Come, Azith," commanded Night, turning towards the distance. The sun was nearing noon, and the two young would be sent out as soon as possible. Azith reluctantly plodded after his brother, head low and ears pinned back in the utter appearance of dejection. If any of his family noticed, the foal was ignored plainly, which seemed to make Azith stop and look around at each of them coldly. Obviously, he'd hoped that appearing to be a victim would make them recall their task to him. For indeed, this seemed it was going to be a job, going off with some filly and having to go through the whole night without the comforting presences of his mother and father beside him.
Azith wasn't the only one not at all pleased with this arrangement. "Mother, I don't need to go off with some baby, and sit watching him all night," pouted Rilla when Night had arrived and explained his request. To both of the young one's misfortune, the parents had readily agreed.
Whinnying with amusement, Honeydew nuzzled her child. "Come, Rilla. You're just saying that because you're afraid of being off with someone who won't want to nuzzle you when you get nightmares," gently chided the palomino unicorn. The light suddenly dimmed and the filly shivered at the sudden chill from lost sunlight. Clouds pregnant with rain were in the distance, and the leading one had suddenly overtaken the great sun stallion.
The filly shrilly snorted through her nostrils and stomped her hooves in aggravation. Rilla was extremely high-spirited and very adventurous. She didn't find interest in learning about things, but rather utilizing them for her own folly. Who cared about why that strip of bark fell off of the tree, so long as one could slide down a hill on it? Really, all she wanted to do was have fun. But that seemed impossible on this stupid plain. Rilla's father would of wanted her to have fun! He used to be a Hill unicorn, but he decided to abandon that, and go to freedom. Although the Hill was won back in the grapple ages ago, they still kept up many old traditions and laws. Some leaders were a lot easier on them than others, but either way, Plainsdwellers were free to join the Hallow Hill unicorns, and those of the Hills could go into the plains. Albeit, there was no promising that you'd be allowed to return to the Hills, although the plains were far more welcoming.
"Come now! Stop being such a baby," her mother grated, grinning and nipping at the filly's neck. "Come meet Azith. Surely you can stand to spend just one night away and give these weary bones some peace?" The mare bullied her child forward, herding Rilla towards the two brothers.
"You'd never be so mean with Willow," muttered the filly, gaze averted.
The mother only bothered snorting, "Nonsense," before she ignored all attempts by Rilla to stir emotion in her.
When Rilla finally bothered to turn her gaze to her night's companion and Night Runner, she actually gasped in shock at the colt. His red grulla pelt was so different from his brother's, she scarcely believed them related. Of course, half brothers were common in these parts, until one of the Plains should find someone whom they truly bond with, which might extend beyond their own lifespan.
She had expected some whiny yearling, or two-year-old. But this male seemed to be precisely the same age. Indeed, he was, for he was born exactly three years ago, the same day as Rilla. Immediately, she suddenly felt nervous around him, and didn't know at all why.
Azith turned his gaze onto Rilla, his companion for the night. She was a honey color with wild white mane that had peculiar black streaks. Her eyes were a chocolaty brown, and she had black stockings on all legs save for the left rear. The two adolescents stared one another down for a few moments, before Rilla snorted and pawed the ground, looking away from him and to the distance.
"What are we waiting for? Let's get on with it!" the other youth exclaimed, galloping away. Startled, Azith glanced at his brother, who nodded. He shifted a bit in hesitation, then took off after Rilla. His pursuit took a good half hour before he finally caught the filly. Panting, the red grulla came up beside her, where she had stopped, waiting for him.
"You're slow," she teased, looking smug.
"Well, you're brashly running off isn't exactly what I thought was going to happen," he retorted, breathing heavily, trying to catch his breath. "I'm Azith, if you didn't know."
"Rilla," said the other curtly, lowering herself in the bow that was custom of the Plainsdwellers, although she thought the shoulder rub the Hill people did, as her father told her, much more friendly and less formal.
Azith returned it. He flicked an ear lazily. "Now what?" he asked after a moment of silence.
"Let's go play!" Rilla exclaimed. She paused, trying to think of what to engage in. Then she looked slyly at the colt. She shouldered past him roughly, squealing, "Tag!" Then Rilla turned and pounded away, leaving the foal dumbstruck once again.
They passed the day playing games, rolling about, and grazing. When they came across a pond, they drank and swam about, laughing and splashing one another. They spent the rest of the day next to the water. It was natural child's instinct to do so, and they became rather friendly with one another. However, a bit after darkness, suddenly, the bright plains didn't seem so inviting anymore to Azith.
"It's dark," he said, whispering though there was no need too. "I don't like this." The colt peered into the water, and suddenly something seemed to form upon the surface. An image. He saw a giant creature coming to peer in the pool, and lap at it's waters. But the water then turned red, and it continued to drink, though more greedily. Shuddering, the foal looked away, confused at his sudden vision. "Now we've really, really got to leave."
"Why?" asked Rilla, puzzled. "I want to stay by the water. The grass is so much better with the moisture."
"Other things are drawn to this place, and will want to quench their thirst. It wouldn't be smart to be caught when they come," he explained mysteriously.
Rilla took this in for a moment, though still seemed unconcerned. "Fine, you big baby. We'll go out where it's safer," she grumbled, trying to goad Azith into a squabble. However, he was simply relieved she would be coming with him.
"There's a storm coming, anyways. Then you'll have plenty of moisture," he said, ignoring her comment, trotting forward. Indeed, a rumble in the sky confirmed his words. Rilla winced and sped after him, sticking close beside him. Azith noted with satisfaction she seemed a bit unnerved by the storm, and thought perhaps he might be able to influence her easier while she was frightened.
"Let's find some shelter for the storm, and then we can sleep," he whispered. The first drop fell upon his snout, and soon the rain picked up speed and began pelting the two youths. They roamed for some time until coming to a small grove of trees. Taking shelter beneath them, the two finally breathed easy.
"You lay over there, and I'll sleep over here," said the filly, flicking her tail towards the tree farthest from the one she had chosen. Azith's ears drooped, a little hurt to be commanded to sleep so far away. He crumpled into a heap under the assigned tree, his back turned to Rilla. He glanced back to see her curling up beneath that tree. Closing his eyes, young Azith sighed, feeling lonely and wishing for his family. The lightning crackled and a light flashed beyond his closed eyes. It was all he remembered before sleep overtook him.
He awoke in the morning, feeling his mothers warm presence aside him. However, when he opened his eyes, it wasn't her. It was actually Rilla, curled up aside him, her head tucked under his. Azith's eyes glazed, and he realized she must of gotten frightened during the thunder and come to him while he slept to sleep. Under her brave face, she really did fear something. Just grinning broadly, he didn't care really. He was glad that he'd made a friend.