I found this while digging through an old USB key, and decided to post it, for old time's sake. It's rather dated, but so what :) I do not own any of Broken Sky material!
The girl couldn't have been more than eighteen winters old. Long hair flashed from her ponytail. She was running along the rocky terrain with a grace that suggested she was comfortable in this setting.
The dog's haunches quivered. His partner had given specific orders to keep out any intruders. This woman felt different to him from the others that he had disposed of. But his partner was his partner, connected by a bond deeper than any human emotion.
The woman was close now; maybe 100 meters away. This close he could see her clothes clearly; sturdy and travel worn. She was slender; her loose, baggy pants couldn't disguise the sleek movements of muscle to his eye. A large, long jacket rested on slender shoulders, sleeves rolled up. A black sash was tied around her waist, twin hilts on either hip. She didn't smell old, but her hair was a dazzling silver-white.
The woman paused, and then looked straight at him. Blink felt his reality shatter as a soft voice echoed in his mind.
~ Why are you hunting me, Blink? I haven't crossed your borders yet,~
Blink jolted, and froze; the woman was right in front of him. In his shock, he stepped backwards, cutting his pad on a jagged edge. He was slipping when something foreign, though not bad, took a hold of his mind and brought him back over the edge of his look out. Blink struggled briefly, and then blacked out.
On the other end, Whist stumbled against a rocky outcrop. He turned his mind to his other half, and found only darkness. His steps got less coordinated as he headed toward his friend.
Aera carefully changed the bandage, mentally berating herself. She shouldn't have gripped his mind so hard. But she had been afraid that he would go over the edge, and it had been so long since she had had an interesting conversation with anyone…
She washed him slowly, careful not to add her scent to his. That would be quite rude, after all. She glanced at her sheltered fire and took the meat off a spit.
The dog twitched and rolled over, looking at the bound leg. Blink shuddered, remembering that other-ness in his mind. Aera placed the meat in front of him, eating a piece to show it wasn't dangerous. He devoured it rapidly, scorching his tongue. Aera tipped her water flask and let him lap the droplets. He backed up after that and sat, watching her closely. She noticed and smiled. She turned slightly to face him, arms clasped around her legs.
"I'm not your keeper. Go; Whist-master is worried," she said gently, stones conveying the meaning. Blink looked at her with frank curiosity now; she was the only human besides Whist-master that he could understand perfectly. She laughed and held out her hand for him to sniff. After a few deep breaths he licked her cheek tentatively. She giggled and rested a hand on his head, and then scratched hard. Blink smiled a dog smile; pulling back his lips and letting his tongue loll out.
"My name is Aera," she said slowly, implanting the name, face, and scent in his memory. Blink felt her in his mind but he didn't care. Some part of his dog self recognized the good in her, the gentleness, and the understanding. She gave him more meat and stamped out the fire, rolling over to go to bed.
She gasped slightly as two large front paws came over her stomach so Blink could lick her face. She scratched his belly and went to sleep.
Whist arrived at a campsite, confused. Blink was there, guarding a pack of someone's belongings. The dog looked up and lurched toward his master, ramming into him and licking his face frantically, pictures and ideas passing between them that only they could understand.
A fire was going with a pot of something cooking. Aera came out from behind a shrub, yawning. She walked right past Whist and sat down at her fire, getting out an extra bowl. She passed him some and began eating herself.
Whist stared at the food, his mind shaken. Blink leaned over and tried to snatch a large piece of meat out of the bowl. Whist tried to move the bowl out of range. Blink walked over him, trying to get to the savory smelling stew.
The girl caught Blink's attention and gave him a look; the dog sat down, head on his paws. Whist shuddered; he felt his partner's reaction – ashamed but willing, especially if she would give him a treat.
Aera waited until he was ready to talk. Without even meaning to, she caught onto the link between him and Blink, feeling the emotions at either end.
Blink was satisfied. He had food, a warm spot to sleep, and he had Whist-master and the Aera. She smiled at his thought of her. Perhaps she had pressed her image too hard on him.
Whist was confused. Blink, supposedly his symbiotic partner, had seemingly abandoned him for a night in favor of this stranger. He could feel Blink wanting to tell him so much, but the dog just waited for the woman – Aera – to speak.
Aera leaned back on her hands and looked at the Dominion sky. It was different from her birthplace, but attractive to her, though nothing could replace the beauty of crystalline rivers whispering among a grove of glimmer plants, shadows dancing through a forgotten forest. As a toddler she had run through these groves with her mother and father, her mother a slender dark haired dominion girl and her father, a Kirin who had the rarity of white hair, something that would have suggested him a half breed if his family weren't one of the most influential in Kirin Taq. She had spent time in the forests bordering her father's lands since she was a baby. Until she had been called to the palace. She ignored that thought for the moment, holding the memory of her grove in her mind. In the Dominions, her mother's homeland, the sun blazed and the moons glowed, giving difference to night and day. She loved the warmth, but her heart was ruled by night. She had grown up in night. Almost unconsciously, the wistful feeling spread to the other two she had linked her mind with.
Whist suddenly became aware of the strange presence just outside his mind. He stood up suddenly, hand going toward his belt. The girl – Aera – didn't look up.
"Who are you? What did you just do?" he asked harshly. Aera stood up and looked up at him; she was a few inches shorter. She yawned and began packing up her things.
"I should be going. I need to make Gar Jenna soon," she said conversationally, as if people spoke openly of the base of those deemed traitors by a tyrant. Whist jerked away.
"You know where Gar Jenna is? You're Parakka?" he asked, eyes wary. Aera shrugged.
"In a manner of speaking, I guess. Though I was thinking I'd better find someone first. She should be in the desert now," she said, rolling her shoulders.
"Who?" he asked. Aera paused, thinking.
"Well, it's more like two people. I need to find one to renew my ties. The other is purely a fancy. It's not often that a person has the chance to find their Splitling, after all," she said, smiling a little. "But I should get back to Gar Jenna. They'll need me soon. Once I'm there, I just need to take care of a few things and then I can go back to the desert," she continued, swinging her pack over her shoulder. She started to walk away. Blink whined.
"I'll be back, Blink. I think you'll see me again," she called over her shoulder. She climbed to a cliff and held both her hands in front of her, as if in prayer. Through the thick tunic, Whist caught a soft pulsing light. High above, a wyvern screamed and plummeted to the space in front of her. There was no harness, no padding, no bonding stone. Aera just mounted the large creature and took off, her body finding the safest place to sit.
Aera was dropped at Gar Jenna. The wyvern she had borrowed, Or'aci, blew her hair delicately. She rubbed the large young male at the base of his skull, a place he couldn't reach, and walked down the rows of buildings. People watched her, plainly wary. She was unknown, and yet had come here as if she lived here. She caught the glances of fear, and smiled, radiating peace. The people turned away. They would be content to wait.
Aera suddenly stopped, and Or'aci bumped into her. He had been following like a lonely puppy. She laughed as she ploughed head first into the ground.
"You should go back to your roost," she said. Or'aci shook his large head. Aera put her hands on her hips and started to lecture the impudent male on the importance of his own life and that though she appreciated his help very much she couldn't just risk his life too. She would have continued when a stable hand came over, trying to put a lead on him, obviously thinking a mount had gotten loose and was troubling her. He was almost within five feet when Aera looked up suddenly and glared.
"Don't you dare touch him," she growled. The boy jumped; he had thought she was busy. "He's a free wyvern and he was nice enough to bring me here but that does not make him your property! He was just leaving, anyway," she said, hard eyes turning to the male. Or'aci saw that she would take no arguments now. He snapped at her ear affectionately and took off to the cliffs surrounding the base. He plainly didn't believe her when she told him she wouldn't get into trouble.
Aera watched him go, and then turned to the boy. He was dominion stock, just over eleven winters.
"You shouldn't handle wild animals. Young males like him always have a temper, too," she said, walking past him to the stables.
Caru was one of the stable masters. He was a small man, at least fifty winters old, and completely bald. He smiled when he caught sight of Aera making her way down the aisle, getting stopped every few feet by a wyvern welcoming her. She politely told them that she didn't have enough time for overzealous hellos, but complimented those clutching on the beautiful eggs, wishing them well.
"Well, girl, I was wonderin' when you'd come back. I saw that bull. What a monster!"
"Or'aci isn't a monster. Just stubborn. I think he'll stick around. He smelled females. I'll see if Nira is interested in him; they'd breed champions, and he liked her scent the best," she said, looking over the stall door at a recent clutch. Most of the offspring were large and screamed when they saw her, each struggling to get to her. The runt was in the back. It was a female, too small to contend with her larger birth mates.
"Interested in any of 'em? Even you could use a wyvern of your own," he said. Aera brushed the bonding stone at her neck, and shook her head.
"Nah. I like freedom too much. I won't be harnessed just yet. That little one in the back – she has potential. She'll go forever, she's fast, and she's smart," she said. Caru shook his head. He knew that Aera had only just reached bonding age and would do so someday, but he also knew she could have bonded herself years ago. She was far more mature than her age suggested, partly because of her past and mostly because of her stones.
"What's the news?" she asked, curious.
"Kirin Taq's free. Aurin's dead. We lost a lot of people… my contact says that we even lost Kia," he said sadly. Aera said nothing. She sincerely doubted that Kia was dead, but wouldn't say as much to Caru.
"You look beat. Come on, let's get something to drink," he said, leading her to his office.
A day later, Aera was flying with Or'aci. The male, for all his size, was surprisingly slender for his kind. She shifted her fingers to the nerve endings in his neck, even though she didn't need to. They were moving quickly, far faster than any of the other wyverns at Gar Jenna were capable of. She drew him up suddenly and plummeted straight for the ground. She connected her mind with Or'aci, linking it so tightly that it was impossible to tell where she ended and he began. Or'aci/Aera screeched in elation as they went faster than anyone else could toward the ground. They understood the theory of it; a wyvern was able to take the harsh G-force of such a fall where a human would pass out. By linking herself with Or'aci, she enabled herself to stay conscious, opening the door to more dangerous tactics. Physically, her body would take the punishment, but mentally she would remain unharmed. Her mind would return to her body as soon as it was at a safe speed.
After a while, Or'aci slowed down to a pace that she could handle. She slipped out of the link, almost giddy from the rush that came with such jeopardy. Or'aci felt it too. She turned him toward the desert to the south, asking if he minded. He didn't, and would have followed her anyway. He had mated Nira, and then, after hearing her plans to leave, had insisted he take her flying. Besides, as he had explained to her, he wanted to go someplace warm.
Blink growled as the wyvern landed close by. Whist stood next to the enormous dog, holding one of his disks tightly. They were more than surprised when Aera's head came up between the two titanic wings of the male.
"I thought I felt you two down here," she said, dismounting. Whist noticed that her harness had a few extra seats; one looking like it could carry a dog.
"You better get right back on that thing and get lost, kid," Whist snapped. He felt his control slipping as the girl gazed at him, not concerned in the least. The wyvern behind lifted its regal head and let a soft rumble expand in its cavernous chest. The thing then dipped its neck to rest its incredible head on her shoulder, amber eyes never leaving Whist for an instant. Whist had little doubt that if he moved the bull would shield the girl and kill him. Aera scratched the bull under the chin and smiled when Blink whined.
"I'm not here to fight. You look like the kinda guy who wants a chance at revenge," she said, watching him closely. Whist shrugged and bent down to scratch his dog.
"What if I am?"
"My stones help me with lotsa stuff, kid. I can find you the person who wants Macaan dead as much as you do," she said quietly. Whist appeared to be concentrating on Blink.
"I'm listening," he said after a few moments. Aera smiled.