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 Post subject: The Heart of The Mountain
PostPosted: Sun Feb 28, 2016 6:15 pm 

Joined: Sat Oct 05, 2013 12:46 pm
Posts: 1352
OOC: Apologies for starting this with a known NPC, this was the starting point of the story stuck in my head, and I wasn’t sure where to start it otherwise.

Also, while written in segments, the story is now completely told. If you're just getting started and would like a single document version of it rather than paging through the forums, drop me a PM and I'm happy to send it.


The gladiator known as The Mountain once again found himself in one of the rooms of the Tomal Khan’s palace. As before the room was exquisitely appointed, with comfort to be found at every turn. Fruits, wine and other potent beverages were readily at hand, but lay untouched. He was clean and wearing his best. The Champion’s Chain of gold and Agamassi claws spoke to his victory in the Arena Varria some time ago. He had alternated sitting and pacing, anxious about his meeting with Nasha and though she was a tall woman, at more than eight feet in height, there were few he didn’t tower over. As he paused in his pacing there was a knock at the door and Nasha entered. He dropped to a knee as a sign of respect and she smiled in response. “Please, sit.”

Both moved to appropriate chairs and once settled she broached the subject that brought them there. “So, have you decided?”

“A bride. If a fitting one can be found,” The Mountain replied in a humble voice.

Nasha’s expression was unreadable. She studied the large man sitting opposite her for a time. “And what would make for a fitting bride?”

“One who sees me for who I am.”

The response seemed to amuse Nasha. “It would appear there is more to you than many believe.”

The Mountain nodded in response.

“Did you know I saw the fight where you won the Champion’s Chain you wear around your neck? An impressive match. Your antics reminded me a bit at times of those of the Laughing Vipers. It’s not your success in the arena you refer to,” she shakes her head. “You were one of Felix’s Irregulars in the 6th Crusade of Light, but it’s not your prowess in battle. I have heard of your generosity with the dark-kin in Milandir who were victims of mistreatment and your gentle way with children both here in the First City and beyond. I think that is a bit closer to what you mean, but not quite it, is it?”

Once again The Mountain nodded.

The Dorai of the Tomal Khan held the The Mountain’s gaze and waited for him to speak.

“I want someone who can tell I’m not just what they see. I can be that person, and smile on the outside, but be sad on the inside. At some point she would become sad too. I don’t want that,” the words spoken were simple and heart felt.

“And if I cannot find such a woman for you, what reward do you ask?”


The response surprises her. “Nothing?”

The Mountain shakes his head. “You will have tried. I don’t expect it to be easy. People think I’m big and stupid. As simple as the children I like to play with. Can’t read, not good with words, and scary because of how big I am and how dangerous I can be. People laugh at me because of it. I like to help people. Some people know that, some don’t. Some think I’m gullible because of that. It’s ok. I can smile. This is how people see me. My wife would need to know me and know what everyone else sees and be ok. I don’t want her sad.”

Nasha nods in understanding. “And will you tell me what it is that most people don’t see?”

A moment of panic passes as The Mountain closes his eyes and takes a deep breath. He nods then answers, “Yes. Please don’t tell anyone though, except perhaps the Tomal Khan. If they don’t see it, it’s better that way, ok?”

She once again nods in response. He smiles anxiously and then answers the question she asked. His voice is steady if quiet, not looking to carry past the woman in the room. There is a sense of confession with it and at the end he looks at her with a resigned expression, awaiting judgement.

“You know what you want and are willing to risk much to get it. You are right, finding you a wife will not be as easy as I had thought. Still, among the many I could have offered, there are some that may work.”

Nasha stands gracefully, indicating an end to this audience. “Return to the city and await my summons. You have my thanks for supporting my cause, no matter how this search for a bride ends.” She smiles at him and then exits the room, leaving The Mountain to a time of reflection and waiting.

To be continued…

Last edited by Hat on Thu Apr 07, 2016 11:06 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: The Heart of The Mountain
PostPosted: Sun Feb 28, 2016 8:23 pm 
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I like it, looking forward to part two

Akira Currier
aka Raseri 'Crash' val'Emman - Master of the Incandescent Flame (Martial 3.7)
aka Leif - Skohir Warped One (Martial 2.6)
aka Rurik - Nol Dappan War Priest (Divine 2.3)
aka Karthik - Tultipetan Stonemason (Expert 1.4)

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 Post subject: Re: The Heart of The Mountain
PostPosted: Sun Feb 28, 2016 9:26 pm 
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Location: Portland OR

Eric Gorman

AKA Ambassador Tukufu, man of letters, tomb raider and Master Sword Sage
. . . and Sir Szymon val'Holryn, Order of the Phoenix
Formerly Sir Jaeger val'Holryn. Weilder of the Holy Avenger: Thonanos. Gave his soul to help free King Noen

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 Post subject: Re: The Heart of The Mountain
PostPosted: Mon Feb 29, 2016 12:01 am 

Joined: Fri Sep 27, 2013 11:55 pm
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Love it! :)

part two ...

Part Two ...


Talendos, the Shadow Raven
3.0 Expert, Soldier of Retribution, Assassin
"When you do something right, it's as if you didn't do it at all ..."

B-lister, Super Human, Brawler
"Bringing the noise!"

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 Post subject: Re: The Heart of The Mountain
PostPosted: Tue Mar 01, 2016 3:21 pm 

Joined: Sat Oct 05, 2013 12:46 pm
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He arrived at the appointed time, clean and presentable and was ushered into Nasha’s presence. The setting and her attire were a touch more formal than before, and her smile while genuine a bit more distant. What lay before them was a matter of importance, and as before he dropped to a knee in deference to her position. At a nod the guards withdrew beyond the doorways, close at hand but not privy to the conversation.

Seeing he grasped the seriousness of the discussion her smile warmed a bit. “You look well,” she said and gestured for him to rise.

The Mountain returned the smile as he stood, “And you look regal.”

Nasha inclined her head, accepting the compliment. “I have found several who I believe may be what you seek. All are interested in meeting you. It is nice to have the luxury to meet both the needs of the Court and the happiness of my family. Though should you marry and make them miserable…” the tone was light, almost joking, but the stated threat most real.

He nodded in acknowledgement.

“Very well. You shall be our guest for the next three days. During which you will spend time with each of them and by the end of the third day I expect an answer. Should it be marriage, we will arrange for the happy occasion quickly. Should you not find what you’re looking for, then once again you leave with our thanks.”
“I have told them this is a matter I am considering and by no means certain. Each knows there are others I am considering but not necessarily who, though they may guess. All are talented, well-educated and beautiful. Treat them well,” she pauses a moment to ensure the instructions are emphasized before continuing.

“The first you shall meet is Arya. She is ambitious and aids in the running of the Court. Few have her knowledge of the various individuals who seek to apply their influence here either from within or without. She is also a talented musician with a beautiful voice.”

“Next you shall meet Roshni. Her interests are varied, lacking a central focus. This breadth has made her an excellent tutor for other members of the family. She’s more impulsive than the others but is one of the brightest and most helpful.”

“After Roshni you will meet Shirin,” she smiled a bit as she mentioned the name. “Shirin is a warrior, trained to fight from horseback and afoot. She may offer to spar with you but be warned, she is known to show up those who underestimate her.”

“After Shirin you will meet Vashti. She has followed her father into the merchant trade. Her father is a well-known and respected horse trader. The tack that Vashti makes and provides is all any true horseman can ask.”

“Finally you will meet Ruana. She is the most studious of the five and fascinated by the First City and its history. Though a bit more reserved in general than the others, she is as passionate as any with the things that truly interest her.”

“You will learn more of them when you speak, but I thought it well to provide some background before beginning. I have provided each of them some information about you and answered their questions within reason. Do you have any questions before meeting Arya?”

The Mountain paused for a moment considering. “How will I meet the next one and what happens when I’ve met all of them?”

“Once done with one of them the guards will help arrange for your next meeting, either bringing them to you or taking you somewhere to meet them. Once you have met each of them, you may request more time with any of them and arrangements will be made. They may also send you messages which will be kept until an appropriate time. They are aware that you’re not literate and that any message will be voiced aloud.”

“Will I see you over the next three days?”

Nasha shook her head. “Not unless the need is great. There is much I must attend to.”

The Mountain nodded then remained quiet.

“Very well. The guards will take you to the gardens to where Arya awaits you. We will speak again soon.”

Dismissed The Mountain once again offered his respects and left. Two guards met him as he stepped outside the room, one leading and one trailing. He was reminded of the long tunnels he would go through to enter the arena and wondered whether Larissa would smile upon him and bring him victory in his pursuits. Only time would tell.

To be continued…

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 Post subject: Re: The Heart of The Mountain
PostPosted: Thu Mar 03, 2016 1:57 pm 

Joined: Sat Oct 05, 2013 12:46 pm
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The guards led The Mountain through the palace and out to the gardens. The day was warm, and the breeze carried a mixture of scents both familiar and foreign. Turning a bend in the path he saw a regal young woman resplendent in the white and gold of the Maghir. The lead guard stepped aside allowing for The Mountain to pass. As he moved closer she stood and smiled. Arya had dark eyes and dark brown hair, kept from her eyes with jeweled pins, but otherwise down and stirred by the breeze. She was taller than many of the Maghir women he had seen, but not exceptionally so. She seemed a bit younger than he, probably in her late teens.

As he reached an appropriate distance he stopped, drawing himself up as if presenting himself to the crowd in an arena. “I am…The Mountain,” he stated in his deep bass voice. Smiling down at her he asked, “Are you Arya?”

Arya seemed amused at The Mountain’s introduction, one fitting an arena, but out of place in such a circumstance. “I am, and very pleased to meet you,” she replied. Her voice was rich and a pleasure to the ear, just as Nasha had promised. She gestured to a bench and then sat quickly once it was obvious The Mountain would do likewise. Her excitement was clear and she leaned in a bit when she spoke.

“The Dorai of the Tomul Khan has told me she is considering a marriage between you and one of our household. She has also said I am one of the ones she may match you with. I have heard something of your deeds and your service to the Tomul Khan, but am anxious to hear from you about your adventures. Will you tell me?”

The Mountain smiled. “Of course! Should I start with helping the Tomul Khan? Or maybe you’d rather me start with my victories in the arena. I could talk about the war, but wars aren’t any fun. Lots die. Or do you want me to talk about helping people? I like to help people,” he added with pride and an eagerness to see where she wanted to begin.

The simple, almost child-like response seemed to surprise her a bit, though she covered it well. “Why don’t you start with your victories in the arena. I understand the chain you wear was earned there?”

The Mountain’s eyes opened wide showing his own excitement. “Yes! This is a champion’s chain. I got this after beating a REALLY BIG ss’ressen. He was even bigger than me, though not by a lot. Both of us had beaten a lot of opponents to get to the end. And there we were, he with his axe and me with my trident. The battle was really tough! It wasn’t supposed to be to the death, but he wouldn’t give up and I didn’t want to die. He killed all of his other opponents. That’s sad. So we started out by waving to the crowd…”

The story was a favorite and one told often. He gestured and posed, then got up and did some of the acrobatics as he had performed them in the arena. Arya smiled and laughed at his antics which only seemed to encourage him further. Eventually he climaxed with the final blow and added a roll across the ground to a one knee pose as a flourish and punctuation. He seemed unaware or unconcerned about the dirt he accumulated on his outfit. Arya cheered at the conclusion.

“And so when they asked me about a chain to commem…celebrate the victory, I asked for it to be made from his axe, claws and head spine as a way to honor him. They added the gold, as a champion’s chain is supposed to have gold. I think it looks pretty,” he looked up at her for confirmation and she nodded. He told her stories of other bouts within the arena, but it was clear the battle against the Agamassi was his favorite. She asked questions and occasionally seemed puzzled by the answers he gave.

“Can you tell me about your adventures? I heard you helped some dark-kin in Milandir among other things.”

“Sure! But can you sing first? I hard you have a beautiful voice,” he asked eagerly.

She smiled at his reaction and began to sing one of the ballads of her people. The first note rang out clear and pure as did the rest that followed. Her range was impressive as was her expressiveness. She sang to him and he watched her in turn, smiling his encouragement. When the song reached its end he applauded, “So you speak Maghir?” she asked in Maghir. The Mountain looked confused so she switched back to Low Coryani. “Do you speak Maghir?” she repeated.

The Mountain shook his head. “No. Why?”

“You seemed very focused and nodded a bit.”

He seemed surprised. “I did?”


“You sing well, and I could just feel the story in how you sang it.”

“I see,” Arya seemed to file that away. Letting go of whatever thought lingered, she invited him again to tell of his adventures with the dark-kin in Milandir.

“Oh. That’s a sad story,” he stated, his face becoming somber as he thought about it. “Are you sure you want to hear it?”


He sighed a bit. “Ok,” and with that began the tale. It started with he and some companions sent on an errand to investigate a situation in Milandir and discovering a dark-kin near dead by the side of the road. Through it he sat, the animation displayed in previous tales gone as this one was more dark and somber. As the story unfolded, Arya asked many questions about the dark-kin and The Mountain’s role in helping the dark-kin get settled into a new life. As he told her of other adventures including aiding the Tomal Khan, she continued her questioning. The enthusiasm she showed when they first met replaced with a more reserved and pensive demeanor.

After bringing a particular story to a conclusion, The Mountain addressed her, “Do I get to ask questions, too?”

The question surprised her. “Of course.”

“What do you do here?” when it was clear his question wasn’t understood he tried again. “In the Golden Court. What do you do?”

With that Arya spoke of her life within the court, how she aided the master of ceremonies and was consulted in matters of etiquette and occassionally politics. The Mountain had a hard time grasping all the different things she did and interrupted with questions. They were simple questions and often blunt, though softened by the fact that they were asked without challenge.

The conversation wandered from her work to her extended family. When Arya mentioned Khan Forso, The Mountain looked uphappy and blurted out that he thought Khan Forso was a bad man and Arya agreed. She looked at him a bit oddly after that exchange and their discussion moved from family to music. She studied at the Academy of Epics and Songs and she told him of the masters she had worked with there. They lapsed into silence and before either could speak further one of the guards approached.

Offering the appropriate respects he addressed them, “Apologies for the intrusion. The Mountain is expected elsewhere soon and it would not be well for him to be late.”

The Mountain stood and offered Arya a hand to rise which she accepted. Once standing, he gently covered hers with his other hand. “This was nice. Can we talk again soon?”

Arya looked up at The Mountain with a curious expression on his face. “Yes, that would be nice.” She spoke slowly seeking something in his face.

He smiled broadly. “Good! We will speak soon. Goodbye!” he said and turned to go.

“Goodbye, Mountain.”

The Mountain turned back and his eyes opened wide as if she’s said something wrong. “Not Mountain. The Mountain. Mountain’s not here,” he spoke with all sincerity.

Unsure if a jest or not, Arya smiled in response. “Of course, The Mountain. We will speak again soon.”

With that the guards led The Mountain away, off to his next appointment.

To be continued…

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 Post subject: Re: The Heart of The Mountain
PostPosted: Fri Mar 04, 2016 8:47 am 
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Thoroughly enjoying the story. Looking forward to the next instalment.

Akira Currier
aka Raseri 'Crash' val'Emman - Master of the Incandescent Flame (Martial 3.7)
aka Leif - Skohir Warped One (Martial 2.6)
aka Rurik - Nol Dappan War Priest (Divine 2.3)
aka Karthik - Tultipetan Stonemason (Expert 1.4)

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 Post subject: Re: The Heart of The Mountain
PostPosted: Mon Mar 07, 2016 12:24 pm 
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Great story telling!

- John Bellando

Kelb'Bakari Masalio, Dark-kin Altherian Corsair, Gentleman Archaeologist, and Wandering Bard
"The highest compliment an Altherian can pay you is to shoot you with his flintlock. It means you were worth the expense."

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 Post subject: Re: The Heart of The Mountain
PostPosted: Thu Mar 10, 2016 9:15 pm 

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They made their way out of the gardens and back into the palace where they headed upstairs to one of the suites. The lead guard knocked then stepped aside. A female voice from inside called “Enter,” as The Mountain reached the door. As he entered the room the trailing guard took up station on the other side of the door within easy call but once again out of earshot.

As with the other suites he had been in this one was luxuriously appointed, though he had little time to notice before discovering the sole occupant of the room semi-reclined on a large couch. While he had been assured all of the women would be beautiful, Roshni was truly breathtaking. He paused, caught off-guard by her appearance, which granted her the opportunity to smile and rise. Standing she was taller than Arya, her thick black hair artfully arranged and large brown eyes that called to be drowned in. Her outfit was designed to flatter and impress and while not as provocative as a Larissan’s, it was enticing.

Recovering from his surprise he offered her a glorious smile, and pulling himself up to his full height announced himself. “I am…The Mountain,” he stated boldly.

Roshni grinned at his statement and moved to stand close before him. “Good afternoon, The Mountain. I am Roshni, and very pleased to meet you,” reaching out she took his hand and tugged gently. “Why don’t we sit and be comfortable, hmmm?”

She led him over to the couch and once seeing him seated retrieved a plate and goblet of wine and returned with it. “I thought you might be hungry, so I assembled some choice selections for your pleasure. I hope they meet with your satisfaction.” She sat down close to him on the couch, her leg next to his.

“I’m sure they will.”

“Wonderful! Then you should have some now,” and she picked up one of the delicacies before he could reach for any and brought it to his lips. “Allow me,” and with a nod of ascent she began to feed him. It was done at a slow pace allowing him to savor the various fruits and foods, while providing him commentary on what they were.

“I heard you were a tutor. What do you teach?”

Roshni smiled mischeviously, “Why whatever I think they need to learn. I’m sure there are things I could teach you as well.”

“You teach what all those funny squiggles mean?”

She laughed. “You mean writing?” The Mountain nodded.

“Yes, I speak eight languages fluently and write in them as well. I’ve studied history, religion, art, architecture, music and a variety of other subjects. Whatever catches my interest I pursue passionately,” she noted pointedly.

“You for instance have me intrigued. I’ve seen several of your bouts here in the First City, including the one where you got that lovely champion’s chain,” as she spoke she reached out and glided her hand down the long headspine and down part of his chest before withdrawing it. “I have heard of your exploits in Almeric, in Milandir and even here within the First City and the various children you have entertained and assisted along the way. I can name the opponent you faced where you got this scar on your arm,” tracing it with her finger. “You strike me as a powerful man full of life, compassion and conviction. You have a flare for the dramatic, and an unflagging energy,” she rested a hand lightly on his arm, “that is most impressive. Should we be matched, I will certainly do my best to keep up. Still, I understand that may be difficult, so I may need assistance.”

Roshni clapped her hands twice and a door to one of the inner rooms of the suite opened. Stepping out of the room was a beautiful, provocatively dressed dancer likely from Milandir or Almeric. Amongst her various jewelry was the golden coin holy symbol of Larissa dangling on a short chain around her neck. She smiled invitingly at The Mountain, though addressed Roshni. “Your will, mistress?”

Roshni glided across the room recovering an instrument and looked at The Mountain. “Given your penchant for pageantry I thought the lovely Brigit would make a fitting and energetic opening act, with myself as the main attraction…” her voice trailed off and her bold confidence faded as she looked at The Mountain.

Up until Brigit entered, The Mountain had been curious and had been very attentive as Roshni had explained her training and teachings. It moved to puzzlement when she stood and clapped, then surprise when Brigit entered. What was evident through his surprise was the mixture of emotions behind it. His posture became more guarded, eyes narrowing, there was a flash of anger, disappointment and others less distinct, in the end his expression softened. He stood, “I think it’s time for my next appointment. Thank you for spending time with me.”

His dismissal finally stirred movement in Roshni again, “I’m sorry. I didn’t see, I thought but it didn’t… can we talk?” Her speech was fragmented as if her mind’s thoughts were triggering the next utterance before the former could be completed. Her demeanor spoke of sincere regret.

“Those who rely too much on the sight of others often fail to see what is before them,” he replied. Mixed with the rebuke there was a note of sorrow in his voice and while it was the same voice it was spoken differently.

He offered her a bow as a sign of respect for her position, then opened the door and stepped out without another word or glance back. As he came through the guards on either side of him nodded then fell into position as they headed away, The Mountain paused and asked, “Can we get something to eat? I’m hungry and don’t want to meet someone on an empty stomach. What if my stomach started rumbling? That would be bad.”

With a chuckle the guards changed course and headed for lunch.

To be continued…

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 Post subject: Re: The Heart of The Mountain
PostPosted: Fri Mar 11, 2016 6:39 pm 

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Lunch was a festive affair with the guards leading him towards the kitchens. On their way one of the guards sent a servant to discover where Shirin would be after lunch. After they arrived, The Mountain insisted they eat as well, and with a bit of persuasion they joined him. The foods were standard fare but made well and The Mountain’s appreciation was reflected in his appetite and profuse appreciation to the cooks. During the meal he and the guards swapped stories of fights and duties. Towards the end they brought out some sweets which he gleefully ate, eliciting chuckles from the various women. As they headed back to the kitchens their conversation could be overheard with the eldest saying, “…so remember, they may look like grown men, but they’re really just oversized boys.” The Mountain and the guards looked at each other and laughed.

Once again they returned outdoors, though not to the gardens. Instead The Mountain was led to an open area where multiple targets were set up. On the field facing away from them was a woman sitting atop an impressive warhorse. She wore a well-made and well used chain hauberk and carried a recurved short bow. Still some distance away they paused as she spurred her horse forward into a gallop as she approached the targets she let loose two arrows striking the near the center of each of two targets. Reaching the far end, she wheeled her horse and brought it back, this time striking two of the targets on the other side. Both shots hit near the center, but it was hard to tell from this distance if they were perfect strikes.

The guard standing to The Mountain’s left remarked, “Shirin is a warrior born! She has earned the respect of the Maghir and has vanquished many in fights. Though you have won me many coin through your games, she I would not bet against,” and the other guard agreed. As they talked Shirin trotted her horse over and appraised her audience and The Mountain appraised her in return.

Shirin was an athletic woman of average height with dark brown hair and hazel eyes. Her face was flushed with excitement as she regarded the men. “Two of them could not have flown truer and the other two only slightly off their mark! You have much work ahead of you Firuz, if you ever hope to match me,” she challenged looking at the guard who had spoken.

Firuz smiled and laughed. “Perhaps someday I will match you in mastery from the back of a horse, but never in spirit. But I am not here to admire your skill with the bow, I bring you, The Mountain! Champion of the arenas, hero of the crusades and friend to children everywhere!” he winked at The Mountain. “We shall be nearby should either of you need us,” and with that the two guards offered their salute and withdrew.

As the guards departed The Mountain looked up at Shirin. “That was great shooting! And you have a wonderful horse. She’s pretty. Can I pet her?” The words tumbled out excitedly as he looked up at her expectantly.

Shirin face contorted through a mixture of annoyance and amusement. “Are you here to see me or my horse?”

The Mountain’s eyes got big and he looked worried, “Oh, I’m sorry! I’m here to see you. At least if you’re Shirin. That’s who I was supposed to see next and here you are and the guards have left, so I’m guessing you’re Shirin. Are you Shirin? And can I pet your horse, please?”

The Mountain’s near babbling just made her laugh, long and hard. He waited through it all, looking up at her expectantly. In an amused voice she granted her consent, “Yes, I am Shirin, and yes, you may pet Batuerdene.”

“Loyal Jewel. A beautiful name for a beautiful horse.”

“So you speak Maghir?”

The Mountain shook his head. “No, but I know a bit of Yhing hir.” He spent a couple of minutes absorbed with the horse, gaining its trust and then petting it gently.

“You ride?”

“Yes, though your skill puts mine to shame. You know the Galloping Rain fighting style?” he asked, shifting his attention from the horse, squarely to the rider.

“You did your homework.”

“No, but I’ve seen it before and was as impressed with it then as I am now. It’s very graceful. And deadly. And fast. But mostly graceful.”

Shirin dismounted from her mount with practiced ease. “She deserves food, water and a good rubdown.”

The Mountain smiled. “Lead and I will follow.”

As they walked to the stables they chatted about the Galloping Rain fighting style and The Mountain’s own approach to combat. He let her know that he was seeking to become a master with his trident and was even working on a new trick. They talked at length about the differences in combat between sport, gladiatorial and warfare. It became clear that while his experience was far greater than hers and more broad, she had a much better knowledge of strategy and tactics easily translating the battles he described and being able to accurately guess what each side would do next. She probed and prodded at both his memory and his thinking on what tactics would have been best and commenting on the ones he employed.

The conversation continued through feeding Batuerdene as well as brushing her down and had evolved to a discussion of the various weapons with which they were acquainted and comfortable with, with only dagger and a light spear being in common. He discovered she had spent time with the Yhing hir, riding the plains and living off the land for a time, too restless with constantly being in the city which led in turn to one upsmanship about difficulties in the wilderness. It was playful, and silly but always with an edge of competition to it.

Shirin looked at him appraisingly as they reached a lull in the conversation. “So. What would you say to a bit of sparring? You have me at a bit of a disadvantage,” she conceded, “being on foot rather than on horseback. You did mention a new trick you were trying to master though…”

The Mountain drew himself up into a dramatic pose. “You? Are challenging me?” he added haughtily as her grin and gaze confirmed. He laughed and dropped back to the familiar man she had been talking to. “Ok. I accept. Not today though,” he added apologetically. “I didn’t think I was going to need to fight while in the Golden Court, so I didn’t bring my gear. Tomorrow?”

“Tomorrow it shall be, and bring your best. I intend to.”

Sensing an end to his conversation, he dropped to one knee in respect. As he did so, she reached out and placed a hand on his shoulder. They stayed that way only briefly before he rose and she withdrew her hand.

“Firuz?” he called.

Very shortly his shadows were back and saluted Shirin. It was a honor she returned.

“Let’s go.”

To be continued....

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