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Darkest before Dawn...

Cassie

Novice
Cassy stood exhausted by the waters edge, resting in the nook of a hollowed old Oak tree for shade from the blistering midday sun. She loved all things nature and wondered what tales this old tree would tell her if it could speak. Beads of sweat slowly trickled down her elegant golden tanned neck and down to her chest. She dipped her scarf in the water and cooled herself off, she felt exhausted. The horses were tired too, she’d driven them hard, perhaps too hard, she knew they enjoyed it though, thriving from the feeling of blood pumping in their veins and the wind in their faces. Oh she knew they enjoyed it...
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The flashbacks happened quite often, more so on her down days, this was one of those days. As she stared at the picturesque scene in front of her, the magnificent horses, the darts of sunshine flickering through the trees, beautiful flowers in full bloom, swarms of bees fighting for pollen, she could feel her gaze was stuck on a certain flower, seemingly unable to look at anything else her mind began to drift away…

…She was woken from her nap by the man’s rough, filthy, calloused hand clasped over her mouth and the feel of cold steel against her throat. She was unable to move, his bodyweight pinned her down on the forest floor, fear gripped her. She struggled with all her strength but she knew there was no getting away from this man. She saw the marking on his neck, the sign of a murderer, branded into his skin as though to brag. She daren't move now as he slowly dragged the blade gently down her neck to the silk shoulder strap of her tunic, slicing through it with ease. The man aggressively stabbed the knife into the ground inches from her head, he laughed at the whimpering noise this caused her to let out, further fueling his desire. His hand ripped her tunic down, exposing her delicate body. Muffled cries couldn’t escape his grip. He was far too strong. Both her hands now gripped tightly around his forearm, it was like rock, a warriors arm. She knew this encounter would only go one way.
In that moment she became aware of someone watching... no...not someone...something! She turned her head and saw him, a beautiful jet black stallion. 18 hands of pure muscle and power held her gaze for what seemed like an eternity. She realised something wasn't quite right with what she was seeing though, she was looking at herself on the floor with the man on top of her, somehow she was seeing this scene unfold through the horses eyes. She could feel the power within the animal as though she had control over it, she could feel it's heart beating.
Oh how she wished she could make this stop. Please make this stop. In that moment the stallion powered himself forward, huge hind legs rippled with muscle and sinew, shifting his huge frame into a fierce gallop. Eyes fixed on the foul man committing the foulest of deeds. The man noticed the horse late, too late, he barely scrambled to his knees before the horse crashed through him like he were a twig, his neck snapped and he was dead before he hit the ground.
She scrambled to her feet, wincing at the pain, her body in ruins. The beautiful horse turned to face her, staring deep into her eyes with a look as though to say 'everything is going to be ok'. She reached out a shaking hand and felt his smooth skin, so perfect, like the deepest black of the night sky. Cassie leant in against the animal and began to cry. He dipped his head and lowered his frame down to his knees in front of her, almost ushering her onto his back. She exhaled a deep breath, wiped away her tears and gingerly climbed onto the horse...



The jolt back to present day was welcomed as a giant lips from the huge black horse nipped at her neck, in a nursing manor, almost knowing what memory she had relived. Ever since that day the two had been inseparable. He was everything to her. And their bond was deep, almost on a spiritual level. Cass could speak to the animal, and he understood her, they all did…
 

Cassie

Novice
The ordeal had left Cass feeling upset and longing for human comfort. With both her parents gone, she had no one to turn to. She remembered a conversation she'd had previously with her Father before his passing, he'd mentioned a man who's life he had saved once and who owed him a great debt, it was a long shot but she needed to seek this man out, she needed a friendly face and if her Father had trusted this man then Cass could too. Cass couldn't remember all the details but knew his name and decided this was enough. She needed to find Yan Valek.

Cass spent weeks travelling the lands with Beauty before finally finding the man she was after. He was an older gentleman with a strangely calm personality, when she found him he was tending to his crops in a small plot of land just outside of Horseshoe Bay. He looked up at her and narrowed his eyes, "Little Cassie, is that you!?" Clearly he remembered her...
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They went to the local inn where Yan bought her a hot meal, they drank long into the night and Yan had told her stories of her Father and how he had sometimes cared for Cass while her Father was away in battle. Cass was too young to remember any of it but she felt comfortable with Yan, he made her feel...safe.

They sat outside Yan's small makeshift hut, enjoying the cool evening breeze and admiring the stars in the sky. Yan noticed a tear roll down Cass' face and questioned what was wrong. Cass let herself go, she completely opened up to him and had recounted her tale of the 'Red' in the woods. Yan listened intently, his face sunken and saddened by what he'd heard. He hugged her tight and kissed her forehead before promising to never let anything like this happen to her again.

Cass was woken by the click of a lock, still in the dead of night with only the feint light of a flickering lantern illuminating the man bent over an old dusty chest. Cass lay still, watching the man as he pulled various pieces of amour from a chest, donning it swiftly and pulling on a beautiful pair of shadow hide leather boots. The last item he took from the chest was an old book like nothing she had ever seen before. A beautiful blood-red leather bound book, a gold leaf pagan inscription on the front and various sinister looking inscriptions on each page. She watched him slide the book into his pack before neatly combing his hair and beard and donning a dastardly looking bone helmet. He turned and noticed Cass was awake and had witnessed the almost ritual-like dressing. When she asked him what he was doing he looked her in the eye said said calmly "I'm going to speak with the Pathfinders..."


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Cass grabbed her pack, vaulted onto Beauty and rode off after him...