Standalone – Bonds

by paigeaddams

~~~~~~~~~~

~ For my best friend, my sister in heart. In loving memory of MDC(Y). ~

A mountain overlook outside the capital city of Neluk.

Meya Hestina kept her body low to the ground, holding the feline form of the kurag she was attuned to. A deadly predator, she moved silently through the tall grass, ropey muscles tensing as she wound between trees and the low, leafy branches of plants. In the darkness, where the light of the moon couldn’t reach through the thick canopy of arching branches and purplish blue and green leaves, her deep red fur was indistinguishable from her surroundings. Black tipped her short, pointed ears and long tail, and ran in a line from the crown of her head to a point between her shoulder blades, narrowing as it went down.

An anuk aspect, this was her chosen animal. She had practiced until keeping this form became second nature. Barely needing to concentrate, she was free to let her senses roam. Picking up the soft pulse of the energies around her. Listening to the faint rustling sounds of the wind in the leaves, and the heartbeats of other creatures. Her sharp, pale blue eyes caught the subtle movements of those smaller animals in the darkness.

Not as used to his new abilities yet, her target gave away his position ahead. It was just a snap of twigs beneath his feet, and the creak of a branch as he brushed by. But it was more than enough for her, and she inwardly smiled. When he took off through the trees, the wild instincts of her kurag nature thrilled at the chase, and she raced after him. Her paws barely made a sound as she hurtled through the underbrush, closing the distance between them.

When she came to the edge of the trees, she slowed to a stop, realizing she had been fooled. Ahead, the small, grassy overlook where they had started their game was deserted. Only the cloaks they had left behind with her sword belt were there. If she could have laughed in her current form, she would have. It had been a while since anyone had been able to throw her off like that.

Stars filled the sky as far as she could see in any direction, and it seemed like they stretched on forever. Those glittering points of light drew her gaze to the far off horizon, where the sky was beginning to lighten a little, and she stepped out of cover.

Free of the close confines of the trees, she didn’t bother with continuing to suppress the kurag’s elemental nature as she moved forward. Flames sparked to life at the tip of her tail, but she was still careful to maintain a low enough body temperature to keep from scorching the grass beneath her paws.

She stopped at the edge of the cliff, looking out over the plain below, all the way to the city in the distance. The flickering lights of the buildings shimmered like hundreds of candles. Neluk, the capital city. Her new home.

Her new life.

Away from all the battles she had seen as a laneshil, a warrior for her people, she had found a position in the city where she could stay to protect the people. She would be patrolling with other laneshilna, through the maze of streets outside the castle grounds.

Recently bonded to her prasuri, Tiges, she was starting over. They both were. He did not seem to notice those faint scars that combat had left on her body. Old wounds that had long since healed, but had left their mark. Being with him, the centuries of fighting felt so far away. In each other, they found strength and happiness.

Letting go of her kurag form, she shifted back easily. Warm light enveloped her as her spine lengthened, and she straightened to stand on two feet instead of four. Dark red fur became pale skin, and her tail disappeared. Her clothes manifested as she changed, a skill that had taken a very long time to learn. A fitted black shirt with belled sleeves and a veeing neckline, the hem hip-length in front and knee-length in back. Black stitched hide pants and boots.

She bent to pull her sword belt out from under their cloaks. The black hide and silver metal of the belt and sheath were etched with a winding vine pattern. Spell runes were engraved along the length of the sword’s blade, held safely in the sheath. She secured the belt around her waist, the heavy weight of her weapon familiar and comforting.

As she was reaching up to pull her long, wavy, brown hair back, she paused. The first rays of sunlight were just barely peaking over the mountains in the distance, and the light caught the bracelet on her left wrist. Her half of the anso she shared with her prasuri. Silver metal that spiraled around itself and her wrist in an intricate design, and a single round, blood-red stone, swirled with shimmering black, metallic flecks.

Smiling faintly, she touched the stone. There was a subtle warmth emanating from it, and the gentle pulse of their two energies. As they took on each other’s aspects, their energies would continue to change until they matched. A perfect blending of the two as they became one.

“Impressive,” Tiges said behind her, and she could hear the warmth in his voice.

When she turned, he was stepping out of the trees, back in his brown hide pants and boots, and buttoning his white shirt. He had left his clothes at the edge of the trees so they wouldn’t be shredded when he shifted into his kurag form. He lifted a hand to push his short, shaggy brown hair out of his eyes, and she caught the glimmer of his half of the anso on his left wrist.

“I know,” she said jokingly. “What can I say? I’m so skilled.”

“But can you do this?” he teased, brown eyes narrowed mischievously. Fire danced over the surface of his body harmlessly, ignoring both the clothes he was straightening and the grass and plants around him. As a viteri obine, he had complete control over the element of fire. This had become as easy for him as the kurag had for her.

Meya grinned, tilting her head as he let the flames fade away again. “I can,” she said confidently. They would both eventually be able to master the new aspects they gained from each other, with practice. “I just don’t feel like it at the moment.”

“I see,” he said, laughing. “You just didn’t want to make me look bad.”

“Exactly,” she said playfully, knowing he saw right through her bluff.

“And I would like to point out that you didn’t catch me,” he added, raising an eyebrow.

“I just didn’t want to catch you too fast, you know,” she said, picking up their cloaks, hers black and his brown. She held his out to him with a big smile. “I had to let you think you had the upper hand for a second. All part of my master plan.”

“Right,” he said, laughing and shaking his head. He took his cloak and slung it carelessly over his shoulders, then reached for hers as well.

She handed it over without comment, smiling at the way he was always doing little things for her. He took more care draping her cloak over her shoulders, and fastening it at the front to keep her warm.

When he finished, he looked up to meet her gaze, and held out his hand. “Ready?”

She had waited a long time, and had been through many battles, to reach this place in her life. And as she took his hand, letting him lead her down the path that would take them to the city, she felt the warmth of the dawn wash over her as the sun began to slowly rise over Neluk, painting the sky with the colors of a new day.

Like a betara, rising from its own ashes, somehow this felt like a turning point. Like she was reborn in the light of that dawn.

She didn’t look back. They had forever ahead of them. With Tiges’ hand comfortably in hers, she kept moving forward.

Towards their new beginning.

~~~~~~~~~~

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One Comment to “Standalone – Bonds”

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