These canyons were inhospitable and often dangerous, but for those who had grown up in such terrain, even the most forboding of landscapes could be coaxed into providing sustenance and shelter. Aryel's birth herd, a nomadic band of shaggy, primitive creatures, were adept at eking out a living where other horses might have feared to tread. She knew that deeper in the canyons, where the shade was deep and the sun's fury was lessened, would be hidden springs and pockets of greenery. It was those secret oases that she was seeking now, picking her way among the striped canyon walls and clambering over rockslides with an almost mule-like dexterity. Supposedly, these canyons were dangerous to tread alone, especially for mares, but Aryel was not the type to be frightened by rumors.
Some might have called her confident, others may have simply called her hard-headed. Both words could apply equally well.
She tossed her head, a thin coating of desert dust wafting out of her mane, and sniffed the air. The smell of water was faint, but it stood out like a beacon amidst the dry heat of the desert, and she pressed forward eagerly, until she turned a corner, squeezed through a narrow opening in the rocks, and finally found her prize. A shallow pool of water, kept cool by the canyon shade, lay before here, surrounded by shrubs and other hardy greenery. A few insects buzzed lazily over the surface of the water, and a pair of ground squirrels poked their heads out of the grass as she approached before scurrying away. Aryel plodded up to the water's edge and plunged her velvety muzzle into the pool, drinking deeply. Watering holes like these saw animal traffic of both the herbivorous and predatory variety, and she already bore the marks of one mountain lion encounter on her shoulder. She felt safe enough to let her guard down for the moment, although her ears continued to flick and swivel as she drank.
Making his way through the canyon, his broad hooves creating a rhythmic echo through the desolate landscape, Thalion made his way ever forward. It had been hours since his last taste of water, but the stallion was not bothered by the fact in the least. He was a survivor. Stone cold and hardy. It was a fact of life. Shivering his skin slightly under the touch of a fly, he sunk to his knees to roll in the rich red dust. The flies weren't particularly bothersome at the moment, but he was in no mood to have them buzzing to and fro around his broad ears. Grunting, he rose to his feet, again in search for water. His pale cream coat was now dulled red, and his slightly unkempt mane and tail swung behind him in motion with his enormous stride.
Lifting his head, he flared his nostrils, scenting for water. The smell was faint, but that meant he was closer to quenching his thirst then before. As he scented the air, he noted that he did not scent any predators. Not that he worried. His large size and good health made him a menacing target to say the least. Only a truly desperate, or perhaps over-confident predator would be brave enough to attack him. As for other equines... well he was large enough to hold his own if attacked, and most Southerners would not be stupid enough to try. At least he hoped.
Rounding the bend, tough greenery came into view, and the scent of water grew much stronger. He must have found the small oasis. Picking up his stride, his hooves creating little clouds of dust in the dry earth, he approached the water. However, right before his feet touched the edge of the pool, he sensed another equine nearby. Lifting his head, chilling blue eyes scanning the small oasis, he spotted a very small grulla mare. It had been a while since he had ran into another, but rather than sneering or frightening her, he thought he could at least be somewhat cordial. "Hello" he grunted. Not one for conversation, he too lowered his head to drink from the water. The coolness of it calmed his parched throat, and lifting his head, crystalline droplets falling from his mouth, he eyed the woman silently. Waiting to see if she would speak, and how she would react to his massive presence.
OOC: Sorry, I am a bit rusty and trying to figure him out Word Count: 402 Muse: 9/10 Aryel
She heard the stallion's approach before she saw, or, more interestingly, scented him. The sound of heavy footsteps caused her to raise her head, droplets of water trailing down her chin and catching the light as they fell back into the pool. He approached from the opposite end of the oasis, and she was surprised to see a horse of his bulk this deep in the canyon--some of those trails could be a tight squeeze. That explained the heavy hoofbeats that had heralded his arrival.
He had spotted her as he came into view, and though he didn't seem to be spoiling for a fight, the little grulla mare nevertheless tensed as his gaze landed on her, her tail whisking about her hocks. She was a lone mare, and she knew all too well that she was fair game for any cocky stallion with more balls than brains to try and claim. If that was this one's intent, or if he hoped his brawn would intimidate her into complacency, he would be in for a rude awakening. Fortunately, he only gave her a single gruff syllable of greeting and dropped his head to drink, more concerned with slaking his thirst for the moment than quenching any other appetites. "Afternoon," she replied with a quiet nicker, briefly dipping her head. He was covered in dust, she noticed, and she wondered if that was his own doing, or if he had gotten that way from trying to navigate the canyons. "You live around here, or just passing through like me?" She was a nomad by nature, having spent her formative period in a herd that never really settled, but she knew this area had a reputation for sheltering vagabonds and more unsavory horses.
Noticing her discomfort at his cold blue gaze, the stallion allowed a smile to edge against his lips. It was not a true smile of mirth as the wrinkles did not reach his eyes, but rather a cold smile born from years of struggle. He was not a beast, he meant her no harm, but at the same time he did not go out of his way to make her comfortable either. For a minute he could see her situation, she by all appearances seemed to be by herself, he could scent no other horses nearby, and she was in rough territory. Not to mention his size. Either she was stupid, had an impressive set of fighting skills, or had quite a bit of pluck running through her veins.
As her voice reached his ears, he noticed her faint nod. She was obviously trying to be polite, but the stallion did not return the gesture. Not one for politics or cordiality, he preferred to get straight to the point, all manners aside. He had been tossed from his herd and lacked many social skills and etiquette. All that combined with the fact that he simply did not care much for such things.
Letting her words hang in the air, he took another quick drink of the water. Relishing in the coolness flowing down his throat before he spoke again. "I suppose you could say I'm just passing through. Though I have some plans to stir some things up in the North as soon as I am able."
Grunting, he almost gave a faint chuckle, but thought better of it. They would have it handed to them if he was successful. Imagine how they would feel if a Southern herd just found their way into their lands and started enjoying the wealth the natives thought they were entitled to? Rather than indulging further into the conversation about himself, however, he asked the question that had been nagging at the back of his mind. Perhaps she would find it offensive, but if she did, it was her problem, not his. "So... my question is... what brings one of... your stature... to such dangerous lands." Again, he meant her no harm, but as he eyed her up and down he thought again of all the dangerous situations she could find herself trapped in. Predators, stallions with over-inflated egos, just to name a few. He guessed that her size made it easier to travel through such a land than it would him... but then again... it also left her vulnerable to more dangers.
OOC: xDD Not the nicest dude I suppose Word Count: 429 Muse: 9/10 Aryel
At his supposed intent to make trouble for the Northerners, the mare's interest was piqued. "Oh, really?" she said, cocking a brow. "And how do you plan to do that?" Despite having a northern dam, Aryel held little love for the horses of that region. The herds of the north hoarded their bountiful territory, leaving the southern bands, such as her father's nomad clan, to scratch out a living in the arid heat. There was plenty to go around, she had seen it for herself when her mother had taken her back home, and yet they refused to share, clinging to some infuriating notion of superiority. Was it 'superior' to let foals die in a drought when their mothers' milk dried up, or leave other horses to sweat and toil under a scorching sun while they lounged in the shade?
Some cynical part of her knew not to get too excited about this stallion's plans. Most likely, he probably just meant to steal a few mares from the northern herds, possibly even try to seed a few half-breed bastards--like her--among the northern lands. Or, he could simply be all talk and no walk. He was big, sure, but brawn only accounted for so much, especially when you were working alone, and she could smell no other stallions on him that might be his partners in crime.
Still, any enemy of the North was a possible friend in her book.
At his question, she snorted sharply and pawed the ground with a foreleg, throwing up clouds of dust around her. "Don't think just because I'm short I can't fend for myself," she shot back, her bristling all too clear for him to see. Aryel was the sort of horse who wore her heart on her metaphorical sleeve. "If anything, it just makes me even harder to topple, and even better at kicking ya in the throat." The stocky grulla tossed her head, side-eyeing him. "Besides, I was born in turf like this, I'm made for the scrubland." A note of pride had entered her voice, seeming to quench the indignant offense that had been threatening to rise. "Big fellow like you might sit pretty out on the plains, but I'm surprised you didn't get your fat barrel wedged between two rocks making your way in here."
Smirking faintly in amusement, the dust-covered stallion's eyes glowed faintly with seriousness and a faint bit of mischief. The mare in front of him almost seemed intrigued, yet also a bit skeptical. He couldn't say he blamed her. The Northern herds had held their land jealously for generations, how should one lone stallion such as him perpetrate their ranks and cause trouble? That was a question he'd been asking for quite a while, and while he could stir the dust, so to speak, he could not do it alone. He would need many like-minded horses... preferably Southern horses, maybe a few foreigners, and if fate allowed it, maybe even a couple of those Northern bastards set on betraying his own kind to do as he planned.
Giving just a few moments for her words to sink in, he finally spoke, his low voice holding just a faint air of superiority and mischief. "It sounds impossible, doesn't it?" Letting off a wry chuckle, he continued. "Well after plenty of thought, and wandering around by myself, I decided that if I can find a way into their territory, claim it, and begin moving Southern Horses in, preferably ones strong enough to defend the land that we claim. If I can achieve that, then there will be little they can do to make us leave without starting a war. If we can gain a small patch, we can expand from there." If all this worked out, he would begin seeking alliances with Southern Herds, perhaps creating a network of supplies and sanctuary. He would try to keep low profile for a while, at least until numbers were large enough to fight back when the expected tension broke out.
After seeing her response to his rather antagonizing question, the stallion felt a hint of amusement. Though he didn't smile, the ends of his lips twitched ever so slightly, and he cocked an ear ever so faintly. "I never said you couldn't." This time the amusement was plain in his voice, and he came back to his previous question. Either she was stupid, was a good fighter, or was very spirited. By her answer he guessed at least one, if not both, of the latter two. However, her size still did get him. He was not one to judge based on appearance, but even with her head tossed in the air, it hardly made it past the height of his wither.
Ignoring her threat to kick him in the throat, he practically rolled his eyes at her insult. Fat indeed. He was a Southern horse. Starved half his life, and barely scraping by the rest. No, he wasn't gaunt, but he was thin enough that he insult was based merely on his large size. "If you insist, sure." His tone was wry, and amused. But you have to remember that not all canyons are as narrow as the ones you must be acquainted with." Perhaps it was a statement of fact, perhaps a bit condescending, but he found the small mare fascinating, and her pluck definitely drew his attention. In the very least, she was brave and would fight if need-be. Flicking a tail, he eyed her quietly for a second, sizing her up quite obviously. She had pride in her Southern heritage, he could give her that. Considering that she claimed she was made for the scrubland. "Seeing as you have quite a bit of spirit, I was wondering if you'd be interested in assisting me." Even though he was skeptical about her size, she seemed to have enough fire running through her veins. Perhaps with a little of her help, they could stir some trouble.
OOC: Sorry, I have no idea how to end it xD Word Count: 612 Muse: 8/10 Aryel
He had the beginnings of a plan, at least. Establish a toehold in the forbidden lands, gather fighters to the cause, and expand from there. She doubted the Northerners would take such an insult lying down, but the idea of war didn't frighten her. Things had been too quiet for too long. The southerners had grown complacent in their exile, and the northerners fat and lazy. She had been told once by her father that, though a wildfire might scorch a prairie to ash, the plains would always regrow lusher and greener than ever. Chaos brought change, and change, no matter how turbulent, could ultimately be better than stagnation.
Maybe these lands were overdue for a wildfire, then.
He seemed to be sharing the same train of thought, and though her grandstanding clearly failed to intimidate him, he seemed impressed by her guts. Maybe she wasn't the mightiest war-horse out there, but it could be surprising just how much grit could be contained in so small a form. Moreover, his plans had lit a fire in her that she hadn't felt for some time. Aryel held little care for glory or power, but he offered something beyond that--at least to her eyes. Here was hope for the southerners. Here was a chance to right the wrongs of generations past. Here was a chance to win a better life for themselves and their descendants.
At his query, she grinned. "I was hoping you'd ask me that. Yeah. I'll help you stir things up. But--" Here she left her position on the opposite side of the pool and stepped into the cool, shallow water. At its deepest, it barely passed her hocks, and she ambled through the water to stand before him, looking up. The fiery spark in her eyes hadn't waned, but now there was a flinty hardness as well. "That doesn't mean I'm going to be kissing your ass and doing whatever you say. You want respect, you earn it." Even if she liked his ideas, she knew rather little about him, and she wasn't inclined to trust him much until she did.