Chapter VII

Whispers in the Wind
By: Hensbane

Part One

Warlock’s powerful legs pounded the ground beneath his feet as he raced across the Talos Valley. His silken black mane whipped from side to side as he enjoyed his morning run. This morning he was chasing after the filly named Wind-Runner, she was a silver- maned black Trencheron who had caught his fancy more than fifty years before in Avanon, during a battle under King Argonan. Karl Strange, his rider, had just breasted a barren ridge when she came into view. She was seeking out Karl’s second in command, James Peters to be her rider. Warlock had immediately been entranced by her beauty and grace, but she would have nothing to do with him at that time, her eyes were only for her new rider. Now she was coming into her forty-ninth season and was ready for breeding, her musky scent wafting tantalizingly toward Warlock’s sensitive nose.

Wind-Runner looked over her massive right shoulder and was pleased to see the huge stallion chasing after her, but she was not going to make this easy for him, even though her body screamed out in feverish desire. A ripple of pleasure ran along her flanks as she caught the musky scent of the excited male. Clouds of dust marked her increased speed across the dusty valley, a sound similar to thunder accompanied her hooves as she pushed herself even harder along the valley floor.

Warlock could see the foam rising on her black flesh as she tried to out race him. The great Trencheron stallion admired this filly’s strength and daring, she was not afraid of him. If he could but run her to ground and mate with her she would indeed be a great mother to any future foal. That was the way of the herd, only the strongest and smartest were allowed to carry on the bloodlines.

Trencherons, though not true immortals, are extremely long lived and do not even begin their breeding season until after their forty-fifth year of life, even then a pregnancy lasts more than five years. So it is that their number is forever kept small and only those who are the strongest ever make it through a mating ritual unscathed.

Wind-Runner was tiring. She could feel her heart pounding in her chest and her breathing was becoming increasingly difficult as she raced and charged the beautiful stallion, though she would not easily succumb to his advances. She whirled around on her rear legs, raising even more of the red dust that comprised the narrow track called the Great Lir’s Highway by the humans. She extended her inner hoof claws to get a better foothold on the land as she turned to face her pursuer, Warlock. Wind-Runner’s eyes glowed deep red, exhibiting her arousal to the charging stallion’s advances, then she lowered her broad bony head and struck the stallion in the left flank as he passed her on her right side.

Warlock, aware of what was coming, moved with the punch to his flank, preventing any mortal damage to his body. He did get one long scratch that welled up a line of bloody droplets on his ebony flesh and this increased Warlock’s arousal. Then the fully aroused stallion turned to make a return attack on his future mate.

Mating rituals among the Trencherons were dangerous to say the very least with few lasting out the long battle that was both physically and emotionally demanding of both the fillies and stallions. The Trencherons are beasts that are both equine and lizard in their natures. Each magnificent creature is blessed with broad hooves that travel well over solid ground and sand alike, but each hoof hides four long talons that can grip both solid stones or rend an enemy to pieces. Where mere horses have equine noses and faces, these beast resemble the long ago creatures called the Thunder Lizards, each beast having two upper canines that are hollow in nature and hide poison glands that can kill with but a single bite. Their heads are covered with any number of short sharp horny protrusions; the number varies with each creature. Warlock had five that covered his short lizard-like face; Wind-Runner had eight that covered hers. Every Trencheron had a bony protrusion over each eye ridge, from there the designs varied for each beast.

"Neigh-ahhh!" Warlock screamed out his challenge to the sweating enraged female. His heart raced in hot desire and his loins throbbed with unbridled pleasure that his choice for a mate had such strength and daring. He reared up on his powerful back legs and spun around on the red soil, creating even more dust, and with his powerful claws extended he raked her broad chest leaving four long scratches to mark her as his own mate. Luckily for Wind-Runner, Warlock did not desire to inject the poison hidden in each talon into her body. His game was mating not killing this day.

"Smash! Blat! Caboom!" The sounds of their head butting each other echoed through out the area where they carried out the ritual of mating. Finally after five strenuous hours of Trencheron courting, Warlock managed to catch Wind-Runner’s silver mane in his fore claws, then Warlock finally mounted the panting female. They remained so joined for another five hours until every last drop of seed had left Warlock’s body and they both collapsed upon the ground with another earth shaking thud.

The two Trencherons returned to their herd in the early morning, the golden sun was barely cresting the Fyrestorm Mountains as they entered their field. Both the male and female was exhausted and fell into a deep slumber, Wind-Runner curled up close to her new mate. The other members of the herd closed ranks around the sleeping pair; nothing and no one would be allowed near them until they had awakened once more.

Part Two

In another part of the Phantom Realm, in a small dark cave along the eastern coastline, slept a being of ancient legends, a female shapeshifter once known as Hellbore Reid. Though not always such a being, she was born among those people known as the Vinkins. The only thing that marked her as different from her people was the tiny birthmark below her left shoulder blade. The tiny outline of a wolf, its head raised as if howling at the moon now throbbed and pulsed as the dreamer slept, oblivious to the storm that currently raged outside the cave, for inside her head there raged another storm; a storm of remembrance. The sleeper, if there had been any listeners nearby, could have been heard crying out softly in her dreams, calling out to those who are now long dead.

"Lars? Maja? Where are you? Mama, Papa, don’t leave me. I am so alone now." Hellbore’s dream voice called out to the shadows that filled her mind. In the shadow world Hellbore was back in her village of Ducat, once a large village of the seafarers, known once as the Vinkins, a wedding festival was being set up. Large colorful tents with flapping banners strung across the tops held the colors of the different families of each of the twenty different tribes. This was a unique day in the lives of these warlike peoples, for two great families were being joined together by marriage. In the harbor twenty long boats waited, each one bearing the dragon standard of the different Vinkin families on their prows. The Reid family, known for their wondrous skills with leather, was being joined by marriage with the Stone family, the workers of fine metals and jewels. It was a union highly praised by all the craft halls of Ducat.

Lars Stone and Hellbore Reid had known each other all of their lives, neither one of them really wanted to be married, but if they had to be married, then they wanted to be with no other person than each other. Both their families had exerted a lot of pressure on them for this union, even going so far as warning Hellbore that if she did not choose this union they would find another husband for her.

"Hellbore, it is unseemly for you to continue hanging around the males and their warrior training, it is time you were married." Her mother, Helga Reid had told her six months before during one of their many quarrels over what was seemly for females.

"But I do not want to be married!" Hellbore shouted at her mother. This was an old argument between the two women. Helga did not understand that her daughter only wanted to create the things she saw in her mind when she looked at a piece of tanned leather. The last thing Hellbore desired was to be subservient to any being, why couldn’t her mother understand that she did not care what other people thought of her.

"You will not embarrass this family with your foolish hoydenish behavior!" Helga warned her daughter, her lips pursed in a warning manner, her blue eyes sparkled in an anger that matched her daughter’s. Already the five wives of the Guild leaders had come to her to ask her what was wrong with her daughter, Hellbore.

"Now dear, we don’t want to speak out of turn, but she has been seen playing warrior with her brothers and Lars Stone. Does she not seek to be a lady?" One of the wives had asked Helga in a condescending and less than sympathetic tone.

Helga still burned from embarrassment and humiliation at those words and she was not going to be the butt of any jokes about her stubborn daughter. Hellbore was going to become a lady and wife even if Helga, herself, had to find her a husband. Maybe even one who would have to beat her into submission, if necessary. It was not that Helga didn’t love her daughter, she just couldn’t understand why Hellbore preferred to join her brothers in their warrior training instead of learning the fine skills that most of the other women of the village aspired to. Hellbore, it was true, was a fine leather craftsman, no other journeyman in Leif, her father’s, service could match her skills, but such training was not considered ladylike among the Guild wives in Ducat. To make matters worse, Hellbore refused to wear dresses as was proper among the Vinkin women, instead she wore leather breaches and fur vests that barely covered her breasts in summer and sheer silken blouses in the winter times that showed off too much of her womanly body parts than was seemly.

Helga had to admit that her daughter was skilled at taking raw hides from the many different beasts of the Phantom Realm and turning them into the finest boots and saddles the Leather Craft Hall ever produced. Her crafts had brought in many golden gilders to fill their coffers but it still didn’t make her seem ladylike to the other Guild Wives. Why Hellbore had even been heard to use language that would put the most seasoned sailor to the blush, when she was upset about something. Why couldn’t her daughter, her only daughter, be like the other females of her age in the village? It was an argument that Helga had had with both her husband and even her own self many times in the last five months. Helga felt very put up on until finally Lars Stone offered to marry Hellbore in the springtime. Helga Reid relaxed for the first time since Hellbore had become a woman.

Now the springtime had finally arrived and the union of the two great halls would be completed. Already new designs were being worked up for incorporating silver and gems into the leather crafts. Even Hellbore’s new wedding clothes were a product of that union, though it took a fierce argument that nearly brought on Hellbore’s calling off the entire wedding ceremony to manage the compromise.

"Mother, I will never wear one of those silly silk things!" Hellbore had shouted at her mother when presented with a white silk gown covered with pink flowers for her marriage. Hellbore stomped her foot and threatened to call the whole thing off if she had to dress like a simpering fool.

Lars had come to the rescue with an outfit that he had designed himself for the occasion. He had known Hellbore all her life and knew she would bolt if she was forced to wear a dress for this occasion, so he and his father and Leif, Hellbore’s father had created a white leather split coat robe with body hugging white leather breaches. They had even designed a special pair of baby soft kid thigh high boots with built in gussets to allow her knees to bend easily, for her to wear. The neck of the coat was cunningly designed with a wide stand-up collar into which bands of emeralds and rubies, strung on thread-thin silver wire, had been stitched. The coat was knee length and split up the middle in front, tiny ruby and emerald buttons to hold it discreetly closed since Hellbore refused to wear breast binders. The breeches were designed to fit tight to her legs and slender hips and so as not to bunch under the thigh high boots. The boots had no heel to them because of Hellbore’s height. When a female is over six foot tall, even though her husband to be was six foot four, heels are not needed for adding any height. The very soft kid boots laced up the insides, instead of the out, as was usual with most boots, but Hellbore liked to carry a boot knife at all times, even to her own wedding. Hellbore might look like a mere female but her heart was that of a true warrior and a warrior never went anywhere with out some sort of protection.

Hellbore’s very thick waist length fox-red hair was braided in the back, tiny silver pins decorated with tiny gemstones holding the thick coil in place at the nape of her slender neck, a wreath of fresh white flowers crowned her head on this her wedding day. Hellbore sighed as she looked at her reflection in the long mirror the wife of the glazer had provided for the occasion.

"Well, for better or worse, here I am. I wished that I were a male and not have to be so fussy about my appearance, but at least Lars knows me and provided this compromise outfit for me to wear." Hellbore spoke to herself as she turned round and round to see herself from all angles. She was far too muscular to be considered feminine, the bones in her face far too angular to be considered beautiful, even her bust line, though full, was too harsh and solid to be considered really feminine. Her mouth was thin and tended to frown much of the time and her yellow-green eyes were considered to be cold and piercing by most males who were put off when she stared at them whenever they made their insincere complements. Hellbore did not truck with fools and was not averse to letting them know what she thought of their words. Lars gave her no personal complements, unless it concerned a saddle or a pair of boots she had designed, for she knew the worth of the things her hands created. He never treated her as less than an equal, like so many men did when they talked to females.