Bridling Fire:7Mature

Felix didn't end up getting a mohawk, which I was secretly glad about, but did not comment on.  His reasoning was that 'one can only have something as awesome as a mohawk if one has lost an important addition to their face.  Like maybe an eyebrow.  Excuse me for a moment while I play with fire close to my face.'

We finally moved on, after Kylar helping me perfect my balance again through various frustrating attempts to trust my body to know what to do while swinging up bareback onto Momo.

"This sucks," I panted, laying on my back in the grass and trying to reclaim the air that had graced the atmosphere upon leaving my lungs and refusing to come back.

"I know.  Try again."

Kylar leaned over me.  I glared and got up.

Again, I stood to Momentum's left side, my hand on his mane and my legs ready to spring.  I turned as I took a few running steps, throwing my right knee up over Momo's flank and trying to keep my mind off my blind spot.

Nope.  I panicked, again, and involuntarily seized up and fell to the ground.

"Goddammit Lyric.  Pretend like your one is the only eye you've ever had and that you really don't need to freak out because it's always been this way."

"But it hasn't always been this way," I argued.

"Hence 'pretend.'"

"I don't know how to pretend!  I've never experienced it!"

"Then make it up!"  This was, like, the fourth time we've blown up over this.  "Jesus, maybe Felix will do better.  Hey,

Felix!" he yelled.  I rolled my eyes.  I did not feel like working with that kid right now.

Nope again.  Felix sauntered over like a cat, looking lazily amused and bored at the same time.  "What's up?"

"It's not working.  You try.  I gotta talk to Alex about where we're going next."

"Yeah, sure," said Felix as Kylar left.  "How badly have you failed thus far?"

"Thanks for the support, friend.  Much appreciated," I growled.  I sighed as I saw he was still waiting for a serious answer.  "One hundred percent failure, ten percent embarrassment and negative ten percent win."  I paused.  "It makes sense if you don't think about it too hard."

"Uh-huh.  You know, when you're under attack, you're not even gonna remember you only have one eye.  It's not gonna matter then.  At least you know you have more than enough physical power to get yourself up there.  Come on, Lyric, let's just head out."

I shrugged.  Yeah, it made sense.  I was still pretty pissed at myself, however.  I headed over to my tent, which was, for once, set up.  Unfortunately it wasn't going to be so for long.  I took it down and tied it up, noticing that almost everyone else was at the same or futher stages of departure.  We had long since reached the distant treeline of that plain, and the ground was sloping noticeably into the mountains.  We were still heading South.  

"Destination?" I asked Alex as he hauled his pack up onto his mare, Fawn's, shoulders.

"Yep.  We're heading southwest, up into the mountains.  There are a few settlements there, from the notes I picked
up from the maps I stole last raid.  Humanity is, unfortunately, recovering and spreading.  We'll hit and run a bit there, then maybe turn west and find the ocean."

"I think it'd be kind of fun to get in their way," I said, using a humped tree root to mount.  Momentum started forward, but I pulled him back, waiting for Alex to mount before drifting to the edge of camp.  "And I've always wanted to see the ocean.  Or rather, ride along the beach on horseback like they do in the movies.  Maybe minus some of the cheesy romance elements."

Alex laughed.  Fawn moved forward as he swung up, and her and Momo started toward the trail we were supposedly following.

"Move out," I barked.

The woods weren't particularly thick, and consisted of mostly coniferous trees, which were easy to maneuver around.  In consequence, it wasn't terribly difficult to travel at a brisk pace, fast trot or lazy canter, in a somewhat elongated blob through the trees while still vaguely following the path.

It took us two days to notice signs of civilization.  Felix and I were talking up at the head of the pack about risking a un-paced hunt (where we just charge the deer and shoot one down running; very exciting) when Sadie dropped down and picked up a bullet cartrige.  

"Someone's been hunting."  We all nodded in agreement.  I turned to Felix.

"Probably a rain check on that hunt, then..."  He nodded again.

The city we found was neither impressive, nor was it very far from where we found the cartrige.  "Still scared to venture very far from their fences, huh?" I said.  Maybe they thought the Rider group was a friggin' army, not just a handful of rebels.

Out of nowhere, a hedge nearby exploded in a thundering of hooves and much aggressive snorting and blowing.  Before I could even get my bow up, I was caught in a flying tackle that blew me clear off of a very angry Momentum's back.

There was hardly any thinking going on in my head as I forced myself atop my attacker.  This was not too difficult, as I had figured out the trick to it ages ago: thrust your face up to theirs like you're going to kiss them if it's a simple pinned-down position, and put your knee and/or foot up their butt if it's anything else.
In this case it was the simple one, and I actually ended up having to bite the nose of my rather stupidly fearless opponent.  This caused a bit of surprise and confusion while I nimbly squirmed under a set of muscled shoulders, bucked forward, and threw myself on top.

At any other moment, I would have admired the face of the guy I was wrestling with, but in this case I did not care to take notice.  He attacked me; he was a man-whore that needed to be taught a lesson.  The end.

Of course, it wasn't actually the end, because I had my team to defend.  I gave him the Nap Tap (your jaw has a bunch of nerves at the hinges.  Hit it correctly?  Good night.) and leaped off.

Momentum was viciously battling a buckskin stallion, both front hooves pummelling his rearing enemy while each of their heads tossed and aimed bites at the other's throat.  I took hardly any notice; Momo was nothing if not a warhorse at heart, and would not allow defeat.  He was fine.

I scrambled to my bow in almost the same movement as my departure from the soundly sleeping guy behind me, but it was kicked out of the way by a golden-haired girl a few years older than me.  She had fire in her hazel eyes as she reached for my throat, but as I rose up in full fury, she hesitated.

I'm not exactly the tallest or the most sturdy person in the world, but I am certainly not insignificant.  I stood a good two inches taller than the other girl, and compared to most girls in general, I'm big.  I stand at 5'8 with a lean, almost-slender-but-a-bit-too-muscular build.  I am powerful, and as I rose and thrust my face at the other girl's, I felt like a predator.  Maybe a dragon or something.  Dragons are cool.

Things seemed to freeze.  In my peripheral vision, I saw various things: Felix with blood on about seventy percent of him with a knife held against his stomach; Sadie with a wolf-like dude pinned under her wiry form; Darren and Ace holding a body-builder guy on the ground between them; the rest in similar situations, all at either a stalemate or a state of victory/defeat.  The horses had disappeared.

The girl still had her hand hovering at my throat.  I didn't look at it as I curled my lip and growled like a wild thing.  She hastily recoiled, as if afraid I might bite off as much appendage as I could fit in my mouth.

"Di-.."  Her voice cracked.  She tried again.  "Did you kill him?"

"He'll wake up," I said shortly.  "Maybe.  Depends on your plans of attack versus running away with your tails between your legs."  I had not looked away and I didn't do so now.  I leaned forward a touch.  "Scram."

The girl seemed to remember that she didn't like being ordered around, because she finally blew up.  "No!  This is our territory!  You can't go taking our cities.  They're ours!"

I reached out and shoved her shoulder a bit.  Yeah, yeah.  I'm kind of a bully.  "Make us," I said, and turned away to grab the hair of the guy who was holding a knife in Felix's stomach.  "Get back in the kitchen with that butterknife of yours, hotshot," I snarled, and yanked his hair back.  I wondered faintly why I didn't hear the sounds of horses fighting.

"Hey!" yelled the golden-haired girl, shoving me away from the guy whose balance I'd just totally wrecked.  "You're tough, with your hair all like that," she spit.  In my face.  I growled again.  "But I bet you haven't done anything real with your life besides find some tame little foals."

"So your tongue is brave.  Big deal," growled Felix, moving behind me like some big cat.

I almost laughed, then pushed the longer fringe of hair out of my face.  The girl's face paled.  I hadn't actually looked at my eye socket since that first time, so I had no idea whether she was just really weird about that kind of stuff or if it had gotten really nasty or something.

"There's a difference between a rebel and a runaway, love," I said.  "One of 'em's taller."

I turned and left the girl to stand pale and deep in thought.  I had no idea what she had been trying to accomplish back there, whether it be to intimidate me or prove herself or what.  I didn't actually care that much as I stalked towards the still body of the boy I had knocked out.

"Don't touch him!" came the voice of the girl.  God, she was really starting to annoy me.

She pushed past me and knelt by the kid, putting his head in her lap and patting his face gently.

"That's not going to work," I said.

"Shut up."

"Make me."

"Goddammit Gage, wake up," she muttered to herself.  I sighed and walked over, kneeling on the other side of him.  The girl glared; I stuck my tongue out and put my fingers to his neck, feeling for a pulse, just in case.

"Well he's alive," I stated, then slapped him a good one.  His eyes flew open and he swore impressively.

The girl almost shrieked in alarm, and I rose to my feet again.  "You can keep the handprint on your face to thank me," I said over my shoulder as I walked away.  There was still no trace of the horses. What the hell?

"Hey James, do you know where the horses got off to?" I asked russet-haired guy kneeling over a dark-haired girl.

"Yeah, they chased each other back the way we came," he said, and continued his conversation with the girl.  They seemed to be debating over something, but I couldn't tell whether or not it was friendly.  Must have been; the girl was laying on her back, arms crossed over her chest and one ankle resting on the other, as if she had been knocked down but hadn't really bothered to get back up again.  I shrugged; at least they weren't killing each other.  I started down the path.

We had reached a clearing surrounding a small drop-off that ran parallel to the trail on the way up to the cities the girl had confirmed were there, and as I retraced my steps and came to the same clearing again, I was totally and utterly shocked at what I saw.

My herd, the buckskin stallion and another group of horses were in a casual group, casting about the clearing curiously.  At the bottom of the drop-off lay the body of a mountain lion that hadn't been there last time; when I saw that, it came to my attention that the horses on the edge of the group were facing outward, and in the middle were three young foals.

Oh.  Wow.  Thinking about it, I came to the conclusion that the two fighting groups had moved here for better footing (excluding the drop-off, of course, but otherwise the land before the drop-off was flat and rather unmarked and otherwise wonderful footing), fought a while, and then proceed to notice the predator stalking the likely unprotected foals.  As their natural instinct, they had let drop their conflict and turned as a herd to the new enemy.  Afterwards, all was forgotten, apparently.  Or something like that.

I found Momentum and wandered to him.  He was one of the outter horses, his head held proudly and fiercely next to the buckskin's, who was pretty much in the same position.  They were probably reveling in their combined victory against the lion.

"Hey hey," I chirped as he noticed me.  The buckskin looked up as well, and Momentum seemed to remember his original scrap with the guy and flattened his ears for a moment before turning his attention to me.

I stroked his face, smoothing out his forelock.  To my right, the buckskin was eyeing me curiously, so I put my hand out palm-up and let him sniff it.  He did, hesitantly, and finally let me tickle his nose, at which point Momentum decided that he was accepted and reached out to nip at his shoulders.

"What's your name?" I said quietly to myself.  

Not expecting an answer, I nearly wet myself when a voice said, "Amulet."

I tensed and glanced behind me.  The guy I'd knocked out and woken up with an impressive slap stood behind me, hands in his pockets and dark-goldish hair all perfectly and expertly wind-blown.

Damn his attractiveness.  If he's coming to bitch me out for beating him in that fight, so help me God...

"Good job back there, by the way."  I realized I hadn't said anything and the silence had probably gotten awkward.

"Oh."  Pause.  "Thanks.  Trained a lot.  Um... Aren't you mad?"  I turned around to face him.  "You just got your ass kicked by a girl."

He shrugged.  "Sexism is so twenty years ago," he said.  His voice was kind of deep.  I had never thought I had preferences in guys' voices, but there was no way one couldn't be at least a little attracted to this fellow's.

"Yeah, I s'pose," I said.  "Well, this is a bit awkward.  Two groups of Riders fight each other for, what, five minutes?  Now what, lunch break and then go at it again?  There wasn't exactly a clean-cut victory back there."

"I don't actually feel like fighting again right now, thanks," he said, rubbing his jaw.  I winced and almost appologized.

"Yeah, okay.  Me neither."  I just wanted to scram.

"Sorry about my sister, by the way."

I raised my eyebrows.  "That was your sister?"  Well, they did have the same colored hair.  And hazel eyes.  And lips, which sounds odd but they really were exactly the same.

He shrugged.  "Yes.  That was Rae.  I'm Leron, but you can call me by my middle name because I hate my first name."  He half-smiled.

"Well I gotta know your middle name," I said blankly.  

"I know, but that sentence was awkward so I couldn't managed to fit it in anywhere."  He laughed.  "It's Gage."

"That's kind of a cool name," I said, leaning on Momentum.  "I'm Lyric.  This is Momentum.  I call him Momo sometimes, so don't get confused."

"You don't smile, I've noticed."  He looked a bit disappointed.  "Is life not funny for you?"

I don't know why, but that made me really mad.  I growled.  "I guess smiling just doesn't fit with the hairstyle and the
scar."  I lifted my bangs as I marched past him, back up the trail to my team and Gage's.

"Riders!" I barked when I got there.  Nobody was fighting anymore, but they were all glaring warily at each other and Sadie was engaged in a fierce argument with the golden-haired girl, Rae.  "Horses are back in the clearing.  Find your stuff and move out!"

Felix trotted up behind me as I stalked back to the clearing, picking up my pack from where it lay discarded on the way.  "Where to now?" he asked simply.

"I don't know, Felix," I said, entering the clearing.  Spotting Gage, I made sure he heard me when I said, "Away from here."  

I chirped to Momentum, and he trotted eagerly to my side, not stopping as I broke into a jog and swung up after throwing my stuff over his shoulders.  I barely even remembered that I didn't seize up in panic at my blind spot.

"I'll be back in a few minutes!" I called to Felix over my shoulder as Momo broke into a canter, then a gallop.  I just really needed a good run while I processed my reaction to Gage's meaningless question.

Why the hell had I blown up like that?  Did I really not find anything funny anymore?  Actually... Was there anything really to find funny?  Now that I thought about it...

I finally saw that the world was a very humorless place.

The End

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