I slowly make my way to a flat piece of ground and sit down.
I feel tired, in a bone-weary way that I did not think possible. The pain of asphyxiation has mostly abated with the death of the Herald but the many wounds I collected are still slowly closing, Jimena’s stolen dagger having bitten deep.
So, it is over.
Victory tastes of ash and regret.
Now, if I want to send Dalton off, then I will have to leave, flee once more. There is a chance that I can convince the knight squad that I am not some raving lunatic, but I would rather not take a chance. Their pursuit is strange, to say the least. What kind of influence do they expect me to have over Master? How is the death of Wolfgang any of my responsibility? It does not make sense. Worse, it sounds increasingly like someone holding a grudge for the death of their ally. If they expect my own demise to hurt my sire, they are terribly mistaken, not that it will matter much if I am slain.
No, the best course of action is to escape. I am not without means, and I should be able to access funds via the consortium once I have found a place to settle. Far away from any vampire settlements until I can get those orders rescinded. There is still much time before the conclave.
I stand up heavily, eager to rejoin the others and let them know of my success when my ears detect rushing feet coming from behind. Soon after, I perceive familiar heartbeats and Loth’s steel and mountain aura.
Merritt and Nashoba appear first, trailed by a dozen native warriors. A few others are helping Loth carry a coffin. They gather around the burnt carcass in a half circle. Loth puts down in charge and takes a step forward.
“So. You did it.”
I nod. We stare at each other without saying a word but like old friends, we convey a mountain of meaning. Pain, relief, trust, regret, sympathy, much is shared.
“We followed the fight thanks to Nashoba. He used some sort of sorcery to watch you but lost it when you grabbed the Key of Beriah. What happened?”
“I destroyed it.”
“You did? I… Alright, help me make a bonfire.”
I find myself caught off guard.
“We will cremate Dalton here?”
“Yes. A proper farewell surrounded by bloodied warriors and on the corpse of his killer. I don’t know a better way to send someone off.”
I consider this for a moment. I was thinking of burying him. I was thinking like a Christian, a mortal. This is no longer what Dalton and I stand for. Their God no longer welcomes what I have become. Loth is right, we will pay our respects like the warriors of old, with a meaningful ceremony.
“We will mourn with you,” adds Nashoba, “he fought for us like you did. We will be with you in this sorrowful time.”
“We’re not leaving you alone.” adds Merritt.
I say nothing. Besides Loth, they did not know him, but they wish to pay their respect. This is something that I can understand and consent to.
With barely a word, we follow Loth’s direction and gather pine wood from around us. The task is made easy by the ravaged land. Fallen branches and trunks litter the ground for hundreds of yards in every direction.
Once the pyre is made on top of the Herald’s remains, Loth drenches it in resin and oil. He lights a torch and hands it to me.
“Say a few words.”
What is there to say? He is gone and will not return. And I will never be allowed to follow when my time has come.
“Share a memory,” insists Loth, “something we will remember him by.”
“No man is truly gone who lives in someone else’s heart.” Adds Nashoba with a whisper.
“I… When I let him go, I saw myself through his eyes. For him, one of the most defining moments of his life was when I saved him in the blood cult’s cave, after he failed to bring us our weapons. I barely remember it. I was half-mad with Thirst and did not care about anything but my next meal. He was on my side and already on the way to becoming my Vassal. Of course, I would save him. I barely remember this moment. For me, one of the most important memories we shared was when he took the initiative for the first time as we were bounty hunting. It made him reliable and independent in my mind. Different perspectives, really. In the end, it was the small gestures we did for each other that impacted the other the most.”
I light the fire and walk back to the others at a respectful distance. We watch in silence as the flames lick the coffin. Embers rise to the sky and add to the melancholy. On the side, the Choctaw warriors sing a mournful song in their language. I do not understand the words, but I know they speak of the sky and of farewell.
“I have a story too.” Adds Loth in turn. He clears his throat and begins.
“When I was trying to build a magical key, I dropped a batch of prototypes and messed up so I forgot which was which. I was about to throw them all away, but the boy stopped me. He took them and the list and calculated the mass of each key according to the composition of its alloy. Took him a few hours to finish everything but he was so damned proud. I had been teaching him algebra for a few weeks by then and he was always eager. Eager to help, eager to matter, to make a difference. He never asked anything in return. He just did it for us. It was a point of pride.”
The pyre’s flame dance high by now. We listen to the warrior’s songs for a while until Nashoba steps forward.
“I have story as well.”
“Drink first. Here.” Loth takes a flask from a pouch around his waist and throws it at the shaman who expertly grabs it and takes a swig. I can smell alcohol and the native’s scrunched face confirms this is ‘the good stuff’.
Nashoba’s voice is hesitant at first, but progressively gains in fluidity. His mastery of English is still poor.
“We had many wives lost when cleaning at the river. We asked the white men around but were sent off. Then I offered bounty. No one takes. Then Dalton comes. He tracks group of six men and saves the girls then runs back to us. The bad men follow. We… Punish. Dalton saves and gives vengeance. Life and death. Only crime matters, not the color of skin.”
That’s right. He never judged us for what we were, only for how we acted.
Damn, I will miss him so much.
And I am crying now. The bittersweet pain tastes different now that his killer lies dead. I feel like I can finally grieve properly.
We are lost in our own thoughts. The pyre is in full blast now. From time to time, Nashoba throws a few leaves and resins in it until the clearing smells clean and fresh, like new spring, and blue smoke rises up in an ethereal dances.
This is the first time that I have been close to a fire this size without a hint of apprehension. Even my instincts are subdued.
And then, a new presence lets itself known. A cold aura that can only mean one thing.
For one frightful second, I fear that the squad of knights has found me. I soon realize my mistake. The man is alone. He is respectfully letting us know of his coming.
I turn out of curiosity, though I already know who this is. The others mirror me and gasp.
“Buenas Noches, Senorita. May I join your fire?”
The last time I had a good look at him, lord Suarez was blasting his way through an actual wall in a shower of splinters. Then, I was running through the streets of Charleston with his terrifying presence at the heels. Tonight, the monster is contained and the man facing me is a rich noble taking a stroll through his woods.
Suarez is taller than Ceron, though a bit less muscular. He has melancholic chestnut eyes, dark hair that falls to his shoulder and a pencil-thin and perfectly groomed anchor beard and moustache. He looks too dignified to be a Caribbean pirate and too roguish to be a duke. Even his clothes are ambiguous. He wears a light orange and outdated courtly ensemble that would look ridiculous on anyone but him and sports a dangerous-looking fencing sword by his side.
I point at a spot to my left while the warriors retreat at a safe distance. I do not have the heart to refuse. I felt his power before. If Suarez wants to sit, he will damn well sit and there is nothing I could do to stop him. Unlocking the might of my bloodline gave me the edge I needed to defeat the Herald and I am confident I could take on older Courtiers, perhaps even several of them at the same time. A battle Lord of the Cadiz is an entire other prospect.
The man is close. Even sitting, he is not just taller, he feels larger. Much larger than me, and yet, his voice is incredibly soft, and I can see longing in his eyes. I realize what he is asking.
“Are you here to kill me?”
Lord Suarez extends a single claw against my cheek and recovers a pearl of red tear with religious reverence. He brings it to his lips, hesitates at the last moment then gives in. The mighty vampire turns his head away almost bashfully and takes one shaky breath. Silence returns to the clearing.
I find myself captivated by the chaotic pattern of the flames dancing towards heaven. I am not surprised that they would be used to cleanse us from this world. There is something wild and unforgiving about fire. Those mages who use it in spells do not control it, they merely select a way to unleash its rage.
“Who are you mourning?”
Lord Suarez is facing me now. His cheeks are flushed in a decidedly mortal way. I wonder how it feels to drink tears. It does seem different from just shedding them.
He nods in understanding.
“Then allow me first to pay my respects.”
He stands, then kneels before the pyre and though his lips moved, no sound escape it. After a while, the vampire stands up and pricks his finger, sending a few drops to be consumed by the pyre, then he returns to my side.
I am pleased by his show of respect. Dalton truly got a proper send off, like he deserved.
“Tell me of him.”
“I…Think I should go. If you found me so easily then…”
“The knights will be here in fifteen minutes.”
“I saw their day encampment and left them behind. There is nothing you can do to run away now, and I swear on my name that staying is to your advantage.”
“I… don’t know.”
“Please believe me, you should stay. Stay and tell me of him.”
He would never lie.
I start my story with Crow’s request and progressively move forward. I am not a coherent storyteller at the moment. Times are all over the place, anecdotes and remarks follow each other without sense and yet not once does he interrupt me. His few comments only show support and interest, or help me center myself. Towards the end, he urges me to speak of Dalton’s demise and the fight that followed. When I am done, he considers his next words carefully.
“You had something quite precious and I am sorry that you lost it. Now, the knights are upon us. I ask that you do not engage.” His gaze drills into mine. “Do not engage. Talk to them but do not attack. If it comes to this, I will handle them myself.”
“Have you forgotten? You spared me from the fate that befell you by saving my own Vassal, Inez.”
“… The Tillerson estate.”
“Yes. On that night she asked and you listened. You saved her life. I have a debt, one that I will repay tonight. Your deeds speak for themselves Ariane of the Nirari. I will protect you from harm in the coming confrontation. You do not stand alone.”
He speaks the truth. Nashoba is here, so are Loth and Merritt. Isaac is gone but he left me with the suppressor. I have been carried so far by the bonds I created through joy, pain and common effort. Dalton may be gone but what we shared will live within me. I am not alone.
I turn to face the night. Suarez stands to my right, while Loth, Nashoba and Merritt are on my left. The witch utters a small “Ah, fuck me.” Before standing up but she joins us anyway. I have no idea what I did to get her loyalty.
It doesn’t take long for a few unknown vampires to step out of the shadows.
They mask their auras. I knew it was possible, for how else could Suarez surprise me in Charleston? It is one thing to know of it, however, and another to see a squad of knights in full battle regalia surround me while coming out of seemingly nowhere.
There are four of them, all in the grey lamellar armor I saw on both Jimena and Wolfgang. They are an eclectic bunch, though they move with a synchronism that speaks of trust and training. On one side is a taciturn man with a shaven head and an axe and shield. His muscular arms flex as he rolls his shoulders and inspects us. Opposite him is a black-haired lad with an almost girlish face and a long dagger he twirls between agile fingers. He is the only person smiling here, mischievously. Behind them, a woman looks warily towards Suarez as she holds a staff between clenched hands. Her face is covered by a scarf that only leaves dark eyes free. The last one, and their leader if I read the situation correctly, is fixing me with an angry glare.
He looks straight out of the ‘prince charming’ page of a fairy tale book right down to the confident pose. A handsome face, a chiseled chin, deep blue eyes darker than mine, a regal air. He has it all, and even his arrogance could pass off as nobility.
I instantly dislike him.
We should not be allowed to look self-righteous. Not us. The hypocrisy is simply too much to bear.
“I see you have decided to stop hiding, beast, and face your judgement!”
Hold on, what?
“Who are you calling a beast?”
“Long have I waited for the chance to rid the world of your tainted kind. You are a blight, and I am the cure.”
“Did you take those lines from the Brotherhood?”
That gets me a chuckle from the black-haired man. His leader looks at him, furious, but the roguish knight just shrugs helplessly. Lord Suarez uses the pause to take a step forward.
“She is no beast, Anatole, even you cannot be this blind.”
“She is a rogue; she has to be. Every Nirari spawn is a disaster in waiting.”
“We are having a conversation, are we not? Is this standard rogue behavior?” I add with impatience.
“And what of the rumors that you left a trail of blood on your way out of New-Orleans?”
“Rumors, really? I thought the knights were a serious organization, and you base your judgement on hearsay? Not to mention my sibling Svyatoslav in Russia, who works with the Vityazi. Is he also a disaster in waiting? Will you go to Moscow and apprehend him afterward?”
His fellow knights track Anatole’s reaction with no hint of support. This only serves to make the man more incensed. The situation is disturbingly easy to understand, a poor prospect when vampires are concerned.
“You suddenly appear and at the same moment, your master resurfaces to wreak havoc. You expect me to believe that this is a coincidence?”
“If you believe me to have any influence on a millennia-old monster, I am sorry to say that you are grossly overestimating my reach, Anatole.”
“Who knows what dark sorcery led to the death of my mentor!”
“There is no deep secret, knight, he went after my Master and perished, like legions before him, and more after, no matter how many die by his hand.”
“He was supposed to be weakened! He had to receive some help!”
“And this highly hypothetical help must have come from me, an isolated young vampire with no knowledge of sorcery and no means, operating thousands of miles away? Truly astute of you.”
“Perhaps you used the key of Beriah?”
“The artefact that wasn’t found until yesterday? That key?”
“And where is it now?”
“Are you going to keep spewing baseless slander until you find something that sticks?”
“I am the knight, I ask the questions here. Do you have in your possession the key of Beriah, an artefact of great danger?”
“No.” I add between gritted teeth. This… insufferable, obnoxious PRICK! Calm, Ariane, let Suarez handle this. I do not want to risk my friends.
“No? Where is it then?”
“I destroyed it.”
“You destroyed? How? With your bare hands?”
“No I… The Watcher took it.”
“Surely lord Suarez, you can see that she is either lying or delusional.”
The Cadiz lord does not answer, he looks at me with a contemplative expression before returning his attention to the head knight.
“You have made a lot of accusations Anatole, most of them so completely groundless as to be preposterous. The way the events unfold makes me think more of a pithy revenge for the loss of a mentor than the act of a reliable new leader dedicated to keeping us safe.”
“How dare you!” exclaims Anatole, his aura flaring.
“Easily, young one.”
Suarez lets go of his control and his frigid power blasts all others like a father castigating rowdy children. All three mortals by my side swear softly, each in their own language, as the cold wave washes over us. I shiver. Such power…
“I dare much, and you would do well to remember that your position is not as secure as you may think.”
Anatole shows apprehension for the first time, but not for long. Soon, his haughty face returns with a vengeance.
“It matters not, she is persona non grata on the entire territory. Her execution has been approved by no other than Constantine himself.”
“What?!” I sputter. “How?! This is impossible! He knew of me beforehand! He even sent me an invitation to the next conclave! I cannot believe this, I refuse. You lie!”
Oh, I wish I could wipe that smirk off his face. He is a cad and a scoundrel, trying to finagle his way. There absolutely no way that Constantine would sign this… This sham!
“And yet he did. See for yourself, Lord Suarez.”
I am stunned. Speechless. How, how is this happening?! He lies, does he not? I gathered support, I played by the rules I… What? Everything was fine! I was going to join the society of my peers after ten long years! No longer an outcast! And now, the leader has signed my death warrant? Out of nowhere?
“Is this some cruel joke!?”
“I’m afraid not Senorita. This is Constantine’s seal. It cannot be counterfeited.”
“No, this is wrong, this is all wrong...”
“Now, ‘Lord’ Suarez, step away and let us complete our mission, unless you want to raise your hand against a knight?”
There is a heavy pause as my ally digests the threat and thinly veiled insult. Anatole looks unbearably smug. I would be furious but cannot. Between the grief, my still aching wounds and now this? I must be asleep, there is no other explanation. I am living a nightmare. Surely, the world would not be so cruel…
Suarez turns to me and smiles sadly.
“Please Senorita, remember what I said. Stay with your friends and do not fight, understood? Remember my oath.”
Words escape me, so I just nod.
“A wise decision,” says Anatole as he sidesteps the Cadiz vampire, “now…”
“Oh, but we are not done.”
The entire squad freezes and tenses at once. Even I can feel the threat, no, the promise of violence in the lord’s voice.
“You played politics to achieve your petty goal, thus forfeiting the protection that your status entails.”
“You would not dare…”
“You parrot the same sentence again, child.”
With a single word, Suarez reminds all present of the gap between himself and the others.
“And you do not understand. Do you think the knights will go to war with my Coven to protect you?”
“Not if I leave most of you alive. I will receive at most a slap on the wrist.”
“You would fight us? For her?”
“I owe her a debt of gratitude, one I fully intend to repay. I owe you nothing but contempt for what you just did, and one last thing…”
Suarez positions himself between the knights and us.
“You mocked me, disrespected me before friend and foe. I cannot let it slide. You will bear the stigma of this mistake in your soul, and in your flesh.”
“This is folly! Wait!”
“Too late, mongrel. Draw.”
I struggle to understand the combat that follows. The Cadiz’ lord aura washes over us like a tidal wave and a furious battle is joined. The four knights react immediately. They move as a single unit in complex and ever-flowing formations. The woman provides some subtle magical support I cannot identify, while the men alternate to contain their opponent. Anatole takes point with a black sword and dagger that appeared seemingly out of nowhere with the shield-bearer in support, ready to step up when he is pushed back. The playful man with the stilettos circles around, constantly looking for an opening. He is quick to strike and quick to retreat, always playing interference.
In front of them, Suarez fights like a swordmaster. He is tempered fury and perfection in motion. Their dance is one I can barely follow and cannot understand. Their every movement is a complex dialogue in sequences that elude me, and I now realize the wall that separates me from them. They are not just faster than me, they are not simply godly fencers, they are also drawing on decades, nay, centuries of experience fighting their own kind. Every savage strike is also an expert move from a brilliant choregraphy. Every cunning feint is turned into a merciless attack if ignored. I am the witness to a spectacle that is as beautiful as it is daunting, and I am glad I did not try to fight the knights. They would have wiped the floor with me in mere moments, even if I were at the top of my form.
I had felt a sense of power after slaying the Herald. I heard Isaac say that someone attuned with the key could go toe to toe with a lord. Clearly, they must have consumed more than a small village and used the artefact for longer than a single night.
I am out of my depth and witness, powerlessly, the contest that will decide my fate.
At first, Lord Suarez seems to have the upper hand as he manages to land a few blows that his opponents struggle to heal. For a while, Anatole is hard-pressed and his ally almost drops his axe. The Cadiz lord even manages to feint beautifully to catch the knife holder in the heart and through the armor, disabling him with a single strike. Shortly thereafter, the tides of battle change. With an overhead strike from his obsidian-colored blade, Anatole catches his foe’s blade with an ominous clang. It is too much for Suarez’ sword. It shatters in myriad pieces. The knight leader follows up with a slash that draws a bloody line across my ally’s chest.
Lord Suarez steps back.
“Not bad at all, for a second-rate team.”
“It is over, Lord Suarez. You fought impressively but your sword is broken. You are defenseless.”
“None of us are ever truly defenseless, fool. You should have remembered that. Just as you should always expect a battle lord to carry a soul weapon.”
Soul weapon? Are those the black weapons vampire lords pull out of nowhere?
Suarez takes a step forward and the three remaining fighters huddle protectively as he speaks in an unnaturally loud voice. His presence fills the clearing with an overwhelming sense of pressure. Even standing behind him, I must struggle to resist bending my back and lowering my eyes. Such is the power of a lord.
“I tested your mettle and found it wanting, Anatole. You do not have the means of your arrogance. I am sure that your elders taught you the importance of diplomacy and subtlety, but perhaps you forgot. I shall remind you of it, as it is a lesson that you need to learn if you ever want to last. No need to thank me, I will do it with pleasure.”
Suarez straightens and breathes deeply. A massive ornamented two-hander appears between his hands, held vertically in front of him. The hilt is silvery and elegant but its surface absorbs the very light, while the very air shakes before it as an ominous hum covers the clearing. Just like Loth when he is truly angry, there is an unspeakable weight to it that goes beyond the mere physical world. The Cadiz Lord will now impose his will on the reality around him and nothing, not Anatole screaming orders, not the axeman charging him, not even the sorceress begging will stop. When he next speaks, the two words cover everything else.
What happens next defies description. Suarez’ eyes flash purple and then, he strikes.
His sword bisects the heavier knight from right shoulder to waist, through shield, weapon, and armor.
I did not see him move.
His opponent falls instantly. Without pause, he slices horizontally behind him and catches Anatole mid-lunge. The monstrous attack cuts cleanly through the leader’s chest as well as his right arm, and sends his own sword spinning in the darkness.
The clearing goes quiet as the witch gives up and falls to her knees.
The entire exchange lasted less than a heartbeat.
“Hooooly shit.” whispers Merritt.
Well, yes. Quite.
My ally turns to the last remaining member of the squad.
“Will you fight as well?”
“No, lord, I would rather make sure they are safe. Thank you for sparing their lives.”
I mistakenly assumed her to be a coward, but it appears that she merely possesses common sense.
“Take them and leave.”
“As you say.”
We watch quietly as she collects her companion’s ‘disheartened’ pieces. Now that the show is over and done, the reality of the situation overwhelms me once more.
“Why? Why would you do that?” I say accusingly, “I thought knights were our vanguards, the true monster slayers?”
The witch spares me a glance.
“How many spawns of the Devourers have laid havoc and how many have become members of our society?”
“Knowing which category I belong to would have taken your squad all of five minutes, hypocrite.”
She will not meet my eyes.
Pathetic. SPINELESS WEAKLING. Why Jimena wants to join their sorry excuse for an outfit, I shall never know.
A moment later, we are alone in the clearing.
This is all too surreal. We just witnessed a cataclysmic battle and all that remains is a handful of blood marks. There is also the small matter of my life, my entire project, being in shambles. Constantine’s invitation? I might as well fold it and use it as a napkin. Unbelievable.
“Now, you must flee.”
Is this some sort of cosmic farce?
“I worked so much for this, waited for so long! Is there no other way?”
“I am sorry.”
“So, this was all for nothing.”
All my efforts. Ruined.
Well, this is not entirely true. I have made friends and allies, have grown stronger, experienced much. Even though I must run away again, I am no longer the weak fledgling who struggled to survive. And I am not destitute either.
“Is there a way to reverse an execution order?”
Suarez blinks in surprise, perhaps not expecting me to recover so fast. I haven’t, I just need something to look forward to.
“Perhaps. I have not studied the Accords beyond what is expected of me.”
“There must be a way, and I shall find it. Lord Suarez, I thank you for your help. Consider your debt repaid.”
“Not yet young one,” he replies with a smile, “I intend to send you on your way. Your companions cannot follow, so I would advise you to say your farewell now. I shall wait for you over there.”
The first to come to me is Loth. He looks sad and also a bit awkward. I imagine that the old warlord is not used to expressing his feelings, unless they relate to fighting, sex, or food.
“I cannot follow you.”
“I know. Take care of your family, and we will meet again. I promise.”
“Aye ye’d better. You and I, we can do great things together. Also, I’ll miss ya. Ah, Tyr.”
Loth dries his eyes with a handkerchief.
“Be safe. Don’t do anything too reckless.”
“Well, you know me. I’m the very soul of caution.”
There is a moment of silence before we both chuckle.
“I’ll go before I turn into a moppy milk drinker. Don’t forget your promise. You carry the boy’s memory too now.”
I nod and we hug. Loth then turns to leave and Nashoba joins me.
“This is goodbye daughter of Thorn and Hunger. You should go West, and North.”
“This is as good direction as any I suppose.”
“No, it is much better, trust me, I...”
“Can see the future, yes.”
“I will carry your friend’s ashes to the sea. He will be at peace. You have my word.”
“Thank you. Take care as well.”
“I will and do not worry, we shall meet again. Keep those earrings on at all times.”
My hands go to his gift. I wear them as a habit now. I only now come to realize how useful they must have been. I have no idea how many times they have protected me, only that they will save me once more. When the knights inevitably try to track me, they will have to do it the old-fashioned way. I wish them good luck. They will need it.
“So um, that was intense yeah?”
She really pulled through. I am pleasantly surprised.
“Thank you, mage Merritt, you stood by my side, our side, through everything. You are a credit to your organization and mages everywhere. I am glad you were here.”
“Wow! Do you really mean that?”
For some reason, she appears moved to tears. I do not understand, is she letting the general mood affect her?
“Yes. Yes, I do.”
“Wow, this is the nicest thing someone has said to me in… Forever!”
Huh. That is… Rather pathetic.
“It is well deserved. In my case, I must bid you goodbye and I wish you good luck.”
She bites her lip, considering. Before she follows that specific thought I cut her off.
“You cannot follow. I will be going too fast.”
“Yes, I know. It’s just, I admire you. You stand up for yourself so much, and you are so confident, and strong! Can we stay in touch? Exchange letters?”
“Well… Yes of course. Via the Rosenthal consortium. Get in touch with them.”
Her happiness is a curious thing. I never realized I could matter so much to someone without trying to, not since Loth anyway. Not if they know what I am.
I take a step back and realize that all my belongings are somewhere else. I only have my mask and the ruined dress left, as well as my two pendants and the pair of earrings.
“I am ready.” I announce to Suarez.
“And what is this?”
Before me is a majestic horse with a black coat and surprisingly red eyes. He is bound to a tree, his saddles bulging with supplies.
“Yes, young one. A nightmare. Isaac left it to you, as well as most of your clothes from the camp, I believe. He assured me that the rest would be stored safely until you find a place to call yours again.”
“Excellent. What is its name?”
“Her name is Metis and she is a gift fit for a king. Let me guide you through the bonding phase. And then you can go.”
Five minutes later I am riding full speed West, with the wind in my face and the grace of the immortal.
“Weeeeee! Faster Metis, faster!”