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6:00 am in the middle of March meant chilly temps in the mid 30's and darkness for at least another hour. The forecast predicted that by midday it would be almost in the 60's with plenty of sunshine. Not a cloud in the sky and no more snow for at least a week; it was going to be perfect weather for riding.
The redhead's stiff yet well-worn boots crunched on the gravel leading up to the barn, her breath puffed out in small white clouds as she sauntered across the yard. Duke, her gangly young wolfhound trotted at her side his paws quiet despite his size. In the span of a couple of months, he had doubled in size, stretching out to nearly 5 feet long and standing almost to her waist. He was alert as they reached the large door, her small hands easily working the lock and sliding the giant door aside on well-oiled hinges. Lights fixed to the high ceiling flickered on, cast just enough light to illuminate the inside so people don't trip or run into things.
“So, who wants ta get out an’ stretch their legs?” Tia's voice was quiet in the big space but carried, several large equine heads poked out of stalls in response. Their ears quirked forward as they listened for more sounds, noses flaring to take in the new scents she and Duke carried with them. Smiling as she heard a shrill whiney the female shook her head, heading for the last stall on the left. “Mo you are a clown.” Giggling quietly she opened the stall, watching in quiet amusement as the Appaloosa pranced his way out. He did a little dance down the center aisle as if he were teasing the others and then rounded back to her side.
“Ya may pay fer tha’ later ya goof.” The Ailward went into the tack room, gathering up the things she would need to prep and saddle the horse for a good long ride. By the time it was 7 Mojo was ready to go, the big beast shifting his weight from side to side impatiently. Tia hummed quietly though, unperturbed by the horse's attitude. In a serene fashion, she worked her way around him, check all the fastenings and straps along with his hooves. It was a routine they were both accustomed to and one that was necessary for a trail ride, or any ride really.
Just as she deemed it all in good condition Duke swung around and gave a warning huff, letting her know that their company had arrived.
Sapphire had been wanting to go the Aspect's stable for a while just to either brush up on her riding skills or just draw the horses. With her wolf dog Akira next to her while her other pup was back at the house laying around. Akira's head when she stood straight came up to Sapphire's upper abdomen. The young phoenix guard quietly walked in as she looked at the horses with her eyes widening in how beautiful the horses where. Hearing the huff, Sapphire turn her attention to the young wolfhound. Akira stood quiet as Sapphire patted her head as she looked up at the Aspect saddling a very beautiful Appaloosa up. "I-I sorry. I am just here to brush up on my riding skills or draw, havent got to pick yet." Sapphire said as she gently walked over to the Aspect and her horse. Her eyes looked around at the other horses in the stalls as she then stopped a good distance as she looked at the Aspect of elements.
The guard bowed alittle to show her a sign of respect for the Aspect, "Im Sapphire Rizzoli." She siad softly as she smiled alittle. Trying not to be too loud for horses. Akira looked at the wolfhound as she leaned in to sniff him. Sapphire glanced at Akira before looking back at the red headed Aspect. Wearing the normal clothing of jeans and a shirt, Sapphire smiled softly and looked at the Appaloosa as she smiled alittle more as she got a step closer as she raised her hand for the horse to take in her scent. "What a beautiful horse you have Aurantia." She said as she used the Aspects name instead of calling her something else like Red. The guard knew all the Aspects names and what they do as she was trained to know and to protect the one she is assigned to.
Turning around the Aspect took in the young Guard, a Phoenix who by all intents and purposes was an enigma to her. Sapphire wasn't like most in the Guard, she was quiet and reserved though the redhead could bet she saw more than most gave her credit for. Smiling as the brunette walked in she gave Mo a pat, waving her hand at the rather formal greeting she had just been given. She wasn't one to stand on ceremony, hated it actually and some of the Guard used it to tease and annoy her. Sapphire though didn't know her and was genuine in her bearing and speech.
“Please, call me Tia and ya don' need ta bow. I'll settle fer a smile and a wave instead.” Giving the young woman a wink she went to the next stall, opening the door to reveal a massive chestnut thoroughbred mare whose disposition was as beautiful as her coloring. “This is Magic, though I call her Maggie fer short. She's good with strangers an’ loves ya run.” Maggie had gotten her mind running, her docile yet spirited attitude would be perfect for children and riding lessons would give her another stream of revenue. Not to mention working with kids was always fun.
Walking into the tack room she grabbed another saddle and blanket, carrying the equipment out into the barn proper. Grinning as Mojo was complimented, his head bobbing in agreement of how fabulous he was. “Thanks. He's a han'ful but I love him. Here.” She handed the Guard a brush, letting her rub down Maggie in preparation for the saddle while she bridled the beauty smoothly. “So, when was the last time ya rode?”
Sapphire smiled at the Aspect and nodded. "Ok Tia." She said as she smiled softly. It was strange for her to be informal to Apsects but it seemed more comfortable to Tia. The phoenix smiled as she walked over to the Chestnut Thoroughbred and patted her alittle as she smiled. "Well I guess Im riding you Maggie." Sapphire said as she noticed the Aspect leaving for the tack room. She turned and looked as she headed over to help her with the saddle and blanket before taking the brush that Tia handed her. Sapphire smiled as she started to brush Maggie as she smiled softly. "The last time I rode? Man it has been a while maybe in 1920's? Its been a long time since I rode. I think the last time I truly rode was back when I was Italy but I have rode every once in a while since I moved to Evermore." She said as she continued to brush Maggie. "And your welcome, I havent seen a Appaloosa in a while." She said with a giggle.
Once Maggie was fully brushed and ready to be saddled, Sapphire had quickly got the blanket and saddle and saddled Maggie's back in no time except she was having a hard time making sure the saddle was on correctly and didnt hurt Maggie. "Man I guess I should get more practice in..." She said as she giggled alittle. She patted Maggie as she whispered softly to the horse as she was telling her sorry for being rusty in horse back riding. The young guard smiled as memories from her past when she used to ride horses all the time even on the beach. Sapphire could even remember her first horse, it was a black Thoroughbred with a white heart shaped marking on her head. "You remind me of Amore, Maggie." She whispered as she smiled softly.
Nodding her head as the Guard addressed her in a more friendly fashion. Aurantia was her full name but very few people addressed her as such, maybe Ven when he was trying to piss her off but besides that she was Tia. Sapphire seemed a bit shy, though her movements as she and Maggie got acquainted were sure and steady. Surprise flickered across her face along with a smile as she listened, jumping in to assist with the saddle and bridle when needed. “Well it's high we get ya back in tha saddle again.” The redhead was fully of the opinion that horseback riding was therapeutic, something about the horse and nature could soothe even the most restless of souls.
Looking over her shoulder at Mo, the appaloosa was nearly prancing in place with pent up anticipation. Laughing at his antics she shook her head and refocused on Maggie and Sapphire. “He’s a character alright. Clay is his official owner bu’ since I started comin’ around the beast won’ let anyone else ride ‘im. I own a percheron myself bu’ he’s a workhorse an’ can’ really take the mountain trails.” Jasper was a monster, a huge muscled horse that could pull a loaded trailer without breaking a sweat. Mo and Jasper got along well, each of them knowing their place in her life though it helped that she doted on the both of them equally.
Doing a last check to make sure all of the straps and buckles were tied up nicely, the Aspect smiled at the Guard. “Why don’ ya mount on up an’ let me check the stirrup lengths. Ya look a bit shorter than me an’ I want ya to be comfortable.” Once the brunette was comfortably seated Tia took up the stirrups making sure they were at the right length. Patting Maggie’s shoulder her steely blue eyes looked up into her rider’s, “Try not ta use tha reins unless ya want her ta slow down or stop. She’s used ta being led by yer legs. Press in with yer right knee an’ she goes right, same with the left. Press yer heels to her belly an’ she’ll speed up.” Stepping back she waved towards the barn door, “Take her out an’ pace around tha yard. Get a feel fer her and let her feel ya in turn.”
Watching the two of them step hesitantly out into the open world the redhead was nudged from behind, a laugh escaping her lips as she turned and stroked Mo’s long muzzle. “Alrigh’ ya big baby.” He all but strutted the last few steps to bring himself to her side, and within a few moments she was up and in the saddle. Mo practically bolted out of the barn, racing around the yard in a burst of happy energy that made her laugh in the early morning air.
Sapphire looked at Tia and nodded as she smiled, climbing up on the saddle so Tia can change the stirrups. Once they were right, Sapphire listened to Tia about Mo. A chuckle came from her lips as she noticed the horse getting alittle impatient. Once the barn door opened, Sapphire followed the movements that Tia told them and smiled as Mo ran out. The phoenix was shocked at this but smiled as she let the Maggie led which Maggie ran out behind Mo and causing her to smile as the morning air blew through her hair as she rode with Tia. Holding on to the reins loosely, Sapphire sighed as she let the air surround her body as she rode. It felt that she was flying to Sapphire.
The morning was chilly but Sapphire didnt mind it as she rode behind Tia. Hearing Tia laugh at the energy that she could see caused her to smile as she thought to herself, 'I am going to like being her personal Guard.' She thought as she rode with her. Once she got closer to Tia, Sapphire smiled. "So you do this everyday?" She asked as she smiled at her.
The pair of them circled around the paddock a few times, letting Sapphire and Maggie get used to one another before they headed out onto the trail. Watching Guard and horse get used to one another, she kept a close eye to ensure they would mesh well on the trail. Sapphire kept a good seat, her legs nice and straight with heels down while Maggie pranced around the round fenced in area. The mare always seemed happy no matter who was riding her, as long as she was able to get out and about. It seemed though that pair were matching well together, though the female seemed content to let Maggie make all of the decisions.
Once Aurantia was satisfied that the pair of them would do okay together out on the trails, she guided Mo over to the fence and opened it up. She didn’t need to a gesture to catch Sapphire or Maggie’s attention as the pair of them were right on her and Mo’s tail. They picked up speed across the flatlands, the horses knowing exactly where they were going and with nothing between them and the mountains they are fast and free. It was one of her favorite feelings, like soaring through the skies with not a bit of the trapping of responsibility or life weighing her down.
Once they reached the trail head the pace slowed down enough to allow for conversation and Sapphire posed one right away. Grinning she nodded her head, “Ya, it’s tha quickest way ‘round tha ranch and we love ridin’.” Slowing Mo so that they could ride side by side “Ya ride like ya done it a time or two, must be a story behind tha’.”
Sapphire smiled as she let Maggie make the decisions as she just rode. It was nice getting back on the saddle again for Sapphire as it has been a long time since Sapphire rode a horse let alone see one after many of years being close to the city. Noticing the Ailward Aspect watching her, Sapphire smiled at her as she let Maggie lead and follow Mo and Tia out onto the trail. A chuckle came from Sapphire as they slowed down a bit as they were on the trail. The phoenix turned her attention to the Aspect and smiled. "Well maybe I should come out here more often to ride." She said softly.
Hearing Tia talk, Sapphire smiled and nodded. "There isnt much of a story to it. Back when I was in Italy, we used to have alot of horses around the beach area and I would just go riding on one of them each time I wanted to get out of the house." She siad as she smiled. "There was one I loved so much that I named her Amore because I really cared for the horse and she had a heart shaped marking on her forehead. " Sapphire said as she looked at Tia. "Well it was a long time ago and I have been thinking about getting a horse but I dont know, with being part of the guard and working on video games in my free time...I dont think I would have the time to take care of a horse...but I could manage." She said softly.
The Aspect listened intently as they ambled up the trail at a lazy pace. The sun was climbing steadily higher in the sky, warming the air as the birds began to sing. All around them the wildlife was awakening, greeting a brand new day. It was beautiful, one of her favorite times of the day next to sunset. Add to that her favorite season was approaching and it made for the potential for an amazing ride.
Tilting her red head to the side a bit she thought about what the Guard had relayed. “How long did ya live in Italy?” Tia had been to the little country before, seen the coast and the beautiful architecture and crystal blue waters of the ocean but had never lived there. Her visits had always been short and colored by a mission of some kind. It didn't leave too much room for exploration or tourist indulgences so her curiosity was piqued.
Pursing her lips the country girl always found it a travesty that people couldn't or didn't ride more. When Sapphire murmured her shortcomings the Aspect gave her a wide smile. “If ya find one ya like ya can always board ‘em here. We have plenty ‘a room and fer a small fee fer feed we could work somethin’ out.” She chuckled, turning her attention back to the trail ahead. “Least I can do fer tha woman Ven saddled with Guard duty over me.” She snorted a little derisively at the thought, she might have argued with Ven if she thought it might get her anywhere but knew it was useless. Sapphire could be making better use of her time but her brother wouldn't listen to her so she was going to make the best of it.
Sapphire smiled at Tia. "Well I lived there since my 18th birthday back in 1978. I then moved here after my first rebirth and lived here ever since." She said as she looked at her. The phoenix could feel the sun warm up her skin as the air was waking up the other creatures on the trail. The last time Sapphire was on a trail was when she was about 14 on Amore and it made her happy to get back on the saddle again as she looked at the flowers and trees blooming with life. As the two continued on the trail, Sapphire listened to the Aspect and smiled alittle at how excited that she mentioned on getting a horse. " Well I guess I should be looking I guess." She said as she smiled. "And to tell you the truth, when Venetus told me I was assigned to to someone I was excited. I havent really been able to be a personal guard at all since I didnt know that I was assigned to anyone for many years." Sapphire said with a smile.
As the girls rode on the trail, Sapphire smiled. "I am just glad I am able to be a personal guard, dont get me wrong! Protecting and keeping the peace is what I wanted to do since I moved here. But I am just glad I can put my combat skills and maybe other skills to good use when protecting you." Sapphire said as she looked at the red head. "I bet you can handle yourself but I guess your family just wants to make sure that you are safe since they assigned a guard to you." She siad as she rode.
Tia liked the way Sapphire smiled, putting all of her joy and feelings behind the expression. From what she could tell the brunette was as genuine as they come, a stark contrast to the rumors she had heard about the Phoenix species. It was refreshing, to say the least, and a pleasure to get to know her on a more personal level. That the pair of them seemed to have so much in common made things so much easier, opening up the conversation to all sorts of avenues and making it comfortable for them to open up to one another. “I can help ya look as well. Jus’ let me know wha’ kinda horse yer lookin’ for and I can find ya one.” There were all sorts of considerations that would narrow down the field of possible horses and auctions the offered a wide variety of equine options.
Her smile turned a bit wry as the conversation turned to Ven and his unilateral decision to assign her a Guard. She’d gone years without having anyone assigned specifically to her and had managed to take care of herself. It wasn’t Sapphire’s fault of course and she wouldn’t spurn the young woman because of her brother’s pig-headed attitude towards her. “Well I hope ya don’ get too bored. My life is pretty simple an’ I like ta keep it tha’ way.” She smiled over at her riding companion and decided something on the spot.
“Truth ta tell, Venetus an’ I aren’t on tha best of terms. I think assignin’ you ta me is a way fer him to assert his authority. It means nothin’ ta you and I’ll of course welcome yer company bu’ I think ya have tha right ta know.”
Sapphire could tell that Tia and Venetus were not on the best of terms due to the smile on Tia's lips started to change alittle. "I understand, but Thank you for letting me know. To tell you the truth, I could see that you can handle yourself wonderfully and that you really dont need me. But I love making new friends anyways so I dont mind hanging out with you and plus you are getting back into horseback riding." Sapphire said as she smiled alittle at her. "So lets change the subject since I can tell that you dont want to talk about Venetus at the moment." She said as she glanced at her.
The phoenix thought for a moment as she continued to ride. "Lets go back to talking about horses. I have been thinking about having a American Paint horse or a Friesian horse, since they are beautiful horses. I have thought about a Shire or a Clydesdale just to have two horses but I think one would be enough since I have two dogs." Sapphire said as she looked at Tia.
Grinning wide the redhead looked over at the Guard, impressed that she had picked up on more than just her words. For most that paid attention, it wasn't a big secret that she and her brother didn't get along very well, as much as she wished to keep her business private it was an impossible task in the Ailward household. Things had gotten better since she had moved out but there was still marked tension between the pair of them. It was just like Ven to assign her a Guard after this long and think he had gotten the upper hand, his error, of course, being that Tia was not down to playing his games.
“Friends it is.” Smiling she nodded her head, guiding them around a bend that opened up into a wide meadow. “Thank you,” she murmured gratefully gaining a great amount of respect for the Phoenix. It was a lucky coincidence that they both loved horses and an even bigger bonus given that the pair looked to be spending more time in each other's company.
At the conversations turn the Ailward grinned, letting Mo have his head as they ambled through the meadow of wildflowers. “All'a those are good choices. Dependin’ on tha attitude an’ personality yer lookin’ for they present viable options.” Laughing lightly she shook her head again, adjusting her ball cap against the glare of the rising sun, “We got plenty'a room, trust me.” She wasn't going to pressure Sapphire but she did want the woman to know she had options. “I'll reach out ta my contacts tomorrow an’ see wha’ I can come up with.”