On A Clear Day

From up on the high ridge, the whole of the blasted Vale of Garnath lay within view. Staring down into it, Gideon could follow the snakelike trail of the river Oisen through the trees, all the way down toward the sea. The trees were regrowing, green slowly replacing the blackened and burned matchsticks that still remained. He traced the edge of the burnout with his eyes. To Gideon, It was as if an occult hand had reached out and burned it's foul image into the forest.

Gideon leaned against the fir tree, raising his canteen to his lips to drink. He wiped his lips then screwed the cap back down, putting the canteen back on his horse. He sighed and stroked his beard, trying to decide if he wanted to go around or through the valley.

From behind and above Skye watched him from her position in the tree canopy. She recognized him when he rode beneath her. They hadn't had much in the way of interaction; she was almost always out in the deeper reaches these days. It was the luck of the rotational draw that assigned her unit closer in this month. She had forgotten how much she preferred the deeper reaches where things actually happened.

Glancing at her Ranger issued watch, and the Vale below, Skye came to a decision. Silent as a cat she backed out of the branches and dropped with a quiet thud to the forest floor below. Imitating the call of a scissor-tail flycatcher to summon Equinox from where the mare waited, Skye stepped out of the shade of the forest's edge and moved towards the edge of the ridge to Gideon's right.


Gideon quickly turned toward the bird call, his right hand dropping to the blade strapped to the matching leg. He looked deeply into the trees and shadows. When Skye's form was discernible from the blackness he relaxed and shook his head.

"Nice, very nice." Gideon said, somewhat embarrassed. "I'm glad I don't talk to myself. You would have heard an interesting conversation." Gideon patted his horse, running his hand through its mane. "You enjoy sneaking up on people?"

She gave him a cheeky grin; one familiar to the others in her unit, but only a rare few outside it. "It's my job, and being able to sneak up on you is excellent practice. One of these days, I'll catch Julian off-guard and my name will be legend among other Scouts."

Gideon nodded in agreement, chuckling slightly. "Just don't do it while he's hunting or you will become the legend of the woman trampled to death by Morgenstern."

She chuckled. "Oh, I keep my distance from El Diablo."

Skye reached in her pouch and pulled out a piece of sugarcane. She moved over to offer it to his horse. She looked out over the Vale. "It's still got a ways to go. But it's getting there."

Skye's mare broke through the tree-line at a canter and trotted over to her rider's side.

At her comment about the vale Gideon turned back toward the slowly healing scar. "I think you're right. At this rate it will be whole before Benedict's arm. It's a shame they felt it necessary to burn it, but they had their reasons."

He looked back to Skye and his horse, watching the animal chew happily on the sugar cane. "I was just making my way down to the sea. Julian told me there were several cabins down there from the days before the vale was corrupted. I though I might check them out and see if any of them were worth renovating."

She nodded as her mare nudged her hip where her pouch hung. She playfully swatted at the horse and got an entirely sassy whinny and toss of a flaxen mane in response. Skye held out another piece of sugar cane for her horse.

"I've seen them. The cabins," she said when her mare had settled down to eating her snack. Skye turns her gaze in the direction of the sea. "We've been riding out that way. There's a couple that would be worth the effort, I think. It would certainly be very peaceful."

"That sounds like good news." Gideon answered. "I was hoping that one of them would be in shape to keep me comfortable for a week. Camping helps clear my head and gets me away from the social harpies."

Gideon spent a moment adjusting his saddle, refastening a belt or two on his buckskin colored mount. "Are you going that way? You could save me a couple of hours if you pointed me toward one of the better cabins."


She eyed him silently. a moment "Not without Himself's permission. I have no burning desire to get put on report and lose my weekend leave this month. You're welcome to ask him, or I can draw you a map."

"I see." Gideon stroked his beard. "I don't feel like bothering him and you don't have to draw me a map."

He turned back toward the view of the vale. "Just give me a landmark to aim for, then you can go back to skulking about. I wouldn't want to be accused of keeping a ranger away from her business."

She grinned. "It's nothing personal. Julian would not approve of me leaving my range during duty hours." She glanced at her watch. "I still have just over an hour to go, and I really hate that 'I'm very disappointed in you' look."

Skye rocked back on her heels, clicking her teeth together quietly a moment. "Okay. Let's see… if it were me, I would take the one on the cliff. It's just above where the rock juts out from the rest of the cliff face. It has a watch tower and a widow's walk. The roof on the tower needs replacing. You'll likely have to run off the crows that have taken up residence. There's a small stable, but it was looking pretty weather worn when I saw it last. There's even steps cut into the rock face leading down to the shore. I always thought watching storms at sea from there would be pretty amazing."

She looked over at him. "Even if you don't like it, you can pretty much see the rest of them from there."

"That doesn't sound too bad." Gideon answered with a nod. "As you say, If I find it unpleasant I can always move on. I'm sure the crows won't mind the company either."

He looked back to her and smiled faintly. "I would compliment your skills at stealth to Julian, though I'm sure he will be amused enough when you tell him the story yourself." Now grinning, Gideon mounted on his horse and offered Skye a short salute. "Good luck with your patrol."

She laughed. "I'll be sure and highlight it in my report: Successfully snuck up on Gideon. Day made." Skye stepped back and saluted. "Happy house hunting."

Gideon nodded once in reply and then gently nudged his horse forward along the ridge line, down toward the coast.

Skye watched him a few moments before turning to her horse. "Nice guy," she commented. Equinox shook out her mane and nickered at the woman.

"Pah," remarked Skye dismissively as she swung up in the saddle. "None of them are that nice." The young Scout looked over the vale one last time before turned her horse towards her patrol route.


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