Black and White

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Chapter 6

The pair started off walking into the city of starhawk to try and get some kind of transportation. A carriage was out of the question simply because it was too conspicuous for two simply dressed people to be riding in a typically expensive vehicle. That only left buying a riding animal or investing in a serious pair of walking shoes for each of them. After a mini debate they decided on getting a riding animal. After spending almost twenty minutes arguing with the sales man over what they needed and wanted they finally settled on an animal that had enough stamina to go for long periods of time but was able to also run quickly when necessary and for as long as necessary. The animal in question looked like an odd cross between a cheetah and a Bengal tiger. It had to body of a cheetah but the build of a tiger. The markings were a mix of cheetah spots and tiger stripes, giving the animal a slightly layered look. Saluka told him that it was called a Kalima. The teen was clueless on what it meant until she calmly explained it to him.

"Lance, Kalima means 'swift of foot, strong of body'. They literally found the literal definition for this animal and it became the species name. No one had actually tried to come up with a new name but Kalima works just fine.” Saluka said with a slight shrug walking over to the large animal easily.

Lance just nodded at her, watching warily as she approached the cat. Waving her hand at him she gently placed her other hand on the large cat’s forehead. Still giving the animal an uncertain look he stepped over to stand by the young blunette. Taking his hand Saluka placed it by her own hand on the top of the animal’s head and the Kalima began purring softly. Well, it started out soft but slowly grew in volume until it was a low, deep rumble. Blue eyes widened considerably as the Kalima began rubbing the top of its head into the palms of their hands, almost like it was asking them to pet it. The animal’s soft fur was pleasant to the touch and Lance couldn’t stop his fingers from curling and uncurling around the small patch beneath his hand. At his actions the purring actually seemed to get louder despite that fact being highly improbable. Saluka took that moment to slip away and gather the saddle, reins and bridle from the salesman. He handed them over to her with a smile on his face that she brightly reciprocated.

Turning back around she faltered slightly; she had absolutely no clue how to saddle a riding animal. Sure, she had been around them almost all of her life but she had never learned how to properly saddle one. They had always been saddled for her when she and her parents had decided to go out for a ride. Lance, noticing her hesitation and her tight grip on the saddle and bridle, stepped over to her. Saluka looked up at him as he held out a hand to her, clearly asking her to hand the gear over. Slowly she passed the dark leather tack into his hands and he smiled at her. Turning back around he walked over to the Kalima’s side setting the stuff down suddenly when his vision started to blur on the edges. He barely heard the concerned voices of both Rail and Saluka as well as the salesman as he descended into darkness.

When the darkness cleared he found himself standing in front of Dagarin with a saddle in his hands. The red dragon was quite a bit large in this memory than the last and it was a little deceiving because he was laying down on his stomach. Lance merely shook his head as he stepped closer to the large animal. Bright, intelligent red eyes turned to him and he could have sworn that he saw the dragon smile at him. Smiling back he stepped up and slipped the saddle he was holding onto the broad back, making sure not to catch the boney red wings in the process. Once the main piece was in place the dragon stood slowly so that his red headed friend could secure it to his body.

With a small smile on his face Lance slipped under the large body and started pulling the straps tight. Once or twice he had actually had to punch the dragon in the stomach to make his let go of a big lung full of air that would have prevented him from fully tightening the straps. Once he was sure they were all tight he slid out from under his friend before going to get the special bridle that he had designed. It was a simple thing but was very effective and far more humane than what most Dragon People used on their dragons. The bridle was several strips of leather tied together to create a ring that wrapped around the nose before connecting to another ring that wrapped around the back of the head and part of the throat. Since it was just plain leather the blue eyed teen had reinforced it with dragon scales that had been melted down and then shaped into slightly flexible bands. He then proceeded to sew the leather in a type of sheath around the bands before putting it all together. All in all it was a simple understated design that served his purpose well.

“Lance? Are you still there?” a soft voice brought the teen back to the present.

“Yeah, Dagarin, I’m still here. Sorry about that.” Lance said shaking his head and realizing that while he had been spacing out he had put on and adjusted the bridle.

This time the dragon did smile at him, “That’s alright. I was just a little worried when you spaced out on me. That’s all.”

Lance smiled and ran his hand along the side of the red beast’s face, earning a rumble of contentment at the action. One other key fact in his bridle design was that it didn't impede the dragon’s physical speech capabilities. That was actually why he had designed it in the first place; it made it easier to talk to the dragon while they were riding together. Lance was probably one of the only Dragon People who didn’t like having a voice in his head most of the time. It kind of creeped him out. Dagarin was an exception but even then he didn’t like having telepathic contact with anything for long. Shaking his head again he realized that he had slipped back into his head and smiled at his dragon partner. Stepping over to the animal’s side he was about to swing himself up when the world went black once again.

This time when the darkness cleared up he found himself on his back looking up into three worried faces. Rail was leaning right over him knowing that the salesman wasn’t able to see him at all while Saluka and the salesman hovered a little bit off to the side as they watched him wake up. When the noticed that he was indeed awake Saluka and Rail both sighed in relief and that salesman smiled at him before helping him to sit up. The redhead nodded at the blond man beside him before turning to look at Saluka and Rail.

“Are you alright, Lance?” they asked in unison, mostly so that it wouldn’t seem odd if Lance was answering a question that the other man hadn’t heard.

“Yeah, I’m alright. I just had a flashback. Sorry to worry you.” he said with a smile.

“Well, son, the only kind of people who I’ve seen collapse like that from a flashback where people with a traumatic past of people with amnesia. Which would you happen to be?” the salesman asked, looking just a little worried that he might have just placed a very valuable animal in the hands of someone who wouldn’t be able to take care of it.

“I have amnesia. So I actually have no clue about the traumatic past or anything like that but I don’t think I do at any rate.” Lance replied with a slight shrug at the man.

Nodding slowly the blond moved off, new people had come to his humble stand and he still had business to do. Saluka looked closely at him with worried emerald eyes. The teen just waved her in favor of trying to stand up. Scrambling to her feet the blunette gently took his arm and pulled him to his feet. Giving her a nod the teen walked over to the tack, picking it up as he turned to the Kalima. Large golden eyes were looking at him curiously as he motioned for it to lay down. After a few seconds of hesitation the large cat laid down and Lance stepped up beside it. Gently he placed the saddle across the animals back before gently tapping the shoulders as an indication that the cat could stand. Shaking it head slightly the large cat stood slowly, trying not to disrupt the saddle on its back.

Lance smiled softly at the animal and ran his hand down the foreleg as he slowly slipped down under the Kalima’s belly. The animal growled softly as the teen moved but stopped when it felt a hand gently smack on its chest. Chuckling softly the teen proceed to tighten and adjust the straps of the saddle. He also had to occasionally smack the Kalima in the stomach and making the animal release several large breaths as he worked. Eventually he crawled out from under the large animal that glared at him a bit but the teen just smiled at it before moving to grab the bridle. Turning back around he gently took the cat face in his hands before slipping the leather and metal straps over the soft face. Tightening the straps under the jaw and behind the head Lance gently tossed the reins over the cat’s head.

"We should be good to go," Lance said turning back to the young woman behind him, "You want help up?"

"Sure. He is a little tall for me to just climb on myself." the blunette said coming over and grabbing his shoulders as she placed her right foot on his interlocked fingers.

Lance gave a soft grunt as he hoisted the young woman up onto the Kalima’s back before vaulting up behind her himself. With a slight smile he reached around the young woman to take the reins. Unbeknownst to him the action caused the young woman in front of him to turn a deep shade of red. Rail, who had been watching the whole thing, chuckled softly to himself as he watched the two beings interact. Thankfully neither of them heard him as Lance gently kicked the Kalima into action. Shaking its head the animal took off at a moderate pace toward the edge of the city. Saluka, despite the raging blush on her cheeks, slowly relaxed and sat back against the teen behind her. After a few minutes the slow slight bobbing gate of the Kalima and the warm body behind her worked to slowly lull the young Monel into a deep sleep. Lance realized that when her head started to fall forward that she was totally out cold. Smiling softly to himself he leaned back a bit so that she would stay propped upright. A soft chuckle in his head alerted him to the fact that Rail wanted to talk to him.

'Yes, Rail? Is something wrong?' he asked choosing to use telepathy so as not to wake the sleeping woman in front of him.

'Just so you know she has never done this with anyone. Not even Birch.' the silver haired spirit replied with a smile on his face even though the teen couldn't see it.

'Really? I would have thought that she had because she relaxed completely even though she barely knows me.' Lance thought glancing back down at the sleeping young woman in front of him.

‘Really. She didn’t even relax all of the way around Birch. The whole thing with them was arranged by her parents without her consent at all.’ Rail replied with a soft sigh.

‘Ouch,’ the red headed teen thought with a wince, ‘Let me guess; when her parents died the whole thing fell apart, right?’

‘Correct. Birch had fallen in love with her but the feeling was not mutual. A few days after the funeral Saluka called off the engagement.’

‘They were engaged?!’ Lance thought, blue eyes widening to the size of dinner plates.

‘Indeed. They never got really serious, though,’ the silver haired spirit said in a nonchalant tone, ‘well at least Saluka didn't. Apparently for birch it was love at first sight. He took to her instantly but she wanted nothing to do with him. It was kind of funny really.’

Lance was silent for a few moments before something occurred to him, ‘Rail how is it that you know so much about Saluka and her family history?’

‘Oh, well, I was in her father's possession up until a few days before he died.’

‘Why only a few days before he died? What happened?’ Lance asked, actually sounding like he cared.

‘I said something that upset him and his wife so they shipped me off to that facility where you freed me from my most recent owner. That man was a real pig, by the way. I don't think I'll ever be able to repay you for saving me from him.’ Rail said, his baritone voice soft and honest.

‘You are very welcome and you don't have to repay me in any way other than sticking by me, OK?’ the teen thought with a small smile.

‘Alright. As long as you carry my sword I'll be here.’

Lance smiled at the declaration and glanced down at the young blunette in front of him. She was still out cold even though they were heading though a fairly noisy part of town. It seemed that she could sleep through just about anything. That was something to keep in mind in case they ran into some unsavory company while they traveled. The red headed teen carefully stored that little bit of information before looking back to the front. As he did so a brief image of Dagarin flashed in his head and he nodded slowly.

‘Just wait Dagarin, my friend, I'm coming for you. Wherever you are. I will find you no matter what.’ he vowed silently, gently urging the Kalima into a light trot and guiding them out into the outskirts of the city. The journey to find a lost dragon had begun and nothing was going to stand in the way.

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