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Mistborn: The Inquisition

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Taking the Reins

Eliza Fathvell's Photo Eliza Fathvell 24 Jun 2018

The sun gleamed through the departing mists as Eliza's carriage pulled to a stop, jolting her from her pleasant state of half-slumber. It wasn't too long after sunrise, and while she was used to being up at odd hours in Tavira, it struck her as odd that anyone would want to be giving lessons this early in the morning. Jerzen had said something about wanting to avoid the midday heat, which was a little strange from Eliza's perspective, but she supposed the days would feel different to someone not raised in the Southern Islands.

She pulled a little at her riding habit, trying to get comfortable in the stiff fabric. Having the thing tailored in so short a time had been a nightmare and a half; Father kept insisting she wear a formal riding dress and sit sidesaddle like a proper Mainlander woman. But a proper Mainlander woman she wasn't, and she wasn't learning to ride so she could sit pretty on a horse while the men had all the fun. She was learning to ride so if she needed to get home after an assassination attempt in the middle of the night, she wouldn't be caught helpless like she had been just the other night. In that moment, there had been no convenient sidesaddles, and her dress had only got in the way. No, she was going to learn the practical way, or not at all.

She wound up in the end with a divided skirt worn with a fitted blouse, vest, and coat. The skirt looked like a dress when she stood normally, but was far and away more practical. The top half of the ensemble, on Felix's advice, was of Allomancer's cut, allowing much greater freedom of movement than she'd had previously. It was still of Luthadel style, which was disappointing, but it wasn't like the Southern Islands had riding habits. The best she could do was the merlot color of her vest, and Islands lace on her cravat. Her brooch was polished sea glass; a gift from House Lebroux during their visit to Tavira. It wasn't a perfect homage to home, but it would have to do under the circumstances. Why did riding even require such a specific wardrobe? At least the boots she understood, once it had been explained to her. But an entire suit? Mainlanders were weird.

At last, the carriage door opened. Clarence, the footman, offered her his hand to help her down, which she reluctantly took. For all she could get down on her own perfectly well, it would be an insult to not let him do his job. Well, one of his jobs, anyway; Clarence was a Coinshot, and had been trained to act as a covert bodyguard for the family while going about his more traditional duties. His presence on this outing was one of the few security measures she had been willing to accept. Her first preference would have been to have Felix here, but he had other things to do, and his duties often kept him out far too late to be up and about this early in the morning. She wasn't about to deprive him of much-needed rest just to babysit her, no matter how safe his presence made her feel.

But standing here gawping at the building and thinking about all this wasn't going to get her on a horse, was it? And so Eliza dismissed Clarence and Abbinsley, the driver, to see to the carriage and then occupy themselves as they saw fit. Then, with one final adjustment of her stupid jacket, Eliza made her way towards the entrance to the stable.

This was going to be interesting.
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Axelle D'Orsay's Photo Axelle D'Orsay 11 Jul 2018

“I need Kyle saddled and ready to go in five for an appointment,” she told one of the stable hands on duty. The blond skaa teenager nodded shyly, catching her eyes to ensure she caught the confirmation, before he moved to complete the task. “Walk her out with Midnight after the client has arrived.”

Another day, another riding lesson.

But this lesson was with a brand new client. Eliza Fathwell had been the name neatly inked into the earliest time slot in her appointment book when she’d opened it this morning. The name alone was enough to conjure to mind hypothetical images of island Axelle had never seen, and to bring the taste of a fine vintage to her tongue. The sound of wheels on gravel alerted her to someone’s arrival, so she paused gently brushing her fingers down Midnight’s neck, his short ebony fur velvet to the touch. She’d already saddled her favorite horse.

“See you in a few,” she said with a gentle pat, before striding out the open double-doors of the stable.

Axelle had a small collection of riding habits like other women collected dresses. Today’s set was mostly black, with burgundy edging over the collar of the jacket, which matched the pair of burgundy lines that ran the side hems of her pants, partially hidden by her knee-high boots. Her hair was twisted up into a neat bun at the back of her head for a professional look, the severity of the style cut by the amused smile she wore, and the energy in her eyes despite the early hour.

Her client had also dressed the part, thankfully. Her outfit was clearly stylish, but also functional, especially the split skirts, the sight of which had her smiling wider on the inside. She likely won’t request a side saddle.

The D’Orsay ward closed the gap between her and the elegant client. She opted for a smooth bow, rather than a curtsey given her lack of skirts.

“Good morning, Lady Eliza, and welcome,” she gestured back toward the stable and the riding trails. “I am Lady Axelle, and it is my pleasure to serve as your riding instructor this morning.” She started burning tin, just to ensure she caught all of the more subtle cues that would be important to today’s lesson, hesitation, fear, uncertainty - on the part of both the horses and hr client.

A pair of stable hands led Midnight, a solid black stallion, and Kylie, a chestnut mare with a broad white blaze down her face. The stable hands paused, the horses remained steady, understanding that for now, all they needed to do was wait.

“And this,” Axelle said, taking a few steps back to where the horses were waiting. “Is Kylie,” she said, gently rubbing the horse’s neck. “She’s very gentle. Wonderful for riders of all experience levels. I think you’ll like her.”

She gestured back with her head, inviting the noblewoman to come closer.

“Would this be your first time?” she asked casually, without judgment, she just wanted to get a sense of Eliza’s experience so far.
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Eliza Fathvell's Photo Eliza Fathvell 15 Jul 2018

Good, they were getting right down to business. This Lady Axelle was still polite, but she wasn't wasting time talking herself in circles with frivolous formalities. Eliza liked that; perhaps they'd get along after all. It was good to have an instructor whose priorities lay where they were supposed to.

"On a horse under my own power, yes," she answered back in the same businesslike manner. "I've ridden once in front of a more experienced rider, but only for a short distance, and when I was little I used to sneak into the stables to try and pet the draft horses. So while I'm entirely inexperienced, horses aren't a completely foreign concept to me. I'm honestly more used to the motion of a boat underneath me, though."

She approached the horses as she spoke, until she was standing right next to Kylie, the horse she was intended to ride. She seemed as gentle as Lady Axelle had indicated, and Eliza couldn't help but smile when she rested a gentle hand on the horse's warm neck.

"Good morning, Kylie," she said softly. "It's nice to meet you. I promise I'll do my best not to fall off your back like an idiot."
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Axelle D'Orsay's Photo Axelle D'Orsay 13 Aug 2018

Axelle nodded at Eliza’s response regarding her experience, a small smile on her face all the while, which widened at the bit about how her new student had sneaked into the stables as a child to pet the draft horses. The natural attraction and appreciation for the animals was a good sign in Axelle’s book; she had a hard time understanding how some couldn’t find respect for the animals, even if they feared them.

“I will admit that sea travel isn’t something I know anything about, but I suspect the experience of being constantly in motion may give you an advantage.”

Eliza walked over calmly, gracefully. There was no outward telegraphing of nervousness, even if she did in fact feel it. She greeted the horse warmly, speaking to her in soft tones, even as she poked fun at herself. Axelle couldn’t help but smile wide at that. The Lady seemed quite at ease, like she was meant to be here.

She gestured behind her at one of the stablehands who came jogging up to them. She held her hand out and without a word he put a green apple in her grasp.

“Give Kylie an apple and she might just love you,” she said, extending it towards Eliza. “She won’t bite, but if you’ve any hesitation at all, I could put my hand over yours.”

The younger woman’s lips curved into an impish smirk, and she winked as she took the apple and fed Kylie without any hesitation. As the apple disappeared she gently patted the mare’s neck again and said, "I used to want to do this, when I was a child, but we could never manage to sneak anything.” She looked back at the horse before adding, “You do like that, don't you?"

Axelle nodded again, quite pleased that the Lady took so easily to interacting with Kylie. A horse could sense when a rider - or would-be rider - was uneasy. Eliza’s relaxed manner extended to the mare who was already a sweet, docile thing.

She gestured again to the stablehands. One carried over a portable set of steps in case the lady wanted to climb into the saddle that way. He set it beside the horse.

“Your choice. Trey could boost you into the saddle or you could take the steps.” All the sidesaddle types opted for the steps. But the woman before her definitely wasn’t that delicate. Trey bent and held his hands low, one stacked atop the other for the Lady to step into.

She picked what Axelle would’ve chosen. Eliza stepped a boot into the strong hands that awaited her, and she went up and into the saddle. Kylie remained calm, stable, she barely shifted at all.

“How do you feel? Comfortable?” she asked looking up at her student.

She tilted her head as it took longer for the woman to respond than she expected. She looked like she was thinking, evaluating.

"As much as I can be for my first time, I think. I feel like I'm not going to fall off right away, so there's that."

Axelle laughed. “It takes some getting used to. It also engages a lot of the muscles in your core, so depending on how long we’re at it, you might even get a little sore.”

She gave the mare a final pat on the neck and went around to climb into Midnight’s saddle. She leaned over and took hold of the longer reins Kylie had been outfitted with, and held them along with the straps connected to Midnight.

“We are going to take this very slow to start,” she said. “I’ll rely on you to tell me if you’re bored to tears and we need to take things up a notch, or to tell me if you feel like you’re going to fall.”

She brought a hand to the horn on her saddle.

“This is called a horn. For now, I’d like you to hold on to that, instead of clutching the ropes.” When it looked like Eliza had found her grip, she made a small clucking sound and gently pressed her foot to Midnight’s side. “For the moment, we just want to get you used to the feel of Kylie beneath you, get you feeling balanced and more comfortable in the saddle.”

And so they began. At a very calm, slow pace they made their way from just outside the stables onto the riding trails. Axelle made sure to keep them to the right side, out of the way of anyone who might want to pass. Eliza was positioned on the outside of the path, just to put more space between her and anyone who might ride up to them. The D’Orsay was constantly checking, even with the quickest glances, her enhanced senses could get a good read on the state of the horse and rider in her charge.

Edited by Mora, 13 August 2018 - 02:09 AM.
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Marina Tekiel's Photo Marina Tekiel 25 Aug 2018

Marina was flying.

Eagalion, her mount, cleared the hurdle with ease, expertly pulling his legs out of the way of the jump. Marina felt a thrill as his muscles stretched and contracted underneath her and he gracefully inverted his back to flip his rear end over the fence. For a moment, Marina floated in the air, weightless as both she and Eagalion descended towards to ground, separate travelers who happened to be journeying together. Then, they landed, and Marina felt her weight settle back into the stirrups as Eagalion's front feet touched town.

It was exhilarating.

In moments, they were at the next jump, and Marina was ready. "Fly for me darling." She counted the beats of Eagalion's stride as they approached, feeling as his weight shifted to shorten his last approach. The horse's body tensed like a spring, ready to let loose. And then, they were flying again.

Flying women didn't have time to think about watching a grandfather clock tick second by second with their dead husband's blood on their hands.

After a few more rounds of the course, Marina began to feel Eagalion start to tire. He was a young horse, in peak form, and bursting with energy, but even he would tire eventually at their current pace. While Marina longed for the exhilaration to continue, her natural discipline and affection for the animal overpowered her desire for indulgence, and she guided Eagalion over to a waiting stable hand.

"He handled beautifully, Lady Marina. You've done a good job of training him."

"Yes. Thank-you." The hand flinched slightly at her curt tone, but had the sense to ignore it. "When my Eagle is settled, please bring Lightning around to the track. I'd like to do a few laps to see how he's progressing now that his injury is healed."

"Yes, Lady Marina, of course. The veterinarian was in last week, and said that his rehabilitation is going well. With a little more training, he should be achieving competitive times again soon. I'll also send for a time keeper."

Marina dismissed the hand with a nod and turned to survey the other riders and animals. The D'Orsays knew their horses, that much was clear. While Marina didn't like trusting another house with her prized specimens, even House Deveaux couldn't hold a candle to House D'Orsay when it came to caring for horses.

Nearby, Marina noticed two women riding towards her. From the body language, and their choice of mount, it was clear there was a vast difference in experience between them, likely an instructor and her student. While the student rider clearly didn't know what she was doing, she made a good show of keeping her balance while the more experienced rider led both horses. Both animals were obviously well cared for, but the docile mare looked painfully dull compared to the instructor's elegant black stallion.

Realizing the women had likely noticed her impassive appraisal, Marina forced a small smile and gave a stiff but courteous wave.
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Eliza Fathvell's Photo Eliza Fathvell 26 Nov 2018

It was only years of experience on the sea that kept Eliza relaxed in the saddle. The motion of the horse underneath her was, strangely enough, both familiar and unfamiliar; there was something unnerving about knowing she was riding an intelligent creature that could decide whenever it wanted that it was done with her. But Kylie at least didn't seem particularly inclined to throw her off, or really to be in any way disagreeable at all, and in a way, it reminded her of her first trips out onto the water with Uncle Nat. Relax, Little Liza, he'd told her. Let the waves carry you how they will. If you fight them, they'll dump you on your head. And that's if you're lucky. Move with them if you want to keep your feet underneath you. It was Uncle Nat's advice that guided her now, and sure enough, letting herself move relax and move with Kylie instead of trying to fight her movements left Eliza feeling much more secure.

At least, until she saw a smartly dressed woman in all black flying through the air on the most majestic creature Eliza had ever seen. Her movements and the horse's both were fluid and effortless, graceful and confident in ways Eliza had never conceived of. She had thought herself properly in command on the decks of pirate ships, but compared to this display, she felt like a clumsy girl of 10 once more.

"Axelle," she said quietly, watching the woman go about again, "I want to do that." She paused for a moment, then cleared her throat and continued in a much more reasonable tone. "Not now, of course; I'm not that stupid. One day. When I'm ready to learn how without breaking my neck."

And then the woman was waving at her. It was surprisingly stiff, after the natural grace she had just witnessed. Was she caught off guard by being watched? Eliza hadn't meant to intrude, but looking anywhere else would have been impossible with a display like that. Either way, she had been noticed, and now to not return the other woman's greeting would be horribly rude.

And so Eliza put on her most genuine business smile and gave a friendly wave back.
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