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I have a conundrum! I like this story, but I dislike the characters' names. Ronin is a cool name, but for a sorcerer old as the hills? I need something far more dramatic. And did I really name his companion after my cat? Groan. I was really reaching, there... Anyway, I have an inspiration to continue it, or draw on it, anyway, and I never claimed to be anything but a work in progress, on this blog - so I think I'll change them for this story, and maybe go back and shift those, if these seem to fit better. Once I find them.

Anyway! firemagic, of the PPC, posted something very like the three-random-word prompt: a three-description prompt. The given three were
A gorgeous sunset over a sparkling waterfall, A battle-scarred Fae warrior in rune-engraved armor, and A sacrificial costume. So, with the little piece involving my characters here in mind, I'm going to post something along those lines - one for each, I think. Enjoy!

Basir looked around, took a deep breath, and hummed a long, low note. He focused on the pitch, the exact tone he was looking for, and kept his eyes closed, forming the picture in his mind - the resonance must be exact. The road shimmered before them, seeming to flutter through multiple world-narratives before settling on the one that he held it to. Behind him, Liron kept watch, her eyes flicking back and forth in the twilit wood where the road had led them. It still took her some effort to keep from watching the spell take hold in wonder - this one fascinated her more than most, as the nature behind it always seemed so very subtle. Basir had explained it to her, somewhat - the idea that this exact spot, due to ley lines, if she remembered it right, had several different potential gates. Different sorcerers used different methods to open them; his was a specific pitch. That was keyed to the same energy that some opened with light, or a spell, or a temperature or elemental powder. His way seemed more elegant to Liron, more essential - how would a wizard with no supplies open a gate if they were used to using sulfur or iron filings? How would one down on their energy reach the right light shade, or temperature, if the fire was too hot? She admired Basir's technique - though it could be admitted, she supposed, that there was a bias at work there.

The gate finally opened, and he nodded with satisfaction. "Ready?"

She turned around, nodding. "The way's clear behind us - no pursuers to speak of," she told him, tapping the hilt of her dagger. "Is that all?"

The sorcerer nodded again. "Aye, the way is now open. After you, then."

Once upon a time, she would have been terrified to step through a gate and leave the sorcerer on the other side, citing examples of the most renowned treacherous mages the world had ever known - it seemed that once someone reached a certain level of power, they decided they no longer needed their humanity. She'd been convinced that Basir meant to trade her life away to some demon or other, and held her breath, and her weapon, tightly when she stepped through the gate. Two hundred or so years later, they still stepped through gates in the same order, and he had never failed once to materialize behind her. Liron had been valuable, she supposed, in his many quests and searches: her abilities were limited to shape-shifting, but as one who registered as a low-level threat, she was often able to go places he could not.

She grinned at him as she passed through the strangely jelly-like fog that clouded the road ahead. He kept concentration, rolling his dark eyes slightly in a sort of acknowledgment. Basir was of average height, wiry in build, and kept his silvered hair and beard cropped close, framing his dark, leathery face, save the pale scar that crossed his hairline to the right, breaking the border. He looked deceptively youthful - one would've guessed perhaps fifty, or sixty. Most people tended to look a bit older, when they'd been around half a milennium, but then, Basir was not most people.

The other side of the portal was sunny, bright, and smelled vaguely of sweet grasses and wildflowers. There was no road, only the suggestion of a deer path or something of the sort, winding through the highland meadow in no particular order. She shook her head and took another few steps; Basir tapped the path once, and the swirling fog behind them disappeared. He smiled down at her and bowed slightly.

"Shall we?"

She bowed back, elaborate and courtly, with a flourish, and turned towards the road.

She wasn't entirely surprised when he tripped her, but didn't bother catching the fall, and landed headfirst in the grass.

"Dammit, that's going to stain," she grumbled, reaching for the hand he held out. He laughed - the tunic she wore might once have been a single color, but their long travels had left it a sort of marbled green, reddish brown, true-brown, and a few other colors, relics from other permanently-staining adventures.

"We're going the other way," he explained, pointing. The road she'd been about to take led down into a set of rollicking meadows, brilliant green, dotted all over with points of bright colors and more subtle pastels; a ways off to the East, a stream crossed it, light sparkling off of every rippling facet.

She turned, looking back towards where the gate had been. The meadow rose steadily up to a sloping hillside, and beyond it were more hills, smokey grays and purples, rising up to more impressive mountains, snow-capped in the distance and quite forbidding. She groaned.

"Of course we're going the other way!" Dusting off the bits of grass and heather from her clothes and hair, she glared at him. "Why would I ever think we were headed down into a beautiful and pleasant meadow when there are impressively ominous mountains in the neighborhood?"

Basir laughed and shrugged, turning towards the road, his staff plunking down along the way. "I have no idea, Liron. I would honestly have thought you knew better by now!"

The afternoon wore away, pleasantly warm, if tiring, and they made good progress up the hill. It wasn't quite as daunting as it had seemed - they were headed up the range, rather than through it, and going over a ridge was much easier than days of descending and climbing. When sunset found them, they were near the source, she presumed, of one of the charming meadow streams - rather more impressive than homey, at this distance. The sunset before them, just barely hidden by the mountains, left the sky reddish, and the few clouds gold. Liron sat on the edge of a fairly steep cliff, watching the waterfall roar down, a ways ahead of them. The mist, too, had a golden tinge, over the entirely different rushing quality of the water beneath - it was so... dynamic. So powerful. Beautiful, dangerous, like a sword, or a song. She breathed deeply, taking in the scent of the mosses that thrived around it, the special quality of water coming down off the heights - much of it snowmelt, at this point, and run-off, and the faint smell of pines and junipers, nearly universal in the mountains, but always welcome.

"Liron? It's about that time," Basir called from the campsite, where he'd begun preparations for setting up camp. She nodded, and tore her gaze away from the waterfall to return to their site; division of labor, for them, meant that he did the safety-through-magic stuff, and she did the comfort-through-labor stuff. It generally worked pretty well.

* * *

Basir looked down from the stars; he'd gleaned all he could from this night. Liron was fast asleep by now. It wasn't always easy to tell, with her, but he'd had a lot of practice. He smiled, as her arm twitched across the bedroll. The shifter had to be the only person he'd ever known who used a rock for a pillow and sincerely enjoyed it. Crazy girl. She was a head and a half shorter than him, springy and sharp-angled. He had suspected, once upon a time, that they were related somehow, but that hadn't panned out. She was from his first homeland, though, one of the few that had made it out; they shared the same dark skin and hair, though her eyes were lighter. It had come in handy, knowing the little-used tongue, usually in mercantile situations. He frowned, now, looking back up towards their road, ahead on the hills.

He wondered if Liron had any idea what was in store for them there - and if she'd still be along with him, if she did. Probably. The shifter was a stubborn kid, and any attempts to dissuade her from a given course usually only resulted in disaster, and occasionally, mutual bruises. He sighed, and stretched back out on the ground. They'd make it through. They always did.

---Fin---

(No, I have no idea why I called it Sorcerer and the Squirrel. Liron reminds me a little bit of a squirrel, I guess? In the first bit, where she was called Tina, anyway. But I'll post the second one tomorrow.)

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May 2013

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