Scars of Khan- Unbroken

 
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  #1 Old 11-22-11, 02:48 AM Scars of Khan- Unbroken
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The Empty Quarter- a vast sea of lush grasslands that stretches from the roots of the Khum Karta mountains to the dense forests of the ancient Palatine's empire that boardered the turquoise blue of the salten sea to the golden-hued burning sands of the Kuzil Quan desert. The roaming tribes of the steppes boast a fiercely savage bloodline, for life in the Empty Quarter is an unforgiving test of a man's strength of body as well as the cutting edge of his wisdom and will to overcome the dangers lurking in the wind-swept grasses.

It is from this bloodline that all of you hail; sons of the wandering tribes that Chogorisian legend holds are borne upon the very backs of their swift and wiry horses. Each phase of the moon saw the tasks set by the Stormseers more brutal and trying than the last, culling the weaker and least capable from the drove of aspirants with each pass like a pack of laughing lyon-dogs running a herd to the point of exhaustion. The paths that led each of you to the shadow of the Khum Karta are as numerous as the hairs in a sabre-lion's mane and of the nearly 200 young warriors who entered the Trials a full moon-turning ago... barely two dozen remain.

-

The full moon hangs at its apex in the star-jeweled sky, its cold light bathes the steppes and endless expanse of oceanic grasses moving wave-like in the ever present winds. Dark storm clouds huddle low upon the edge of the horizon, moon-light edging them in silver-white and lightning tracking jagged paths under their bulks; so distant that their voices of thunder never reach your ears above the crackle of the fire-circles. It has been a long and trying day for all of you, though you are sure that tomorrow will be even more so.

Tanai, Drogo, Yesugei, Ganzorig, Khasar, and Subutai sit around a fire near the edge of the encampment eating thick, highly spiced grass-hare stew from shallow glazed pottery bowls with torn strips of unleavened bread as spoons. A short distance away you can see the fire-circle of the Stormseers upon a natural rise in the land. Two of the four that have been present over the entirety of the Trails sit silhouetted against the glow of the flames. Their deep voices are like the distant thunder on the wind's back as a third figure strides from the darkness of the over-sized yurt nearby. You recognize this warrior as the one that is new to the group of Riders, only just arriving before the last colours of sunset bled from the sky. The arrival of this new Rider has peeked your curiosity despite being thoroughly exhausted from a long day that involved stalking and killing a wary mature prong-buck as a hunting party including the young warriors of the nearby fire-circle and with chimes bound to your ankles and wrists using strips of leather cording at the demands of the Stormseer called Ris'hi.

This new Rider is slighter than his warrior-kin and doesn't seem to carry the trappings of the Stormseers though his arrival was greeted with the easy comfort of camaraderie, but it is How he arrived that really has the fire-circles abuzz with whispered words. His mount sits silent now in the lee of the yurt, the white plates on its flanks gleaming softly in the light of the full moon.

[What could the arrival of this new Rider mean and just what was that... mount he arrived on? (note- none of you know what a Bike really is or have seen one this close before other than Ganzorig ) And speaking of Ganzorig- it was his lucky bow shot that finally brought down the prong-buck after it was spooked into flight before the hunting party was ready by Cheng's ankle bells when the young warrior mistakenly stepped into a hidden grass-hare's den.]

Bidziil, Chang-Jian, Dalar, Cheng, Daaruk, and Dulai sit nearby around their own fire-circle having already finished eating when a small pebble comes sailing through the air and into the fire sending sparks flying. Following the path of the pebble you meet the hard glares of the youths sitting at the fire closer towards the center of the encampment. It seemed that the mature prong-buck you managed to take was being hunted by more than one group of warriors and the other group is less than happy at having to settle for a much smaller juvenile prong-buck. The leader of the other group is a fierce youth with murderous eyes and a top-knot of glossy black hair bound in a blood-dyed bone clasp. He bears a jagged scar that starts at his hairline and cuts down his left cheek through his eyebrow.

[The young warrior's name is Amar and rumour has it that he strangled another youth with his bare hands in the first round of the Trials when the offending boy's mount spooked at a busting covey of steppe-quail and danced into the path of Raj'nish- Amar's vile tempered blue-roan stallion. Do you ignore the implied threat and focus on the newly arrived Rider or meet it with one of your own?]

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  #2 Old 11-23-11, 06:39 AM Scars of Khan- Unbroken
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He had been looking at the others around the fire in front of him. He knew their names for the most part but nothing about them other than the fact that they had all made it this far through the trials. Some were better at hunting than others, he could already tell. Each one was from a different tribe, naturally. Regardless, they all seemed to have something going for them.

Bidziil had little understanding for unmitigated threats. What reason was there to be mad over nothing? His eyes squinted when the small stone whizzed past his face, his nose crinkeled and his full haired head cocked back slightly, looking over to the other circle whose group was led by the one named Amar.

Seeing Amar's glaring face is what confused him, for he had done nothing to the other boy. He must ahve come from one of those foolish Steppe tribes his elders had talked about, fighting and dieing all the time instead of living to prosper, just plain stupid. Amar was marked with a tough looking scar and a discomforting rumour, but it was of Bidziil's strong opinion that personal, individual strength could only get someone so far. It was tactics that won a fight.

He turned his head around at a sudden proding thought. Now facing the trophy of the hunt, the remains of a large prong buck, he realized what the mitigation had been. he gave a curt laugh to himself, "Hmph, babies."

At that very instant, Bidziil turned back to the fire with his face halfway in his bowl that smelled and carried the taste of clay despite the stew's presence. He gulped down the last bit of the hot liquid just as he heard the rumbling thunder of something new. He wiped the drops of stew from the corners of his mouth woth a bare hand, turning and standing in the direction of the Stormseer he had never seen before, and the large strange growling steed that he rode upon.
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  #3 Old 11-23-11, 03:30 PM Scars of Khan- Unbroken
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The stew was thick and warm, filling and refreshing after the hard day, Tanai wolfed it down with little ceremony, dipping the thick strips of bread into the bowl and scooping out great gobbets of spiced liquid. But he wasn't concentrating on his food, not when there were such wonders to marvel at. The great stormseers who provided over the trials were seated at their own fire, a deep rumble, almost like that of a distant storm, rippled out from where they talked, their figures casting great shadows behind them as their own fire crackled sullenly.

They were joined by a third Rider, somewhat smaller than his companions but still head and shoulders above any mortal man. His clothing, that strange hard material that moved with him like a second skin, was pure white, the edges of his bulky shoulders red while other edges shared that same colour. His left shoulder bore a strange symbol, a bolt of lightning spearing a yellow bar, it wasn't simply painted on, but stood proud of the rest of the surface, blazing a fierce pride out to the harsh uncaring skies of Chogoris. Unlike the other two stormseers, this one did not bear the symbols that the others did, there were no strange amulets around his neck, nor the other strange trappings that almost seemed to characterise the others, perhaps the most notable of this was the aura of barely restrained power that hovered around the others. This one radiated a sense of instant death, like them, but something about him seemed more... more... natural than the others, he did not bring unease like the presence of the others did.

But the mere fact of his arrival was as nothing to the manner of it. His mount still rested in the lee of his shelter and Tanai felt his eyes being drawn inexorably back to the mighty beast. He, along with all the others had gaped as the warrior had rode into camp, his mount roaring like some caged animal. It was like no sound he had heard before, something between the mighty rumble of mighty storms, and the roar of the ferocious and deadly grass cats. It's skin was the same white and red as the giants, with a single great eye, one that burned brighter than the largest bonfire, closed now as the beast slept. It's lines were at once, harsh and angular, and beautiful at the same time, murmuring of a strength beneath that armoured form that Tanai could only dream of...
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  #4 Old 11-23-11, 11:15 PM Scars of Khan- Unbroken
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Chang-Jian looked at the others sharing the fire with him. These young men had earned his respect time and time again during the course of the trials. Still, he knew not all of them could be completely trusted, such at Amar (Assuming rumors are to be believed).

Chang-Jian kept one eye closed throughout all of dinner so his night vision wouldn't be completely ruined. He also kept his ears pricked, just in case Amar was going to try and sneak and try something less harmless than throwing a stone into a fire. Although as time passed and Chang-Jian heard nothing he found himself staring at the new rider among the stormseers.

The new rider appeared to be extremely bulky with bone white skin. Armour, Chang'Jian guessed, for he assumed that no man could naturally have skin that pale and edges that sharp. Due to his bulk Chang-Jian's first assumption was that the man would be clumsy. This notion, however, was quickly dispelled after seeing the man astride his mount and knowing that he wouldn't have passed these trials if he truly were that bulky.

The rider's mount was also white as the pale moon with sharp edges. It appeared to have one large eye in the center of it's head and dulled horns going straight sideways. The beast also appeared not to have any legs, in their place it had black things in the shape of the full moon.

"Strange", Chang-Jian said softly to himself, thinking that he much prefers his natural stead to this....horse.... no, horse is the wrong word.... Moonstrider, that's what I'll call it. The name made perfect sense, the beast ran on legs in the shape of the full moon, had armour the very colour of the moon and gave off white light from a great eye in the shape of the moon.
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  #5 Old 11-24-11, 01:59 AM Scars of Khan- Unbroken
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He was at one with the darkness, at one with the whispering of the grass, at one with the clouds that hung low and menacing above them, their swollen bulk a mass of shrouded mist, illuminated by jagged flickers of white lightening.

His eyes were closed drinking in the very air over the slurp of stew, the steady rhythmic creaks and groans of jaws as they sunk teeth into juicy meat. Meat earned and won, meat fought for in the steady battle to remain amongst the chosen.

Their numbers dwindled, a great crowd that had swelled around the stormseers on the first day now dwindling to but a few handfuls, two dozen mounts stood, tethered around them, tossing fine heads, manes swirling through the air even as they returned to their grazing.

Kelun let out the lowest of contented snorts, the noise enough to give him an idea of her presence, the slightest turn of his head bringing the mare into view, her head proud and upright, coat gleaming a luminescent white in the moonlight, her poise dominant even amongst the mass of stallions.

His gaze softened from thoughtful poise to gentle affection even as he turned back to his own bowl, a deep gulp bringing a chunk of meat upon his sharp incisors and he sunk his teeth into it with a grateful snap.

They had been lucky to have meat at all tonight, a careless step and a bow shot either of great skill or tremendous fortune sending the beast to its knees. His eyes fell upon the bowmen head tilting as he considered the boy before him, perhaps a summer older than, a single ring glittering below blunted squashed features

What are you boy, a natural with the bow or one who rode upon the winds of chance as the sun eagle rides the winds of the plains.

His eyes became light and warm once more his head rising to stare around the fire with the smallest of secret smiles, as he relished in the camaraderie even in silence. There was a kinship their, even above the chasms created by competition and ambition, that they had lasted so long held them together.

So similar...his eyes moved across the fires to the rise upon which a pair of stormseers lingered....yet so different to the bond they held. Theres a deep bond, the result of years held them together, their voices rumbling and deep, their figures a shifting maze of talismans and trinkets, seeming to fall silently against their towering forms, forms that whirred and groaned with noises that set his teeth on edge then seemed to move silently as a ghost.

They must think him slow, for his mind boggled when he looked upon them, struck silent by the sheer size of some of those fangs, too big for the jaws of any creature he had ever set eyes upon. Then his eyes fell upon the casing beneath his intelligence cast upon the winds as he studied the movements that seemed too graceful to be possible in such a bulky casing.

One of them shifted, flecks of gold sparkling in the firelight, the shimmering metal streaks the feathers of the sun eagle, the sight of which had set his lungs aflame, his breath catching in his throat. To bear the feather of such a creature was an honor, but to bear many was a prize beyond comprehension. Aye the stormseer bore the honour of the sun eagle in flight, its likeness cast in thin white scars around eyes that held and bound, froze his ligaments like a hare spooked by the eagles shrieking call. A crying call that seemed to echo deep within the deep rumbling of thunder in the stormseers voice.

It seemed it was this one that watched over them in particular, often the cloaked figure appearing as if he had fallen from the skys to cast veiled words upon them all and Dulai fixed him with a questioning glare.

Do you see potential in me eagle, or do i linger upon the precipice?

The dark eyes flecked with gold turned and Dulai's eyes followed his gaze to seize eagerly upon another figure more recent to the group, his trinkets more sparse, his gaze just as judging as the stormseers yet more poignant, distorted by something he could not quite comprehend, its familiarity shrouded by the rolling mists of another emotion.

His eyes twitched to the roaring beast that had sparked so much talk amongst the aspirants as the warrior had careened towards them, astride the metal beast legs clamped around it like a horse.... yet.... yet it roared, belching a thick acrid mist even as it tore across the dunes, eating up the earth like a starved sabrecat.

His eyes lingered hungrily upon the beast, the sheer speed it promised making his tongue flitter across his teet, his gaze suddenly tinged with shock as sparks flew, a pebble skidding across the fire and into the darkness. H twisted slowly tracing the motion back to its source to find a group of surly disturbed youths glaring in their direction, one amongst them, held his head higher than the others, his scarred features the source of rumour and intrigue, one look into those blood thirsty eyes affirming his suspicions.

A murderer, not a warrior.

He met the murderous gaze and held it, held it a second too long then lingered a little longer, his lips pursed, eyes cold considering the other boy. The slightest toss of his head and roll of his eyes dismissed the murderer even as he turned back to the fire, hearing a growling laugh from a light skinned wiry boy about his own age a grunt of dismissal slipping from between gaped teeth.

His gaze fell upon the fire, though the murderous eyes still seemed to flicker before him glinting in its rippling orange depths, his heart beginning to pound even as his legs shifted, slowly uncoiling like languorous serpents.

He could feels others shifting around him, limbs stiffening like beasts with the scent of intruders upon their nostrils and Dulai let his eyes close for a second, the deep brown orbs flashing open even as his own body tensed

I am at one with my body....
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  #6 Old 11-28-11, 10:24 AM Scars of Khan- Unbroken
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Cheng`s usual outspoken nature had received a dose of humility earlier in the day, a stupid mistake almost costing the group their prize. Though it was Ganzorig whose shot had brought the beast down, Cheng did make light of the fact that it was in fact he who had scared the beast into the path of the arrow.

Now the trial had come to a close and the party had come to rest and eat around a campfire. It was a simple enough gathering, theirs and other parties of aspirants had all participated in the trials and even now the other groups sat around their own fires and talked among themselves. All in all, it was a fairly enjoyable gathering.


Until one fool from one of the other groups tried to break the peace. The pebble whizzed past them into the fire, disturbing the flames and causing Cheng`s eyes to burn with the sudden output of heat.

Cheng recognized the boy from his reputation. it was Amar, supposedly a particularly violent individual who had killed one of his fellow aspirants for ruining a previous hunt. Cheng could not deny that a part of him wanted to take the bait, to step up and make a fool of the arrogant bastard to put him in his place. But even Cheng held his tongue, humility was one thing but being humbled in front of everyone was another. Fortunately a suitable distraction presented itself in the form of a new arrival only moments later.

The stormseer was impressive as he right well should be, but equally astonishing was the massive steed on which he arrived. It was a beast like no other he had seen, though he had heard the legends of these thundering metal steeds the chosen one made use of. Cheng found himelf wearing a massive grin at the thought of one day riding into battle atop one of those marvelous things, and wondered to himself how difficult they were to tame?

'That is one hell of a steed.' Cheng said softly to the other youths, his grin not subsiding. He ignored the gloomier faces of some and instead turned back to face the newcomer, wondering what his arrival meant...
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  #7 Old 11-28-11, 11:00 AM Scars of Khan- Unbroken
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Bringing the stew soaked bread slowly to his lips, Khasar pensively ate. Sitting here in front of a fire, eating, and with nothing but the blanket of stars above him and warriors beside him, the youth was reminded of home and family. If he were home his sister would no doubt by combing her hair by the fair, softly singing an old song. Her’s was a voice that could make a man weep he fondly remembered, a slight smile splitting the aspirant’s lips.

His grandfather would be dozing quietly, his snores blowing his whiskers about. The fire had long since burned from his wizened limbs. Sure as the sun rose each day though, the old man would wake as soon as his twitching nose picked up whatever was cooking over the fire and he would rouse, loudly grumbling that in his day a warrior did not need to spice or salt his food but ate the meat raw and drank the blood from his horse. That of course had never stopped him gustily eating whatever was placed in front of him.

Leaning back into the grass, his arms crossed behind his head, Khasar closed his eyes as he thought further of home. A home, he sourly realised, that he would never see again. He had heard of no man simply walking away from the Rider’s trials, nor would his pride let him. He may not have intended this path but he would see it through or die. If the legends spoke true here was his chance to ride among the stars, as a warrior without peer. The night sky would be his pastures and the Rider’s his tribes brothers. Khasar could scarcely believe the thought.

His mind occupied with such thoughts he glanced towards the darkened yurt some distance away from their fire. That was where the [thing was kept; he strange mount of the new Rider. It was unlike any horse Khasar had ever seen. It did not neigh but whined and growled with throaty rumbles that set the youth’s bone’s vibrating. Its flanks gleamed white with glints of metal. It did not seem alive at all, unlikely as the thought of some artificial horse was. It must be sorcery he decided, who knew what powers the Rider’s had at their beck and call.

Casting his curiosity aside Khasar’s thought returned to his sister and he began to softly hum the tune to the songs which even now he knew she was singing, somewhere out there across the plains.
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  #8 Old 11-28-11, 04:17 PM Scars of Khan- Unbroken
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A sigh rippled through Yesugei's heavy frame as he felt the soreness and stiffness in his muscles begin to fade. For months he and his fellows had been tried by the Stormssers, each task more brutal than the one before it. He had watched as aspirants had fallen to exhaustion, the predators of the plains, and it was even rumored, much to his disgust, to other aspirants. Of the hundreds that had made their way into the hands of the Stormseers to participate int he trials, just over a score of the youths remained, Yesugei the only one of the handful of boys from his tribe. He felt alone amongst the group of young men that he now sat with, their ways and appearances strange and unfamiliar to him. Though he had formed bonds with some of them over the course of the trials past, they were not his friends from home. He felt that his home and his family was now something out of reach, something long since gone with no physical connection to that life remaining. He now longed to complete the trials, longed to find a new place to belong. Looking around at the faces of the young men that shared the fire in front of him Yesugei wondered if any of the others felt the same.

Tearing off a chunk of unleavened bread and scooping out a large helping of stew upon it, Yesugei smiled as he thought of the meal. The heavily spiced grass-hare stew was delicious, full of flavor, but there seemed to never be enough food for the growing young men of the party. They worked themselves to exhaustion each and every day, untop of the fact that they were teenage boys, hunger always seemed to be knawing at his belly. It was an effort not to just indulge himself by wolfing down his helping. He ate slowly, methodically, savoring each bite, as he thought back on the challenge of the day.

He had been shocked when Master Ris'hi, had tossed each of them leather strips for their wrists and ankles, each with chimes and bells sewn into the heavy leather. He had then told them that they were to hunt and kill one of the wary prong-bucks that frequented the grass lands. For hours the young men stalked silently through the plains finally coming upon a prize worthy of their attention when a loud jingle and a quiet curse spooked the beast into flight, Ganzorig was able to get off a lucky shot that ultimately felled the creature. Yesugei had congratulated the young man for making the kill, and though he had been irritated at Cheng for spooking the beast by falling into the hidden grass-hare den, he realized that it was a mistake any of them could have made, and his accidental discovery of the lair had led to the delicious stew that they were now enjoying. But his thoughts strayed from the events of the day as his eyes found the fire of the Stormseers.

Sitting on a natural rise in the land, the mighty warriors were silhoutted against the night sky by the glowing flames of their own fire. The spoke quietly amongst themselves, their deep voices rolling over the plains like a heavy thunder. It was the new arrival that had caught Yesugei's attention. The new comer stood a bit smaller in stature than the Stormseers and he did not bear all the trappings and totems that they did, though they greeted him as a friend and comrade Yesugei could tell that there was a subtle difference that held them a part. It was the new warriors mount that fascinated him, and he could tell, had done the same to his companions.

Yesugei had gone for his weapons when the thing first approached their camp, its echoing roar akin to the crashing waterfalls he had found on his trips into the mountains. Its single great glowing eye providing illumination for its rider as it streaked across the plains toward them in a cloud of dust and acrid smelling smoke. For some reason Yesugei wanted to tame such a beast, take one and have it as his very own. The smooth contours for its hard white metal hide and odd means of locomotion calling to some primal part of him that recognized the beasts power. He wondered what the creature was and where the rider had found it. He also wondered what the new arrivals presence might mean for him and his companions.
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  #9 Old 11-28-11, 05:31 PM Scars of Khan- Unbroken
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He was sitting, quietly, a cloak of grass-cat fur pulled tightly around his broad, sloping shoulders. Warmth radiated along his back, accompanied by the gentle crackling of flames, breaking the solemn silence of the plains.

His eyes were narrowed, glittering orbs of violet, staring intently at the twinkling stars. The moon hung heavily in the skies, casting her light across the flat steppe, illuminating the oceanic expanse of grass. On the horizon, distant, a mass of storm-clouds crept closer, pregnant with rain. They were chased in silver-white, scintillating a wonderful shade of blue with each flicker of lightning, groping the grassland with electrified appendages.

‘Do not look at the fire,’ His father had said, one night, shaking his bearded head, his hair wet with blood-wine. ‘It diminishes your night-sight, numbs your senses. Only a fool openly stares into the light.’

And so, Subutai obeyed, facing away from the others. He had unlaced his topknot, the raven-dark hair flowing freely down his back, stirring in the wind. In his hands, glinting ferociously, was his bone-and-iron dagger. He pricked each of his calloused fingertips, twirling the blade adroitly, until a blossom of claret grew around it.

Subutai’s eyes slowly drifted along the landscape, ascending a natural rise, to where a pair of Riders sat. Both were immense, in their alabaster-white and blood-red armour, contrasting heavily against coppered skin and dark, wild hair.

A third had arrived, today, atop a mount that caused Subutai’s heart to race. Smooth and elongated, armoured and menacing, asleep. A hell-beast, summoned from the darkest depths of Chogorisian culture; fit for the handling of Gods. The sound which it made, a susurrus of violent growls and whines, had caused Jelme to whicker and stamp nervously, until Subutai rested a calming hand on the ill-tempered stallion’s head, whispering a gentle word into his ear.

The trials were punishing, dwindling away the number of aspirants, until barely two dozen remained. Subutai was determined to outlast each and everyone, rise above the challenge, distinguish himself. These others, most were worthless; sure to die. Some had the mindsets of survivors, most he mistrusted greatly, keeping a weapon close-at-hand, lest they try something foolish.

If they did, - He would gut them like a pig.
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  #10 Old 11-30-11, 03:08 AM Scars of Khan- Unbroken
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The stew was hot and heavy in his mouth, the spices doing their best to hide their being less meat within than should have been. It could have very easily have been no meat in the stew at all thanks to that youth Cheng, blundering into a grass-hare’s den and spooking the buck just before he had taken the kill shot. Whether by instinct or luck, Ganzorig neither knew nor cared which it was, he had been able to check his shot and adjust in time for Cheng’s blunder. “Better than nothing, still not much; and he doesn’t even suffer for it.” Ganzorig murmured to himself, letting his eyes wander over to the other fire. Cheng should not be eating the food he had very nearly cost them all, but somehow his protest was in the minority.

Another of the Riders made his way to the Riders who called themselves Stormseers. His mount, if it could be called that, made a mighty roar as it had come from across the plains to stand stone still while its rider dismounted. It was like the mount from the Rider he had seen those weeks ago before coming here, but he had not heard the noise that one had made, and this one seemed slighter, smaller maybe. Returning his thoughts to the others around him, Ganzorig became aware that he had begun to scratch at the scar again. The thing did not hurt, not anymore at least, but whenever he found his eyes wandering to the Riders he began to scratch almost out of habit. Remember the creature that had caused the wound, that filled his chest with pride to know that he had killed it, the same had happened earlier with the buck though that was not nearly as impressive.

That’s when Ganzorig noticed to where the others had cast their own eyes, all except for that one Subutai. No you could see the killer in his eyes, and not even the mount of the third, slighter Rider was enough to draw away his attention for long. “A score left of a great ride.” He said, throwing a twig into the flames and breaking the silence around the fire. “Who will be taken next? Which won’t see the next falling of the moon?” He asked, feeling that of everyone around him, the murderer Subutai would not be dead, nor likely the big one Yesugei. Tanai was a different matter though, he seemed more taken in by the third Rider and his mount than any other around the fire.
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Seriously, is it really that hard to write reviews without spoilers?

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