The Gifted

What happens when an ordinary girl is cast into a world of magic and dangerous people all because of one fateful night? Ellie knows nothing of the world of The Gifted, that is, until she becomes one by pure chance. To no fault of her own, she's thrown into a world that mere moments ago she would have considered impossible to even exist, and is forced to try and find her legs in this new world, will the help of a couple of people - friends might be stretching it, though. As if this wasn't enough, there seems like there are darker things going on outside of the normal Gifted life, and it looks like Ellie might just get caught up in it...


Note: Wrote this two years ago, but I just joined here and I'm like, eh, I need to post something, right? I feel like its corny and could do with a lot of improvement, but I just want to get something out here, I suppose. Enjoy! If this gets enough love, I might just finish it :0 Have a wonderful day! <3

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6. A Horse Ride A Day Keeps The Hate At Bay

~~For the rest of the lunch break, James, Duke and I worked on the booklet Professor Hart has given us, with the occasional bit of help from Scott, and discussed what the next lesson would be like – it was Basic Gifted Knowledge with someone called Professor Yates. According to Scott, this lesson would be very important, considering it would contain lots of the information on the exams we’d be graded on, so we all agreed that we’d be on our best behaviour and do our absolute best within the lesson.
Scott, deciding that getting to the class early would probably be helpful, led us there earlier than usual. We arrived five minutes before the bell was due to ring, and we waved goodbye to Scott as he began to head to his own class. From down the hall, the soft click, click, click of high-heals on the hard floor could be heard, and James went wide-eyed as he recognised the person who rounded the corner.
“Oh gosh, that’s the woman who made that cake thing…” James grumbled, avoiding eye contact with her. Duke and I, being in the middle of the hallway, stood aside to let her pass, though when she got to us she didn’t keep going, and instead stopped.
“Would you be so kind as to move away so I can enter my next class?” She asked, and James’ expression turned to one of horror as we let her into the classroom that was about to be our own.
“Sorry,” I said awkwardly, ducking my head in the form of an apology. She looked at me, and then Duke and James in turn as well.
“You three again…” she sighed, shaking her head. “I hope you don’t plan on disrupting my lesson with an incident like that of what happened yesterday.”
“N-No, we don’t. Sorry for that. We’ll be on our best behaviour,” I told her sheepishly, unable to meet her eyes. Seeing some of the bags she was carrying, I offered her a shaky smile. “Do you, umm, want help with those?” I asked, gesturing to the bags. She looked at me for a second, eyes searching for something, then nodded stiffly.
“Yes, that would be appreciated,” she said, handing me one as she unlocked the door to the class. Together, Professor Yates, James, Duke and I all headed into the classroom, where we prepared ourselves for the lesson. “I simply hope you do not make this lesson look as bad as that of The Cooking Branch like you did before - Ellie wasn’t it?” she told me as to explain why she was so reluctant to trust me, her expression quite grim and irritated.
“I’m not against The Cooking Branch in any way, Professor Yates. I just… it’s not my choice, is all,” I told her, laying out my books and stationary before me on my desk.
“Right, because I suppose you think it’s too easy and too feminine for a fighter like yourself?” she accused me sarcastically, and I could’ve sworn she rolled her eyes.
“If people want to cook that’s their choice, but after being forced to through the majority of my younger years, I just want to try something new. Something that’s different. I don’t think that its weak or anything like that at all, Professor, it’s just that it’s not for me, is all.” I shot back, though not impolitely.
“If you say so, Ellie,” she sighed, unconvinced.
The bell rang just at that moment, and it was only a few moments before students started streaming in through the doors. To my horror, Drew Lone was again in the same class as us, and even though James had promised to act accordingly this lesson, the two could be seen staring each other down from a mile away. Drew’s bruises, unlike James’, must not have been healed at all – they looked swollen and painful, and when the Professor saw them, she didn’t look too pleased at all. When everyone had finally settled in, the lesson began.
“Alright, class. For those of you who don’t know me, you can call me Professor Yates. Today, as it’s only the first lesson, we’ll be doing a very simple activity while I learn your names,” she said, and it was as if though she was also hiding other reasons as well – although what they could’ve been or why I felt this way, I had no idea. Quickly, she went about the class and handed out some worksheets, then stood at the front of the class again to explain what was going to happen. “Before you are sheets of paper showing different Gifts – I want you to match these Gifts with whatever Elmeal you think they belongs to,” she told us, and with a wave of her hand, the class began to work. “You may discuss this within you groups of three,” she said, looking at each team of Juniors at the lines of desks of three in a row, “but I’d appreciate it if you kept the noise to a minimum.”
“Right, so, the Flame Gift would clearly be in Fire Elmeal, right?” James asked from Duke’s left, who was on my left.
“I’d say that’d make sense,” Duke said, writing down Fire next to the Flame Gift.
“And so the Ocean Gift would probably be in the Water Elmeal, too?” James asked once again, although didn’t wait for an answer before he wrote Water down next to it. I, for one, was finding myself a little confused.
“But aren’t they sorted based on Attack, Defence, Sustain and Other?” I asked, hesitant to write down the answers.
“She’s right. Water’s a Sustain, and I don’t see how the Ocean Gift could be a Sustain,” Duke said, passing James his eraser, who didn’t exactly seem confident with the change of answer.
“So, what – we put the Ocean Gift in the Fire Elmeal?” he exclaimed, incredulous, “but doesn’t that contradict itself?”
“I think that’s just the way things are, James, even if they’re opposites. It’s just based on what they can do, I suppose,” Duke said, writing Fire down next to the Ocean Gift.
“How would an Ocean Gift be an attack?” I asked softly, stumped beyond measure.
“See? At least someone hasn’t lost their marbles,” James grinned, then decided to write Wind down next to the Ocean Gift once he had erased Water, and the three of us found that we agreed with this, writing it down before we finally moved on to the next one.
“This one’s easy – Dad has the Boulder Gift, and he’s an Earth Elmeal. See, that one makes sense,” James said, writing it down as an Earth Elmeal.
“But couldn’t you use the Boulder Gift to attack, too?” I asked, my brow creasing in confusion.
“All the Boulder Gift does is to create a huge boulder thingy to block off any attacks,” James said, and Duke nodded.
“I’ve seen it. You can’t really use that as an Attack, to be honest,” Duke said, copying his brother’s answer.
“It would be nice if they had a description of what they did…” I muttered under my breath, before continuing on to the next one.
“Nature Gift,” Duke said, reading aloud the next one. “That could be a defence if you were like to tangle someone up in vines,” he suggested, though he looked unsure.
“Yeah, but you could also shoot vines at somebody too, couldn’t you?” James asked, looking confused himself.
“Well which one does it do?” I asked, becoming impatient. Both boys looked at me, blank-eyed.
“I don’t know, Ellie,” Duke finally admitted. James shrugged at me as well. I sighed, feeling a headache forming in my temple.
“It really could have several uses. Like do you guys even know it’d be vines?” I asked them, and with a shake of their heads, I forged on, “Nature is a very broad term. If could mean pulling apples out your ears and being able to eat them if you’re hungry. It could be a Sustain,” I sighed, scribbling randomly on the paper out of boredom and confusion.
“You have a point,” Duke sighed, and he began looking around the classroom to see if people we as confused as our team. To our horror, everyone else seemed just fine with the work sheet.
“…Maybe we should just put it under other…” James proposed, and wrote Wind next to the Nature Gift. Unsurely, both Duke and I followed suit, and moved onto the next one that, after a while, we decided it was also Wind, followed by the next, and the next and… Well, we decided all of them were wind, and were no longer even sure of our first three answers. When Professor Yates said that our time was up, the three of us were left baffled and utterly confused. Drew Lone, having been watching James intently the entire lesson, seemed to smirk at our puzzled expressions. The most worrisome part was that Professor Yates had said this was supposed to be easy.
“Alright, I believe we’re all done?” Professor Yates asked, and when the class nodded (all except for my group), she began to ask around the class for answers. “Alright, let’s start off with the Invisibility Gift. What Elmeal do you think this one belongs to?” she asked, and immediately hands shot up all around the classroom, and Professor Yates looked at the three of us, James, Duke and myself, the only people who did not want to share their answers. “Ellie, would you mind telling me what your answer was?” she asked.
“I, uh…” I trailed off, unsurely, feeling embarrassed. “We thought it was a Wind Elmeal…” I finally said, and some students around the class nodded.
Others, however, looked completely baffled – Drew Lone was one of them, and he burst out laughing.
“Oh come on, it’s clearly a Fire Elmeal,” he said, to which some more students nodded, and others now looked baffled.
“I thought it was an Earth Elmeal,” said one girl unsurely, looking down at her answers like she was reconsidering, and yet again another portion of the class nodded, while others looked at her like she was crazy. Drew Lone, however, rolled his eyes.
“It’s a Fire Elmeal,” he repeated, shaking his head as if were amazed by how dumb we all were.
“And why would you think that, Drew?” Professor Yates asked, her attention once more on him.
“My Mum has it. She uses it to sneak up behind people and attack them – they don’t even know she’s there,” he said proudly, chest puffed out. People around the class with different answers, finding the reasoning sound, sighed in despair and corrected their sheets.
“But that’s not fair – we didn’t know what it meant by invisibility! I thought it meant for the use of hiding, so people couldn’t see you if you didn’t want to be attacked,” said the girl from earlier indignantly, shaking her head, completely lost now.
“Should do you research, Jess,” Drew said to the blonde, who glared daggers back at him.
“Alright, alright. Settle down. Drew, if you’re so confident, what would the Prediction Gift be of?” Professor Yates asked, looking a little miffed.
“We think it’s a Wind Elmeal,” Drew said happily.
“But it could be an Attack, too, like if you could predict a situation that would help you win a battle!” shouted a boy from the corner of the class.
“And a Defence, like if you could predict your foe’s actions!” shouted Jess.
“How?” asked Drew, looking furiously at the two of them.
“It’s like some of the Gifts have more than one possible Elmeal,” I muttered in annoyance, rubbing my forehead. Professor Yates, however, smiled at me when I said this, though.
“Say that again, Ellie?” she asked, her eyes sparkling strangely.
“Huh?,” I asked, dazed, then realised, “Oh. I said that it’s like the Gifts can have more than one different Elmeal,” I repeated, shrinking back when Professor Yates did not comment or even move for a good while after hearing my words. Drew, seeing how uncomfortable I was, started to laugh.

“Different Elmeals?” he exclaimed, guffawing, and was about to say something else, probably nothing too pleasant either, when Professor Yates interrupted him.
“I don’t see why you’re laughing, Drew. Ellie is perfectly correct,” she said, now smiling at me. “I believe that she has earnt herself 10 points for her team, and you have lost 10 for your own, Drew, for discouraging class discussion,” she said, shooting him a glare. At this, I heard James smother a laugh, and, not wanting him to annoy Drew all over again, shot him the darkest, most stern look I could muster. It was so intense that he visibly recoiled, and looked away like a scolded child, the chances of him laughing at Drew demolished. “Thank you for that, Ellie. Now, let me explain,” Yates began, and took out a whiteboard marker as she started to draw on the board.
“For thousands of years, The Gifted has sorted their Gifts into four categories – the Elmeals. ‘Why would The Gifted use this method?’ you ask?” she said, turning to face us to emphasise her words, “Because although people may have the same Gift, they can often be used differently, and are often quite different from each other in that sense. They’re sorted into the four different Elmeals based on Attack, Defence, Sustain and Other-” she continued, drawing up the four Elmeals and what they represented on the board in different colours, “so that should a team of Gifted be assembled, people may easily find others with the skills they require. For example,” she said, writing down The Jewelled upon the board, “The well-known, current top group of students in this Academy, The Jewelled, consists of six different members – two Fire Elmeals, two Earth Elmeals, one Water Elmeal and one Wind Elmeal,” she explained, writing up what must’ve been the team members’ names and their Elmeal and Gift.
“In every team, it is largely sought after to have the Elmeals of this number, though it is not compulsory. This simply evens all the roles out and seems to work most effectively,” she told us. “Though, the very strongest Renowned teams, however, may look a little different,” she said, writing up Whirlpool, which must’ve been the name of another team, before continuing once more, “Now, I’m sure you must have all heard of this team at least once before-” everyone nodded except myself, so I nodded as well even though I hadn’t heard of them, “as they’re one of the most powerful teams of today. Their powers are all water-related, and there are six different people, and they still manage to fit the desired Elmeal quota, having two Fire Elmeals, two Earth Elmeals, one Water Elmeals, and-” she paused on the last name, Paul Troune, and hesitated, “and two Wind Elmeals,” she said, writing down both Wind and Fire beneath Paul’s name, bringing the Elmeal number up to seven.
“But there are only six members…” Jess said, and when she looked at Paul’s name once again and read the Elmeals underneath, she shook her head, baffled, “Are you saying one person can have two Elmeals?”
“Yes, that is exactly what I am saying, Jess, thank you,” Professor Yates said, smiling at her. “It is very, very rare. There are less than one million people recorded with ever having more than one Elmeal,” she told us, and around the class you could see everyone was interested now. “They are more powerful than the normal Gifted, and, when on the right side, are irreplaceable,” she finished, nodding at the class and asking for silence only a moment later, considering everyone was now discussing this new information in hushed whispers.
“Amazingly,” Professor Yates said, capturing everyone’s attention once again, “there is even someone at this very Academy that has two Elmeals,” she said, and when the class broke out into chatter again, there was no stopping it this time, although Professor Yates had already known this – she’d timed it perfectly with the bell, which sounded just as she concluded her lesson. “Your homework-” she said to the packing up class, some of them groaning, “Is to think about a possible Gift where two Elmeals is possible, and explain how it is,” she said, smiling, and finally dismissed the class.
I waited until everyone had left, asking both James and Duke if they’d take notes for me in the next class as I decided that I’d skip it – it was learning about The Renowned, and I didn’t really need to know about that – and tapped Professor Yates on the shoulder just before I, myself, left.
“Professor Yates?” I asked curiously, and as she turned to face me, I asked what had been on my mind. “Everyone seems so afraid of Jason Shead, and-” I began, only to be interrupted before I had already started with a soft sigh. A little put-off, I tried to continue on a bit of a different approach, “I, uh, was wondering what his Gift was – Scott seemed to hint that he was very powerful, and I just thought it’d be cool if I could… know…”
“Ellie,” she said, biting her lip, “You will have to find that out by yourself.”


I don’t know why, but I immediately suspected that Jason was the one with two Elmeals. It was just a gut feeling I had, and I couldn’t seem to shake it. The thought was running amuck in my head, and I could hardly think about anything else. I desperately wanted to be able to confirm or discard the notion, though I couldn’t. Deciding to try and find something relaxing to do to take my mind off it, I took out my map and looked for somewhere that I could process everything.
My eyes set upon the stables, and I decided that I would head there. I exited the 15/21s education block, and heading down out past the oval, head whirling, I tried to calm myself with the thoughts of horses. Ever since I was a little girl, I had adored them. Growing up in a family that could not afford to keep on of their own, however, I had to be satisfied with spaced-out riding lessons. I had started riding when I was ten, going for three lessons each school holidays and coming back rusty the next session. Due to this, I was put off because I knew that one lesson each time was basically just revision, and because we were low on money I decided I’d stop riding. Instead, I had set my sights on owning my own horse in the future when I was older, and had worked hard at school ever since so that I could get good grades and hopefully a good paying job at the end of it all to be able to afford my own horse.
With all that was going on lately, however, I wasn’t sure that I’d ever be able to complete that dream of mine. I was, however, extremely grateful that the Academy had horses of their own, and even if all I could do was look at them, I found that I know I’d still be happy. The stable was huge and luxurious, the stalls spacious and well-lit, filled with healthy looking horses of all breeds and colours. Smiling at the sight, I walked down the aisle, looking at each one in turn and identifying it’s breed to see if I still remembered them – there was a Haflinger, a Knabstrupper, a Peruvian Paso, a Friesian – my gosh, there seemed to be every breed possible, and I found myself laughing softly, giddy with excitement at the sight of them all.
 “Can I help you, Miss?” asked a female voice, and, startled, I jumped a little on the spot and spun around to face the person who had spoken. It was a teenaged black-haired girl, dressed in beige jodhpurs and a simple green T-shirt.
“Umm, no, I don’t think so,” I replied, my heart still racing – I had not seen the girl’s approach. “I’m just looking at all the horses,” I told her, and found that I was grinning as I said it.
“Have an interest in ‘em, do ya?” she asked, and motioned for me to follow her. “I was just ‘bout to groom Oreo, if ya wanted to help me, I could show ya how,” she said, smiling warmly at me.
“Oh, you’d do that? That’s so kind of you!” I beamed, nodding my head in appreciation several times, “but only if you’re sure!”
“I’m sure. Just gonna go get the grooming kit, I’ll be back in a sec – you can introduce yourself to Oreo while you wait,” she said, pointing to one of the stalls further down on the left. I nodded, and slowly went over to the stall so that I could look at the horse inside. Ears perked, standing still and relaxed, was a beautiful black overo American Paint Horse mare, and I smiled at the sight.
“Hey, there,” I said softly as I approached her, letting her sniff my hand. She acted really friendly, and I patted her neck in the form of a greeting. By the looks of it, she loved pats, and looked disappointed when I stopped. “Want me to keep going, do you?” I chuckled, and to my surprise it was as if Oreo nodded – she tossed her head up and down a little, whinnying excitedly, and so I continued to pat her, talking softly to her as I did. “Aren’t you a beautiful girl?” I asked her, smiling broadly, and she did the head toss thing again, and again I laughed softly.
“She likes you already,” said the black haired girl from earlier, smiling and opening the stall Oreo was in, putting the grooming kit aside as she tied Oreo up loosely, gave her a pat, and motioned me in. “Oreo loves a good conversation, you see. Her Gift is that she can understand us,” the girl explained, and I looked at her, surprised.
“Oreo is Gifted?” I asked, stumped, and it was as if Oreo turned to face me, amused, as if to say of course I am. “That’s… amazing!” I said, giving Oreo yet another pat, who tossed her head appreciatively and nudged me softly.
“Yup. All of the Academy’s horses are Gifted. Pretty cool, huh?” she said, opening the kit and handing me a brush I recognised as the curry comb. “Start at the neck and make your way towards the tail, brush her in circular motions in the direction opposite of which her hair grows,” she explained, providing an example before she went around to Oreo’s other side, leaving me on Oreo’s left. I started brushing her, and it like Oreo was enjoying all the extra attention she was getting – her ears were perked and her tail was held high. “Because Oreo can understand us, we taught ‘er to say yes and no by shaking her head, so we can communicate back with her. It was really easy to train her, as she’s a very kind, willing horse, and with treats being offered and knowing exactly what we wanted of her, this young gal became exceptionally trained far quicker than any other horse we’ve ever had,” the girl said, giving Oreo a fond scratch behind the ears, who neighed appreciatively.
“I would imagine. She’s wonderful,” I said, smiling at Oreo as I moved onto her rump, having done her neck and barrel already. Together, both the girl and I had groomed Oreo in record time – we had moved on to the Dandy Brush shortly after my latest remark, and we quickly found a rhythm we could both work at, the girl, who told me her name was Sophie, giving me hints and tips as we went. Next, we used the body brush, talking about our favourite horse breeds and why as we did, and then moved onto Oreo’s face, where we used a damp cloth, Sophie talking about all the different experiences she’d had with the Academy horses over the years, warning me of the ones to watch out for and the really friendly ones I’d easily become friends with. Lastly, considering it was hot outside and there were many flies about, we sprayed Oreo with fly spray.
“I think we’re about done here,” Sophie said, beaming at Oreo and me in turn. Oreo, as if to say thank you, nudged me softly on the arm, and I found that I couldn’t stop myself from giving her another fond pat. “It’s much quicker when somebody else helps out,” she told me, shaking my hand. “Thanks for that, makes my job easier.”
“No problem! I’d happily help out again if you needed me,” I said, smiling.
“If you’re sure about it, here’s something to think about: there’s a vacancy for people who’re willing to do stable work for several hours on both Saturday and Sunday – if you’re interested, it pays well,” Sophie said, winking at me. “Now, I’d best return the grooming kit. I don’t suppose you’d want to ride her, would you?” she asked, giving me a lopsided grin.
“I’d love to, but I’m very out of practice and haven’t got the right equipment,” I said, sighing, to which Sophie shrugged.
“We’re about the same size, yknow. I’ve got several spare sets of clothing and gear you could use, if you want?” Sophie offered, and seeing that my expression was a mix of hesitation and delightfulness, she laughed heartily. “It’s not a big deal, really. In fact, I’ve got an old set I don’t use anymore that you could keep. And besides – Oreo is the easiest horse in the whole Academy to ride; she wouldn’t dare do anything you’re uncomfortable with. Here, follow me,” she said, and led me into the tack room, where she handed me the gear I could use – a helmet, riding gloves, boots and jodhpurs. As I changed into them, thanking her profusely, she shrugged and smiled, telling me that ‘we horse people help each other out,’ before she went outside to tack up Oreo.
A short while after I was dressed and ready, and when I found Sophie again, she was speaking with a black haired guy dressed in black –

Oh my god, it was Jason Shaed.
Again.
Upon seeing me, his expression turned even sourer than what it had been talking to Sophie, and he faced me, eyes glittering dangerously. “You have an annoying knack of turning up wherever I go,” he grumbled.
“I was about to say the same to you,” I said, keeping my gaze calm and even.
“You two know each other?” Sophie asked, dusting her hands off on her jodhpurs.
“We’re team members,” I explained to her softly, eyeing Jason, who was eyeing me in turn, too.
“Huh, that’s good. Thought I was going to have to owe someone some favours,” Sophie grinned to a very irritated looking Jason, who shook his head ever so slightly. If Sophie noticed, however, she did not let on. “There’s this new rule that if a Junior ever goes out of the main Academy grounds, a Senior has to accompany them. Since you’re both headed out, you could go together!” she said, turning on her heel and waving goodbye, then added just before she rounded the corner, “And by the way, Ellie, Oreo’s already tacked up – she’s waiting for you.”
A brief silence followed, where Jason and I stared each other down.
I sighed.
“I’ll go untack Oreo,” I gave in, absolutely crestfallen. I had been looking so forward to riding Oreo…
An agitated sigh.
“Whatever, kid. Lead her out and we’ll go together, as long as you keep your mouth shut and leave me alone,” he said, though he did not seem happy with the prospect.
“Really? Oh, Jason, thank you, thank you, thank you!” I said, grabbing his arm in excitement, then letting go immediately as he gave me his darkest glare yet, making me stumble back in surprise.
“And-” he said, his tone irritated, “on the condition that you never, ever, do that again,” he said, glaring me down as he turned on his heel and walked into one of the stalls on the right, where I could hear him adjusting the girth of a saddle. Hardly able to contain my excitement, even with Jason’s sour mood hovering about me, I headed back over to Oreo’s stall and carefully lead her outside, talking excitedly to her as I went, to where Jason and a blood bay American Quarter Horse mare was waiting, tacked up in traditional Western Tack.
“Oh, she’s gorgeous looking! What’s her name?” I asked as I headed over to pat her, Oreo’s lead still in hand, and then found that I had to pat Oreo too, who had become a little jealous.
“Bloodmoney,” Jason said, pushing me away and swiftly swinging up into the saddle, reins gathered in his hands while he waited for me.
“Her bridle says Strawberry though,” I remarked, beginning to mount Oreo.
“That’s no name for a horse,” Jason spat, looking offended. I couldn’t help but laugh out loud at his words, and found that I had to try again to mount Oreo because I was shaking too much. Oreo, thankfully, stayed still the entire time – if anything, it was as if she was as amused by Jason’s words as I was. I could’ve sworn if she was able to, she would’ve laughed. I had only just gotten into the saddle when I realised my stirrup lengths were all wrong, and quickly dismounted to adjust them. Impatient, Jason groaned in annoyance and muttered some very unpleasant words under his breath, earning an annoyed look from Oreo, who apparently understood curse words as well.
“Sorry, sorry,” I said, beginning to mount for the third time, and had barely sat down in the saddle when Jason gently kicked Strawberry – err, Bloodmoney, into a gallop down in the direction of the trails. “Wait up!” I called, and Oreo, annoyed at being left behind, chomped impatiently at the bit, before I gave her a small kick –
And sent Oreo into a gallop almost from a standstill.
I hadn’t considered that the Academy horses, unlike the horses I had rode at the local riding school back when I was still an Oblivious, would be trained to act so responsively. I lurched forward in the saddle like a moron, and, apologising to Oreo profusely, adjusted my seat and told her I hadn’t ever even galloped until this moment, though that didn’t seem to stop her right then.
“Oreo! A little slower, please,” I begged, pulling back on the reins and sitting back in the saddle. The look Oreo gave me was one of sadness as she slowed to a canter, and then I sighed.
“I’ll try.” I told her, gathering the reins up and leaning forward in the saddle, allowing Oreo to gallop once more. At first it was quite disastrous – it took a while for me to find the right position, but once I did, I realised that Oreo’s gait was one of the smoothest I had ever come by, and was grateful for it. When I became comfortable with the fiery four-beat gait, I found myself relishing the wind in my hair and the rush of adrenaline I received as we galloped down the dirt trail.
“Woah!” I called, slowing Oreo down as we reached a fork in the trail. Slowly, we came to a stop, though Oreo looked like she really wanted to head down the left trail. “Do you think that’s where Jason went?” I asked her, and when she nodded, I let her pick up the pace again. Soon, we were flying down the trail, and I couldn’t help but laugh with joy. After a few minutes of a steady gallop, Oreo and I rounded a small corner, and up ahead was Jason and Bloodmoney, who had slowed to a walk now. It occurred to me that Jason had been trying to shake me the entire time, and I couldn’t help but smile proudly at Oreo as she quickly caught up with and passed him.
“See ya later!” I laughed in Jason’s direction, who, in turn, looked quite surprised to see me again. Quickly, I faced back to the front of the trail, and Oreo and I continued on at a steady pace, leaving Jason in our dust.
Until they were abruptly alongside us.
Faster than I had thought imaginable, Jason and Bloodmoney had caught up to us, and were now slowly overtaking us. Oreo didn’t seem to like this, and I lengthened my reins so that she had more space to move, and soon we were once again beating Jason. I couldn’t help but feel severely competitive now, and when Jason turned off down another trail, a smaller one at this, I found myself following him, hoping to prove that I could always remain in front.
What I had not thought of, however, was where Jason may have actually been going. Blinded by my own excitement, I followed him down narrower and narrower paths, until we were constantly winding in and out of thin gum trees. It was clear who had the upper hand here – Bloodmoney could turn much faster than Oreo, and soon they developed a generous lead over us. When we got onto another straight, however, I pushed Oreo to go that little bit faster, and she happily obliged.
We were just about to catch up to them when Jason turned to us, saw us closing in on them, and rolled his eyes.
“They think they’re fast,” Jason said to Bloodmoney, who flicked her ears in response. Once more, Jason turned to face me, “I’ll show you fast!” he called out, and he let Bloodmoney have her head, pushing her to go even faster.
They shot off like a bullet, and now it was our turn to be left in their dust. Neither of us appreciated it, though we could not deny the speed the two had displayed before us. Realising we’d never catch up I decided slowed Oreo to a steady canter, and gave her a fond pat on the neck, still smiling even though we had lost.
“One day,” I told Oreo, and she tossed her head as if to agree with me.
For a while, all we did was canter down the path Jason had taken with his mare. Both Oreo and I appreciated the scenery around us, and both marvelled at the distance the two had but between us. It took a good hour before we caught up to them, and we only did because they had stopped in a clearing. Slowing to a trot and then a walk, we emerged from the trees and looked around to where Jason was, and I found myself utterly stunned.
Jason had Bloodmoney’s reins in one hand and a long metal pole in the other, which he used as a sort of spear to jab at red wooden targets the pair galloped past, that had been set up in the clearing. His touch on the reins was light and gentle, and yet Bloodmoney seemed to be able to read exactly what Jason wanted, spinning to and fro and charging at targets with frightening speed, then turning abruptly so that they would face another. Even if Bloodmoney was a little too far off for an easy strike, Jason still managed to hit the targets each time, even if he had to get up out of the saddle a little. It was amazing he stayed on at all, the force of the jabs setting him backwards, though he seemed to know just the right time to disengage and yet still inflict the most damage possible without being thrown from the saddle, and I found myself absolutely admiring the partnership both horse and rider were displaying before my very eyes.
“Woah,” I breathed, watching Jason and Bloodmoney practice together. Jason, having noticed both Oreo and I were now watching, decided to step things up a bit. He started a series of tight turns, stops, and quick backups – it was like I was watching a Reining competition, and a very competitive one at that. All the time, too, Jason only needed one hand and his leg aids to control his mare, and as if he wasn’t done showing off yet, he started galloping past the targets and rounding them like they were now barrel racing, coming so close and yet not knocking the targets at all, with Jason easily hitting each one with his pole. The next one he approached, he didn’t jab at straight away though. Instead, he waited until he and Bloodmoney had passed it, out of my sight for a while as he galloped behind it in a sharp turn, then ermerged with the pole and reins having switched hands, now jabbing at the target as they left it instead of on the approach like normal.
“Alright, alright!” I called, finding myself laughing with joy at the sight. “I get it. You guys are pretty freaking awesome,” I said, beaming, though Jason did not seem to care about what I had said. Perhaps Bloodmoney did, however, as on the next turn around a target she stumbled and tripped, almost falling forward, but then regained her balance and continued on, looking a little embarrassed. She seemed determined to try the target again, considering Jason had missed it due to the sudden movement, but instead he pulled her to a halt and dismounted.
I worried that he was angry at her. I’d seen riders whose horses had made a mistake take it out on the poor animals, and I was afraid that Jason was going to do something similar. Concerned, I pushed Oreo into a canter over in the direction of the two, and was surprised when the two came into earshot.
“-we’ll get it next time,” I heard Jason say softly, and when they came into sight I saw him inspecting each of Bloodmoney’s hooves in turn, which, were thankfully, all in order and unharmed. He then gave her a big pat and smiled at her.
Smiled.
It was if I was seeing a completely different Jason, and I couldn’t stop the “Awhhh,” and small giggles that tumbled out of my mouth upon seeing Jason’s affection for his horse. “You guys work so well together,” I said, beaming at them. Jason, as if he had forgotten that I had been there the entire time, faced us, looking a little annoyed that we had seen him during the small moment between himself and his horse.
“What’d I say about not talking?” he growled gruffly, and then hoisted himself up into the saddle once more, softly kicking Bloodmoney into a trot. “Hurry up, kid. It’s getting late. We should head back,” he said, looking over his shoulder to wait for me, and once I had joined him, we headed back to the Academy at a steady gallop.
Together.

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