The continuation of Tessa and Martin's walk from New Orleans. Having gained the goodwill of Farrand, the horse, Tessa gets her first riding lesson.

The afternoon sunlight slants through the quiet, green wood, as Farrand makes friends with Tessa, nuzzling her hand. Either that, or he's searching for more apples.

Martin says, after a minute or so, "I'll help you up."

Tessa turns to stare at Martin. "You... you mean up on Farrand?" she swallows again.

Martin's glance swings from Farrand back to Tessa. "Well, you can walk the rest of the way, if you'd rather." There's a very faint hint of a smile. Very faint.

Tessa swallows again. "That might be a bit far."

Martin nods. "Farrand's an easy old fellow anyway," he pats the horse on its neck. "Put your foot in there," he indicates the stirrup. "I'll give you a shove up if you need it."

Tessa nods once, biting her lip, then leans forward and strokes Farrand again. "Be nice." she mutters softly to the horse. "I am always willing to deal in carrots if you like."

The horse merely harrumphs again, although not disagreeably.

Martin waits, watching Tessa, offering nothing else for the time being.

She takes a deep breath, places both hands upon the saddle, then moves her left to the horn. Placing her left foot in the stirrup, she both pushes and pulls at the same time and manages to awkardly gain a seat. Her smile spreads shakily at this feat, like a kitten that has managed to attain the highest branch of a tree, and the realization that there is no way down.

Farrand flicks an ear round at the unaccustomed weight on his back, steps nervously on the spot.

Tessa's eyes widen instantly, then she leans forward and mutters softly. "Stop that. Do you want me to fall off?"

Martin reaches round to give his horse another reassuring pat, and a grin. "Be nice," he tells Farrand. "And don't try to throw her either." Glancing up at Tessa, he queries, "All right up there?"

Tessa nods, swallowing again. "Yes." she says tersely, teeth tight, hands clenched. "I'm fine." she says again, in the same clipped tones.

As he moves to take the reins, Martin gives Tessa another amused, questioning glance. "Farrand's pretty placid, really. Just relax, put your weight in your thighs, enjoy the walk."

Tessa nods again, eyes looking unconvinced. "Placid. Mmmm. Yes." she coughs once. "My thighs?" she queries, brows going up. "My thighs." she mutters, than sighs. "How do I make him move?"

Martin wraps the end of the reins around his left hand. "I'll lead him, for now. Get him and you both used to things." He takes a couple of steps forwards, and Farrand follows a moment later, flicking his tail uncertainly. "Talk to me," he suggests, after a while.

Tessa takes a series of steadying breaths, and daringly removes one clenched hand from the saddle and uses it to carefully stroke Farrand's neck. "Ok." she says softly. She bites her lip. "What did you want to talk about?"

Beside Farrand's nodding head, Martin shrugs. "Anything. Yourself."

As they pass under the boughs of a particularly large oak, a burst of birdsong erupts, and ends as abruptly in a rustle of foliage and flutter of wings.

Tessa is quiet for a few moments. "Well, I go by Tessa, but it's short for Thessaly. My mother, like myself, was a student of Ancient Greece." she pauses again. "It's a country here. Well it had some very strange theology practices, poly-theology to be exact, and in a branch of it there was a woman who was made from a piece of the moon. She posessed the power to travel within it's beams down to earth and appear as she willed." The brave hand makes another attempt at petting Farrand. "She lived for many centuries and her actions brought about many changes. My mother always liked her and so I was named." she laughs softly. "You might say, my own interest in Ancient Greece began with that."

Farrand doesn't seem to object to the occasional, nervous pat.

"Thessaly," Martin tries out the name. "It's a pretty story, and a pretty name."
After a pause, he says, "Incidentally, we are a long way from your Ancient Greece and your New Orleans."

Tessa nods again, with a few soft pats to Farrand's neck. She seems to becoming more at ease with grasping the saddle with one hand. "I guessed so. I was able to visit Greece once. It didn't look much like this." she says, a hint of amusement to her voice.

The afternoon sunlight continues to angle through the woods, but as the trees grow closer together, and the forest grows a little darker and danker, the slanting beams occur fewer, and the warmth of the sunshine seems further away.

"No," Martin says after a time. "I don't know that country." A pause again, "You said you studied it. It no longer exists?"

Tessa shakes her head. "Well, the country itself is still there, but it has evolved so that it is no longer as it was."
She smiles. "Things change some in three thousand years."

"Do they?" He sounds genuinely surprised, almost intrigued at the thought. She laughs softly. "When the average life span at the time never exceeds 50 years, three millenia is time enough for things to be forgotten, remembered, and lost again." She strokes the long neck again. "60 generations... how very little can be remembered for so very long."

Martin seems to muse over this for a while. "Only fifty years?" He says then, shaking his head, pleasantly disbelieving. "I wonder that anything was remembered of such a short-lived race."

"Mythos." she says softly. "Faery tales, tales of love, war, loss, vengeance. Paintings, pottery, statues all the items that help show us the souls of those who lived. Many of those things survived. For those of us, three millenia later who wished to piece together the tattered remains it was enough to let us start."

"To impress your own stories and longings upon the works of an earlier time," he comments with a chuckle. "Does that tell you more about them, or about yourselves?"

"Some of both." Tessa says softly. "Both are equally important pursuits."

"And what did you learn of yourself, studying the remnants of those who'd gone before you?"

Something scampers by, just to the side of the trail they are following, long and sinewy and brightly scaled. Farrand snorts once, halting in its step, but continues again immediately with a vaguely embarassed toss of the head.

Martin glances sharply to the side, returns his attention to the path ahead and around.

Tessa is quiet for along moment. "I learned something of human nature. Three thousand years later, we all still feel such emotions that they felt. Jealousy, hate, vanity, desire, love, pride. We still look up at the stars for enlightenment, and we still await the first day of spring with hope." she smiles. "A shattering realization for those who would place themselves above the past."

Martin just nods. "Little truly changes. However long the years between."

"Lands change." she says with a smile and another pat to the horse. "People... can be a different story."

Martin doesn't add any comment to that. As he leads Farrand further into the dark wood, the dark-bodied trees are clearly no longer oaks, gnarled and ugly and thick. A chill dampness rises out of the ground, and the light is wan, almost directionless.

Finally, the second hand unclenches and moves slowly, and cautiously to stroke Farrand's neck. A few seconds later, after no catastrophe arises from such a vulnerable state, Tessa sighs, and smiles, leaning forward to brush her lips against the horse's mane.

If Martin notices, he says nothing, his attention apparently focused on the trail. Not long after they enter the dark wood. Then once again the trees begin to grow apart, the soft earth trail gradually takes on the crunch of hard rock underfoot, and the waning afternoon light seems a little harsher, a little hotter.

A Dark Glade

A small, circular glade, bounded by the moss-heavy boles of ancient oaks, and set in a sheltered hollow. All around is the deep forest, still and soundless, rising up and away over the folded terrain. Ancient runes of protection mark some of the trunks, and pale, bone-coloured stones litter the edge of the grassy glade. A trail passes by one side of the glade, narrow and frail-seeming, and is swallowed up by the shadows of the bleak wood.

Utter blackness fills the glade, deep and impenetrable, heavy with silence, and cold and damp with mist.

Martin and Tessa finally reach a shallow glade, where they set up camp for the night. And Tessa prepares to sleep under the stars after winning after removing all the rocks and sticks from under her blanket.