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Because She Ain’t no Halla(back) Girl

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Zanetta had no idea why Halla were so attached to the Eleven image—Well, she did know. They were very much embedded in their mythos and they could haul an aravel like no other. She hated them. Not in an edgy ah-here-I-am-ears-pointed-and-I still-won’t-ride-the-wretched-thing sort of way. She simply hated them as much as they hated her.

 

“That’s nonsense.” Her brother said, shoving her towards Edyrm.

 

She tried to drag her heels in the dirt. “You only say that because you don’t have the unpleasant memory of slubber on your shirt.”

 

“Maker and Ghilan’nain combined. Do you know how long ago that was?”

 

Her father, near a running stream handed her mother more of the clan’s clothes to soak and scrub in her trusty wooden basin. “It’s a shame, really. Giilvas and Sylleth know how to ride Halla and they’re just little ones.

 

Giilvas and Syleth had nothing better to do but scamper under their mother’s feet and play snatch the Keeper’s staff. There was no scouting or hunting or cooking or cleaning for them yet.

 

“Come on. You should at least have another go at it.” Her brother said.

 

Zanetta felt Edyrm’s warm breath on her skin but refused to look him in the face.

 

“Zanetta.” Her brother said firmly.

 

“They have something against eye contact, right?”

 

“You’re thinking of dogs.”

 

Nerves screaming, she tested a look at the creature.

 

“He’s white, furry, and stares off like all the others.”

 

Her brother scoffed. “Don’t be rude. Each Halla has their own personality. I just picked a meeker one for you.”

 

The thing blinked at her before closing the sliver of space between them. Her bother kept his arms braced around her to prevent her from spinning around and stealing away.

 

“Tavarus I promise you, if he tries to...”

 

“Try petting him, dear.” Her mother suggested.

 

She lifted a jittery hand to his snout. It was warm like his breath and rivled the softest ram coats.

 

“There like that.” Her brother had taken her hand and guided her in the gentle stroking of the thing. Given Edyrm’s grunt, he seemed pleased.

 

Grin wide and toothy, her brother picked up a twig from the ground and waved it in front of her face as if to say watch me. Edyrm eyed the stick cautiously as Tavarus tapped the ground in front of him. In sudden understanding, he kneeled.

 

Zanetta realized what would come next. “I’ve barely just gathered the courage to pet him and you already expect me to mount him?”

 

He held her wrist and ushered her onto Edyrm’s back “Up, up, up. Bring your leg over. Slowly. Center yourself.”

 

Seated on the creature’s backbone, Zanetta could feel the gentle push and pull of the air in his breathing pattern. Much to her surprise he hadn’t tried to buck her off. In fact, his stillness had a trusting air. There was something in the simplicity about observing an animal’s demeanor and how it shifted in response to you. Maybe she could do this.

 

“The world seems nicer up there doesn’t it?” Her brother asked.

 

Her mother, sopping wet from finger tip to elbows, dropped her brush and leaned back on her haunches. “Try scratching him behing the ears. It’ll keep the both of you calm.”

 

“That’s good.” Her brother said about the way she acted out her mother’s suggestion and how Edyrm snorted in respose.

 

“Now,” He ran his hand along the the underside of Edyrm’s snout then clicked his tongue.

 

Zanetta jerked slightly at the aburpt movement towards her brother.

 

“Different Halla respond to different type commands. Some of them respond to pressure from your inner legs. You hold them with your calves but don’t be stiff. Move your hips when they walk. Move your hips and bottom when they run. Let your legs dangle at their sides. As said earlier Edyrm here is a meek Halla. That means that if you give him one quick sqeeuze he should keep on until you give him a new one. When you want to steer him or any other Halla that can go off on leg pressure it’s best memorize two things: Leg off on left, lean right and then they go left. Leg off on right, lean left and then they go right. Other Halla perfer to respond to bells, whistles, clicks---any sound you can teach them to answer to. Edyrm is repensive to a mixture of both methods.”

 

He clicked his tongue again, this time it was two quick clicks closely following one another. Edyrm’s measured gait quickened to a trot. Boucing from side to side, Zanetta made sure to swallow often so her throat wouldn’t clench.

 

Her brother saw her apprehension. “ Stay steady. Remember animals can tell when you’re afraid.”

 

If she was expected to stay steady that last bit wouldn’t do her any favors. Edyrm was moving far too fast for her. His hooves clopped away and she did her best to keep her fingers gripped around the fur on his lower back. A rare divot in the terrain caught him underfoot. The small drop made her feel like she was sinking. She gripped him tighter.

Perhaps she pulled.

 

He peeled off with a yelp which was mockingly ironic being in that she peeled off some of his fur on her way down.

 

“Tavarus, your sister!” She was cohernent enough to hear her father shout, and to hear someone whistling after Edyrm but everything else blurred.

 

“Look at me.”

 

Tavarus. She opened her eyes and Maker she had no idea it was possible for your entire head, face and all, to throb. To her benefit, there was no thick, clotting blood anywhere.

 

Do I look,” he paused, “ fuzzy?”

 

“You couldn’t grow any fuzz even if you got Deshanna to make a special tonic for on you.”

 

He gave her a rueful smile.“Too bad the fall didn’t make you less cruel to your dearest older brother.”

 

She took the hand he offered. “Edyrm’s gone?

 

“Mamae and Papae went after him. “

 

I hope I don’t have to live in fear thinking he’ll lope towards me and clobber me upside the head with his hooves as revenge from now on.”

 

“Fear not. There are more than enough of us in the clan to placate him. Still, I guess this means you won’t go near any Halla for another five years.”

 

“Try ten.”