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Gwynneth's Vista
Author: Keith Haney

The scent of wild flowers suffused the windswept pass. The steep granite walls of the glacier-cut mountain valley behaved much like the banks of a river, channeling the prevailing wind on it's path to the Imperium. The snow was yielding its firm hold over the oft ravaged ground. Like green swords piercing a white blanket, spring growth was making its final claim and was not to be denied.

A spotted mare, much the color of aspen bark, stood in the receding snow bearing a rider. Gusts of wind from the great falls tugged and flipped the rider's earthen cloak. Gwynneth rocked forward in the saddle adjusting her balance to view down the mountain pass. Her steed compensated instinctually to the change of center, idly moving a hoof down slope. She sensed the horse's desire to continue down the the mountain as they had these past weeks running messages to fort Y'ves. Gwynneth reenforced her desire to remain here with a gentle tug on the reigns. The thickly muscled mount gave a nod and a snort, reluctantly yielding to the rider. "Just a moment Yuba." she said in a motherly tone. Grendel will be along soon." The comment was said as much to herself as her horse.

Yuba's ears flicked and angled back toward the ancient keep. Gwynneth turned, spying her sister's approach. Gwynneth continued to gaze in the direction of he sister, but her focus turned inward. The mood here at The Chalice had changed since the fall campaign. A tide was rising. A tide of people and expectations. When that tide crested it would spill down into The Grimme with a vengence fifty years in the making. The 5th crusade would be a great and a terrible enterprise.

The fall campaign had been an unexpected triumph unwittingly ushering in the 5th crusade. She had lost many friends here during the taking of the pass and many whom she knew may yet not survive the summer. If she had expected to live to see the spring thaw herself, she gave it little thought until now. War had baptized her in a way few could truly appreciate. As part of

 

that baptism, she had shed some of the social graces expected of one in her position and of her family status. She had not regretted the tryst with the Trinity Company soldier, much to the contrary. That brief romance had given her the resolve she needed to face the tasks that lay ahead. Using the liaison as motivation had become a two edged sword. At first it had been a comfort to her. When the memory grew to be almost a part of who she was, she feared further contact with him may end in emotional disaster. Severing ties too seemed unthinkable.
She couldn't know his feelings.
For him it may already be a forgotten fling on a trail to many others. She didn't like thinking that way. The foreboding feeling that had been growing her during the winter was a fear of loss. The happy memory that had once sustained her, now held her hostage. Was what she felt love? or was it a fantasy produced to compensate for the horrors of this place and the constant threat of death. It was this vexing thought that prompted her to seek her sister's advise.

Gwynneth watched as her elder sister rode the final few yards down from Brokenwalls to the overlook where she now waited. They had agreed to meet for a short ride this morning. It took some coaxing to draw out her sister for a leisure activity. Grendel had become very serious since her betrothed was killed last year and rarely evinced happiness of any kind. Only a few years separated the two of them, but Grendel bore the weight of her grief in a way that made her seem much older.

Grendel rode up along side Gwynneth and reigned to a stop. "Newt." Grendel said with a teasing tone. Gwynneth was caught off-guard by the childhood nickname her sister had assigned her after many failed attempts to swim at the water hole by their country estate. Gwynneth bore the denigrating greeting with a confident nod. "You're in a mood this morning." Gwynneth snapped with a little defensive timbre to her words. Gwynn urged her mount forward. The two of them continued to ride for a time before any further discussion ensued. Gwynneth hated that about her sister. She would continue on in silence until Gwynneth presented a discussion worthy of her participation. Gwynn felt the weight of the silence more acutely than her sister did and started to speak almost reflexively. "How is the filly working out?" Gwynn wasn't concerned with the answer her sister might give as much as drawing her back into the conversation.