It was nearing nightfall the evening after the Jottun slaughter when Nameless glanced out his “window” – a literal hole in his wall. Fey and Beastmen sat in circles around dim fires in the open areas near the main building. Those who did not choose to fight a ravenous forest chose the unfamiliar company of fellow captives, the world outside the fallen fence too foreboding to consider. He noticed Quinlan almost the moment she came into view. She was easy to spot as she approached the ramshackle, roofless building they called the barracks, dragging a large basket behind her and glaring at anyone who came near.
Or… maybe that was Scary Horse’s normal, off-putting expression?
Nameless continued to watch, unmoving, from the second story room of the building. A few feet before she reached the door, a particularly brave Beastman moved to block her way. Quinlan’s expression did not change as she stopped and appraised him. The horse-Fey stood motionless, staring at her, clearly expecting something from her. Nameless shifted to get a better look at what was happening and just as Quinlan gave up glaring and started to move around the horse-Fey, he made a bizarre face at her; his upper lip peeled back, blocky white teeth exposed. He reached his arm out across her chest, grasping for her.
Quinlan’s initial surprise melted the moment he touched her. Her spine tensed into something serpentine and she struck out, biting the man’s forearm. He recoiled and looked as if he suddenly didn’t know where he was. Quinlan’s shod hoof slammed against his chest and flung him backward, the impact of which would clearly leave him bruised.
A very equine snort concluded their interactions as Quinlan dragged the basket inside the building. He could hear her pulling it up the retrofitted stone steps toward the rooms the mercenaries had appropriated, and continued to drag it down the hall towards him. She stopped short, and he could hear her speaking to Albin and Ro in the room adjacent to him. After a short exchange, he heard celebratory roaring so loud the noise distorted in his ears. Thankfully, the noise quickly subsided to bouts of excited talking and laughter.
He almost left to investigate when there was a soft knocking on his wall, swiftly followed by Quinlan’s inquisitive head popping through the curtain. They locked eyes, and hers slid downward.
“Dang.” She muttered, seeing his armor, “I’d hoped.” Smiling, she let herself in and offered him a pile of red grapes. “I made you all something. You caught me starting it yesterday, but now I’ve finished. They’re wine grapes. Probably not something you’re used to, but they’ll get you drunk as a duck in no time.” When Nameless didn’t immediately reply, she nervously kept talking. “I don’t know if you’re interested in drinking…er… eating? But I’d like you to try one anyway. I grew them using cheater farming, like one of my Riders would have said, using Vulcani magic and aged using Pact. Sooo… not only is it alcoholic, but a nice, aged wine. Try one?”
After a moment, while Nameless tried to digest what she’d been hoping for, he leaned forward and accepted the outstretched basket of seemingly ordinary grapes. There was a long silence while Quinlan stared at his mouth, wide-eyed and awkward.
Had he not known that the fruit was altered, Nameless would have spit it out thinking it had soured. Instead, he pushed through the strong taste and allowed the juice to wash down, coating his tongue, then went back for more. Quinlan eased a bit and began to nibble at her own.
“What is it like?” Nameless asked, curiosity getting the better of him, “Being first-generation?”
At first he thought she wouldn’t reply, and second-guessed his phrasing. As he took a breath to try again, however, she spoke up, “It’s confusing.”
Afraid she might not elaborate, he stood very still and raised an eyebrow.
It worked, “Well, you’re talking to the Quinlan, er… the Quinlan part of me, but I was talking to Champion and she says that it’s not an equal partnership. One of the two is always dominant over the other. What’s confusing is I think it’s the horse.” Quinlan stopped, as if suddenly realizing what she was saying. Scrunching up her face in frustration, she continued, “It’s not a merging, either. We’re both here. All of us. I mean, it’s not like I get the best of both or we lose anything it’s just… both. All the time. I’ve lost my legs.” She flapped her hands at him, “I’m wearing these legs on my chest and I know exactly how to use them. I want someone to get on my back and ride me, and I also know that sounds really weird.”
Nameless smirked a bit, turning so she wouldn’t see it, and began speaking to cover the silence. “How do you feel about it?” He paused, reconsidering, “I mean, it is unlikely you enjoyed the process or the outcome. But now that it’s happened, what does it make you feel? About yourself?”“I’m going to die.” Her face crumpled and she turned away, “Skygoat… I don’t know how long until I die. I thought I had centuries. I’m dying and it’s almost like I can feel it.” Nameless thought she might try to leave again, so he tensed – ready to reach out for her. Then, she turned back, eyes pleading, “You could find out yourself.” Quinlan offered her hands to him, just like she had the night on the zeppelin, before the crash.
Without hesitation, he moved forward and took her hands in his.
The drop was immediate, and it burned. There was no gentle build-up of pressure before the release, only a wild, desperate falling. When he found himself on the other side, there was none of the serene confidence he’d felt before. She was overflowing with needs. He felt like he needed to run. He needed to fight. He needed to fly, to taste, to burn, to…”
The ground came rushing back, and it caught him back in his own body. The momentum took him down, and he pulled her with him. Her knees buckled and she fell onto him, straddling his waist. Her fingers immediately found the clasp of his breastplate, and she loosened it, then placed it on the ground and pushed it far to the side. Nameless sat up, put his back against the wall, and put his hands on her shoulders. The cloak he’d given her was barely fastened, just enough to keep it around her shoulders. He touched the brooch that kept it closed, and it dropped away around them.
Nameless lowered his hands to her waist, and took hold just below the line of her undershirt. Their eyes met, his questioning. Quinlan beamed, and nodded. She gripped her shirt, and slowly lifted it. His hands trailed the hem up her body…