"So it's settled, then. Shea-Tam will ride Imjara and Penthe will ride Aeldi."
Penthe seemed pleased at this.
Shea-tam did not.
"He gets to ride Aeldi because....?"
"Because he has ridden Aeldi into many more battles than he's ridden Imjara into. Plus, for as much as she loves him, Imjara seems to be much more attatched to you, Shea." Stary shrugged, "I'd ride with him if I could, but someone has to stand with Ris, and you know she doesn't like either of you."
Shea-tam hissed her displeasure, ear-fins falling back. Penthe chuckled softly, folding his arms and offering a small, serene grin to Stary, who looked to be prepared to knock their heads together.
"Look, guys. I know you don't get along, but I really think that Aeldi and Imjara would preform best together. You're both going to ride in the Charge. Together. As a team. Understand?"
"I've no qualms about working with the Lady Shea-tam." Although Penthe humbly placed a hand to his breast, his smile stated otherwise, "It is she who seems to have the, ah.... issues."
Shea-tam hissed something rude in a tongue neither of them knew, and Stary slammed her foot onto the pavement, the heel of her boot making an authoritative click that resounded off the nearby buildings.
"That is enough, both of you!" At the volume and tone of her voice, both riders snapped to attention, although Penthe's was more annoyed, and Shea-tam's was alarmed.
"Either learn to work together, or neither of you will ride in this event. I'll put Tandie and Islka on those two and have them ride in your stead. Am. I. Understood?"
"Yes ma'am." Penthe's response was swift, but not without a hint of sarcasm.
"Understood." Shea-tam growled, bearing her teeth.
"Suck it up and make some time to make nice. You have two weeks."
The next two weeks went by with a bit of quibbling and snipping, but without major incident. Shea-tam sized her tack to Imjara, and Aeldi was fitted with a replica of the tack he wore in Shadowvale. The midnight-colored stallion seemed relieved to be wearing his own tack again, and Penthe seemed more than happy to take his sweet time making sure every last buckle was in perfect place.
"What are those stars supposed to mean?" Shea-tam asked with feigned interest.
"Each one marks a battle he and I emerged victorious from." Penthe replied as he smoothed out the long decorations that hung behind the saddle, embroidered with bright yellow stars.
"... You won that many battles?" Now she sounded curious, and her fins lifted in response to this information.
"Yes. I should like to think that we both would have lived to be able to retire in Shadowvale, but it is just as nice being away from the constant warring and bloodshed to spend the rest of our days in safety here."
Aeldi made a low nicker, seemingly agreeing with his rider. Penthe chuckled and petted the stallion's nose.
"Hm." Shea-tam made a noise through her nose and turned to swing into the saddle on Imjara's back. Penthe watched her as she did, for once favoring her with a genuine, light smile.
"Would you not agree?"
"I don't know. I sometimes miss my homeland." And with that, she turned Imjara about and rode her into the fields.
Penthe rolled his eyes and resumed adjusting Aeldi's tack.
The sun had passed it's zenith and was on it's way towards the western horizon by the time Aeldi and Imjara were being tacked up. Penthe and Shea-Tam went about preparing their horses in stony silence, the Dark Elf's ears twitching every now and again, and the Argonian's tail flicking. The Snjorrirs stood in perfect stillness, allowing their riders to go about preparing them just so.
Shea-tam was the first one in the saddle, and Penthe glanced up at her as she mounted Imjara.
"What is it?"
"Are you prepared to work together?"
"If I have to."
"What is it you have against me? I have not wronged you personally, and I am not this... this Dunmer that you call me. Perhaps I was a bit brazen in our first meeting but beyond that I have done no ill to you." Penthe stood to his full height and balled his fists at his sides, looking as noble as was possible in the green blazer and white turtleneck that was the uniform of the stables. Shea-tam turned Imjara around to better look down on the Dark Elf and snorted.
"Before you arrived, Aeldi and I were becoming close. He was warming up to me. And then you swept in and ruined all my hard work. Stary practically handed him back to you, and yes, I realize that it was because he was your horse, but it does not ease the sting any more knowing that."
"It isn't as though he dislikes you now that I am here." Penthe's brow drew downward, "And for what it's worth, Imjara likes you much more than she ever liked me. The two of you have a bond far greater than she and I ever had, or ever will have, I presume."
Shea-tam fell silent, her eyes narrowed, and tail tip flicking.
"If we are to compete and even hope of winning, we have to work together. I do not wish to ride as adversaries." He unclenched his fists, and turned his palms out in a gesture of appeasement.
The Argonian stared him down for a several agonizing moments, her acidic green gaze sharp and calculating before she closed her eyes and sighed.
"I suppose it does me no harm to admit you're right about that." She growled, "Come on, hurry it up. We have to ride soon."
The two sat astride their respective horses at the starting line, Penthe sighing softly with his eyes closed, and Shea-tam shifting uncomfortably in her saddle.
"Relax." Penthe offered gently, eyes remaining closed.
"Easy for you to say, you've done this before."
"Yes, I have. Many times, in fact, but so has Imjara. Trust her. She knows what to do."
"And what do I have to do? This isn't exactly some joy ride across the fields back home."
"I suppose it is home, isn't it....?"
"Nothing. Thinking aloud." Penthe waved her off and finally opened his eyes to look at her, "Point her in the direction you want to go, and she will go. Ride hard, ride fast, and stay alert to your surroundings. While we are not riding against an enemy cavalry, there may yet be things to evade in the field, or perhaps to jump over. Who knows what awaits in the camp?"
"My thoughts exactly."
"Follow my lead. Stay close to me, and pay attention to where Imjara is going."
Shea-tam nodded once, and scanned the field ahead of them. Nothing to be seen above the sea of amber autumn grass... But that didn't mean...
The start sounded, and Penthe cried out, Aeldi rearing, and charged ahead onto the field.
Shea-tam was quick to follow his example, catching up quickly and staying a half-stride behind him. All that she could hear was the thunder of hooves in her ears, and the jingle of tack beside her and beneath her.
"Shea," Penthe called out to her over the cacophony, "I didn't tell you that Imjara looks amazing in your tack!"
A fangy grin came to Shea-tam's face, and she let out a harsh bark of a laugh.
"Of course she does!"
It was the last exchange the two of them had before plowing ahead, full power, towards the camp at the other end of the field.