Warning : Consider it a double chapter.
I was half-asleep, having woken up a good half hour ago already, and was probably just a few moments away from falling back asleep when something moved my tent.
There was a hiss and then a neigh, and then the top of my tent tilted again.
“Heh,” I heard someone chuckle outside. “Guess Orion’s chosen already.”
After tying my bandana around my forehead, I unzipped my tent and a strong smell of horse invaded my nostrils. That’s right! We’re going horseback riding this morning!
I slipped out of my tent with a grin.
I was instantly welcomed by a horse I guessed is named Orion. After giving me a quick glance he set about sniffing my hair. I smirked.
I love horses. My dad used to compete in tournaments at my age you know? He had a horse named Jupiter, but it died before we were born. Still, dad liked it enough to give Niki and I a few lessons when we were younger. Nikita never really took to it, but I always loved it – even if I couldn’t seem to stay in the saddle at first.
“I’m so excited, I didn’t sleep at al!!” Dawn exclaimed. “Maybe a little, but it didn’t count.”
“I want this one.” Zac said, studying a dark orange colt.
“I don’t think the feeling’s mutual.” I snickered at him.
“I’ll be showing you four how to set up your saddle,” The female counselor said. “But it’s going to be Jo, the other camp counselor, who’s going to ride with you and the other team.”
“I can have Eddy again right?” Kenya asked, gesturing at the horse the woman was petting. The horses were lent to us by a stable nearby. We were going to ride around a bit and then head there to drop the horses off.
Putting on the saddle wasn’t too hard. Turns out I still remember some tricks. The part I was mostly afraid of failing at was climbing on the horse. (Especially since the girls didn’t seem to have any trouble)
I was pretty pleased when I easily slipped into the saddle. It’s funny, because I can still remember when I was a little kid trying to hop on the huge horse.
It does help that Orion seems to be really friendly towards me.
I glanced at the other side of the small lake at how the others were doing. I snorted as I caught sight of Salandra somehow managing to climb onto her horse backwards?
Kaan on the other hand seemed just as comfortable on the horse as the girls on my side – if not more.
Kaan caught me looking, and he glanced at my horse before doing what looked like snorting.
A finger brought me back to this side of the camp.
“Be careful with Orion Nikolas.” The counselor warned. “We almost didn’t ask for him this year. He’s still young and very energetic. Don’t push him too far or he might forget you’re on his back. That shouldn’t be a problem if you follow the group however.” She said with a sly smile. She patted my leg and went to see the others.
I leaned over and patted Orion’s neck.
“You aren’t going to buck me off or anything right boy?” I asked. It happened to me once, and I nearly got kicked in the face. Another reason why papa didn’t want us to keep horseback riding.
Orion neighed in response. “I just hope that means yes.”
No one’s POV
The group set about marching through the trees. It was a beautiful day out – perfect for a ride – with a soft breeze and enough shadow to make sure they didn’t start to burn under the summer sun.
Jo the counselor had instructed them to keep his pace and just appreciate the ride.
Something Nikolas would’ve found rather hard usually, but at the moment he was oddly captivated by the woodlands.
He couldn’t quite explain why. The area was pretty simple, there wasn’t anything particularly interesting about it. There was just something in the air?
Orion jerked as a squirrel suddenly sped inbetween in his legs. Nikolas instinctively gripped the reins. “Woah, Orion. Just a squirrel.”
“Careful horses smell fear.” Kaan sneered from beside Niko.
“I’m not scared.” Niko immediately snapped. Kaan glanced back at the horses behind them, and Niko followed his gaze. Salandra smiled and waved at Nikolas. Kaan looked at Niko, eyebrows slightly raised. Nikolas rolled his eyes and forced Orion to move a little faster.
Kaan was trying to like his distant cousin. And most of the time Nikolas seemed like the type of guy he wouldn’t mind joking and hanging out with. But he was an egocentric hothead. He didn’t give much of a damn for the camp and he was a jerk to girls.
This guy needed to be brought down from his high horse. A competitive hothead? Kaan could work with that.
“Hey fearless rider, are you all talk and no bark?” Kaan challenged, catching up to Orion.
Niko looked at him, his interest peaked. “A race?”
“Unless you don’t think you can handle a jumpy Orion.” Kaan smirked.
Nikolas glanced ahead at where Kenya and the counselor were chatting. He wasn’t sure how well a race would be taken…but the smirk Kaan was giving him made it hard to refuse the challenge.
“Fine, first one to reach the top of the trail.” Nikolas said, gesturing with his head.
The word was said and Nikolas kicked his heels into Orion’s side, sending the horse speeding forwards past the counselor.
Nikolas could care less, and when he glanced back it wasn’t to look at the counselor, but to see if his adversary was following.
If Kaan had only wanted to get Nikolas in trouble, he would’ve stayed in line like the others, he certainly wouldn’t have sent his horse after him.
But he had his fair share of a competitive side, and having the authorities take care of him was such a petty way of teaching Niko a lesson.
“Kaan! Get back here you two!”
“I could beat you without holding the reins.” Kaan said as their two horses raced side by side. He waved his jazz hands for effect.
“I can do better.”
As the horses started to climb uphill, Nikolas brought his feet out of the stirrups, and his knees on the saddle. Orion for his part could care less what his rider was doing.
“What the hell are you doing?”
“Kaan! Nikolas! Stop!” The counselor called after them as his horse kept their pace.
“Look mommy no hands.” Nikolas sneered down at Kaan who just stared agape at him.
It was pretty obvious the guy couldn’t turn down a challenge, but to think he was some kind of daredevil? What a bad combination.
“You’re insane.” Kaan shouted as Nikolas somehow managed to keep his balance on the saddle. His foot slipped a little and he nearly fell off, but he managed to regain his balance. “You’re going to kill yourself.”
“No. I’m going to win.”
A poor tree groaned as Orion rode his rider right into one of its branches.
All air was viciously torn from Nikolas’ lungs as he hit the tree, rapidly clinging onto it as his head was sent spinning. Orion kept galloping into the forest.
Kaan slowed his horse down to a standstill as the counselor caught up with them.
“Wait here.” He shouted at them angrily as he urged his horse to speed up so he could catch up with the energetic colt.
Nikolas hung from the tree, a little betrayed by Orion and really sore.
“You’re so stupid.” Kaan sighed.
“If there hadn’t been a branch-”
“Doesn’t change how reckless that was.”
“Help me down?” Nikolas asked. The fall was easily the height of two horses. At this point he didn’t want to humiliate himself further by spraining his ankle or something.
“Niko? Are you okay?”
“Sal is that you?” Nikolas asked, trying to look backwards.
“Where’s your horse?” Salandra asked.
“He ran off! I need your help, I need your horse to go fix my mistake.” Nikolas urged.
“Of course! Come on girl, let’s go help him down.” Salandra whispered into her horse’s ear.
She carefully led her horse right under Niko’s tree branch so he could lower himself onto her horse’s back.
“You want us to go after your horse?” Salandra asked, excited to be part of the action.
“Actually…I was thinking you could just lend me your horse. It’ll go faster if its just me.” Nikolas said with an almost apologetic smile. Salandra bit the inside of her cheek.
“Yeah of course.” Sal nodded, sliding off the saddle. Her horse snorted.
“Awesome! Thanks Sal.” Niko said, slipping into the saddle and grabbing the reins. “Let’s see if you’re fast enough.” The horse shook her mane in what seemed like a fine I’ll humor you.
“Don’t Niko, Jo’s got it.” Kaan warned.
“It’s my fault, I have to help out.” Niko said before urging the horse into a gallop.
Salandra watched as Nikolas rode off to try and catch up.
Kaan shook his head. “How do you put up with this guy?”
Salandra smiled and kicked a small stone lodged in the ground.
A new voice appeared on scene. “Here, climb on mine.”
Tatiana had joined them, along with her large horse, Brownie.
“Yeah, I’m nice.” Tatiana said, extending her hand.
Kaan scoffed. “I was just about to ask her, don’t put me in the same boat as him.”
“Why did you just let him take your horse?” Tatiana asked once she’d helped Salandra up.
“He needed it.” She shrugged.
“He didn’t need to kick you off.”
Salandra’s eyes drifted to the ground with a small smile. “I’m just too slow.”
The white horse’s hooves pounded against the ground swiftly, and though the horse was fast, Nikolas could tell it wasn’t as fast as Orion.
Not that he’d planned to chase after Orion like the counselor had.
Niko was thinking more along the lines of cornering the horse. While the counselor chased Orion’s tail, Nikolas could ride in from the side and grab the reins or something.
Bah, he’d probably figure out what to do when he got there.
Orion was strong and fast, but too focused on running to take notice of the two horses following him.
Nikolas’ plan brought him close to Orion, but not as close as he’d hoped. Orion was too fast, and Niko ended up chasing his tail as well. Just as Nikolas was about to pull the white horse away and try for the side attack again, he noticed Orion started to slow down. So, he urged his horse to go faster, even though he could tell she was beginning to tire of chasing on the hill.
Nikolas’ heart pumped wildly and as he drew closer to Orion. Focused as he was, he didn’t notice the sudden company before they came clear into his field of vision.
First there was only Orion, and then a young teenager who’d been running down the hill, jumped over the horse.
It was a graceful seemingly easy jump to the other side, all the while looking behind at the person chasing her.
Her expression was neutral, her pants slightly ripped and her hair as white as snow.
The moment she landed on the other side, her chaser appeared, sliding under the horse with perfect timing. Any more or less and he would’ve gotten a hoof in his head for his trouble. His pale glowing and burning skin revealed he was a vampire. Light flashed off a sword in his hand.
Niko instinctively pulled back on the horse’s reins in surprise. The white horse whinnied.
Lizard eyes, and white glowing eyes.
Nikolas couldn’t take his eyes off the strange couple as they ran off just as quickly as they’d run in.
The white horse hadn’t appreciated the rough pull on her reins, and Niko soon found himself throw off her back.
The horseback riding activity was over.
“I can’t believe we’re banned from horseback riding. Why did you two have to go and be idiots?” Dawn asked, gulping down her hot dog.
“Hey, I’m not the one who slammed into a tree and lost his horse.” Kaan replied.
“It’s not lost! Jo caught it eventually.” I countered.
“Better watch yourself newbie.” Dawn snapped, giving me a harsh glare. “I like horseback riding. We don’t get a lot of opportunities and you just destroyed all our summer ones.”
“Sorry ain’t gonna to cut it. Stupid and not a team player, do you have any redeeming qualities at all?” Dawn asked with an icy tone.
“Whatever.” I tossed my hotdog on my plate. I already got lectured by the damn counselors, I don’t need people my age scolding me.
“That was a little harsh.” Kaan remarked as I stormed off.
“I’m pissed okay.”
It’s not like I did it on purpose! Or to get the counselor to ban horseback riding or anything! It just sort of happened!
Geez, don’t blame me.
“What? Are you here to tell me all about how horrible I am for ruining horseback riding?” I snapped.
Salandra took a step back.
“No, no…I was just wondering what you were doing.”
“Oh.” I glanced behind her at where everyone was eating their lunch, and then behind me at where the cabin stood.
“Hey, you still remember the riddle right?” I certainly hadn’t stopped.
“It’s the best of times right now. I’m going to go snoop for it in the cabin.” I said. “You want to help?”
She hesitated slightly, before smiling and nodding her head.
We sneaked inside the cabin, quickly making sure the counselors hadn’t noticed.
They didn’t forbid us from coming inside, but it was discouraged. It was more of a shelter for bad weather and where they kept the supplies.
And hopefully the riddle as well.
“Where do we search?” Salandra asked.
“Anywhere that could hold a riddle. It’s five lines long so its not really big. A book? On the wall? In the fridge? Who knows.”
“Finding a treasure would be really cool.”
“Yeah, could put that on my resume.”
“Really?” Salandra exclaimed, believing every word I said. I rolled my eyes.
“I’ll take this side.”
I started flipping through the numerous books on the nearby bookcase.
Doesn’t matter if everyone here hates me for no reason. I’m sure Dawn’ll regret her words when she sees me with the treasure.
“I like this camp.” Salandra said as she looked at the various clippings and pictures on the bulletin board.
Our search for the riddle didn’t last long, the female counselor, Flo, was quick to join us.
She sighed heavily. “Can’t you keep still for a few hours?”
I placed the book I was holding back on the bookshelf. I glanced at her and shrugged.
“What are you doing here? What are you both doing here?”
“Searching for the riddle!” Salandra supplied.
“You’re still on that? You’re annoyingly persistent.” Flo scoffed.
“And for some reason you won’t even let me look at it!” I shot back.
“Because there’s nothing to see.”
“I still want to take a look.”
“You’ve been nothing but trouble so far and the first week isn’t even over. And now you’re demanding for things?” Flo said, crossing her arms.
“What do you want in exchange?”
She considered me for the next few seconds. “You have to start respecting us more. If Jo tells you to stop, you stop.” I nodded. “And well….”
“Ok, how about this then. The challenges are starting tomorrow. Win one and I’ll give you a copy of that riddle.” She said.
I grinned. “Deal!”
And if I was going to win tomorrow’s challenge, the one my team happened to be practicing for this afternoon, I would need to be the champion.
Sure, Zac is good with a bow (he actually hit the bull’s eye), but convincing them shouldn’t be a problem.
Plus I’m captain.
“Hmph, I can do better.” I said, and my teammates turned to me surprised I actually wanted to participate.
They told me to go ahead and show them what I had.
I have no idea if I’m actually good with a bow…but there is something I know I’m better at than the others.
And that’s magic. It was just a tiny little spell on one little arrow to make sure it hit its mark. I subtly cast my spell, the other three too busy chatting, felt a lot of my energy drain, and then took up the bow and arrow.
My spell worked perfectly, the arrow actually going past the moving targets (they hadn’t been moving for Zac) and hitting the apple on the dummy’s head.
My team didn’t protest and told me I could be the champion. See? There was no doubt.
And guess who’s going to have that riddle tomorrow?
Yeah, you guessed right.
Because really. How could I not hit a tree with my heir?
I love Niko so much. It’s like he falls into these situations willingly