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Volare Solis

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Young Lawrence Keelan
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Volare Solis

Post by Young Lawrence Keelan » Mon Jan 08, 2018 8:23 am

The one thing wizards had always wanted to do since the dawn of time was fly. Eventually as the millennia stretched out, they conquered this most basic of goals via enchanted wooden vessels; broomsticks acted as impromptu wands by which wizards channeled their magic. At Hogwarts, Madam Hooch was still in charge of Flying classes, which were only given to First Years. The rest of the time she advised the Interhouse Quidditch Tournament.

The first time Laurie ever encountered a broomstick was during his first Flying class, on a chilly September morning out in the pitch. They had to walk far out into open space, prompting Russo and Tarin to remark that he was unlikely to be a viable candidate due to his limp. But the moment he spoke Up! his broom leaped into his hand and he gripped it forcefully, intuitively understanding how to mount and kick off.

His gait wasn't perfect, but he could perform turns and full stops by the end of the class, and in a few months, he'd become the go-to 'captain' for practice rounds (the class was Slytherin/Gryffindor and each house was able to elect a leader every time), taking the position of Keeper near the back. Ryan Tarin was another invaluable source of tactics and Greg Marshall held a natural flair for the game, leading quite a few to wonder if this year's newest incoming Slytherins would eventually matriculate into the greater house team.

Flying was one of the few times Qin ever saw Laurie 'blow off steam,' losing the constant dredge of cerebral analysis and constructed fronts to feel the wind on his face and tangle with his peers. It was fortunate that a Flying class had been scheduled shortly after their debacle at the Treehouse, and just in time. Laurie played hard and relentlessly the entire time, but by the end he was ruddy-cheeked and wind-swept, breathing hard and riding the endorphin rush.

The negative feelings that had plagued him were mostly gone when he spotted Qingying in the stands, and he offered a little wave, packing up his stick and placing it atop the pile of school-issued equipment. "Keelan, I tapped Coelho," Tarin nudged him on the way by. "She's in with Treal. They picked Dungbombs for some crazy reason. Meet up later and grab the totem?"

"Yeah," Laurie nodded. "Good game," he added to a raven-haired Gryffindor passing them by. Gryffindors were always cool toward Slytherins and the girl just scoffed in response. At last everyone disbanded and he migrated to Qingying's side. "Morning," he greeted, stuffing his hands into his robe pockets.

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Re: Volare Solis

Post by Qingying » Mon Jan 08, 2018 10:29 am

In contrast, Qingying did not join the House Quidditch team for many years while he was at school. While his friends saw he displayed obviously trained physical competence – one simply did not move as he did without purposeful cultivation, bearing the balance and grace of a dancer and handling himself easily during the few scuffles between students – and he practiced flying as diligently as he practiced everything else, becoming an excellent all-rounder, he politely declined invitations to join the team for years without fail. No one knew why.

It was only in his fifth year, when positions were sorely vacant, did he accept, willing to fill in positions as required. After he graduated, he did not pursue the sport, and left on a journey of learning to foreign lands. Some joked he’d gone on a pilgrimage. Many never saw him again.

Now, Qingying didn’t fly on a broomstick; he flew unassisted, or in the form of a bird. He didn’t understand why Russo and Tarin would assume Laurie wouldn’t be suitable, as he thought flying and this sport suited Laurie, who, with his injury, may have been unable to fully take part in some other sports.

“Good morning,” he greeted with a smile, and took out a flask to pour tea – hot, but not too much, as meticulous as always – into the lid which also acted as a cup, and offered it to Laurie.

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Re: Volare Solis

Post by Young Lawrence Keelan » Mon Jan 08, 2018 10:39 am

Because Russo and Tarin were assholes. Laurie hadn't taken any offense at the jibe at the time; it clearly hadn't reflected their genuine opinion of him as evidenced by how well they worked together now. He grasped the cup gently between his fingers and took a sip. "Did you see that last maneuver?" he grinned up shyly. He'd swung in a low arc and kicked the quaffle out of bounds at the apex, nearly upside-down. Qingying was aware that it wasn't on purpose, he'd literally just been diving for it, but to his teammates it looked incredibly cool, and he easily took the credit.

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Re: Volare Solis

Post by Qingying » Mon Jan 08, 2018 10:47 am

He grinned back. “Mhm,” he nodded. “Have you ever played polo?”

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Re: Volare Solis

Post by Young Lawrence Keelan » Mon Jan 08, 2018 11:00 am

"Uh, I don't think so. What's that?"

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Re: Volare Solis

Post by Qingying » Mon Jan 08, 2018 11:02 am

His smile became just slightly playful and mysterious. “Come,” he stood up and beckoned.

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Re: Volare Solis

Post by Young Lawrence Keelan » Mon Jan 08, 2018 11:05 am

He fell into step beside Qingying, hanging onto his mug to ensure the liquid contents inside didn't spill.

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Re: Volare Solis

Post by Qingying » Mon Jan 08, 2018 11:25 am

Laurie had a free morning after this, so there was time.
“Polo is a sport played on horseback; teams try to hit balls (which are on the ground) with long mallets to get the ball into the opponent’s goal.” He looked over with a smile. “Sometimes the players are practically hanging off – as you were. There are some similarities to Quidditch. Also, gymkhanas – mounted games, with activities such as pole bending, barrel racing, flag race, which involves picking up a flag from a pail while moving, and then placing them into another pail.” They made their way down to the stables, and the horses poked their heads out of their stalls. Qingying placed a hand on a chestnut gelding’s neck. “Do you know how to ride a horse?”

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Re: Volare Solis

Post by Young Lawrence Keelan » Mon Jan 08, 2018 11:33 am

His eyes were wide and he shook his head, staring up at the creature in awe.

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Re: Volare Solis

Post by Qingying » Mon Jan 08, 2018 11:48 am

Hogwarts didn’t offer equestrian lessons, and Qingying thought that was a shame. Riding was very beneficial.

“Back when I studied here,” Qingying went over to a stall on the left. “A small Shetland (a small, round breed of pony) cross, called Peanut, was housed here." He looked inside the stall, from which a large bay Clydesdale blew through his nostrils at him, before turning back to Laurie. “He was spotted and cute, and some students thought it was ridiculous and embarrassing when riding on something so tiny, but they always came back to pamper him even when they rode bigger ponies or horses, because he was the one who taught them how to ride.” He dipped his head. “That’s right, we often say 'the horse teaches us to ride'."

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Re: Volare Solis

Post by Young Lawrence Keelan » Mon Jan 08, 2018 11:50 am

Laurie spent quite a lot of time out in the paddocks, but he mostly watched the thestrals, for which he had a particular affinity. Not the horses. That changed as he glanced up at the chocolate-colored Clydesdale, absorbing all of this information silently but attentively. "Can I try?"

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Re: Volare Solis

Post by Qingying » Mon Jan 08, 2018 12:34 pm

“Mhm,” Qingying nodded. He’d planned this before Laurie had been almost upside down.
“Safety first,” he said, and moved to a grey pony that was about 137cm where his neck met his back. “Horses have a blind spot in front of their heads, and behind their tails, so don’t approach them from directly in front or behind, lest you scare them and earn yourself a kick from the nicest horse.” He smiled while stroking the pony’s muzzle. “They can’t even see the hand we use to pet them on their nose; their whiskers sense it. How trusting they are.”

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Re: Volare Solis

Post by Young Lawrence Keelan » Mon Jan 08, 2018 12:45 pm

Laurie raised his hand, mimicking Qingying slowly as not to startle the horse. He stroked it gently, an enigmatic expression on his face. A feeling of deep, abiding calm wafted through the air like a rustling wind.

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Re: Volare Solis

Post by Qingying » Mon Jan 08, 2018 12:52 pm

A horse’s muzzle was velvety and surprisingly soft. The pony gave a low nicker, his ears flopping, relaxed. “His name is Cloud,” Qingying said with a soft smile, “Although his ‘show name’ – when he participated in competitions before coming here - was ‘One Winter Cloud’.” He chuckled. “Horse people certainly like fancy and weird names.”

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Re: Volare Solis

Post by Young Lawrence Keelan » Mon Jan 08, 2018 12:56 pm

"Cloud. I like it," Laurie decided quietly.

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Re: Volare Solis

Post by Qingying » Mon Jan 08, 2018 1:00 pm

It suited the pony, whose coloration was ‘grey’ but was rather lightly coloured. Qingying looked at Laurie.
“Would you be comfortable riding… or you would like to spend time with the horses, first? Horses can sense fear, tension, discomfort – so if you’re not comfortable riding right away, it’s neither good for you nor the horse. It’s fine if you just want to groom him, tack him up, lead him around and get used to him, first.”

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Re: Volare Solis

Post by Young Lawrence Keelan » Mon Jan 08, 2018 1:29 pm

"Yeah, I can ride him," he nodded, shucking off his tote bag and folding up his outer robes to lay it on top of neatly. "If you show me what to do?" It was Laurie's attempt at an olive branch, his eyes a bit guarded as a result.

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Re: Volare Solis

Post by Qingying » Mon Jan 08, 2018 1:56 pm

He nodded and had Laurie’s stuff float behind them. “Let’s get the tack.”
They walked into the tack room, which was filled with saddles, blankets, rugs, grooming kits, some spare pails, and smelled of horse and hay. Qingying stopped by a small plaque with ‘Cloud’ on it.

“This is the bridle,” he lifted a mess of leather pieces attached together, a metal thing hanging at the end. “This is the saddle,” he pointed at a rather big seat-looking-thing, and lifted it up with one arm below it. “Heavy,” he warned, before giving it to Laurie. Saddles, unless specifically made to be light, were much heavier than they seemed. Riders certainly became strong simply from carrying them around. “This is the saddle pad.” Qingying put a small blanket and the bridle on top of the saddle.

Everyone carried their tack and learned to tack up – even kids, so Qingying began this early and didn’t help him.
He took a grooming kit and lead the way back to Cloud. The stables were indoors, so the temperature was pleasant. “You can leave the tack there,” he pointed, and then beckoned Laurie over to Cloud’s stall.

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Re: Volare Solis

Post by Young Lawrence Keelan » Mon Jan 08, 2018 4:10 pm

Laurie slung everything over his shoulder and carried it without complaint, cutting through any physical discomfort with surprising discipline. "OK, got it," he nodded and did as instructed before following Qingying back to the stall.

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Re: Volare Solis

Post by Qingying » Mon Jan 08, 2018 5:28 pm

When Qingying saw Laurie try to carry the tack over his shoulder, which was difficult as the saddle had no handholds, he showed him a trough under it, perfect for sticking one's arm into. It didn’t surprise him that Laurie didn’t complain – he hadn't explained to him why he was carrying it exactly because he didn't think it was necessary.

He removed something that looked like bands attached together by buckles and metal rings from a hook on the stall’s wall, informing Laurie that it was ‘a headcollar in Britain and a halter in the US’, and unbuckled the strap at the back before handing it to Laurie. Then he opened the door, reminding Laurie to make sure to always latch it after coming in, and stood next to Cloud, who pricked his ears, quiet and curious.

“Hold it up with this bit” – he pointed at the bands that formed a circle at the front – “facing his nose, and he’ll put his nose in it for you.”

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Re: Volare Solis

Post by Young Lawrence Keelan » Mon Jan 08, 2018 5:30 pm

"Do horses like this sort of thing?" Laurie couldn't help but ask, grimacing at the contraption Qin had handed him.

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Re: Volare Solis

Post by Qingying » Tue Jan 09, 2018 4:34 pm

Cloud, who was used to this, stuck his nose through the circle while Qingying smiled down at Laurie.
“Do dogs enjoy collars? It is hard to say whether they know they enjoy this, if this is what they have known, and do not have something else to compare to. Some horses enjoy being ridden – but that may be due to being able to explore the outside world. Some get bored, or enjoy the company, and I was once told of a horse who would stand next to his saddle and nudge it while looking at his owner when he wanted to go for a ride. Of course, there are also horses who do not enjoy being ridden – Sir Camelot, for instance” – he gestured towards the right wall “-does not, so I do not ride him, but Cloud does not appear to mind.

“Some say horses are not meant to be ridden – that nature did not design horses to carry an extra hundred pounds, and some say the weight is nothing for them. Others say it is fine as long as they’re ridden after they’re old enough and their bodies have developed. This is partly why I think horse racing is unnecessary – not just due to the frequent injuries to both horse and rider, but also because they start riding them too young. I knew people who refused to watch high level equestrian competitions because they considered the physical stresses for the horse unnecessary – the equines do not know the damage they do, and cannot choose to, like people can.
Then, there are harsh training methods, sometimes involving holding horses in uncomfortable or painful positions to ‘teach’ them to hold themselves or move in a particular way, and riders who cause discomfort or harm to their horses purposefully, through bad technique, or through cruel contraptions and actions.”

“Even the bit” – Qingying pointed at the metal thing at the end of the bridle, and put his fingers on either side of his lips – “which signals to the horse. Is it comfortable to have something in there? I doubt it. Is it something they just get used to? Maybe. Do they like it? Maybe they just accept it – and you’ll see many horses open their mouths for it, because they know what it’s coming towards them to do.”

He smiled softly. “There are people who keep horses as companion animals without having them work, or ride them. In this day and age, in many places, horses are no longer ‘beasts of burden’. Some call horses kept as ‘pets’ simply to eat grass, ‘lawn ornaments’, and what is wrong with that? Miniature horses – who are too small and weak for adults to ride – are often kept for exactly this.”

“I think,” – he raised his hand to pet Cloud, who had gotten bored by now and was pulling hay from a net hanging inside his stall, crunching it and dropping bits near his hooves messily – “if we are to ride them or train them, it’s important to consider their comfort, and not force them with pain or fear, educate ourselves on dated, harmful methods, learn their behaviours and what is ‘natural’, and adapt and act accordingly. Every horse is different. Some may enjoy it, some may not – some may not even know. All we can do is make decisions that are hopefully kind to them.”

He looked down at Laurie, soft smile still present. “If this worries you, you do not have to ride,” he said, and Laurie could tell there would be no disappointment or urging for either; simply acceptance.
“Or, there is an option: When I ride, I make myself weightless, just in case extra weight may harm their bodies, and I do not use a bridle. Some people use bitless bridles, and others are of the opinion that as long as the bit is not overly harsh and the rider’s hands gentle, a bit is not cruel. I wasn’t going to have you use a bridle the first time anyway, as balance and feeling the movement of the horse is more important, first, and the reins can encourage too much emphasis on the hands when signalling to the horse.”

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Re: Volare Solis

Post by Young Lawrence Keelan » Tue Jan 09, 2018 4:42 pm

"I dunno," Laurie shrugged, listening and not pausing to interrupt Qingying at all as he spoke, quiet as he formulated his own opinions. "You can get used to a lot, that doesn't mean it's not uncomfortable. I don't think I want to use this thing," he lifted it. It was funny, he clearly displayed a lot more empathy toward the animal than he had yet to demonstrate toward his fellow humans.

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Re: Volare Solis

Post by Qingying » Tue Jan 09, 2018 5:07 pm

Animals taught empathy.

“Okay,” Qingying nodded. “We won’t use a bridle.” He pointed at the headcollar half on Cloud’s head. “This is to lead the horse around, as ‘where the horse’s head goes, his body follows’. Correct leading does not involve yanking him – you stand roughly parallel to the shoulder, the leadrope is loose, his head is in front of you so you’re not pulling, and when you walk, he follows. Do you want to use this? Some trained horses will follow with or without it. The leadrope is used to… lead them, and also a quick release knot is tied to have them stay in one spot. Not all horses know to stay and not wander, and sometimes they may go onto the street. Usually a headcollar is used when leading a horse from the stables to the paddock, for instance, or when grooming or tacking up a horse.”

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Re: Volare Solis

Post by Young Lawrence Keelan » Tue Jan 09, 2018 5:39 pm

"Does Cloud know how to follow without it?" Laurie wondered, curious. He didn't seem to mind this as much, as long as Cloud didn't offer up any resistance.

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