A Brief Respite

Annoyed out of all proportion to the incident with Moon, knowing he was in no danger of imminent death yet feeling hot, breathless, and out of sorts, Kendall directs his escort to take him to the stable.

The guards lead him to the courtyard, and then the stables. A worn old man comes out to greet him, bowing as he wipes his hands off with a rag. "Can I help you, Gov?" His words are heavily accented.

Kendall inclines his head in acknowledgement. "Thank you, but no. I am not in need of assistance. I merely wish to see my horse for a short while. I believe she is in this stable."

The old man nods, wiping his forehead with a rag before leading Kendall to the back of the stable. Each stall they pass is occupied, Laoiseach sticking his head out to investigate as they approach, and Horse snorting at the visitors. At last, the Stable Master opens the rear gate that blocks their path, and there in a section all to themselves is Vanya and her kin.

Kendall's guide wipes his forehead clear of sweat again before saying, "Tis a fine mare you got there, Gov. Lots of spirit, but lets a man lead her about without a fuss. She had a few problems with taking a meal, till we mixed sweet grass in with the oats." Stuffing the rag back in his pocket, the old man continues, "But fine, nonetheless."

"Indeed," Kendall agrees. "You have taken most excellent care with them all. If I have any further need of your services, I shall inquire," he adds as he goes over to Vanya's stall, clearly a dismissal. He clucks to the mare, scratching behind her ears, realizing about then that he forgot to bring her something. He hadn't planned to visit her.

The old man bows, then leaves. Vanya moves forward to bask in her Lord's affection. Kendall can tell she doesn't really approve of the accommodations, and she begs for a treat as reward for putting up with all this rustic living.

"I know, my sweet," he answers her complaints with a smile. "I agree completely. You were meant for far better things."

Vanya whickers in agreement, gently butting her head against Kendall's chest in protest for the lack of treats. But seeing her master troubled, she moves over to the side of the stable as if wanting to be taken out for a little exercise, an idea that appeals to the Chaosian.

Hoping to find a paddock or corral nearby where they could do a little work, Kendall goes in search of exercise space and tack. It only takes a few steps before he sees his newly polished equipment in a nearby room, a young black-haired boy still working on another saddle. Standing as Kendall enters, he bows. "May I help you, Milord?"

"I wish to exercise my mare," Kendall replies, nodding briefly in response to the boy's bow. "Would there be a practice ring or paddock included in your stabling facilities where this may be done?"

"Yes…Milord," the boy adds the honorific as if mentally kicking himself. He drops the oily rag in his hand on the floor and motions to another door. "If you would come with me."

The boy leads Kendall out to an enclosed area with high stone walls and a soft dirt floor. It's small, unadorned, and very… dull, with no jump equipment in sight.

Kendall turns to the boy. "Do you not have any more challenging facilities? This ring is unacceptable for anything but the most basic lunging."

The boy seems surprised by the comment, this criticism of Kendall's. Casting his eyes about, hoping to see or think of something to satisfy the lord before him, he finally hits upon an idea. "Milord, there is a practice trail the Knights use that runs along Mt. Kolvir. It's off-limits to all but the most competent riders."

Kendall does not deign to respond to the implied question of his competence, merely giving the boy a cold stare while he waits. Taking the Lord's silence for agreement — or simply willing to do anything to get away — the child bobs his head and then leads the way to a lower stable door. Outside lies a slice of green along the mountain with a few hedges and boulders to jump and a splashing stream for refreshment after a hard ride. There are also a dozen or so wooden posts to hack at. To give credit where due, the trail does look interesting enough to keep Kendall busy at least for a few Turns.

The Chaos Lord looks the course over for 10 heartbeats, taking his time and allowing the boy to sweat before finally answering. "This will be adequate. Thank you. You may return to your duties." Then he heads indoors to get Vanya and have a leisurely ride on the mountain.

After exploring the course for about an hour, enjoying himself and pleased with Vanya's performance, Kendall pauses at one of the streams to allow the mare to refresh herself with a drink. He is admiring the stark beauty of the mountain, drinking in its primeval nature as his mount drinks in its lifeblood, when his attention is caught by movement near one of the southern facing gates up at the tiny royal palace.

A long line of armored Knights on foot assemble themselves in a line on the mountain path. Each Knight lines up with his brethren till there is one long line of armor stretching down the path winding toward the ocean. There seems little joy in the assemblage, the procession solemn as if they are undertaking a ritual.

Kendall notices the path is covered with something black which both sparkles in the sunlight, but also flitters about in the wind like petals from a flower. A trail of ebony, lined with Knights…strange indeed. Looking about, Kendall sees that unless he wants to ride across bare rock, he is in the best place to view what is going on along the Southern Path. After another 100 heartbeats, the gate swings shut behind the final Knight.

He recalls Moon making some reference to a funeral, either already in progress or happening soon. Never able to control his curiosity very well, he swings one leg over Vanya's neck and slides down out of the saddle. Bidding her to head back to the stable, he follows the line of Knights on foot at a discreet distance.

Vanya is also curious to why her Master is sending her back alone. But without complaint or explanation, she trudges up the trail back to the stables. Kendall looks about and sees a narrow, faint trail near the Knights, possibility left by the wild goats he had heard haunt the mountain sides. A careful slide and a hop gets him to a path only as wide as his boot, in some places with dangerous plunges to certain death.

At the top of the trail, a few whinnies from Vanya alerts a mystified stable boy to open the gate and guide the riderless horse in. This leaves Kendall alone on this side of Kolvir apart from a few hawks circling above in the clouds.

Back to the list of Kendall's game threads
Bolts From the Blue

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