The trader’s road climbed in steady switchbacks up the pass that separated the woods and plains of Southwestern Adnor from the fertile valleys and lakes of central Adnor. Vytar’s horcine moved along steadily, but my trusty mount snorted and huffed. Looking back on Trommel I could see the opening of the mine like a black maw on the side of the city. A tail of black smoke flowed out of it. Looking further behind, I could see trees and I imagined Oakvale and its citizens going about their afternoons in the heat of the early summer. I’d have been finishing up the meal for the night and checking the levels of the beer and cider kegs. Jeslynn would have been laying out table clothes or washing up dishes from anyone who’d stopped by for lunch. I found I didn’t hold any grudge against her for her actions (reported actions?) with Torgood and I had no yearning for her. Had I loved her or was that something that Tiria had invented for me? I felt a sadness for the small boy who’d been our son. The boy who’d wanted a horse.
We turned another corner and road ran along the ridge for a short span before the top of the pass. It started to sprinkle. Vytar looked back to check on me, rain drops making his copper-colored hair glisten.
In a few moments, the sprinkle turned into a downpour and we found a tree to huddle under while we waited for it to stop. Vytar had a hood, but I had nothing, and the rain slid in uncomfortable rivulets down my neck and dripped from my nose. My horse stood with his head drooping, its behind to the horcine’s head – neither body lending much cover to the other or to us.
After a long miserable moment of silence, I asked, “Do you think it would be odd to name a horse after a boy? Sort of in his memory?”
Vytar looked over at me in surprise.
“He really liked the story of the Blue Knight and the Lady of Winter,” I said, remembering.
“Ah, I loved that story as a child. The horse, what was the horse’s name?”
“I loved Quadriqus, the great midnight colored steed with hooves of iron and eyes that shown like lanterns.” Vytar chuckled, the first such emotion I’d seen from him.
“You should name your horcine that,” I suggested. He looked at the mechanical horse, which stood without moving, oblivious to the rain.
“You seemed offended by it earlier and now you want me to name it?”
I’m not sure if it were the rain or some perverse need to share the horror of what I could see. I wiped the water from my eyes and reached over, placing my hand over his eyes. He did not jerk back as until I said, “See.”
He blinked a few times and then starred at me.
“Look at your horse and then look at my horse – do you see the difference?”
He seemed reluctant to take his gaze off of me, but turned his head slowly to view the horses.
“Mine has a sort of red solid thing in it, and yours has a shimmering rainbow.” He looked back at me and added, “You look like a hurricane of rainbows.”
That caused me to look at my torso, but I couldn’t see a thing. Just wet tunic.
“Gods nads, what is that crawling out of your saddle bag?” He stood up and backed to the tree. Zat hissed at the rain and whined to me.
I got up and put my hands over it to shelter it from the rain.
“Back into the lamp. I know you’re hungry. Soon. I promise.” Zat gave me some warmth and returned to the saddle bag and its lamp.
I glanced back at Vytar to find him on his knees in front of me, holding his hands together in a sign of devotion.
“What are you doing?” I said, “You’re all muddy.”
“My lord, I thought it had to be you, but now I’m certain.”
A flash of light made me jump. Vytar got off his knees and we huddled again under the tree. The rain now fell in cascades and the wind howled through the tree.
“You’re certain of something?” I yelled over the sound.
“Who was your mother?” He countered.