Tuesday, February 10, 2015

'The Runaway' - Part One

Hello yet again, fellow digressors. How was your weekend? Mine was a little busy, but not too bad. I got a copy of Microsoft Office on my laptop at long last, which should make my life as both a copy-editor and a novelist a lot easier. This makes me happy. However, because the program took time to install, and because I needed time to play with and get used to my new toy, I'm delivering this next short story opening a day or two later than I intended. (The opening for the first story, 'Street Rats', is here, in case you missed it.) 

Anyways, some of you may remember Jorthen Lavahr from 'The Follower'. Despite any mistakes he might have made, he still seems to be well-loved by readers, and it's been quite interesting trying to develop his backstory, especially as he tends to come across as 'Mr. Perfect'. As you are probably aware, no-one is truly perfect, and we all have secrets, some bigger than others. So, without further ado, here is the next short story... 
The Runaway
Reshan Territory, North-East of Jaern – Outerlands
Eleven years before the events of ‘The Follower'

There was a time when Jorthen Lavahr would have done anything for his father. If Atrin gave him an order, Jorthen would keep his mouth shut and obey, no matter the consequences. If someone from the outside asked him, he would say that hadn't changed.
But here, with the campfire crackling before him and Atrin plotting a course with their map a few feet away, Jorthen couldn't keep his mouth shut any longer.
“...I don't want to go.”
Atrin looked up briefly from the map, then went back to it without so much as looking Jorthen in the eye. “You'll go. The Council is expecting your arrival.”
“They're all older than me. I'm not supposed to join until I'm sixteen.”
“Ordinary people join at sixteen.” Atrin reached for his canteen of water and took a brief swig before speaking again. “We are not ordinary people.”
Jorthen swallowed. “What's so bad about being ordinary? What about...” He hesitated, but the question escaped him despite his efforts to be quiet. “...What about Amra?”
Atrin threw his prodding stick into the fire. Sparks leapt up from the coals upon impact, and Jorthen cringed to avoid them. He raised a hand to shield his eyes, but a hot look from Atrin made him slowly lower it and straighten his posture. 
Atrin ground his teeth and raised his eyebrows slightly. “I believe I remember telling you not to mention her again.” 
The evenness of Atrin’s tone made Jorthen gulp. His tongue felt thick, but he concentrated enough to make it work. “Sh-she…” No. No stammering. Stammering was a sign of weakness. He cleared his throat. “…She’s my friend. I barely got to say goodbye.” 
“You’re lucky you even got a moment with her. I should have made all the preparations myself instead of giving you time to bid goodbye to the local rabble.” 
Jorthen tensed. “Amra isn’t rabble.” 
“Look, I’m going to say this once more, and if you bring it up again, there will be consequences. Are you listening?” 
Jorthen’s muscles quivered, but he managed to nod. 
Atrin’s blue eyes burned into him. “That girl is beneath us. Always has been, always will be. Forget her.” 
All Jorthen could do was stare, unable to even avert his gaze. His mind seemed frozen, and with it every other part of him. Maybe that was why he shivered. 
Silence stretched, and Atrin picked up another stick and fiddled with it in what seemed like a casual manner. He snapped off a deviant twig that had sprouted from it and eyed Jorthen again. “You hear me, boy? No son of mine will run off with an herbalist’s daughter.” 
Jorthen wanted to retort, to ask what was so wrong with caring for an herbalist’s daughter, especially since that herbalist had kept him alive these fourteen years. But he withered under Atrin’s gaze, and he lowered his eyes to stare at the grass and mumbled, “Yes, sir.” 
“And hold your head up.” 
This command Jorthen rejected. Instead, he worked his jaw and glared at the coals of the fire before him. Half of him hoped Atrin would not notice, but the other half knew he would, and relished the rush of adrenaline that came from that knowledge. 
“…Go to the tent and wait for me.” 
The adrenaline faded as blood drained from Jorthen’s face. His mouth went dry, and he swallowed hard as his thoughts scattered. Atrin was taller than him. Even if Jorthen turned out to be the faster runner, his heart would likely betray him and take him to the ground long before Atrin gave up. 
A Lavahr never gave up. Never quit. Never showed weakness. 
“Did you hear me, boy?” 
Numbness overtook Jorthen as he rose to his feet and stumbled towards the tent. If he was lucky, by the time he got there, he would be completely devoid of feeling. He would no longer care. By the time Atrin arrived, he would no longer feel pain, either physical or in that corner of his mind where Amra Sheram’s freckles and glittering brown eyes taunted him. 
But he had never been lucky. So numbness would have to be enough for tonight. 
Reshan Guard Military Base, Jaern – Reshan Territory
Eight years later

Lieutenant Cpt. Jorthen Lavahr strode down the hall and ignored the looks his frenzied stride drew from others. Well, perhaps it would not have seemed frenzied had someone else used it, but the uneven rhythm and the way he leaned forward to gain momentum were so unlike him that only a few around him neglected to move out of the way. A young recruit with silky raven hair smiled and stepped forward as if to intercept him, but he ignored her. He barely felt the impact when his shoulder connected with that of a passerby, and it only occurred to him as he entered the echoing stone foyer a few feet ahead to mumble an apology. He spotted a door ahead as it swung open and some officer he couldn’t identify entered. He should have been able to identify him. Perhaps he was from another province? 
What did it matter? Jorthen caught the door before it could swing closed and stepped through it. 
Jorthen’s feet halted even as his mind raced forward and tried to plot a course to the nearest solitary place. He took a deep breath and ignored the ache growing in his chest as he turned and smiled at the recruit behind him. “Yes, Haren?” 
“Sorry to disturb you, sir.” Ardran Haren’s copper hair fell into his eyes, and he brushed it out of the way as he straightened his scrawny shoulders. “Permission to make a request, sir?” 
Ardran’s sudden change in posture reminded Jorthen to square his own broad shoulders, though he didn’t bother with the dark chestnut hair that likely fell over his own forehead. He put his hands behind his back and managed a slight chuckle. “Ardran, if you want to make a request, then make it. An overture isn’t necessary.” 
Ardran’s cheeks flushed red, and he ducked his head briefly. “Yes, sir. Sorry, sir. Um…” He wiped his hands on his tunic, then quickly folded them behind his back as if to copy Jorthen. “…I… would like to file a complaint, sir. A-about my roommate.” 
One of these days, the recruits would learn the difference between a request and a complaint. Jorthen nodded. “Find Inspector Brehn. He should be in the northern training room.” 
“Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.” Ardran turned and sprinted a few steps before halting. “…Uh, what should I tell him, Lieutenant Lavahr, sir?” 
You can tell him to keep you busy for a few minutes so I can get out of here. 
Jorthen blinked and reined his thoughts in again to form an answer. “Tell him what you just told me – that you want to file a complaint against your roommate. And give him whatever details he asks. Understood?” 
“Yes, sir.” Ardran nodded again and halfway turned to go, then hesitated again. “You don’t look well, sir. Should I call for a physician?” 
Abomination. Was it that obvious? Jorthen forced another smile that he hoped looked real. “I’m fine, Haren. Now you’d better hurry if you want to catch Brehn. I think he’s scheduled to meet a lady friend in about twenty minutes.” 
Ardran’s blue eyes widened. “Yes, sir.” It took only half a moment for him to forget entirely about Jorthen’s appearance and to sprint off towards the northeast section of the base. 
And people thought women were the only ones with ears for gossip. 
Jorthen glanced around to be sure no-one else was approaching, then turned and walked out of the building, pulling the door closed behind him. 
Outside, the town seemed to be made of all brown materials, and even the grass that sprouted up between cracks in the walkway seemed to have aspirations of turning to match that palette. The military base’s grey stone set it apart, as did the splash of color from the Reshan standard that waved from the battlements. Jorthen set his sights on the green of the grass at the edge of the town square and headed that way. Out here, people still recognized him, but as none had any immediate business with him, he met with no delays. 
He did not know how long we walked before spots crept into the corner of his vision and crouched to lower his head between his knees. From there, he rocked back into a sitting position, closed his eyes, and focused on breathing evenly. His pulse still raced, but with some effort, he made it slow and even out into a less painful rhythm. The adrenaline that had charged his flight drained slowly from his muscles, leaving him fatigued and aching for bed. But it was only midday, and he had two batches of recruits left to wrangle before his scheduled activities ended and the paperwork began. Not to mention any meetings he hadn’t known were coming, or any more impromptu questions from the recruits who already knew him. 
He had a good mind just to sit here for the rest of the day and pretend he’d been in some secret meeting the whole time. 
If only Atrin Lavahr had not been sitting in one of the southern meeting rooms at that very moment, likely prepared to launch a full investigation should Jorthen not return in time to perform every one of his duties. 
Jorthen raised a hand to his right temple and rubbed it, trying to rid himself of the headache growing there. How had his life come to this? When he’d joined up eight years ago, he’d managed to convince himself that the Guard would serve as an escape. True, he’d left some things behind, but at least he would be away from Atrin, except for the inevitable visits here and there. He could be independent. He could make something of himself. 
And he was something now, all right. He was twenty-two years old, easily over six feet tall, and strong. He could put on a brave face in any situation, and there was hardly a woman in Jaern who would not revel in his attentions. Even those who did not particularly like him could not hate him, such was his charm and his skill as a diplomat. 
And in this moment, he hated it. He hated all of it. Because it had all come from Atrin. He orchestrated everything, pulled strings to get Jorthen in before he was technically of age, conditioned him by various methods to push through anything, and constantly reminded him of any shortcomings he still needed to eradicate. There was not an aspect of Jorthen’s life that did not smell of his father’s influence. 
But then, had he ever really expected that to change? 
A rhythmic pounding fell on his ears, and he opened his eyes. His vision was still blurred, but if he squinted, he could see something on the northern horizon, a dark shadow in the distance, growing nearer as the pounding grew louder. A horse and rider? 
He stood and fingered the shakahn at his belt, just in case, but kept his mouth shut and his eyes on the figure in the distance. It could be a scout returning with news from one of the Reshan-Shamindo bordertowns, perhaps, but if so, why did he ride so hard? And as the horse approached, Jorthen could see that it was far from a war steed. It looked to be more of a packhorse, really, its shaggy grey coat littered with dirt and flecked with sweat, stride faltering as if it could not take much more running. 
And the skinny rider’s black hair, pale skin, and ragged clothing sent the word Shamindo ringing in Jorthen’s head. 
His pulse spiked again, and he pulled his blade free of its sheath. “Guards!” His voice came out hoarse, so he cleared his throat and called out again. Voices from the town behind him proved that someone heard him. If it came to a fight, he would have backup. 
At the disturbance, the grey horse tossed its head, released a shrill whinny, and stumbled to one side, then toppled, throwing its rider into the grass some yards away as if he weighed nothing. Jorthen dropped into a fighting position, but when the rider did not rise, he strode forward and tried to get a better look. The fallen horse paid him no mind as its lungs heaved in an attempt to catch its breath, but he leaned down to pat its neck as he peered at the rider nearby. He had landed facedown, but from here Jorthen could tell that he was small, barely a man if he was one at all, and that he carried no weapon. Jorthen slowly lowered his own weapon and froze as he spotted burns on the arm that was not pinned beneath the rider, and charred holes where fire must have caught his clothing. 
Jorthen kept still for a moment, then sheathed his weapon and knelt next to the boy. He touched his shoulder as lightly as he could and turned him over onto his back, then recoiled slightly at the sight of more burns on his face and neck. If treated, they should heal without leaving scars, but how had they gotten there? How much more of his body was burnt? Jorthen heard footsteps behind him and called over his shoulder, “He’s injured. Find a physician.” 
One of the newcomers repeated the order, and someone else sprinted back towards the base. Yet another person knelt beside the fallen horse to assess its condition. Jorthen stretched out a hand to feel for the Shamindo boy’s pulse. 
The boy gasped and jerked away from Jorthen’s hand as his eyes flew open. Jorthen started, then held up his hands in a placating gesture. “Easy, easy – I’m not going to hurt you.” 
From behind him, someone called out, “Shamindo! He’s a Shamindo spy!” 
“Quiet,” Jorthen snapped. He looked at the boy again and offered a hand. “Come on. We’ll get you some help.” 
The boy shook his head and tried to scramble away from Jorthen, but fell to the ground again, his green eyes wide, emaciated body trembling. The burns covered his hands and arms, and his tunic was singed halfway into oblivion. He could not have been much older than sixteen. 
Jorthen swallowed hard. “…Easy,” he repeated, and extended a hand again. “I’m Jorthen Lavahr. Let me help you.” 
The boy blinked at him, uncomprehending in his panic. All at once his muscles went loose, his eyes glazed over, and Jorthen barely moved forward in time to keep him from hitting his head on a rock as he fell unconscious again. 
Jorthen cursed under his breath and glanced at a Guard recruit as the boy stepped up beside him. “Help me get him to the base.” 
The boy nodded, and with little difficulty they lifted the Shamindo and headed for the military base. Until this point, Jorthen had managed to focus his distractible mind on the matter at hand, but as they walked, he could not help thinking, Won’t Atrin be thrilled when he finds out about this? 

Thursday, February 5, 2015

'Street Rats' - Part One

Hey there fellow digressors. Sorry I've been so absent lately -- among other things, copy-editing business has picked up a bit, so I've been busy with that. I had a day off today, though, so I spent it mostly sitting around and browsing Facebook and Pinterest. I saw some other people dealing with prompts and such, and decided to check out my huge board of prompts on Pinterest. I picked one, posted it to a writers' group on Facebook, and followed it myself. A couple of my friends urged me to write more and put it on the blog, or even to write more short stories and do the same with them. 

Well, it just so happens that I'd already considered this idea. And I've decided to give it a go. 

But here's the rub: I have way too many stories dancing about together inside my head. Most take place in the world of Sehret, and most are backstory pieces about my main characters or their families. And I am such an indecisive person that I can't decide which one to use. SO. Here's what I want to do -- over the next couple of days, I'll post the opening scenes for a few of these short stories, and give each a (very temporary) name so you can keep track of them. Then, in a few days (I'll have to figure out how many stories I'm dealing with before I know exactly when), I'll write a summary post with shortened versions of the scenes, and ask y'all to vote on which one most interests you. Whichever story has the most votes will be the one I continue (or try to continue) and post exclusively here on the blog. Let me clarify: These scenes are not in any actual book that I'm writing at the moment. They may become their own novellas or be sorted into an anthology of short stories at a later date, but right now, the only way to read them will be by coming here. Think of it as a serial novella which you get to read as it's written, and on which you can give feedback if you so desire (but please, be kind). 

Another idea I've considered is designating a certain day of the week to check the 'Writing Prompts' widget in the sidebar and follow whatever prompt it gives me, and invite y'all to join in if you want. Thoughts? How many of you would be interested in something like that? 

Anyways, now that I've gotten that intro out of the way, let me introduce you to the first (not fully edited) scene of the first short story... 
Street Rats
(Temporary Title)
Prequel to 'The Sehret Chronicles: The Merchant's Son'
Lans, Reshan-Shamindo Border -- Reshan Territory
All he had to do was take it. The bread sat on the edge of the table, fresh and wafting its yeasty scent towards Tal, making his stomach grumble again. He wouldn't have felt it over the moths fluttering in there, had it not sent such a sharp stab of pain throughout his ribcage. His hands trembled from hunger and fear. How would he ever make them steady enough to steal for his brother's dinner? 
The baker turned away to deal with a customer, and Tal's heart quickened. He tensed, glanced around to be sure no-one was watching, then... 
"You don't want to do that." 
Tal gasped and spun to press his back against the wall between him and the baker's stand. His pulse pounded in his head, and his stomach churned. 
A boy of about his age with straggly black hair and keen blue eyes crouched next to him and grinned. "New to this, are you?" 
"Keep quiet," Tal hissed. His hands shook, so he curled them into fists. "This is risky enough as it is." 
"It's risky because you don't know what you're doing. Me, on the other hand? I could get that bread in less than the amount of time you've spent shaking behind this wall." 
Darr's voice rang through Tal's head. "Quit shaking and get the job done. There'll be time enough to think things through later." 
He swallowed, glanced over his shoulder, then fixed his gaze on the newcomer again. "...Who are you?" 
"Name's Ryst. This is my territory." 
"It's Reshan territory, stupid." 
Ryst snickered, making Tal flinch. "So do you want that bread, or not?" 
Tal worked his jaw. "I've stolen before." 
"Sure, sure you have." Ryst crept to the edge of the wall and peered around it. "All right. The customer is leaving." 
Tal found himself creeping up behind Ryst and trying to peek around him. His heart leapt to his throat again, and he pulled back. "Do we go now?" 
"Back," Ryst hissed, and shoved Tal back far enough to retreat himself. 
Tal barely caught himself before he could fall. Frustration rose within him, and he glared at Ryst. "Why did you distract me? I could have made it." 
Ryst sighed heavily and rolled his eyes. "If you're counting on customers to distract him, then you never go during the first sale of the day. He won't let his guard down long enough to let you in until he feels safe looking away that long." 
"I don't have all day. I just need enough time to run in and grab the bread." 
Ryst snorted. "And then he'll spot you and call the guards. You might think you're fast, but you won't get away if you try something like that." 
Tal tried, but he couldn't think of a proper response. He looked away and tried to keep a neutral expression. His eyes stung, and he blinked hard to get any stray flecks of dust out of them. 
He felt eyes on him, and when he looked again, Ryst was watching him. "What's your name, anyhow? I haven't seen you around here." 
Tal swallowed hard, then cleared his throat and tried to sound as grown-up as possible. "Talsyn Lethar. I... didn't used to come here often." 
"Talsyn Lethar?" Ryst wrinkled his nose. "Too long. How's 'Tal' sound?" 
Tal shrugged. "It works." He was actually used to having his name shortened that way, but he felt no need to point it out to a thief he would probably never speak with again. 
"Fine then, Tal. How old are you?" 
"Why?" Tal glared at him again. "I don't even know your full name. Why do I have to give you my whole life story?" 
Ryst rolled his eyes again. "Fine, then. Don't tell me your age." He inched forward on the balls of his feet, then glanced at Tal. "If I snag that bread, I get a share, right?" 
"What kind of share?" 
"One third." 
"Half, or you can grab it yourself." 
"I have a brother to feed, dimwit." Tal tried to make the words sound hard and clipped, but his voice trembled, betraying hi desperation. Could he really get the bread on his own? Ryst was right -- he had no idea what he was doing. He'd only stolen twice, and both time were under Darr's supervision. Both times, Darr had stressed to him how this was not a permanent solution, only a quick fix until they could get on their feet again. 
But Darr wasn't here, was he? Not that he had really been there in life, either. 
It took him a moment of staring to realize that Ryst had vanished from his perch by the wall. 
Tal blinked and scrambled to his feet. Where had the rat gone? Stolen the bread, no doubt, and run off with every bit of it. Well, maybe that was fair, but it wouldn't help Tal fill any stomachs tonight. He glanced nervously about and fought the panic rising in his chest. He had to think. If Ryst's assessment was accurate, an attempt at theft now would more likely earn him a trip to jail than a meal. He couldn't afford that. He also couldn't afford to sit here all day coming up with plans if he wasn't going to follow through on them. 
He groaned and paced away from the edge, ran a hand through his greasy black hair. This whole trip had been a bad idea. It had been hard enough saddling up the old hag's gelding and getting it here. And leaving his brother on that hill outside of town, without supervision? While safer than leaving him at the house, it was still a monumental show of idiocy. He had to get out of here now. He had to grab Siran and-- 
"Hey, Tal-boy." 
Tal started and fumbled at his tattered belt for the sharpened stick that he'd hung there. He jabbed it out ad he whirled around to face the speaker. 
Ryst laughed and tossed a fresh, piping hot loaf of bread from his right hand to his left. "Still working yourself up, I see. Here." And with that, he flung the loaf into the air in Tal's general direction. 
Tal dropped the stick and caught the loaf in mid-flight. He turned it over in his hands, ignoring the way it burned his skin. The smell wafting from it made his knees weak. Upon closer examination, he saw that the loaf was whole. He frowned. 
"Good enough?" 
He looked up to see that Ryst was still watching him. Tal lifted the loaf as if putting it on display. "What about your share?" 
Ryst shrugged. "Break it off if you like. I'll eat something. Unlike you, I'm used to stealing for myself." 
The words stung, but Tal could barely hold back a grin as he stuffed the load into his bag. He had to get back to Siran. They had to get back to the house before the old hag got sober enough to realize that they'd gone. 
"Hey, shaker." 
The words made Tal stop and face Ryst again. His face flamed as he remembered that he hadn't acknowledged the efforts made to get the food now bulging in his pack. "...Thanks." 
"Actually, I was just going to say that my name is Rystar Teln." Ryst shrugged. "Just in case you were still wondering." 
Tal swallowed hard again and nodded. "...Teln. I'll remember." 
"I'd rather you didn't, actually. The name's Rystar." And here Ryst stepped forward and extended his hand. "Think you can remember that much, Lethar?" 
Tal hesitated a long moment, then took Ryst's hand and slapped his palm. He nodded. "Sure. And just call me Tal." 
Ryst returned the slap and grinned faintly. "I guess I probably won't be calling you anything, if you're not sticking around. You really going to feed yourself and that brother of yours with one load of bread?" 
"We've made do with less." Tal stepped backwards and lowered his hand. "I have to go. he's waiting." 
Ryst nodded. "Power to you, Tal. And lots of it." 
Power. Now there was an elusive commodity. Tal shrugged. "Sure." He turned again to leave, then hesitated. "Hey, Ryst--" 
But when he turned again, Ryst was gone, vanished as if he had never been there in the first place. 
Tal looked down at his satchel, then at the ground where Ryst had stood. After a long moment of thought, he turned and sprinted off in the direction of the hill where he'd left his brother. 
When he got there, clouds had just begun to roll in over his head, and the air was pregnant with telltale moisture. Tal shuddered and quickened his step. He spotted the patch of grass where he'd made Siran sit not an hour earlier. 
Nothing. The grass was bare. 
His heart leapt to his throat again. "Siran?" His voice came out hoarse, and he nearly tripped in his haste to get up the hill. He reached the patch of grass in question and patter it as if to be sure that no-one sat there. His eyes had not deceived him. Panic swelled in his chest, stole his breath from him. He whirled around and panted for breath. "S-siran? Siran, where did you go?" 
Could he have wandered into the city? Had Tal passed him in his hurry to get there? What if one of the merchants had nabbed him, declared him a Shamindo street rat and locked him up somewhere? What if-- 
Tal nearly cried out from relief when Siran sprinted over the crest of the hill towards him. Tal stumbled up to meet him, grabbed hold of his arm, and dropped to his knees before his little brother. "Siran, I told you not to wander off like that!" 
Siran's green eyes grew wide, and he tried to jerk his arm away from Tal. 
A bit of remorse left a lump in Tal's throat, and he released Siran's arm. "I'm sorry. I was just... I just didn't..." His words trailed off, and he winced, then touched Siran's arm more carefully. "Look, Siran, you know I wouldn't hurt you, right? Not ever." 
It took a long moment, but Siran nodded and wrapped his arms around Tal's neck. 
Tal blinked hard and returned the hug, then took a deep breath. It was time to be the big brother here. No more motherish panic attacks. He reached for his satchel and pulled the flap open. "I got something in the market for us." He reached into the bag and pulled the loaf into view. 
Siran's grin was instantaneous. "You got food?" 
Tal relaxed again and managed to return Siran's grin. "Yeah. I had a little help, but we won't go hungry tonight. Here..." He broke off a piece and offered it to Siran. "Chew it slowly. This will have to last us until I can get some more." 
If his brother heard his warning, he showed few signs of it. Siran stuffed the morsel into his mouth all at once, and seemed to have no intention of chewing it. 
Tal laughed. "Eacy there. Don't choke yourself." 
Siran coughed and ducked his head a little, then made a more obvious effort to chew his food. All the same, it was barely five seconds before he swallowed. 
Fair enough. Tal broke off a piece of the bread or himself and took a bite of it. The succulent, yeasty taste almost made him cry out with pleasure. He could see why Siran's self-control had gone out the window. But this had to last. He finished his piece and stuffed the rest of the loaf back into the satchel. "We'll have the rest at the house." 
Siran's face fell. "But she'll take it." 
"No, she won't. I'll hide it so that she won't ever find it." Tal offered a hand to Siran. "Trust me?" 
A pair of wide eyes met his, then Siran nodded, smiled sheepishly, and slid his grimy hand into Tal's. 
Tal squeezed his hand and led the way back down the hill. Siran's feet slipped enough times that, by the time they reached the bottom of the hill and approached the animal they'd ridden into the city, Tal had hoisted his brother onto his back and had a pair of arms wrapped tightly about his neck. It was all he could do to hold them far enough out to avoid choking. He helped Siran mount and began to fasten their satchel to the saddle. Something bumped his rear, and he swatted without looking. "Settle down, horse." 
The black gelding, Taryk, nickered and nipped again. Siran giggled. Tal grimaced and ignored the animal until he had the bag secure. Taryk bumped him with his nose, and Tal sighed and rubbed it. "You're a real chore, aren't you?" 
This must have been enough, for a moment later, Taryk bobbed his head and began to graze again.
"Oh, no, you don't. You'll eat at home just like us." Tal swung into the saddle and helped Siran center himself on the saddle. "Ready?" 
"Can we make him gallop today?" 
If this nag galloped, he'd fall apart halfway home. "We'll see. Just hang tight, all right? We'll be home soon." 
Siran nodded and took hold of the saddle horn. Taryk seemed none too pleased, but ceased his grazing, and when Tal picked up the reins and kicked, the animal tossed his head slightly and began the eternal ride towards home. 
Copyright (c) 2015 by C. F. Barrows