Chapter 5: Departure From Three Pines

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Our hubris knew no bounds. We had worked horrors, but because they came from our hands, they were counted as wonders. We had committed atrocities. We had done every despicable thing, and we counted ourselves great.

***

Laidu sneezed. "Bloody hay," he said. For some reason, he was allergic to that. But horses loved hay, and, while Laidu was stronger than the average man -far stronger- he needed a horse to cover good ground. And horses loved hay.

He stood by the bench, grooming his skittish draft horse. It had cost fifty silver talents, but the animal looked strong and healthy. Just not intelligent. It was a look in the eye that betrayed it.

"There, there," Kyra said, patting her horse. "See, just because the big, scary dragon's in here doesn't mean he's going to eat you," she said with a smile. "Relax, Salahad," she said, patting her horse, "Laidu's not hungry." She wore dark green leggings, a good tunic, and a nice wool cloak. It was all second-hand, given to her by the people of Three Pines.

"Bah," Laidu said. His horse, Plow, was not terribly comfortable around him. The draft horse was skittish, and didn't seem like he was the brightest of animals. He probably didn't have the brightest of owners, either, with an incredibly, jaw-droppingly creative name like Plow. But he was strong, and he was obedient. "I've had horseflesh before. Too tough for my liking."

Kyra made a face. "Don't say those things in front of the horses!" she said. "They're smart!"

Laidu gave a laugh. "Really?" he said. "Mine's dumber than a doornail," he said loudly.

The horse swung it's head into Laidu's chest, knocking him onto the ground. He slammed into the stall, earning a chuckle from Kyra. "Doesn't seem too dumb," Kyra said. Laidu swore the horse had given him a disapproving glare. All skittishness was gone. That was good. But he sensed the horse didn't like him. Well, the feeling was mutual.

Kyra adjusted Salahad's bridle as Laidu got back up. "So, I'll be going home," she said. "Saefel Caeld is a long way away," she remarked. "Thanks for coming along. You, I know I can trust." she said.

"Well," Laidu said. "I figured that it would be safer with a King's Ranger along," he said, and adjusted his shirt. Anna, the tavern mistress, had insisted he take one, so he wasn't cold going north to Saefel Caeld. He had tried to tell her that he couldn't get cold, but no. She had practically ordered him to take the shirt. He did. Fortunately, it buttoned in the front, so that let him put it on easier, without getting it tangled up in his horns.

His hood, too, had been slit so he could put it on with little trouble. Of course, that was required dress for any Ranger. He slid, and noticed a large wet spot on his shirt sleeve. Ugh. Might as well dry it out.

He slipped out of it, turned, and pressed his hands on either side of the sleeve. He heated his body up slightly, and watched the stain steam out.

"Woah," Kyra said. "What happened to you?" she asked.

"My back?" Laidu asked. "I keep myself in shape."

"No, not that," Kyra said, her voice getting closer. Her fingers brushed one of the scars on Laidu's back, sending chills across it. "You've got a lot of scars."

"Spent some time in the Ajandi salt flats." He sighed. "I didn't agree with the authorities, you could say." Yep. And when you disagreed with the authorities, they took offense to that. A lot of offense.

Kyra nodded. "That must have been tough," she said after a while. Laidu had just nodded. Over half his scars came from Ajand. It wasn't a time he reflected fondly on.

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