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Chapter 2: The Stables

    As Amara went to take care of her belongings, Thalia followed Gregory out to the stable yard. While Gregory took care of his own mount, Thalia found Nyn’s stall and stepped in with the delicate white mare. She knew all too well that she had to be cautious around her horse to avoid upsetting her. Her holy aura had a slight calming effect on the high-strung horse, though she still had to be careful.

    Thalia gently petted Nyn’s neck and the mare tossed her head a bit, then nuzzled the priestess. I should have brought a treat out with me, she thought, but since she had nothing, she only laid affection on Nyn to put her at ease before leading her out of the stall and into the yard.

    Amara left her room after putting away her things and made her way downstairs and into the stableyard to see the others by their horses. She walked over to Lin and petted him. “See, I came back,” she said, resting her head against the stallion’s soft white hair. “I found some new friends, let’s go and meet them,” she said, walking out of his stall.

    Amara looked back to see Lin staring at her and sighed. “Come Lin, let’s go,” she said, walking a little further. “Oh well, if you don’t want to have a little freedom, no—” She was cut off by Lin as she felt him beside her. “Good boy,” she said, petting him as she walked over to Thalia.

    As Amara came over to Thalia, the priestess smiled. “Is that your horse?” she asked, though it was rather obvious.

    Jeren watched from the flanks silently. Horses were not his specialty, nor had he even ridden one before. It seemed so vastly unnecessary when one could fly. The idea of not being able to move in any direction he chose was a hard concept to swallow.

    Amara smiled at Thalia. “Yes, he is,” she said petting Lin once again before giggling. “He has a very free spirit. I am afraid to keep him in the stable and much too afraid to let him go stroll around the place.” Her hand softly rested on her stomach as she spoke.

    Thalia laughed slightly. “I suppose it wouldn’t be a good idea,” she replied. Turning to her white mare, she ‘introduced’ her to Amara. “This is Nyn. She’s a little high strung, but she’s been good to me. Gregory is good with horses, so he knows how to handle her too.”

    “Oh,” Amara said gazing at Thalia’s horse. “Nyn,” she repeated. “What a lovely name. What do you think Lin?” asked her horse.

    The white stallion just glanced at the mare and looked away. He had something on his mind, but didn’t show it, he just stepped to the side, but couldn’t get far since Amara was holding his reins.

    Amara giggled softly as she watch Lin. “I am glad he is behaving,” she said, petting him once again. “I wonder if Gregory can handle him?” she asked as she looked over at Thalia.

    “Maybe,” Thalia replied, looking across the yard at Gregory exercising his black stallion. “His family has bred horses for generations, so he grew up with them.”

    “Oh, that is so interesting,” Amara said to her. “I guess he might be able to handle Lin,” she said, watching Gregory with Thalia. She eyes soon went back to Lin as she softly petted him.

    Silently, Gregory made a quick prayer that he would not mess up in front of lady Thalia before starting to work with Berz. He started with some basic tricks like backing him up and making sure he followed commands doing laps and turning direction. This, he followed up with some exercises of comfort around people, such as touching Berz’s legs and rump.

    “You never know when someone may come up to your horse, especially children, and want to touch him. It’s best to have it trained to be able to tolerate it instead of panic and hurt someone unexpectedly,” Gregory explained to no one in particular. It was the same things his father always said while doing the same exercises, it was like a mantra so he didn’t forget a single step.

    The day was warm and sunny out and both Berz and Gregory were working up a bit of a sweat so the young man led the horse over for a drink. While Berz drank Gregory decided to remove his sweaty shirt, his muscles rippling as he did so. One thing Gregory always loved to do was to show off for the girls from his home town. For the moment, he had forgot that Thalia would be coming out with Nyn soon and he went back to working with Berz.

    Gregory had been working his horse while Thalia and Amara talked. As he brought Berz over to a trough, Thalia brought Nyn over to the young horseman. She didn’t seem phased by his bare chest, as the priestess was not so easily tempted. “Bring Lin over, Amara,” she said to the young woman as she headed over to Gregory.

    Amara was impressed to see how good Gregory was. As Thalia left and told her to come along, Amara held onto Lin and started to waddle over to her. Feeling a slight pain, Amara held her stomach and start to rub it. That is odd. I haven’t felt such a pain in a while, she thought as she looked up at Lin and smiled. She brought him over to the other horses, but still held onto his reins. “Nice job, Gregory,” she said with a smile.

    Lost in his personal world with his mind back on the farm and day dreams of his youth, Gregory came back to reality at Amara’s words. “Thank you for the compliment, Miss Amara. If there’s one thing I take pride in, its taking the time to understand the horses I work with and making them happy,” he replied with a genuine smile on his face. “How about I do a few more exercises and then we see how…what was your horses name again?”

    Amara giggled as she listened to Gregory. “Well, his name is Lin,” she told him. “I really hope you can handle him, ’cause I don’t have the energy to calm him down.”

    “Lin huh? It’s a cute name. Just hold onto him for a couple of more minutes and I will give him a go to see where he is at in his training,” Gregory said with a genuine smile, then turned to Thalia.“Are there any specific things you would like me to work on with Nyn, or just do the normal run through with her?” Today is a good day, he thought to himself as he smiled at the priestess.

* * *

    Jeren watched quietly from the back. He and horses didn’t have good relationships. They had a different personality from wyverns. Jeren and Nightfire loved the rush, acrobatics, the dangers of flight. A horse had fear where a wyvern begged for more. There was a passion in a dragon mount that no horse could hope to attain. In this stable, the domesticality of them was a sordid reminder of that.

* * *

    Lin watched Gregory with an angry glare. He was already was angry for being in the stables, and now had weird people around him. He couldn’t understand what most people were saying, but someone also calling his name was something Lin did not like. He moved around, but Amara held his reins.

    Amara watched Lin and petted him softly. She could see that he was starting get rude and ready to attack. She smiled at Gregory while petting Lin. “Alright,” she said as she turned to Lin and whispered something in his ear.

    “Yes, just do her normal exercises,” Thalia replied. As Amara spoke, she glanced over at the young woman and her horse and immediately noticed Lin’s laid back ears and the whites showing in his eyes. She knew little of horses, but she knew when one looked angry. Nyn seemed to pick up on it too, and the white mare steeped anxiously to the side, tossing her head. “Gregory, will you need some help?”

    Looking in the direction of Thalia’s nervous gaze, Gregory smiled. “No, I should be able to handle him. He just needs to learn discipline. It will just take a little longer to work him because I will have to get him good and tired first.”

    With that said the young man stuck his tongue out in challenge to Lin before walking back to Berz to wrap up his exercises. Gregory always enjoyed a challenge to see who would give up first; trainer or horse. It was only a matter of a few more minutes to finish with Berz and Gregory was covered by a thin sheet of sweat. He put the large stallion away quickly and walked over to the waiting Amara and her petulant pony.

    “How about I take you next my little friend?” he asked Nyn with a mischievous smile.

    At being spoken too, the little white mare tossed her head and stomped a hoof, almost in challenge to the trainer. Thalia giggled lightly at Nyn’s reaction.

    Moving on to Lin, which was an adventure in itself, Gregory did his best to keep control and train the best he could. By the time the battle of trainer and aggravated horse was over, both were exhausted, covered in sweat and dirt, and ready for dinner. The young man had been hoping to get to work with all the horses today, but that ended up not being the case with how exhausted he was. Trainer had won the war, but horse was pleased with his fighting and would fight again another day.

    “I think we should clean things up and go get something to eat. I apologize for not being on top of my game today, Lady Thalia. I wont be able to work with Nyn after all.” With a few bite marks and a limp from a kick he had received from Lin, Gregory proceeded back to the stable with horse in tow.

    “That’s fine,” Thalia waved dismissively. Lin was a lot of work, after all. As Gregory led Lin back to his stall, she led Nyn back to hers. It was getting late, and there were issues to discuss about finding this Nat fellow, and arranging business with Jeren. As Thalia stabled Nyn again, her mind was working on the upcoming journey. She felt a little sorry for Jeren, he seemed to have no interest in watching all the training, but he stood out there anyway, patiently. Thalia felt a little bad for leaving him to such boredom. She would also have to tend to Gregory’s leg after that kick he received. It didn’t seem to be anything serious, but it hurt bad enough to make him limp.

    Once Nyn was locked away, Thalia went to Gregory’s side after Lin was locked in his stall, albeit unhappy about that. “Gregory, let me see your leg,” she said, kneeling down in front of him.

    Amara was a bit surprised by how well Gregory was handling Lin, but she was afraid that the young man was going to get hurt, and by the looks at the result after the training, he was. She frowned as she watch him lead Lin back to the stables with a little limp. She wobbled over and sighed. “I am sorry. I wish he wasn’t so stubborn,” she told Gregory. She looked at Lin and frowned at the white stallion, then she then walked back into the inn.

    Lin was impressed by what Gregory had accomplished, but this act just made him more mad. As he led the tired horse back to stables, Lin became angry, then furious, in less than a minute. The horse was tired, but he had a plan for the next time he saw the man. His thoughts quickly led him back to his owner. Her voice was wonderful to hear, and it calm the horse down, but he soon became angry again as he saw that Amara was frowning at him. He made small noise as the woman left and quickly looked back at Gregory with rage in his eyes.

    Gregory had had enough of horses for today. His leg hurt, along with countless other muscles, but when Thalia knelt in front of him his heart melted. “My lady, you shouldn’t kneel for me I am just a farm boy.” He reached down and touched her arms to help her stand. It was the few times he had ever physically touched her. “If you wish to heal my aches, perhaps we should wait until we get back inside the inn where you can sit properly?”

    “Hold on. It’s no trouble,” Thalia said, refusing his offer to stand. “Holy Marfa, grant me the power to heal this good man’s wounds,” she prayed and a holy light glowed about her hands as her healing spell took effect. Soon, the pain subsided in Gregory’s leg and the welt healed. Her superiors would probably chastise her for using her gift on such a minor injury, but she wouldn’t feel right letting him limp about. Once his wound was healed, Thalia stood back up and brushed off her robes. “There, all done.”

    Gregory blushed deeply as the priestess healed his leg and then he stammered, “Th-thank you, Lady Thalia. We should go back inside; I need a bath and we should decide what to do next.”

    With that said, Gregory turned on his heels and practically fled the area back to the inn house.

* * *

    Jeren smiled at all that ensued. While the dragon knight freely admitted he was useless around anything with hooves, the trainers of Moss were far more wary of their mounts’ attitudes. Of course, there is a great difference between the deadly potential between a horse and a wyvern. It wasn’t unknown for the wild wyverns to be capable of hunting and killing men. Horses hunted grass, a much easier to catch foe, Jeren imagined, and probably required a less deadly killer.

* * *

    Thalia smiled as Gregory hurried back to the inn. Even she wasn’t oblivious to the attraction he was harboring, and though she usually felt frustrated by all the attention she got, for some reason she wasn’t as bothered when it came from Gregory. Before she joined him inside though, she turned to the very irritated stallion in the stall next to her. Turning to face Lin, Thalia clasped her hands in prayer; “Holy Marfa, let your peace and love descend on this beast. Give him comfort.”

    The blessing overtook Lin and the horse began to quiet. Thalia hoped that the peaceful feeling would last him through the night. After doing all she could for the horse, Thalia turned back toward the inn. Jeren was the only one left outside, and a little awkwardly, Thalia gave him a nod and a smile, then headed in his direction. “Let’s go back inside and discuss how to pursue this missing lover of Amara’s, hmm?” she said to the dragonrider.

    Jeren nodded, pulling his arms behind his back. “Quite,” he replied, taking up her side as they headed back in. “That is some gift you have there, miss.”

    Thalia blushed and bowed her head. “It’s only the gift that Marfa has given me,” she replied humbly.

* * *

    Amara walked into the common room and sat down at their table. With a soft sigh, she stared down at her stomach and started to rub it.

    Thalia and Jeren returned inside to join Gregory and Amara at their table. The priestess slipped into her seat next to Amara. “I hope you don’t mind, but I gave Lin a blessing of calming. He should be content through the night,” Thalia explained. “But we really must discuss how we’re going to find the father of your child now.”

    Having changed his mind about going to clean up first, Gregory went to the table instead to talk to Amara when Thalia and Jeren came through the door. He blushed again and grew silent, waiting to see where the conversation would lead and hoping no one would notice the smell of sweat and dirt too much.

    Amara watched as the group gather around the table and she smiled as Thalia explained the blessing that she placed on Lin. The girl looked at Thalia and said, “It is fine, I am actually very glad that you did that.” Amara nodded to the priestess and looked at the group. “Yes, tomorrow we will be hitting the road. We will be heading west, to Moss,” she said with a little cough at the end. She needed some water, but she decided to get some before she went to bed so she didn’t interrupt the conversation.

    The priestess looked down at the table and picked at the wood grain a little nervously. “Well, I was thinking that perhaps we should investigate along the way, starting here,” Thalia suggested. “He is a bard, and he may have passed through Adan on his way home. If he is attractive as you say he is, I think people would probably remember seeing him, even if it was months ago.”

    Amara looked at the priestess and nodded. “Yeah, you’re right,” she said with a smile. The girl looked down at her stomach and touched it; she couldn’t believe that she was carrying his child. Would the child be fully human or will the child have elf mixed into his or her blood? Amara tilted her head as she slowly rubbed her stomach, then she looked up at the group and nodded once again. “Thalia is right. People would remember seeing him, or properly worse!” The girl’s eyes widened as she thought about Nat having sex with a bunch of women.

    Jeren nodded his head in agreement. “Do we know if this man passed through this area? Or what path he may have taken?”

    “It is a possibility, I think,” Thalia said. “There are only two main routes out of Alania, one passes through this city, and the other goes through Kanon. I would assume that if he wanted to get to Moss in a hurry, he would have come through here, as it seems to be the fastest route.” Thalia hadn’t done a lot of traveling so far, aside from her initial journey from Raiden to Tarba when she was a teenager, but she had studied maps at length.

    “So, tomorrow we will search the streets of before we continue our journey?” Amara asked Thalia.

    “Was he a member of any guilds or other organizations that we know of?” Jeren asked. Unlike the others, it seemed, he was new to this scenario. All he had was a name.

    “No,” Amara said with a pause before she continued, “I don’t know. He never told me any of that.” The girl started to fidget with her fingers as a light pink tint came to her face. “I am sorry,” she told them with a small sigh.

    Gregory didn’t have a lot of experience trying to track someone, so he didn’t have a lot of input, but he did have one thing to suggest; “From what I’m hearing, it seems like he would take the shortest and quickest route there. But if he got in any trouble he may try to go off the normal routes to avoid being seen, wouldn’t he?”

    Amara looked at Gregory as he spoke, then she nodded. “Yes, you are right,” she told him.

    “Well, perhaps we should ask around inns in the city tomorrow,” Thalia suggested. “Does that sound like a good idea?”

    “That sounds fine with me,” Gregory responded. “If you all don’t mind, I’d like to go get cleaned up now that things are decided.”

    Amara nodded to Thalia and Gregory. She was glad that things were decided! The girl looked at the priestess and smiled, then asked, “Well, shall we head to our rooms?”

    “Go ahead, Gregory,” Thalia said. “Though Amara, I think you may need to work out the details of our arrangement with Jeren more.”

    “There is no need,” Jeren replied swiftly, holding up an open palm. “The finding of this man is the only payment I will accept for my efforts.”

    Thalia smiled at Jeren’s generosity. “Well then, off to bed it is, I suppose,” the priestess said.

    With their plans decided, the four travelers made their arrangements for the night. Amara rearranged her lodgings so she and Thalia could share a room, while Jeren and Gregory would have another for themselves. Gregory got his much needed bath, and all settled in for a good night’s sleep before their search began for Nat.

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