Story for the Day: Draeden and Leandra

Prince Draeden, Alasdair's father, has absolutely no luck with horses. His first horse Teipha, who was given to him on his 15th birthday, nearly killed him by trying to kick him in the face. Fortunately, Bryeison was there and saved his life by rushing him to the cleric, but even after the incident, Draeden and Teipha were never reconciled. For the holidays, Draeden gave Teipha to Vyrdin as a gift, thinking that they might get along better, and he received a different horse, one of Bryeison's parents' old mares named Leandra. They get on much better than Draeden ever did with his previous mare, but while she doesn't kick him, she does require a fair amount of bribery to do anything else at all.  

With a gentle flourishing of the reins, Vyrdin and Brigdan began their trek, looking down at the cracks in the blackrock bed and trying to lead their horses along the secure path. Brigdan’s horse, who trusted his judgment and his steady hand, led the way through the perilous terrain, and Vyrdin followed, instructing his mare to follow Brigdan’s, drawing her reins left and right, keeping her away from the more questionable stones as the situation warranted. At first, the safe rocks were easy to discern: there was a clear wedge and jutting out point, some led to sturdy landings, and some even became incroppings and coves, their cracks and crevices wreathed with various nests and habitations, but the further they went down the hazardous trail, the more difficult it was to decipher where the safe portion of the path lay. Steps grew steeper, rocks that seemed stable wobbled underfoot and fell away, the mist grew to an nigh impassable screen, and it was not long before they were forced to continually retrace their steps merely to discover a tolerable means of reaching the other side.  

                An hour passed of their looking down and leading their horses by stone after stone, and at last, after a few agitations at their having lost their way, they heard the dull roar of the estuary, the shrieking skirl of puffins, and observed the outline of a familiar gargantuan horse standing just beyond the dissipating fog.
                “You succeeded,” said Bryeison, turning to find Brigdan and Vyrdin emerging out of the mist. “How did you find the trail?”
                “Not as treacherous as I had first supposed,” said Brigdan, leading his horse to the edge of the cliff. “I admit, Commander, there were a few moments where I was certain I had lost track of north, but fortunately, many of the rocks are most eroded on their northern sides and all of the caves we passed face the sea.”
                Bryeison gave a congratulatory nod to the captains as they lined their horses beside him. “Where is Draeden?” he asked, looking over his shoulder and tapering his gaze.
                Brigdan averted his eyes and Vyrdin made an audible sigh.
                “Did he have difficulty with Leandra?”
                “Yes,” they chimed.
                At that moment, Draeden’s voice was heard caroming off the obscuring haze. “That is the last carrot- the very last carrot I’m ever going to give you, you ungrateful girl. I threw you two along the path, and you absolutely refused to step where you were supposed to do. You nearly threw me from your back just to get the large one that you accidentally let roll down the rocks. Don’t look at me like that. I threw it to a safe place and it was you who pushed it to the rock below. I nearly broke my neck when you leapt down without warning me. You will leap down entire landing for a carrot when one might be got two feet in front of you, regardless of your carrying me. You are never again having another carrot. Do you hear me? Never again. Absolutely never.” His voice grew nearer by gradations until he emerged from the heavy fog, his hair tousled and garnished with a few twigs, his bewhiskered face scraped and cut. All three at the cliff’s edge were about to laughingly ask whether Draeden were well, but the prince interposed with “Not a word. Not a word from any of you,” stabbing his finger vehemently in their direction, and that was the end of the business.
                While Draeden fussed and flumped and grumbled to himself, picking the twigs and leaves from his hair and holding his hand to a bleeding wound, Leandra clomped along the edge of the cliff rather proud of herself as though nothing at all had happened, her long face as unenthused as ever, her downturned eyes betraying her indifference, her mouth working in a mechanical round, eating the last of her glorious conquest. Here was all her quiet revelry for having careened down the rock face without provocation, glorying in the sights of the sea and thoroughly ignoring Draeden’s empty promises of never giving her any further inducement. She was old and tired, and though she was perfectly capable of carrying Draeden and riding into battle, she felt that she had earned her station as the prince’s steed, had spent many years going back and forth from Varralla to Westren to Amene, carrying persons and consignments and drays enough to merit as many carrots and apples as she liked. She was not accustomed to having her own way, but as Draeden was willing to indulge her, she would escape with a few carrots where she could. Draeden’s protestations would not be the end of his indulgences, for the moment he should need her to go abroad once more, everything that apples and carrots and mangolds could do would be tried. He owed her his life, which was all her reassurance, and the instant that Draeden’s indignation should subside, he would be compelled to remember the service she had rendered him on the battlefield, and carrots and apples would be proffered once more.
                Bryeison could not but laugh at Draeden’s sulking aspect. He had given him a gentle a mare as he could have wished, and still did he manage to find fault and difficulty with her. His tribulations must be his own responsibility; his leniency and inability to hinder his munificence toward any creature that professed to have a similar appetite to his own must be his undoing. A knowing glance in Draeden’s direction cured his brooding: he was only angry with himself, disappointed that he had relinquished his ideas of discipline, and sorry that he had ever sought to blame Leandra for following what must be her first inclination. In a few minutes, he was petting her mane and making adoring coos at her again, promising her something wonderful should she take him home in fair condition.