CONVERSATIONS WITH A HORSE
“No, horses do not get a pension after the war.”
“An extra handful of oats, maybe, but no pension.”
“Maybe, but I’m the one who’s out there stabbing people. You just carry me. Do you really think that makes you deserving of–”
“I do not weigh that much. Stop exaggerating. You sound like my wife.”
“Fine. A handful of oats and a red apple. But that’s only if you serve with distinction.”
“No, you are not getting any medals. I have enough trouble keeping track of my own, nevermind a horse’s.”
The thunder of clopping hooves rolled through the narrow valley, leaving little question as to the rider’s arrival. When the Imperial soldier at last came to a stop, it was only to give his horse the opportunity to drink from the river.
This was where the three men approached, their iron drawn with ill intent.
“Hail, rider,” one of the three said, breaking silence only when each of them had come between the rider and one avenue of escape. This one wielded a spear, its tip fitted with a cruel iron barb.
“Hail,” said the rider, surveying the scene. Without his helmet, the three could see his eyes and face; both told them that he knew the danger, but held little fear. “Can I be of aid?”
“You have a very fine horse,” the man with the spear said. “Perhaps you would care to part with it.”
“Hm. An interesting proposition,” the rider said. “I will have to consult with my horse.”
This gave the three pause, and reason to exchange glances. Had they happened upon some madman in Imperial garb?
The rider flattened his body against his steed in an intimate and familiar posture, then muttered close to the horse’s ear with a low chitter. The horse whickered, and stomped its foot with agitation. As if he had received some great and vast wisdom, the rider sat up in the saddle and nodded.
“Well?” the man with the spear asked.
“My horse has made three excellent points,” the rider said. “First, he insists you are lowland bandits, quick to fight and slow to bathe, and thusly he finds your smell far too offensive to take you as a rider.”
Two of the men snorted with laughter. The man with the spear growled. “Your horse said that?”
“Second,” the rider continued, “my horse points out that while he would be glad to be rid of my weight, I will need his council in the future, and giving him away would not be prudent.”
“Your horse is a fool,” the spearman said. “We outnumber you three to one–”
“Finally,” the rider said, holding up his hand for silence, “my horse wishes to express to you that he is just a horse, and therefore incapable of speaking; however, he is quite capable of kicking.”
The horse lunged forward, its forehooves spurred into the air.
Some time later, a wounded rider road into the camp at the riverbank, hunched over his horse.
Three men raced to lift the rider off of his mount and into the infirmary tent. As they worked, several more moved to calm down the horse in the ensuing chaos.
When at last the rider had been seen to, an officer entered the tent to learn what had happened. After several minutes of heated discussion, the officer emerged, red-faced and puzzled, to report to his superior.
“Well?” the captain asked.
“He was attacked,” the officer said. “Bandits, along the river. The healers are dealing with him now.”
“What were you arguing about?”
The officer glanced back at the tent, and produced a long-suffering sigh. “His, ah, request.”
“A request? What sort of request?”
The officer shuffled awkwardly. “He wants, ah–”
“Out with it, man! He could be dying!”
“He wants us to give his horse a medal.”
(Happy April Fools’ Day! Thanks to Robert Rodgers for the incredibly in-character portrayal of Sev and his horse, because they really are like that. And here’s a magic flying barracuda. And here’s even more cool things to read. )