The Rider's Respite
There was a chill in the air that bit at her cheeks, flushing them with a healthy glow. Moonlight shown over the land, a blanket of stars glittering overhead like diamonds cast over black velvet. The world was silent save for the snorting of horses and the hoofbeats that beat upon the earth. At the top of a nearby hilltop, firelight flickered, casting a warm and welcoming beacon to the Courier and her Guardsmen.
“There.” Courier Stormdanovich spoke, breaking the silence in the darkness. Gloved hands tugged lightly at the reigns of her mount, urging the Dikaya mare in the direction of the relay station. A quarter hour later found the trio trotting up to the guards manning the large access gate, which swung open to allow them entry.
“Good evening! I trust your journey was safe?” Spoke Brannon, a young Guard in his early 20’s as he reached over to take the reigns from Laryn to allow her to dismount the horse.
“Yes, thank you.” Laryn replied, giving him a warm smile and a nod of thanks as she smoothly slid from the saddle. She gave the horse a gentle face rub with a hand, thanking the animal for the ride. Brannon handed the reins off to a stable boy who’d come out to take the horse for food, water and rest.
The chestnut-hued Courier smoothed down her tunic, pulling it down neatly beneath the vest upon her torso before ensuring that the folded and wax-sealed parchment was still tucked inside the vest inner pocket. After ensuring that it was where where she had placed it earlier in the day, Laryn turned to her Guards. “Come, we must eat and rest for a time before pressing forth.”
As the three moved through the station, they were greeted by others. Courier Stormdanovich was not an uncommon sight to see walking about the relay stations, and was highly regarded among her people. After receiving bowls laden with a thick, hearty stew with bread for dipping, the travelers took a seat an ornately carved wood table. With a fire crackling nearby to warm their bodies, they took respite, tucking into their meals.
After an hour rest, Laryn woke and readied the Guards before walking toward the stables, gravel crunching beneath her boots. She spent a few spare moments giving each of the horses a gentle pat and nuzzle as she waited for her Guards to appear. Laryn knew that the mounts were work animals and not pets, but even so, treating them with kindness and love would help strengthen the bond between rider and horse.
“M’Lady..” Spoke one of the guards from behind her. “Are you prepared to leave?”
“Yes, Come.” Laryn answered, taking the reigns of a mare that was being brought out to her. “It is some ten miles before the next station and it is important that I reach Wynnfell Hold by mid-day. Let us leave now.” The slender young woman mounted the dapple gray mare with quickness and grace, giving the animal a slight nudge to move once she was settled on the saddle.
The trio left the station as quietly as they had come, only now they had warm food in their bellies and a brief rest before the next leg of their journey.