“Use your outside leg and inside rein! Outside leg! What are you doing?”
The charger and its adolescent rider cantered around the edge of the forest clearing. The rider’s face was a mask of intense concentration and frustration; in contrast, the charger almost looked bored. One was thrown up onto the neck of the other as the latter planted its feet and came to a sudden stop up front of a bale of hay.
“You need to straighten him out if you expect to take a jump at that angle!” Mirium shouted as Evelos stared into the eye of the charger. The charger bobbed its head at him, almost coyly, and picked its way over the bale of hay with delicate steps as Evelos pushed himself straight.
“He keeps turning out,” Evelos said dully.
“Because you aren’t following through. Come over here; I’ll show you.”
Evelos trotted the charger back to his mother. The horse nudged at Mirium affectionately, who took it by its single horn and pulled it forward a few more paces. Then she vaulted up behind Evelos, grasping his forearms and pulling back on one rein with them. The charger instantly came alert, picking up its head and turning it obediently to the side.
“Feel that? Feel how he wants to bend with your pressure on the rein, but I’m telling him not to with my alternating leg? He’ll be coming out of the turn at a curve, and you’ve got to straighten him up, or he can’t make the jump.”
“But he doesn’t listen to me!”
“He will if you just keep on him. How do you expect to lead a bunch of other paladins into a battle if you can’t even get your own horse to follow you?”
The charger pricked its ears and snorted. Evelos reflexively pulled back on the reins, and the charger bent its neck with an irritable stamp, focused on something beyond the clearing. Evelos could just see something moving back there, behind the thick shrubs. The road was in that direction. Someone was coming to the cottage.
“That’ll be your father, I expect,” said Mirium, as she slid off the charger and gave its neck a pat. “He’ll want to know of your progress.”
Evelos didn’t answer. He knew he hadn’t made much.
Keelath dismounted at the arch into the garden, reclipping the reins to his horse’s halter to lead it up to the cottage. He had a scroll under one arm, and awkwardly shifted it to his other as Mirium came up to give him a welcoming hug and kiss. “Hello, Miri,” he said. “And hello, Evelos. Have a good ride?”
Evelos exchanged glances with his mother, then dismounted silently to lead his charger back to the stables. The charger butted him with its nose as he walked, and this time, Evelos gave it an unhappy shove in return.
Keelath watched him go with a raised eyebrow. “Still not clicking?” he asked Mirium.
“No,” said Mirium. “He likes them, and they him, but he just doesn’t have the assertiveness of a paladin.”
“I was thinking of starting him on weapons training this week,” replied Keelath. “Maybe that will bring it out of him.”
Mirium frowned at him. “Or maybe this path isn’t for him,” she said quietly.
Keelath shifted his feet. “Nonsense. He’ll be a paladin. It’s what Sunwalkers do. Since my father, and his father–”
“And I know both you and Tyrdan have made for great paladins, but that doesn’t mean your son has to be. Just let him enjoy himself, won’t you? The war has been over for a decade. Let him explore what makes him truly feel…well, at home.”
“You can’t make him into your brother,” Mirium said quietly. “Evelos is Evelos. Not you. Not him. Not even your grandfather.”
“If you believe that, then you’ll be interested in this,” said Keelath abruptly and handed her the scroll.
Mirium unrolled it, squinting a bit as her eyes ran along its carefully calligraphied text. “The Trials?” she asked, voice soft in surprise. “He’s never shown talent at magic, has he?”
“The Light is a kind of magic, and I assume he has that, what with your breeding and mine.” Keelath grinned at her.
Mirium gave him a flat look and a push. “If breeding defines use of the Light, then your brother wouldn’t find it so difficult.” Keelath rolled his eyes at her as Mirium returned to the scroll. “Just a couple of weeks. He’ll have to leave today to make it to Silvermoon in time.”
Keelath plucked the scroll from her hands and began to roll it up.
“I think it would be best for him to explore other options,” Mirium said as she noted the unspoken emotions behind Keelath’s action.
“I just want him to do well.”
Mirium touched his chin, bringing up his face so he had to look at hers. “Then let him go.”
She meant it in more way than one, and Keelath knew that. He eyed her, and they both turned to watch the retreating figure now entering the stables.
Keelath sighed and tucked the scroll into Mirium’s hands again. “Okay,” he said quietly. “It’s worth a Trial, no?”