Rose for a Thorn

It turned out the cavalry unit had been on their way home when they had run across the troll horde. As Keelath had folded in with them, so he now accompanied them back to their headquarters.

In some confusion, he put Rosen up in a stable, as richly appointed as if expecting kings, and then followed the other riders to debrief with their commanders. When their captain frowned and paused before his unfamiliar face, the master of the gray named him Rosen’s Choice, and the captain brought up his head as it it all made sense.

The riders were dismissed, but Keelath hung around the captain, awkwardly filling the man in on his situation. When he mentioned pay, the man’s lip thinned.

“Oh, you’ll be paid alright. I expect it go to the keeping up of your courser however. Dawnmist has no stables, correct?”

“No, sir,” Keelath answered, and his heart sank a little. He knew coursers were expensive to keep, and he expected it would eat up all the money he had hoped to repay Mirium’s loan with.

“See to it you correct that,” said the captain sharply. “You’ve got all winter to figure it out. Coursers breed in the fall, and I’m hoping for a good crop out of your Rosen. The stud fees should help cover some of it,” he added, though it didn’t land on Keelath’s ears as a reassurance.

Keelath was quiet as he retrieved his things and his pay — and his new courser — and began the long march home. In deference to the courser, he again didn’t ride, and Rosen skipped around gaily like a foal on the end of its lead. After a few hours of his still-sore sword arm being jerked about, Keelath unsnapped the lead and let Rosen wander as it willed.

“Payback for my poor riding, I expect,” he grumbled, and Rosen dipped its head, letting out a smug whuff.

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