Rose for a Thorn

The cavalry captain came to visit in late spring, inspecting Rosen’s get and its (lack of) accommodations. Keelath was prepared for a chewing out for not having a stable built yet, but instead the captain seemed pleased, saying the wild-bred, as Rosen’s herd was, always seemed to be faster and stronger than those coursers kept cooped up in a stall all year long. He stayed a couple weeks, teaching Keelath — and Mirium and Tyrric too, for they were eager to learn — the finer points of horsemanship, including training the foals to take a noseband and harping on the use of saddles for healthy spines and backs.

Spring turned into summer, and the draft went out. To Keelath’s dismay, he wasn’t chosen to return to the front. Perhaps the captain thought he was taking pity on the green rider, but Keelath could only think of the lost money and clench his teeth. His mother’s medicine was becoming increasingly expensive as well, and the long gaps between visits from Mirium were beginning to depress him. Even Rosen’s obvious delight at kicking its colts and fillies into shape as they matured had barely an impact on him.

Another breeding season was looming before them, and even though the wild herd had produced some acceptable coursers, Keelath was expected to put his stallion to stud that year. He wondered if Rosen felt as trapped as he did, as a leader of horses, expected not only to mind his lands but also produce heirs on demand. Though Mirium’s father was healing, she showed little interest in taking their relationship any further. Would he have to take another as wife? Keelath dreaded the thought.

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