Thorn of the Rose

“O Scourge of the Sea! Though long you have stalked me, no more shall you withhold your truth from me…

“…O Scourge of the Sea! I see the curtain has parted, your true form at last revealed to me.”

The rinaan lodge was tucked on a hillside, with one of the great native trees from Na’Ke’tzin draping a curtain of leaves over it. The rinaani danced up the slope as agile as goats, and Keelath could swear Rosen was grunting laughs at him by the end of the bumpy trip.

In some confusion, he put Rosen up in a stable located around the curve of the hill and as richly appointed as if expecting kings. Then he followed the other riders to debrief with their commanders. When their captain frowned and paused before Keelath’s unfamiliar face, the master of the gray named him Rosen’s Choice, and the captain brought up his head as if it all made sense. Keelath was about to ask what it meant, but the captain was moving on to the next soldier in line before he could even open his mouth, and in hindsight, he realized it was painfully obvious. He was one of the riders now, as surely as if he had been given orders to transfer units.

The riders were soon dismissed, but Keelath hung around the captain, awkwardly filling the man in on his situation. When he uncomfortably brought up the pay he hoped for — that he was owed by the Gladerunners — the man’s lip thinned.

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

“No, sir,” Keelath answered, and his heart sank a little. He knew rinaani 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. The akor’mari are sure to return to their holes in a few weeks, and then it’ll be breeding season for the rinaani. I’m hoping for a good crop out of your Rosen. Your stud fees should help cover some of your pay,” he added, though it didn’t land on Keelath’s ears as a reassurance. He hardly knew how to keep a stables, let alone how to breed one.

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