The third Neselle story -
Of Men and Love in General
Chapter Eight – Complete

Neselle: Of Horses and Allegiance

I had authority in the castle. Not only did I have status as a member of the family, but I was the one that oversaw the interior construction projects. Althery had duties overseeing the building of the castle, but that work had been almost completely finished. What was left to do were things Baron Ferrigote felt he needed to supervise, which basically left Althery without a job. Baroness Dirchein could have removed me from my duties, but she liked my ideas and had been constrained with her pregnancy then caring for the baby. Packing for the journey home was thus not an issue, but I took out my usual items, laid out what garments I desired to bring, then called in a castle maid and gave her the duty of placing everything into my luggage. As I was a recognized member of the extended family she probably would have obeyed, but as the one with direct authority over the internal castle affairs she knew better than to refuse or perform poorly.

One duty that I would not delegate to another was the care of my horse. I loved Nathan, and while the stable master assured him a clean stall and good fodder, he knew to leave the actual care of the animal to me. Most wondered about my choice of steeds, as Nathan had no special color or markings. He however had proven himself as a superior animal. When I first gained him, he was young with the stable master where I gained him saying that he had yet to be fully trained. Nathan however was released as my mount, and handled himself well. Since then he had learned the necessary skills for working with me, and now those that saw me ride understood that I had a powerful intelligent animal as my mount. It helped in my relationship with Nathan that I took personal care of him, and he saw me at the minimum of once a day checking on his concerns.

Althery also cared for his mount. Jericho still displayed the playfulness and love for water that had caused the young man to choose him. While Nathan would run up to me, Althery often had to chase his mount. While Jericho would respond to the young man, their love of play created a relationship between them quite different than mine with my mount. I saw the care that Althery gave to Jericho, and the way they worked together, so never spoke about their methods being wrong.

Both Althery and I however sounded out advice when Genory tried to work with the horse that Baron Ferrigote assigned to him. “Talk to it!”

Genory held the reins tight even as he asked, “What?”

Althery spoke the advice. “That horse knows how to travel through those spaces where worlds touch. It is thus not stupid, so talk to it.”

I looked to the animal to see a much larger horse than those from Davelda, which was where my horse and Althery’s steed was from. Baroness Dirchein, being made from gold, was a rather heavy lady, so rode more massive horses from another world. Not only had Genory been presented with one of those animals, but a mare as well. Mystified, I walked up to the horse feeling a need to assure that the stable master had chosen properly.

I told Persia, the horse that had been brought to Genory, that I would work things out. The young man looked in wonder as the animal quickly moved her head up-and-down. When he turned his glance to me, I told him to follow me into the stables before giving another command.

“Show me your horse. Wait, I can probably pick your horse out on my own.”

I did know the horses. Not only were most of them owned by Baron Ferrigote rather intelligent, but my own past had me identify with the animals. While I focused on Nathan, I spoke to the other horses when I came out to the stables. I thus knew them all by name. All that I had to do in recognizing Genory’s horse was find one that I did not know.

It was a large mare that I could tell had given birth to a few foals and probably was recently bred to hopefully produce another. I petted her while examining her hide. I asked Genory about the mare being used as a draft animal, and he agreed that it – I noticed that he said ‘it’ – would be needed to plow during the planting season. I mentioned her being bred, and he shrugged it off saying that new horses were always needed.

I then pointed to bare spots on her belly and asked about him wearing armor, to which he replied, “A horse of this size and type would primary be used to carry an officer into combat. I have a suit of armor with me in case I ran into trouble.”

“What’s her name?”

“What? Oh, uh, Bennill.”

I knew my face would register my surprise, so went ahead and spoke words to that affect as well. “I’m amazed that you knew.”

“Horses are important to the prosperity and defense of my land. They might be animals, but they are important animals. I thus bother to learn their names.”

I thought about what I had heard last night as I asked, “What do you know about me?”

“That you are a very special young lady from another world involved in a matter of having to rediscover their relationship to those divine. The goddess Onathia told me that in working with you I would learn of dealing with others, relating to those superior to myself, and possibly of love. In effect, I would become a better man, if not the actual man for you.”

Hanell spoke in response, “Have problems in dealing with others and relating to those superior to yourself?”

He bowed to the wolf lady before answering, “I believe my dealings with the gods was done without any problems. My home is however near the king’s estate, so I have played with the heir to the throne. He and I do not get along that well. My father says that such is because of our differences in status having us see things from different perspectives. I honestly however just don’t like the guy.”

I asked, “Do you know that my parents are horses?”

“Like these?”

“No, but you have a lot of things to learn. One is how to deal with certain animals. Follow me.” As I walked back out of the stables, I spoke expecting him to be listening. “The horse that you have is named Persia. It is a mare, so you consider her a lady. She is smarter than your average horse, although still a horse. Treat her with respect however, and she will perform with you better than you are probably used to expecting from a mount.”

I petted the mare while still instructing Genory. “These horses usually carry Baroness Dirchein, but Baron Ferrigote will ride them when he is going about in full armor. Persia will thus accept you, although will expect a gentle hand. You however should not need to be rough with her. She does have some intelligence, so will understand and obey most instructions. If she stalls, look for the reason instead of just being forceful.” Genory just stared at me, so I kept talking. “Luckily, I came out to spend time with my horse. Persia was saddled for you. If you will wait for me to saddle Nathan, you may ride with me and get to know Persia.”

Genory took the reins of Persia from me, then just walked watching me while noticing that the mare followed without presenting a problem. He did not offer to carry Nathan’s saddle or tack, but I did get the impression he would have quickly moved if I asked or displayed some weakness. As I went about connecting straps, I believe that Genory spoke just to feel like he was doing something.

“There is more here than I expected. This is a new holding in a rather desolate area.”

I interjected my own comments to let the man know some of my thoughts and that I was listening. “I agree with Baron Ferrigote that this land is rather lovely.”

“Oh, yes, I can see. I was not expecting all of this. It seems that there is some farmland, and the slopes are not as steep as expected. Still, I almost traveled a week to get here, and I believe I am one of the closer holdings.”

“Uh, yes. When I go with Baron Ferrigote or his wife, we usually spend most of our time getting through the mountains. Once we reach the first city, things go pretty quick until we start to travel back.”

I knew that Genory was watching me. As he became silent, I had to look to Althery. He smiled at me, but I knew the expression to say that he was pleased with how things were going. Wondering if some communication was going on between the men that I was not noticing, I put my focus on Genory. His eyes were still on me, clearly watching me, and seeing my gaze back on him he spoke some more.

“I am told that you came around a couple of times, but you did not stay in the castle. Who do you associate with?”

“Baron Ferrigote really was trying to keep his presence quiet. I won’t get into the why, but you are correct that we did not announce ourselves at the castles. We would just go into town, do our business, then move on.”

“Why would Baron Ferrigote want to keep things quiet?”

Althery answered for me, “Because he was scared of people forcing him to annihilate them. He proved himself to Fergush by conquering an entire world. Most of the soldiers around here are from that world, but left it out of their respect for the man and a chance to get away from the stupid politics of those taking over the seats of power on that world. Nuchirg and I knew that our parents set a pretty high bar, but we went to Fergush determined to prove ourselves. We did, but more than the success I treasure the relationship I gained with Neselle.”

“So, if you do gain Neselle then you must give honor to Fergush.”

“I have nothing against Fergush. My father speaks well of him, and I have no shame to also consider Fergush as one of my benefactors. My prime honor will however go to the Goddess of Neselle’s world, as She has not spoken against me.”

Genory stuttered. Althery’s face tensed as if he was holding back laughter. I considered his words sweet, but nothing unusually bold. I thus did not understand the strong expressions from the men. Looking back to Genory, his features still displayed confusion. He stopped stuttering and said a phrase that I had heard from Althery many times.

“I will best this. Neselle, you will come to see some worth in me.”

I finished readying Nathan, then turned to a soldier attentively watching a small distance away. “Inform the cook that we will be roasting lukaluka for supper.”

Althery cheered, then rushed to the stables saying that he would get us lances. Genory looked about confused. While Althery chose our weapons, I tried to give some understanding to the other young man.

“You should learn rather quick. Just how much you learn, well, we shall see.”

Genory had to dismount upon finding himself in a desert. The change in terrain was so completely strange that he had to gain direct support for the truth of his surroundings. Althery and I just held our places on our mounts while letting the young man know that we would pass through another world before reaching our destination. Genory held his composure, then asked a question as he mounted his horse.

“It was only by finding an ancient portal that I once managed to travel to another world. I saw no such structure along our path. How was this managed?”

Althery answered, “It’s not easy, but it is more of a knowledge of perception than technique. While some animals can be trained, that does not mean people can automatically figure it out. You cannot credit us for learning this route, but Uncle Ferrigote has studied the connections about his property.”

Genory turned to me to ask, “Neselle, you are from a world like this?”

Althery provided the answer, “Oh, no. A rather nice world. I enjoy visiting.”

Genory replied to the other young man. “I heard you say last night that you traveled to speak to other gods. I wondered about such words, but now I feel that I understand. I might indeed be at a further disadvantage than expected. I will still prove myself.”

I smiled seeing Althery look to me as he made a comment. “I will wager that he will not get half the lukaluka that you do.”

A shake of my head came with my reply. “He is on one of Dirchein’s horses. It is not really made for the darting and weaving necessary to follow a lukaluka. I thus would not put any requirement upon him except to help flush them out.”

Genory asked, “What is a lukaluka?”

Althery and I explained the large reptile-like birds. We spoke of how we hunted them. Genory listened, nodded, then told us to lead the way. I saw Althery nod as if agreeing with me that the response was acceptable, then we directed our mounts to return to our travels.

Back to Jelnaya with her and Neselle having time with each other.