Gesula Temple, Lenyol
‘Congratulations, Kesia!’ Ànlisia held her daughter’s shoulders and kissed her forehead. ‘You did so very well. If only—’ she caught herself— ‘Oh, but you look beautiful.’
__ ‘She does indeed.’ Tàvae emerged from the crowd.
__ Kesia blinked as her aunt and uncle appeared by her mother. Kengar had returned occasionally over the last few years to continue her training, but half a year had passed since she had seen him last. She forgot her disappointment and threw herself on him.
‘I missed you. Thank you so much for attending.’ She swallowed the prickling sensation in her throat. ‘Typical, not to inform us; opting for the glory of surprise, you silly startlers!’
__Tàvae laughed, choked. ‘We were not sure we would make it; we could not bear to disappoint again.’
__‘I feared you might resent our absence,’ Kengar admitted, ‘and procured you a bribe from Mitchas. Would you excuse yourself a while?’
__Kesia waved to the others, and followed him from the temple, downhill to its rear.
__There stood a magnificent palomino mare, fifteen hands high, gilded in the fading light of day.
__‘Her name is Shann.’
__‘Shann.’ Kesia repeated, lifting a hand to run it over the mare’s sculpted muzzle. ‘Such grace…’
__‘I understand you have been hiring from Mitchas to make your weekly trips to Alendae. You are a professional now, and that will not do. Shann will serve you well.’
__‘This is a very kind,’ Kesia moved her eyes across the rich saddle and bridle, ‘and very costly gift, Kengar.’
__‘Do you like her?’
_ Kesia nodded. She worked her way slowly around the horse to discover only perfect teeth, perfect eyes, perfect hooves, a perfect tail, and a gentle demeanour. ‘I love her.’ She swayed her head to catch Shann’s gaze. ‘You will be of much use to me, and will make for amiable company on the long rides to and fro.’ Kesia faced her uncle. ‘Thank you, Kengar.’
__‘You are most welcome.’
__He found her hand and grasped it. ‘I will introduce Shann to your stables and see to her needs. I must depart again tonight,’ he felt the sting this comment made in his niece’s chest, lamenting and commending its concealment in her face, ‘but your aunt will remain; my task is near completion and when I return in several months’ time, be assured I will tutor you.’
__‘I bind you to that promise, so be safe, uncle.’ Kesia ordered him.
__A chorus of laughter shot from the temple gardens as the drinking commenced.
__‘Go, be with your friends.’ Kengar pushed Kesia toward the festivities. She bid him a fond farewell, planted a kiss on her newly beloved horse, and went to celebrate.
As sleep became an activity increasing in popularity a dozen hours later, Kesia stumbled home and tripped over a rather intimately entwined couple.
__‘Sorry!’ laughed Kesia, trying and failing to return to her feet. ‘Didn’t mean to disturb!’ She turned and saw Oran laying with Mellena astride him. Kesia cackled loudly and madly, and raised her empty chalice.