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matapam
10 September 2018 @ 01:10 pm
"The boys" gave her pitying looks and brought the old mare out.

"I mean, her confirmation’s good, but no one but Travelers actually like pintos." The boy handed over the reins.

Rael held out a hand to be huffed at. "Well, I'm doing some traveling so maybe me and . . . whatever her name is, will get along."

She retrieved the paper from her bag. "Carrousel. Oh, I like that!"

The other boy shrugged. "You're fine if you're stopping at inns. Otherwise . . . do you know the kind of stuff you'll need?"

:: A brush? Halter? :: The mare sounded hopeful.

Rael nodded. "A brush and halter. Oats. Umm, where . . . ?"

Both boys pointed down the road. "About half a mile."

:: Let's go. I'm hungry. ::

"Right." Rael slipped the reins over the mares head, checked the cinch, and got a foot up into the stirrup . . . hopped bit as the mare shimmied around . . . "Hey! Be nice!"

:: Sorry! Bad memory . . . oh, you're a lightweight. I can carry lots of oats. ::

The feed store boasted a hitching rail and a trio of kids who eyed the mare with disfavor.

"Huh. Travelor's nag." The first one sneered.

"She's got pretty good legs." The long haired one opined, circling around. "You need a thicker saddle blanket and your girth is pretty frayed."

"At least she's well shod." The third kid frowned. "What sort of bit is that? It doesn't look very comfortable."

:: It's not! ::

Rael sighed. "I just bought her at the auction. I . . . guess I need a bunch of stuff."

:: Don't forget the oats. ::

Rael hauled the saddle off her, and went shopping.

With the help of the youngsters, Rael spent almost as much as she'd paid for the horse on a nice leather halter, and long lead rope, a snaffle bit, a thick wool saddle blanket, fifty pounds of oats, a canvas feed bag . . . "Is that tobacco?" "Yep, kills the worms." "Eww!" A hoof pick and two brushes.

Saddle bags to carry it all, the oats split so some could go in each side.

Carrousel munched oats and the little bit of tobacco while Rael brushed her . . . looked around to see a temporary absence of observers, and reached into her dimensional bag for her pocket flask of the Joy Juice. The most potent combination healing potion every invented by some insane people . . . who probably lived in Ash. Maybe I'll ask who, when I get there.

She dribbled a bit into the feed bag and let Carrousel get back to eating.

"That'll cure anything else you've got." Rael told her.

The mare shook, shedding hair flying in all directions.

Rael spit out horsehair and went back to brushing.

"I'm heading for Wallenton, so we just need to find Commerce Street and the right corridor. Then we can take our time riding to Ash. And then . . . I'll go meet some seriously scary people, while you lounge around in a stable."

Rael put the brush away, and the nosebag. "Well. Let's saddle up and hit the road."

Fortunately she'd saddled enough horses enough times—maybe four altogether—that she managed to get everything in the right place with only a few snickers from the kids. She looked at the bridle.

"No buckles, just years of lashed together . . ."

:: And it pinches! ::

Rael walked back inside to spend more money.

The new bridle was much better looking. "That work for you?"

The mare turned her head far enough to look at her straight on with one eye. :: Do you hear me? ::

"Yes."

:: People aren't supposed to hear us! ::

"Very few of us do." Rael grinned. :: I think you'll like the place we're headed for. ::

The mare's ears perked in astonishment, and she didn't object at all to being mounted.

***

Commerce Street was amazing. A corridor angling off to the side every thirty meters or so. Wagons, riders, and pedestrians disappearing into them on the west side, and emerging on the east side, across the broad paved street.

A few of the exiting horses were excited and misbehaving. Bad enough with the ridden animals, but Rael detoured wide around a mess with a single panicked horse making a tangled mess of his harness, and coming close to setting off the other three horses he was hitched with.

:: Idiot. I knew all about corridors long before I was hitched to a wagon. :: A bit of nostalgia in the mare's thoughts, a brief flash of trotting beside Mom and seeing that scary white thing she was being towed toward.

Rael blinked. :: White? ::

Nod. Another flash vision, the double row of glowing white circles stretching down the road ahead of them.

"Huh. That is interesting." Can Smart Horses have dimensional magic?

"Now we just need to find the Wallenton corridor . . ." Rael returned to reading the signs on top of the rock arches the corridors were anchored to.

The drover ahead of her turned around on his seat. "Wallenton's clear down at the south end. It'll be faster if you dodge over a block then down three."

"Thanks!"

Carrousel was already turning down a narrow side alley, and was happy to trot a few blocks. :: I feel good! ::

:: We call it the Joy Juice, I think the people who first made it call it the Wine of the Gods. :: Which is pretty presumptuous . . . unless it really was made by gods, which can't be ruled out, around here.

Rael leaned a bit and Carrousel turned up another alley, and back to Commerce Street.

The second Corridor to the right was Wallenton's. They waited for a wagon to pass through, then trotted through without breaking pace. Into a large paved area, with streets running off in all directions. The buildings were lower, the roofs steeper. The tallest building in sight—well the top bit was in sight, all carved and sporting spiky towers—made her think cathedral.

The afternoon sun oriented her, and she took the largest road heading roughly northeast.

It took a bit of winding through crooked streets until she hit the main part of the city, with a logical grid, and finally found the northeast gate.

The two guards looked bored. "Great, a Traveler. You got papers for that horse, Lady?"

Rael pulled out the grubby sheet.

They looked at both sides. Pointed at something and snickered. Handed it back and waved her on.

Rael frowned and as Carrousel ambled on, took a better look at the last line . . .

Sold to: Snotty Lady with short red hair.

Rael giggled as she folded the paper and stashed it again.

The bridge dead ahead was all stone, a narrow arch that crossed not just the river, but a broad dirt path beside it.

Is that an old riding path, from before the corridors? Or . . . wait, I've heard of tow paths, from medieval stories, teams of horses or oxen towing barges upstream. Rael turned to study the path as they crossed the bridge and tried—failed—to imagine it. Really?

She could see a convergence of rivers, down stream, what appeared to be a smaller river, or large stream coming in from the east.

Looking upstream, a larger bridge soared over the river in down into what looked like a warehouse and manufacturing district. There was construction on this side, not yet up to the road on the other side of the bridge. The paved road continued for another hundred meters, then became a long grassy ridge with multiple wheel tracks worn into it, exposing sandy soil.

Carrousel pranced on the grass and trotted for a bit.

A T intersection . . . the broad ridge of the road curved to the south, while a narrower raised road continued east.

"Follow the Stink River, Ajha said. So . . . do I turn south to follow that river, or east to follow the smaller river that is probably beyond those trees?"

:: There's an odd smell from down there. It doesn't really stink. ::

"Hmm, well, lets head that way for a bit."

Carrousel tossed her head and cantered down the east road.