I stayed in town a few days, though apparently most of the villagers hate me for killing the woodcutters. I would understand if I was a murderer, but I acted to defend those women. I don’t appreciate the reaction the townsfolk had, but I stayed because I found a horse at the local stud farm that I knew I must have. There are many fine horses at the stables, but only one beautiful black steed. Of course looks aren’t what makes a horse great, but I love the idea of riding a black warhorse into battle!
I was at the stables bright and early as soon as I had enough money to buy him. His name is Hatatitla, and he’s both strong and fast. The Head Groom offered me a discount if I would find a horse that bolted earlier that morning. The stable boy was thrown and hit his head, resulting in mockery and anger from his master for losing one of the best horses he owned.
I talked to the stable boy, Vashek, and he described the location in the forest where he was thrown. I could tell he still wasn’t thinking clearly, but I managed to get a description of the missing horse. Then I left to search the bridleways in the woods southwest of Uzhitz.
I spent the whole day searching, and I had a fantastic time riding my new horse! The only experience I had with riding was my flight from Skalitz during the attack. I can’t afford a saddle or bridle for him, but Hatatitla is such a good horse that he’s not difficult to ride without any tack at all.
Vashek assured me that the horse–named Pie–would stay on the bridleways, but I checked every path in the woods and didn’t find him. In the evening, I located a charcoal burners’ camp and asked if they saw a horse matching the description Vashek gave me. “We saw that horse running in the river, and Thistle went after him,” one of the charcoal burners told me. I asked who that was and he said this Thistle fellow is a bit stupid.
I rode along the river to find the horse, and soon discovered how stupid Thistle really is. I saw Pie in a clearing next to the river, so I rode up to him to take him back where he belongs. As soon as I got off my horse, I was punched in the head from behind. I spun around to see Thistle with his fists up and I let him have it! With every punch, I thought of the hatred put on me unfairly. I hit him again and again until I knocked him out.
I have no idea why he did that. What made him think he could just beat me up and keep a horse that doesn’t belong to him? I took everything he had, right down to his boots, because that’s what he deserved. I hid my horse deeper in the forest, then took Pie back to the stables. The Head Groom was thrilled to get his prized horse back, but he continued to look at me the same as before–I’m still a lowlife to him.
It was night by the time I returned to the inn with my own horse. I planned to just go to my room, drink some wine, and write in my book before sleeping. Vashek was at the tavern with a pair of farmhands who were laughing, while he drank silently. “I found that missing horse for you,” I told him.
“Thank you, Henry,” he said with a smile, “you saved my job, and maybe now people will stop mocking me over this.” That’s when I realized the farmhands were laughing at Vashek’s expense when I arrived. I invited him to drink with me at one of the other tables, and I asked if it was so bad that he could’ve been fired for it.
Vashek nodded and said his master was almost furious enough to beat him. After another sip of his beer, he said, “I have a few horses of my own that I’m training. I keep them at my father’s farm, and I wanted to bring them to the stables to sell when they’re ready, but tonight he said there’s no way any of my horses will ever ‘disgrace his stables.'”
“He sounds very cruel,” I replied while shaking my head. I hate that people can be like that, and treat people so badly for one little mistake. “It’s like back in Skalitz, where everyone thought my friends were trash, and that all I could do is mess things up. I’ll show them they’re wrong,” I insisted, “just as you will, Vashek. You’ll show everyone they’re wrong about you, and you are the very best horse trainer in the whole province!”
I cheered him up at least. He enjoyed the rest of his drink and we chatted about the town. I’m glad I finally made a friend in Uzhitz because I really like the area. It’s absolutely beautiful here–even during a bitter rain storm–and there are so many prime hunting spots in the forests all around. If the people were nicer, I’d probably live full time in my suite at the inn. I can eat and drink with other people after a hard day of work, and play some dice when I feel lucky. Luck wasn’t on my side when I challenged Vashek to a game though! I lost, but I think it’s great that he doubled the money he earned from his terrible workday. I’m poor as well, but wont be for long.
There’s one more thing I want to do before getting back to Rattay: find the treasure marked on one of the maps I bought from the wayfarer the night before the raid on Skalitz. I haven’t seen where the landmarks are, but now that I can read, I know where to start looking!
I studied the map again while I sat in my room, and realized I’d become a grave robber on top of all the other things I’ve done that I wished I wouldn’t have to do. I do believe this will all be worth it in the long while, and that grave will contain treasure that will help me far more than winning a game of dice at the tavern.
To be continued…
© 2018, Starwing. All rights reserved.