Queen of the Westerlands Part II By: Terry D. Scheerer


Queen of the Westerlands
Part II
By: Terry D. Scheerer

Some way down the corridor, Humphrey heard Isabelle's voice as she spoke softly to Chestnut. He moved quietly up to the stall and watched as the little princess finished cinching the saddle's belly strap beneath Chestnut's stomach. The cob's wide brown eyes gazed at Humphrey and the horse tossed his head. Isabelle looked up and gave the knight a slight smile; it seemed being around her favorite pony had restored some of her confidence.

Humphrey moved into the stall and stroked Chestnut's furry nose. The cob nuzzled his gloved hand and knowing what he was after, Humphrey pulled a carrot stub from a pocket of his cape and gave it to the eager pony. "So, lad," he said, rubbing behind the horses's ear, "are you prepared for a long ride?"

In answer, Chestnut tossed his head, again, and pawed at the dirt with one hoof. Humphrey chuckled--the first time all night he had found anything to smile about--and turned to Isabelle. "And you, my lady; are you also prepared for a long and mayhap dangerous ride?"

She looked up at him, her face set; all evidence of her earlier apprehension now vanished. "Aye, Sir Humphrey. We both be ready and willing," she said, patting Chestnut's dark brown neck.

He smiled, again, but it was a sad smile this time, knowing as he did that the princess must now grow up suddenly, leaving her childhood of play and innocence far behind--at least for a time. The only thing he could be certain of right now was her safety; for as long as he drew breath, she would be protected. "Good, my lady," he said, and placed a hand gently on her shoulder.

Giving her shoulder a slight squeeze, Humphrey checked the saddle cinch, then took down Chestnut's bridle from a peg on the wall. He handed this to Isabelle and said, "Bridle him up, quick as you can, my lady, and walk him down to where Bastion is stalled. We leave as soon as possible." Isabelle nodded, and Humphrey disappeared into the darkness of the stable.

Farther down amongst the stalls, Humphrey could hear Bastion pawing at the dirt. The big, black war horse must have sensed his coming and was obviously eager to be away. As he came up to the stall, Bastion's huge head was thrust out into the corridor and the horse shook his head in greeting.

"Ahh, lad," Humphrey said, approaching the horse and rubbing his thick neck, "anxious to be on the road, again, eh?" Bastion tossed his head in answer and backed away from the gate, so Humphrey could open it and enter the stall. As the knight pushed open the gate, he took a large carrot from his pocket and offered it to the horse. Bastion snatched the treat and quickly made it disappear, then nuzzled Humphrey's hand, looking for more.

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