Argo recalls her first experiences with the intriguing warrior she carries into SINS OF THE PAST and her efforts to understand the smaller human who begins traveling with them.
GREENER PASTURES - A HORSE’S TALE
I cannot say it was love at first whiff. She had that same smell of blood and death as the rest. The others wore it like their armor or some badge of courage. They could put it to the side, wash it off awhile with water, wine or women. Hers was as much a part of her as those eyes that saw right through me. Either she would have to live with the smell always, or forever be cleaning up what she was inside. Maybe both, given her proud carriage.
She seemed at a crossroads, holding her mount steady, studying me like I was a sign. Maybe we had that in common. I too was a female warhorse seeking greener pastures. I stared back. Her stallion was decently built, had moved well enough beneath her skilled command, but we both knew I would be better. My previous masters prized my exceptional strength, stamina and speed, the beauty of my golden coat. They cared for me well, as they would any valuable equipment without a brain or need for apples and a gentle brushing. We both knew she would be better.
Still, I could not have her take me for granted, if I was to risk my freedom again. I played coy, a little skittish. She dismounted, stood looking at me with her arms crossed, head tilted in a way that let me know my bluff did not fool her. Without breaking her gaze, she reached down for the whip at her side. I backed up, pawed the earth and snorted, thinking perhaps I had misread her.
She let the whip fall to the ground. Slowly walked toward me. I shifted, not sure what she was up to. Suddenly she broke into a run. I stood as though already captured, watching her rapid approach. Next I knew, she was spinning in the air and landing on my back! I bucked and reared enough to give her pause, but she clung to me with such little effort, I had to settle down lest I appear a foolish nag with no breeding.
I heard a low bubbling sound. It had no fear in it. It warmed and calmed me. Soon I had no fear either. I felt her hands stroking my neck, smoothing my mane, rubbing my shoulders, brushing my flanks and haunches. The sound from her became a hum. Its vibrations filled her body, came through the touch now resting on my head. I was pretty certain it meant she was pleased with what she felt. I admit, I was too.
Her strong thighs squeezed my sides. She made the clicking sound for "go." She meant to ride me bareback?! I snorted my disapproval. I did not see how things would go well between us, if she fell on her first ride. She pressed my sides again, more firmly. Had she underestimated my true abilities? Had I hers? Well, better to know now, before we committed to each other.
I nodded and took off at a gallop. She lightly held my neck, used her legs to guide me. I circled, pranced, hurdled as surely as if our minds were one. She kneed me gently and leaned forward. I raced full out, enjoying how we cut through the wind and that she felt the same way at what I could do.
When we cantered back, I knew on my own to pull up beside her old mount. He and I made peace in our way with the change in ownership. He understood that she and I deserved each other. She dismounted and murmured in his ear, stroking him, making her own peace. She removed her saddle and blanket from him, slapped his butt and backed up. He hesitated a moment before trotting off a ways.
We waited, watching. He wandered around the clearing, a warhorse who knew no other purpose. He returned and nudged her. She patted his nose, then turned to me. I stood quietly as she loaded my back with her things. She swung aboard me, signaled for him to follow. He did. The three of us rode together until we came upon a corral with many fine, well-maintained steeds. She took a few moments with the stallion before he left to make his presence known among the others.
She spent much time brushing me, tending cuts and tangles from when I was on my own. She began making the same sound over and over. At first I thought it the usual "go." I realized after awhile that it was "Ar-go." That is what she meant to call me? "Argo?" I do not know how humans come up with such things. It did not really matter. I would come – or not – if I wanted, whatever she called me. Her legs were mine now, and mine hers. If "Argo" somehow sealed our agreement, I did not mind.
I already knew the meaning of a few other human sounds, like "whoa" or "come" or "eat." She taught me many more, like "be nice" when she wanted me to obey someone else. Others I picked up on my own, like "laugh" for that low bubbling sound she made when pleased, and "grrrr," which most dangerous animals use when displeased. Although, often she laughed when attacked – not especially strange in a true warrior – yet grrred while wiping her sword of the guts from someone she should have gloried in besting. My only complaint is the loud bird cry she lets out when rushing into battle. Very hard on the ears, though no mistaking it is her.
We traveled for many suns, roaming wherever a road or river took us. We joined in when we came upon humans trying to free themselves from each other or some force of nature. I learned she could lift large humans with one hand, leap and tumble, kick and hit better than any I have seen. She has a weapon that flies and can cut or knock down most things in its path. In many ways, she is as good as me. She taught me different "whistles" so I would know what she wanted me to do, especially if she was in trouble. I love to scare our enemies when I bolt out of nowhere to scatter them like leaves.
For many moons, she sat by the light she made, working on her weapons, sometimes "talking" to me. She would lie on the ground quietly at first, but soon thrashed about and often ended up sitting against a tree until the sun rose. She reminded me of her old warhorse – not sure what to do next.
One sun, she got up with more purpose, handled me as though with a particular course in mind. Things went pretty much as usual until we came upon a very small human in a place that had burned down. After, I heard no laughing as we traveled. No grrring. I had a hard time getting the usual sense of her.
We halted near a stand of trees. She dismounted without a sound and let my reins wrap loosely around a fallen branch. I did not know where she was going or why. No matter. She did not always know what I was thinking either. I could have gotten loose, but nibbled patiently on some grass. I would be there for her when she returned.
The sounds of many humans and battle drifted to me. My ears flicked at that cry of hers. She walked up to me awhile later, carrying some of her battle things. I could smell the fight on her, though not the usual blood and death. Whatever had happened, I could at least sense her again. She led me behind some other humans to a place where she tethered me outside. The humans came and went. She walked out alone. When she sat astride me, it was again with purpose and direction.
Our next days were uneventful, except for a huge two-legged creature who spooked me. (To be fair to myself, I did try to warn her, but she was a little slower learning to listen to me, than the other way around. I believe she sometimes mistook me for the stallion.) I may have missed some action after we reached our destination, as I spent much of the time stabled. We made a few trips back and forth, once with another female human sitting behind her.
I was relieved when we finally left and settled down among the trees. Well, until the human we had carried earlier appeared. She was smaller than my warrior, but, oh, did she make such noise! I was certain my warrior would send her away – if not then, surely at the next sun. Or the next.
Quite a few suns have passed, and the noisy one is still with us. She does not ride, but walks beside. She does not go with us into battle. She gathers and drops things. Chirps … and … hops ... and flails her arms about – her way, I suppose, of saying what my warrior could with silence. I am not sure of her purpose or what to make of her, only that I must guard and "be nice" to her when we are alone. She often watches as my warrior and I have our time together when it is dark and during our runs when it is light. I do not think she knows what to make of me either, but I give her credit for trying to fit in.
Other warhorses snort at this arrangement. They see me and my warrior go through our paces and wonder why we have so little to show for our victories. Why she wastes our superior qualities on protecting one or many seemingly useless humans, when we could ride at the head of armies. No matter. What we have is enough to best anyone, to go anywhere with our noses high, to enjoy the basic comforts of life without fences, to rest peacefully with only ourselves to command and obey.
As for the noisy one, I remind myself how it is to be a filly trying to come into your own – running hither and yon without any idea yet of which is better, or nowhere just because you can. Crashing into things from being too excited to pay attention. We are certainly more active with her around, constantly honing and testing ourselves, figuring new ways to get out of the trouble she attracts like flies. My warrior laughs and grrrs a lot. She rests more quietly in the dark, which frees me more to be on my own. I think the arrangement may work all right.
The main problem I can see is that the noisy one may be too clean – from the inside out anyway. She isn’t used to the smell of blood and death. She may not understand it makes my warrior and me who we are. That could change, however, as she is always trying to be more like my warrior. She too has fire in her. Maybe hers will burn pure whatever blood and death she takes in. Maybe she will help my warrior’s fire purify her own insides better. As good as she is, she can afford a little less blood and death in her veins, lest some of it have nothing better to do than turn against her.
All in all, our meeting has been good – mine with my warrior, ours with the noisy one. I had gotten tired of running away, yet itched for what I was born and trained to do. With these humans, I can stick around and serve my purpose as well. They treat me like I have sense, give me apples and brush me to my heart’s content – reason enough to keep them. Time will tell whether our greener pastures end up a pile of manure. For now, the grass is pretty sweet and my humans far better than others I have come across. I would have to say that anyone who thinks to separate us is asking for a kick in the teeth.
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