Nov 20

Kieri’s First Command, Part VI

Posted: under Uncategorized.
 November 20th, 2022

Part VI

So when he heard the rapid hoofbeats coming up from behind, and the voice yelling at the horse, followed by a dust-blurred  sight of the horse bucking along and the rider finally being launched, he knew both who it was, and what had happened. The Marrakai were known for breeding good horses, but this kirgan was not, Kieri thought, a good horseman.  The horse was, obviously, both young and difficult, a red stallion with one white foot that had traveled hollow-backed and crooked every time Kieri had seen it pass.  He’d seen the young man launched before, and noticed the same pattern every time.

Except that this time the horse ran toward his unit, and Kieri caught the trailing rein.  One problem was obvious and he reached out to fix it.

“Let go of my horse, you–!” The young man stumbled toward him.

“I’m but settling him,” Kieri said, in as easy a voice as he owned.  “The curb chain wasn’t adjusted correctly.”

“What do you know about curb chains!  You don’t even have a horse.”  The young man was angry, having been launched right in front of everyone clustered around the prince.

“I have had,” Kieri said, unhooking the chain, giving it a twist, and hooking it again with the chain flat and the hook pointed away from the horse. The horse bumped him with its nose.  Most horses liked him, he’d found out at Aliam’s.

“I suppose you think you can ride better than I do!”  Still angry, still not thinking, was Kieri’s analysis, and he saw other faces turned to this conversation.  Oh well, sometimes truth hurt.

“I can ride; I do not judge myself an expert.”

“Well, I am,” the youth said, just as loud, and having come near enough grabbed the opposite rein and yanked hard.  The horse threw up its head, half-reared and bumped the youth with its shoulder.  He lost his grip and went down again.

“YOU did that!” he said, even louder, reaching for his sword.

This was not, Kieri told himself, going to end well whatever he did.  He flipped the reins over the horse’s head and his sergeant ran up and took them, clearing space.  He rocked just a bit, heel to toe, finding his best balance on this uneven surface, but not moving to draw. Four inches of steel showed above the boy’s scabbard.  But out of the dust another voice intervened.

“Kirgan Marrakai! Do I see you drawing on one of my commanders?  Stand where you are, sir.”

“Sir prince, I was only–”

“Silence.” Then, to someone else, the Prince said “Tell Duke Marrakai I would speak with him.” A man ran off to the side.  The entire procession had stopped by now; the dust settled slowly.  Kieri looked at the Prince, who looked back at him and nodded at Kieri’s empty hands.  “Is the horse hurt, Captain?”

“No, my lord prince.”

“Good.  Did I hear you correctly, there was an error of adjustment of the bit?”

“The curb chain, my lord prince.  It had not been twisted quite flat, and the hook pointed inward.”

“Anything else?”

“If it were my horse I would check the saddle adjustment; it seemed to me that it had perhaps slipped a bit to one side while being girthed.  But the dust could have obscured my view, and it was bucking.”

Duke Marrakai rode up.  “My lord prince.”

“Yes, I wish your opinion.”

The Duke’s gaze shifted from his son to the Prince, Kieri, the horse, and back to the Prince.  “Yes, my lord.”

“Who is at fault if a horse is bitted incorrectly, perhaps not girthed correctly, and bucks in consequence?”

“The rider,” the Duke said promptly.

“Even if a groom tacks it up for the rider?”

“Yes, my lord, always.  The rider must check everything before mounting.  May I ask what happened?”

“You know your son’s horse bucks frequently?”

“Yes.  It is young.  I advised him to bring a more experienced mount, but he insisted on bringing this one.”

“If it is shown that someone else, someone who adjusted or adjusts the tack, can ride the horse the rest of the morning without it bucking…what would you think.”

The Duke scowled at his son.  “I would think the rider–in this case my son–had been negligent in checking his tack.”

“And what would you do?”

“I could send him home,” the Duke offered.

“And what good would that do for the horse?” the Crown Prince asked the sky, and then went on without giving the Duke time to answer.  “I tell you what, Duke Marrakai: if you will allow, I will set this rider’s punishment myself.  First we shall see to the matter of negligence.  Captain, bring the horse here.  Duke, you and I will inspect the tack.”

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