Nov 24

Kieri’s First Command: Part X

Posted: under Background, Characters, Contents, Excerpt, the writing life.
Tags: , , ,  November 24th, 2022

Part X

One evening, coming out of the daily conference, Duke Marrakai asked Kieri to walk with him.  “The lad’s different.  I thought he’d sulk and complain and you have him smiling and cheerful.”

“He’s a good boy,” Kieri said.

“Sometimes,” the Duke said.  “And sometimes I’ve wanted to put a knot on his head.  You have no children, yet, do you?”

“No, but I watched Aliam Halveric and his wife with theirs, and I remember them with me.  I ignored your lad’s sulks and treated him as a sensible person, which he’s turned out to be.  I’m going to put him back on his horse tomorrow.”

“Well.  You should have a horse.  You ride very well and you know horses. And apparently, boys.”

“I will have again someday.  Someday, I want one of your breeding.  That horse is the best I’ve ridden.  Aliam had a halfbred of yours.  Tell me, what do you charge for the fullbred colts?”

The Duke looked at him squarely.  “They don’t come cheap.”

“No good horse does, but by accident. I will have one someday, and you can tell it will be treated well.”

“Indeed.  The Prince says he’s thinking of giving you that barren mess up north as a grant, if you do well in this campaign and another one or two.  No one else has wanted it, at any price or reward.”

“It would suit me,” Kieri said.  “In time it would thrive, with good management.  Hard at the start, of course, but are not the best horses often those difficult to train well early on?”

“You are not afraid of challenges.”

Kieri laughed.  “No, my lord, I am not.  Challenges come to all, early and late, and Aliam taught me that the measure of men is how they meet them.  Let me have some land, or a young horse–”

“Or a young boy?”

“I cannot speak of your son in such terms; he is yours, and a future Duke of Tsaia.”

“Well.  I see him as a challenge; he has been for me.  And I like what I see, Captain.  Teach him to ride better, and care for horses better, and we shall be friends a long time.”

“If you knew Aliam, my lord, he would tell you tales about me at your son’s age that would curl not only your hair but your horse’s tail.  If I am able to help him through this, I am happy to do so.”

Later that evening, the boy said, “We should not have done what we did.  I should not have done what I did.”  None of the boys had spoken to Kieri about it before but there was no doubt what the boy meant.

“You’re right,” Kieri said matter-of-factly, setting the stallion’s saddle on its rack.  “But you did, and it’s done, and you’re not doing it now.”

‘No, but I…I needed to say that.  I’m sorry I did it.  I’m sorry I spied on you.  I’m sorry…”

What would Aliam say to that?  What had Aliam said to so many of his own unwitting cruelties, blunders, thoughtless deeds, including those that got men killed?

“Listen to me,” Kieri said.  “You did something you knew was wrong, and you know that some things cannot be undone.  You can’t forget what you saw, can you?”

The boy’s head shook side to side; his eyes glistened.

“So when I was your age, and Aliam Halveric’s squire, I did things I knew I should not do, and some of those things could not be undone.  Men died, for some of my mistakes.  To be good men, when we are grown, we must learn to think.  Beyond what feels good, beyond what feels like fun, beyond what feels like it will win us points: we must learn to look ahead and think.  And it’s hard.  You have learned important things in these days: about your horse, about me, about yourself.  Now you know you can learn.  And I know you will learn.”

“Will I make more mistakes?”

“Oh, yes.  If you’re like me you will make mistakes over and over.  Men do.  Women do.  Everyone does.  It’s how we learn.  When you started riding, you fell off a lot, didn’t you?”

“Yes.”

“So as you move into adulthood you will continue to make mistakes, and when you don’t make any mistakes at all, you’ll have made the worst, because you’ll have quit learning.  Keep learning, keep failing, but then go back and get it right.”

“I don’t think I’m ready to ride my horse again.”

“Why not?”

A mischievous grin this time.  “Because I’m still making mistakes here, walking.  Because my horse shouldn’t suffer for them. Teach me to ride your way, please, and show me by riding him yourself.”

“Now that will require your father’s permission: who’s going to ask him?”  Kieri grinned back at him.

“I will,” the boy said, with no hesitation.  “I will, and he will say Yes, and then he’ll tell me he told me the horse was too much for me in this situation, and I’ll say he was right, and then he’ll say I can ride his old horse, his second.  We can ride together.”

The End

Happy Thanksgiving

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