Da, where are you? Tovi fiddled with his mug, sloshing the milk as he rolled it on its edge. It had been three days. Why had his father made him run? He wrapped his cloak a little tighter around his shoulders.
The tavern owner knocked on the table. “Hey, kid.”
Tovi looked up.
With a jump, the man stepped back then shook his head. “I’ll never get used to those.” He tapped his finger under his eyes.
Blinking one eye closed then the other, Tovi alternated between his right blue and the left green eyes. “What do you mean, Axel?”
He chuckled. “Want some more?”
The man shook his head. “Most kids your age would try to sneak a little ale when they parents aren’t looking.”
“I’m not most kids.” Tovi shrugged.
“Speaking of your da?” the owner trailed off.
Tovi sat up a little straighter. “He’s coming.”
“Mm hum.” After filling his mug, Axel wondered away.
Swinging his legs, Tovi glanced back towards the door. Taking out his money bag, he counted what he had left. How much longer until his father show up? If wasn’t careful, he’d run out of money. Axel had been kind about it so far. Saying something cost one thing when Tovi knew it was another. The tavern owner was practically letting the horse stay in the stable for free.
The horse. That was the other mystery; why his father let him take the black and white he was training for the prince? Probably should consider giving it a name to call it more than horse. Tovi’s snorted as he thought back to the conversation with Prince Noach where he asked if he could name it. The prince teased him that he was making the horse his own, stealing it before his eyes. It was the afternoon before his father made him run. With a nod, he decided to wait. Might as well not confuse the poor animal before they went home.
But how long would that be? Tovi’s head hurt from all the questions that kept chasing each other. Rubbing his hand through his hair, he took a drink of his milk.
“Did you hear about the uproar at the castle a few night ago?”
Tovi glanced at two patrons sitting at the bar. Axel was filling mugs but also glancing at the men as they talked.
“You mean that great banquet the prince was throwing?” said one man with messy beared.
“So happens the prince commissioned a tapestry to commemorate the event.”
“Tapestry?” Axel interjected. “One of those haven’t been woven for the royal family since the prince was born.”
“Apparently he thought a glimpse into the future was the best way to celebrate the defeat of Dallown.”
“Aye, that was a spectacular battle.”
The news bearer picked up his mug. “Bet he never guessed it would show the fall of Elandra.”
The mug in Axel’s hand slipped, clattering on the counter as the bearded man jumped. “What?”
Tovi gasped and leaned over the arm of his chair to hear better.
Taking a sip of his ale, the news bearer set his mug back down. “The tapestry showed the castle in ruins. With a lone figure standing over it. Darkness surrounded all as fire consumed the ruins.”
The other man ground his fist into the counter. “Villain. If I ever find the man, I’ll take his head and deliver it to the prince myself.”
“You might get your chance,” the man went on. “The figure had a unique look to him.” He pointed to his eyes. “He had two colored eyes.”
Hand shaking, Tovi reached towards his own. Two colored? That tapestry wasn’t predicting him. He wouldn’t do that. Why would he? But… his father had been at the banquet. That was the same night he made him run.
Tovi looked towards the bar. And met the gaze of Axel.
Slowly the man leaned closer to the patrons, still watching Tovi. “What color were those eyes?”
Uh oh. Pulling up the hood of his cloak, Tovi stood and moved towards the back of the tavern, avoiding looking at anyone else.
Stepping out the back door, he ran for the barn. Inside, he unbolting the stall door where the stallion slept and saddled him. As he swung the saddle bags on the horse’s back, he realized all his clothes were in the room he’d rented. For a second, he thought about going back. Then considered passing through the common room. And the news of the tapestry. Shaking his head, he grabbed his bow and quiver from the wall in the stall and led the horse outside.
Axel and the two man stood outside the tavern door. The bearded men was rubbing a fist into his other hand while the news bearer grinned. But Axel just looked scared.
Tovi stepped back.
Holding up his hands, Axel said, “It’s okay. We just want to talk.”
The men stepped towards him.
Tovi towards the horse, struggling to get his foot in the stirrup but the stallion was too tall. One of the men grabbed him and pulled him down. Kicking his legs, the man tossed Tovi to the ground. Landing in the dirt, he coughed as the wind was knocked from him.
With a ringing neigh, the horse reared up and knocked his front hooves into the man sending backward. As the new bearer man ran up, the horse twisted around and kicked out his hind legs, striking the man in the gut.
While the two patrons groaned in pain, Tovi scrambled up and got on the horse. The tavern owner ran towards him.
Struggling to hold the reigns as his hands quaked, Tovi held his arm out to the side, raised it, and said, “Hup.”
The horse sprang up off all four hooves and kicked out his hind legs. The tavern owner skidded to a stop just in time not to be struck. With a click of his tongue, Tovi signaled the horse who charged around the tavern and into the street. Gripping the pommel, it took all his strength to stay on the horse as he pulled on the reigns to direct it down the street and out of the village.
They didn’t stop until they were well into the forest. When he did pull up, Tovi dropped to the ground and braced himself on his knees, gasping for breath. Why would he do those things the men said he would? He didn’t want to hurt anyone. This was why is father sent him away, why he tried to sneak Tovi out of the castle. Touching the skin below his eye, Tovi’s heart squeezed, feeling like he couldn’t get enough air.
His da wasn’t coming. Or he couldn’t come. Was he in trouble because he helped him? Was he okay?
Standing straighter on shaking legs, Tovi knew he couldn’t stay there. But he couldn’t be seen in the villages either. Climbing back on the stallion, he turned off the path and into the tangled forest, disappearing into the brush.
The jump-kick the stallion did in the story is a real move. I got the idea from a short video I once saw on Facebook. The video sounded like it was filmed during a medieval-like competition or show and historically the move was used in defense during battle. It was so cool I wanted to use it in a story. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the original video I saw to share but I did find other videos featuring it. I also learned the move’s name: capriole. Here is a video of the jump (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tUJ6YLyysLE). The original video I saw it in was when the horse was being ridden so it can be done from the saddle. I made up the hand gesture.
I hope you enjoyed meeting Tovi and will come back next Sunday when the story starts matching Havok’s themes.