I climbed down the ladder attached to the side of the tower. In the middle of it I paused, took a deep breath, and let go. My boots hit the ground first followed by my hands to brace my fall. Gathering my wits, I set off towards the stables.
“Evening mum,” Arna walked past me, a basket of laundry on her hip. Her little sister followed close behind her, eyes wide with terror as she looked about her. Most of the village had been awoken when the panthera had roared through the village. Apparently, like me, no one could get back to sleep.
I dipped my head respectfully towards her, even though she was a few years younger than I.
The stables were located on the outskirts of the village, close to the tower. I would have to be quick so that no one would catch me. The stables were tended by a group of younger boys who once upon a time had been stable hands in service to the horse’s owners. I pulled the hood of my crimson cloak over my telltale hair as the stable came into view.
A lone stable hand was raking soiled straw into a pile. He wiped the sweat from his brow as I passed, not noticing me.
I held my breath all the same as I unlatched my mare’s stall gate. Her saddle was where I had left it last, draped over the side wall.
“Hush now Ola,” I murmured, stroking her grey muzzle. Ola was a grey mare, her coat a whitish color. Her haunches were dappled with a grey pattern that made her stand out from the other solid color mounts.
I set the saddle on her back and tightened the girth, “How about we go for a ride, you and me?” She snorted in reply, her head bobbing up and down in approval. I put my left foot in the stirrup and hauled myself up onto her back.
I was about to ride her out of her stall when a loud clatter outside where the stable hand had been alerted my attention. I leaned forward on Ola, attempting to get a better look. I could hardly see in the murky light inside the stable. Frowning, I urged Ola forward towards the sound. Her hooves pounded out a steady rhythm on the stone floor. “Who’s there? Show yourself!”