My legs ached from hip to calf from the five hours of drills all the new recruits had just gone through. We headed back into the barns, ready to water down our horses and begin a new day as students at Orva. I passed by chestnut colored horses, a paint, and two buffs. It was the first time that I realized Zal was the only black horse of the group. I wondered if this would reveal anything about me and my heritage. Glancing from horse to rider each of them seemed fairly bewildered, and extremely tired. There would be no problem for some time, while each of the recruits conditioned to the needs of racing.
“Say, say, was that a good ride girl?” Zal shifted her head back and forth until I brought out the bucket of water and brush to cool her down. I wiped some sweat on my face and felt my smile. How long had it been there? I really was quite happy, this is where the two of us fit, riding from the moon to the sun. “Say, say, just like old times my girl?”
“You get up at three in the morning and strip down often?” Roth was standing behind me with his arms folded. I could see now in the light of the sun and barn that we were the same height. He was wearing a top with the sleeves torn off, likely to show off muscles he had in multitudes.
“Not every morning, but yes it is a past time for us.” I turned around to finish up the work I had started on Zal. I quickly corrected my previous sentence, “Not the stripping down part. That is not a past time.”
He chuckled under his breath. I couldn’t see his facial expression to know whether it was sarcasm or amusement. “Well I came to congratulate you on something,” I felt a heaviness fill the space between us. A strange sensation filled my temple on one side, and I tilted my head trying to either make the feeling go away or to intensify such that I might figure out what it was.
“Well get on with it,” hoping he would go away.
“Since you won the race this morning, you get to have the best mentor around!” The feeling at the side of my head rapidly depleted with news, and I shuddered slightly, hoping that he would not say Kurt’s name.
“Oh don’t look so brash horse girl. It’s only me.”
I pivoted to look him in the eye with a hopeful heart, “You? You are my mentor?”
“Yes, now let’s get you to class. Turns out you are not only ahead of the other recruits physically, but academically, and we have two classes together today.”
He waited for me to pat Zal down, and put her back in her stall where he headed back to the rider’s house. My steps were lighter. I could not have asked for a better mentor, Roth Caylin, the fastest rider in the world.
“You ready yet?” I banged on Roth’s door. How could it take anyone this long to get ready? I slumped down on the floor outside of his door, clutching the piece of parchment in my hands that held my class schedule:
“Period 1: Healing
Period 2: Astronomy and Mathematics
Period 3: Historical Figures
Period 4: To be assessed”
Roth finally came out of his room, “What were you doing in there?” I laughed at him, because he looked exactly the same as he did in this morning save a more presentable blue shirt.
“What are you talking about there is so much to do to get ready for the day!” He threw his pack over his shoulder, pulling my schedule out of my hand at the same time.
“Let's see we have Healing and Astronomy together today. You are on your own for Historical Figures, but you will like Professor Cutler. Woah, why is your fourth period not assigned?” His brows furrowed as we made our way up to the fortress.
“Is that not normal? I thought maybe it was just extra time for Zal and me to practice.”
“No definitely not. We don’t have time to ask about it now, but you can go after third period.”
“Well we COULD have had time now,” I grinned at him. He scowled. We were going to by fast friends.