As I returned into the district at the edge of Ol’sima city on my dappled mare, Stallon, I closely watched the faces of people who I had known for so long, but who would not notice me, even as I travelled above them, on a horse. Fairly, they had no reason to give me a second glance, the daughter of a blacksmith and poor magician, my plain brown hair dipping into my vision like a veil, and my arms busy carrying sacks of dried grass, oats and various other sundries my father needed. A sickle had been strapped to my back, but it was for protection and nobody thought anything more of it.
I could keep a grip of my cargo without holding Stallon's reins because I had many year’s practise, having grown-up riding a horse and making the same trip so many times. Stallon trusted me and I trusted the gentle rhythm of her hooves; I always had been at home beside animals.
Suddenly, Stallon tossed her head violently and I was forced to reach for the reins to stop from trampling the boy underfoot.
"Petron, be careful," I scolded the little child who gazed up at me through his shock of straw hair and waved, "How many times have I told you not to play in the streets?"
"Sorry, Manona," he chattered, "My bouncing ball rolled out and I was fetching it."
I dismounted and was about to give Petron a lecture about how the games of childhood would be short-lived, when his father, the local greengrocer, emerged from his small, fresh-smelling store.
"Manona, did you manage to acquire the delivery I requested?" The grey-haired man asked me.
Wordlessly, I pulled down one of the sacks from Stallon's back, feeling the horse relax as some of the weight was gone.
Mr. Romallson pressed as silver coin into the palm of my hand as he beamed, and took the sack from me.
"Thank you, thank you. Tell Kasron that I am very grateful."
"Of course. My father and I do what we can to help the district. Also, he says to come to the forge the morning of the day after tomorrow to collect the fine knives you requested."
Then, without waiting for any more conversation, I smiled at Petron and leaped back onto Stallon, who immediately set off at a quick trot to the farm.
I dismounted on reaching the dusty, tattered buildings that formed the stables, the forge and our farmhouse. I led Stallon through to the doorway of the forge, from which I could hear my father working. When I entered, he had his back to the door, but I saw him take off his gloves and quickly mutter 'brisingr' to set the fires roaring.
I'd always admired my father's grasp and control (albeit only a little) of magic; he had tried to teach me when I was younger, but we found out that I did not have the gift, and I was very disappointed. I presumed that, in due time, he had forgotten about my desire to become a magician, but I had always been justly jealous of his powers, as meagre as they were.
There also seemed to be some reluctance from him to talk about magic, as though he did not want for me to pursue it. Indeed, my mother had been killed by a notoriously evil Rider in dark times, but, in my opinion, it should not have given my father the right to hate everything that being a Rider was. In fact, to me, it seemed glorious to be a Rider; the perfect way for the crowds to know your name and your face.
“Ah, Manona, you’re back,” my father exclaimed as he turned to gather his tools and a lump of iron that was destined to be a horse shoe or a short blade, “Just put the animal-food in the stables, and bring Stallon to me. I saw her limp last night; I think she needs re-shoeing.”
“But, father…” I protested earnestly, “I need her for…”
I stopped. I couldn’t tell him of my plans.
“Need her for what, Manona?”
“Nothing, I was…mistaken,” I replied, making a hasty exit to the paddock with the sacks, after I had tied Stallon to a fence-post outside the forge. I knew that she would be secure there.
On arriving at the bright acre of land my father owned, I spotted a dappled foal making her way happily over to greet me. It was Perrie, Stallon’s daughter, who I had never considered to be as important as her mother. As I stroked her mane, deep in thought, I realised that, with Stallon being reshod, I would need another riding horse to help me with my plan.
Tomorrow, I would ride into the centre of Ol’sima and take part in the Dragon Rider Trials.