~ The Packing ~ pg 5

Bringing her things down the stairs she was met by a harried Nivia who put her to work sorting through medicines and packing them safely. Each time she finished a task, Nivia would move her to a new one keeping her busy until they were ready to mount. The pack mule was loaded down with enough for a fortnight’s journey even though the pass was only three days away.

There was one more problem, though, that had yet to be resolved. There were five horses and seven people. Some of them would have to double up.  Each of the Birchwoods had his own mount and Civyl was offered the horse left behind by Commander Garvis. “I’ll ride with Civyl,” Fiora had offered immediately, but all of the men had balked, none more vocally than Civyl himself. 

“You know you cannot ride with me. It’s not safe.”

“You’re not going to hurt me!” she shouted in exasperation, but he would not be shifted.

“I can’t guarantee that. I will ride alone.” He walked away from her stiffly, removing her hand where it clung to his sleeve. 

It took all she had not to break down and sob. The gentle hand on her shoulder did not help, though Demil had meant well. He had just led Clover and Gentry towards the group, saddled and tacked for the journey. Fiora turned towards the familiar stallion for comfort rubbing Clover’s nose with her hands before burying her face against his neck. “I’ll ride on Clover, then,” she announced loudly glad that she was able to keep the waiver from her voice.

Demil looked at her meaningfully keeping her voice low, “Are you sure? We’re all ridin’ our own horses today.” 

She gave him a smile. That meant she would be riding with him. It would not be an unpleasant ride. Fiora nodded her head as Alex approached. “I want to ride on Clover again. I like him and he likes me, remember?” She gave Demil a wink.

He shrugged in return and backed up a few steps as Alex grabbed Clover’s reigns. “You rode my horse before? When?” he asked patting the stallion on the neck.

Fiora blinked. Alex’s horse? “Uh, when Demil took me to Brittner,” she stammered realizing Demil’s question had been one of invitation rather than confirmation.

Alex was nodding. “I would be pleased to share his back with you today,” he said graciously, though it seemed a bit hollow. With his tight lipped smile, he did not look very pleased. But he couldn’t very well refuse her, could he? Not after witnessing Civyl already turn her away and hearing her declare Clover her next choice. Alex allowed himself a genuine look of gladness as he rubbed his horse’s nose. “Clover always has had an affinity for the ladies, hasn’t he Demil?”

Demil had taken a hold of Gentry’s reigns and was already swinging up onto his back. “Just like his rider, eh?” he chuckled back and Fiora pursed her lips. She had taken Demil’s statement the wrong way. It was a joke between them… sarcasm at Alex’s lack of interest. An affinity for the ladies, indeed!

The End

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