Servers came in with platters of food, giving Drace time to compose himself.
“There is your steak; it is elk, not from a beef animal,” Vashti explained.
Drace was already cutting up his steak, using a knife and a simple two-pronged fork. He shoved the bite into his mouth then paused with another forked piece halfway to his mouth. He chewed thoughtfully for a moment. “Oh God that is good!” he sighed as the tender meat practically melted in
As servers made the rounds by the tables, he accepted a baked potato and some sort of salad greens with dressing. He ate for a while then looked at Vashti and Ka’Ril. “I don’t know where I am, but it just might be heaven.” He sighed a little in contentment.
“You are in Kismera, land of the Werre, the Lion-kin,” Vashti informed him. “This stronghold is Oralia. It means ‘golden’ in the ancient Werren language, referring to the red-gold stones of the castle’s walls.”
Drace nodded in understanding as he continued to eat. He hadn’t realized just how hungry he had been until he had gotten his first taste of the delicious steak.
He didn’t have a chance to talk further with the Lady Ki as she kept steady conversation with others at the table. Drace did catch her studying him from time to time during the course of the meal, her gaze sometimes curious, other times irritated. She finished her meal before many of the others and excused herself for the night, leaving Drace puzzled at her irritation.
Estelle woke and shaved Drace early the next morning after he had a restful night’s sleep. Following a hearty breakfast of bacon, eggs, and warm bread dripping with real butter, Drace found his way to the stable.
Cearan met him there and helped him find his saddle and tack.
“Let us ride to see some of our horses. Ki and Estelle are handling some problem in the cellars. Ki’s temper is up so it would be in our best interest to be scarce for an hour or so,” Cearan informed in a deep and friendly voice.
Drace agreed and they rode around the back of the keep and out two gates. Big pastures, with grazing horses and cattle, lined the road on either side. There were a few cottages for the horses’ caretakers and several long stables. Large trees provided shade for the livestock and a small creek ran through each
pasture, providing fresh water. The knee-high grass was more of the bluegrass, and the livestock were fat and sleek on it.
Drace stopped to admire a pasture of mares that were kept for breeding. Most were black or a dark chocolate color. There were a few bays and one gray. They were big, tall mares with good, strong legs. With his horseman’s eye he could see the merits of breeding Pride to these mares. Cearan especially wanted to breed Pride to Ki’s mare as the horse was one of their best. He and Cearan stayed mounted on their horses while they discussed horse breeding and conformation.
When Cearan asked him to choose a gelding as an extra horse to ride, Drace agreed and picked a very tall, heavily built, dark bay with no white markings. Cearan led the horse behind his on their return to the castle.
“Ah, I see Ki. It would be best not to keep her waiting. I doubt her mood is much improved.” He clasped Drace’s arm the same way Ka’Ril had. “Thank you for your generosity, my Lord.” He disappeared into the stables giving
orders to the stable boys.
Drace rode up to Ki, noting her look of impatience. “Good morning, my Lady. I hope you haven’t been waiting long. I just need to warm him up a
“Of course, please continue when you are ready,” she replied and moved to stand in the shadow of the stable.