She quickly did a slender braid on each side of his head that pulled his hair away from his face to behind his ears. She pulled a big needle and some yarn from her apron pocket, pulled all of his hair back and sewed the lot of it into a tight queue.
She came around to survey her work. “Now you look like a proper fighting man!” she exclaimed.
Estelle found a loose fitting shirt and tossed it to him. “Best hurry now, my boy. Lady Ki has already had breakfast and is gone to the training field to exercise her horse. I will see you later in the day.”
She hurried out with his thank you, and left him to finish dressing. He used the little frayed twig and some mint tasting salt she had given him to brush his teeth, and then headed to the main hall, wondering what this day would bring.
The daily routine changed to include Estelle braiding him ‘proper’, breakfast, and then exercising Pride. Afterward, he trained with Ki and Cearan, expanding his handling of weapons to include the dagger, battle-ax, and spear. He even spent time with Ka’Ril, learning the long bow, proving to have some natural talent with it. He gained basic handling of each weapon and was told by all his instructors that he would become proficient with more time and practice.
There had been no more intimate moments with Ki, but every once in awhile Drace would catch her looking at him intensely. He would give her a knowing look in return, and then get back to his work.
The day before they were set to leave for Ferndale, Ki changed the routine. After breakfast they practiced early. Then she requested that he ride with her that afternoon.
The mornings’ practice took a challenging turn when Drace faced Ki and Cearan at the same time. He had to give up the shield for a smaller sword in his left hand. By the time they were finished for the day, the muscles in his arms felt tired and weighted.
Drace met Ki later in the afternoon as she requested. Pride was eager to go for a run, pulling at the bit, as he and Drace waited for Ki.
Ki exited the stable leading a big, rangy, dark chestnut mare. The mare had white markings on her front legs and a snip of white on her nose. Drace thought she was a very pretty mare, but she also looked very strong and athletic. Ki’s mare also looked like she was ready for a good gallop.
Ki mounted her horse, and without speaking, headed out. Drace followed Ki through the east gates and trotted through the village. Several of the villagers called greetings to their Lady. Once outside the township, Ki gave the mare her head, and the mare was soon galloping with tail streaming. Pride was not a speed horse, but managed to give a good chase.
They galloped for nearly a mile across the plains, and then settled into a more sedate canter. The two continued on to where a small stream flowed beside a copse of trees. Ki asked her mare to cross, and with a small leap, the mare jumped across it. Pride waded over with more dignity, and arched his neck in greeting to the mare as Drace reined up beside Ki.
Ki dismounted and tied the mare to a branch and then leaned against a tree and looked out at the plains. Drace left some distance between the two horses then stood next to Ki and looked out in the same direction.