Dassais Chapter 4
As the messenger closed the door behind him, Aneirin sat on the edge of his bed. He wondered who it was Eanor had for him to meet in the morning. Did he know more about the horse? He recalled Eanor’s reaction to his having touched the black horse. Am I really the young man in the legend? It still really seemed incredulous. A sudden quiet tap sounded on the door of their room. Aneirin jumped up to open it, but Eanor leaped in front of him.
“You never know who it could be.” He whispered tensely. Then he drew his dagger and flattened against the wall. He slid the door open a crack and spoke into it.
“State your business at once.” He revealed the dagger to the knocker.
“I come in peace.” Aneirin instantly recognized the voice of his friend Jackob and rushed up to the door.
“He is my friend, Jackob. You can allow him entrance.”
Eanor lowered his weapon and opened the door to allow Jackob into the room. “I’m sorry, friend. Please enter quickly.”
Jackob, slightly rattled, managed, “Farmer Grae sent me to tell you that he is returning to the farm.” Eanor eyed him warily. Then he questioned him on how much he’d heard before he tapped on the door.
“Just a little about going to meet someone in the morning. And about a mysterious black horse. I’m sorry if I overheard something I wasn’t supposed to.” Jackob shifted from foot to foot.
“I suppose you would like to go with us?”
Jackob nodded hesitantly. Aneirin looked expectantly at Eanor.
“Well, seeing as you have overheard so much, you may come. We leave at dawn.”
A gentle mist dampened the air as three cloaked figures slipped out of the inn in the cool of the morning. Golden rays warmed the sky, though the sun had not yet peeked above the hills and forest. Birds were starting the fill the trees with their voices. Through the sleepy town and to the edge of the forest the companions hurried. The hardened dirt road led under the dripping canopy. Leaves crunched under their feet, yet they took hardly any notice of it. Their task was of utmost importance. If Aneirin was the legendary man, they must act at once. The hunters could attack at any time and no one knew where they were.
The road snaked up the mountain, winding around trees and bushes. After about two hours, the way leveled out and the density of the large oaks and firs lessened. The three travelers quickened their pace until they came to a large open area. A large estate commanded the center. The road led right up to the front door, widening for the convenience of turning a wagon or carriage. Gray brick comprised the exterior of the building, rising two stories. Small turrets rose above the roof. Several paned windows were inset in the brick. Bushes and shrubberies, tucked against the building, lined the rounded drive.
Eanor rapped the brass knocker on the heavy wooden door. The misty air had turned into a steady rain. All three were dry under their cloaks, but their feet were soaked to the bone. Jackob shifted from foot to foot as they waited outside the door. The dewy grass had wet their soft shoes, leaving them cold in the morning air. Eanor raised his hand to knock again just as the door slid open just enough for a servant’s head to peek out.
“We have urgent business with the master of the house. Please fetch him quickly.” Eanor’s instructions gave swiftness to the servant’s feet as he led them through the wide, marble floored hall. After passing a few closed doors, the servant led them through a large doorway into a well-furnished parlor. A hot fire blazed at the far end of the room. Shag rugs covered the cold marble flooring and velvet sofas and chairs lined the edges of the room. Pictures were hung about the room on the polished walls. Aneirin, Jackob, and Eanor removed their shoes and stockings and hung them on the hooks above the fireplace to dry.
A tall, fair man strode into the room. His dark hair hung down to mid-torso, a thin, silver crown crested on his forehead. Aneirin, Jackob, and Eanor bowed low to the governor of Glennwood.
“Welcome, guests.” Lodamir Fillindyl addressed the three. “What brings you here see me?” He looked pointedly at Eanor.
“I believe he is the young man we have been searching for.” Eanor gestured towards Aneirin. Lodamir shifted his attention and approached Aneirin, seemingly inspecting him.
“What do you know of Dassais?” He stopped in front of him gazing down at him expecting an answer, but his eyes held no malice. Aneirin explained his experience that night of the storm, how he had followed the tracks into the forest and touched the nose of the tall black horse.
“This is very curious indeed. Where did you grow up? Who are your parents?” Lodamir questioned him.
“I grew up on a farm with Farmer Grae. I don’t know who my parents are except that they were forced to give me up when I was very young.” Aneirin answered straightforwardly.
“Hm…” Lodamir walked to the window and pulled aside the heavy curtain. “I must dwell on this information.” Dropping the curtain, he strode to the doorway, then turned back.
“You all may have accommodation here tonight.” He quickly rang a small bell. Turning to the servant, he commanded, “Please freshen up three guest rooms.”
“I have business to attend to but please make yourselves at home.”
Aneirin wandered about the garden, yet not really observing the floral beds and greenery surrounding him. The clay path crunched under his feet as he meandered in no particular direction. He wondered what conclusions Governor Fillindyl would achieve. Yes, he had touched the horse, but it had run off right afterwards. How could he be the one to tame Dassais? He still had his doubts. Why does everyone seem to think that I am the legendary man to tame the black animal? His circumstances were most likely about to become quite bad instead. He had encountered the horse, after all.
“Hello, I did not expect anyone to be here.” A girl’s voice startled Aneirin out of his thoughts. He looked up and saw the beautiful girl from the village. Delicate blonde hair hung down nearly to her waist, except for a few front pieces. These were twisted and held back by a small silver medallion, revealing slightly pointed ears. Aneirin just barely kept himself from gaping. The young elf looked at him curiously.
“I supposed I could say I did not expect to be here either.” Aneirin quipped. He paused on the garden path next to Kierra, then they walked together away from the lush greenery.
“Have you always lived here in Glennwood?” Kierra plucked a leaf as they ambled passed a large maple. She twisted the stem in her fingers, gently cradling the blade in her hand. Aneirin watched as she deftly created a little green horse. She handed it to him.
“I have. I live with Farmer Grae.” He paused, “This is beautiful.”
“You are unsure about who you are.” It wasn’t a question. Kierra stopped just short of the stables and looked him in the eye. Aneirin felt like she had reached right into his heart. How does she know?
The grassy mountain pasture rolled up and down as they walked along the fencing. A horse whinnied, yet it wasn’t one of the many in grazing among the rocks and hills. The sound came from the large stable rising before them. Kierra pulled open the heavy door and they slid inside. The coolness of the air greeted him. Sunlight filtered in through the paned windows scattered throughout the barn. A soft whinny again called out. As Aneirin and Kierra approached the back of the stables, a white horse came into view, it’s dark eyes a stark contrast to it’s pure face.
“This is Luna. She is Dassais’ companion. Father and I are trying to draw the back horse here, though, before you came, we were unsure how we were going to catch him.” She stroked Luna’s nose.
“Me?” Aneirin hesitated. He couldn’t be the guy, he just couldn’t. “There must be someone else. I’m no horse trainer.”
“Yes, it must be you. How could it not?” Kierra led the way back towards the estate.
Aneirin, Jackob, and Eanor pulled out their chairs and sat at the long oak table. Lodamir sat at the head of the table with his daughter Kierra on his right and his son on his left. A monstrous feast had been prepared. Roasted venison and vegetables, potatoes, assorted fruits, and fresh bread were spread across the table. The silver and glasses sparkled and reflected the lights of the candles on the table and throughout the dining hall.
“This is my son, Salomir.” The elf governor patted the shoulder of the blonde elf sitting next to him. “He is my heir and future governor of Glennwood.”
The meal commenced as Lodamir selected the bowls of food and passed them to his dinner companions. Aneirin loaded his platter and began eating. The meal was scrumptious, as all meals made by elves are. Everyone ate quietly. Aneirin wondered if it was because the food was good or because the tale was forefront in everyone’s mind. Whatever the matter, Aneirin kept his thoughts to himself as he finished his food. The door slid open, and a servant entered.
“Let us retire. We have pressing matters to attend to.” Lodamir pushed back his chair and everyone followed suit. The governor led them down the hall to another large and spacious room with a small balcony off one side. Trinkets and weapons were on tables along the right edge of the room. A burgundy rug partially covered the marble floor. The balcony held a small round table with wooden chairs surrounding it. Lodamir strode straight to the table and pulled out a chair. They all sat.
“Dassais will arrive here soon. We must be ready for him.” Lodamir gazed straight at Aneirin.
“But, how will we do that, seeing as we have no one to tame him?” Aneirin felt his doubts surface again.
“You will tame him.” Lodamir’s gaze pierced through Aneirin’s eyes straight to his heart. Finally, Lodamir broke gaze and addressed the others gathered there at the table.
“We must be ready. The Ghalis hunters are closing in fast and you must move with haste to remove as far from Glennwood as possible. They cannot take the black horse.”
“I will go with Aneirin.” Eanor quietly, but authoritatively spoke first.
“I will help provide protection.” Salomir volunteered.
“You cannot go without your best friend.” Jackob bravely looked at Aneirin.
Lodamir looked at the four new companions. “Alright, you four will take Dassais several days journey to Mirathon. There you will be safe.”
Aneirin turned over under the quilts again. Sleep refused to come. Rain battered against the windows, though it showed signs of slowing. The governor’s words ran repeatedly in his mind. You will tame him. How would he, a young farmer, tame a wild horse? He lifted the quilts and sat up with his feet on the cold floor. Maybe Lodamir was right, but he still wasn’t sure. Something held him back from accepting his place in the tale. He padded to the window and pulled back the heavy curtain. The rain had all but ceased. The darkness on the other side of the glass was almost palpable. Thoughts swirled in his mind as he stared. What if I really am the young man? But how could that be possible? Moonlight gradually sliced through the murky blackness as the clouds rolled across the night sky. Aneirin looked up at the twinkling stars until a slight movement down below caught his attention. What was that large dark shape at the edge of the trees? Quickly dressing, he gathered up his dagger and placed it in one of the loops on his belt. Then he silently crept out of his room and down the hall. The cool beams from the moon lit a path to the spot where he had seen the movement. Aneirin knelt and examined the earth. Large hoofprints led into the forest. He rose and followed them a short way until movement ahead made him stop. There standing not ten feet in front of him a giant of an animal stared back at him. The leaf-filtered moonlight shimmered on Dassais’ glossy hair. Neither moved for a long moment. The black horse took step towards Aneirin. Then another. Then another. Aneirin could almost touch him. He slowly held out his hand. The large animal leaned his velvet nose into Aneirin’s palm. He marveled at the softness. Gently, Aneirin ran a hand along the thick wavy mane. Dassais trembled yet stood still.
“Sh. I won’t hurt you. You’re still free.” Aneirin calmly smoothed his hands along the silky black coat. The horse’s trembling stilled. He talked to the horse for some time, and then he turned to go back to the estate. Dassais followed him. At that instant, Aneirin knew. He was the legendary young man. The black horse had come to them, yet he couldn’t put Dassais in the stable. He wasn’t ready for restraints yet. An idea occurred to him and he stopped. The horse stopped too. Turning to face Dassais, Aneirin looked into the deep brown eyes.
“You need to stay here. Don’t leave the manor.” The horse leaned nuzzled gently against Aneirin’s shoulder and then dropped his head to the lawn and began cropping the green blades short.
Morning dawned bright and clear. Aneirin leaped out of bed and looked out the window. Dassais’ black hindquarters shimmered in the sunlight as he lay on the edge of the lawn near the forest. Quickly throwing on his clothes, he hurried down to breakfast. Eanor, Jackob, Salomir, and Lodamir were already in the dining hall. Fresh fruit, scones, bacon, and cold cream were laid out on the long table. Aneirin was famished and filled his plate.
“You know something, don’t you?” Jackob leaned over to whisper. Aneirin just glanced at him to shush him.
“Fine, don’t tell.” Jackob was insulted. Aneirin couldn’t help it. He wanted to wait until after breakfast so he could show his news rather than tell it. But it seemed that everyone at the table knew that he was hiding something. Everyone kept glancing at him curiously. Even Salomir whispered to Kierra as she glided into the hall past his chair. She glanced at Aneirin and then, returning her gaze to Salomir, she nodded. The room fell silent as everyone ate their fill. Finally, Lodamir scraped back his chair and looked pointedly at Aneirin.
“You have something to show us.” His understanding was impeccable.
“Yes.” Aneirin waited until the governor stood before he rose from his chair. Leading the way, he entered his guest chamber, and everyone gathered around him as they looked out the window. Dassais stood below, calmly grazing on the lawn. Aneirin felt the attention on him.
“I accept my position in the tale. It is true and I am the young man.” Aneirin went on to explain the happenings during the night. When he was done, Lodamir addressed them all.
“You know what to do. Let us pray you are swift and the hunters do not find you before you are out of Glennwood.”
© 2019 Tori Leumas