Ser Chrisfer and Lancyn

Fiction by Pen . . . . . not real, made up, purely intended for entertainment

Brown

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They hadn't remained long in the city. Long enough for Ser Chrisfer to accompany him back to Master Perel's mansion, and extricate him from his contract. That was going to be a golden memory for many years, Lancyn thought. The way Master Perel's joviality had slipped at the sight of the black-clad knight with ribboned hair stalking into his business chamber. The way he'd blustered about Lancyn's value, and compensation for an early-broken term, and the inconvenience (as though he didn't have other apprentices!). And crumpled when Ser Chrisfer had gone, point by point with ruthless politeness through the letter of the contract, and agreed with a formal handshake to a cash settlement.

Master Perel had handed over, more or less willingly, a small purse of money. To him!

Not that he'd kept the money. It had been passed to the bursar at Elite Tower, not half an hour afterwards, when Ser Chrisfer had registered Lancyn as his squire. Being a squire, being squire to this bizarre but wonderful knight, was better by far than owning a purse of coin. Lancyn was still dazed by his good fortune.

And now, he even had a horse.

He had been a shade disappointed that the horse Ser Chrisfer selected from the Tower stable wasn't huge and magnificent, wasn't a red one with a white star on it's forehead, or a shiny black one, or one of those really pretty yellow ones with a blond tail. It was just brown. Still, it—no, she—was well behaved and friendly, and had nuzzled him and dribbled green stuff onto his sleeve when he rather nervously offered her an apple. Apparently this was good luck. Besides, it turned out that Ser Chrisfer's own mount wasn't particularly magnificent either. It was also brown, but with a spotted rump and a disconcertingly cynical eye. It didn't look like a knight's horse, but it did look like Ser Chrisfer's horse, and it wasn't a battle horse, but one for travel. Like his.

His horse! His horse!

All through the fitting of new boots, and a travel cloak, and a filled knapsack, and Ser Chrisfer's cheery discussion with the Order's secretary, the knowledge had sung through Lancyn's mind. He had a horse!

It wasn't quite the unmixed blessing he had imagined. All day, Ser Chrisfer had insisted they walk, after riding for an hour. Lancyn had thought, at first, that this was foolish. Why walk, when you had a horse? By lunchtime, he was inclined to wonder why anyone would want a horse, when they could walk. The reality of riding had not, so far, lived up to his ecstatic visions of travelling proudly throughout the land on his noble steed. First, there had been the mounting. It was a surprisingly long way up, much further than it had looked, from the ground. Then, there was the fact that a horse was a lot wider than he had expected. Also, riding meant more than just sitting on the saddle, and it took a surprising amount of concentration. And, it turned out, a horse was a lot of work. Lancyn had been prepared, even eager, to work for his knight, fetching and carrying, getting food ready when they were along the road, whatever Ser Chrisfer wanted. He had not anticipated waiting on a horse, too. But eventually the unsaddling and brushing and feeding and watering and what not were done, and he was sitting in a silent meadow beside his knight and a small cooking fire. His thighs ached.

"We'll start your weapons training tomorrow, if it doesn't rain," Ser Chrisfer said casually, as he stirred the fragrant contents of the pot over the fire.

"W-will I have a sword?"

His knight snorted. "Not until I'm sure you won't be cutting my head off with it." Lancyn knew he looked crestfallen, but Ser Chrisfer's twitched smile cheered him. "You'll get there. It takes time. You did well today."

"Did I?"

"With the riding. I fell off three times, my first day."

"Oh."

"Wanted to gallop before I could walk." Ser Chrisfer shrugged. "What are you going to name her?"

"Name?" Lancyn hadn't considered that the horse would need a name.

"Your mount, your choice." Ser Chrisfer looked at him blandly. Lancyn hadn't been acquainted with him for long, but already he distrusted that expression. Bland meant his knight was hiding something.

"Is it, um, does it matter what I call it—her? I mean, is there magic—if I call her something, does that define what she is?" Lancyn had never had much to do with magic, just the usual counting-house trivia of spotting counterfeit coins, and stay-tights on the pouch fastenings. But he'd gleaned what information he could on such a mysterious subject. He didn't think his knight would let him name his horse Stupid, or Stumble-Knees, and be forever troubled as a consequence, but he wasn't completely sure. Ser Chrisfer was tricky.

"Nah," and the knight was ladling stuff into bowls now. Lancyn was very hungry. "But a horse should have a name. You need to be friends with her. That's why I had you brush her tonight." He blew on his bowlful. "Can't be friends with something that doesn't have a name."

Lancyn considered. That made sense. He supposed he should think of something noble and splendid, but he couldn't think of anything like that to say about his horse. She was just brown.

Very well, then. "Brown," he said firmly.

"What?"

"Brown. I'll call her Brown."

Ser Chrisfer's fathomless eyes stared at him for a long moment, then the knight clapped his hand to his brow, muttered "Classic. A perfect match," and resumed eating.

* * *

Lancyn didn't see what was wrong with calling his horse Brown. It was a very sensible name. Ser Chrisfer's horse was probably called something clever, like.... Perseverance Fourfoot, or Dances-the-Miles-Away, or Thieftaker, or something better than any of those, witty and expressive and a little bit strange, but Lancyn couldn't think of a name like that. Besides, Brown was a fine name. A fine horse. He was getting used to riding, now. Not so sore. Or perhaps, sore in different places, now that the weapons training had started.

It would be nice to sleep in a bed tonight. They'd reached the inn before dusk, and though the place didn't look like much, the food was very good indeed and the stable boys seemed to have done a respectable job with their mounts, when he went in to check.

Brown stood calmly in her end stall, but nuzzled at him when he arrived. He fed her a carrot, smiling at the velvety lipping against his palm, and stroked her neck. Perhaps he should brush her, Lancyn thought, she'd seemed to enjoy being brushed, and Ser Chrisfer had said it was a good way for them to get acquainted. He hoisted himself over the stall door, pulled the brushes out of his bag, and set about it, humming quietly.

Lancyn stopped humming when he heard someone else enter the stables. Brown turned a mildly reproachful eye towards him—he liked to think she enjoyed the music—but he wasn't going to be caught by a perfect stranger, singing to his horse.

"Hello, Horse," said a familiar voice.

Lancyn's eyes narrowed. Carefully, he stepped to the front of the stall, and peeked round the post. Ser Chrisfer was three stalls down, fondling his mount's ears and informing the beast that it was a very good and clever horse, smart horse, the best of possible horses, a very greedy horse, stop that with the pockets or I'll smack you on the nose, Horse, here you are, you worked hard today, Horse. "Perfectly good name. Don't need fancy, do we, Horse? Don't you ever tell Lancyn I called you Horse, or no more apples for you. No, stop that, you've had your treat."

Keeping a determinedly straight face, Lancyn folded his arms and leaned over the stall door.

"Horse?" he said, and watched with pleasure as his knight's ears turned red.

 

On to the next story: Encounter on the Road

 

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