Book 3, Epilogue
The blood sweating stallion was normally careful about who he let ride him, not that he let the two-legs know that. They thought, in their awkward, walking-on-stilts way, that they were in charge of things.
The stallion knew that things were always more subtle than that.
Today, the stallion carried a slip of a girl, unused to horses, her seat awkward on him and the grip of her thighs negligent and weak. He could slip her at his will, and not the most discerning of two-legs would blame anyone but the girl. He chose not to, because he willed to share with her this glorious day of late summer in a morning meadow wet with dew.
Not, mind you, because she was good company. Not today. Weak two-leg tears leaked through the lashes of Kumi Suzuki-Konoye, mixed with anger at the girls who brought her word of her father. The stallion could understand. He was a sire, too. Every offspring was different, and, again, some were male, and some were female. The horse kind of male offspring needed to be driven off the meadow when they came of age, to find their own herd. The stallion’s latest, a yellow-hide after his own image, had done well at that. Tellus had his own range and his own herd; mostly two-legs as yet, but give him time.
The blood-sweating stallion was proud of Tellus, even if he would sent him packing with a solid kick if he tried to horn into his meadows.
Girls, though, were a different matter. You owed something to the mares that came from you, and to your herd, and Mike Suzuki was torn between those things. After fourteen hundred summers, the blood-sweating stallion could understand. Freed by the efforts of Charlotte Wong, Dora Guzman, Rose Eley, Bruce McNeely and various allies, Mike Suzuki had elected to stay on the faraway planet of Landing. His anguished words rang in Charlotte Wong’s mind, to be heard by the ears of the stallion, which heard things more subtle than the whisper of the breeze: “She can come visit me. I have tenure here!” Teaching at the new university in booming Landing Town made Mike Suzuki feel like a stallion, instead of the useless gelding he had been doomed to be on stagnant Earth.
Was it selfish? Kumi thought so. She was nourishing grievances as she rode weakly on the stallion’s back. He knew that, and he knew that he could not jolly her out of her self-pity in one ride. But he could start. He owed that to his two-leg kind.
That thought sent the eye of the stallion back to the sword that gleamed at Charlotte Wong’s side. Did she know yet, how close she had come to mighty Auralia, First Light of Dawn, or of the menace that threatened the sword forged to bring doom to Krim, demon terror out of ages agone? Someone would tell her soon. The stallion would make sure of that, if no two-leg had the wisdom to see it with a two-leg’s googly eyes. For, as immersed as these children were in the green fears and hopes of the spring of life, the shadow of the terror of the King of Ivory was stretching.
Soon, blades must flash from scabbards and the banners ride. It would be a charge against odds, of which there had been so many, and so many tragic failures down the ages in which two-legs and horses had been partners upon the field of battle. Or, it just might be that steel-shod hooves would dash undead bones beneath them and knock their fragile dryness into dust. Dust that would , dry dust soaking up the dew to become the loam that is the spring of life.
And with that thought, the blood-sweating stallion opened up his gait and brought the wine-rich air of a September day rushing past the girl’s face, to dry her tears and fill her heart with the joy of the morning.
A two-leg would look to the future right now, the stallion reflected, and talk of “healing.” Such absurdity! Summer was now. It was for running and kicking up the blades of grass and feeling the damp of the dew under and the heat of the sun over, the sun that looked like the flashing sabre of hope held high, and for smelling the commingling smells of the juice of grass and the dryness of dust and the chaff of golden stalks. There was only one summer, ever, and evil could only win if you wasted it, and this one summer, even if they did not see it in the moment, the stallion’s two legs had not wasted.
So gallop, herd, gallop! Gallop to the sun of dawn!