White Silk: Part Five

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5.

Now, Willow don’t seem quite like the right name to me somehow. I mean, this horse is beautiful, no don’t about it. But I think “Willow,” I think the tree, with all those slender branches. Something whispy and beautiful—and right, so, this horse is beautiful, but she’s got a solid build. Maybe not hefty, but sure on, healthy. Guess I would have called her something different, but then, I’m not much for naming names, and this spares me the trouble, so Willow it is.

When I go over to Waypoint, I tie Willow out on the post-fence in front, side of probably six other horses. When I walk in, Daddy’s in conversation with a table of plump men who look decked out enough they must be merchants. Wearing plush velvet clothes dyed all colors of bright, wearing cleaned-up furs and such. Dad beckons me over. When I arrive, he explains that this group’s heading on north and west, but if I took a real circular route I could use their company to connect with another company and then another and another, and eventually get back down to Cheyvelrus, if I’m willing to extend my trip another week or five. But I’m no friend to that idea, and I tell him so. He almost looks happy when he nods at me. “Well, it’s your decision,” he says.

He and I go to a table and I’m a bit touched by him ordering me a brew. It’s a common courtesy for his daughter, but it seems a right nod to me being officially grown and all. He asks if I got a horse, and I say yes. He doesn’t drill me down on the price just yet, so I let it slide by. Instead he outlines a list of things we need to get for me. “Now, since you won’t be leaving with the merchants, you won’t need to rush this. But you could leave by morning if we get it all shopped out before nightfall.”

“Well then,” I say. “We best get it all shopped out before nightfall.”

“You’re sure on that? No harm to spending an extra night in a comfortable bed.”

“I’m right full and sure. I want to leave before the sun spies me in this town. Lots of ground to cover.”

“Sure on, there is. Okay, Liddy. We’ll get it all done. Best split the list.” So we divvy up the items each of us will get, split the coins of the pouch. He knows the most of the merchants here, and they give him fair prices on his usual fare, which is mostly food—so he’ll pick all that up. I’m responsible for the odds and ends, including a tent and bedroll that, light willing, I won’t never have to use. I put Willow in the Waypoint’s official stable, then head into town, mostly asking around to find what I need. I wrap up my business fast as I can, but it’s a bit past nightfall when it’s all said and done. I come back to Waypoint and Daddy’s already sitting there, already having boughten us some dinner.

Now, the feast we had last night, that was sure on one of the best meals I’ve had since the feast days. But the thing about Marsh is it’s much closer to any shipments. It’s got all the herbs of the Wildes, but it’s got fresher meat, fresher fish, fresher most of everything. And they can keep chickens here, which is why that’s what we’re eating. A chicken breast each, drizzled with a thick lemon and spice sauce, yogurt on the side to dip it into, and a pile of greens and raisins to side it off. He’s gotten me another drink, too.

At first it’s mostly smalltalk about this and that we’ve bought. He gets on to asking me how much I spent for everything, but doesn’t hassle the details. I up and tell him that the horse cost more than I expected.

“Twenty-one fists?” He seems surprised too. “Well, then, that better be at least a decent horse. A dead on decent horse, or they’re committing robbery against a family that does business here regular.”

I shrug. “I like her.”

He gives me a shrug. “You’ll have to show her to me before morning.”

“She’s real pretty, Daddy. All silver and white and gray. Real pretty.”

“Then she fits you.” His right hand’s on a fork, digging into the greens on his dish. He moves to reach his other hand across the table, tousle my hair, you can tell by the look in his eyes, but he stops before he gets there. Drops his hand down and to the left. Grips my right shoulder.

We eat proper slow. At one point Hebran comes and joins us for a drink. We see another watcher or two, a couple merchants, and then just a few regulars we know. It’s a working day, so plenty of crowd but not a rush of them. Then we get going to our separate rooms, separate beds. Tradition and all being that fathers simply don’t sleep in the room with their girls. On the way, we march over to the stables.

“I can see why you like her,” says Daddy, when I show Willow to him. He reaches up and gently rolls his thumb along the stretch of white that goes from Willow’s nose on up to her mane. “She’s a lot like you.”

“Sure,” I say. “She and I both have that pretty silver hair.” Min’s gritty brown. “And those nice blue eyes.” Mine are green. “And that clean look, as it were.” My skin’s well-beat and dirtied leather.

“No, I don’t mean that,” says Daddy. “I mean, look at her.” He keeps running his thumb up and down along her nose. “She looks right at you. Still as a lake-bird. Waiting for the next move.” He looks back over his shoulder at me, and I’m surprised to his eyes with a layer of water on them. “Of course you like this horse, Liddy. This horse isn’t frightened of anything.”

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