Met by the Horses, Captured by the Guards [16 Trandary 4261]
Since, by this point, I knew her name and have ridden on Strenata on her back once or twice, it seemed almost inevitable that I should, somehow, sometime, be introduced to Shadowfrog. One does not ordinarily meet nonprimes wandering the streets of a major and mighty city -- although horses are somewhat of an exception, I suppose, and pigeons and cats and various other animals as well. Shadowfrog is, however, well-trained, and well-mannered, and well-stabled, and unlikely to go lurking on the city streets alone. So, after acquiring (1) Quelldrie House, and (2) two skewers of grilled non-Yistreian-style mice from Darkwad, I also acquired (3) Seeks-Kaleidescopes Strenata, (4) a sort of a lighthearted apology-like thing, and (5) an invitation for a short ride.
Shadowfrog is a charger; so much is clear. Somehow, though, it had not occurred to me that Shadowfrog was a charger.
For those of the less equestrian bent, I should remind you that, of the dozen or so riding beasts, most are fairly gentle and calm and herbivorous and unaggressive and inoffensive. But one of them is fierce and excitable and omnivorous and aggressive and offensive, to the point of having a hooked falconsome beak and talons on its forelegs and about as many feathers as I have -- though, truth to tell, feathers do not make one fierce. I should know. Raar!
I am used to living in a world full of the most alarming and terrible dangers. At any moment, a grilled mouse could be stuffed with arhoolie leaves and chilis -- a dean could break my forepaw -- I could be pounced by Pazi-Pazi -- I could be kidnapped by an ulgrane -- I could fall in love with an Orren. Still, this was the first time that I have actually been face-to-face with something that could, if it were annoyed or even peckish, kill me with one snap of its beak.
Shadowfrog is, however, a most even-tempered and placid and constant beast -- far ahead of Seeks-Kaleidescopes in that regard, and honestly far ahead of me too. I levitated in front of her face so she could look at me and smell me and get used to me, and she blinked her left eye three times and her right eye eleven times, and shrugged, and decided that my papers were entirely in order and that if Seeks-Kaleidescopes thought I shouldn't be chopped in half, she wouldn't exert herself to give me any chopping.
So, the groom put Strenata's fancy saddle on Shadowfrog's back. The saddle was large, and leather and wood, and intricately tooled, and had a very falconsome head on it, with bits of glass for eyes and little wingy ears and a long hooked sharp fierce beak that reached almost to the back of Shadowfrog's neck Seeks-Kaleidescopes hopped up, and I flew up to sit on the saddle horn, between Strenata's belly and Shadowfrog's neck, which seemed like a generally good place to be, now that it was socially and equiestrically proper for me to be so close to the horse.
The saddle horn promptly collapsed.
A second or two later, Seeks-Kaleidescopes collapsed too. In her laughing.
Strenata:"Sythyry, you can't sit on a decorative saddle horn."
Me:"How was I to know it was a decorative saddle horn?"
Strenata:"It's got a big sharp beak on it right against the horse's neck. It can't be solid, or the horse might break her spine if she reared up."
I poked at the long hooked sharp fierce beak. It was made of very soft leather, waxed against the rain, but not much thicker than my wings. There's a central flap of thicker leather so it stands up and looks solid and fierce.
Strenata picked me up and plopped me on Shadowfrog's head. "You can sit there."
I looked down at Shadowfrog's huge beak. I don't think she could eat me in one bite, but surely in two...
At which point, a deep Orren voice called out, "Hah! Captured you!" And an exceedingly ominous Orren man poured out of the next stall, a spell twinkling in his left hand, a distinctly enchanted short sword with a ruby on the hilt at his side, an even more distinctly enchanted fan in a holster at his belt on his other side, and a look of distinct satisfaction in his eyes, and an unusual and complicated version of the city guard insignia on his hat.
Strenata barked! She tossed a paralysis spell at him!
I calmly and rationally cast Lizard's Envy on myself, and flew off to hide on a yilliat branch and meditate upon the situation. This seemed sensible. One does not want to sit upon the head of a potentially-excitable and potentially-fatal charger when a pair of Orren are having a spontaneous spell-duel in the yard.
After some weeks of meditation -- admittedly, very short weeks -- I had tentatively decided that Strenata's quite vocal disparagements of nobility had come to the ears of some important noble, and that she was about to be arrested. I had even begun to make plans to try to talk Hezimikkinen into somehow getting her un-arrested, assuming Hezimikkinen weren't the one who had her arrested in the first place...
But then the Orren man laughed. "My apologies, O Zi Ri! I would come over to greet you more properly, but my niece has seen fit to paralyze my left leg."
I revised my plans while gargling some words which might have been socially appropriate or might have been Yistreian epic pornography for all I knew. Hezimikkinen was not going to be much help in such a situation.
Explanations were made. Rafters were descended from. Legs were unparalyzed -- that spell only lasts a minute or two in any case. Introductions were performed: "I am Kaim-Su Connecticality Strenata -- a name which I have worn for longer than my niece ... " He peered at her hatband. "Seeks-Kaleidescopes has been alive, I might add."
"And what did you mean when you said you captured us?"
"Nothing more nor less than this", he said. A small triangle of ivory, by means of a Sustenoc Illusidor spell which he cast with quite respectable force, would, when you held it in cupped hands, fill your cupped hands with an illusion of Strenata grinning, and me smirking, and Shadowfrog looking patient and dignified.
Seeks-Kaleidescopes laughed, and teased him for cluttering up the family mantelpiece with all manner of preserved pickled images. "And why are you wasting cley on capturing me? You should be rounding up smugglers and traitors, murderers and larcenists, doorwayers and barons and highwaymen and ulgrane and twits!"
"Oh, it's my day off. I just took Locador-Beast out for a ride..." He indicated an entirely black charger stallion in off to the side. "... and now I shall go to the public pond, which is entirely devoid of smugglers, traitors, murderers, larcenists, doorwayers, barons ... barons? Seeks-Whatevers, you snuck that in on me!"
There was much smirking to be had, and he departed.
The actual ride wasn't nearly as alarming as the getting on of the horse. We ambled this way and that on the outsides of out-of-walls gardens for an hour or so, and spoke of minor matters, and I took great care not to sneeze sparks into Shadowfrog's fur.