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Chapter 1

By Chiron
My kind measures the passage of time different to the humans, the roof of the stable conceals the stars so I have no idea of how long I have been here, one human week perhaps two. For the same reason we measure age differently and humans are short lived compared to us. I crave the sky and the beauty of the stars at night and the sense of time passing that they bring, the roof may block them from view but never from my memory.

The horses around me in the stable have grown comfortable with my presence and I with them for within the first day of my having been captured I was placed in this stable. I smell of both horse and man and they find this reassuring. I watch their actions and reactions and do my best to mimic them and immerse myself in their nature.

I fear greatly however, that to show any sign of intelligence would seal any possible attempt at escape. So I use this ruse to seem to these humans as though a wild animal, then perhaps my chances will be greater if they suspect me as little smarter than the other beasts around me.

Of the humans here I have seen little, other than a male who comes to clean the stalls and fill the water and hay trough. He still stops and looks at me in wonder and has taken to talking to me along with his other charges. He is a kindly man and loves the nature of his work and horses, so I have let him alone enter the stall to clean it, and after a few days I let his slowly moving, trembling hand touch my flanks, as he rubbed in a stroking fashion with his palm. Later that day he repeated the gesture with a bristle brush and I let him see my obvious pleasure.

The blacksmith and leather worker make irregular visits but I know them by sight and they have stopped and stared at me till they're duties called them away.

I have missed the company of mine own type but not as much as the grooming of places hard to reach. Too it is pleasant and a social grace among us, allowing us time to spend together doing something for each other.

The stubble is past itching as it grows on my face and I feel quite a beard there, Having no way of seeing my face, I can only remember how it used to be and wonder how it now looks. Most among my kind let their faces grow bushy though I have taken to scraping it clear since the day I saw a human use a razor for the first time and then sought instruction in its use. I had traded him for another razor he carried, It was perhaps the least important yet greatest item lost to me in the pack.

As to the men at arms, Their first attempt to enter the stall left with one man nursing a broken jaw from my right fist and another in the infirmary after a solid blow to the throat left him blue on the floor, unable to draw enough breath to yell for help.

I have no desire to kill these men but this show of force has earned me a wary distance from my captors. Humans are not unknown to me and their capacity to invent rivals our own but they have lost their love of nature and build to bend it to their needs. It is this lack of respect for the land that bore them, the responsibility of the dominion they have over the animals around them that has led to a warlike nature where they kill each other and the things around them with scant regard.

I too have killed and yet only those who came against us and our way of life in war, but I took no honour from it. I would not kill here in this place unless it was necessary.

Among the humans, I have met others of the kindest nature and intellect, as our race trades with smaller villages at the edge of our lands. Here I am well known and we exchange knowledge on herbs and crops as well as goods and my visits to these villages have always been enjoyable. Their children have a sense of awe and curiosity and are amazingly honest, I remember one smallish child, that other children picked on, asking if I had ever been ridden by a person, only to have her mother quiet her and pull her away.

“Please, she has asked a fair question and deserves an answer, No little one I have not, but each day is a good day to try something new, would you like to be the first?” Her eyes wide with excitement betrayed her answer, trying to look at both her mother and me at the same time. I saw the woman look to me with unsure eyes but I saw the trust my reputation as healer and teacher bought just as quickly replace it.

“I would never hear the end of it if I said no” she said but I could see the gratitude in her smile.

I asked her to lift the small child to my back and though I barely felt her weight there, I felt her thin arms wrap around my torso and cling tight, her small heels digging into my sides for grip. I made her grab her left wrist with the her right hand before me and patted her hands gently to reassure, then took a few small steps forward. I was conscious of her balance on my back and for some reason seemed to adjust my gait.

I walked around the group and on purpose, carried her past the other children before picking up a bit of speed to hear her laugh out loud and cling a little tighter. Making for the end of the village, I rounded a house and headed back at full speed, holding her encircling arms tighter to make sure she would not fall off. Upon reaching her mother who helped her slide off, I got to see her face. The child's exhilaration was obvious now I could see her clearly and she was swamped by the other young girls asking questions. It seemed a harmless way to give her a moment of fame and a lasting memory and I too, had felt good about myself for the rest of the day.

Yet here, these humans were unknown and I have to be careful. Had my captors discovered me at my camp instead of the creek, they would have known a lot more about me, I had earlier shot two rabbits with my bow then cleaned and skinned them for dinner. The fire had been set but not lit, I believe this luckily let my camp escape their notice. Had they discovered my weapons and pack let alone the fire, they would have most likely killed me on sight but the curiosity of the man in charge had saved my life and he had ordered my capture as an oddity to be presented to the human who would decide my fate.

Unluckily they had caught me down on my forelegs by a stream, washing the blood of the rabbits from my forearms and chest, by the time I had gained my feet I was surrounded by shouting, heavily armoured men on snorting horses. They threw loops of rope, entangling me about the neck and cutting my breath and strength, one fell around my right wrist and the human heeled his horse back to pull my armed painfully stretched in the bonds.

I soon realised that to continue this battle here, outnumbered let alone unarmed was useless and I pretended to tire and grow weak but my eyes were ever watchful and my ears listened ever for the advantage. Restricted as I was the other loops soon snared my free hand and I was caught and bound, my hands behind my back and led by a rope around the neck.

I was brought here to this estate and placed in a locked stall within this stable. I had left nothing at the camp I could not afford to leave behind though it would take a while to craft and string a new bow. Too I would miss the convenience of the flint and steel should I need to camp and set fires once effecting my escape.

The lock I had soon worked out and had free range of the stalls, acquainting myself with the beasts stabled here but the sheer number of guards I glimpsed patrolling the grounds meant that escape would be impractical just yet.

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