Chrono led the party eastward down the main road at a steady pace. The air was cool and crisp and the trees were beginning to clothe their leaves with Autumn colors. Roshaun felt exhilarated by the ride as the thunder of Sado’s hooves filled his ears. His enjoyment of the ride faded, however, as the hours wore on. By the fourth hour of riding, Roshaun felt so numb that he began to wonder if he would be able to feel anything again. It was right around this time that Chrono signaled them all to slow down.
“There is a small river up ahead,” he said as the others drew closer, “we will take a small break there to give our horses some time to recover from their run.”
“Thank goodness,” Sharon said, “I could use the stretch.”
“I imagine we all could,” Chrono nodded his agreement, “just a little further now.”
Chrono pushed his steed forward again and the others followed behind. After a few minutes had passed, he steered them off the road and into the outskirts of the wood that surrounded them. The faintest sound of water gurgling over stones reached Roshaun’s ears and he began to feel a little rejuvenated at the prospect of ending this leg of the journey. Once they had reached the bank of the river Chrono hopped down from his horse and stretched. Jalia and Sharon did not hesitate to precede similarly. Roshaun, however, found it difficult to get off his horse. His legs that were once numb now felt raw from the ride. Every muscle in his legs ached from where he had subconsciously squeezed the against the horse’s flanks. He winced as he slowly lifted one leg over the saddle and tumbled slightly as he stepped down onto the ground.
“The first time is always the worse,” Chrono clapped Roshaun on the shoulder. His knees almost buckled under the weight.
“I’m sure you say that about everything,” Roshaun grimaced.
“Not everything,” Sharon said with a knowing wink, “just most things.”
“Come along Roshaun, we shall water the horses so the ladies may refresh themselves,” Chrono handed two sets of reigns to Roshaun and guided him to the riverbank. They stood in silence while the horses took in big droughts of the glistening river.
“How long will it take us to reach Lavir?” Roshaun asked after moment had passed.
“A few days at least.” Chrono replied looking across the river, he patted Mastiff gently on the neck, “We will have to ford this river, then go beyond the mountains. After that there is the Argmien Plains, and then the silver wood.”
“Oh is that all?” Roshaun watched a minnow hide from the current behind a rock. He watched it as it would swim out into the current for a few minutes, then back again behind the safety of the stone. In and out, like it was trying to work up the strength to reach a destination that Roshuan could not see. Finally, after another minute the minnow darted out into the current and swam vigorously upstream. Roshaun cheered for the minnow internally as he watched it struggle for several moments before it reached the safety of the next stone.
“I know you have had much thrust upon you lately, Roshaun, but you’ve grown quite a bit since your arrival.” Chrono gave a sideways glance to Roshaun as he spoke.
“And yet, I am still weak,” Roshaun replied. He kicked a nearby loose pebble into the river.
“No one starts off as strong, lad,” Chrono turned toward Roshaun, “even that minnow has to develop the strength to swim against the current, or else it will never survive.”
“Oh, am I doomed to fail then?” Roshaun’s voice turned icey.
“What?” Chrono exclaimed, “No, that’s not what I meant!”
“Sorry, Chrono,” Roshaun sighed, “I guess I have been under a lot of stress.”
“Exactly,” Chrono nodded, “You have been a hard worker and a real trooper. I just wanted to say that I’m proud of you.”
The words rang deep within Roshaun’s soul. He felt his chest swell and feared it might explode. He had never made anyone proud before and he found that he quite liked the sensation. Roshaun had experienced his own fair share of happy moments, but this feeling was something new. For the first time in his life, Roshaun began to understand what it felt to have a father.
“Thank you,” he said quietly.
“Sheh, sheh, sheh!”
Roshaun and Chrono both spun quickly to see an old man standing behind them with his hands behind his back. His silver hair escaped from the tops of his scalp into the length of his beard. His frame was frail and slightly bent, and his skin was darkened from the years spent in the sun.
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