Chapter 5
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Annie contacted her lawyer through her wrist phone as soon as they were back in the wagon. Asphodel was a very eager lawyer, and she was appalled that such a travesty had been done to the ogres.

The witch was from the city of Nathalas, so, the case would have to be open there. But, Annie was certain that Asphodel won’t stop at anything to bring Agra to justice.

They continued on their way, this time with Timothy in the driver’s seat. Annie didn’t have it in her to show the adventurer’s happy photos of her life when they had just left a place of so much suffering. So, Annie drifted off to sleep.

When she awoke, they had found the river Scorpio. One that passed through the entirety of the Duchy of Nathalas. Just like a real scorpion, this river was tricky. Fortunately, they didn’t have to brave its currents because they were on the right side of it and could continue on.

“Granny, we are stopping here. This place looks nice enough to camp in,” said Timothy as he got off the driver’s seat. That was the cue of everyone in the back, Annie included, to pile out of the wagon.

“How pleasant the horses are,” commented Annie, pulling out two apples from her bag. “They deserve a treat and a brush down.”

Annie went to the black and white horse first and brought the apple to its mouth. The horse snorted, but obediently began to munch. Then, Annie went and fed the golden horse.

“Where is the brush?” Asked Annie and Timothy send her a puzzled look.

“We don’t have one. We can have them brushed when we reach Jallesalos,” Annie furrowed her brows.

“Do you not bathe every day, Timmy? Why should the horses be different? Do you have a shoe brush, at least? It will work too,” Timothy went and rummaged in his sack. He pulled out a shoe brush and handed it over.

“You can keep it, granny. It won’t be good for shoes, after,” and he went to help the rest with the unloading of the wagon.

Annie took the horses off the wagon and found them a nice tree to tie them under. With a lush patch of grass with marigolds growing on it. Satisfied, she stared between the two horses. The golden one was eyeing the brush with excitement, and she chuckled.

“Yes, yes, I do believe it is grooming time,” Annie went to the horse, and she began brushing his fine hairs. The old woman hummed a happy song about two lovers who found each other after a month of separation, and her thoughts went to her Alfred.

She hoped that what the priests were saying in the temples was the truth and, that, there really was a happier place people went to after they died. And, above all else, she hoped that Alfred was looking at her now.

She imagined him here, with the horses. Before, when he had been alive, they had a horse. He didn’t believe in mana-powered bikes and liked the feel of a horse under him. Valine was a well-mannered mare that adored golden apples and scratches behind the ear.

She got excited like a child when she saw Alfred and Annie approaching her. But, after Alfred died, the poor dear got depressed. Then, one day, she refused to eat.

Annie had tried everything. Many healers were called. However, nothing helped. Valine had laid down one night, and she was dead by morning. Annie hoped that the mare was with Alfred now.

She was brought out of her musings when the black and white horse nudged her with his snout.

“Oh, look at that, dear. Your friend is shining, and yet I am still brushing. Silly me,” Annie patted the golden horse and turned to the other one. “I used to have a mare, you know? She was quite the beauty. With twinkling eyes, like she always knew a joke that no one else did.”

Both horses neighed and Annie chuckled. She knew from her experience with Valine that horses liked being talked to.

“Yes, I dare say you would have fallen in love with her, young man. She would have run circles around you, hitting you with her tail. She would have aimed for the nose, too,” Annie chuckled and went to brush along the leg. The horse raised it and then dropped it, but stayed calm.

“She would have brought you an apple from her feeder each day, to show you how much she loved you. And, in a couple of months, she would have given you a pretty baby to love and cherish,” the horse turned his neck and rested it over Annie’s head.

“In love already? Well, young man, you are quite unfortunate. My Valine passed away months after my Alfred did,” a tear ran down Annie’s face, and she was quick to wipe it away.

“But, they are together now. And she always loved Alfred more than anything. It broke her heart when he fell off her and broke his neck. She didn’t let anyone ride her after. I think she blamed herself,” the horse snorted and nuzzled Annie’s head. Annie became thoughtful at that and patted his side.

“But it wasn’t her fault. It was that stubborn mule’s, Alfred’s, for taking her for a ride in the forest. Neither of them were young and there were only trails in there. He should have known better,” Annie sighed and continued to brush the horse in silence. When she was done, she turned to stare at them.

Their coats shone. But, she felt that was not enough. With a determined face, she began braiding their manes in small braids, tying the ends with the hair of the horses. When she was done, the two animals looked like the horses of a princess.

“Well, now that you look presentable, you can rest. Just don’t lie down, ok?” Annie blew the horses a kiss, and they blinked at her. She chuckled and went to wash her hands and the brush in the river. Yes, having someone to talk to about what pained her was nice, even when that someone couldn’t understand what she was saying.    

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