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Mi’Raah 7: Rider Koriandra

There was some shuffling in the horse-god’s ornate stall.  Koriandra assumed that Odeon and his High Priest might get an earful at feed-time, but when she rounded the corner, sword in hand, there was only a familiar-looking obnoxious, dark-haired man clutching feedbag to his chest.

“You can’t have any.”

“I’ll say–Odentalis?  What in the Seas is wrong with you, eating horse-feed?”

He shrugged, and stuffed another handful of grain into his mouth, spoke around crunching it.  “I haff to taste this… fursh.” a swallow, “Or, Odeon won’t eat it.  Alright, so, I admit the damned Gymkhana is getting to me.  Mi’Raah’s really gotten ahead with ten paternity spells and an audience of worshippers given free carriages, vacation-voyages to the Sun Isles and what else–”

“Odentalis, a contract with my Chief has been breached.  My mares, Ina and Kanna are with foal–I never wished for them to breed.  And the condition they are in, on top of that, is worse.  Foaling mares can be athletic, not so fat they’re going to fall over.  And they were thirsty, ragged, dirty… I watered them, for this morning, but how will I ever recover them, afterward?”

“Oh, put that sword down, before I excommunicate you and whistle for the whole herd to run in and have you kicked.”

Koriandra cussed hard, then obeyed.

“Now, Rider Kori, what happened to the mares you and your Chief gifted to Jyst isn’t really so different from you trying to get yourself under the late Prince Bonnis, for an edge–though now, we can’t hope to ask him for an unbiased account, can we?  For the holy record, I’m not in control of whatever you females do.”

Koriandra shoved the High Priest, hard.  Odentalis dropped his food a moment, shocked and thinking.  Then, he shoved her back.

“For someone who sets around all day eating molichaff and lying to his priests, you’re surprisingly strong, Odentalis…”

“This isn’t girth, it’s muscle.  Don’t you mock the High Priest’s weight when he has an image to keep–”

Koriandra was taller.  She braced low, kicked out his footing, and let the headlock she took guide Odentalis in crashing the rest of the way down.  She then forced fingers into his nostrils and craned his head back, to pin him there.

“You dangled Ina and Kanna in front of my face all this time, telling me that one day, I’d ascend rank and earn the right to ride my own horses again.  I trained them up from phillies, I raced them right alongside the Great Hunter himself, through His sacred fields…”

“And then, per agreement, you gifted them to the Jystian King when you converted.”

She panicked, “Why corrupt all that I have left?  After I sacrificed for my Chief and abandoned my tribe…”

Odentalis barely managed to speak the next bit, “So then, you feigned conversion to the horse god all this time?  You were sent here, to Jyst, on some errand on behalf of Fahrwandur?  Filthy spy.”

Koriandra finished crying, but she feared to let Odentalis up.  He slapped her hand away, and was able to use his strength to budge her off.

“I am the only one who can… I can kill Mi’Raah and get away with it.  A dead dissident can’t charm the King.”

Odentalis considered.  “You did an excellent job with Bonnis, didn’t you?  I can tell.  Though, if she overpowers you, as I suspect she can, Koriandra, then I won’t vouch for you.  You’ll be dead and… well, I suppose I win, either way.”

Now, hours later, Koriandra slapped Mi’Raah’s hands away:

“I thought we’d become friends, Mi’Raah.  I said for you not to deal with me like that.”

“You were my captor only yesterday.  If you truly cared for me, Rider Koriandra, you would have never set up on your horse and watched Odentalis beat me.  I’ll never forget it.”

“Don’t be offended.  It’s my job.  I’m the lowest rank, slated to ride behind the herd in the place of the weak.  High Priest Odentalis wants me to earn favor.  I think that, if I can prove that you are harmless, I may be able to convince him and the King as well, to let you go.  It’s terrible to do this to a lone woman, with no family or protectors…”

“Oh, don’t pull that sisterhood filth on me again.” Mi’Raah wanted her robe, but Koriandra didn’t dare move and get it for her.  “And I realize that now I can finally complain about the smell of this place.  Is that dung, down there by your foot?”

“Heh.  Alright, so you can read me.  My true goal is to be right about this situation.  I showed you mercy back there, on the royal road.  Odentalis found out about it.  If I don’t give him some good reason, then he will consult the Council about my banishment from the Holy Herd.”

“Wrong again…” Mi’Raah sang.  “All creatures are from the water.  They have pulses.  I thought you were listening back in the throne room.  I can tell when people are lying to me.”

“But you can’t read minds, or else you wouldn’t let me stand so close to you.”

“Stop buying yourself more time.”

Koriandra scratched beneath her cheekbone, then cracked her neck.  “Do you think I care whether or not you really live or die, Mi’Raah?  I’m about as certain or in control of your fate as I am convinced of horse-power.”

“So then, you don’t believe in the horse god Odeon either?  I sensed revulsion–that was the very speed of your heart just now.”

“I could be revolted by you instead.”

“I may not be able to read minds, Koriandra, but I can make a very good guess at why I’ve not been given my robes yet.  Now your heart races with an eager sort of…”

Koriandra blushed and flew into speech.  “Horses are prey animals.  Which means, no matter what, they are stupid and more concerned with being fat and happy and following their fattest, happiest leader.  And that doesn’t count for much.  Perhaps I would have been sold, if this whole thing was a pride of lions–as I am a hunter–but the King and all his forebears are obsessed with horses.  Some centuries ago, it just happens to catch on.”

“Testify!  And so sister-girl, why are you here, on this island, on these horses, if you hate the god Odeon so much?  Why keep watch over me when I’m legit now according to contest rules and a guard shouldn’t be needed?  Why are you letting Odentalis lead you when it can’t be a love for him that you’re holding onto?”

Koriandra snapped her mouth shut, looked away.  “I didn’t work, for a year, to resort to this.  Throw the contest, Mi’Raah, that is what I stayed on to say.  Then I get the promotion I badly need.  I’ll pay you anything.”

“Rebuke!  Oh, she’s got demons in her, she’s still a liar!” Mi’Raah cheered.  “Oh, Sea!  Settle your salt essence on this bald one’s shoulders, bless her, sap the moisture pressuring and muddling her thoughts.  Bead it on her skin.  No, erupt it.  Make her shout it out!  Give me the truth!”

“You cover yourself already!  Stop dancing about when I haven’t been with someone in a year.” Koriandra covered her mouth.  “How did you–?”

Mi’Raah winked.  “It was Prince Bonnis, wasn’t it?  But you didn’t enjoy it.  That is the source of your anger.”

“I’m not…” Koriandra pressed hands flat against her scalp.  “I wasn’t afraid to do whatever it took, to get these damned Jystians out of Fahrwandur, forever.  Even deny my true self… Every island in the Known Seas wants to fight its wars on our Sacred Plains and with our weapons, with our mercenaries, according to our ceremonies… I came here, because of the Chief.  I gave away my horses for the chance to… and then Prince Bonnis showed an interest in changing Jyst.  I was asked to attach myself to him, bewitch him, marry him, share his title and make sure that he would overthrow the horse god and whatever else, with Fahrwandur in mind.  If I’d done that, then I would have been able to come and go to Fahrwandur as I pleased, with nothing owed to my Chief except for a wife’s useful gossip about her husband.  A settled life with space for Ina and Kanna… I swore that it would be worth it, I could do it.  The Jystians had purchased earth–our land–and I had hope of little else!  Then, just this morning, I found that I gave up my horses, my girls, to what else but abuse and distress?  All the while I’ve been out there lying about my creed and my passion.  I hated to do it.  It went against myself, Mi’Raah, I crossed terrible lines I set down a long time ago, when I first became a woman…”

Mi’Raah hugged her.  “Shh…”

“And when he learned that I was not a lover of men, Bonnis refused to marry me, to help get free me of this entrapment in this fake religion.  He was going to expose everything.  After all that work… the Divine Dagger came over me.  The Great Hunter was calling me… I stabbed the Prince until he died.  A servant was blamed.”

“Divine Dagger?  No, you are too angry, girl.  For how long has Fahrwandur been trying to take over this kingdom?”

“We haven’t allies if that is what you are thinking, though everyone in the Known Seas is probably after their own piece of Jyst.  I’m Fahrwandur’s last hope.”

“Haha!  Well hallo there, fellow vulture.  Would you like to work together?”

Koriandra dropped a hand to her side, feeling the pommel of her sword against the inside of her wrist.  She cursed and took a breath instead.  “You are irritating beyond belief, Mi’Raah.  Just when I thought I might care… who are you, really?”

“The one who is going to dredge the very liquid of your blood up through the pores of your skin by osmosis if you don’t help me.” sad smile.  “Immortal creatures can die, you know.  Nothing personal, shiny-headed one.  I just take this silly contest very seriously.  Let’s join up, as the horses do.”

“Even though you know I cannot be trusted?  I have lied to both you and Odentalis this morning when he charged me with spying on you too, surely you realize that now.  Nor can I be converted to something I don’t really care for.”

“You don’t need to care, Koriandra, you just need to have a winning smile, and look good in silver.”

“Will the horse god Odeon die, then?  That will be difficult when the stallion is rarely seen.  I did try hunting him once.  I assumed that the horse must come in for his feed each day, but it turns out that not even Odentalis himself is completely sure of where Odeon is all of the time.”

“Ugh.  Odeon must be a very pretty pony, for everyone to be so stuck on his wayward, fat ass.” then, Mi’Raah pouted.  “Are the beauty standards different on this side of the sea?  Should I be eating more?  High Priests, especially the priestesses, are eternally cursed with an anxiety over their image.”

“That is not an answer.”

Mi’Raah dressed herself.  “I have a boy-friend, or… a friend.  No, a stalker… Some kind of man in my life, or perhaps a fiance?  A fiance who wants to make me his second wife.  Don’t mind me, humoring myself is what keeps me sane when he’s a fiend.  Well, this man is something horrifying to me, in case you’re getting any ideas, Koriandra.  I can’t escape him, he is watching us with real intensity, and you’ll be hurt if you think this is going to be anything more than a strategic alliance.”

“You aren’t my type anyway, Mi’Raah.” Koriandra smiled, “Because you’re crazier than Odentalis, or all the other High Priests in these Known Seas, put together.”

Mi’Raah laughed, “Good.  Though I do admire you, Koriandra.  I’m learning that it’s not necessary to sleep with men in order to take their power away.”

“I’ll let you make that terrible joke at my expense, now that we’re on the same side.”

“…Thank you.  I might have needed it.”

The two women walked out into the courtyard together, a field with statues of pleasant, grazing mares.

“…Did the bottled message tell you anything else about me, Mi’Raah?”

“I explained already, Koriandra, I perceived everything about you on my own.”

“With your superior sea-powers?  Come on, be honest about what you’re really capable of.”

“No, it was your look.  If you couldn’t be allowed to protect me while–in–the bath and not along the walls, you were going to be aroused to the point of murder.  And then I also had this strange sense that you’d done it before.”

“Aren’t you a clever little joker…  You and Odentalis are more alike than you think, Mi’Raah.  I just feel so inspired, by the end of each day, to take the both your heads off with this sword.”

1, Mi’raah’s Virtue :: 2, The Dancing Beaches :: 3, On His High Horse :: 4, Off His High Horse :: 5, Bottled Message :: 6, Horse Huntress :: 7, Rider Koriandra :: 8, Oh No He Di’int :: 9, Talking Horses :: 10, That Damned Bottle Again :: 11, Believing is Seeing :: 12, A Choice Between Two Lovers :: 13, Last Vortextual Process :: 14, End of the Prose

Filed under: horses, Mi'Raah, spirituality, water

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I've always wanted a place to share my weird, wild, nature-loving, talking animal, multicultural and multilingual fantasy fiction stories online. I also have a fashion blog!

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