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The Amber Arrow: Chapter Twenty Two

       Last updated: Sunday, September 3, 2017 09:42 EDT



The Stall

    After a stroll with Abendar, Ahorn retired to the stall he’d demanded of his cousin to find his lover waiting. The stall was four sided, but open to the half-moon shining above. Puidenlehdet was sitting calmly in a corner playing a flute made from a buffalo leg bone. It sent a soft and eerie melody up to the Moon.

    She finished the tune, then looked up at Ahorn with her gorgeous brown eyes.

    “Done all I could for the Lady Saeunn tonight,” she said.

    “How is she?”

    “The star-stone sparked up, maybe for the last time,” Puidenlehdet replied. “For the time being, she is much better. Won’t last long, I fear.”

    Ahorn went to stand beside her. He gazed up at the stars. Something was . . . off . . . in the heavens. He couldn’t quite say what. The stars were in their usual positions, but the brightness and flickering were varying.

    “My dear, the stars are unsettled tonight. I can feel . . . something,” Ahorn said.

    Puidenlehdet put down her flute and took a curry comb from a leather packet she’d stowed nearby.

    “Can you say what?”

    “The dragons sleep fitfully,” Ahorn said. “The stars sing to calm them.”

    “Sounds like centaur affectedness when you speak in such a manner, my lover,” Puidenlehdet replied. “Now kneel down and let me take a brush to those brambles in your tail.

    He did. The buffalo woman pulled the curry brush down his tail hair.


    “We have to get them out, you old fool,” Puidenlehdet said evenly. “Else your tail will cut stripes across your hindquarters every time you flick a fly.”

    She pulled the curry brush further through the hair of Ahorn’s tail. After it had collected a handful of brambles, she took it out, cleaned the bristles, then started again at the top.

    “Blood and bones! That hurts, woman!”

    “For the best,” the buffalo wise woman said in a low voice, as calm as a slow river at night.

    “I suppose.”

    “You stick to your high centaur matters and let me deal with the real problems of life,” Puidenlehdet murmured.

    “I’m happy to let you deal with anything you want to, my dear,” Ahorn said. He closed his eyes and a resigned look came over his face. “Go on. Finish it, woman.”

    Puidenlehdet didn’t waste any time. She yanked the brush the rest of the way through Ahorn’s tail hair, collecting brambles and stickle balls along the way.

    Ahorn clenched his teeth and held in another yelp.

    Five more passes and Puidenlehdet was done.

    “There you go, brave one,” she said. “You clean up nice.”

    “So do you.”

    “That hot bath did these old bones wonders,” Puidenlehdet said. “Would have been better if all your relatives weren’t standing around giving me the Evil Eye when I got out.”

    “They’re jealous of you.”

    “I’m sure they are.”

    “You know why.”

    “I’d rather strangle myself than try to figure out centaur family goings-on,” Puidenlehdet answered.

    “None of it matters,” Ahorn said. “I’m yours.”

    “Tell that to your cousins.”

    “Oh, I have,” Ahorn said. “Repeatedly.”

    “I say we forget about that tonight,” Puidenlehdet. “We both have worries enough as it is. My boys are holding the eastern passes. The Lady Saeunn is fading, and I don’t have the art to save her.”

    “Nobody does,” Ahorn replied. “It’s a metaphysical problem.”

    “Regen’s tears, that’s the most foolish thing I’ve heard come out of you,” Puidenlehdet said. “And I’ve heard some dillies.”

    “Then what?”

    “Her blood is thinning out. It’s not feeding the muscles. Her lungs don’t work, her heart don’t pump right–though Regen knows what is the right beat for an elf heart. I’m just guessing at that. Still, the problem is exactly not metaphysical. She’s physically breaking down like an old wagon. Only she’s young and shouldn’t be.”

    “She has the star-stone.”

    “She’s about drained that thing of whatever glamor it had. It’s growing cold. I’m afraid of what that means.”

    “Then we have to hurry and get her to Eounnbard.”

    “No assurances there,” Puidenlehdet said darkly. “I’m frightened that the only thing we’ll find when we get there is an end to Lord Wulf’s hopes.”

    “Do you really think so?”

    “I learned a long time ago not to make pronouncements unless I’m sure as rain and night.”

    “I’m sure about us.”

    “As am I.”

    “Do you want to . . . it’s been days since we’ve been alone.”

    “You sure your relatives ain’t got looky holes punched in this stall?”

    “Let them look,” Ahorn said.

    “Why, Ahorn Krisselwisser,” Puidenlehdet said. “I never knowed you were an exhibitionist.”

    “I am not. I do enjoy a dramatic gesture now and again, however.”

    “That you do.”

    “So, want to make some drama?#8221;

    “That ain’t all we’re going to make, lover,” Puidenlehdet replied. She pointed to the other side of the stall. “Let’s go over yonder to the fresh straw.”

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