There were six horses in all. Vivian and Harold rode with Dominick in a small basket that hung from his horse’s side. Tot rode, as did Bonta and Ovati. Bob, being a dog, trotted along with them. Samlinel, on the other hand …

“Are you sure you don’t want to ride?” Dominick asked the troll as he walked nearby.

Samlinel smiled, his teeth like a white picket fence among a field of brown grass.

“No, Dominick Hanrahan,” the troll said. “They do not make horses big enough for my people. Besides, the day a troll cannot keep up with a horse is the day—”

Samlinel’s boasting was cut off as he tripped and fell headlong into the grass. Dominick, after a few unsuccessful tries, managed to get his horse turned around to check on the troll.

“Are you okay?” Dominick asked and the troll pulled himself to his feet.

“I’m fine,” the troll said, brushing grass from him. “Must have stepping a hole or something. Hard to see the ground through this much grass.” He smiled again and strode away.

“It seems the rumors are true,” Harold said.

“It appears so,” Vivian said.

“Rumors?” Dominick said.

“It has been long rumored that Lord Kendrick’s son is a calamity,” Harold said.

“Yes,” said Vivian. “He is so clumsy that there are many among the trolls that feel Samlinel is unsuited to take his father’s place when the time comes.”

“It is my belief that his father chose him for this quest to show his people that he trusts in his son,” said Harold.

“Quite,” said Vivian. “It certainly won’t hurt his reputation when we find Arakis.”

“You believe that we will find the Sword?” Dominick asked.

“Of course,” said Vivian.

“It is written,” said Harold.

“It’s in the Prophecy that I would lose the Sword and then find it?”

“No, of course not,” said Vivian. “But it is written that you, along with the Sword of Power, will bring light to our darkest day. How would that come to be if we don’t find the Sword?”

They rode on in silence as Dominick thought this over. Bob lead the group, following the scent of the woman who had taken more than just the Sword from Dominick. She had taken away the trust of the people of Gund. Most importantly, she had taken his dignity when she’d walked in on him wearing nothing but his skin. He almost dreaded finding her, because then he’d have to look her in the eye.

Ovati came next after Bob. She rode with purpose and determination. That was when she wasn’t looking back to Dominick with hate in her eyes. He’d have to do something about that, he just didn’t know what. After Ovati rode Tot with the two pack horses. He carried so many weapons distributed among his person and his horse that Dominick was surprised he didn’t cut himself now and again. Dominick and the pixies were the next in line, followed by Samlinel who brought up the rear. Bonta was their scout, ranging far ahead, riding back every now and again to report to Ovati before heading back out.

They were an odd band of mismatched people. Dominick was struck by how he was living the kind of adventure he’d often dreamed of when he was reading Tolkien, Eddings, Williams, Weis, and Hickman. Now that he was in the thick of it, and the adventure barely begun, the reality of it all was quite the disappointment, if only for the pain that edged its way up his spine from the way his bottom slammed into the saddle for every step his horse took.

The scenery too was somewhat boring. Nothing but rolling plains of grass for as far as the eye could see. It was like riding through an ocean of green as they moved further and further west from Haven.

“Will the grass ever end?” Dominick asked.

“We aren’t even a day out of Haven and already you are tired of the grass?” Harold said.

“You will surely have a bad time of it if that’s the case,” said Vivian. “We are in what the elves refer to as the Sea of Grass. We have at least a week of this before we see signs of civilization.”

“A week?” Dominick groaned. “So no one lives out here?”

“Just the elves,” Harold said.

“And the cattle,” Vivian said.

“Yes,” Harold said. “The cattle. The Great Herd. That will be a sight to see. Cattle stretching out for miles. They say that when the Great Herd is on the move, one could sit for days and watch it pass.”

“Who would want to sit for days and watch cattle pass by?” Dominick asked.

“Well, no one, probably,” said Harold. “I’m just repeating what I’ve heard.”

“The elves live here then?” Dominick asked.

“Yes, they are a nomadic people, following the Great Herd,” Vivian said. Then she scowled. “If we come across the Herd, there will definitely be elves about.”

“You say that like it’s a bad thing,” Dominick said, looking about as worry crept into his gut. “I thought the elves were on our side.”

“They are,” Harold said. “But they are also quite territorial. When they see strangers near the Herd, they tend to fill them full of arrows first and ask questions later. That is if there are any survivors.”

To be continued . . .

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