Homecoming - Chapter 1 by Jack Farquharson

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SUMMARY: Initial ramblings of a story hoping to be told

The horse made its way slowly up the winding trail. At this stage the rain had stopped falling vertically and had begun to sheet in horizontal waves into the faces of the poor beast and the rider that he carried.
It was April and even for this time of year the rains were exceptional. The rider adjusted his cloak to cover more of his face, leaving only his eyes exposed; eyes that never stopped moving and seemed to take in everything. Though at the moment, thought the man with a wry smile, about the only thing he was taking in, was endless supplies of water. He had almost forgotten just how wet this land could be at this time of year. In the fifteen years that he had been away, many things may have changed, but it appeared the weather had not been one of them.
This was the type of weather that Conor most hated and feared. It left a man vulnerable, his senses deadened by the cloak and the downpour. The upside was that there was unlikely to be anyone out in this weather, and anyways, this region of the Glenkee Mountains deep in the Galioin clan territory was unlikely to have any raiding rival clansmen or brigands, due to the reputation of Ruari the clan leader. Conor wondered momentarily whether Ruari was still clan leader, but as he thought back to the big bearded warrior, he doubted whether anyone had dared challenge him. The biggest risk was likely to come from a wolf pack, though most packs would think twice about taking on as formidable a target as the big stallion and his rider.
Under the cloak, no features of the rider were distinguishable, other than his size. This was unmistakeable, for the stallion stood at near 16 hands, but the rider gave it the appearance of a smaller animal. His cloak was rough spun wool and it all but covered the blue and green plaid of the Galioin clan, and his legs where wrapped in knee length boots, which looked like they were well made, but had seen more winters than was perhaps fair.
He cursed softly as the stallion stumbled in the mud of the trail, and leaned back sharply to help the horse right his balance. As the beasts footing became secure again, Conor leaned over and patted him on the neck, speaking words of encouragement.
"Easy there lad, we'll find a spot to hold up soon, and you'll get the rest you've earned".
The horse whickered softly in response and kept going. He felt a familiar surge of affection for the animal that had been his sole companion for over eight years now. He was not a man given easily to friendship; not since....
He winced as the memories rose and forcefully shut them off, bringing his mind back sharply to the present and his current predicament. He needed to find shelter, and soon. Night was closing in and it would start to get colder up here in the mountains. Neither he, nor the horse, fancied another night in the open. The last one had been spent huddling miserably in the shallow cave, in which they found shelter from the wind. A fire had been beyond his means, but in the close confines of the cave, he gained enough warmth from the proximity of the horse to keep himself from getting too cold, though sleep had eluded him for most of the night.

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