“Ilesias, how can you not be afraid of these enormous, vicious horses?” Tirchaer lagged a little behind Ili but was close because Sophi and Jia were holding on to their people but had at least four of their tentacles wound around each other.
The paddocks at the Winter Palace were big and green even now because it never got cold enough to kill off the grass. Ili set his bucket down and leaned his unencumbered elbow on the top rail of the fence and she mirrored him, looking at the Mahid herd in the far end of the field.
“Because they’re really like big babies. You’re not afraid of house cats, are you?” She snorted and he went on. “’Cause cats sometimes are more dangerous than the horses, but I like all kinds of animals,” he finished.
“I want to treat animals but I’m not used to anything bigger than a Haian Water Dog!”
“You like water dogs?”
“Yes, and I even got to tend one of the Royal Srian cats once. It’s the same size.” Ili whistled admiringly and the herd on the other end of the field lifted their heads, ears pricked, and began meandering over toward them.
“Was it one of the cloud-spotted ones?” Jia cheeped and Sophi made an interesting beeping noise and the children lifted them up to clutch the top of the fence instead of their wrists, but keeping their interlocked tentacles firmly wound together.
“Yes, a really dark one, with bright, bright gold eyes. It was when the new Mefweo came to Haiu Menshir for some reason and their pet Royal got stung on the beach by a washed-up jelly.”
“Wow.” From three paddocks over, a horse in isolation, pressing its chest against the fence, backed up and came soaring over the tall fence in a standing jump, galloped between a pair of Duli, and jumped again, clearing the fence with feet to spare and trotted up next to Nasty just as the Mahid herd came up to ask Ili if he happened to have any sweets in his pockets... or if that bucket happened to have any frost apples.
“Aw, Viper!” Ili just shook his head. “I don’t know why the stable master up here even tries. They’ve picked each other and won’t be kept apart.”
“That’s... sweet,” Tirchaer said from the middle of the path where she’d retreated. “You let them pick each other?”
“Well, we try and introduce the pairings we want but these two kind of took things into their own hoofs. They’ll even break out of their loose boxes to be together.”
“That’s really smart.”
“I’m looking forward to the foal that Viper throws,” Ili said. “I’m thinking I’ll name it Indomitable, just because its parents were so insistent. Innie, for short.”
She laughed. “Innie? But that’s nothing like the others... Nasty, Killer, Horrid...”
“That’s all the old Mahid stuff. I want to change the way we name them.”
Viper snuffled the domoctopi on the fence and then leaped back with Sophi on her muzzle, Jia still wrapped up, dangling under her chin. Nasty squealed and Ili sprang up, grabbing him by the mane. “CEASE ASSAIL! Idiot.”
Sophi scratched tentacle tips around Viper’s ears and she went from startled to ‘oh, yes, yes, please’, her ears flopping goofily. Nasty snorted at Sophi but didn’t snap. “Your domoctopus likes my Viper!” Ili laughed.
Tirchaer took her hands away from her face. “I suppose she does. You should introduce your Jia to your horses. That way he won’t be jealous.” Jia swung under Viper’s chin and Ili let Nasty sniff.
“You already know him, fool.” Nasty snorted green foam on Jia who turned colour to match it.