The Extraordinary, the Ordinary, and SOAP! – Chapter 16

Lucia Rides with Gaius

“Huh. So you’ve really never ridden a horse before, miss.”
Once we had left Arldat, Sir Gaius and I had mounted the horse he had been leading. I’d explained earlier that I had no horseback riding experience, so we only had the one horse. Sir Gaius had put a cushion atop the saddle in front of him; that was to be my seat. I sat down in

front of him, but…every step the horse took jolted through me. Though Sir Gaius had said we were only going at a “light” trot, every muscle in my body was screaming after only an hour. Even as I was sitting on the ground now, taking a breather, my teeth were still rattling.
“I, I haven’t… It’s very difficult, isn’t it? You knights are incredible…”
Riding in a wagon was certainly bumpy, but the shock was even more direct on horseback. I was going to be so sore later. And the view from the horse’s back was so high up, it was terrifying!
“You tense up too much,” Sir Gaius told me. “Don’t use more strength than you need to. Relax, straighten your back, and trust the horse.”
Easy for him to say.
Sir Gaius ran a hand through his beard. “Stretching will help, too. Hard to ride if your hips are stiff. Try to do stretches every day, miss.”
Eep. Stretching with sore muscles sounded even more painful… But I wasn’t exactly in a position to complain, so I let Sir Gaius teach me a set of stretches.
I really wanted to rest, though…
While I worked on the straddle-stretches I’d learned, Sir Gaius spread out a map next to me and explained our next steps. “The expedition is traveling with His Highness and Her Sacredness, so I’m thinking that odds are they’ll stick to the main roads. The Cristallo Sacro of Kyriest is the closest to the capital. If we aim for that and ride hard along the back roads at first, we should catch up with them in a few days.”
Which meant…he planned to go as fast as the horse could take us. True, we needed to catch up as quickly as possible, which meant I had to bear with it, but… Oh, my poor seat bones!
“At first?” I asked. “We won’t take the back roads the whole way?”
Sir Gaius smiled wryly. “Well, based on what the lot who came back to the capital said, the expedition is stopping at every major town along the way. Seems His Highness and Her Sacredness don’t care for camping. So I’m thinking we’re best off taking the back roads up to where they parted ways with the expedition, then getting back on the main road to meet up with them.”
That…made sense, actually. It certainly was hard to imagine the crown prince camping out.
“We could head straight for the Cristallo Sacro along the back roads, but it’s better to meet up with the rest as soon as we can,” Sir Gaius concluded. “Are you all right with camping, miss? Would you prefer staying in an inn?”
“I don’t mind camping,” I assured him. “I did it before, when I rode with the carriages to get to the capital. I don’t think it will be a problem. Although I can’t say that for sure, since I don’t know how sparse a knight’s camp would be.”
Sir Gaius cackled. “Oh-ho, you’re more of a trooper than I expected. Glad I can count on

you.” Reaching out, he ruffled my hair.
Privately, I wondered, Is this what a father is like?
My own father had died when I was still young. People told me that he’d been a member of Hasawes’s town guard, and that he’d died fighting a monster that had appeared near the town. He’d been tall, with dark brown hair and reddish-brown eyes that were almost black, and he was a merry, kind man. That was all I knew about him. I’d been barely three years old at the time, so I didn’t actually remember him.
I wonder if he was like Sir Gaius? Maybe it was the similar hair color, but I couldn’t help wondering. Although it might be rude to compare an honored knight to a simple town guardsman.
“Something wrong?”
“Oh! No, it’s nothing!” I answered hastily.
“That so? Right then, about time we got moving again! Today we’ll take the back roads and ride hard for the town of Tello. We can eat there, and hopefully find an inn for the night.”
“We won’t be camping?”
“I’m not making a young lady who’s not used to traveling camp out on the very first night!” Sir Gaius declared grandly, starting to saddle the now-rested horse. “Better to keep things simple at first.”
Once the saddle was on, he loaded our bags. With everything settled, I accepted his hand and climbed back onto the horse. Immediately, the ground seemed to fall away as my line of sight rose.
“All right, here we go! Keep your mouth shut so you don’t bite your tongue!” P-Please be gentle!
But my tiny shriek was lost in the wind.

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