Bad news always rides a fast horse. The horse coming down the hill was both fast and exhausted.
Gaeryn Diarmand dropped the harness he was repairing and stood up when he noticed someone approaching. It was a far rider. He recognized the cloak because there was one exactly like it folded up in the cedar chest at the foot of his bed.
It was someone wearing the cloak anyway. The horse appeared to be a roan or gray and far riders only rode dark horses. He wanted to relax when she got closer and he realized the horse was a dark bay encrusted with dried sweat that made him look lighter. He wanted to, but he couldn’t. A rider pushing their horse that hard meant trouble.
The woman reined her horse to a stop in front of him and reached down to pat the animal on the neck. She glanced at Gaeryn’s wife and daughter and stepped down. The bay shook his head and heaved a deep whoof through flared nostrils.
She raised her hand as if to adjust her cloak, then ran her fingers across the bottom of the silver clasp at her throat.
The sign. She was one of his sister’s couriers.
"We need you," she said between breaths. "Gammalian called in sick - black plague - and Castle Ortanga has ordered 12 extra-large pepperoni pizzas." She indicated the stack of boxes strapped to the back of the horse.
Gaeryn looked uneasily at his wife. He knew what he had promised, but this was an emergency. Castle Ortanga would tip him enough to buy a week's worth of grain. In response to his plea, she turned and walked back inside the house.
Gaeryn was shattered. "I'm sorry," he told the rider. "I . . . can't. I've given up that life. I --" his words caught in his throat when the rider gasped and pointed towards the house.
Gaeryn spun, automatically reaching for his sword, but what he saw stopped him in his tracks. His wife had his Pizza Hovel cloak in her hands.
"Go," she whispered as she fastened the clasp around his neck, "but return with a pineapple pizza."
"I will," Gaeryn vowed as he mounted his horse. He waved goodbye, and was off. The wind carried the smell of adventure - and pepperoni.
Opening: Julie.....Continuation: The Tasmerican