MÜTHER FOUND SHE COULD brace for Rosa’s hops and jumps by being sensitive to Ellen’s pre-emptive sounds and movements. She found herself enjoying the adventure of the ride, intrigued by the intermittent conversations – and even debates – that Ellen and Rosa engaged in. Ellen used a mixture of Skyseeker and Crystalmaker languages to make her point, and Rosa warbled, chirruped and even squawked in response. Sometimes, at some apparently difficult sections of the journey, bird and young woman would seem to become increasingly belligerent with one another until some arrangement was reached – though it was clear that Ellen always had the last word and Rosa never hesitated if Ellen gave her a direct command.
Müther felt a queer sense of pride when Ellen commented, “I’m amazed by how well you hold your seat. Even Rosa keeps glancing back at you in wonder.”
A little while later, Ellen called a stop to allow the riders to stretch their legs and take some refreshments – quickly lifting and dropping the fine mesh nets that covered their faces to put food and drink into their mouths. Ellen asked: “May I sit you at the back of the saddle? You appear confident enough to hold your seat. It will mean I can see a little better what Rosa is doing and we might spend less time arguing.”
Müther laughed. “You really do treat Rosa like a person, don’t you?”
“Well, yes – she often appears to me as such. If you are more comfortable –”
“Not at all,” Müther interrupted. “Put me where you like.”
In fact, sitting at the back was much better for Müther and, it was true, the apparent disagreements between mistress and steed became less frequent, leaving Ellen with enough time to describe the countryside to Müther when she asked her to do so.
In the afternoon the wind became more persistent, though it had the advantage of settling the midges that, despite Ellen’s careful dressing, still managed to creep through the tiniest of openings to deliver annoying bites. An hour later, the wind turned vicious and stung the riders with fine sleet. “Find us some shelter, Rosa,” Ellen instructed.
“I don’t muck around in this weather,” she explained. “Rosa’s very good at finding a place to stop. Sometimes it’s not very comfortable and a bit cramped, but at least we’ll be out of the wet and this wind.”
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