Wordcount: 608 words
King Phillip Came Over From Greece Singing
As it turned out, they weren’t the only one working in the stables in return for room and board. A friendly, if slightly scruffy fur trader named Tuck was also part of their work crew, but it was apparently something he did every time he came to Riverside and the stablemaster had assigned Wendy and Riley to his care.
“Ah, now watch them.” Tuck tugged Riley’s arm, pulling her away from the river gators pen. “They’re not like horses, unless they think you’re a gator they’re more likely to eat you then not.”
“Why would they think you’re a gator?” Wendy looked over from the stall she was cleaning, confused. On closer inspection the creatures looked more like a cross between a sea turtle and an gator that an actual alligator. There was some sort of hardened shell with two massive rings embedded near the shoulders. The rings were tied off to massive posts sunk into the riverbed, Four large clawed flipper and a massive tail reminded her more of dinosaurs than anything else. The idea that one of those behemoths would think a human was related to them seemed absurd.
“‘Cause of this, of course.” He spun a small leather bag on the end of a braded cord around his fingers. “It fools ’em, make them think I’m kin. Or at least not food.” Tuck grinned and tied off the charm to it hung off his wrist. “So you stay here, and I go in.” He picked up the long scrubbing brush and eased into the water beside the gators. Riley and Wendy watched fascinated as he scrubbed down the shells and checked the animals for sign of injury or illness.
“So what brings you here?” Tuck looked over the wide back of one of the gators and motioned for Wendy to hand him a patch kit for a crack he’d found in the shell. “Pardon my asking, but you don’t seem the type to be adventuring on your own and if you were with a caravan you wouldn’t be here with me, right?”
“We’re on our way to visit family,” Wendy carefully handed him the kit, trying to stay as far away from the jaws of the gator. “Nothing exciting I’m afraid.” Because he seemed like a nice fellow, but kind woodsy strangers sometimes were and sometimes they weren’t and she wasn’t about to risk finding out. If he was really supposed to help them she was sure Moony would find a way to work him into the story.
“Your family or hers?” And he had a point, Riley looked nothing like Wendy.
“Mine.” Riley had managed to worm her way onto the stacked hay bales so she could get a better look at the gators. “Aunt Maylin thought I’d do better in Midway with Aunt Filo since I’m no good at caravan work.” She made a face. “It’s too boring.”
Tuck laughed, “And you got saddled with taking her there.” Wendy nodded, wondering how long Riley had been working on a plausible reason for being out on her own. “Lucky you”
“I’m headed to Fenrith Lei anyways,” Wendy shrugged, “another set of hands to help with the horses is never a bad thing.”
“They are rather unique horses. Hey-hey, no worries.” He waved a hand as Wendy started. “It’s your own business, but those two stand out like a pair of pink sheep.”
“Not much I can do,” Wendy gave the man a measuring look. “They are who they are.”
“Ah, that’s where you’re wrong. There’s plenty you can do.” He held up his wrist, charm dangling. “If you know who to ask, that is.”