To Ride Beyond the Wide World’s End
by Caitlin Brennan
“Those verses of yours,” old Coel said as the fire died and the hall subsided into a sort of rollicking quiet, “they’re clever. Especially your description of that son of a swine down the valley–how did you know he’s wall-eyed and has a distinct left hook to his private member?”
“Well,” said Madog, “the eye’s easy to see when you’re singing in front of him. As to the other — let’s say it’s a trade secret.”
Old Coel’s bushy white brow arched; he laughed. “Caught him in the jakes, did you?”
Madog shrugged and smiled. Sometimes it was safer to let the patron decide how the story went.
Coel thumped him on the shoulder, and grinned when he barely swayed. Madog was light and wiry as horsemen often are, but he was strong as they often are, too. “Gofannwy won’t thank you for the things you sang of him, but I’ll be warming my evil old heart for days with the thought of them. I owe you a debt for that; I’d like to pay it, for my honor and your pleasure. You’re a horseman, you say? And yet you walked through my gate.”
Madog nodded. His throat still tightened when he thought of his beautiful mare down and gasping in the snow, so far gone with pain that she could not even will to move. He had cut her throat for mercy, and wept for hours after.
Old Coel saw the tears that brimmed in his eyes, and nodded. He was a horseman, too. “In the morning,” he said, “we’ll go out to the fields and see what’s minded to follow you on your travels.”