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View character profile for: Kalena Valade
The Miracle of Life
“Oh, I'll never forgive myself if you die on me, Enyo.”
Kalena Valade anxiously knelt in front of the exhausted horse lying in the hay. She and the midnight black mare had been through a tremendous amount together, and quite getting on in years, she knew it had been a risk to attempt to breed her. Though in superb health, the animal had never been pregnant before.
“Nothing yet, Mistress,” said her principal stablehand, Grunar, a burly Vakalian slave she purchased six months ago. An experienced horseman in his land, he was crouched down waiting to deliver the foal.
“Come on, Enyo,” Kalena encouraged the mare. “You're the strongest, toughest beast I've ever known. You can do this.”
The magnificent female war horse had survived many ordeals: arrow wounds, a head injury when a Eastern barbarian had struck her with a mace, not to mention a near fatal mauling by an auroch.
“Aye, it should be any time now.”
The two of them kept watch on the panting, sweating mare for several more long minutes until the foetal sac appeared.
Kalena made a grimacing face. “Oh, lovely.”
“The miracle of life,” Grunar said with mock profundity.
“It's miraculous alright, but why does it also have to do be so disgusting?” Kalena remarked, and then winced with sympathy as the mare gave out a tormented squeal. “And so painful!”
“I can see the head now, but she might need a hand,” Grunar observed.
“Then get to it!” Kalena snapped at him.
The poor beast was writhing in primal agony as Grunar began easing the foal out into the dim light of the barn, and Kalena desperately tried to soothe and comfort the poor suffering mare, stroking and talking to her like a beloved companion.
Then suddenly it was a fait accompli and Grunar freed the foal's snout from the bloody membranes, clearing the airway with a dry cloth.
“It's a girl!” he announced. “And in excellent health too.”
Patting Enyo's neck with great affection, Kalena stood to have a look. She smiled in delight upon seeing that the foal was the exact dark shade of black as her mother; the perfect colour for an assassin's mount. “I shall need to come up with a good name for you, little one.”
“How about naming her after the Queen?” Grunar said, with a straight face.
“Thalia?” Kalena chuckled with high good humour. “I somehow suspect the immense honour would be lost on Her Majesty.”
After observing the infant horse push shakily to her little feet and greet her tired parent, Kalena instructed Grunar to keep a close watch on them both and then left the stables to go wash up. She walked with a new lightness in her step, the burden of worry she had felt for the old mare the last few weeks now lifted.