“O-kay. Is there anyone here who’s ridden before?” Professor Celirnan counted three – Hanah, Hadmn, and Ondolin – and sent them off to the field with a fifth-year helper. “So, you lot have never ridden before?”
Rebeka raised her hand.
“Yes… Miss Silme”
“I, I can’t ride.”
“No, really, I can’t ride.”
“Why ever not?”
Stuck for words, Rebeka stared at her boots. “I, um…” she finally managed.
“Will you try?”
“Okay, Marty,” Professor Celirnan called to another fifth-year, “Could you fetch out Stumpy?”
“Yes, Stumpy! Now, hurry up, I would like to get started today!”
Marty appeared five minutes later with a, well, stumpy horse. Rebeka still didn’t like it, though. With each step she took up the mounting block, her dread grew. She couldn’t think why, but she was so scared. With her foot in one stirrup, Professor
Celirnan reached across Stumpy’s broad back and, grabbing Rebeka’s clammy hands, pulled her abroad. Next, she took the reins and positioned them in Rebeka’s hands – thumbs on top, like you’re holding two full mugs of coffee which you don’t want to spill. Then with a pat on the rump, Stumpy plodded over to join the other horses.
Barad, Vendyn, Jessica, Gwen, Elodan, Findel and Rebeka sat on their mounts facing Professor Celirnan who was striding back and forth yelling instructions that Rebeka didn’t hear.
Rebeka jerked to attention.
“Would you please pay attention.”
“Thank you, now, would you please lead off on the right rein.”
“The what?” Oops, she thought when she saw the teacher’s expression, not good.
Slowly and purposefully the teacher approached. Upon reaching Rebeka, Professor Celirnan carefully explained: “This,” She lifted Rebeka’s right hand, “Is your right hand. And this,” Replacing Rebeka’s right hand, she picked up her left, “Is your left hand.”
Rebeka felt embarassed in front of the other six kids, but she deserved it, she knew, she should have been listening. Professor Celirnan saw this and stepped back.
“I think you can figure the rest out yourself.”
It was then that it hit her. She had to go forwards, on the horse. She froze and found herself incapable of moving. Completely aware of those in the school and in the yard
all staring at her the colour rose in her face yet still she could do nothing. Then the colour left her face and she now felt the bile rising in her throat. Professor Celirnan saw this too and almost threw Rebeka off the horse and into the bush.
For the second time that week, Rebeka Silme found herself in the infirmary. As she lay there, awake, studying the inscriptions on her sword and munching through a
packet of sour strawberry laces Hadmn entered with a jar of some elvish sweets. Although he looked serious, Rebeka could see his eyes twinkling and knew he wanted to laugh.
“Go on then, laugh.” She said as he handed her the ‘poppys.’
He raised his eyebrows, as if to ask “Are you serious?” Rebeka noddded, then he laughed. It was a child’s laugh, joyful and ringing like wedding bells and it caused anyone who heard it want to join in. So Rebeka joined in. Several minutes later, much to the delight of the nurse, Sister Jade, who thought laughter to be the best medicine, the shower of
laughs turned into a trickle, then stopped.
Hadmn motioned to the sweets in her hand. “Aren’t ya gonna try one?”
“What are they?”
“Poppys. Can’t ya read the label?”
Rebeka grinned, “Of course, dummy, but poppies are flowers…”
“Not these, try one, then ya’ll know.”
Gingerly, Rebeka popped one in her mouth, politely offering the jar to Hadmn who took one, but waited for Rebeka’s reaction. His laugh rang out again as he saw it.
Poppys, well, they popped. The best way I can describe them to you is like a balloon. Once you put one into you mouth the sweet swells up like a balloon as it is being blown up.
Then, just like a balloon with too much air, the sweet explodes letting loose an myriad of different tastes. Unlike when we put several tastes into our mouths and they
mingle, these tastes stayed separate, until you swallow.
Rebeka then offered him one of her laces. Having lived in an elvish world his whole life, poor Hadmn had never experienced sour strawberry laces. His face, Rebeka was
sure, was just as funny as hers was when she ate the ‘poppy.’