The boy’s name was Arkan. He was careful not to slip, as he jumped onto the slender horseback, barely adorned with a worn saddle. He did not complain. He was glad he had a saddle beneath. He knew the pain when the horse’s bones would grind against his own as they galloped as one. Mishka was the horse’s name. The boy heard it from a group of travelers from the north, and fancied a liking towards it, just as his parents had towards his own. The plateau was vast and golden, where he lived, and he rode his horse – his Mishka, he would call it, all around under the sun and the rain, in the face of the winds and the snow, he would ride it, and the people knew him not as Arkan, but as the boy on the horseback. The others lads of his age helped with household chores and rested while he explored the grasslands.
Today Arkan wanted to spend some time with himself far away from the village, and as he adjusted himself on the saddle, he patted his horse, acknowledging that he didn’t wear spurs like the others – not just that he didn’t want to pain his horse, but he didn’t really need them. He whispered something into his ears as he leaned forward, and the beast started to trot. It was still cold and dry, and the grass twinkled as the first light of sun hit it sparse dew drops. Arkan drew a deep breath of the cold air and shivered a little. He had always enjoyed this morning rides. Mishka was lean, but carried Arkan’s slender frame with ease. They were shepherds, his family, his neighbours, his friends. It was on him to suggest a place of grazing for the day.
The grass came up to his calves, as he rode amidst it, and he had to bend slightly to touch it, which he liked doing, wetting his hands with the morning dew, his breath filled with the freshnesss and the lingering scent of the grass. As he did this, he thought about the foreigners. They would pass by his village often and he would escort them as far as he could, and would listen to their tales, each unique and fascinating to him – of the people, the roads, the food, the previous town, the country they’re headed, their women, their languages, and how they all treated him. He remembered them not by their names or faces, but by their stories. We are all stories, he thought, and with the tenderness of a seventeen year old, bathing in the morning sun, drew in a heavy breath, wondering how his story would be.