His hoof made a substantial, determined step onto the ship’s planks. The briny wood had been freshly scoured, and was as smooth as a woman’s touch, and just as stubbornly inflexible. The voyage promised to be long. As the crew raised the gangplank, the sails parried and dodged with the west wind, snapping under and over. He turned to the polished brass railing and waved goodbye to his young, pretty wife and baby son. In the two years since she became pregnant, married him, and gave him a son, it never ceased to astonish him that he would have this much happiness at his age. His own father had raised four children to grown by this time. The young woman alternated between slicing the air with her hand in farewell, and wiping delicate, ladylike tears from her face. He took the silver locket out of his shirt, and patted it, hoping she would see the gesture from the distance. Her maids and the baby’s nanny stood solemnly nearby, at a respectful distance, ready to escort her back to the keep, and mind the baby. They were dour women, but he trusted them. The baby was his only child. She was his second wife; he had been married twice, and almost once.
Waving goodbye was tiresome, but damn, he thought to himself, she is beautiful. But his son: he only wanted to return from this dangerous journey soon. He didn’t want to miss too much. His business affairs, both civilian and military, took him all over the world for stretches at a time; in fact, it was through these important business contacts he met her. Their age difference never seemed to matter, although once in a while, he would say something he didn’t realize was nostalgic on his part and unknown, or worse antiquated, to her. They most likely would have married anyway, surprise baby or not.
The ship, unmoored, destination fixed, sailed with purpose; the mother’s arms of the dock set the child boat free.
After meeting with the captain in his quarters, by evening’s fall, he retired to his cabin. The yeoman had left fresh parchment and lion’s blood ink, as well as other fixtures and comforts warranted by a man of his stature. He was a tall one, hoof to horns, and in spite of the accommodations, he felt restless.
And although he kept no secrets, and told no lies, the almost-wife was the one he thought about.
He had heard tales of a volcano that blew up and covered the whole land, like a hundred dragon brothers who vomited mud-fire, simultaneously, and that the people and animals of the land had no time to react or seek safer ground. Their charred bodies instantly molded inside out, and left hollow shells where they once existed, and then, extinguished. Years later, one could see their shapes by statues molded from these hollowed-out cores, writhing in pain, chained, broken, and crying.
“Pfft…come on man. That’s a bit dramatic,” he thought; but the tiny hollow feeling: that could only be fixed with the almost-wife. He always wrote first, and she always responded. Political unrest, the King’s decisions, the events of the day, no matter. Her opinion was as different from his as the ocean between them. But at least she had one. She was unique in that she was the one whom had known him since he was a stupid, stupid young man, and still respected him. Or so she claimed. She had been the one to leave first, and was forever equally busy stepping hoof-to-earth and sea, having adventures of her own.
He wrote her a quick scroll, sketched an image copied from the portrait in the locket of his son, and sent it by sea bird. It would be sometime before she received it, and he was confident she would; what he wasn’t sure of was if he would receive a reply. He was traveling to the tips of the stars and the depths of the dragons’ toes.
She did receive it, as he knew. And in that letter, as she could see, the color of the eyes belonged to the young mother, deep brown, not green, but the shape of the eyes were his. All his.
Later in the fall, at an excavation site in Azuremyst, she dug up a silver locket, filled with sand. She cleaned it out, locked up some her own memories, and wore it with bittersweet pride.