Horse Racing League Discussion
May 11, 2017, 9 p.m.
Arx - Ward of the Lyceum - Hundred Cities Inn - Main Room
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Patches, a three-legged mutt, Songbird, a mastiff arrive, following Tristan.
Ophelia grins, "Ha ha, that makes the two of us. I have no idea about books but horses? Horses I love watching and brushing, but more so, I love riding them."
Waldemai nods at that and fumbles with his steel helmet. "Should have left that home," he mutters. But it's not polite to not answer the princess. "Been a smith all my life, your highness. Never been atop a horse in my life." He thinks and adds, "I was thrown from an ox once, but I was drunk. He was, too."
The odd idea of being thrown from an ox makes Ophelia laugh, the image in her head pretty funny. "Thrown from a drunken ox! Now that's a story I bet which would be pretty interesting to hear. Come, sit down. There's no one here yet, maybe drunken oxen racing might have more interest."
Tristan's arrival is heralded by the click-click-click of dog claws, and some barely audible muttering. Something about Lycenes. In any case, he throws up the inn's door, and strides in, dogs at his heels in defiance of whatever looks he may get from the inn staff. He stops at the edge of the bar and quirks an auburn eyebrow. "Well," he says to no one in particular. "I was terribly afraid a meeting like this would be full of clueless nobles. At least that hasn't happened."
Waldemai gulps. He quickly buys another ale, and the perches uncomfortably at the table as bidden. "It's really not much, you highness," he says, turning red to the top of his bald head. "Larso borrowed the ox for some plowing, and you know how it is..." He holds up the ale. "There's things that sound like a good idea at the time...Hello, ser," he adds for the newcomer.
Ophelia peers over at Tristan and says, "We're talking about drunk oxen racing right now, this gentleman knows a thing or two about it. As for horse racing and clueless nobles..." she lifts a brow up with curiosity written over her face. "Which particular nobles were you thinking about? I could always send them a message."
The mastiff waits obediently by Tristan, but the little three-legged mutt hops over toward Ophelia and Waldemai, wagging his tail hopefully. Friend? Friend? "By 'drunk oxen racing?'" wonders Tristan, "do you mean the ox is drunk or the rider? Or driver, if we're going for wagon racing." He takes a step closer and regards Ophelia with a keen blue gaze. "No one in particular," he says dryly. "I was just pondering worst case scenarios before I ventured over here." A pause. "Tristan. Stablemaster to the King."
Waldemai is immediately intimidated the the newcomer's employment. The king! "I'm Waldemai Isenhu, your highness, ser." He fiddles with his helmet as his ale goes flatter. "Armorsmith." The helmet is plain but well made. "And was was both drunk, me and the ox. I don't know how he felt about it, but it didn't hurt so much when he threw me that way."
Ophelia says, "Ophelia Velenosa, super best friend of the King." beaming a smile to him as he says he's the stablemaster. She gestures for him to join at the large table that has been set for...well, a large group but so far it's just three people and animals. The mastiff's nose to her leatherclad thigh gets an "Ohh!" before Ophelia seems to forget there's a meeting here about horse racing and instead she focuses on the dog. It gets pets automatically with "Aren't you just the cutest. OHYESYOUARE! What's your name you pretty thing?!" she asks the dog, as if the mastiff would speak. She's definitely a friend.
"Oh, goodness, no," is Tristan's immediate response to Waldemai. "No titles for me, please. I was born in a barn, and I like it that way." The mastiff regards Ophelia gravely, and does not offer her name, possibly to no one's surprise. "Careful," says Tristan. "Songbird's battle-trained." The big mastiff yawns widely, looking very fierce indeed (not very). "Patches, on the other hand, is mostly trained to deliver messages, wag his tail, and drool.
Waldemai is bandy-legged, so Patches gets a big grin (although he's not drunk enough to go around trying to play with someone else's pup). "Must be pretty smart to be delivering messages. He know his way all over the city?"
Ophelia loves the dogs, she's not drunk but perhaps she never experiences Bad Things so she doesn't know better. The dogs loved, she looks up to Tristan. "A battle-trained dog so ends very interesting, I wonder if they'd like to go hunting later on with the Lodge. Anyways, I'm talking about horse racing. There's a few nobles around that do have horses, they couldn't make it here tonight but did pass on that they'd want to make sure there were necessary policies to prevent cheating, that the horses were looked after and inspected before and after the race, things like that."
"I've trained several messenger animals for other people," says Tristan, settling into a chair. "They do learn their way around the city. Patches manages well enough, but he likes to take his time and talk to people." The dog in question sniffs at Waldemari's boots. He nods to Ophelia. "Sounds fair enough--the welfare of the horses should come first. Are you thinking of an amateur type thing, where people ride their own horses, or something more professional, with hired riders and horses purpose-bred for speed? Or both?"
Waldemai has a gulp from his ale as the people who know about horses talk about horses. He gives the three-legged pupster a quick grin.
"Everyone loves watching professionals, but I don't know any professional riders that are available for hiring. Most nobles have horses though with good quality purpose-bred for speed and endurance. I'm thinking that for the first race, it'd be an open call to allow anyone to do it. The race could be made of two different races though, to allow for people to either showcase their excellence in handling horses in difficult terrain and the horses' agility, and the other to show off a horse's strength and outright speed." says Ophelia, describing in essence two races, one a track for speed and the other an obstacle.
"Your standard palfrey or warhorse can give an entertaining race," says Tristan thoughtfully, "but horses bred expressly for speed tend to be a different sort of creature, sensitive and hot. I imagine we can breed them faster still--but that takes a lot of time." He nods, twisting his mouth in thought. "Are you thinking over jumps for the first one, or other sorts of obstacles?"
Waldemai has to think of something useful to say, so he puts in, "The people with warhorses might like that one kind of race, since they have to ride all over anything." Including, and preferably, the corpses of their enemies. "Be fun betting on something like that, with the side bets and all."
Ophelia thinks that Tristan has exceptional knowledge on horses, she listens with her attention placed on him. "My mare loves speed, she isn't a war horse at all but is full of fire with exceptional stamina. So the track race would be for her, I wouldn't put her in for the obstacle race. For the obstacles, I'm thinking of things like....walls, fences, small ponds and streams. Things like that you'd expect to encounter on the field or during a hunt."
Tristan hrms for a moment, and leans back in his chair. "That could be a cross-country race," he suggests. "Go out ahead of time and mark a course outside the walls. It'd require some work, to make sure it's safe and there isn't an easy way for people to take short-cuts, but that could be very interesting. It'd take a lot of skill from the rider as well."
Ophelia asks quickly, "Do you think you'd be interested in helping on making sure the course is safe? I'd be happy to pay, of course."
Tristan hesitates only a moment before nodding. "Aye, I can do that. I don't want to see horses come to grief for the sake of an afternoon's entertainment." He says nothing about the riders.
Waldemai nods at that. "that wouldn't be no fun. Horses are expensive."
Waldemai signals for another ale. Being nervous in the presence of one's betters is thirsty work.
"And, unfortunately," says Tristan, with a hint of sorrow beneath his usually dry tone, "for such large creatures, the worse can befall them from very small things indeed.'
Waldemai looks surprised at that. "I wouldn't have thought that. I mean, they look so strong...What can go wrong with a horse?"
"A wrong step," says Tristan a little grimly. "If a horse breaks a leg, there are few options. They're big animals and they're designed to stand. Either laying down for months or trying to suspend them in a sling is difficult and also hazardous to their health so--." He doesn't finish the sentence. "There's also an old saying--no foot, no horse. All sorts of things can happen to their hooves, too, from stepping on things from cracking the hoof wall, or developing abscesses inside the hoof. Most will heal, with time and rest at least. I've seen a few freak accidents, g angtoo, from hitting something at the wrong angle, and breaking a neck or a hip or a pelvis. I once saw a fine colt accidentally impale himself on a branch." His voice has gone a little rough. He clears his throat and signals for an ale himself. "and then there's all sorts of things, like overeating or improperly cooling down or just bad luck that lead to founder, which at best means you'll have to watch that horse carefully and soak its feet for the rest of its life, and at worst means--well, you don't want to know, really. Destroys the affected feet. And then there's colic. Sometimes from food, sometiems from circumstance, sometimes from who knows what. I'm not talking colic like a baby might have it, and be grumpy for a few days. No, colic is--and is often--very fatal to horses. They can't throw up, you see. Sometimes their guts twist and they die in agony." He pauses, and clears his throat. "It's a messy business, working with horses. You see the best and the worst."
Waldemai gets more impressed, and quaffs from his ale as the story goes. The part about twisted gut gets a nod. "Cows, too," he mutters. At the end he admits, "I'm glad to be working with good honest steel. I can hurt myself..." His scars and the burns on his leather vest will attest to that. "But I can take care of myself, too, and if I don't it's on me. The colt, the one with the branch...Were you able to save him?"
Ophelia listens. "Then I think before each race, the horses need to be inspected by you prior. You can give them a certificate of good health that you're satisfied they can race. And prior to the race, you can inspect the racecourse with me to sign off that we're not taking too aggressive of risks for horse or rider. I think you're the best man for that duty." towards Tristan.
"I wish I could say we did," says Tristan quietly, accepting his ale from a server. "I thought we might manage a miracle for a few hours but--not. He was a spunky little fellow that one, too quick for his own good." He takes a quick swallow and nods to Ophelia, "I can do that. Nothing's ever completely safe, of course, but we can manage the risks."
Ophelia checked intellect at difficulty 15, rolling 10 higher.
Waldemai nods again, face sad that the colt died. He quaffs some more as they discuss details.
Ophelia remembers a saying, "Prevention and mitigation is better than the medicine after the problem. Or something like that..." as her eyes squint a bit in deep thought. It sounds right. "Then I'll keep you informed of the races and you'll need to be involved. The good news is that I'm sure our king will be incredibly thrilled your helping, and I'll always make sure that the rules state they have to go to you. Maybe there's a cost involved too for that certificate of good health?" as she just thinks out loud. "Like, fifteen silver per horse? Part of the registration, so we're making sure things are done right."
Tristan rubs the back of his neck. "A ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?" he offers. He's trotting out the old sayings tonight. He nods. "Seems fair," he decides. He takes another swallow of ale. "And maybe the king'll take an interest when--when he's more himself."
Waldemai raises his mug at that. "Gods bless him."
Ophelia says, "I'll just talk to him myself and let him know, he's lovely to talk to. All these problems in the world that he has to deal with." nodding at Waldemai's blessing. She fingers her pouch and pulls a few coins of silver out, sending the smith's way. "It's good that people wish their king well. With the siege lifted by the significant sacrifices and heroics so many did, I do believe he will be seen in public more. Prayers is what he needs, good works by all too."
A trace of worry is visible in Tristan's expression, but he only takes a drink and nods. "It'll take some time," he says gruffly, "but he'll be back, now that he's awake again."
Waldemai takes the tip with a surprised look. "Thank you, your highness. But we're all thinking it, I think. The world's not right unless the king's right, too." He puts the coins in his pouch and promises, "I'll put them on any horse you say at the first race, your highness."
Taking a look around, Ophelia says "This wasn't a wash of an event it seems, I've got my horse expert, I've got also someone I think who can help drive interest in the betting although I still need to find a bookie. If you two can think about that job, maybe let me know. Now do you think you'd care to take a look at my mare outside?" she asks Tristan.
Tristan finishes off his ale and sets the mug back down. "I should be back to the Palace stables soonish, but not right away. I'm always ready to look at horses," he tells Ophelia, "Were you looking for specific advice, or just for admiration?"
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