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Loholt threw his arms around his pony's neck and hugged him.

"Thank you, Hal!" he smiled, burying his face in the horse's mane. Hal, stood patiently, obliging him without protest. When Loholt stepped back again, Hal took the opportunity to snuffle at his pockets, searching for a sugar lump or mint. The prince giggled.

"Okay, okay!" he said, pushing Hal's nose out the way. He produced a peppermint and put it on the flat of his hand. Hal guzzled it up and started looking for a second.

"You spoil him, Your Highness," the stable master said as he backed out of one of the stalls, pulling a wheelbarrow after him.

"It's only one," Loholt argued, slipping Hal another, "and we had a really good lesson! Even Papa said so!"

The stable master chortled. "I suppose I'll allow it then," he said, "just this once."

Loholt hugged Hal again. The stable master smiled.

"Are you going to help put him to bed again, Your Highness?"

---

His arms hurt. Loholt stretched them across his chest liked he'd seen some of the guards do after training. Hal's mane had taken an awful lot of combing! Stopping, Lo looked down at his tunic. It wasn't too dirty, but he was awfully glad his Papa had given him two. It was reminiscent of the guards' uniform, except his had his very own coat of arms on the front and back. He was extremely proud of it, especially when paired with his belt with the dragon buckle, and the super special dagger he'd been given on the condition he was very very careful with it. And, his mother had added, left it always in its sheath unless he was using it at dinner when she could watch.

Loholt turned and almost collided with another boy...who was staring at him...creepily. He jumped back and blinked, startled. The other boy did nothing. He just kept staring...as if he was expecting something to happen. Mortimer hurried over and pushed himself between them just as the boy finally decided to talk. But his greeting was far from a hello.

"Who are you calling dense?" Loholt demanded crossly, temper bubbling hot in his stomach. He wasn't sure what it meant, but the way the boy said it made it sound bad. His eyes shifted involuntarily to icy dragon blue.

"You're trespassing, stupid," he told the boy, his fists clenching at his side, "don't you know The Castle when you see it. Its big enough!"
Jyrki Salmi


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