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Among the Horselords

Dexter fumed at the treachery of the Rangers of Arden, but he knew that he could not simply renounce his duty to them. He had agreed long ago to guide them through the centuries and he would not stop now. The fury of the Steward threatened to betray that trust.

There was an ancient pact of honor and faith that tied the Steward to Arden, one that bore no connection to the vulgarities of Amber or to her petty politics. Dexter realized that he would need to get away from Arden and headed to Kharev to blow off some steam.

Dexter had been to Kharev in his youth. He had rode alongside his father back when Martin was first earning the loyalty of Kharev. Those rides had never led to raiding, but Dexter knew of the Horselords and their ways and was looking forward to the release of his frustrations.

The Horselords of Kharev are a proud people not known for their gullibility. The arrival of Dexter, who introduced himself as a demi-god, was met with little respect and less belief. After Dexter defeated the three most powerful warriors of the Conniptin tribe, the tide of belief began to turn.

The Horselords gave Dexter three challenges to prove his divinity. Dexter graciously agreed to the challenges and promised not to hold the Horselords' lack of faith against them in the future. The Horselords agreed that this was most generous of Dexter. The first challenge was begun after the appropriate feast.

Dexter was stripped naked and painted according to tradition and led to the boar pit. Dexter allowed himself to be shot three times by a Conniptin archer and then pushed into the pit. In a dazzling display, Dexter wrestled all six wild boars, killing only the one marked for dinner.

Dexter relaxed in a private tent. There he was met by a Conniptin girl named Meliqua, nearly four hundred and fifty years his junior. She tended to his wounds that night, and beneath the stars of Kharev's night sky, whispering promises never intended to be kept, he tended to her.

The tribe traveled to the edge of the Samaria Gorge, a deep scar in the land inhabited by goat-men and strange beasts known only as kri-kri. There, Dexter was bound and gagged and toppled over the edge. A corpse was expected to wash up by Sunday, Dexter arrived by noon.

On the ride back from Samaria, Theiore, chief of the Conniptin, met with Dexter. They spoke in private of the ways that a demi-god might disrupt the influence of a chief. Theiore was a powerful man well versed in the arts of war and managed to cut Dexter's arm once.

Leaderless, the Conniptin tribe focused on the third challenge. The tribe's warriors rode to within view of a rival tribe and waited. There they discussed the loss of the chief and watched the village burn. Turning a deaf ear to the lamentations in his wake, they welcomed their new chief.