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Wessex Farm

Ivan Wessex was an impetuous and often solitary individual. When he was seventeen, his father died in a fight in the alleyway of the Oakfithe tavern, leaving the farm to Ivan and his mother, Liera. At that age, Ivan had already become quite used to seeing after many of the animals, but had always taken a more keen interest to breeding and riding horses. So he decided to sell off the majority of the family livestock to pursue the breeding of race-horses.

Eighteen years passed, and Ivan had found success in his horse breeding. He decided to enter his prize colt into the annual derby in Elderzwich, the next town over the valley ridge. When it came time to make the journey, Ivan saddled his colt with the necessary supplies, and said farewell to his mother one last time before riding out of town. That same afternoon, he came across several other breeders on the county road, also on their way to the fair. Ivan caught ear of one of them jesting about the weak stature of his prize colt – “This one’s sure for a shameful ride home,” the breeder mocked.

Ivan wheeled his colt about to face the mocking breeder. “You will likely have no reason to refute a challenge if you are so sure of my coming loss, eh sir?”

The breeders halted in their tracks, as though unsure of what Ivan was implying.

“Consider it a trial run, or practice, for the derby. First to the stables in Elderzwich wins?”

Ivan recognized the contemptuous spark of acceptance in the mocking breeder’s eyes, and immediately dug his stirrup into the colt. He sprinted up the county road, toward the ridge of the valley, all the while hearing the gallop of his rivals not far behind.

When Ivan’s colt crested the ridge first at dusk, he took an offshoot-trail that crept in the direction of the lights of Elderzwich below. Ivan thought to take this as a shortcut before the others crested behind him and had an opportunity to follow suit with his route.

Switches and bramble slowed Ivan some, but he pressed deeper into the failing light of the steep woods. The trees thickened, and the trail all but vanished in front of him. Desperation and pride took precedence over common sense, and Ivan dug his stirrups deeper into the sides of the exhausted colt. Then Ivan saw the light of dusk breaking through the trees, and charged forward with renewed vigor – eager to get his bearings and leave the cramped forest behind.

The colt broke through the thinning tree-cover, downhill at breakneck speed, and immediately bridled and reared. A cliff’s edge, and vast hundred-foot drop to several tiers of rock below, had waited just beyond the tree-line, hidden from sight until then. In that instant: Ivan was thrown up and back with the colt’s rearing – his head hit a low, thick tree limb, and was pushed further back still by the frightened animal, until his neck snapped, and he fell lifeless from the saddle.

The next evening, the colt had roamed all the way back into Oakfithe, with no one aware of what had happened to its owner. Liera Wessex did not know what to do with the horse, as no one would buy it for fear of it as a poor omen and gateway to a similar fate to whatever had befell Ivan – robbed and killed on the road, most thought. She too looked upon the colt with disdain, and blamed Ivan’s passion for the animal as his undoing. So, a few weeks later, she raised her husband’s rifle to the animal’s skull, and shot it dead in the Wessex stable.

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