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Tom. The only name he’d ever known. The only name he’d ever needed. He was just Tom. Tom the street urchin, chasing after marbles made of clay. The old man had berated him, of course, but such was his way. The old man was his title; Tom didn’t like him enough to ask his name, nor was he sure he would’ve gotten an answer. Not father, for that he was not. Just an ancient, weary veteran. Supposedly he had been some sort of commander, once. A tactical genius. But he never taught Tom a lick of warrior-craft. Indeed, he never spoke of his past, or of himself in any way. It was always Tom. Tom, go for bread. Tom, fetch the water. He died. At the tender age of six, Tom didn’t quite understand what had happened. All he knew was that he had lost something, and the one person who could’ve made it better was gone. Years later, he was still Tom. Tom the groom, moving load after load of hay. He liked horses. They were simple, soulful beasts. Some of them had vinegar in their guts, and some were content with water. They were very much like people. Only horses were more honest. A person might lie to you, while a spiteful mare would bite you. He liked most horses. Then there was Molly. Dainty, yet swift as the winding brook. Graceful, yet skittish and flighty as the morning mists. The old man had once said, “Trust’s a bit akin to coin in a bank. Y’can put the coin in there, but others’re the ones who take it out.” He reckoned that worked with horses. It took him years to store up her trust. Even by then, he was still Tom. Tom the rider, taking all kinds of things for people and putting them somewhere else. Didn’t matter what the things were, so long as Molly and he were fed and happy. He loved riding the passes and fords with her, sleeping under the stars and slogging under the sun. Sometimes she didn’t want to run. That was okay. Tom figured she needed a break every now and then, so he would run the things himself. After all this running, he’s still just Tom.

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