Victim of Fate
toss of the mane and a stomp of its foot
was his answer.
    "Got any apples or carrots?"
    James laughed. "He's got a bit of a sweet
tooth, has he?"
    "I guess he does." Alto looked at the unicorn
and was rewarded with an approving whinny. He followed the farmer
as he walked to the house in search of the sugary vegetables. It
wasn't his home or his family, but he was looking forward to a
single night of normal.
    James glanced back before entering the house.
"I thought unicorns only let maidens ride them?"

Chapter 10
    Alto woke the next morning in a strange
place. He'd grown accustomed to sleeping in new places but it took
him a moment to remember the small room. He'd slept in Rosalyn's
room, a guest of James and Willamina for the night. He wondered how
Winter had done in the barn. Or, for that matter, if the unicorn
had even bothered sticking around. Alto hoped he hadn't been
abandoned; it was a long walk to Holgasford and, as strange as it
seemed, he'd come to enjoy the unicorn's company.
    Alto gathered his things and made his way out
into the farmhouse. He moved as quietly as he could but noises in
the house reassured him that he wasn't the first to rise. James was
tying his boots as Alto walked out. The farmer grunted a greeting
and flashed the young warrior a smile.
    "Up at the sun—you really are a farmer's
boy!" James chuckled.
    "James, leave him be," Willamina scolded.
    "What?" the farmer asked. "Just seems a shame
having such a strapping young man risking life and limb when he
could be safe."
    "Without him and his friends, we'd not have a
farm to live on. No farmer could have done what they did."
    Alto opened his mouth to point out that they
didn't end the threat but the two continued to badger back and
forth. Alto smirked. He knew they weren't upset, just showing their
love for each other in an unusual way. He found he missed the
dialogue. Not enough to stick around, though.
    "My thanks for your hospitality and for a
room. A night's rest has done me wonders. But I've far to go and
the daylight's wasting."
    "The daylight's wasting," James echoed. "See
what I mean? He's a natural. Sun’s up in the swamp, my father used
to say."
    Willamina shook her head and turned back to
the kitchen. "Stay for breakfast, at least."
    Alto chuckled. "I would. Your cooking is
every bit as good as my mother’s, but then James would come up with
something and I'd be obliged to help. Before long I'd be here the
full day, then the week and soon enough I'd never leave."
    "Sounds like a plan then, what's for
breakfast?" James chirped up.
    Willamina laughed. She shook her head. "Go,
Alto, go before he gets his hooks in you!"
    Alto made his way outside with James and
found Winter wandering through the farmer's barren field. The
unicorn looked up as they came out and walked over to join them.
"I'm glad you're still here," Alto said.
    James shook his head and stared at Winter's
white hide and horn. "He's beautiful," the farmer admitted. "Can't
say I ever expected to see anything like him."
    "I don't know what I've done to deserve
Winter helping me, but I hope I can keep doing it," Alto admitted.
He turned to the unicorn and said, "What say you, friend? I've got
many miles to go to the north. Will you bear me? I promise more
apples and carrots as soon as I can find them. Clover, too, if I
can manage it this late in the year."
    Winter whickered and brushed up against Alto.
Alto grinned at the contact and rubbed the animal's neck. "Seems
I'm off then. James, I can't thank you enough for your help. You've
made me feel alive and well again."
    "Stop by anytime, Alto. I can always put you
to work if you'll accept room and board as pay!"
    Alto grinned. "An honest wage for honest
work, the best a man has any right to ask for."
    James threw his hands up in the air. "Get
going, boy, or I'll lame your steed and keep you hostage!"
    Alto climbed onto Winter's back and grimaced.
He had enough coin to buy a saddle but little more. That

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