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Adrasa Drane was remarkable, even amongst her siblings, for her fascination with horses and her total lack of fear. Even as a toddler she would walk under the great dray horses and stroke their legs. Thus it was inevitable that as she grew older she started to frequent stables and similar places.
At the age of fourteen she was present when Cavalier Qualan, the condottieri captain, rode down Ropewalk at the head of his men. Admittedly back then it was a lot less spectacular procession than it was to become, he was young and would struggle to field a score of lances. He stopped to talk to a passer-by who had hailed him, and Adrasa stepped forward and retied the throat lash on his bridle properly.
Cavalier Qualan looked down at the gamin, all legs and long hair and asked whether she could ride. She admitted that she couldn’t, so he told her that if she wanted to learn she should present herself to his house at the edge of town next day.
Adrasa may have contemplated discussing this matter with her parents but decided against it on the not unreasonable grounds that, firstly, they might forbid it, and secondly, and perhaps more importantly, as a dutiful daughter she didn’t want to cause them any distress by going against their specifically stated wishes.
So next morning Adrasa arose early and left a note on the kitchen table informing her parents that she had the chance of an apprenticeship. In brackets after it she wrote, “Something to do with horses.”
The Cavalier lived on what had once been a farm, but had been swallowed up by the advancing city. So whilst the house was not large, there were barns and stables around quite a large courtyard. There was even a field of sorts which various previous owners had neglected to sell off. Adrasa presented herself at the house and was immediately sent round to the stables where the Cavalier himself watched her tack up an elderly horse. Then he assisted her into the saddle. She sat there holding the reins until eventually the horse turned its head to look at her as if to enquire as to whether his services would be needed that day.
Still, by the end of the first week she could mount and ride a sensible horse with reasonable confidence. She was also able to clean both tack and horse and could be trusted to feed and water it. At this point Cavalier Qualan had a serious talk with her. He pointed out that her path had come to a crossroads. She could return home, learn a proper trade and have very little to do with horses. Or she could join his staff as a stable girl where she’d get a reasonable wage and enjoy considerable security. Indeed he went so far as to grin when he told her that he kept losing his stable girls to matrimony. They tended to find ardent suitors amongst carters, the owners of livery stables, and even his own horsemen. The third option he held out to her was that she became a squire with the aim of eventually bearing arms and riding for him as one of his lances.
He sent her home to her parents, accompanied by his Mistress of the Stables.
This formidable lady explained the situation to both Taffetia and Garrat. Next day Adrasa came back, her articles of apprenticeship signed by both parents.
Her chosen career path was unusual but wasn’t unheard of. Perhaps one in twenty of the condottieri horsemen in the city are women
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