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Tor was in dry clothes, her hair tied up in a knot at the back of her head and swaddled beneath the blankets. Eric was in dry clothes, long sleeves at Tor's insistence, and curled into the groove of her shoulder and neck. He was drowsing, lulled by the steady rhythm of her deep, even breathing. This was perhaps the first time she had fallen asleep before him, not counting their very first night together. From what little he had gleamed, she had fallen overboard and had to wait on the sandbar until the crew had thrown a rope over the side to help her get back on board.

He stirred when the door to the cabin opened. He stood and looked over Tor's shoulder, expecting the rotund form of Auntie June to come in. Instead, it was a man. Eric briefly remembered seeing him before he fell into June's cleavage. He frowned a little and crossed his arms over his chest. Just as he was about to speak, the man beat him to it.

"You must be Eric. She was real worried when she found you missing." He tipped his hat slightly in the human's direction. "How are you holding up after doing some spelunking?" He grinned.

Eric flushed and shuffled around Tor's shoulder so he wouldn't be right by her ear when he spoke. "I'm fine. Uh, thank you for asking." He scuffed a toe along the sheets and stole a glance back to Tor. She was still sound asleep. "What happened? She only said something about going overboard."

Bret grinned a little and pushed his hat back a little. "She did. It was mildly amusing, at first." His face sobered and the smile disappeared. "That is, until I realized she didn't know how to swim. It wa'n't quite so funny at that point."

The human's eyes were wide and he stared in fear at Tor. She had nearly drowned. What would have happened to him had she? A shiver worked its way down his spine. He didn't want to think of it. "Who saved her?"

"I did. Dove in and pulled her to the sandbar." His green eyes roamed her form. "Some of the crew dropped a rope over the side and helped us up. She got you back from Auntie and stormed off. I came to check on her."

"She's fine," Eric said quickly. He was her male protection. "She's sleeping. Recovering."

Bret smiled genially at him. "I'm sure she needs it. I'm not one to disturb a sleeping lady." He looked Tor over again before taking his leave.

Eric felt like he had achieved some sort of grand thing by not letting the giant man get any closer to Tor. A little smirk played across his face as he returned to his spot against her shoulder. He sighed and allowed himself to drift off.

Tor woke some time later, when a strong lurch of the boat nearly sent her over the side of her bunk. She yelped and quickly clung to one of the posts. There was another lurch, followed by a third, before the boat steadied. She felt a slight rocking motion, indicating they were once more on the move. She sighed in relief and relaxed back into the bed. That only lasted for a moment before she felt something squirming beneath her breast. Her brows wrinkled in a frown as she sat up.

Eric gasped in the fresh oxygen his lungs so desperately craved and relished the coolness of the air that wasn't suffused with Tor's incredible body temperature. Being in between her breasts with his upper body free was a whole different situation than being wholly pinned underneath the massive amount of flesh. He laid there on his back, dazed and somewhat confused. A part of him wanted her to lay back down, cover him up and never let him free. He quickly squashed that part. But his mind replayed the feeling of her flesh, pressed down on him through the thin barrier of her shirt. How soft it was. How warm it was. How he never wanted it to leave.

"Princeling?" Tor called, one eyebrow arched at his dazed state. She glanced at her bust and rolled her eyes. Apparently their power over men was undiminished. She sat up, untied her hair and eyed it as it fell down to the middle of her back. "Hm. I need to cut it, soon. After the fair." She pulled out a brush and began working through the tangles that had built up over the course of the day. She winced a few times before the brush finally flowed smoothly through her vibrant red locks.

She put away the hairbrush and retrieved a dry brassiere from her pack. It took a little bit of work to get it on and properly hooked without taking off her shirt, but she managed. She twisted her hair into a fisher-wive's braid, tied it off at the end and let it hang over her shoulder. Hair arranged, she looked down at her human. "Well? Are you going to get up? Or stay in bed all afternoon. The ship is finally underway again."

Eric pushed himself up and looked to his friend. Owner. "I, uh, yeah. I'm getting up." He stood and smoothed the wrinkles from his clothes before looking to Tor. "Will they be serving food?"

"I hope so. Because I'm hungry enough to eat you." She smirked and scooped him into her hand.

Eric was almost positive she was joking. Almost. It was a poor joke, to say the least. His eyes were fixated on her lips as she lifted him higher. She licked her lips and Eric scooted backwards in her hand, pressing himself against her curved fingers. "Uh, Tor? Tor, this isn't funny. It's a poor joke!" His voice pitched upwards when she molded him against them and let her tongue slip out to slide across his face. "Tor?!"

There was laughter echoing in that cavernous mouth of hers. Her lips parted and wrapped around his head, completely encompassing his view in a warm, wet darkness. His eyes were open, but he couldn't see a thing. He tried to pull away, tried to free himself, but she was far too strong and was not allowing it. After what felt like an eternity, she pulled him out. His hair was soaked; saliva dripped from his face. He was pale and shaking, she noticed.

"Scared?" she murmured. "Don't be." She stood up and settled him on her shoulder. "Anything I would have done would have been over before you know it."

That didn't appease the human. He shivered and wiped his hair off on his sleeve. "Yeah, sure," he muttered. Being "teased" like that didn't sit well with him. It reminded him very clearly of their true relationship. Owner and pet. Was it so bad that he wanted her as his friend? He had never had a true friend, beyond his older brother. And he was family; they didn't have a choice except to be friends. He sighed and slumped against her neck.

Dinner was served, as was breakfast the next morning. When the ship docked around mid-morning, Tor was the first one off. She heard the screams of her half-wild stallion and the shouts of the handlers. Just as she was about to go below and get the horse, a black blur came flying out, up the gangplank and down the road. Tor cursed and grabbed her mare as the sweet thing calmly walked up the gangplank, lead by a handler. She leapt on, eschewing any tack, kicked the mare hard and hung on as they rocketed down the road. The chestnut was fast, very nearly as fast as Idiot. This was exactly what would be needed to catch the runaway stallion.

Fate was on their side as a ponderously slow wagon train moved through the streets. Idiot was forced to slow and swerve in order to avoid a collision. Tor was able to maneuver around the wagons before running up on them, allowing her to gain even more ground on the stud. Another good kick and the mare surged ahead, pulling even with Idiot. Tor reached out and grabbed his reins, glad the ship hands had left him tacked. She leaned back on the mare, slowing her, and slowing Idiot at the same time. The big stallion snorted and tossed his head, but came to a stop.

Tor slid from the mare and gently stroked the stallion's head. "Easy, easy, big boy. You're off the boat now and not going back. I promise." She kissed the bridge of his muzzle and scratched his favorite spot. "Now, we left all our things back there. We have to go back and get them." She pulled herself into his saddle, tied the mare to the D-ring on his saddle and went to retrieve their things. After that, they made good time getting out of the city.

It was three more days' ride to Settlement, and that was because Tor pushed her horse each day. By the time they came up on the edges of the horse fair, Idiot was ready for a break. His already short temper had shortened further and he had nipped Tor several times and had almost stomped Eric once. The human made sure not to go anywhere near him without Tor after that. It didn't help that the mare was coming in to season. Her scent was driving Idiot to extremes, but she was refusing every advance he made.

The roads were crowded and forced Tor to walk Idiot as the wove through the populace. A stallion in a paddock squealed a warning as Idiot passed. The big black stud arched his neck, pinned his ears and squealed right back. He swung his butt around and loosed a solid kick that connected with the wooden slats of the other stallion's paddock. The boards creaked and splintered some, but held. Tor grumbled as Idiot left his droppings in a stud pile, pawed the dirt once more before agreeing before moving on. She guided him through the crowds, warning those who got too close. When they didn't listen, she let Idiot teach them.

He bit four people, kicked an over-excited gelding and had everyone's eyes on him by the time they made it to Tor's brothers' stall sites. Some of their herd-hands were hanging around the broodmare and yearling pens. Their eyes doubled in size when they saw Tor ride up on the big black stallion that had carried her away some months ago. They traded whispers and one ran off, undoubtedly to tell her brothers. The other two walked quickly up to her. The shorter one reached for Idiot's head.

Tor didn't bother warning him not to grab at the stallion. She let the horse teach him that painful lesson. Idiot clamped his front teeth on the man's arm twice before Tor pulled his head back. The unharmed man backed away. "Miss Tor!" he called up to her. "I, I, uh, I'm glad to see you in good health." He kept a watchful eye on the black stallion.

"Surprised is probably the word you're looking for," she said shortly. "I bet none of y'all expected me to come back at all. Let alone riding the stallion you sent me packing on. Not to mention with a new broodmare." She glanced at her chest when she felt Eric shifting to get himself settled. As hot as it was at this fair, she knew it was probably sweltering in her cleavage. She quickly fished her princeling out and sat him on her shoulder. "Now, where did the boys leave my horses? I know you didn't set up my stalls."

"They're penned up. About a half-mile out," the man sad. "We take turns keeping watch. Larson is out there right now."

"Hmm. Alright. Set me up a stud stall, a broodmare stall and a yearling stall." She tightened Idiot's reins enough to irritate him and make him paw at the ground when the man began to argue. "I have a lifetime membership at this fair. I inherited it from my father. Don't tell me what I can and cannot do. Just do what I say and set those stalls up." She loosened the rein and turned the stud towards where her herd was being kept. Her big chestnut stud was not going to be happy a new competitor was in town. But it was time for fresh blood.

To preserve the integrity of his line, she would geld him before selling him. It wouldn't do much to alter his mind, he was too old to really change, but it would prevent him from being over-bred. She glanced at the stud she was currently riding. Something told her he wasn't going to be sold. Not if he threw the foals she was expecting. The few she had been able to see in his herd were good-looking and stocky. Exactly what she wanted.

While her current chestnut stud threw good foals, he also had a tendency to throw foals with clubbed hooves. Her final decision to stop breeding the stud came when she lost three foals in a row due to severely clubbed feet. Three strikes and a horse was done breeding. The good thing about wild horses was they typically had better genetics. Ones with deformities were culled early and not allowed to breed and pass on the defective genes. This made for the sturdiest, hardiest stock possible. They could survive conditions and accidents that would kill finer bred horses like her brothers'.

Speaking of, her twin came running up to her, shouting her name and waving his arms like a mad man. Idiot snorted and tossed his head, shying away from the crazy-acting human. Tor had to fight him for his head, bringing it around to her leg and putting him, and the mare, in a spin, until he finally calmed. Her work was undone when Mick tried to wrap his arms around her and pull her from the saddle. Idiot screamed and spun his butt in response to the shifting of Tor's weight. He kicked out, only barely missing the other Elder. Mick took the hint and quickly backed away.

Tor kept one hand around Eric as she pushed herself back into the saddle. For his part, the poor human was feeling rather green after the spin and then nearly being unseated. He clung to Tor's fingers and moaned softly. "No more spinning. Please."

She smiled at him, a small, upward quirk of her lips. "No more spinning. Not for a while at least." She cast her brother a baleful look. "You are a stupid idiot. Do you know that?! You could have been brained by a hoof. You just had to come running up to a half-wild stud while screaming and waving. You're stupid."

Mick smiled up at her, beaming and genuine. "I missed you, too. It's been quiet with you gone." He walked up and put a hand on her leg. Tor glared and kicked him in the chest, sending him sprawling to the ground. He stared up at her, utterly shocked. "What was that for?!"

"For letting those idiots put me on a wild stallion that hadn't had a saddle on his back for a day, leave the gate open and run away with me! And then going along with them when they ran off with my herd!" Her violet eyes were hard and unforgiving as she stared at her twin.

Mick looked down, utterly ashamed he had caved so easily to his older brothers. "I'm sorry," he muttered. "They gave me no choice. Jason said either I helped or he would leave me behind." The man looked up at her with eyes that pleaded with her to understand. "I didn't know where you went or when you would be back! I, I didn't want to be alone."

Tor snorted, showing absolutely no pity. "You're lucky I'm a better horseman than you thought. In less than a month, I had Idiot rideable without being cold-backed. He's a good man, now. And I got me a new broodmare, too. So I should be thanking you. I'm two horses and a human prince richer than when I left."

Mick winced. He could hear his brothers calling their names. His own violet eyes looked into the matching set of his twin's. Hers were stormy and full of anger and pain. Not that she wasn't justified. He would have been, too, if he had let those emotions linger in him. But he was too much of a coward to confront his brothers and so let their abuse slide off him like it never happened in the first place. But Tor held grudges. And this would not be one she let go of any time soon.

Chapter End Notes:

A little late and a little short, I know. But! But! It's short because I wanted to get it out before bed tonight. And now Tor is back in her comfort zone so the writing should come easier. Next chapter will feature Tor's brothers! Buckle up, it's going to be a bumpy ride. As for updates this week, look for one around this time next week. I have a job fair on Saturday and a date Sunday. :3

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