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The merchant offered a winning smile to those who looked upon him, nodding his head. He chuckled to himself softly as the women swooned at the sight of him, clasping their hands before them as they whispered to one another in hushed tones. He was well aware of his own looks, his noble face, handsome features. His brows were the perfect thickness, not too robust nor thin, his cheek bones sharp and full. His strong jaw line, jutting chin that was just large enough to not overpower his other features. He had slanted, large silvery blue eyes, kind eyes he had been told once. He had thick, dark curls. So unruly were they that he had to slick them back lest they look as wild and disorderly as they truly were. A few ringlets had escaped, framing his handsome face perfectly. He had a thin mustache and a tuft of closely trimmed hair beneath his lips that flowed down to the underside of his chin. The cut of his facial hair stood out starkly amongst the tribesman, the men either boasting clean shaven faces or thick, full beards. Some so long they were bound. Yes, he was quite the dashing character among these simple folk.
The merchant slipped down off of the high, carved bench of his wagon. His boots landed with a thud on the tightly packed earth, kicking up a splash of brown slur. He patted the side of his Oxryb as he passed her, running his bare fingers through her thick, knotted fur as he walked up to her head. She was a large beast, her head nearly the size of his own torso, her large, brown eyes level with his own. He was a tall man, yet her shoulder was higher than his own. She was long as well, her thick, barrel body boasting three sets of legs that ended in cloven hooves. Her docked tail swayed back and forth at his touch, nearly indistinguishable from her thick, corded fur save for it’s movement. She huffed at him, her hot, sour breath wafting over his face. He smiled, scrubbing the fur that flanked the wicked line of a half dozen horns that stretched from the crown of her brow to the tip of her nose. She nuzzled him and he pulled a tuber from his pocket, holding it to her mouth as he stroked the pair of twisting horns that swept up and back from the crown of her head. She rolled her eyes at him in thanks, her long, tufted ears flicking ever so slightly.
He took a moment to admire the intricate and costly harness that she wore, the heavy leather and metal engraved with runes and designs. The yokes to his box wagon were tied to it with thick chain, the braided leather reins that guided her resting on the bench and looped through a metal ring on the harness. They were clipped to the halter on her massive head, the soft but strong leather as thickly decorated as the harness. He gripped the short leather lead that was clipped to the ring below her jaw, a decorative tassel fastened to the end of it. He smiled at how gentle she was, once again thankful that he had taken the time to train her himself. She followed as he lead her into the settlement, stepping lightly and delicately so that the wagon rolled slowly and carefully between the tents.
They had passed livestock on their way into the woven walls, goats and hogs. He expected as much from a simple settlement, mounts and larger beasts were rare among these people. They would have goats, hogs, hounds, maybe some simple wooly oxen. Nothing more. The two former were large in their own right, the eyes of the goats level with his chest, the hogs nearly as long as his oxryb herself and nearly as tall as her shoulder. Both of those beasts could be trained to haul loads, perhaps even to carry a person with a slight build. But they had nothing remotely close to his girl, nor had they ever seen one. It filled him with pride that his beast got more appraising looks than he. She was a treasure and he adored being able to boast.
He sighed and shook his head, surely the boy had informed his uncle of his approach. He had risked no small amount approaching him like that. But he would have rather dealt with the boy than his uncle should he arrive unannounced. It had been long since he had last seen him and the man was old. There was no telling if he would recognize his scent before it was too late. An aroma lit the air and he smiled, watching as his uncle stalked out from between two tents. A slight chill ran down his spine though he fought it with all of his might. The man was as fearsome as ever, like a hawk on the hunt. His people called him the Reaper, an ironic title, considering the profession the man had chosen. But oh how well it fit. The merchant could feel the bloodlust flowing off of the old man. He forced a laugh to bubble up from his throat, throwing his arms around the gaunt man in a show that he hoped hid the slight tremble in his limbs. He was no light weight himself, how could the man still make him quake after all of these years?
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