They found the elderly man nearby. He was humming softly as he groomed one of his mares. He seemed so engrossed in his task that Lei'lira and the kids decided to wait until he was finished before announcing their presence. When he finally noticed them, he pretended to be shocked as he asked them if they were finished already. But the light in his eyes gave him away, and they grinned back at him as they promised that they were.
"I believe that you mentioned some horses that needed exercising?" Lei'lira reminded him teasingly.
"Now that you mention it, I do believe that I did." Iggy replied in the same tone.
He led them to one of the larger stables.
"These are the horses who need to be exercised the most. They're all gentle enough for beginner riders, so feel free to pick which ever ones you want."
The excitement in the kids eyes was plain to see as they went about choosing which horses they wanted to ride first. Lei'lira watched them for a few trills before choosing a mount of her own. The mare didn't know her, so Lei'lira moved slowly as she approached so she wouldn't startle her. She introduced herself to the mare, and gave her some time to get used to her before saddling her. When the mare cooperated with her, Lei'lira rewarded her with a treat for her good behavior before mounting her. She knew that it never hurt to give treats to a horse that didn't know you as a way of trying to make friends with them, and show them that you weren't going to hurt them. And her efforts paid off because the mare relaxed completely, and was eager to follow her signals as she rode to meet the others.
The kids wanted to explore the farm, so Lei'lira let them while she remained behind with Iggy.
"Rumor has it that you own some desert horses? Including some stallions?" he began as they rode together slowly.
"The "rumors" are right...which you know perfectly well since the men you hired to drive your own new horses back here agreed to being mine back as well. Can I take it from your question that you are hoping to breed some of your mares to my stallions?"
"What would you charge as a stud fee if I said yes?"
Lei'lira didn't even have to think about her answer.
"For you? Nothing. How much have you taught me about horses over the arcs? Besides...anything I might charge you in stud fees is more than likely to come right back to you the next time I buy more horses from you."
Iggy grinned at her as he thanked her for her kindness.
"Well, tell you what. The next time you do buy a horse from me, I'll give you a good discount on it. I might even throw in a free breeding if it's a mare."
"That sounds good."
They rode in companionable silence for a little while longer before Lei'lira decided they had to get back home so they wouldn't be late for the evening milking. She rounded her kids up, and promised Kei'iru and Teirue that they would be able to visit the kittens again. Then they headed back to the farm. One of their neighbors was waiting for them at the front gate when they arrived. Lei'lira gave the woman a concerned look as she greeted her. Kelsie and her husband were sheep farmers, and this was an especially busy time for them. Unlike Lei'lira who only owned twenty ewes and four rams, her neighbors owned nearly a hundred.
"How are your sheep?" Lei'lira asked politely, remembering that they had been having trouble lately.
"We lost fifteen ewes to myiasis, but we managed to catch it in time, and prevent any of the others from getting it."
"Myiasis?" Eri asked curiously.
Kelsie turned to Eri, and nodded gravely.
"Myiasis, or flystrike is when flies lay their eggs in open wounds, or urine soaked fur. When the eggs hatch, the larvae eat their way into the afflicted animal. Or person, for that matter. It can often be fatal since the maggots have to be cut out of the body to save the victim, and the treatment can be just as fatal as the illness."
Lil'ari and Kei'iru looked green, but Atreyas had a thoughtful expression in his eyes.
"You said that it could be prevented if you catch it in time..."
His expression told Lei'lira that he thought he might know how the condition could be prevented, but he wanted confirmation. She was interested in Kelsie's answer for much the same reason.
"That's right. It can be prevented fairly easily by crutching your sheep before the fly season begins."
They talked for a little while longer before Kelsie felt comfortable enough to bring up why she had come over. When she asked if Lei'lira had any surplus eggs to sell, Lei'lira insisted on giving her some instead. The gift would hopefully lift the other woman's spirits in what was a difficult time for her and her husband. But it was also good for business. By fostering good will with her neighbors, Lei'lira knew that they would help her in times of need as well. And they were more likely to give her a good deal on things she needed to buy if she was willing to do the same. Kelsie thanked her sincerely while Lil'ari ran to get the eggs she needed. Once she had the eggs, Kelsie promised Lei'lira that she would give her a good deal the next time she needed to buy some cheese, or sheep meat from them. Then she thanked her again and left.
Lei'lira watched her go before turning to the task of getting the horses settled, and starting the evening milking.