An Unexpected Pleasure

Main Street(#61RJ)
This brick-paved, north-south street is in significantly better repair than the roads leading into town. It's nearly impossible to tell what color the original bricks were, or in what pattern they were laid, but someone has made sure that no hole gaped too large without being plugged with something. The roadbed is a patchwork of multicolored bricks, chunks of cinderblock, and large, flat stones. The mere thought of riding a vehicle over the resulting uneven swells is almost physically painful.
Most of the buildings along the street have not fared even this well. In fact, it is clear that much of the brick in the road was scavenged from the more ramshackle structures. Yet there are signs of life: a cafe with a newly painted sign, a clean welcome mat on the library's decrepit porch, a windowbox full of vivid flowers clinging to a crumbling windowsill. The brick-paved road extends less than a quarter mile before disappearing again into grass and chunks of decaying asphalt.

A fine-looking draft horse clops its way down the road from the north, its enormous steel-shod hooves striking the occasional spark off what remains of the cobblestones. A large, well-padded leather collar circles the black's massive shoulders, connected to a neat leather-and-wood harness, connected to a hefty set of chains, connected to a trimmed log easily four feet in diameter. This, the horse is dragging -- with no apparent effort -- down from the forest to the north. The horse and its burden are being led, almost as an afterthought, by a very large man in a long, oilcloth overcoat.

Sunshine walks quietly towards town, her skirts swirling around her ankles, her sandals kicking up small puffs of dusts. Under her broad hat, her eyes are more often on the plants at the side of the road than on the road itself or other moving creatures.

In the Library's windowbox of flowers, something rustles.

The tableau approaches in a small, chaotic symphony of jumbled sounds -- the clatter of hooves, the dull roar of the section of tree grinding over the stone of the road, the rhythmic ching of the chains -- and over all, pieces of song, caught up in snatches and borne away by the fierce wind. " an endless sea...we do, crumbles to the ground, though we..."

Sunshine looks up as the sound of hooves gets closer. She smiles, perhaps appreciatively, at the black, giving its burden and the man leading it a cursory glance, each in turn. The man rates a second glance, however, as such large people are apt to do.

"...Don't hang on; nothing lasts forever but the..." The man keeps singing as he nears the center of town, though his voice drops so that it no longer carries over the wind. He stares unguardedly at the woman in the road, his head tilted slightly to one side as if impatient to get a closer look at her.

Sunshine stops and looks up at the big man as he comes alongside her, pushing at the brim of her hat to get a better look at him, a faint smile on her lips.

Lucas clucks the horse to a stop there in the road and stares Sunshine full in the face, his own creasing into a broad grin. "Well, dip me in silver," he exhales, pleasure and surprise warm in his voice and eyes. "Sunny?"

Sunshine's smile widens. "Why, yes. It *is* you, Lucas, isn't it." This is more of a statement than a question. The little smile wrinkles around her eyes crinkle as she glances at the horse behind the giant. "With, as usual, one of your handsome horses with you." While she doesn't sound as if she expected to meet an old friend from far away in her hometown, she doesn't seem exceedingly surprised, either.

The horse drops his ears back and snorts, and Lucas nudges him in the neck with his shoulder. "Cut her some slack, Campion, you weren't exactly front and center when she was at Tengri," he tells the enormous beast. "Sunny," Lucas addresses her formally, "please meet Campion, of the Gitchigumi Destriers." The big black pricks his ears forward again, arching his neck. "Campion, this is Sunny... " He flounders briefly, suddenly aware how little he actually knows about her. "...Healer, midwife, herbalist... and a *very* pleasant surprise," he finishes with another grin, running the hand that isn't holding the lead line across the back of his neck.

Sunshine gives Lucas a warm smile, then transfers it to the horse. "Why, thank you, Lucas. It is a pleasure to meet you, Campion." Her hand finds a carrot in one of her many pockets, and she offers it to the horse, glancing again at Lucas for permission to give the treat.

Lucas holds his hands up, palms outward, and if he wouldn't dream of getting between Campion and a carrot. "You bite and you're on dry grass for a week, Camp," he growls darkly out of the side of his mouth at the horse. Campion's ears go back again, but he takes the carrot nicely enough. There's a little bit of relief in Lucas' smile. "So, Ah guess you must be the Prodigal Returned Ah've been hearing such noise about," he says. "What a piece of luck that Ah'd end up in your old stomping grounds!" His open face falls to seriousness. "If you'd rather Ah kept moving..." he begins.

Sunshine smiles at the horse, giving his nose a gentle pat as he takes the carrot. "I doubt that I am the one meant if there has been noise about someone's return, Lucas. The Goddess does not traffic in luck, my friend. If She has led you here, then here you were meant to be, at this time."

The smith nods at the wisdom of that. "Yeah, Ah reckon you've the right of it," he says. "There's trouble here Ah -- we" he amends, with a glance at the horse. "Can help with. Speaking of which," he says briskly, "Zelda brought down the old barn and part of the farmhouse, wrecked bits and pieces of things all over town. Zelda also brought down this tree, and a couple more like it. Plan is to use the one to remedy t'other, and Ah'd best get a move on with this thing." He smiles again, the wind whipping his brown curls back off his forehead and making him squint. "Reckon we can do a bit of catching up sometime soon?"

Sunshine smiles. "Yes, we could. I'd like that." She smiles again at both man and horse, but doesn't offer any information on her errand in town. Not that this should surprise Lucas: Sunny rarely volunteers information unrelated to healing. "If there is anything that I can do help, you will let me know, I hope."

"You betcha," Lucas agrees, and the warmth in his blue eyes reaffirms his pleasure at this unexpected meeting. He utters a low "Heyyup!" and Campion leans into the traces until the log once again begins to groan against the stones.

Sunshine watches the horse and his man for a moment, smiling, before continuing on her way into town.