The rider glowered past his mount’s head as the beast trundled down the packed dirt road, eight sets of claws churning up little clods of dust. Neither of them had a countenance that brooked argument; the man had passed beyond surly long ago and was now downright thunderous, and while his hand was nowhere near the sword at his hip, still nobody wanted to impede the wearer of that crest when he was looking so incensed – it was known far and wide that Davion del Torim was very quick to find his sword when the need arose, and while he was also known as a kind, fair-hearted man, that made his palpable fury all the more frightening. None wanted to be seen as in his way when he was in that mood, lest he see violence as an expedient way past.

As for his steed, Winter was a full-grown gerwuhl hob, nearly as well-known as his rider. Most people who rode gerwuhlen instead of some more placid beast rode jills, in small part because the males were substantially bigger and thus harder to maintain and feed, but mostly because they could be so vicious, and in a species that could already be almost disturbingly clever about escaping restraints and the like, a vicious streak was the last thing anyone wanted to risk. Winter was a deadly fighter in his own right, with cruel weapons tipping each of his numerous limbs and jaws that could break through a man’s thighbone with scarcely a pause. Nobody wanted to feel his bite any more than that of his namesake.

It was a strange day when that wolverine-like countenance was the less surly-looking of the pair, and the gate guards instantly decided they wanted no part of it. Davion was familiar enough to them as to need no interrogation, and he had a royal exemption from the usual queries anyway; they just hauled the turnstile out of his way to let him pass, and Winter churned through the gate without breaking stride.

Davion kept his silence until the guards and everyone else were out of earshot, and only then did he start cursing. It was under his breath, but it went on for some time, with an extensive vocabulary that would have surprised most people who’d ever met him. Winter endured it stoically, just bearing his rider along the road with his usual steady, rolling gait.