That evening, Adrian and I returned to the Queen’s stables, now full of nightmara.
Nightwind eyed Adrian with suspicion. :Why has your husband come?:
Recognizing the nightmara did not trust him to allow me to negotiate, I soothed, “As co-ruler, he wished to come in an advisory capacity.”
Adrian performed a small bow. “If it pleases you, your majesty, I shall swear to address my comments strictly to Sarilee.”
Nightwind nodded. :Very well.:
With the nightmara and my husband silently watching, I began, “Last night you said you needed land to safely settle in, Nightwind. After some thought,” meaning an in-depth discussion with Adrian, “I thought the plains just north of the Tsarkan Empire would suit.” (Having nightmara there would serve the same purpose as the Walle did to the north.)
Nightwind asked, :How many humans live there?:
I shrugged. “Not many. Most Calatinis feel unsafe living so far from Ormas. Remnant of the Stone Wars, no doubt.”
Nightwind shook her head. “We would need sufficient humans living there. Not only for their dreams, but also as a buffer from other humans.”
Nightwind and I debated the advantages and disadvantages of the plains for the rest of the evening. She was almost convinced by the time we ended at dawn.
The following evening, Adrian and I joined the nightmara in the Queen’s stables again.
Nightwind began, :Without more humans, we simply cannot inhabit your plains.:
Nodding, I relayed an excellent suggestion Adrian had proposed on the walk to the stables, “We could call for volunteers to move with you, and you could integrate them into your herds as you see fit.”
Nightwind’s voice sounded hesitant, :I cannot imagine many humans would be interested. There are no cities or many buildings on those plains.:
Adrian coughed, and we exchanged an amused glance as I said, “You will have plenty of volunteers from the horse mad. My mother-in-law, if she were still living, would have been the first to volunteer.” I shrugged. “A lot of our calvary shall probably go as well.”
:Calvary?!: Nightwind shuddered. :Would your volunteers expect to ride us?:
I blinked in surprise. “Yes, of course. And we would need the nightmara and their humans to act as our calvary during times of strife.”
Nightwind shuddered again. :We nightmara find being ridden demeaning.:
Recalling our ride earlier, I frowned. “I had not realized. You offered me a ride easily enough.”
Nighwind tossed her mane. :‘Twas the best solution to return you to the palace.:
Nightwind and I discussed their duties as Catalini’s calvary until dawn. I could tell from her reaction and that of her companions being ridden was onerous indeed.
The next night, Adrian and I had braced ourselves for the nightmara to reject our proposal; however, I had not an inkling how we could find human volunteers without it.
Nightwind asked, :You truly believe humans would need to ride us to live among us?: When I nodded, she sighed. :Very well. I suppose we shall become accustomed in time.:
Relieved, I glanced at Adrian then asked her, “We have no other requests. Can you think of aught else to add?”
Nightwind nodded. :Yes. Our pact suits both our peoples now, but I believe our queens should reaffirm it every generation, so that it continues to do so.:
I suggested, “How about every twenty-five years at this time during late summer?”
Nightwind nodded again. :That should suit.:
Adrian and I had scribes write out the treaty over the next day. After we read over the official treaty together, Nightwind and I signed it the following evening. (I fortunately managed to contain my laughter at Nightwind fastidiously wiping her ink-stained hoof on the grass.) All of us then proceeded to an outdoor gala celebrating the new treaty.
Adrian and I sent out a call for volunteers, and I believe Nightwind was surprised at the enthusiastic response. After a month, she declared they had enough humans, and the nightmara herds and their human companions moved to the plains just north of the Tsarkan Empire.