Snowflakes struck Osara and Verlaro as their father Elmal led the Riders from the Golden City, which had been suffocated by an ice shroud.
While in the city both had been examples of obedience: Osara the goddess of daugthers, Verlaro, god of the common man.
According to Elmal's favored mortal, Hyalor, things would have to be different in their new wild existence. Freedom was the word now, not obedience.
So they decided they would have to prove themselves in new ways, and rode off together, ahead of the others, to do just that.
"Obedience was boring anyway," Verlaro said.
Freedom is not about pleasure, Osara thought. It requires more discipline, not less. But her brother seemed happy, so she did not trouble him with this contradiction.
They rode until they came upon the sinister Cold Sun and his favored mortal, Stakar. These wintry adversaries quickly hid a white blanket, so Verlaro figured it had to be a treasure. With club in hand he charged them, seeking its blessing of peaceful sleep. He too easily captured it from them, and would have wrapped himself in it and slept forever had Osara not been there to tear it from his back. Her arrows blazed for the first time and she used them to slay Stakar and drive Cold Sun back to his northern land.
Verlaro promised that he would not fall for that trick again, but said he still liked a good snooze.
To spare her brother's feelings, Osara did not say what she was thinking.
They rode further still, until they came upon the wild Ram god Ovadorudus and his favored mortal, Thengist. These wild blooded enemies pretended to hide a skin of mead. Verlaro thought he would redeem his previous folly by grabbing it and taking it back to their father. But once he had done so, he decided to taste a little of it. Osara slapped the skin from his hand but not before he quaffed a mouthful of poison and slumped from his saddle. Ovadorudus and Thengist ambushed them. Flames wreathed Osara's spearhead for the first time. She seared Thengist's flesh, causing Ovadorudus to scorn him.
When he awoke, Verlaro said he was much smarter now. Now there were two tricks he would never fall for again. But he did still like a good drink.
This time Osara said part of what she was thinking: if Verlaro kept this up, people would sing about him in stories, and tell of him in tales, but no longer seek him for worship.
Verlaro said that was fine with him. Granting blessings was a lot of work.
They rode as far as any Rider had ever gone, until they came upon their evil brother Samnal, who had thrown his lot in with the hated Wheels, along with his favored mortal, Goldtalon. Arms wide, Samnal cried out as if he was happy to see them: "Welcome! Join my people, and resume your proper places! Osara, you need not strain yourself carrying the weapons of a man. Verlaro, shelter yourself from the dangers of the trail."
Now that her arrows and spear blazed, Osara had no intention of quelling them. But Verlaro, who had always yearned for his haughty older brother's respect, rushed forward. Samnal slapped him in golden chains. "You will slave hard for the nobles of the Wheel."
Osara saw that she too was tempted- not b the chance to be a quiet, obedient daughter again, but by the urge to leave Verlaro in Samnal's hands. She even turned and rode away.
But as soon as she did that she understood how wrong it was. Osara turned around and for the first time fire sprang from her sword. She dashed Goldtalon's chariot to bits and put out Samnal's right eye. She dug the tip so deep into his skull that the burnt eye would not grow back for nearly a year, until Fire Season came around again.
Freed from his chains, Verlaro wept. He was as smart as could be, now that all of life's three tricks had been revealed to him. But still he wished Samnal would be a righteous brother again.
When they got back to camp Elmal saw that Osara had changed. He said Riders would now petition her for a share of her strength and smarts. As her father, he knew she was ready for the added resonsibility.
"Sounds like a lot of work," Verlaro said, and he drank a skin of kumis and crawled under a blanket, but not before embracing his father and sister and declaring his love for them.
As Verlaro snored, Elmal told Osara a secret, one he himself had learned but recently. Verlaro was right about one thing. Leadership surely was a lot of work. Not when it came to helping the great achieve their greatness. That was already in them. Protecting the stubborn and thick-witted and flawed, now that was the hard part. But you did it, because they were the ones who needed to be led.