A warhorse? You say my lady departed on a warhorse?" Lord Sforza was said to be a little slow on the uptake, but he understood horses — and he understood people riding away on them, especially his wife.
"You saw all this yourself?"
"With my very own eyes, lord."
"Do you think it was a magic horse?"
"I do not know," the thaumaturge said. "But I can find out."
The interview was taking place in his alchemist's studio in the high tower. The thaumaturge lost no time stoking up the fire under his alembic; when it was roaring he poured in various powders, and the fire flared up green and then purple. He watched carefully as variously colored smokes arose. Then he turned to Sforza.
"My spirit familiars signal me that it was indeed a magic horse. We have probably seen the last of our Lady Cressilda, for ladies who ride away on magic horses rarely return, and if they do, to be frank, sir, there's no living with them."
"Damnation!" Sforza said.
"You can lodge a complaint through my familiars, sir. There may still be a chance of getting her back."
"I don't want her back," Sforza said. "I'm more than happy to be rid of her. She's no fun anymore. I'm glad Cressilda is gone. What annoys me is that she got the magic horse. They don't come around very often, do they?"
"Very seldom," he admitted.
"And she had to grab it. Maybe this horse was meant for me. How dare she take the only magic horse that's been seen in these parts since time immemorial?"
The thaumaturge spoke soft words, but Sforza would not be consoled. He stamped out of the tower and down to the manor house. He was a scholar, in his own view anyhow, and it galled him that a matter as interesting as this had come and gone before he'd had a chance even to see it. What irked him most, though, was that magic horses usually carry with them the fulfillment of a wish, and he had missed that, too. It was a chance that would never come again.
Believing so, he was utterly flabbergasted when, an hour later, he went down to his stables to loiter, he saw there was another white horse there, one he had never seen before.
It was a stallion, and it was white. Though not quite as imposing as he thought a magic horse ought to be, it looked enough like a magic horse for him. Without another thought, he swung into the saddle.
"Now we'll see!" he cried. "Take me to wherever you take people under these circumstances!"
The horse broke into a trot, then into a canter, and then a full gallop. Now we're in for it, Lord Sforza thought, hard-pressed just to hang on.