Everything will be fine. That was what his father used to tell him, sometimes. When Olver asked about his dead mother. When one of the horses got sick. Even when one of the horses had bucked Olver off of its back. He’d gotten real beat up from that! But now … it didn’t feel like everything would be fine. Not anymore.
“Hey, kid!” the caravan driver called out. “Come check on the horses while we fix this wheel.” He was a gruff man, with a bristly gray beard and a scar running across his cheek. Olver didn’t waste a second hopping out of the wagon. He was only hitching with the trade caravan in exchange for his services. And the driver was scary enough besides.
Olver inspected the horses’ shoes with the focus of someone far older than eleven years. He tried to block out the ruckus of the men repairing the wagon wheel nearby. He imagined that he was back home at his father’s stable. His father was teaching him about horse shoes, and keeping them clean. Yes, that was it.
He didn’t notice the cloth slip from his coat pocket until one of the caravan men sauntered over. “What do we have here?” he said, snatching the black cloth off of the ground. Eyes wide, Olver spun around and reached for it.
“Give that back!” he demanded, straining to reach the silky cloth as the man raised it higher.
“Why should I?” the man retorted. “You ride in our wagons and eat our food for what? ‘Checking on the horses’?” The man laughed down at Olver, his breath sour with alcohol.
“Curin,” the driver addressed him in a low voice. “Drop the scarf and get back to your post. Today,” he added as the drunk man lingered. With a disgruntled noise, the man called Curin dropped the scarf and stalked off, making sure to step on it as he left. Olver leaned down and grabbed it, brushing the dust off as best he could. When he looked up to thank the caravan driver, he was gone.
Taking a deep breath, Olver wrapped his father’s scarf around his arm as tight as he could and knotted the ends together. It was all he had left of his father, that and his words.
“Hold your own, Olver,” he told himself in a whisper. “Hang on, and everything will be fine.”