Pepper took the lead, guiding Mikaela to the next stop in their journey. The mountains were closer now, but still off in the distance. As they left Somewhere, farms of wheat, hay, and corn surrounded them. They passed a few farm houses along the trail; most were quiet with friendly farmers waving hello now and then.
They continued on the trail until mid-afternoon. As the sun floated high above the pair, thirst began to set in. Mikaela reached for a small canteen, but there was only a small sip left. She and Pepper kept an eye out for a stream. They happened upon a small bridge which should go over a creek, but the creek bed was dry.
Pepper continued to plod along. The fields went from flourishing to dry and dusty as their journey continued. At the next farm, they heard some people working outside. Mikaela pulled Pepper’s reigns to direct him to the farmhouse.
Pepper resisted, but only momentarily. He was tired and thirsty as well. He spotted a small trough in the field and hoped the people would be kind enough to let him have a sip.
As Mikaela and Pepper approached the house, the woman of the house hollered for her mate. “Jonathan, we have guests. They look exhausted. Bring something to drink.”
Mikaela slowly moved off Pepper’s back. “Hello, ma’am. Might we trouble you for some…”
“drink? on its way. Take your horse over to the trough so he can get some as well. You look parched and famished.”
Jonathan walked up and handed Mikaela a clay cup filled with some form of liquid. “It’s beer, dear. Better to drink out here than the water.”
Mikaela thanked Jonathan and took a sip. She choked down the liquid as she was not a fan of beer, but it was better than nothing. Mikaela forced a smile.
The lady of the home piped up, “Jon, why did you bring her beer.” She turned to Mikaela. “I’m Martha. Would you let me brew you some tea? Boiling the water will make it better to drink.”
Mikaela smiled, “Tea would be perfect.” She looked around. This was a time before refrigeration, so iced tea would be off the table, but hot tea would do.
Martha laced her arm in Mikaela’s and showed her to the house. “Does your horse need to be tied up?”
Mikaela shook her head no. “He’s a good horse. I think we’ll be fine.” Mikaela looked forward to a few moments off Pepper’s back, and she was sure Pepper would enjoy a few minutes as well.
Once inside, Martha set a pot of water to boil over the fire and set out some mugs. She added tea leaves to the boiling water and let it sit for a few minutes.
Jonathan escorted Mikaela to a small table with a few chairs and asked her to have a seat.
“Thank you for being so welcoming. The road is long and I am not quite sure where Pepper is taking me,” Mikaela shared.
Jonathan lifted his eyebrow toward Martha, then turned back to Mikaela. “Pepper, you say. Is that your horse’s name? How did you come up with it?”
Martha walked over to prepare the tea and came back with the mugs. “Would you like some sugar dear?”
Mikaela smiled. “Yes, please.” she refocused back on Jonathan. “Actually, Pepper found me. He was by a lake miles from here. I didn’t name him; that’s the name on his reigns. He’s been my guide on our journey.”
Jonathan chuckled. “Now, that’s a story! I’ve never heard of such a thing. A horse as a guide.”
“Drink up, dear,” Martha motioned to the cup of tea. “Enjoy it while it’s hot.”
Mikaela lifted the cup to her lips. The tea was fragrant and sweet. “This is delish….” Mikaela collapsed mid-sentence, falling to the floor.