Her mother’s hug was everything Marjan needed to finally burst into tears, letting her emotions out. “Oh, Mom… I was so scared!”
“Where did that happen? I’m going to make sure that those rebels are slaughtered one by one with no mercy!”
“I’m afraid you won’t like my answer…” the Princess had to admit.
“What do you mean honey?”
“I was almost at the end of the path to the mountains, but I was enjoying the speed too much and I didn’t want to proceed uphill, so I took the right turn into the valley.”
“Oh no, how many times have I told you not to…” the Queen stopped herself. She was just incapable of being mad at her youngest daughter. “Never mind, sweetheart. I’m just happy that you are safe. Does that bruise on your ankle hurt?”
“Yes, a little.” The expression on her face immediately gained her another long hug. Then the Queen left her in her bedroom and said: “Just get some rest, my little Marjan. I will see you later.”
“Ok. Bye for now, Mom…”
The meeting with the doctor brought the worst possible news: “He will survive, my Queen, but his tendon was badly damaged and he will never walk without a stick or some sort of crutches.”
“What are you talking about? He’s my last human horse! Can you imagine a Queen or her daughter riding a horse who proceeds with a limp?”
“Sorry, my Queen. I was just seeing it from a medical point of view. You are right, he’s useless. In time he may be able to proceed on all fours indoors at a decent speed, but he will always feel pain even when doing that, and therefore he will never be as effective as he used to.”
“My last horse, damaged forever. And all he could generate was two daughters and one son without the rung. There must be a solution! I don’t want to go down in history as the Queen who let the human horses become extinct!”
The tradition of human horses serving the royal family dated back to the foundation of the matriarchal society, almost two centuries earlier, when Queen Adileh created a personal harem of slave boys and found one to be particularly suitable to serve as her human horse. He was neither the strongest, nor the fastest when running on his own, but once mounted by his Queen he became formidable. The Queen was a keen rider and she decided to have many human horses at court, but even much bigger and stronger men could not match the speed and endurance of that particular boy.
It was soon found that his same extraordinary devotion to the royal family was common to all males with a particular physical trait: a sort of “rung” on their skull at the back of their head, that could only be detected by touching it through the hair. No one could find any credible scientific explanation. But it was known that humans never use the full potential of their body, because their brain is designed to limit it, as a sort of natural precaution. Apparently, the devotion of these males was such that they could employ every drop of their physical and mental energy to serve the royal family. It was almost dangerous and it had to be managed carefully: they would have willingly died even to obey the least important order.
Even more puzzling was the question of how they recognized a member of the royal family: they wouldn’t let anybody else use them, not even under a direct threat to their own life. They were mighty and rebellious, but it was sufficient for the Queen to show them her hand and they would instantly kiss it and fall on their knees in front of her, ready to be used with no limit. Some more understanding about this aspect was only obtained two generations later, when one of the Princesses didn’t inherit a trait common to every Queen and Princess before her: a little but well visible birthmark on the back of one of their hands. No human horse, as these special slaves became known, let this particular Princess ride him without a direct order from the Queen or one of her sisters.
At that point the research of any scientific explanation was abandoned. However, the mystery of the human horses became the perfect legend to legitimize the power of the royal family through the years, through a divine interpretation: as long as the birthmark was on her hand, there was no doubt that a Princess had been chosen by the Goddesses to become Queen and rule over the whole Kingdom.
Queen Elaheh looked at the doctor again: “We need to find a solution.”
The fact that she could ride human horses was constant proof of her divine right to rule. And only one of her three daughters was born with the birthmark that made her entitled to reign.
“I can’t believe there are no human horses left. There must be one out there, perhaps in the most unexpected place or even out of my Kingdom. And I won’t have peace until we find the human horse meant to serve Princess Marjan, our future Queen!”