In the morning, Ra opened his eyes as soon as Mama called his name. Mama watched, her face quizzical, as Ra threw the blanket off him and scrambled to his feet. "Goodness, Ra!" she exclaimed, turning in time to catch him hopping down the steps and pushing the netted curtain aside. "What's gotten you in such a hurry?"
If this were any other day, Ra'd still be lying down just like his brother and feeling so cozy and warm beneath the blanket that he couldn't bear to open his eyes. But not today.
Today was Different.
"Papa gave me a job to do," said Ra, his chest puffing out with pride. "I'm to take care of Hidayat while he's away."
Hidayat was one of Papa's kudoms. He was big and strong, with a majestic set of horns curled around each ear, and if you asked Ra there was no nobler steed to be found anywhere in the world. Ra loved to watch Papa leap astride Hidayat with his bow in hand and quiver of arrows slung at the hip. When Papa was on Hidayat he was as tall as any tree, and even as the two of them rode off to hunt they made for so impressive a sight that Ra couldn't help but keep his eyes glued to Papa's back until it had turned into a tiny dot in the distance.
Yesterday, when Papa was preparing to ride off, Ra had ran up to him as he was tying provisions onto Annisa's back—she was the second of Papa's kudoms, Annisa was, and used mostly on long journeys such as this one—and said, "I want to learn how to ride, Papa!"
Papa had laughed, crouched so that he could see Ra eye to eye, and ruffled his hair. "Alright," he'd said good-naturedly. "But horse riding is more than getting onto a kurush and kudom and making them move how you want them to. Steeds have minds of their own, just like us. If you want to ride well you have get to know them first. So, Ra, I'll give you lessons when I come back—but in return, can you do me a favor and look after Hidayat for me while I'm gone?"
When Ra nodded fervently Papa had grinned, clapped him on the shoulder and said, "I'll be leaving Hidayat in your care, then."
Papa was counting on Ra to take care of Hidayat and Ra was determined to make him proud.
"How very responsible of you," said Mama warmly, when she heard Ra's account of how he came to be appointed Caretaker of Hidayat. (Ra stood even straighter at the praise.) "But don't forget to take care of yourself first! You haven't had your morning bath yet, remember? And you need a fresh change of clothes, too."
"Okaaaay," said Ra dutifully. He looked at Ruu, who had been woken up by Mama and was now slowly rubbing his eyes. "Hey, Ruu, d'you want come too?"
Ruu's eyes darted right to the book he kept beside his pillow. "I want to study magyx though."
"You can study later," said Ra, exasperated. "Taking care of Hidayat won't take that long. And it's not good to study that much, that's why your eyes are so tired right now—isn't that right, Mama?"
Ruu looked skeptical, but when Mama sided with Ra he nodded all the same.