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The Chronicles of Anwen

The Chronicles

of Anwen

Tales of Shalock Stables:

Short Stories 1-4

By

VICKI V. LUCAS

Fiction on Fire

All Rights Reserved

Copyright © 2016 Vicki V. Lucas

No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form, stored in any retrieval system, posted on any website, or transmitted in any form or by any means—digital, electronic, scan, photocopy, recording, or otherwise—without written permission from the author, except for brief quotations in printed reviews and articles.

For more information, visit www.vickivlucas.com.

Table of Contents

Book 1

Anwen’s Invitation

Book 2

Anwen’s Quest

Book 3

Anwen’s

Reunion

Book 4

Anwen’s Race

Horse Hints

Questions and Answers

PRONUNCIATION GUIDE

VICKI V. LUCAS

[]Book 1

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[]Anwen’s Invitation

Chapter One

Geona’s Assignment

Geona groaned. But not even her audible agony changed her school assignment on a rough wooden table in front of her. A map of the world of Eltiria was crudely drawn on parchment. She slid her feet back and forth on the rough floorboards of the small kitchen.

The fire in the cook stove cracked and popped behind her. She shifted on her stool as the flames warmed her back a little too much. On the other side of the room, Robet and Myriam played on the floor with toys. Even though Myriam was two years younger, she gave her four year old brother all sorts of trouble.

Good girl! We girls have to keep our brothers on their toes!

She snuck a glance at Tristan, a year and a half older than she was. Now twelve, she could keep up with Tristan, no matter how hard he tried to get away.

Mother looked up the rocking chair in the living room and stopped darning Papa’s socks to clear her throat. Geona got the message.

Get back to school work.

The fire warmed her back too much. She leaned forward and picked up the paper in front of her, but it was so hard to concentrate.

Spring was slowly arriving. The snow melted a bit every day while the sun felt warmer. The brooding mares would be having their babies soon, and then the days would be full of visitors of the highest rank coming to purchase their new horses. Papa would be busy night and day, especially if the king decided to visit again.

Maybe this time she would be one of the hands who led the horses ready to sell for the king to examine.

She sighed.

No good asking Papa for that. As foreman, he had to do what Melchior Turow, the owner of Turow Barns, said. Master Melchior was nice, but she didn’t think he would let a twelve-year participate in something as important as sales.

Besides Melchior’s daughter, no other girl ever was in the barn. The other hands liked Geona, but they didn’t think she could handle the horses like they could.

Geona rolled her eyes.

It’s all so unfair.

Papa said she was a natural when it came to horses. He even said she had real potential and ability. But she was stuck here with school. And if it wasn’t school, it was the fact that she was a girl.

Will I ever get a chance to train horses and spend my days doing what I love?

She glanced out the window. The houses with their thatched roofs sat in neat rows. The massive barn used for the mares waiting to foal was further down the large meadow. Beyond that were the rolling hills that led to the large pastures.

Papa was riding in those hills to round up and bring back the two year old horses for their training while she was stuck here.

If all was going as it should he probably had already rounded Shiel Lake, the prettiest spot in all of Eltiria, and had turned north to where the steep hills surrounded large meadows.

She glanced at Mama’s instructions.

World Knowledge

Choose one of the two: Make sure your writing shows the differences of the regions of Eltiria, the government system, your beliefs, and the culture.

1. Write an essay. It must follow the format that we have previously studied.

2. Write a short story that shows the topics outlined above. It must follow the pattern of stories we have studied.

Her older brother, Tristan, glanced up from his paper. “If you keep staring out the window, you’ll never get done,” he whispered.

“It doesn’t matter,” she whispered back. “Papa’s already gone. What’s your hurry?”

“Mama said I could leave as soon as I’m done.” He turned back to his paper. “I’m not spending all day indoors!”

Geona frowned. It was unfair he got to do what he wanted to all the time. Tristan got to hike in the hills. He spent the time tracking animals, looking for wolves that didn’t exist anymore, and doing other things in the woods.

She glanced at the assignment again. She wasn’t doing an essay. She needed a story.

But what?

She shifted on her stool again until the barn came into view, but she couldn’t see anything happening.

At least she got to live on a horse farm and spend every day in the barns and corrals. She was too young to remember her first ride. Most girls dreamed of what she had. But she never stopped thinking of racing, and adventure, and a horse of her own.

“Got it!”

And she dipped her quill into the ink to begin writing.

Chapter Two

Anwen’s Adventure Begins

Anwen threw a lead rope over her red tunic and strode out of the barn to catch the next horse to train. Working at Shalock Stables was a dream she had worked for her whole life. Ever since she was a little girl, horses responded to her better than anyone. The wildest stallion calmed at her touch. The fastest horse ran even more swiftly at her urging.

Shalock Stables found her and requested her to train their horses. She eagerly accepted because everyone knew the best horses were bred and trained at their facility.

But after being here a year, Anwen found it hard to find joy in her work. She was the first woman to ever work at Shalock Stables! The victories of seven race horses she had trained were more than she had hoped for, but there was something more she wanted.

She didn’t even know what it was. She loved Shalock Stables, but it didn’t seem like this was where she belonged. It wasn’t home yet.

To take her mind off her troubles, Anwen studied the corrals and the barn. Shalock Stables was a bustling barn with race horses being trained and conditioned for the hardest tracks.

She couldn’t stay in a bad mood when she saw the horses stretching into a full run on the track, the few foals trotting in circles around their mothers, and heard the nicker of welcome of horses close by.

Shalock Stables! Set just outside of the big city of Northbridge, it was the largest horse racing stable of all time. It had produced the greatest of race horses like Fyrestorm and Thundercloud.

Some thought it was the line of horses they bred that produced champions, but others thought their success was due to their training grounds. Surely the exercises through the majestic mountains, the Razors, created winners.

No one ventured too deeply into the mountains. Those who did rarely came back. Tales were continually surfacing of the monsters called Seekers, large three-fingered creatures, who dragged their victims to the Evil One. Even if they didn’t exist, the mountains and wild animals killed anyone who entered.

Anwen adjusted the lead rope over her shoulder and headed to the corrals further away from the barn.

This is the greatest place in all of Eltiria!

There was nothing in the east, only the great Black Sands Desert. In the center of Eltiria lay the capital in the city of Medora. The King and Queen lived there with their young son, Aric, in the royal castle.

On the other side of Medora, the land flattened with tropic plants until it met the sea. In the west was Shiel Lake, an area filled with rolling hills and many types of farms.

As Anwen studied the woods below the Razors, something large and brown flashed through the trees. She squinted but was unable to figure out what it was.

Could it be a Seeker? A wolf?

But Seekers weren’t real. And wolves didn’t exist anymore.

Anwen paused on the dirt track. She had to find out what was in the woods.

She jogged over the bridge that spanned the foamy water of Shammah River. Her divided riding skirt caught between her legs. She paused on the bridge to straighten it.

The freezing water came fresh out of the mountains with a force as it fell down steep cliffs. She could travel to the southern edge of Eltiria if she followed the river, for it brought water to the whole country.

She left the bridge and slipped into the woods. Trying to move quietly, she crept through the trees and strained to hear something. But she didn’t hear a thing. Not even a bird singing.

She studied the dirt. Tracks of a horse led into the mountains. She swallowed. It wasn’t safe to go much farther, but the tracks looked like the horse was limping on its right front leg.

Just what I need. Some horse got out. Probably Lightning Flash. It’s always the most valuable one that gets into the most trouble.

Anwen took a deep breath and crept further in the forest.

Why didn’t I bring my bow and arrows?

She fingered the long knife she always wore on her belt but didn’t draw it. If it was what she feared, a knife wouldn’t do much damage.

Anwen walked until the sun was overhead and hot. The tracks continued to lead into the mountains, but she never caught sight of the horse. Just about the time she was ready to give up and go back for help, she heard a branch snap.

She swallowed and tried to make her heart beat quieter. She couldn’t hear a thing over its thudding.

Branches broke again to the right of the deer path she was following. She paused, unsure if she should run or hide.

Anwen snuck into the shadow of a big tree and tried to hide in the grass. For what felt like forever, she heard nothing but her heart.

Then something pounded the dirt in a soft, rhythmic pattern. She squinted through the grass. The sound was familiar, but she couldn’t place it.

She risked a peek around the tree. The trees ended to reveal a large meadow dotted with large boulders. Standing in the sun was something she never expected.

“Well, you’re a long ways from home,” she whispered.

Chapter Three

Anwen’s Catch

A light grey horse walked to the big tree she hid behind and stopped in front of her. He held his head high with his ears pricked forward. His dark gray mane flowed like a lady’s hair released from a braid. It cascaded into his eyes and down his thick neck.

It looks like he’s been dusted with starlight. Stardust! That’s what I’ll call him.

Red streaked down his right front leg. Blood! He held his hoof off the ground as if it hurt him.

Anwen eased to her feet. She barely breathed in fear of spooking him. A branch broke under her feet. She repressed a bad word and froze. When she could bear it no more, she peered around the tree.

Stardust snorted as she appeared. His well-chiseled head sat on a long, thick neck that sloped down to a strong, muscular back and long legs.

But then she saw a halter on him. This was no wild horse. Judging by the look of the rope, he must have broken free a while ago.

The stallion snorted and pawed the ground at the sight of her.

She held out her hand slowly and said in a soft voice. “It’s okay, Stardust,” she whispered. “I’m not going to hurt you.”

The horse jerked back at her words. Anwen grinned as she studied him. His mane and tail rippled, and his coat shone like he had just been groomed.

“Where did you come from, boy?” She kept her voice soft and low. She wanted him get used to her voice. “Somebody must have lost you. I hope they don’t mind if I take you home.”

Stardust snorted again, but this time he dropped his head as a signal of relaxing. She took a small step forward and placed one hand on the lead rope she had on her shoulder. She needed to get close enough to get it around his neck. Then she could fasten it to the halter while controlling the stallion.

He reared slightly, but she paid him no mind as she continued a steady stream of chatter and walked closer. He took a step back while breathing forcefully through his nose.

She stopped. Stardust needed a little more time to get to know her. From the way he was acting, he knew what humans were, but he hadn’t been around them for a while.

Anwen pulled the lead rope from her shoulder. Her hands trembled. She never had a horse that was her sole responsibility. If she could catch the stallion and take him home, he would be hers. And what a horse to have!

The ground would shake from his pounding hooves when he ran. They would fly over the mountains as fast as the winged horses, the mythical Archippi! They would race the clouds and win!

And just maybe she could find a way to enter him into the races where she would win the Celeri medal from the king after placing first in the endurance, speed, and cross country races!

Anwen was almost to the stallion now. When he snorted, his breath warmed her hand. He sniffed her hand and snorted loudly again like her scent offended him.

She grinned. He was acting like a king, and she had entered his domain.

“Easy now.”

The stallion shook his head and then stilled at her words.

“Now listen. You are going to come with me. We are going to be friends. And you will get yummy food and a warm barn on cold winter nights.”

Her hand was at his nose. This time Stardust didn’t jerk away, but he sniffed it thoroughly. She wanted to stroke his glossy gray coat and kiss the velvet nose, but she didn’t dare yet.

Instead she held the rope out and stepped to his neck. When her hand touched the thick coat, the stallion snorted again and jumped away.

She didn’t react, although she desperately wanted to scream with frustration. The stallion knew people. He wasn’t acting like a wild horse would. He was cautious, but he wasn’t frightened of her.

She started again, holding out her hand and walking as slowly as a decrepit horse. She talked about everything, trying to remind him of the good things that people gave horses like oats, fresh hay, grooming that got all the itchy places, and dry barns in the icy rain.

Stardust didn’t seem all that impressed.

She reached him again and felt his warm breath on her hand. This time he didn’t jerk away as much as he did before. She smiled. Now she was making progress.

Anwen repeated her actions and moved to his neck before touching him. She placed her hand on his long, silky mane and petted him cautiously. He tossed his head a few times but then calmed when her touch remained gentle and soothing.

She tried to take deep breaths and stay calm while she looped the lead rope around his neck.

He snorted as the rope touched his neck, but he didn’t pull away.

“Easy, Stardust,” Anwen said. “I’m not going to hurt you. I have a feeling that you know how it feels to have a person on your back.”

Holding onto the rope around his neck, she cautiously tied it to the halter. The stallion snorted with a slight squeal and reared into the sky. The rope around his neck slipped through her hand with a shot of pain.

She ignored it and hung on when he leaped to the side. Seeing her stay with him, he stopped with front feet spread wide.

“I’m still here,” she said. “And I’m not going to hurt you.”

Stardust shook his head like he didn’t believe her.

“Where did you come from? And why did they let you go? And what did you do to your leg?”

Anwen leaned over to study the wound. It was a fresh, but it didn’t look like it was bleeding a lot. A bit of doctoring, and the stallion would be as good as new.

Stardust blew out his nose like he was warning her of something. She stood up and glanced at him. The stallion froze with his ears pricked forward, studying the trees around them.

Anwen turned, keeping a tight hold of the lead rope, and squinted at the woods. There was nothing she could see. But as she peered into the shadows, she realized again that silence surrounded her. No birds sang. No wind stirred the branches.

She stepped closer to the big gray horse. He didn’t jump away from her. Instead, he seemed to lean closer.

She continued to search for what the horse was looking at. Then a chill swept through her. Goosebumps rose on her arms and neck as it felt like it was suddenly in the middle of winter. She glanced at the sun to see if a cloud had blocked it, but the sky was clear.

She carefully laid a hand on the horse’s neck to feel something warm and alive. His skin twitched under her touch, but he didn’t jump away.

The branches stirred. Stardust snorted and pawed the ground. Then a tall, pale creature stepped into view, although it stayed in the shadows.

Anwen gasped. The monster towered over her. Its skin was flaky and pale. Three fingers wrapped around the handle of an axe with a blade that was stained with blood. Yellow eyes paralyzed her with fear.

A Seeker! The monsters of the Evil One.

Chapter Four

Anwen’s Orders

Anwen gripped Stardust’s lead rope tighter and stepped away from the Seeker.

Tales said that Seekers never stopped hunting when ordered to capture someone. They would search until they seized their prey and dragged him back to their master.

“That horse,” the creature spoke. Its words sounded strange, like it wasn’t used to talking. “Our master desires it.”

Anwen was able to grip the rope tighter. Her voice cracked as she stammered “I… I found him. I caught him.”

“You foolish girl!” the Seeker laughed. “Its owner turned him loose because my master desired him. Do you think he’s some wild horse? Do you think you can stand in my way? Hand him over, and I might spare your life.”

She swallowed. She was not going to give the stallion to the evil creature, but she had no means to fight. The knife on her belt was useless against an axe.

She did the only thing she could think of, although it broke her heart to do it.

“No!” She shouted. The stallion broke out of his trance and reared at her outburst. “I’ll not let you have him!”

She threw the rope over Stardust’s neck and slapped him hard on the rear end. The stallion squealed as he reared high in the air. When his front feet hit the ground, he burst into a run away from the Seeker.

“You idiot girl!” The Seeker snarled. He charged, raising his axe to strike her.

Anwen stumbled backwards but tripped over her feet. Falling to the ground with a cry, she rolled to her back and pulled out her knife.

The Seeker pounced on her. The blade flashed in the sunlight as it dropped toward her head. She yelled louder. A sudden wind blew dirt in her face, and a horse screamed a warning.

Stardust came back!

Hooves pounded on the ground. The Seeker turned away from Anwen.

Anwen rolled to the side to grab her knife and struggled to stand. She got to her feet, only to stare in disbelief again. A black Archippi, a winged horse of Adoyni, fought the Seeker. His long wings were tucked by his side while he used his front feet to attack the Seeker.

Are all the myths of old coming true today?

The Seeker roared and swung his axe with a force strong enough to kill if it struck the black neck. Anwen screamed a warning, but the Archippos was faster.

The black winged horse reared high in the air. Using his front hooves, he hit the Seeker on the shoulder. This time the monster roared with pain.

But the Seeker didn’t stop. He swung the axe and launched himself at the Archippos. Anwen yelled again, and this time she let loose her knife.

It flew through the air and got the Seeker in the neck. But the Seeker’s tough skin broke the blade, and the knife dropped uselessly to the ground.

The Archippos dodged the axe again and leaped forward to bite the Seeker’s arm. The Seeker roared in agony and dropped his weapon.

The Seeker leaped through the air to grab his axe. Lunging to his feet, it turned to the black Archippos and yelled, “Get out of my way!”

You will depart from here and never return! A voice rang in Anwen’s head. The stallion is under Adoyni’s protection, and you have no authority.

“Seiten desires the horse,” the Seeker protested. “Give him to me!”

The Archippos twitched an ear. By orders of Adoyni, Lord of all of Eltiria. Now, be gone!

The Seeker yelled in anger, but there was a flash, and the creature vanished in the trees.

Anwen stared as the Archippos snorted, horse-like, and shook his head.

“Th. . . Thank you, sir,” she said.

Your appreciation should go to Adoyni. The black’s voice rang in her head. For He is the one who sent me. And please, I am Daeron.

Anwen shifted on her feet. “Adoyni sent you for me? Why? I’m not anyone special.”

All are special and loved by the Creator, Daeron said. Why else did He allow his only Son Lesu to suffer and die for everyone?

Anwen considered the question. But before she could answer, Daeron continued speaking.

But come. Let us gather that brave stallion. The voice in her head was filled with humor.

Daeron let out a short squeal.

“Stardust? He’s probably far away,” she said.

Daeron didn’t answer. Instead, the sound of hooves trotting grew louder, and the grey stallion burst into the meadow.

Seeing the Archippos and Anwen, the stallion stopped and dropped his head with a long snort. Anwen waited for Daeron to do something, but it seemed like the two horses were having a conversation without her. After some time, Daeron shook his head. His long black mane fell out of his eyes.

He now understands that you were trying to save him, he said. And he is thankful.

As if Stardust knew what Daeron said, he trotted to Anwen and pushed his head into her chest. She grinned and scratched his ears.

Now go the way I will show you, brave stallion, Daeron said. Friends will be along shortly to take care of you.

“Friends?” Anwen questioned. “Why can’t I go with him?”

He is needed for a special task. One only he can do.

“You avoided my question,” Anwen pressed.

Stardust snorted and spun on his back legs. He trotted out of the meadow, favoring his leg, but Anwen knew he would be fine.

When Stardust disappeared in the trees, Daeron continued talking. I did avoid your question. You will not go with him because you will go with me.

Anwen lost all ability to talk.

You are also needed for a special task only you can do. Come now.

“Wh… what for?”

There’s no time. I’ll inform you as we journey. Now get on. We are already late, and they are waiting for you.

“But, I can’t just leave! And Stardust…”

Now, girl! This is not an invitation. This is an order! One you dare not ignore.

Anwen swallowed. She always felt a bit nervous when getting on a new horse, but this was far, far worse. Of course, he would fly. How would she stay on?

I’m waiting. Daeron’s voice had a touch of impatience. And so is the King.

The longer she thought about flying over the mountains with nothing to hold her in, the harder it would be to get on. She took a deep breath and swung onto Daeron’s wide back.

She had barely gripped with her knees when Daeron burst into a run. The force caused her to fall backwards enough that her balance was off. Her face grew red.

He must think I don’t know how to ride.

Anwen pushed herself forward and leaned over Daeron’s neck, determined not to be caught off guard again.

He’ll see. I can ride anything!

Daeron’s laugh rang in her head. Hang on!

He run to the edge of the cliff and extended his wings.

As the ground disappeared from under them, Anwen heard herself yelling. Daeron soared through the air and then beat his giant wings.

Anwen stopped screaming as he climbed higher into the clouds. His long black mane whipped her face, and the air grew colder. But her fear had slipped away with the disappearing ground. This was the ride of her life.

This was where she belonged!

  • * *

Chapter Five

Geona’s Hopes

Geona paced and peered out the window while Mama read the story. If it was good enough, she could go help in the barn. It wouldn’t be as good as riding, but at least the day wouldn’t be a total waste.

“Hm,” Mama put down the last paper. “This is a good story, Geona! You did a great job with the action and plot. However, I’d like to see more of the world and religion as the assignment requested. You only briefly mentioned Adoyni. You didn’t mention anything about this new religion of Zoria that’s completely against Adoyni. On top of that, the geography was weak, and you didn’t mention anything about culture.”

“But it’s a story!” Geona argued. “I couldn’t fit everything in and keep it interesting.”

“I guess that might be true.” Mama flipped through the papers. “Geona, I know you’re excited about us moving to Shalock Stables, but you know it’s not going to be like this, right?”

Geona glanced at the window. A large cloud of dust grew bigger on the horizon.

Papa’s coming in with the horses!

“Geona,” Mama called her name again. “You won’t see Archippi there. And you won’t be rescuing horses. Most of the stories we hear of the Razors are just stories. And you mostly certainly won’t be riding Archippi.”

“But,” Geona said. “You say that the Archippi exist and that they’re servants of Adoyni, right?”

Mama nodded.

“Then why not?” Geona pushed. “The tales always speak of the Archippi coming from the Razors. And why couldn’t I get a horse there? There’s horses everywhere!”

“It’s just not going to happen,” Mama said and put down the paper. “I don’t want you to get your hopes up and then be severely disappointed. It’s going to be just like here. But I guess we’ll have to wait and see who is right – you or me.”

Geona grinned. “I just have a feeling that living at Shalock Stables is going to be a great adventure.”

“I hope not!” Mama laughed. “We have enough adventure between you and Tristan getting into trouble! Now go help Papa. He’ll need you to help calming down those young horses and getting them into their stalls.”

Geona shot out of the house and only slowed as she got to the large arena where the two year olds were herded. But the story lingered in her head. Would she ever get her own horse? Did Adoyni hear her when she prayed for one?

No matter what Mama said, she was sure that Shalock Stables was going to be filled with great adventure!  

The Ride Continues…

[]Book 2

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[]Anwen’s Quest

Fiction on Fire

All Rights Reserved

Copyright © 2016 Vicki V. Lucas

No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form, stored in any retrieval system, posted on any website, or transmitted in any form or by any means—digital, electronic, scan, photocopy, recording, or otherwise—without written permission from the author, except for brief quotations in printed reviews and articles.

For more information, visit www.vickivlucas.com.

Chapter One

The Spark

Geona led the last yearling to the barn. The young bay filly snorted at the stall door and balked. Her front legs were planted firmly at the entrance.

“Easy, girl,” Geona soothed. She stopped urging the horse forward and stroked the soft neck. “No one is going to hurt you here.”

The filly dropped her head to sniff the floor of the barn and exhaled loudly. Geona grinned. The horse wasn’t being bad. She was just being careful. Papa would say she was sensitive, and the other hands would say she was a handful.

“You’ve got the spark, don’t you?” Geona whispered. “You know, only special horses do. It means you’re smart and full of life. If I could have a horse, I’d choose one just like you.”

The bay filly bumped Geona gently with her head. Geona smiled. No, the filly wasn’t bad. Just scared. She scratched the horse’s ears and straightened the tangled black mane.

“Making friends already?” Papa asked.

The filly jerked back at the sound of Papa’s voice, but she relaxed under Geona’s hand.

Geona grinned at Papa. He was wearing his old riding hat. She couldn’t even tell what color it used to be. It had lost its color long before she could remember. “She’s got the spark. Doesn’t want to go into the stall too quickly.”

“Ah, a sensitive one,” Papa winked. “More trouble, just like her mother.”

Geona shot him a quizzical glance.

“Her mother is Moonlight Dancer,” Papa continued.

“Oh, her!” Geona laughed. “I have to admit she was sensitive. Remember how she spooked at your hat every single day?”

Papa groaned. “And how I gave up getting her used to it, so I didn’t wear it and got sunburned?”

Geona chuckled and asked for the filly to enter the stall. The bay paused to consider the risks and then obeyed. Geona eased off the halter and joined Papa in the aisle of the barn. She slid the stall door shut.

“Papa?”

“Yes?” Papa had turned to study the other colts and fillies in the barn.

“Well, none of Moonlight Dancer’s foals have sold very well. In fact, Master Melchior said last year that if this filly didn’t sell well, he was going to sell Dancer as well!”

“Uh huh.” Papa nodded, but she could tell he really wasn’t listening.

“Well, maybe I could buy this filly! I could work in the barn for coin. I know everything. You wouldn’t even have to train me how to do anything cuz I already know. I could clean stalls, clean the tack, groom the horses. I could even exercise them. I know you wouldn’t let me ride the more valuable ones, but I could exercise all the others. Master Melchior would…”

“Geona.”

“Please, Papa!”

“Geona.” Papa took off his hat and ran his dark hair. “You’re not buying this filly.”

Geona bit back the angry words that reared up like a young horse. The filly behind her found the grain and gulped it down.

“Then maybe I could buy Moonlight Dancer! If everyone knows her foals don’t sell, she’d really be cheap. I’ve worked with her already. She’d be a breeze to train to ride.”

“Geona,” Papa said again.

Geona studied the barn floor and traced lines in the dust. “I know.” The tears rose up, and she fought them, determined not to let them show where the hands would see her and laugh at her.

But the tears wouldn’t stop.

“I’ll just…” She swallowed. “I’ll just check on the filly again.”

“Geona,” Papa’s voice sounded sad. “We just don’t have any coin for a horse.”

She knew he wanted to explain and make it better. But she couldn’t take the sympathy right now. It would make her cry even more.

She pretended not to hear and slipped into the stall. The filly pricked her ears but stayed quiet. The smell of straw mixed with grain and horse sweat filled the air and soothed Geona’s sadness.

The filly was too engrossed in the grain to even flinch.

She has the spark, but she’s also a pig.

Geona grinned, despite her sorrow. She joined the horse and scratched her on her throat. The filly leaned into her. Geona ran a hand down the long neck to the strong back.

“If you were mine, we’d go on great adventures,” Geona whispered.

Outside the stall, the other hands were preparing to go home. She had to go. With a sigh, Geona patted the filly one last time and slipped into the twilight.

A few stars twinkled in the sky where it was the darkest. The last of the light of the sun hung over the horizon, tracing a pattern of the hills. The horses in the corrals around the barn were beginning to settle down.

Geona leaned on a fence and watched the shadows of two horses.

Why would Adoyni create me to love horses and not allow me to have one? She groaned. Maybe I’m going to be one of those people who end up doing something they hate.

But she didn’t want that. She wanted to be on the back of a horse, racing across the fields. She wanted to feel the joy of entering a barn filled with the pleasant smells of hay mingled with horses and hear the animals welcome her.

The sun’s light faded completely. She pushed off the fence and meandered home. Mama gave her a big hug when she returned, giving Geona a clue that Papa had told her about wanting to buy the filly.

She squeezed Mama back and gave Papa a small smile. “I understand,” she said.

Pap pulled her dark brown braid. “Someday, Geona. Don’t give up hope.”

She nodded. “Can I go to my room now?”

“Of course,” Mama said. “But blow out your candle in a bit.”

In her room, Geona flopped onto her bed. She did understand, and she wasn’t mad at Papa. She was just so tired of hearing the same answer. Of not having her own horse. Of always looking for rides and hoping someone would let her.

She sighed and rolled over to put her on the little table beside her bed. The parchment with her story from her school assignment lay on the table.

Anwen’s Invitation.

She stared at it. What would it be like to be invited by an Archippi on a great quest? What was Anwen going to do next?

Then she knew the answer. She grabbed up a quill and began to write.

Chapter Two

Anwen’s Flight

Anwen gripped the black Archippos with her knees and risked a look down to the ground far beneath them. They had soared through the clouds. Now the white formations dotted the air like sheep in a large field.

Beneath the clouds, the mountains rose and fell like waves of the sea. Off to the south, the land flattened as it stretched toward the city. The large city of Northbridge had completely disappeared.

Anwen fought the black spots that rose up in her eyes and sat up quickly blinking.

If I fell…

She couldn’t even finish the thought. She leaned over Daeron’s neck and threw her arms around his neck.

“You’ve got to take me back,” she yelled over the wind, ignoring the mane that whipped her face.

Why are you shouting in my ears? Daeron asked.

“Because it’s loud! And high!”

Daeron chuckled. I can go much, much higher. Would you like to see what it’s like?

“No!” Anwen shouted. “You need to go much, much lower, and take me home. My work is there, and Stardust will need me.”

The gray stallion will be taken of. I have friends waiting for him. You need to forget about him for the time being. Now you must focus on the task at hand.

“What task at hand? I don’t even know what’s going on!”

Daeron stopped his ascension, leveled out, and glided on the air. Sit up. You have no need to fear. I will not drop you.

Anwen swallowed. Daeron actually sounded offended that she was afraid. She pushed herself up so she was sitting instead of clinging to his neck.

“Sorry. I didn’t mean to insult you. You’ve got to remember I’ve never done this.”

Just like riding a horse.

“A horse with wings. Flying instead of running, and oh, there’s the apparent lack of reins or saddle. Otherwise, it’s completely the same!” Anwen rolled her eyes.

Eladar never said humans were this difficult.

Anwen thought Daeron didn’t mean to share that thought with her. She glared at the dark ears in front of her. “Just so you know, humans don’t like to be whisked away. I just caught that stallion, and I’ve never had my own horse, and now I have one. Then you come and say that I have to go with you. I mean, this is awesome. I’ve always wanted to ride on an Archippos. But Stardust needs me.”

Daeron banked to the left and then straightened out. I understand having to leave what you love. He will have to wait. This is much more important than him right now.

Anwen considered that. Not much was more important than a horse.

“So what is it? Where are you taking me?”

To the King.

“The King asked for me? How in the world does the most important person in Eltiria know about me?”

The King is not necessarily the most important person, although he is a leader. Daeron paused as if he was trying to decide how to answer her question. He didn’t ask for you by name. He asked for the best person with horses. We picked you.

“We?”

The other Archippi.

Anwen’s questions died as she considered his words. They picked her of all the other trainers and people in the whole world. And now she was going to see the King for some mysterious mission.

The questions returned. “But why…?”

Hold on.

Daeron banked to the right. With gentle movements of his wings, he began to descend. Anwen held on tight and glanced down to the ground.

This time she didn’t feel sick or frightened. The sight of the world below them fascinated her so much that she almost forgot to hold on with her legs.

Below them, but coming closer and closer, was a castle. At first, it was the size of a toy. Something like what her younger brother used to play with. She leaned back when Daeron’s dive grew steeper. Within four circles, the castle looked like a large house.

Daeron completed two more turns, and she could make out the flags on the turrets blowing in the breeze. Then the white jaguars on the flag came into view, their paw outstretched like they were attacking. The castle grew larger than her house, larger than a barn, larger than a couple of barns, and finally as they glided into the courtyard, it was the biggest building she had ever seen.

“Wait!” she cried. “I can’t do this. I’m not even dressed to meet the King. Look at me. I’m a mess!”

You are a mess, I agree. Daeron snorted. But there’s no time to fix it. Don’t get comfortable. We have mere hours left. Just remember to curtsy, call the King ‘your majesty’ or ‘sire,’ and never turn your back to him.

“Wait, what? You’ll be with me, right?”

Daeron banked away from the castle and landed in a small meadow. A man stepped from the trees at their arrival.

Unfortunately, no. I do not have permission to be seen by so many. Now off.

Anwen slid off his back. Her knees almost buckled when her feet hit the ground. But it wasn’t the ride. She had ridden far harder and longer.

She swallowed. How many people were going to be there? She didn’t have time to ask Daeron.

A tall, thin man strode from the trees. He was dressed in black and wore a sword on his hip. He crossed the open meadow and didn’t stop until he reached them.

“Are you the one the King seeks?” he asked Anwen. His face showed no warmth, and his eyes were hard.

“I… I think so,” Anwen said, confused by his behavior.

The man pulled his sword free of the scabbard, grabbed Anwen by the arm, and swung at Anwen.

Look out! Daeron yelled in her head.

She leaped back, stumbled, and fell on her back. Over her head, she heard a crash like two swords smashing together. She closed her eyes and rolled through the grass.

After a few turns, she leaped to her feet. Two men dueled in the middle of the meadow. The second man was older with light blonde hair. He blocked a few thrusts of the first man.

“You have finally shown your true colors, Edryd,” Anwen’s rescuer spat. With every word, he attacked. “I’ve watched you. I know you’re a traitor. You serve Seiten.”

Anwen gasped.

“I’m not ashamed of it,” Edryd yelled. “I’m glad that you know, Maelor, for you can take this knowledge with you as you die. Seiten will break free. He’ll wreck havoc on this land and create a new order, one where I shall rule as his closest advisor. All that you love will be destroyed.”

Maelor didn’t answer, but his face grew harder. He circled Edryd while blocking the blows.

The attack from Edryd pushed Maelor back. He tripped once but recovered before Maelor could land a fatal blow.

“Do something!” Anwen shouted to Daeron.

You know the laws. I am not to interfere between men.

“That’s a dumb law!” Anwen yelled.

Maelor stumbled again. Even Anwen could see he was breathing heavily. His blocks came slower and slower. Anwen yelled again and looked around for a weapon, but there was nothing in sight.

Edryd laughed. “Finally you shall die. I’ve waited for this moment.”

He lunged at Maelor. Maelor gave a small cry and turned as if to run. Edryd cried out in triumph.

But instead of running, Maelor continued to circle. When Anwen saw his face again, he was no longer a defeated man. He was in control and strong.

Edryd hesitated in confusion.

“I’m afraid,” Maelor said, “that I’m not the one who is going to die.”

Maelor’s sword slipped under Edryd’s raised sword and into Edryd’s chest. The traitor gave a small cry and dropped to the ground. Maelor pulled his sword free.

He wiped his sword on the grass and bowed to Daeron. “Greetings, fair Archippos. I am sorry for what you have seen here, but I’m afraid events like this are growing more frequent. If you forgive me, I shall dispense with the formalities and escort you to the throne room.”

Daeron bowed his head. Now is not the time for formalities. Unfortunately, I must leave Anwen with you. The time will come when we will renew our presence in Eltiria, but it is not today.

“I understand,” Maelor replied. “Is this the one we look for?”

She is. Judge not by her appearance. I found her rescuing an injured stallion from a Seeker with a mere knife.

Maelor raised his eyebrows. “Brave. Or perhaps foolish.”

I must be off. Daeron stepped closer to Anwen. He nudged her with his head. Be brave. Be confident. Adoyni has chosen you for this moment, and it doesn’t depend on your physical appearance or your wealth. It relies on your courage, your strength, and your heart. I will be watching over you.

“Thank you, Daeron.” Anwen’s voice broke. “I will do as you say.”

Daeron snorted and took off at a run to leap into the sky. She watched him soar over the treetops and longed to be on his back again instead of heading to the throne room of the King.

“Come,” Maelor said. “Time is short, and the King awaits.”

Anwen swallowed again, finding the lump in her throat. She trotted behind Maelor through the trees and into a busy courtyard filled with people bustling in every direction. Maelor didn’t even notice them as they parted to let them pass.

They climbed the stairs into the castle. The huge rooms were filled with rich tapestries and treasures worth more than the best horse at Shalock Stables. She struggled to keep up and not stare at everything.

What was it that Daeron said? How do you leave a room if you can’t turn your back to someone? Am I supposed to curtsy right away or when introduced? What happens if I get it wrong?

Maelor threw open two large golden doors decorated with white jaguars. Anwen glimpsed a long red carpet leading to the dais where two large thrones sat. She was entering the throne room where the King waited for her.

Anwen swallowed. She had faced down angry horses that weighed more than four of her. She had overcome men’s disapproval and dislike to prove her ability as trainer. She had spent days in the saddle, through the toughest weather.

But walking the short length to the throne was the hardest thing she had ever done.

Chapter Three

Anwen’s Task

Anwen knew Daeron’s advice on how to act around the King needed to be followed, but she could only think of one thing.

Don’t trip. Don’t trip. Don’t trip.

Other than the King sitting on the throne, the room was empty. Maelor led the way down the red carpet, and Anwen decided to follow his lead. She resisted the urge to straighten her hair or clothes. The King had already seen her, and nothing she could do now would improve her condition.

She squared her shoulders. Daeron was right. Her looks didn’t matter. It was her ability with horses that had brought her the King’s attention. If she smelled like horse and looked like she had just gotten off one, then they would know they got what they wanted.

Maelor approached the throne and bowed on one knee at the foot of the stairs. Anwen copied him, forcing her legs to stop quivering.

“Rise.” The command came from the King.

Anwen and Maelor stood up. Anwen studied the King, overwhelmed to be near such majesty. It wasn’t the gold adorning the throne. It wasn’t the fine furs and cloth the King wore. She couldn’t name what it was.

Maybe it was the simple realization that the King ruled by Adoyni’s appointment, laying down laws according to Adoyni’s wishes. There was no higher person in all of Eltiria.

King Amhar studied her with dark, serious eyes. He looked to be about her father’s age, but her Da didn’t have the weight of the world on him. Worry lines creased the King’s face, not enough to mar his looks, but enough to tell Anwen that he took the mantle of leadership seriously.

“You are the trainer?” the King asked with doubt in his voice.

“The Archippos Daeron found me and brought me here at your request.” Anwen stopped and then remembered what Daeron told her to say. “Your Majesty.”

“A girl?” he questioned Maelor.

“Sire,” Maelor replied. “The Archippos told me she was fighting a Seeker with a knife when he appeared.”

“So,” the King raised his eyebrows. “Is this a common occurrence for you?”

“I’ve never done anything like that before,” Anwen admitted.

The King exhaled and sank back in his chair. Disappointment filled his face and then quickly disappeared under a mask of no emotion.

“I’m sorry,” Anwen said. “I don’t know why I was chosen, but if it has anything to do with horses, I can do it.”

The King smiled. Anwen had the impression that if they had met somewhere else under different roles, she might have really liked him. As it was, the royalty that surrounded him created a barrier for any friendship. Pity washed over her, even though he lacked nothing.

King Amhar smiled slightly. “You do come with some great recommendations.”

She swallowed but didn’t answer. It was his choice. Either he would tell her why she was there or she would go home and never know what her mission was to be.

After what seemed to be forever, the king nodded. “I will trust the Archippi’s decision.”

Beside her, Maelor exhaled like he had been holding his breath for a long time.

The King spoke softly. “What I will tell you can never be repeated, not even to your closest friend. The future of Eltiria lies with this information. Do you promise to never reveal this to anyone?”

Anwen swallowed. This was one promise she could never break. “I promise to keep everything you tell me a secret.”

King Amhar nodded. “We know that Seiten is working to escape his prison on Elda Isle. But even more shocking, people here are attempting a journey across the sea to the east to find him and align with him. We have it on good authority that someone has somehow managed to survive the journey and return.”

Maelor gasped. “But that’s impossible! Only the Archippi can reach Elda Isle!”

“So it was thought,” the King said. “But someone did. We just don’t know who.”

“What does this have to do with me, Your Majesty?” She shifted on her feet.

“This person, I believe, is responsible for a large group of people rejecting Adoyni and declaring Seiten their lord,” the King continued. “Oddly, this false belief isn’t growing in a large city. It’s in a small area in an average sized town called Coho.”

Anwen wasn’t about to ask where Coho was, although she was dying to. She would research it as soon as she had the chance.

“That makes sense, sire!” Maelor said. “It’s central Eltiria on the banks of the Blackfork River. If they control that area, they have a strong foothold, and the horses would give them an almost unbeatable army.”

That’s right! Coho!

Anwen almost laughed! How could she have forgotten? The area was filled with tribes that bred purebreds with wild horses to create a separate breed that was said to be both swift and smart.

“Always the strategist, aren’t you?” King Amhar smiled at Maelor. Then he turned back to Anwen. “Everything Maelor says is true. We believe we know which tribe has turned to Seiten. How we have come to know is another story but one that came at a great price as many died.”

Anwen shifted as silence filled the room. “I am sorry, Your Majesty.”

“As am I,” King Amhar replied. He blinked away the sadness and continued. “In their tradition, every five years the two largest tribes race their best horse. The winner gets their choice of sixty percent of the losers’ horses. If they win this time, it will give them an edge that will never be recovered.”

“Then why don’t you just not allow this tribe to race?” Anwen asked.

“Good question,” the King said. “But we can’t show what we know. Imagine the panic if we allowed the information out that Seiten is trying to escape. Also, we don’t want the enemy to know that we know just yet. It gives us a bit of the upper hand.”

“How do I help?” Anwen asked. All of the strategy and politics were beyond her.

King Amhar smiled. “I like that question. We do know the one tribe is loyal to Adoyni. But their stallion is wild and uncontrollable. No one can lay a hand on him. This is where you come in. You must train this stallion, and he must win the race. All will be lost if you fail.”

Anwen struggled to breathe. She had dealt with tough horses before. But she had never worked with a wild stallion no one could control.

I said I could do it. So I will.

“How long do I have?” she asked, trying to plan what she would do.

“It will take us a fortnight to travel there,” Maelor said. “That gives you three days until the race.” Daeron

Where did Daeron go? Why couldn’t he fly me there?

But she knew the Archippi didn’t just give rides when people wanted it.

“Three days! That’s impossible!” Anwen gasped. “I’ve heard of these races. If it was on a track like in Northbridge with fences that line the racetrack, maybe there would be a chance. But their races stretch out over mountains and desert. There are no fences to hold the stallion to the path if he’s not trained. It can’t be done.”

“Then you must train him!” the King roared. “You cannot fail!”

Anwen shook her head once. “A fortnight gives me time to think over how to tame this stallion. But there’s not much I can do in three days, Your Majesty.”

“You must win. You must get this stallion to run faster than the fiercest wind.” The King rose. “All of Eltiria rests on this.”

Chapter Four

Anwen’s Task

First it rained. Anwen with her eight guards sent by King Amhar trudged through the mud that only grew deeper. Even the horses struggled to continue.

Then the rain stopped, but the wind came. It howled against them, never pushing them forward. It blew harder than she had ever felt. One night their tents flew away, causing the horses to spook from their line where they were tied. No one slept, and they spent the majority of the next day repairing the damage and salvaging what they could.

Hail came when they were crossing the mountains. They found meager shelter under rocks and crags of the mountains. One guard was knocked unconscious by some hail stones that fit comfortably in Anwen’s palm. They were not able to travel for another day.

Strange things continued to occur. Anwen tried to control her frustration as the fortnight passed. They pressed on how fast as they could, but they were late.

Now she had less than a day to tame the wild stallion. And although she spent long hours in the saddle contemplating how she could train an uncontrollable stallion, nothing extraordinary came to mind. Until she saw the horse and knew what was causing him to act that way, she was stuck.

Evening was approaching on the last day. As the rays cast long shadows, the horses climbed a steep mountain. As they neared the top, the dirt mixed with sand, and the trees looked like they didn’t get much water. They were approaching the desert.

“Welcome,” a call came from the top. “And it’s about time!”

Anwen looked up to see a young man sitting on a tall bay horse. He grinned at their surprise. “I’ve been sitting on this hill for three days waiting for you.”

Anwen ran an eye over his horse. A long, thick mane cascaded over the horse’s strong neck. Intelligence and fire sparked in the brown eyes. The horse reminded her of another one she had seen, but she couldn’t place where.

“My name is Paden.” At his words, Anwen returned her attention to him. He winked at her like he knew she was studying his horse. “And this is Aniela. We shall guide you into your valley, for it is a trail few travel.”

He led them alongside a steep cliff that dropped straight down. Her horse kicked a stone, and she watched tumble down into it was out of sight.

She sat up straight and swallowed. One step and the horses would fall off the cliff. She glanced at the guards, and she noticed that everyone was trying hard not to look down.

Anwen only glanced where they were headed once. At the bottom of the mountain lay a large meadow, big enough that the mountains that rose on the other side looked small. Streams crisscrossed the meadow and made the grass green. There was ample room to raise all the horses you wanted. On the far side sat an enclosure of houses and what she assumed was barns.

She would have studied it longer, but then she noticed birds flying below her. Her stomach turned, and her heart pounded in her chest. She grabbed the saddle, wanting to think about something other than falling.

The height, the steep trail, and the possibility of falling didn’t seem to bother either Paden or Aniela. They rode as if they were one. Paden spent most of his time twisted in his saddle so he could keep talking.

“Awfully glad to see you,” he said as they were approaching the bottom of the cliff. “Especially since our fastest and best stallion, the one you came all this way to train since he won’t let us lay a hand on him, just returned this morning.”

“What do you mean that he returned?” Maelor asked. “Where did he go?”

“No idea,” Paden happily answered. “Not too long ago, Seekers came into our camp, and he fled in fright before we could stop him. He’s been gone ever since. We think he just kept running to escape the monsters. He showed up this morning, looking fine as a gnat’s leg, and none the worse for wear.”

How fine is a gnat’s leg?

“Here he comes now,” Paden said. “We haven’t been able to catch him and put him in the barn. I guess you can start with that task, Anwen.”

Anwen grinned, but her heart sank. Catching an unwilling and untamed stallion in such a large area would be impossible.

The stallion screamed as he ran across the grass at them.

“Well,” Paden said. “I guess he’s coming to greet you, too!”

The stallion was white, but not pure white. As they entered the meadow and he raced to challenge them, the gray in his mane showed. He had the same thick mane as Aniela, but even at a distance, there was a finer quality about him.

Where have I seen a horse like that before?

The stallion screamed again, and Anwen knew why the horse looked familiar. She had rescued him from a Seeker with Daeron’s help.

Stardust.

Chapter Five

Geona’s Dream

Geona sighed and laid her quill beside the parchment. Her candle had burned far past the mark Mama always made to show when she was supposed to go to bed.

She blew out the candle and thought about Anwen. Geona had been so much into the writing that all of her problems had disappeared. Now as she closed her eyes, she returned to Anwen’s story.

What will happen next? How is she going to train the wild stallion? I should have given her more time to train him.

Geona sighed. She couldn’t help but wonder when she would get her horse. She didn’t expect the King to call for her to help with some grand quest. But she did want a horse. And now that she thought it, she wanted a barn of her own filled with stallions and mares to train.

Everyone laughed at her dreams, but she knew she could do it.

“Someday,” she whispered and then blew out the candle. “One day I’ll show them all.”

And tomorrow would be a new day. The two year olds needed basic training. They had to stand when handled and groomed. They needed to be led around for the buyers. It didn’t seem like much, but Papa always said those first few days of training set the horse for success or a lifetime of failure.

She would be allowed to help. She was going to get her hands on that filly, Moonlight Dancer’s daughter. Geona was the best person in all the barns to handle any horse with any spark.

It wasn’t as exciting as Anwen’s story, and it wasn’t even her own horse. Yet. But it was enough for her to get excited for tomorrow to come. She yawned and fell into dreams of Archippi racing across the sky while she tamed a wild horse.

The Ride Continues…

[]Book 3

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[]Anwen’s

[]Reunion

Fiction on Fire

All Rights Reserved

Copyright © 2016 Vicki V. Lucas

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For more information, visit www.vickivlucas.com.

Chapter One

Geona’s Training

“Just go slow, Geona,” Papa said. “You can do this.”

Geona barely resisted throwing the halter and rope down in the dust and stomping off. She had chased after the bay filly far longer than she had for any other horse. The stupid filly kept allowing her to come close enough to touch, but any time Geona made a move to put the rope over her neck, the horse shot off like a hive of bees had stung her.

“She’s not going to let me,” Geona muttered.

“Go slower,” Papa said. “Take your time. You’re hurrying her.”

“She’s just playing with me,” Geona shot back. “She knows exactly what I want.”

Moonlight Dancer’s filly stopped at the end of the corral and looked back at Geona with a swish of her tail. Geona trudged her way to the filly.

“She’s smart,” Papa said. Geona didn’t look at him, but she knew by his tone that he was laughing. “The ones with the spark always are.”

Geona didn’t answer. She strode up to the filly. The bay didn’t wait for long this time. Geona wasn’t even close enough to touch her when the horse bolted with her tail in the air right back where they had started.

“AH!” Geona yelled and threw the halter and rope in the dust.

“Hey, maybe she’s living up to her mother’s name and dancing with you!” Papa called.

“Dancing? She’s frolicking!” Geona put her hands on her hips and turned to Papa.

He was sitting on the fence with his feet on the middle rail and his elbows on his knees. He tried to wipe the grin off his face, but he didn’t succeed. She caught herself grinning in spite of her frustration.

“You know,” he said. “I think you just named her. How does Moonlight Frolic sound?”

“Sounds like she’s a monster,” Geona retorted. “But it’s not a bad name.”

She wasn’t going to admit it, but she liked being the one who came up with the name.

Frolic stood at the other end of the corral with her head up and ears pricked. Geona got the sense that the horse was listening to them and wondering why she wasn’t being chased anymore.

Geona shook her head. “She’s going to be a handful.”

“She’s already a handful,” Papa said with a grin. “You can do this, though. Try again. This time, take a deep breath, stay calm, and go slow.”

Geona picked up the halter and exhaled. She had been tense and angry. No horse would want to be around that. She started talking to Frolic about anything that came to mind.

“See the nice blue sky,” she said. She wanted Frolic to hear the friendliness in her voice. “The birds are even singing again. Summer is coming.”

She droned on about anything she could think of as she forced herself to stay calm and move slow.

Frolic snorted and lowered her head. Geona’s voice had the effect of a lullaby. She moved closer until she could pet the bay’s neck. Frolic jerked when Geona stroked the soft hair, but the filly stayed still.

Geona kept talking and slowly eased the rope over Frolic’s neck. Before she could tighten it, the filly jumped away and pulled. The rope tore through Geona’s hands.

“Ow!” she exclaimed. She turned on her heel. “Papa! See I can’t do it!”

“You need to calm down and…” he began.

“Geona!” Mama yelled from the house. “School!”

“Time to go,” Papa said. “We’ll try again later after you’ve calmed down a bit.”

She thought about protesting, but she knew neither Papa nor Mama would back down. She handed him the rope and slipped through the rails of the fence.

She plodded to the house, not noticing the birds singing or the warm sun on her face. She’d never had a problem with horses before.

She stopped outside the house and splashed some water on her face and hands, biting back a cry at the cold water. Pushing the wooden door open, she joined Tristan at the table. He was dressed in his woods clothes, brown pants and a green tunic to blend in with the plant life. A knapsack sat beside the door. But the way it was bursting at the seam told Geona Tristan was planning to be gone a while.

“Where you going?” Geona whispered.

“North!” Tristan didn’t even bother to raise his head. “I got to get going. There’s a rumor that someone in the far north saw a pack of wolves.”

“Are you ever going to give that dream up?” Geona asked. “You know wolves don’t exist.”

“Are you ever going to get a horse?” Tristan shot back. “Now leave me alone. I’ve got to get this done.”

Geona sighed and took her place at the table. She glanced down at the work Mama had laid out for her and smiled.

It was time to finish her story of Anwen.

Geona knew exactly what to write next. She grabbed her quill and dipped it into the inkwell.

Chapter Two

Anwen’s Success

Anwen stared at the light gray stallion running toward them. She slid out of her saddle and dropped the reins as a signal to the horse to stand still.

The sand came to her ankles as she jogged away from the group. Her muscles were stiff from the long ride, but she ignored them.

“He’s wild!” Paden shouted. “He’ll run you down.”

Anwen slowed to glance at their guide they had just met. He was brown like the plains people with dark hair and eyes. He seemed full of adventure, and it seemed nothing would slow him down, like someone who had lived free in the outdoors most of their lives.

“I know him,” she said and smiled at his confusion. “I’m the one who saved him.”

She refused to answer any more questions. She wanted to greet Stardust and let her scent remind him who she was before he got distracted with all the other horses and people.

“She saved him from a Seeker,” Maelor added. He paused. “All she had was a knife.”

Anwen grinned again as the men all gasped and started asking questions. Maelor told them to be quiet and didn’t give any more details.

Thought I was just a woman, did you? Well, I’ll show you! I’ll train Stardust better and faster than you ever could.

Stardust raced over the last hill. Sand clouds rose from his hooves that seemed to barely touch the ground. Anwen wasn’t sure if he was greeting them or attacking them, but judging from his ears, Stardust wasn’t in a friendly mood.

Anwen shifted so the wind would blow her scent to the stallion.

Remember me. Remember what Daeron, the Archippos, told you. Remember how the Seeker was the bad one and how I tried to help you.

Stardust’s ears pricked up, but he didn’t slow. Anwen stood still although she had to fight the urge not to run. She wasn’t going to show fear to the men or Stardust. She knew the stallion. He wasn’t mean or vicious.

She hoped.

Stardust kept his speed as he closed the distance to them. Instead of running away, Anwen took a step toward the stallion.

Stardust jerked back and slowed to a walk. His hooves seemed to hang in the air as he pranced toward her in perfect grace. His head lowered when he snorted a welcome. The long gray mane fell around him like a lady shaking out her braid.

Anwen lost all fear. It was probably stupid, but Stardust was too pretty to fear. She stretched out a hand for him.

He still wore his halter, and his legs were dirty like he had been on a long trip and had not been groomed well, but other than that, he looked in the best of shape. The cut where he had been bleeding was healed, and all the traces of blood had been washed away. In fact, Anwen thought that he had lost a bit of fat since she saw him last.

Stardust sniffed her head and shook his head like the smell offended him. She waited, content to wait until he had accepted her. He risked one more smell and then turned his head to study the horses and men behind her.

“Hello, Stardust,” she said quietly. “How in all of Eltiria did we end up here together again?”

Stardust flicked an ear to show her he had no idea.

Anwen smiled. “Daeron could have mentioned that we would meet here. I guess the old stories are true about Archippi not telling you everything.”

Stardust didn’t answer. She stepped closer to him. He jerked his head back, moving away from her. She stayed with him but didn’t reach for the halter. Instead, she laid a hand on his neck. He hesitated when it appeared like she wasn’t trying to catch him.

“You coming up to us saves me a lot of work,” Geona said, making sure the men couldn’t hear her talking. “Now I don’t have to figure out how to catch you, and this makes me look really good.”

Stardust snorted again.

And they can’t handle this stallion! I guess they don’t know what they’re doing.

She reached up for the halter. Stardust froze for a minute. Her fingers wrapped around the rope.

Gotcha!

Stardust squealed with a fury and reared high in the air. The halter tore through her fingers and ripped away skin.

“Ow!” Anwen yelled.

She stepped back to avoid his front hooves. The stallion landed hard, whinnied loudly again, and then turned on his back legs and streaked off into the meadow.

Chapter Three

Anwen’s Surprise

“No! Wait!” Anwen shouted. She stumbled after him, but the sand was deep. He disappeared over the rolling hills and into the large meadow before she could get to the top of the first hill. She stopped, holding her hand to stop the ache, and watched him.

What a traitor! I know he doesn’t mind me at all. Why in all of Adoyni’s world would he do that?

“I thought you had him for a moment there,” a man’s voice said behind her. “Then the dumb stallion played his tricks again. Don’t think we’ll have a horse to race this year. Our lack of ability to control this horse will bring serious enemies to Eltiria. We have failed already.”

Anwen gave up trying to see where Stardust had gone and turned to see an older man on a white horse behind her.

“This is my father, Teilo, our chief,” Paden said, joining them. “Father, this is the trainer the Archippi sent us. Her name is Anwen.”

“A girl? The trainer?” Teilo repeated. “How’s she supposed to do anything?”

Anwen started to tell Teilo everything she could do, but Paden interrupted.

“She’s gotten closer to Trafferth than any of us,” he said hurriedly.

“And then chased him off,” Teilo reminded him.

“He didn’t run until you showed up,” Anwen broke in. “Wait. What did you call him?”

“Trafferth,” Teilo stared at where the stallion had run. “It means trouble in the old language.”

“I’ve been calling him Stardust,” Anwen answered.

“Girl,” Teilo laughed. “You catch and train him, and you can name him anything you want!”

“But how are we going to catch him out there?” Anwen waved a hand.

“If you don’t get him by tonight, we’ll have to try to pin him in a canyon and rope him,” Teilo said. With a pull a little sharper than necessary, he turned his horse around. “Come now. We must welcome you into our home.”

Paden held his horse back until Teilo was out of earshot. “Easy, Aniela.” He patted the bay’s neck and then turned back to Anwen. “Father cares for his horses, but he deals with them the old way. According to him, you force them, not ask them.”

“But that won’t work with Stardust!” Anwen exclaimed. “They’ll ruin him that way!”

The other men were following Teilo into the meadow. Anwen gathered her horse and swung on. They trailed behind the men.

“I have an idea,” Paden said quietly. “Let’s slowly increase the gap between us and the men. When they have forgotten us, we will slip off. I have a thought about where Stardust may be.”

“If it’s just me, I might have a better chance,” Anwen agreed. “I think the other people spooked him. Let’s pretend like we’re deep in conversation and not paying them attention.”

Anwen soon found that it wasn’t hard to pretend. Paden kept her entertained with the history and customs of the Plains people. She almost forgot their purpose when Paden stopped in the middle of a story.

“Turn here,” he pointed to a small trail that led into the rolling hills that circled the meadow.

He pulled back to allow her to go first. She nudged her horse forward. The trail shrunk as it entered the hills. Trees grew taller and thicker until Anwen was forced to almost hug her horse’s neck to make it under branches.

She glanced back at Paden, who had fallen strangely quiet. He and his horse Aniela followed far behind. He smiled as if to reassure he was fine and waved her on. She shrugged and continued to lead the way.

She leaned far back in the saddle when the trail dropped down a sharp hill. At the bottom of the hill, a small stream wound around large boulders. Long, juicy grass grew around them.

She halted her horse to study which way she was supposed to go.

“Where is Paden?” she asked, twisting in the saddle.

Was he with the enemies of Eltiria? Did he purposely get me lost so that I wouldn’t make it back in time? Or worse, is he trying to kill me?

She studied the trees around her, expecting to see arrows flying through the air at her. But there were only the trees, the stream, and the glass.

Water splashed to her right. She twirled in the saddle, ready for flight. But then she laughed softly and slid to the ground.

Stardust was standing by the stream.

Chapter Four

Anwen’s Gift

The tall gray stallion stood with his back feet in the water while he reached to the other side of the stream for a patch of extremely green grass.

Anwen dismounted. She dropped her horse’s reins over a boulder and grabbed the lead rope hanging on her saddle. She stepped carefully over the rocks. She didn’t want to make too much noise that might scare Stardust away. At the same time, she didn’t want to sneak up to him either.

Peddles tumbled to the water with one long step. Stardust flicked an ear but didn’t move. She eased into the swallow water and repressed a gasp when the icy cold struck her foot.

She chose to walk down the stream to approach him on the side. As she walked, she pulled up long grass alongside the water. No matter how plentiful the grass around, she had never seen a horse decline food offered, even if they were standing in it.

Horses just like to be spoiled.

She grinned. If Stardust let her, she would spoil him more than any horse could hope for!

Anwen had a large clump of grass by the time she reached him. Stardust twitched his ear again, so she knew he was aware of her.

“Hi again,” she said in a soft voice. His ear turned her direction. “Leaving me that way was kind of rude. Not only that, but you hurt my hand.”

She turned her hand without the grass in it. Red marks from the halter being ripped out of her grip streaked across the fingers.

He turned his head, grass hanging out of his mouth, and sniffed her hand.

She grinned. “Here I thought you were some noble, beautiful horse. With all that grass in your mouth, you look more like a pig.”

Stardust shook his head with a loud exhale of air and turned back to where he was eating.

“Oh, come on,” she stepped closer. “I was joking. I didn’t know that would hurt your pride.”

Stardust stood while Anwen stroked his neck and even leaned in when she came to the itchy places. She lingered, not wanting to rush him again like she did before. He accepted her. It was far better to bond for a bit before attempting to lead him or ride him.

“Would you like some grass you don’t have to pick yourself?” She offered him the grass in her hand.

He sniffed it suspiciously, like it might be poison.

“Come on,” she urged. “It’s the same stuff you’ve been eating. You just don’t have to reach down for it. I got it for you.”

His lips nibbled on a few blades. Then he pulled a few free and munched on them. He must have decided that the grass was good, for he stepped closer and tore a bunch of it out of her hand.

“That’s it,” she said.

Anwen risked running her hand up his neck to his ears. He stopped eating and stiffened, but when she scratched his ears, he relaxed again. She peeked back at the trail where her horse stood patiently. Paden was nowhere to be seen.

He knew where Stardust would be, and he knew we needed some time alone! Smart guy!

Anwen decided it was time. She took the rope from her shoulder without rushing and slowly attached it to his halter. Stardust stopped eating to evaluate the weight of the rope on his halter.

He shook his head, his light gray mane falling over his head.

“Easy,” she soothed. “It’s just a rope.”

The grass fell out of his mouth. With a squeal, he reared, his front hooves reaching for the sky.

Anwen stepped back but kept a hold on the rope. He dropped to the ground but bolted away from her. She held on, keeping behind him so he would have to turn when the rope was taut.

Stardust screamed, this time in fury. He rose high in the air and struck with his hooves. He was trapped, and he was going to fight his way free.

Anwen gripped the rope with all her strength, but it stung as it slipped through her fist. Stardust shook his head violently and spun his back legs around to kick. She leaped out of the way and stumbled over a rock.

With a cry that was more of a scream, she regained her balance and shortened her hold on the rope.

“I’m not losing you again!” She pulled the rope tighter, causing Stardust to turn in a tight circle which gave her time to gain control of him again.

Quick as a flash of lightning, Stardust rose into the air and twisted away. The rope cut her while it ripped through her hands. She yelled when she felt the knot at the end of the rope.

“No!”

Stardust dropped to the ground and stared at her for a blink of an eye.

“Not again! You are not leaving me behind again!”

Anwen ran at Stardust and leaped onto his back. Taking advantage of his confusion, she tightened her hold on the rope so his head wasn’t too free and gripped tight with her knees.

Stardust snorted and jumped, landing with his front feet spread wide. She wrapped her fingers in his long mane and leaned over his neck.

We’re doing this together. You want to run. Well, you’re going to have to do that with me on your back.

The stallion reared high in the air. Anwen clung to his back until he dropped. When he realized that she was still there, he dropped his head and kicked up his heels. She pulled back on the rope, hoping to pull his head up so he couldn’t buck anymore.

Stardust stopped, squealed once again, and burst into a run.

Anwen lay low over his neck and gripped with her knees. With only one rein and an untamed stallion, this would either be the ride of her life or she would be horribly injured when she couldn’t stay on any longer.

Chapter Five

Geona’s Attempt

Geona stood in the middle of the corral. Frolic was at the other end, trying to reach some grass on the other side of the fence.

Geona adjusted the rope on her shoulder and took a deep breath. She was going to catch this horse. She just wasn’t going to rush or get upset. Papa sat on the fence again. He wasn’t saying a word, and she knew other than advice, he wouldn’t help at all. This was up to her.

She lifted up her chin. She didn’t need help. And she knew exactly how to get Frolic.

Geona ambled over to the fence close to where Frolic reached for the grass, but not so close as to spook the filly.

“Oh, you found a treat! I bet you’re missing green grass since they brought you in from the fields.”

Geona didn’t care what she said. She just wanted Frolic to know that she was caring and not a threat. Geona stretched through the fence and grabbed a handful of grass.

She offered it to the filly. “Would you like this?”

Frolic shook her head, eyeing the grass like it was candy. She reached as far as she could without moving her feet. Geona slowly leaned back so the filly couldn’t get the grass. Frolic’s lips extended and flapped in the empty air.

“If you want it, you have to come closer,” she laughed.

Frolic sighed as if she had to accomplish a huge task and took two steps to Geona.

“There you go.”

The filly pulled the grass free and chomped happily. Geona leaned through the fence a second time and got another handful.

This time she held it in her far hand so Frolic had to cross in front of her to reach it. As the filly came closer, Geona ran a hand down her neck.

“Oh, yes, you like the grass, don’t you?”

Frolic froze, waiting for the rope around her neck. Geona thought about trying to catch her but decided that it was too soon. The thought that she almost had caught Frolic made Geona want to dance with happiness, but she forced herself to be calm and go slow.

“How about some more?”

Geona leaned down and crossed in front of Frolic to reach more. Frolic jerked back a little but stood patiently waiting for Geona to serve her with grass.

This time Geona handed the filly the grass and then eased the rope off her shoulder. She placed it over the horse’s neck and slid the halter onto the filly’s head.

Frolic snorted as the rope landed on her nose and threw her head high, but Geona was waiting for that reaction. She hung on and then fastened the halter.

“There you go,” Geona said. She wanted to dance and yell at Papa of her success, but she knew that would only frighten the filly more.

Taking a firm grip on the lead rope, Geona urged her forward to where Papa had gotten off the fence and was waiting for them. His wide grin mirrored hers.

“You did great today. You did exactly what you needed and showed great ability to learn.”

“But, Papa,” Geona protested. “I just got Frolic. Now we can begin training her.”

Papa laughed. “You never want to stop, do you? Yes, this time, we can begin training her. It’s time you do more serious work around here! You shouldn’t just clean stalls anymore. I think it’s about time to ask Master Melchior if you can work in the barn as a stable hand.”

This time Geona couldn’t stop a squeal of excitement!

The Ride Continues…

[]Book 4

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[]Anwen’s Race

Fiction on Fire

All Rights Reserved

Copyright © 2016 Vicki V. Lucas

No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form, stored in any retrieval system, posted on any website, or transmitted in any form or by any means—digital, electronic, scan, photocopy, recording, or otherwise—without written permission from the author, except for brief quotations in printed reviews and articles.

For more information, visit www.vickivlucas.com.

Chapter One

Geona’s Trial

Geona strode into the corral and caught Frolic. Fastening the halter on the filly’s head, Geona whispered to the horse.

“Be on your best behavior. If you do, I’ll be able to help you find a really good home, and maybe Master Melchior will let me work for him!”

And that way I can save my own coin to buy a horse.

But she couldn’t tell Frolic any of that. She didn’t want the filly to become jealous and act up.

She took a firm hold of the rope and led Frolic over to the fence where Papa was standing with a small pail of brushes. She took a wide brush with soft bristles and ran it down Frolic’s neck and wide back.

“Just act like everything is normal today,” Papa said. “Master Melchior is nice and will give you a fair chance. Just focus on doing a good job and forget about him.”

Geona changed sides and nodded. She was far more nervous than she thought she would be. She just wanted this so badly.

“When is he coming?”

“Any time,” Papa said. He took the soft brush, and she reached through the fence for a comb to smooth out Frolic’s mane and tail.

“She’s standing better,” she commented to take her mind off the task at hand.

“You’ve done a great job with her,” Papa said. “She’s still a handful, but she’s not bad. Just high strung.”

“It’s called the spark, Papa,” Geona scolded. “She has an extra spark of life.”

“Oh, is that what it is?” Papa teased.

Geona handed back the comb and didn’t bother to respond to him. He was only looking for a rise out of her. She turned to study Frolic. “She looks good, too.”

“Yes, she does,” Master Melchior said.

Geona jumped, causing Frolic to jerk back. She calmed the filly first, mentally slapping herself for reacting that way, and then turned to greet the owner of the horse farm.

“Good morning, Master Melchior,” she said.

“Same to you, Geona,” he said. “I hear this filly takes after her mother. High strung and difficult.”

Geona bristled. Why does everyone think this?

“All your best mares were once energetic and difficult fillies. You yourself said that high strung fillies turn into mares that produce stallions who run the fastest and try the hardest.” Geona took a deep breath to continue.

“Geona!” Papa said.

Master Melchior raised his hand. “It’s okay, Chester. She’s right. Often a horse that is difficult to handle turns out to be the best. However, in Frolic’s mother’s case, that isn’t the truth, and so far her foals haven’t done much better.”

“I find Frolic very intelligent.” Geona defended the filly. “I know her brothers and sisters were not the best, but I see Frolic thinking. She’s smart and pretty.”

Master Melchior smiled. “Well, she has certainly won your heart. Let’s pretend she’s in the sale ring. Put her through her paces. Let’s see what she can do.”

And what I can do. Geona knew that Papa and Master Melchior agreed that this be a trial run for her as well. If she could get Frolic to perform well, it would prove that she can handle horses.

Geona took a firm grip on the rope to Frolic’s halter and turned her away from the fence. They walked to the middle of the corral.

“Ok, just like we practiced,” she whispered. “This really isn’t hard at all.”

Frolic exhaled softly. Geona turned at the center and stopped. This was the first look a buyer often had of the horse. The horse had to stand perfectly still to give the people interested in her a chance to study her conformation.

Frolic hated this part. Standing still was not something she liked unless there were oats involved.

Geona refused to tense up with her worry. Any emotion like that would give Frolic a signal that something was wrong. Instead, Geona forced herself to relax her muscles and breathe normally.

Frolic danced to the side. Geona gently made her stand again in the proper place. The filly then decided to nod her head like a nasty fly was after her nose. Geona tightened her hold on the rope.

Giving those two tricks up, Frolic pawed the ground impatiently.

“Just keep going,” Papa called.

Geona tried to keep the disappointment off her face. They had failed the first task.

She tried to focus on the next step. They had to walk in a circle two times, trot three times, and then do a slow lope three times.

Frolic didn’t want to walk. She broke into a trot while walking, prancing along like a fool. When Geona tugged on the rope to get her to walk, the filly came to a complete stop with her head high like she was surprised. Then it was back to the prancing.

“What is wrong with you?” Geona hissed. “You’ve been doing this perfectly.”

Trotting and loping were a complete wreck. Instead of moving in a smooth manner to show her gaits, Frolic bounced like a child’s ball. Geona tried to keep her manner calm and act in control, but with each step, she knew she had failed.

Geona was about to demonstrate how Frolic stood while being handled. She had a headache from gritting her teeth and faking a smile, and it was about to get worse. Frolic didn’t like her feet picked up. To be fair, not many horses did. But in the filly’s current mood, she was going to fight Geona the whole time.

What a wreck! She goes through her paces just fine when it’s just Papa and me. And now this dumb horse is wrecking my chance!

She halted Frolic in the center of the ring and ran her hand down the filly’s brown shoulder.

“Geona,” Master Melchior called. “I’ve seen enough. You do not have to continue.”

Geona winced and then turned back to Papa and Master Melchior. “Yes, sir.”

“Your father can put up the filly,” Master Melchior said. “And then your father and I need to talk.”

Papa slipped through the rails and took the rope. He squeezed her shoulder. She knew he was being nice, but it made her almost cry, and that was the last thing she wanted right now.

“Go on to the house,” he said. “I’ll take care of this troublemaker.”

She nodded and slipped through the fence like he had. “Thank you for the time, Master Melchior.”

“You are welcome, my girl,” he said.

She trudged up the small hill to the house. She imagined the things Master Melchior was probably saying.

“She’s a nice girl, but she sure can’t train a horse.”

The house was empty when she got there. She flung off her boots at the door and stomped into her room. Flopping down on her bed, she fought back the tears.

On the small table next to her bed, Mama had left the parchment of her story of Anwen. There was a note next to it with Mama’s handwriting.

Does she train Stardust? Does Stardust win and save Eltiria? I have to know! Keep writing!

Geona had to smile, even though tears hovered, waiting to fall. She picked up her quill and continued the story.

Chapter Two

Anwen’s Ride

Anwen leaned over Stardust’s neck and gripped tighter with her knees. Staying on him took all her attention. There was no way right now to control him. She held the rope in her hands, but her fingers were wrapped around his mane.

Stardust leaped across the stream with a force that pushed her back. She slipped to the side, her balance thrown off. As the stallion scrambled up the hill on the other side of the stream, she pulled herself upright.

The stallion burst into a run down the trail. Anwen fought for air while the horse tore down the trail she had just come on. She leaned as far over his neck as she could, burying her head in his mane. The trees flashed by until they blurred together.

Anwen ducked under one low hanging branch but yelped when another one cut her cheek. She let go of his mane to put her hand to her cheek. Her fingers turned sticky with warm blood.

The trail led up a steep hill. Stardust lunged up it, causing Anwen to slide down his back. She yelled and grabbed at the thick neck.

Don’t fall. Not now!

She wasn’t afraid to fall. She had fallen more times she wanted to admit. She knew how to tuck and roll and how to land on her back. She could pick herself up, wipe off the dust, and get back on.

It wasn’t that.

King Amhar said all of Eltiria’s safety and future depended on her and Stardust winning this race. If they lost, Seiten would escape his prison on Elba Isle and return to wage war against all of Adoyni’s followers. The last time such a war existed, every family was torn apart.

But that wasn’t the real reason she didn’t want to fall off.

Stardust was hers. She didn’t care if Paden’s father, Teilo, claimed ownership. She had found Stardust in the mountains and protected him from a Seeker. Stardust had greeted her when she entered his valley. It had only taken one look to know that they belonged together. Yet Stardust didn’t seem to realize this yet.

If she fell off, she would lose him forever. He would never stop running from her. This was her one chance.

“You’re not losing me!” she yelled.

With all her strength, she clung to him until every bit of her screamed with agony. Her fingers begged to be released from their flimsy hold on his mane. Her legs ached from their grasp. But she refused to let go.

Stardust tore up the hill and didn’t even slow for his descent. Anwen cried in triumph and scrambled back to her place closer to his neck. They flashed by where she had left Paden, but there was no sign of him or his horse, Aniela.

She thought it was strange, but then Stardust left the small trail that led to the stream and burst out into the valley. She leaned over his neck, not even wincing at his mane that hit her face like a whip, and let him run free without trying to control him with the lead rope.

He sped faster than she had ever known a horse to run. She never urged him on, but he seemed to delight in running. His gait was smooth, making staying on his back almost effortless for her.

How long would you run like this? Would you ever stop on your own?

She freed a hand to pat his neck. His gray coat wasn’t even damp from his efforts. He was in top shape.

Glancing ahead, she saw that they were heading toward a steep hill. Anxious to avoid slipping off him like she almost had before, she laid the lead rope on the left side of his neck and leaned to the left.

She laughed when he responded to her and turned to go around the hill. With the proper tack, she could guide him wherever she wanted.

They continued to run through the valley until Anwen realized she didn’t know where they were going. She sat up and pulled back on the rope, trying to slow him down. His great neck bowed, but he only shook his head and kept running.

Anwen squinted. Perhaps there were houses to the west. She leaned again and gave cues with the reins.

But this time Stardust ignored her. He pulled hard with his head and twisted the other direction. She tugged on the lead rope a couple of times. The last time he yanked the rope through her hands so fast it took skin off.

“Ow!” she yelled.

Stardust flicked an ear but he didn’t slow. She gave up and held on as he sped through the grass without easing up. He jumped over streams like they weren’t even there. If she had any control, this would be the greatest ride of her life. As it was, she was merely a passenger.

Stardust ran up a small hill. For the first time, he slowed as he descended. A group of houses sat at the bottom of the grassy incline. On the outskirts lay many corrals and barns. Stardust snorted like he had made a decision and then increased his speed.

Men called at their approach. They ran to open large gates to the largest arena. Anwen prayed to Adoyni for help and urged the stallion to the corral.

Stardust resisted by tossing his head and trying to pull away, but this time she was ready for him. She wrapped the rope around her hand, ignoring the pain, and held the pressure steady.

The stallion conceded. She kept the contact through the rope steady so that he wouldn’t forget and race off somewhere else. The gate loomed close, and then they shot through it. She heard the crash as the men slammed it shut.

Stardust screamed and circled, giving up some of his speed in his desperation to get out. Anwen pulled harder, wincing as the rope cut into her hand.

They circled twice. More people lined the arena. Some were watching. Others prepared ropes to catch Stardust in case he decided to try to jump out.

“Anwen! Here!”

Paden stood on the fence at the far end of the arena, waving to get her attention. A smaller gate was open. She used both her weight and the rope to turn Stardust to Paden while attempting to slow the stallion by sitting up and leaning back.

Stardust responded and loped through the gate into a smaller corral. She slowed him to a trot and then a walk. When she did, Paden threw open a third gate and waved at her with a huge grin.

Stardust tossed his head in defiance when she asked him to go through one more gate, but he obeyed. At a fast walk, they passed through the gate and entered a chute with high fences on each side. This led into the barn. The fences opened up to a small round corral placed in the center of the barn.

Men slid the door to the barn shut while Paden ran and trapped Stardust in the corral with a second gate.

Brilliant! Even if he jumped out of the corral, which looks impossible judging by the height of the fence, he would still be in the barn.

Stardust circled the small pen. When he realized he was trapped, he screamed and reared, his long legs reaching up to the sky. Anwen gripped tightly while she threw her weight forward.

He dropped to the ground but landed with his feet spread like he was ready to bolt but didn’t know which way to go.

“Better get out of the corral before he throws a big fit,” Paden suggested.

Anwen decided he was right. Stardust was going to be furious, and she didn’t think she would be able to console him much. She slid off the gray stallion’s back, willing her legs not to buckle, and unfastened the rope.

“Thank you,” she whispered. “That was a good ride.”

Stardust snorted. Anwen patted him on the neck one last time and then climbed through the rails next to Paden.

The gray stallion shook himself, his long gray mane falling in disarray. With a louder snort, he trotted around the corral two more times.

To everyone’s amazement, he didn’t buck, rear, or even try to jump out. Instead, he walked over to Paden and Anwen. He stopped just short of the fence.

Teilo strode into the barn. “Would you look at that? He remembers Paden. I knew my boy had him tamed. Go on in, Paden. Greet him.”

Paden hesitated and then slipped through the bars. Stardust screamed in anger, rearing high in the air, and struck at Paden.

Paden leaped back through the fence, breathing heavily. “It’s not me, Father. It’s her.” He pointed at Anwen.

Anwen didn’t wait for any answer. Stardust stood quietly again. She climbed through the fence and walked to the gray stallion. He snorted and jerked his head back, but then settled while she stroked his head and neck.

Teilo smacked the fence. “Will nothing go normal anymore? Our best stallion refuses to be trained and then runs away at the first chance, Archippi return him, and now he only allows a girl to handle him?”

Paden grinned. “Can’t say I blame him!”

Anwen flushed at the unexpected compliment. Stardust nudged her gently with his head.

Teilo groaned. “Obviously, Trafferth is going to continue living up to his name. He’s going to keep causing trouble unless that girl is close to him.”

Anwen stared at Teilo.

“Yes, Anwen,” the man continued. “You will be riding Trafferth in the greatest and most important race all of Eltiria has known. You’d better win!”

Chapter Three

Anwen’s Question

“But I can’t ride him,” Anwen protested. “He’s your horse!”

She sat next to Paden on the fence of Stardust’s pen. Everyone else had eaten and gone home to rest. Only she couldn’t sleep. So she snuck out of her luxurious bedroom and crept into the barn with Stardust.

Paden had beaten her there. He was perched on the top of the railing, studying Stardust as the stallion munched on the hay. After she joined him, they sat in silence for some time like old friends, not in a rush to fill the silence with meaningless chatter.

It took a bit of time, but then the conversation came without effort or hesitation. They discussed all of the stallion’s fine points, and Paden even admitted that Stardust was a much better name than Trafferth.

Paden laughed at Anwen, his brown eyes twinkling as he winked at her. “I think Stardust has made it very clear that he belongs to you.”

Anwen’s face grew hot. “But don’t you mind? I mean, you’re the chief’s son. This is your rightful place. And I know you can ride well enough for it. You could probably outride me!”

Paden’s easygoing manner grew serious. “Anwen, what you say is right. This is my place, and I have been training for years for it. But from the moment we brought Stardust in to train for this race, he has fought us. The only person he has accepted is you. This race is too important to fuss about who rides.”

He paused and watched Stardust shake his mane.

Paden cleared his throat like he was nervous. “Besides, I’d really like to know what’s so special about you that Stardust already knows.”

Now Anwen’s face burned. “There’s not… I mean, I’m not special. I mean…”

Paden put his hand on hers. She stopped talking as her heart thudded worse than when she had ridden Stardust. After a few minutes, he slowly moved his hand back, and her fog cleared so that she could think again.

“But what about afterwards? What happens to Stardust then?”

“Let’s just worry about that when the time comes,” Paden said. “Come now. You must rest.”

In a short time, she found herself back in bed where she tossed and turned fitfully until dawn. When the sun began to light the sky, she rose, feeling completely unprepared for what she had come to do.

Outside her door was a small basket covered with a red and black blanket. A note lay folded on top. She picked up the note and read it.

“Please wear the jockey’s clothing for the race.” She pulled a red shirt and black riding pants out of the basket. Someone must have stayed up all night sewing, for the pants were the divided riding skirts she loved to wear.

She obeyed, but just as she was leaving, there was a knock on the door. She opened it.

A young girl with large brown eyes held a tray covered with a red and black towel.

“Your breakfast, miss,” she stuttered.

“Thank you,” Anwen said and took the tray. She shut the door. She found fresh eggs, toast, and a bit of meat on the side with a tall glass of milk. No matter how much milk she drank, she could only choke down a little of the eggs.

She tried leaving again. This time nothing waited for her at the door. She left the large house and made her way to the barn. Although the area was filled with people rushing around, everyone stopped and stared at her as she passed. She held her head high and strode to the barn, trying hard to act like she knew exactly what she was doing and was completely prepared.

She entered the barn and shut the door with a sigh of relief. Paden and his father Teilo stood outside the pen. A small saddle hang on the top railing with a blanket of red and black. Paden held a bridle that had red and black woven through it.

Paden turned at her approach and grinned. “Our tribal colors look good on you!”

She tried to smile, but her muscles didn’t work properly. She thought seeing Stardust would calm her nerves, but the race loomed closer every second.

“We wanted to saddle him for you,” Teilo said. “But the troublemaker wouldn’t let us lay a hand on him. We decided not to stir him up any further. You have to saddle him.”

Anwen slipped through the fence, ignored the saddle, and slowly walked to Stardust. The gray stallion snorted. She stroked his long, thick neck and scratched his head.

“You’ve got to be good today,” she whispered. “More depends on this race than I can tell you. Just bear with the saddle and me, and then run faster than you ever have before.”

Stardust dropped his head onto her chest which she took as his agreement. To her amazement, the horse stood still while she saddled and bridled him.

“Do you know what’s at stake today?” she whispered.

Stardust only flicked an ear.

“We can do this,” she whispered again. “Just ignore everything and run faster than you ever have before.”

Stardust chewed on the bit in response, his long forelock covering his dark eyes.

“As you probably know, this is a cross country race, so make sure to always go between the white markers,” Teilo said. “Judges watch at different parts throughout the course. If you fail to go between even one set of white markers and they see you, you will be disqualified, even if you cross the finish line first.”

Anwen sagged against Stardust’s neck. “But this is impossible. He’s not trained. Yesterday I was barely able to get him here, much less keep him between white posts or keep him from fighting the other stallion.”

“There are a few good things,” Paden said. “First, the race starts and ends here. We won’t take you and him out until moments before the race starts. Second, yesterday you rode bareback with a halter. Now you have a secure saddle and a bridle with a bit and reins. You will have more control. Third, Trafferth, I mean, Stardust is more trained than you know. I worked with him for months. He knows what to do. I just couldn’t ever get him to do it consistently.”

Anwen gritted her teeth. “So now I have to ride an uncontrollable stallion across the mountains in a cross country race with another stallion and an enemy who wants to stop me at any cost?”

A bugle sounded.

Teilo nodded. “That sounds right. And the time to begin is now.”

Chapter Four

Anwen’s Declaration

Anwen listened to the bugle in horror. “Wait! I’m not ready. It’s not… I mean, I don’t…”

“There’s no time,” Paden said. He slipped through the fence, ignoring Stardust’s sudden squeal.

But I’ve never ridden in a race!

Anwen wanted to collapse on the ground. She trained race horses, sometimes even rode them, but it was the jockeys that raced. Getting a race horse to the finish line first was an art, something special that only certain people had. It required quick thinking, close knowledge of the horse, and a great deal of daring. You had to know when to push and when to wait. When to rush fast and to save energy. And each jockey needed to know the course.

She knew none of this. She didn’t even know how long the course was. Paden and Teilo didn’t seem to care anymore. As Paden boosted her into the saddle, Teilo swung the gate open.

Paden quickly fastened a lead rope to the bridle as she gathered the reins.

“I can lead you to the starting line,” he said. “The rest will be up to you. Ride strong. You can do this.”

She nodded, unable to speak. Stardust shifted under her, and she gripped with her knees. At her pressure, the stallion snorted and reared.

She leaned forward and waited until he landed on the ground. Then she took a deep breath and forced her muscles to relax.

Paden waited until she nodded that she was ready, and then he led Stardust into the sunlight. Anwen blinked as the bright light blinded her. When she could see again, she forgot about Stardust and the race to stare at the crowds of people who had gathered.

The crowd was an array of color, each person wearing the colors of one of the two tribes. Closest to her were people garbed in black and red, broadcasting their allegiance to her and Stardust. Further away, the clothes changed to blue and silver.

Anwen tried to ignore the people and focus on the path before her. Stardust pranced and threw his head as the roar of the crowd deafened her. Paden led them through the people, some so close they almost touched her and the stallion, and into an open area.

A tall bay horse stood at a line in the sand. As Stardust drew near, the bay pinned his ears back and lunged at Stardust. Stardust returned the attack and reared to kick the bay’s head away.

“Asra!” the man riding the bay stallion shouted. He savagely yanked the horse’s head to the side. “Save your energy for the race.”

With a cold glance, he glared at Anwen. “Although we won’t need it with a girl.” He turned to Teilo. “Is this the best you could come up with?”

Teilo coldly regarded the jockey. “Keep your horse under control, Derog. And keep your business to riding.”

Derog sneered. “You have no authority over me, and I shall grind this dog and the girl riding it into the dust.”

Anwen felt her cheeks flush with anger but had no time to respond as Stardust reared, shrieking and striking out with his front hooves. Paden pulled on the rope still attached to the bridle while Anwen struggled to stay on. Stardust dropped to the ground but pawed the ground until large dust clouds filled the air.

A tall, old man whose skin was dark and streaked with wrinkles walked between the two stallions. The crowd hushed in recognition and respect.

“Due to the hostility of the stallions, it has been decided to forgo the opening ceremony and proceed to the race.”

The crowd booed and hissed in disappointment. After a show of their displeasure, they quieted.

“Anwen,” the old man turned to her. “You are new to our ways, and the reason why Teilo’s tribe chose you to ride their stallion is unclear to me. Be that as it may, it is within the rules for them to choose whoever they want. Before I start this race, I want you to be clear of a few items.”

Anwen swallowed and nodded.

The man stepped closer. “This race is long and hard. You sit the stallion with confidence. You know how to ride. But this race will be harder and more dangerous than anything you’ve ever faced. On top of that, there are no judges to maintain that each contestant follow the rules of not hurting each other or the other horses. Do you understand? And if so, will you continue?”

Is he trying to tell me that this Derog may attack me or Stardust?

Fear gave her stomach another twist. Derog seemed to read her thoughts as he gave her an evil smirk.

She raised her chin. She spoke as firmly as she could. “I understand, and I will win this race.”

Teilo’s tribe roared with approval. Stardust seemed to sense the mood as he reared, not in attack, but in show. His long dusty white mane fell in cascades over his neck.

The old man raised his hands for quiet and instantly received it. “Remember to ride between the white markers. While we do not monitor every section of the road, there are men placed randomly out there to ensure you do not take any shortcuts. And now to your post.”

The crowd strained to see the starting line. Derog pulled Asra’s head sharply to the side hard and spurred him deeply in the side. The horse jumped in pain and did as commanded.

Anwen bit back the angry words she wanted to say to Derog about his treatment of the tall bay stallion, but she couldn’t say anything to help the poor horse at this point.

We’re winning this race. Not only Eltiria hangs on this moment, but I’m making sure to rescue that stallion! Derog will never touch a horse again!

Paden slipped off the rope. He laid his head on her boot. “Stay within the white markers and run as fast as you can. If you’re ahead, he can’t hurt you or Stardust. Adoyni goes with you.”

“Thank you,” she whispered. “See you at the finish line.”

“No,” he grinned. “See you at the winner’s circle!”

With that, he stepped back, and she was on her own.

Chapter Five

Anwen’s Race

Stardust understood what was happening and didn’t need urging. He leaped forward to the starting line. Anwen gently leaned to the left, away from Derog and Asra. The gray stallion pulled on the reins, still determined to fight Asra, but Anwen held firm.

Derog glanced her way and forced the bay stallion to sidestep closer to them. Stardust pulled out of her hold and snapped at Asra’s neck, almost drawing blood.

“Foul!” Derog yelled. “This girl is unable to control the horse.”

The old man didn’t react to the horses’ antics. Again he stood between the stallions, showing no fear. Anwen wondered what this old man had done in his life to gain so much respect from people and horses.

I’d like to hear his story some day.

The old man pulled a red cloth from his pocket. “Derog, move your horse away from the other stallion. Anwen, when I let go of this red cloth, the race begins.”

The crowd seemed to hold their breath. With Derog and Asra farther away, Stardust allowed her to straighten him out. Between his ears, she found the first two white markers. She rose in her saddle to put her weight over his withers, where he would carry it best, and waited for the signal to go.

The stallions stood still for a minute. Her heart pounded in her ears. The cloth dropped. The crowd roared. She yelled at Stardust to run. The stallion burst into action, pushing off his back legs and throwing himself forward in a sudden explosion of speed.

Asra leaped forward after them. Anwen leaned over Stardust’s neck, allowing him to settle into his run before urging him faster. Asra stayed beside them, not able to gain the lead.

Anwen grinned. The bay isn’t able to go any faster than Stardust. We already have him beat!

The crowd continued to roar as the horses swept passed the people to the first marker. Anwen ignored them as she focused on the pointing Stardust in the right direction. If she missed the white markers, the race would be over before it began. Stardust settled into his long stride, and his mane whipped her face.

Asra edged closer to her. She leaned away from him, and Stardust responded to her request. But the bay stallion continued to run almost on top of her. She asked Stardust to angle to the left, and again he did as she asked.

She glanced ahead to the white markers. She found one on her left that was exactly where it should be, but when she tried to locate the second one, it was gone.

In a panic, she sat up on Stardust’s back and scanned the area. It sat on the other side of the first marker. With a gasp, she realized what Derog had done. He had pushed her out of the markers so that she would either miss going through them or slow down which would give him the lead.

She had to make the choice now. They were almost to the markers. With a yell, she pulled on the reins. Derog laughed as Stardust shook his head and fought her. She grabbed the right rein and pulled his head to her knee, hating herself as she did.

Stardust slowed as he was forced in a circle. She straightened him out and shot through the white markers. Derog was dropping down the first hill. Even his dust had settled to the ground.

Derog’s tribe cheered with victory while Teilo’s tribe booed and hurled curses at her. Her face flushed, and she wanted to kick herself for falling for such a dirty trick. Not only that, but she had to treat Stardust in a horrible way. Now they would have to run even harder just to catch up.

She took a deep breath and petted Stardust’s neck.

“Sorry, boy,” she said over the wind. “Now let’s fly!”

She knew one thing. The race was long. It crossed hills and mountains, streams and meadows. There was time for Derog to make a mistake, for Asra to run out of breath, for a million things to happen.

Stardust settled into his long run, eating up the ground. Anwen decided to let Derog lead for a bit while they worked on catching up without straining too hard. At least she wouldn’t have to spend time finding the way to go.

The time slipped away as she followed Derog. She watched every marker to make sure she didn’t make any more mistakes, and there wasn’t much for Derog to do to her with them behind.

Not knowing how long the course was, she decided to risk taking the lead before Stardust became too exhausted to run any faster. Anwen leaned forward and urged the stallion faster.

Stardust responded as if he was just waiting to run faster. Anwen patted his neck in praise. All the struggles and fighting had ceased with this race. He was born to run. She grinned, betting herself that he would be a handful when they returned to the stable.

But she had to focus. She chose the time to urge him faster according to the terrain. One slip could wreck his legs forever. If the ground was too rocky, she made Stardust slow down. But when it was flat and smooth, they ran with the wind.

They slowly closed the distance until Derog and Asra ran in front of them. Derog turned around in his saddle and leered at them. Anwen ignored him. She wasn’t falling for any of his tricks again.

They topped a hill and below them lay the meadow with the finish line. Anwen was surprised to see that they made a complete circle and had returned back to the starting line where the tribes waited for their return.

Stardust gained on Asra on the descent. When they made it to the flat of the meadow, they were running side by side.

Anwen watched Derog for more tricks. She remembered what Paden said.

If you’re ahead of him, he can’t hurt you or Stardust.

She leaned over Stardust’s neck. Her legs ached from riding so hard for so long, and she could only imagine what the stallion must be feeling. His neck was coated with sweat, and there was white foam where the reins lay on his neck.

Stardust responded to her gentle urging. Derog saw them pulling ahead. With a roar, he whipped Asra hard. The bay stallion surged forward but couldn’t maintain the speed. Derog beat the bay harder but with no avail.

“Now, Stardust!” Anwen shouted. “Run!”

The big white stallion reached somewhere deep within himself. His stride lengthened as he ran faster than ever before. Anwen clung on, fighting to breathe and stay somewhat in control.

They inched passed Derog. Asra’s head was at Stardust’s shoulders. Then the bay’s head was by her feet. As they left Asra behind, Derog yelled. Anwen saw his whip raise, but before she could react, it fell onto Stardust’s back.

The white stallion screamed with pain. He stumbled. Asra plunged forward. The last white marker flashed by. Anwen yelled in horror as the race seemed lost.

“Come, Stardust!” she shouted. “Run!”

The stallion regained his stride and speed. Pushing forward, he matched Asra. She leaned over Stardust’s neck.

“Now! Run like the wind, and I’ll take care of Derog!”

Stardust surged with a great burst of speed and surged ahead. As they passed Derog and Asra, Anwen saw the whip rise again.

Before it could fall, she leaned over. Balancing precariously on one stirrup, she reached to Derog and snatched the whip out of his hand. He grabbed for her, but she flicked the whip at him, trying hard not to hit Asra.

Derog pulled back with a strong curse. Anwen straightened back into her saddle. She threw the whip on the ground with a vengeance and looked up to the finish line.

We’re almost there!

She urged Stardust even faster, risking one last glance to Derog. The bay stallion had slowed considerably without the harsh whip to spur him on. Stardust crossed the line while Teilo’s tribe’s cheers echoed in her ears.

“We did it!” she shouted to Stardust. Leaning over to pet him, she said softer, “No, you did it, my wonderful stallion. You did it all!”

Chapter Six

Geona’s Answer

Geona watched Mama put the last piece of parchment down on the table Papa had made. Mama took a deep breath and sighed.

“Whew!” she said. “I wasn’t sure what Anwen was going to do there, and I loved how she stole the whip from that awful Derog.”

Geona laughed. “I wanted her to use it on him more, but I was afraid that old man wouldn’t let her win the race if that was what she did.”

“That old man was interesting!” Mama said. “What’s his story?”

“I don’t know,” Geona admitted. “But he’s really good with horses.”

“You’ll have to write his story next, and I want to know what happens with Anwen and Stardust. Will she stay there with Stardust or take him back to Shalock Stables? And what about Paden? It seems like he likes Anwen.”

Geona grinned. “I guess you’ll just have to read the next stories.”

“You’ve done your assignment very well,” Mama said. “I’d still like to see more history and more about the religion, but you weaved your tale well.”

“Thank you, Mama,” Geona said.

“Now Papa said for us to meet him at the barn when we were finished,” Mama said. “It seems that Master Melchior has made his decision.”

Geona nodded. Suddenly she couldn’t talk. Now she felt like Anwen did right before the race. If Master Melchior agreed to let her work in the barn, she could start saving money for her very own horse.

They walked to the barn, not talking. As they approached the corrals, she saw Papa and Master Melchior talking by the fence.

“Ah, good!” Master Melchior smiled. “We were just talking about you!”

Geona swallowed. “You were?”

Papa stood by Mama. “Master Melchior has something to ask both of you.”

Master Melchior nodded. “Listen, Geona, I know Frolic is a difficult horse. Her mother has been trouble since she was a foal, and her babies have continued the tradition. I think you’re right in that Frolic is the best of all her foals, but she still is a handful. I think we gave you an unfair trial by asking you to test on her.”

Geona nodded, not trusting her voice. He was going to say no. She had failed because Frolic had been so ornery. Mama squeezed her shoulder.

“I know Frolic did poorly today,” Master Melchior admitted. “But I wasn’t really watching her. I was watching you. I was watching the way you handled her.”

Geona held her breath until her lungs almost popped. She just knew he was going to say that she couldn’t work in the barn.

“I liked what I saw,” Master Melchior smiled. “You handled all of her antics calmly and with a great amount of patience. The situation had to be very frustrating for you, with so much hanging on how she performed, but you never once showed that, and you never once reacted with anger to Frolic.”

Maybe he was going to say yes. Geona couldn’t tell now.

“Patience, self-control, and determination are marks of a true horse trainer,” he continued. “You handled yourself better than a lot of men I know. That is why I’d be pleased and honored to have you working in my barns. If your father and mother agree, you can start work tomorrow!”

“Oh, please, Ma and Pa,” Geona shrieked. “Please say yes!”

Mama and Papa smiled at each other and made a decision without talking to each other first.

“Of course, sweetie,” Mama said. “You can start tomorrow!”

Geona jumped in the air with another shriek. Then she remembered the horses and quieted down. “Thank you! And thank you, Master Melchior! I won’t let you down. I promise!”

“I know you won’t,” Master Melchior laughed.

“Now run back to the house and help your mother get dinner on,” Papa said. “You have a big day tomorrow.”

“Yes, sir!” she replied.

As Mama and Geona walked back to the house, Geona couldn’t stop the stream of words in her excitement.

“And maybe I’ll earn enough coin that I can buy my own horse after we move to Shalock Stables!”

“Now, Geona,” Mama said. “I don’t want you to get too excited about that. Shalock Stables will be a lot different than here. We don’t know what it will be like until we get there.”

“But, Mama,” Geona protested. “All the best adventures start there. That’s where the Archippi are normally first seen. And there’s bound to be plenty of horses, even one for me! We’ll be on a great adventure!”

“I think it will just be normal life,” Mama said. “Shalock Stables isn’t going to bring you great adventures like Anwen.”

Geona didn’t want to argue, but she didn’t agree with Mama at all. Soon they would be moving to Shalock Stables, and she just knew something great was going to happen. Their move wasn’t the end but the beginning of some great adventure.

And she can’t wait for it to begin.

  • * *

Who do you think is right? Mama or Geona?

Find out when Geona arrives at Shalock Stables in Flashes of Ember!

[]Horse Hints

If you were reading these stories carefully, you noticed that both Anwen and Geona tried to calm their emotions before working with their horses. They didn’t want to be too stressed or nervous around them because that would cause the horses to become nervous or stressed too.

But is this true, or is it just something fiction writers like to use?

YES!

Not only is it fun for us fiction writers to use, but horses are quicker to sense emotion than we are. They are highly emotional animals. When they feel another horse in their herd become worried or nervous, their quick response to this emotion may save their life if it’s a mountain lion stalking them.

If you’re having problems with a horse, check your own emotions first. Are you stressed about something? Perhaps you’re nervous.

I had an Arabian for over seventeen years. I was amazed at how connected she was to my emotions. When I realized that, I used to play it with some to see what she would do. I would act like I was nervous while riding her to see her prance and snort. It was fascinating to see how quickly she mirrored my emotions, both in becoming nervous and calming down.

So what should you do while working with horses?

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Slow down. We are very concerned with time, but horses are not. You may go to the barn with a list of things you want to do, and if it doesn’t get done, you get stressed. The horses may act up because they feel that something is wrong. So just take it easy and enjoy the day. Your list can wait.

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Enjoy your horse. If you’re having a bad day, there is nothing better than the barn. But instead of trying to accomplish some great feat, take some time to enjoy each other. Groom your horse until he is spotless. Bring out the treats. Let their calm spirit soothe yours.

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Laugh. Horses don’t laugh like we do, but they know what we’re doing. They know there’s nothing to worry about when we are laughing.

[]Questions and Answers

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Stardust recognizes Anwen by smell. Could a horse really do this?

It has been proven that horses have better noses than humans, but they’re not as sensitive as a dog’s nose. They can identify horses, people, etc, and even smell medicine when we hide it in their treats. The smell of a person, especially one who took care of him or her, will be remembered for many, many years. Make sure to let a horse sniff you as introduction and a reminder of who you are.

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Teilo, Paden’s father, calls Stardust a troublemaker, and he is unable to even touch the stallion. Yet Anwen is able to ride him without much trouble. Would horses change this much for people?

Absolutely! I have seen many well-behaved horses act up with different people, and I’ve seen wild horses calm with the right person. I am convinced that you need to match personalities to horses. I have ridden many horses that I didn’t connect with, and I have ridden many horses I loved from first sight. I believe one key to success is matching the correct rider with the right horse. A person who is calm and easy-going may not like a horse that is filled with energy, preferring a quieter horse instead.

If you have a question you’d like answered, send me an email at [email protected]

But be warned: you may just see it in a future book!

[]PRONUNCIATION GUIDE

People

Geona: Gee-on-ah

Places

Eltiria: el-TEAR-e-a

Shalock Stables: Sha-lock

Shiel: she-ll. Like shield without the d.

Beings

Adoyni: add-DA-nigh

Other

Archippos: arc-HE-pus

Archippi: arc-HE-pi

Don’t miss The Tales of Shalock Stables!

In Flashes of Ember, Geona She can’t wait to explore Shalock Stables on her first day there, but her dreams are crashed when she finds out the rules. But when she sees a chestnut filly being abused, she has to do something. Geona risks her life to save the filly, but the dangers are greater than she had imagined. Is the filly lost forever, or can she save them from disaster?

The story continues in Ember’s Choice. Master Meyrick believes Ember will never be trained, but Geona is more worried that Ember wants to leave forever. As the filly stops eating, Geona begins a fight to keep Ember with her, even though she may have to say goodbye.

[]VICKI V. LUCAS

Vicki V. Lucas gave up her career teaching English as a Second Language at a university to wander in unknown worlds with her husband and two young daughters. Now she records the stories she hears on the wind while she wanders the mountains and rivers of Central Idaho. She has published four fantasy novels for teens and tweens, a young adult supernatural novel, a nonfiction book called The Truth About Angels: What the Bible Says, and a short story series titled Angel Warrior Files. Explore further at vickivlucas.com.

Other Places:

Facebook: [+ https://www.facebook.com/pages/Vicki-V-Lucas/296644940383708?ref=hl+]

Twitter: https://twitter.com/VickiVLucas

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/vickivlucas/

 

 


The Chronicles of Anwen

Geona sat at the wooden kitchen table, gazing out the small window at the barns of Master Melchior's stables beside Shiel Lake, the prettiest place in all of Eltiria. The mares would soon have their foals, and Papa was bringing down the yearlings ready to train and sell today. She was stuck with a writing assignment for school. Maybe if she hurried, Mama would let her go to the barns earlier. With a quill and some parchment, Geona starts writing the story of Anwen, who rescues a beautiful wild stallion, rides flying horses, and races to save Eltiria. As Geona's own adventures continue, will she ever get her own horse? Will she have adventures like Anwen one day?

  • Author: Vicki V Lucas
  • Published: 2017-01-09 06:50:24
  • Words: 22361
The Chronicles of Anwen The Chronicles of Anwen