#54- The Emperor’s Stables

“Horses helped Meagan through the dark days. The familiar rhythms of their care was an anchor to the world she had always known.” – Eclipsed by Shadow (excerpt)

Charioteer of the Greens (Ancient Rome)In the year 100 A.D.

The Emperor’s chariots belonged to the Green corporation, and it was impossible to forget. Green banners flapped against squat mortar buildings and green ribbons adorned iron-grilled gates. Guards and supervisors wore leek-colored tunics and the horses worked in green-dyed wrappings and pads.

Inside the Emperor’s compound, stern horsemanship was executed with clockwork precision. Daylight hours were filled with the rumbling of chariots and shouts of men. First feeding was sharply at dawn and repeated at regular intervals throughout the day. Fresh water was supplied continuously and the stalls cleaned in rotation.

Horses helped Meagan through the dark days. The familiar rhythms of their care was an anchor to the world she had always known. Stall cleaning was her duty: slaves of better rank carried out feeding and grooming. The horses’ mangers were stuffed with fragrant hay and grains, but every morning a stained cart was wheeled down the rows, from which meat and eggs were distributed to mix with the feed. Romans believed feeding sparrow’s eggs, ground feathers and birds’ blood logically made a horse run faster.

“No, they do not,” Meagan had protested in broken Latin. “Horses are … are…”

“Horses are what?” asked a sneering voice behind her. She turned to see the baleful gaze of the Master of Horse. A waft of pungent perfume seeped from his toga. “Please, tell us. Horses are … what?”

“I-I don’t know,” Meagan said, flustered. She wanted to say “vegetarian” but could not think of the Latin word.

The man blinked up at her and wrinkled his nose. “Better not to offer opinions in the Emperor’s stable, I think. Others might find out we use idiots here.”

Meagan observed the other workers’ downcast eyes and remained silent. Later, she would learn the Master of Horse was called Posthumous, a name commonly given to a son born after his father’s death. Others’ descriptions of his character added colorful phrases to her vocabulary.

Excerpted from Eclipsed by Shadow, the award-winning 1st volume of “The Legend of the Great Horse” trilogy. (Hrdbk pg. 128)

Book II: The Golden Spark will be published soon.

Read the 1st Chapter online!

Copyright © 2008 John Royce

#53- The Master of Horse

The stallion renewed his fight and pandemonium filled the aisle. Restraining chains were linked. In the end the black stallion was safely conducted outside, leaving the dazed grooms staggering as if on a battlefield. – Eclipsed by Shadow (excerpt)

“Mea-gan.”

The gentle call came again, and she recognized the soldier Horace standing in the guard line. His helmet’s shadow obscured his scarred face. Glancing to make sure the supervisor was not looking, she gave him a quick wave.

The first worker was called. The supervisor pulled a pin from one of the doors and swung it around on enormous hinges. A narrow closet of a stall appeared, presenting a black stallion’s muscular hind end. The chosen worker looked dumbfounded as he was handed a woven basket and scoop. Stall cleaning, Meagan thought resignedly. Some things never change.

The stallion shifted in the narrow confines of his stall as the shaking worker knelt beside the open door and began to delicately scrape the closest clods. Exasperated, the supervisor raised his voice and gave the horse’s rump an ill-considered slap.

The enraged stallion bunched his hindquarters and launched a kicking barrage. Chain broke from the masonry and the horse rushed backwards like a dam giving way. Meagan flattened against the wall as men came from both directions. The stallion lunged at a nearby groom—alien behavior for a horse—and wheeled to attack another. Men scrambled to escape the deadly hooves.

Grooms ran and tossed ropes until the raging horse was trussed like a fly in a web. The scene had almost quieted when a piercing whine filled the stable aisle. Workers and guards came to attention as a pale, puny man in an oversized toga entered, flanked by armed men. The Master of Horse had arrived.

The man pointed and shouted and called out instructions until the scene was more confused than before. The stallion renewed his fight and pandemonium filled the aisle. Restraining chains were linked. In the end the black stallion was safely conducted outside, leaving the dazed grooms staggering as if on a battlefield.

The horse was clearly a product of harsh treatment, Meagan thought. An emblem of Rome’s brutality. She watched the Master of Horse angrily confront the supervisor, who pointed first to the abject servant who crouched, cowering, and then to Meagan who remained standing. The Master of Horse took measured steps to stand in front of her, coming only to her chin but managing to look down on her. She did recognize the Latin words for “pain” and “punishment,” since they were repeated several times.

Excerpted from Eclipsed by Shadow, the award-winning 1st volume of “The Legend of the Great Horse” trilogy. (Hrdbk pg. 125)

Book II: The Golden Spark will be published soon.

Read the 1st Chapter online!

Copyright © 2008 John Royce