On the run in the Middle Ages with Meagan’s Mongolian warpony, Targa, and Knight Henryk’s stout (some might say “fat”) horse Chouchou.
IN PLACES THE road dwindled to a bare line in the grass, in others it became a muddy bog. By late afternoon the path began to travel past cultivated fields and thatched houses. Coming over a hill, Meagan and Henryk saw a village ahead. The road ran through the settlement and up another hill, disappearing under a stone archway—the walls of the Castle Sobrezy.
There was no drawbridge, though the stone walls were square and crenellated, and towers rose from the corners. Guards walked the parapets and flags waved from high turrets. Below, men on horses practiced archery before the rampart, cantering across the green in a display of rolling color.
“Allez!” Henryk called, slapping Chouchou heartily. Meagan hesitated. The stone fortress seemed to forbid visitors, not welcome them. She looked up; the overcast sky hid any sign of the nomad army. She gave Targa a reassuring pat—for herself—and started towards the castle.
No one challenged them as they rode past fields of men swinging rakes. A gray ox pulled a cart across the shorn field as hands heaved bundles of hay aboard. Swarms of children gathered scraps.
The road through the village was rutted and foul. Buzzing hornets and flies, squealing cartwheels and babies’ cries filled the air. Geese flapped from round poultry houses, bells hanging from their outstretched necks. A pond lay at the bottom of the hill, with a trough dug into one end. The horses nickered at the sight.
Meagan steered toward the pond. “We should water the horses here, Henryk, before we go on.”
Women gathered in groups at the edge of the brown water, washing laundry with hiked skirts. Henryk lifted his sword to them and kissed its hilt before dismounting. The women tittered and whispered to each other as Meagan rolled her eyes.
Arriving at the trough, Targa made dainty sips while watching the women carefully. Chouchou dunked his head into the green water and took long draughts, his ears moving in time with his swallows. Targa suddenly lifted her head. The mare’s tiny ears strained forward, nostrils wide and testing the air. Henryk’s smile faded and he pulled Chouchou from the water.
Seven horsemen riding massive horses moved ponderously toward them across the field…
Copyright © 2008 John Royce
Eclipsed by Shadow (Book #1 of the trilogy) won national awards including the Eric Hoffer Award for best Young Adult Fiction, and the Mom’s Choice Award for best family-friendly Young Adult Fantasy.