The chariot teams maneuvered into a line of ornate starting boxes. The cheering dipped as the last chariots pulled inside, and exploded as the gates swung open and twelve chariots surged forward in a ragged line.
Two teams tangled in the opening rush and faltered as the Imperial chariot surged forward. From Meagan’s distance the field was a pack of scrambling color, but the Imperial black horses were easy to spot. She leaned in sympathy as they galloped to the first turn. The driver Braedin cut back and Cerberus dug against the traces—the crowd roared as the Emperor’s chariot tilted and skimmed across the flying sand. Saxon leapt around the turn, gouging up great sprays before heeling to the inside track. The chariots scattered across the curve and disappeared around the turn.
Chariot racing was more like sledding than a race of speed. Horses were never able to reach top speed in the heavy sand, so the teams jostled for position as they galloped from end to end, braking and wheeling around each turn. The center spina obscured the view of the horses galloping on the opposite side of the track, which added to the tension as half the crowd screamed in imagination of the unseen action.
Meagan waited anxiously until the field came back into view. Progress of the horses on the far stretch of track could be followed, for the chariots raised clamor and dust as they passed. Workers darted out of the way of the chariots, while behind them others worked to clear the fallen. Water boys ran up and down the center spine, wetting the track.
Horses streamed into Meagan’s view amid plumes of sand. The two lead chariots ran well ahead of the Emperor’s team, but the trailing field was bottled behind the Imperial horses, reluctant to meet Cerberus. One team tried to pass, making an attempt to come inside. The crowd rioted to see the gains the rivals were making, four horse heads stretching in unison, moving up with each stride. Braedin slashed his opponent with his whip and ducked when his turn came.
When the advancing team was close enough Braedin edged Cerberus to the inside. The stallion lunged, and the surprised rival horses swerved to foul their inside neighbors. Chariots locked wheels, and the collision cleared a section of chariots in a series of crashes that each earned a shocked scream from the crowd. The survivors swept from sight around the curve. A roar greeted the horses on the other side of the stadium.
Excerpted from Eclipsed by Shadow, the award-winning first volume of “The Legend of the Great Horse” trilogy. (Hrdbk pg. 166)
Book II: The Golden Spark will be published soon.
Read the 1st Chapter online!
Copyright © 2008 John Royce