In which Meagan and her Mongolian warpony, Targa, are given a poor welcome …
SUCCUMBING TO THE taunts, the young knight lifted his legs wide and clapped them to Chouchou’s broad sides. The heavy horse grunted and sauntered off to meet the line of horsemen.
“Of all the … Henryk! Come back here!” A chorus of shouts came from the horsemen, and one shrill battle cry from Henryk. When the young knight raised his sword, it dawned on Meagan that Henryk was truly attacking—though his charge was scarcely a walk. “Oh be serious, Henryk! There’s seven of them! And they can’t catch me anyway.”
The knights charged on.
“Please, Henryk. Let’s just go. You don’t have chain mail, remember? Henryk!”
The horsemen clashed in brief anticlimax. Henryk batted a lance away with his sword, but then Chouchou stopped completely. Henryk was left kicking to restart his mount while the seven continued on, coming for Meagan.
Wonderful, she thought, turning Targa in the other direction. I hate knights. She cantered over the top of a hill and glided down the other side. At the bottom she slowed, hoping the men had stopped. Moments passed before Meagan heard the rumble of hoof beats. Rising over the hill came the horsemen, swords out, lumbering in slow motion.
“It is too ridiculous!” Meagan said out loud in frustration. Clucking to Targa, she skirted in front of them and cantered back up the hill, leaving the horsemen to interfere with each other as they tried to turn. She cantered over the hill and almost collided with another band of riders.
Targa ducked away from this second wave of horsemen. Looking back, Meagan expected to see her pursuers toiling away in the distance—instead, three galloping riders were coming up fast behind her. These were not armored knights on slow heavy horses, but caped men on sleek runners.
Meagan clamped her legs around Targa and gave the pony her head. Across an open field they ran, the pony mare stretched out in a dead run. Meagan saw a line of woods and turned toward them. The pony was fast and the long-legged horses did not gain—but neither did they fall behind.
After the day’s travel Targa was beginning to tire. The racing mare’s breath came in bursts. A shadow darted to the side of them and stopped—they were past it before Meagan realized it was an arrow striking the ground. Another sailed past, closer. Crouching, she drove the pony toward the trees…
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.