The Scythian Tomb

Meagan expected the horses to whirl away, erupting in stampede. She scrambled to avoid being trampled and was stopped by a wall of packed earth. But no horse wheeled and ran, no horse gave alarm. All stood in rigid silence, immobile, and she did the same. – Eclipsed by Shadow excerpt

ECLIPSED BY SHADOW | 'The Legend of the Great Horse' trilogy book cover (90x135px)

This excerpt is from Eclipsed by Shadow, Book #1 of The Legend of the Great Horse trilogy, an adventure through history―on horseback.

The scene is set in 700 BC: Meagan flees a chariot-led attack and finds refuge …

Wherever man has left his footprint in the long ascent from barbarism, we will find the hoof print of the horse beside it.

—John Trotwood Moore (1852-1929)

Meagan expected the horses to whirl away, erupting in stampede. She scrambled to avoid being trampled and was stopped by a wall of packed earth. But no horse wheeled and ran, no horse gave alarm. All stood in rigid silence, immobile, and she did the same.

Shadows from smoking torches shifted as she stared through the gloom. Each horse’s tail was tightly wrapped and each mane was pulled short. Crude, stirrup-less saddles made of stuffed pillows were held in place by a girth, breast collar and crupper. The horses’ heads were topped with headdresses made of leather or fur, spouting feathers and links of gold. The effect was garish and otherworldly.

All the animals obediently faced the same direction. Very well behaved, she thought, impressed with the horsemanship. In the middle of the dim room, two horses flanked a kind of carriage, harnessed with roughly cut straps across their narrow chests. Only a few horses had riders; these sat mounted, staring ahead … but no one acknowledged her.

Meagan looked carefully around her. The walls enclosed a space the size of small warehouse. A rank, sickly sweet smell permeated the air. Wisps of smoke from the torches rose and disappeared into the round shaft above.

Uneven light and moving shadows made it hard to see clearly. Meagan moved towards one of the horses. She reached out and stroked its hindquarters as she tried to study the carriage more closely. Though it was in the darkest part of the room, she could see two wheels and a light cab, like a trotter’s buggy. The cart was made of wood and the sides were mounted with gold decorations of griffins, eagles and predator cats.

It could almost be the inside of a kind of a tomb, Meagan thought. She swallowed, thinking it seemed recently finished, if so. The torches had not even gone out…

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.

« “The First Ride” || “The Arena” »
The Legend of the Great Horse trilogy is an adventure through history … each section is about a different time period. The above excerpt is from “Home,” the 1st section of Eclipsed by Shadow, set in modern-day California.

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.

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#46- The Shadow Falls

Meagan froze with her hand on the horse, having a gradual realization she was touching cold flesh. She backed to the wall. – Eclipsed by Shadow excerpt

“Nice horse,” she said, crossing in front of a motionless mount to look for a way out. She patted the horse’s neck gently. It was a piebald, speckled black and white. The animal’s eyes were dull in the torchlight.

Meagan froze with her hand on the horse, having a gradual realization she was touching cold flesh. She backed to the wall. In the dim, red light she could see foreleg-sized posts set into the ground beneath the horses, impaling them, supporting their corpses. Now she saw the horses’ bodies were subtly misshapen, deflated, twisted in grotesque angles by the beams that skewered them into place.

She moved along the wall, her back to it, facing the grisly mannequins. The wall was smooth. She pounded her fist against it. Solid earth. Scraping, letting it tear at her hands, Meagan moved along the wall. Why did Promise bring me here? The stink of the room seemed to rise from the ground and overwhelm her.

She remembered the headdresses of the horses from magazine pictures, excavated from ancient tombs filled with horses ritually massacred for the funeral of their leader. Meagan was surrounded by the gold of a long vanished nomadic people—a dead entourage escorting their passing king to the underworld.

If this was such a place then she was no longer home, but in a long-dead past. The words of the legend swirled in her mind … eclipsed by shadow… She was in the darkness. The room seemed to close in as she sank down, fists clenched against her head.

Excerpted from Eclipsed by Shadow, the award-winning 1st volume of “The Legend of the Great Horse” trilogy (Hrdbk pg. 109)

Book II: The Golden Spark will be published soon.

Read the 1st Chapter online!

Copyright © 2008 John Royce

#44- Into the darkness (700 BC) …

THE DROP WAS not far, not more than ten feet. For a time Meagan lay with her eyes and hands clenched shut, trying to make sense of recent events. Slowly she opened her eyes and let her vision adjust to the dim light around her. A hoof stood inches from her face. – Eclipsed by Shadow excerpt

One of the riders stopped on the ground below…

Until that moment Meagan had been too stunned for fear, but she looked into the man’s slitted eyes and backed away from the edge. He saw her. The rider’s thin arm motioned and an object whistled past her. Two yards away a spear jabbed into the bare ground. Its end rocked. Another spear shot up. Meagan scuttled for the center pit as the new missile streaked overhead. She caught the edge of the pit and lowered herself, kicking for a peg. Another spear arced up, but she did not wait to see where it fell.

She stepped down, bare foot waving until she found a peg. Heavy air insulated the sounds of battle as she descended the dim tunnel. One peg gave slightly and shifted. Meagan froze. She flattened against the side of the pit, testing the nub with her weight. With a sudden twist Meagan’s support was gone. For a brief second she hung in space, scrambling against the scraped earth, kicking dirt away before she fell.

* * * *

THE DROP WAS not far, not more than ten feet. For a time Meagan lay with her eyes and hands clenched shut, trying to make sense of recent events. Slowly she opened her eyes and let her vision adjust to the dim light around her. A hoof stood inches from her face. Meagan jerked away, but another solid limb pressed unyieldingly into her back. She was surrounded by a forest of horses’ legs.

Excerpted from Eclipsed by Shadow, the award-winning 1st volume of “The Legend of the Great Horse” trilogy. (Hrdbk pg. 106)

Book II: The Golden Spark will be published Fall 2010.

Read the 1st Chapter online!

Copyright © 2008 John Royce