An excerpt from the book
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An Excerpt From: Horsemen: Captive Stallion
© Copyright Kate Hill, 2004.
All Rights Reserved, Ellora's Cave, Inc.
Moor had never dropped or harmed a rider in his life, even during the worst of journeys.
The flight went better than expected until the last of the Spikelands faded in the distance, leaving only the endless stretch of sea. A sharp turn to keep himself righted against a powerful gust of wind drew a fresh blood flow from Moor’s injured arm. He gasped with pain and squeezed his free hand to the arm. Jonis tore off part of a blanket in the saddle pack and helped Moor bind the injury again—a difficult procedure while in midair. Moments later, he’d bled through the bandage. Moor felt light-headed from blood loss. Sweat soaked his coat. His lungs felt ready to explode from gasping in the frigid air.
Gods, it’s too far to go. His heart pounded, skipping beats as he struggled to keep himself on an even flight pattern.
“I’m unloading the cargo,” Jonis called to him.
Unable to expend the energy to reply, Moor continued flying. Through blurry eyes, he thought he saw the water looming close, the dark, deadly reeds stretching towards his churning equine legs.
“Pull up. Pull up,” Jonis bellowed. “We’re too close to the ocean!”
Moor did his best to fly upward against the wind. His breath rasped and he felt Jonis press closer to his man-torso as he struggled to unfasten the saddle. They’d risked their lives to gather the Rock Blood humans desperately needed and the saddle was one of his best, but at that moment Moor didn’t care about either. Survival was foremost in his mind. Survival and agony. His lungs and muscles were on fire and the loss of blood had weakened him so much he felt on the verge of blacking out. Suddenly the weight of the saddle was gone and he managed a deep breath. He forced his wings and legs upward. Was he succeeding in his ascent?
“Moor,” a voice bellowed to his left.
He forced himself to focus on Terra. Another Horseman dropped near his right, holding a support strap.
Terra loomed close, his rider reaching for Jonis. Was the younger Horseman crazy? How could he possibly fly the rest of the way home with two riders and cargo? Such a flight could kill a Carrier. Still, Terra was powerful and well trained. He might be able to handle it. Moor himself had undergone flights with unusually heavy loads. Just by taking his rider, Terra was probably saving his life as well as Jonis’s. Moor knew he had the strength to fly for himself, though he would have sank to his death before ever unloading a rider.
With the burden of his rider gone, Moor’s head cleared and his breathing became easier. He felt something graze his belly. The Horseman to his left had thrown the support line underneath Moor’s equine body and another Carrier caught it from the other side. The two smaller Horsemen rose over his head. One of them held both ends of the strap. If Moor felt the need, he could lean on the strap to rest during the flight home while the Carrier above helped support him.
Knowing he had assistance, that the others in his party were willing to risk their lives to help him and Jonis, fueled his strength. He beat his wings harder and after a moment rose to a safe distance above the sea.
Not once did he lean into the support strap, unwilling to overburden the Carrier above him unless absolutely forced to. Several times the other members of the party flew in to offer help. Only one Carrier refused to assist. Kraig flew ahead, only glancing back to fire looks of rage and jealousy at Terra who flew just ahead of Moor, his motions remarkably steady for a Horseman carrying too much weight. As the journey progressed, Moor noted through his own discomfort, that Terra flew more slowly than usual. The wind blew lather from his black equine coat, revealing the toll taken on his overburdened body. Moor felt overwhelmed with gratitude for his friend and rage toward Kraig. The redhead was also a large Carrier, well able to share the burden of the second rider for at least part of the journey. Terra was a true Fighting Carrier, but Moor wondered how Kraig had even earned a position in the elite force. It took more than speed and power to be a Fighting Carrier. It took loyalty, courage, and heart, qualities Kraig didn’t have.
By the end of the journey, Moor had lost so much blood he was almost unconscious in flight. His wings beat and legs churned without thought. As torch lights from the Running Way near the village square shone like fuzzy dots in the distance, Moor wondered if the vision of home wasn’t some trick of his dying mind.
His crash landing proved that he was still very much alive. His knees scraped the packed dirt ground and his equine body slammed hard on its side. What wind he had left was knocked out of him. Unable to do more than gasp and wheeze, he lay still until he felt gentle arms slip around him. Tender, frantic hands probed his bloodied torso. As his eyes focused on Inez, he felt awash with relief. His foster daughter looked terrified as she searched for his wound.
“Arm,” he grunted in pain.
Suddenly another pair of small hands found the wound. These hands were sure and deft as they sliced away the bloodied piece of blanket and began cleansing the injury.
His eyes focused on Susana. Though young, she was highly skilled. Blond hair fell across her delicate face as she worked on his arm. He thought she said something about cauterizing the wound, but he was nearly unconscious again. The burning of his flesh roused him slightly and he groaned.
Inez asked what happened to Moor’s rider. Someone told her Terra had flown him in. Moments later, she was gone, probably to see to her husband. In the back of his mind, Moor hoped Terra hadn’t damaged himself by making such an arduous flight carrying two men and cargo.
“You’ll be all right,” Susana told him in a soothing voice. Her hand gently gripped his shoulder. “Linn and a few others have gone for some buckets of water to cool you down, then you can get back to the longhouse and rest.”