Sample of Shadow of the Horsemen

19 Nov

Shadow of the Horsemen will be released in print and on Kindle in 2012. Here is chapter 2 of Shadow of the Horsemen:

 

Kalie lay in her furs in the darkness, wondering why she was suddenly awake. The stars told her that it was nearly dawn, but it would be some time before Altia declared the day begun with her usual round of curses and blows. All was quiet, but for the lowing of the sheep and goats, and the soft hooting of an owl.

Kalie sat up. It was too close to dawn for an owl…

A shriek split the night, and horsemen spilled into the camp. They carried torches. Suddenly, everything was burning.

Kalie sat in the middle of it all, as warriors shook off sleep and grabbed their weapons, while women and children ran screaming into the night. Some of the men who had been on sentry duty were already mounting an effective defense, but there were clearly more attackers than defenders. The battle seemed to be as chaotic as the women’s attempt to flee, and Kalie could see no safe place to hide.

Then she saw Varena running straight into the path of a charging horse, and her own safety didn’t matter. She wasn’t aware of moving; wasn’t aware of anything until the moment she landed on the hard earth with Varena under her and a horse leaping over her back.

“Are you all right?” she shouted over the noise, while the girl screamed hysterically. Varena seemed unharmed, but before Kalie could even begin to examine her, something tightened around her neck, stopping her breath.

She landed on the back of a horse, just as she realized in was her own felt robe that was strangling her. The pressure eased as her captor released her, the better to heave a spear with the hand he had used to snatch up Kalie, blocking an attack with his other.

“Not again!” Kalie moaned while the battle raged around them. She was aware that the stench emanating from this new beastman’s body was different from Maalke and the others, whom she had apparently gotten used to. She tried to sit up and figure out how she was going to get off this horse, but her captor only laughed and struck her hard enough to keep her slumped over the horse’s withers.

Kalie watched as the ground moved beneath her, back and forth for a while, and murky with smoke, then more quickly as the beastman urged his horse away from the ruined camp. This new group apparently had what they came for and now were leaving—taking Kalie and who knew how many others with them.

The smoke was gone, allowing Kalie to take a gulp of clean air. She had just decided to attempt a rolling leap from the horse, when the clatter of another horse chasing, then gaining on hers reached her ears. The ho!
rse beneath her slowed, then turned, then reared up with an angry squeal. Kalie hung on, trying to choose the best moment to leap free, while the sounds of weapons clashing and men shouting filled the air around her.

Then there was the meaty thud of a spear striking flesh, and Kalie’s captor fell to the ground. The horse slowed to a stop, and Kalie slid indecorously down the other side of it—only to catch her foot in the stirrup, and find herself hanging upside down, her head just inches from the earth.

“Let me help you the rest of the way off,” said a man’s voice, rich with laughter. “You’re safe now. He won’t be bothering you anymore.”

Back on her feet, Kalie looked down at the dead man. He was smaller and darker than the men of Aahk—and dirtier, if that were possible. He wore a combination of badly made felt and uncured animal skins.

She turned to the other man, and found herself staring into Riyik’s laughing gray eyes. He stood beside his horse looking proud and smug; he seemed to be waiting for something. For the woman he rescued to fall at his feet in gratitude, perhaps? Kalie felt a bu!
bble of laughter at that. Then she realized how far they were from the camp.

“If you’re going to rape me, just get it over with!” she snapped hoarsely.

Riyik’s expression changed abruptly, and Kalie could have sworn he actually got smaller.

“I thought I just rescued you from that fate,” he said quietly.

“Yes, and from what I’ve seen of you beastmen,” she spat the word, “that makes me your prize.”

“You belong to Maalke. He may choose to reward me for saving you—although why he would want to is beyond me at the moment. But I don’t assume any liberties beforehand.”

“Well, aren’t you just the noblest beastman!” Somewhere inside!
, Kalie knew she had lost her last connection to sanity—but she couldn’t have stopped herself if the Goddess Herself commanded it.

Riyik seemed more puzzled than angry. “Actually, I think I am. Most women would show some gratitude after such a rescue—and few men would have this much patience for your reaction.”

“Gratitude!” Kalie was more than spitting—she was nearly foaming at the mouth. Maybe she could pass off her behavior as rabies. “You think being beaten, raped and enslaved by your people is somehow better than being beaten, raped and enslaved by his?” She gave the corpse a vicious kick. It felt wonderful.

Riyik took a step back. “You were putting up an impressive fight. I thought you didn’t want to go with him.”

“And since when does what any woman wants matter to one of you sick, Motherless bastards?” she demanded.

The renewed sounds of battle drew!
their attention. Riyik mounted his horse in a graceful leap. “Others may be more needful of my help. It seems clear you can get back to camp safely by yourself—although I pity any enemy warriors you meet on the way.” He wheeled his horse and raced back to the battle.

 

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