Dark Lord of Kismera (cont’d)


A group of observers began to assemble as he warmed the stallion by trotting then cantering in large then smaller circles. He then rode to the center of the practice area and bowed his head to Ki.

He began the ride just as he remembered from competition tests. The growing crowd was so quiet everyone could hear the horse’s breath and the jingle of the bit chains. They became amazed as he performed the highest-level movements. There was an audible gasp as Pride slowed his trot until he trotted in place, then moved forward into a canter and Drace turned him, still at the canter, in a turn in one place. After turning a complete circle he asked the stallion to change leads each stride forward and with his flowing, heavy mane the horse seemed to skip. Drace brought him directly in front of Ki, halted the stallion, and asked for Levade where the black horse reared slowly. He seemed suspended; his weight squatted back on his haunches, holding it there for
several seconds. He slowly came down to all fours.

Drace bowed his head to Ki. “My Lady, your dancing stallion.”

She placed a hand on the horse’s sweating neck, her mood apparently improved. Pride flinched as the onlookers burst into applause and she gave him a soothing stroke with her hand. “That was truly amazing and a beautiful thing to see. You must teach us how to ride our horses like that.”

“I would be honored, my Lady, but what you saw has taken years of training for Pride to perfect. I plan on being gone and back in my own home very soon,” he said. “If you will excuse me, my Lady, I need to cool him down and put him in his stall.”

She frowned slightly but said, “Of course. Please do. Vashti has informed me we will have a visitor soon. I expect you to be here to meet him.” She gave him an arrogant look. “You will be here long enough for that.”

Drace nodded, feeling more than a stab of irritation at her commanding tone. “I’ll be back here as soon as I can,” he said, “my Lady,” hoping his tone wasn’t too snotty.


Drace finished in the stable and was washing up in a bucket when a young boy came running in. “My Lord, the Lady Ki asked for you to hurry! Your visitor approaches!”

Drace grabbed a towel, dried his hands, tossed the towel to the boy, and left the stable quickly. He walked rapidly to Ki and Vashti, taking long legged strides to the center of the training field. Vashti took his hand in hers. “Look, my Lord, he comes!” she said and pointed to the northeast.

Drace’s gaze followed her finger skyward. “You must be able to see farther than I can. I don’t see a thing.”

“Just keep looking,” she instructed.

He squinted in order to see into the sky. His eyes went wide as he started, “Holy Hell! What is that?” At first Drace thought it looked like a huge bird in the distance, but it was rapidly approaching. It was definitely not a bird!

As it came closer, he could make out the leathery wings and the horned head. Its color was an iridescent white. And it was immense.

Read more from Tamara Hartl!

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