The first 25% excerpt for 2013 is from my historical short story, Cut & Thrust, which is set in France during the era of the Musketeers.
The sound of horse’s hooves clopping, and muttered curses roused Dacian from his musings and he saw Gerard fighting to bring the animal under control, the steed’s great black front legs pawing the air as Gerard struggled to steady it. The captain strived to keep the smile from his face. He had specifically chosen Démon; the animal was notoriously difficult to control.
Quickly mounting his own steed, Dacian shouted to Gerard, “Come on! Use your knees, get a move on.”
Riding through the gates Dacian listened for Gerard behind him. He heard the thud of the animal’s hooves hitting the earth accompanied by curses and entreaties. Sure enough the clip-clop swiftly followed – and swiftly passed, as Démon’s walk became a trot. It was obvious Gerard was struggling to hold the horse back from galloping away with him.
Dacian encouraged his mount into a trot to stay in view and see how Gerard handled the excitable animal. He watched as Gerard patiently used his hands, knees and feet to gradually pull the animal back to a steady trot. Slowly, Gerard leaned forward to rub between Démon’s ears and down his nose, talking to the horse quietly. Damn, but those hands were so graceful, gentle and soothing.
Drawing alongside, Dacian said, “Good. You succeeded quicker than most. Let’s see how you do at full stretch. Follow me!” And without further delay, Dacian dug his heels into his horse’s flanks and took off at a gallop.
“Wait!” Gerard called.
Dacian looked back over his shoulder to see his companion’s face screwing up in frustration at being caught out. However, Gerard swiftly enticed Démon into a run and soon enough Gerard appeared in full control of the feisty mount, smiling now in exhilaration as he gradually closed the gap.
Sucking in his breath at the enticing sight, Dacian determinedly turned his mount, heading through some trees, knowing that a short way beyond them was a low wall, and beyond that, a fast flowing stream. He wanted to see how his student handled those. Démon’s hooves thundered as he ate up the ground behind him and Dacian urged his own horse on faster, ensuring he’d take the wall well clear of the other man. Once over, he quickly moved his animal aside, leaving Gerard a clear field.
It was a good thing Dacian moved as quickly as he did because he’d only just gotten clear when Gerard brought Démon sailing over the low wall, the young man lying low over the great horse’s neck. Dacian looked on in admiration as Gerard landed, eyes shining with delight. Knowing all too well that he shouldn’t be entertaining such thoughts, Dacian shook his head at his own inappropriate musings. Dragging his attention back to de Leison’s training, de Creil watched as Gerard encouraged Démon up the slight incline onto level ground. Dacian followed with his mind still in something of a whirl. Abruptly, he heard an exclamation, a horse whinnying and Dacian topped the rise just in time to see Gerard fly over his mount’s head.
Damnation! Dacian hadn’t realized how high the water was in the stream, there must have been more rain than usual in the mountains that fed it.
If you wish to read the rest of the story it can be purchased from the following sources: