This is another short [unedited] snippet from the book I'm writing.
Prince Zatao pushed August hard. He needed to reach Gormrun, find the prophet and get home before dark. The stallion’s hooves pounded the forest track as he galloped flat out. Up ahead Zatao spotted a sign post and smiled; they’d reached the crossroads the half-way point of their journey.
Pulling on the reins he eased the stallion to a steady canter, and patted the animal’s neck. “Easy boy, we’ve managed to cover a lot of ground.” They reached the crossroads and pulled up in a cloud of dust. Zatao studied the sign post. To the left and fifty miles away was the village of Wedon. The wider path to Gormrun was to the right. Zatao sighed with relief when he saw they only had five more miles to travel.
Pulling August round he urged the stallion into a gentle walk. They had galloped nonstop for the first fifteen miles, and he could feel the horse blowing from the exertion. Zatao sat back in the saddle and let the reins hang lose. August snorted and dropped his head, grateful for a chance to catch his breath.
The forest path widened the further they went. On either side he could see an occasional cottage tucked in among the trees. The sound of children’s voices drifted on the air, accompanied by the barking of a dog. As they drew closer to the village, Zatao raised the hood of his cloak and tucked his sword into the folds of the garment. Concealed by his cloak, Zatao hoped to be unrecognisable. But it occurred to him that riding August into the village nullified his attempt at concealment. The big white stallion stood out like a sore them.
Tightening his reins, Zatao guided August off the path and in among the trees. He dismounted and looped the reins over a branch. He patted the horses’ neck. “I won’t be long,” he whispered.
August snorted and nudged him, pushing him back a pace
Zatao grinned and stroked the horses head. “Stay quiet now.” As he left the trees and stepped onto the road, an old farm cart laden with straw bales lumbered towards him. Zatao planted his feet and held up a hand.
The driver pulled the old horse to a stop and peered at him. “Yes,” he said in a voice like gravel. “What do you want?” He frowned and rubbed the sleeve of his grubby jerkin across his forehead.
Zatao moved closer and lifted the front of his hood. “I’m looking for the Prophet. I hear he lives in these parts.”
The driver rested his arms on his knees and stared at him. “Who wants to know?”
Zatao’s eyes darkened as he lowered his hood and stepped closer.
The horse shied and threw his head up. The driver tightened his hold on the reins and pulled back. “Whoa, steady there you old brute! What are doing to my horse?” He shouted.
Zatao gripped a rein and leaned closer. “I’ll ask you again. Where can I find the prophet?” The edge in Zatao’s voice unnerved the man.
He swallowed hard and twisted the reins tight around his hands. “There’s a narrow path back there,” he said indicating with a nod of his head. “Follow it for about two miles and you’ll find a cave. He lives there.”
Zatao stepped away and gave the horse a slap on the rump.
The animal snorted and shot forward. “Hey!” The driver yelled as he grappled with the horse. He got it under control and stared back down the road. His bushy black eyebrows met in a frown. “Where’d he go?” He scratched his head and stared into the trees on either side of the road. “Who was he, and why did he want to see the prophet?” He turned round on his seat and flicked the reins over the horses back. “Get up there,” he growled. He rested his back against a straw bale and let the horse plod towards the village.
Anyone who wants to traipse through the forest to see that prophet must be mad, or desperate! “Not my problem,” he muttered as he pulled a piece of straw from a bale and chewed on it.