Anna brushed her brown bangs out of her eyes as she knelt down in the sand and grabbed the starfish before the next wave could crash in and steal it away. She had seen dead ones before but this was the first time she had come across a living one she was able to hold. Fleeing the water, a sea gull screamed and swept down toward her, looking for a meal she thought.
She tucked the seagull away and hurried back up the beach where Katherine waited for her.
“Look,” Anna said, showing the urchin to her teacher.
“What will you do with it?” Katherine asked her, brushing her own long dark hair back as it cascaded around her head in the wind.
“Well, I’ll put him back, of course,” Anna replied staring at the sea creature. “But I wanted a good look so that I can put him in my notebook.”
“You’ve seen the ones I have, you can draw them,” Katherine said.
“Look, how he moves,” Anna went on. “Yours are hard and don’t move this one is so. . .”
A loud shout caused them both to turn. Scrambling down the wide path between the tall salt cliffs above them a rider approached quickly.
“Alive,” Anna finished quietly.
The gulls seemed to swarm around the rapidly approaching figure. He was riding with wild abandoned toward the two of them.
“Something is wrong,” Katherine said quickly, “I’ll have to go, will you be OK walking back?”
Anna smiled, trying to recreate the same expression that Katherine gave her moments ago.
“That’s Ivan, my little brother,” she said. “Maybe he’s coming for me.”
The rider stormed toward them with reckless abandon///SHOW ME///. Ivan was a decent rider, Anna knew, but he was raw and he was riding Storm, a massive, just barely tame horse. He should have never been on him, only Anna a few Horsemasters had ridden him before.
“By the darkness,” Anna swore as the horse and rider arrived. They both had to move quickly away as they barreled through them.
“Aunt Kat!” Ivan shouted. “Aunt Kat!”
Ivan tried to control the horse but they both turned and he was almost thrown from the saddle. Anna quickly dropped the starfish into her belt pouch and approached them.
“Woah, Woah,” she beckoned toward the horse.
“Stop pulling him Ivan!” she demanded. Storm had his bit clenched hard between his teeth and was fully lathered in sweat. The ride from the stables to the beach wasn’t so far as to get him into this state unless Ivan rode him at a full gallop the whole way.
Anna finally got a hold of this bridle and pulled hard, lifting herself off the ground as Storm pulled back. But she was finally able to get to him, and look at him.
The horse bucked once more, hard, and sent Ivan flying into the sand. Anna landed back on the beach with one side of the bridle in her right hand. She managed to reseat the bit in the horses mouth and then pulled his head hard down into her body.
“Annie!” Katherine shrieked, but Anna forgot she was there.
The horse was two thousand pounds of muscle and steam and Anna was REALLY LIGHT. But she held on tight to the bridle.
“Storm. Storm. Storm,” She repeated, over and over until the horse stopped kicking, dropped his head and lowered her back to the white sand.
“It’s OK,” she cooed to the horse, scanning the beach for her brother and her mentor. They both appeared to be alright and conversing several feet away from her.
Katherine dashed toward her.
“Easy,” Anna warned. “He’s really worked up.
“My Uncle has been hurt. Gravely. I need to get up there,” Katherine said, indicating the castle setting hundreds of feet above them with a nod. “Give me the horse.”
“Storm,” Annie said softly. “Kat, he will drop you on the first turn.”
Katherine regarded the large beast.
“Take me,” she said quickly.
“Give me one minute,” Anna said. “He is all out of sorts.”
Anna led the horse a few steps away from Katherine and Ivan approached. She rubbed his mane and shoulders and wished she had a brush but knew something was terribly wrong at home. For someone to put Ivan on this beautiful, terrible beast and send him after Katherine…
Something was wrong.
She grabbed the bridle and pulled herself onto the horse. Turning him away from the others she kicked him hard and he bolted toward the waves. As they approached the water she pulled to the left and veered him away back toward Katherine and Ivan.
Anna pulled him to a quick stop before them, sand spraying in the air.
“Let’s go,” she said reaching down for Katherine. She grasped Anna’s arm and pulled herself up behind the saddle. Anna managed to refrain from yelping at the pain of pulling her up. While Katherine was not large, Anna had very little upper body strength and had to hold hard to Storm’s mane to get Katherine behind her.
“Go, Anna,” Katherine said in her ear.
Anna almost kicked Storm into action but then glanced back down at her little brother. His face was white and had a dark red welt over his left eye. She knew his weight wouldn’t matter on the winding path back up to the castle.
“Grab Ivan,” She said circling the horse near around him. “Maybe he can explain what the Dark is going on.”