They will be moving on to compete in future rounds, but not right away. Starting tomorrow our combatants will be:
A Glory of Unicorns by Jane Yolen vs. Neither Snow, Nor Rain, Nor Heat-Ray by M.L.D. Curelas
Lightless by K.T. Ivanrest vs The Boys from Witless Bay by Pat Flewwelling
For now, let’s enjoy short excerpts from the stories whose equines were eliminated in this round–because even though they didn’t prevail today they are great tales, and they’re all good equines, Bront.
Excerpt from “Different” by Sandra Wickham:
Nerves made my palms sweaty and Kyra’s tiny hand slid out of mine… She ran in her lopsided way, straight toward the unicorn.
“Kyra, stop! It will hurt,” I yelled. Kyra ignored me and threw her arms around the unicorn’s lowered neck.
Time slowed as my daughter’s face buried into the unicorn’s mane and I braced for the screams that didn’t come. The mere touch of the unicorn should’ve had her skin burnt to blisters but Kyra only giggled.
“Kyra, come.” I rushed forward to detach her.
“Leave her,” the unicorn said, her voice beautiful and powerful. “Shall we sit, little one? It is not often I meet someone pure enough to hold me so.” My soul filled with light at the kindness in her tone. While Kyra clung to her the unicorn lowered herself, gently easing them both to the soft grass beneath.
Kyra laughed with pure delight and I felt the same giddiness rising inside of me. It was a moment of pure perfection. The unicorn lifted her head and met my eyes. For a moment I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t tell if my heart still beat. Those eyes held centuries of wisdom and a deep magic I could almost see but never understand.
“What do you wish of me?” she asked.
Excerpt from Eel and Bloom by Diana Hurlburt:
The starter’s bell sounded, its deep, echoing boom a world away from the high-pitched shrill of the Thoroughbred track bell. In the same moment, without so much as a wink of warning, the sky opened up. The dust-lit air of the track became rainlight, the lamps spaced along the outer rail sputtering and hissing. Eel leapt forward. His neck pumped and strained against my hands, and I leaned in, forcing my weight down to check him. Sloppy track was no concern for limerunners; in fact it was a blessing, or would’ve been, had not all limeys been mud freaks by birthright. If the sudden slick surface let Eel run faster, well, it was helping his fellows, too…
The cheers and howls of the bettors followed us up the chute and into the woods, the flat accent of the race-caller sinking into bark, muffled by pine needles and sand underfoot. The rain, I could tell, would be a cloudburst and then naught.
A body slammed into us, and my right knee wrenched. Will and Sandy had started off on our right down the track, but once in the woods there was no semblance of order. As long as the limerunners stayed on the path, fair was fair. No lanes, no protocol, nothing but race-riding. Wan moonlight flashed on Hank Fremont’s teeth as he pressed his mount close to Eel, and I decided right then that whoever won, it wouldn’t be Hank. It was time to go to work.