Chapter III of THE HOLLY KING.
|Wildlife is an important part of the overall design for the Ghost Horse Hollow fantasy.|
The homesteaders interact each day with the creatures of the forest and fields.
“Cat, get off a’ me!” Jake complained as he caught a whiff of the bobcat’s fur. The feline leapt onto the dinner table. The smell of pine bark and fresh dirt indicated that Chotah Ru had been roaming the woods and that he only come home for a bowl of warm goat’s milk. Chotah Ru half-heartedly snarled at Pelbert, sending the crow into a fluttering fit. The two enemies exchanged a few choice comments before Morning Sky swiped the orange troublemaker off the table. The Medicine Woman gave her bird a morsel of stale bread from her lap and continued sorting her beans.
“Trouble follows the wind this night,” Lyla murmured softly, as if to no one in particular. Jake checked his response, since Morning Sky was known for her accurate gift of prophecy. He felt rooted to the kitchen floor, unable to move his feet in any direction, and a chill came over his heart.
|The Ghost Horses love to gallop home in the evening from the fields.|
Eli MacKennon is an incredible horse trainer and trick rider.
Imagine a movie actor bringing him to life!
The sound of hooves pounding up Gravel Cart Road pulled the farmer out of his motionless stance. He reached the front door in two seconds and looked out to see Eli MacKennon, Jake’s striking nephew, slide down a dark colt’s back before the animal had skidded to a complete halt. The horse playfully reared up several times and spun sideways. He then lowered his massive head and bumped affectionately against the young man’s chest. Eli gently fondled the colt’s soft lips and simply pointed to the barn, where White Hand was attending to the other horses. The smoky-black equine with two white rear socks and a star, cantered away without hesitation—such was Cousin Eli’s exceptional gift with horses. Jake knew for sure that Ravenwood had never been ridden before that very day.
“Well, I’d a‘ never thought it, Eli. When did you break that horse?” Jake called to the nineteen-year-old boy with the bronze ponytail and dimpled jaw.
“Aww … sometime ’tween milkin‘ and cleanin‘ the Farrow’s cider press,” came the reply. “He weren’t no trouble once I had a talkin‘ with him. He’s special. Besides, Uncle Jake, you done trained these Mountain Horses so good on the ground, all a feller need do is get on ’em and ride.” Eli, wiry and compact, jumped onto the porch, skipping every one of Lady Hannah’s freshly scrubbed steps. The MacKennons agreed that Jake’s nephew could get away with practically anything, due to his white-toothed grin and fetching appearance.
“Hey, you ol‘ cat,” Eli crooned.
Chotah Ru tossed himself into the teenager’s curved, sinewy arms. “Catch yourself a Miss Bobcat today?” Eli flipped Rufus over for a tummy massage.
“Eli MacKennon, every horse is special to you,” Hannah said as she stepped to Jake’s side and put her arm around her husband’s shoulders. “Why, you have a way with critters.” She smiled, noting that the wildcat’s soft paddy-toes were waving upside down with pleasure.
“I just let ’em be what the Creator made them to be, that’s all—like this worthless cat.” Eli scruffled the bobcat’s soft underbelly. Chotah Ru angrily sprang to the porch railing, where he proceeded to arch his back and sharpen his claws. “A man shouldn’t break horses,” Eli continued thoughtfully. “He has to understand their way of seein‘ things an‘ kinda go from there. A trainer’s got to stay within the laws of Nature, and teach his mount not to be afraid of nothin‘.”
|Training a stallion takes time and patience. |
Here is Ellevar's Ivory Steed, the Ghost Horse foundation stallion.
“Then your horse will fall in love with you and do everything you say … kinda like a good woman,” Jake said, nodding to Hannah, who popped him on the seat of his pants. She led the way to the supper table without saying another word. Eli and Jake’s eyes danced with mischief. They were MacKennons and proud of it. The men were not highly educated, but they were extremely intelligent and intuitive. They spoke without the formal pronunciation that Hannah and her daughter Panther had received from years of study with Queen Titrimia and Sir Finnias Glowgold. Language skills were not Eli and Jake’s specialty, but equine expertise was well within their grasp, as was the ability to sculpt wood.
Hannah looked back in time to see Aaron Ray pass through the garden gate. Its eight-foot posts, carved in the shape of two hooded gnomes, leaned over the metalworker as he passed by. Cousin Eli had sculpted the gnome on Aaron’s right, and Uncle Jake had carved the figure on the left. Both Jake and Eli were blessed with the family gift of finding faces and figures in logs and driftwood. The farm was decorated with all sorts of garden sculptures and unique furniture, like the heavy chairs that stood at either end of the dining room table. Jake had selected two hounds to top the knobs at the back of his chair and had carved two ponies with sweeping manes above Hannah’s opposite seat. The men’s dryad inheritance was visible in every sculpture. Eli and Jake were, after all, descendants of Prince Ellevar himself. Wood turned easily in their hands, and the inner spirit of the trees emerged through their steady, patient craftsmanship.
“I’d best go ring the dinner bell,” Hannah announced. “Seems like each dish is just about ready. I think we got something for every member of this hungry crew.”
Rarely was anyone late for supper in Ghost Horse Hollow. Hannah MacKennon believed that good cooking maintained good spirits, and that meant good health for everyone. She lovingly served favorite dishes and mouth-watering recipes to suit the eclectic tastes of her family. Some folks preferred vegetables, while others favored wild game, hunted with honor and respect. Gracie loved fruit and muffins, but White Hand ate only meat, nuts, roots, and herbs. Aaron Ray was very fond of cornbread and gravy. Jake and Hannah ate quite moderately. Eli, on the other hand, ate everything in sight. Of course, the fairies wanted nothing but sweets and pickles. It was difficult providing for them all, but Hannah thought it her duty to keep a bountiful kitchen. Supper was laid out on the table now, and it was high time for their country dinner.
“Has anyone seen Panther?” she asked innocently.
“In the parlor with Addie, I do believe,” Alma responded, still stirring her dumplings.
Hannah nodded and hung up her white apron on a peg. In the midst of the peaceful, bustling kitchen, Lady MacKennon had no idea what lay in store for her family that very evening and what terrifying changes the rising moon would bring.
|Ghost Horse Hollow is an imaginary realm in the Appalachian Wilderness. |
THE HOLLY KING begins in the late autumn woodlands,
which are filled with hardwood trees and cold, mountain streams.