OF THE LIGHTNING STORM
~ Horse Passages ~
YA, Sci-Fi, Romance, Adventure
Evernight Teen Publishing
Twins Carl and Meagan Cadet are the youngest herders in the Federation. Their parents and younger sister were abducted by the enigmatic Raiders, and now they are alone with their
horses. Aware of the dangers, they continue to herd the horses that somehow open passages between planets.
They are on Tauii 3 when Luke Jeffries arrives on the scene with his herd. Luke and Meagan
are pulled together as they come to grips with their losses. When raiders capture Meagan and Luke, they become prisoners working in mines on an isolated asteroid. Escape seems impossible, but they encourage each other to keep up the hope even as they begin to fall in love.
But before they can escape, they must somehow unlock the mystery of the horse passages.
The Jeffries’ had moved their herd to the south end of the lake. Today, the boys had started breaking in the two-year-olds, and Meagan decided before swimming she’d go have a look at their work. It was a ten-minute walk along the shoreline, and as she walked she gathered eggs from the many nests she found. She only took one egg from each nest, putting them carefully in her pouch after admiring their speckled amethyst coloring.
Luke saw her coming and waved. He sat astride the lead mare and her presence calmed the young horses his brothers rode. They cantered slowly around a circle of bare earth worn in the grass. Luke led, with his brothers right behind him. Their mounts snorted loudly and swished their tails, unused to having riders on their backs. They cantered a while, slowed to a bouncy trot, and dropped to a walk. Skittishly, the younger horses tossed their heads and pranced sideways.
“Let’s go faster!” cried Luke, urging his mare into a gallop. She pinned her ears back, as if annoyed to be acting the part of schoolmistress, but set off at a fast pace. The three boys galloped after Luke, sitting astride their horses
with practiced ease.
Meagan sat on a nearby log and watched. She admired the way the brothers rode. Everyone had a different style, but the Jeffries looked both athletic and graceful. In the distance, across the lake, she could see Carl walking toward their camp. He waved his hat in the air, and she waved back. Meagan rose and picked up the eggs. She should get back if she wanted to swim before dinner. Luke and his brothers wouldn’t be finished for a while yet.
She’d just finished adjusting the strap on her shoulder pouch when a clap of thunder made her jump. Frowning, she looked around. There were no storm clouds in sight. A faint sparkle caught Meagan’s eye, and she stiffened. A mist curtain, no more than three feet wide, appeared in the middle of the plain. Her heart seemed to stop, then start again, pounding frantically.
“R-r-raid . . . Raiders,” she whispered. She had to warn Carl and the Jeffries brothers. She tried to shout, but her voice stuck in her throat. She couldn’t say anything. She opened her mouth, but no sound came out at all. Panic-stricken,
she screamed, and her voice shattered the air around her. She tried to call to Carl, to tell him to watch out, but all she could do was scream. A flock of birds rocketed out of the long grass, their wings whirring around her. She tried to stop, dragging air into her lungs and clapping her hands over her mouth, but she screamed again, and all of a sudden the words poured out.
“Luke! Carl! Raiders! Raiders are coming! Get the horses! Get out of here!”
She started running for her camp. The boys fought to control their young mounts as strange horses surged out of the mist curtain. Upon their backs, cloaked riders crouched low. They held long poles with lassos attached. Without pausing to look around, the Raiders galloped straight for Luke and his brothers.
Shouting, Luke motioned at his brothers to save the herd. The untrained horses, frightened by the noise and sudden panic of their riders, took off at full gallop, clods of dirt and grass flying in the pursuing Raiders’ faces. Meagan saw
Carl running toward their herd. He leapt through the tall grass and whistled for his horse. She knew he had to get the lead mare out of the way. If he could catch Boo, then he could herd their horses across the plains and out of the
Raiders’ reach. The Raiders never let their mist curtain close behind them, so they could get back home. Because of this, the Raiders couldn’t venture beyond a certain perimeter. If Carl could get their horses far enough away, they would be safe.
Meagan held on to that thought as she ran, her breath coming in sharp gasps. Behind her, she heard hoof beats. She turned. Two Raiders were swooping down upon her. She uttered a frightened scream and dodged, flinging herself toward the lake. Perhaps she could swim away from them. But the Raiders, anticipating her move, rode to cut
her off. She swerved again, her lungs burning and her legs aching as she ran. Then someone called her name, and she saw Luke galloping toward her, his hand outstretched.
“Jump on!” he shouted. His expression was grim.
Meagan screamed back at him. “Go away! They’ll catch you!”
Already the Raiders were closing in. Luke paid no attention. Kicking his mare, he leaned over and snagged Meagan’s arm. She felt as if it had been yanked out of its socket as she was jerked off her feet. Instinctively, she swung her legs over the mare’s back and grabbed Luke’s waist. A second later a lasso zinged through the air, just missing her head.
Luke had just turned the mare toward the lake to try to lose their pursuers, when another rope shot overhead and settled on the mare’s neck. With a harsh cry, Luke pulled her back before she was knocked off her feet. The Raiders were too quick. They hauled back on the rope, sending the mare tumbling. Luke and Meagan fell heavily to the ground, and the last thing Meagan saw were the mare’s kicking feet.
#Note & Recipe:
Herders travel light. Their staple diet is beans – “dried beans are easy to carry, easy to fix, and have lots of vitamins and iron”, as Herders like to say. When they get to their campsites, they usually put a handful of beans in a pot
of water to soak, and then cook them over an open fire.
Here is one of Meagan’s favorite recipes:
Meagan’s Bean Stew with Leftover Bread
1 1/3 cups dried pinto or cranberry beans
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 celery stalks, sliced
2 carrots, sliced
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
1/2 teaspoon dried red chili flakes
2 tomatoes, diced
1 pound kale, trimmed and coarsely chopped
2 cups vegetable stock (Herders carry lots of bullion cubes to help flavor their meals)
6 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt, or to taste
fresh ground black pepper
3 or 4 slices of stale or lightly toasted Italian or French bread, cut into crouton-size pieces
Rinse the beans and soak overnight covered in several inches of cold water with a little lemon juice or vinegar added. Drain and rinse. Place the beans in a medium saucepan. Cover with several inches of fresh water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 1 hour or until the beans are tender but not falling apart. Drain and lightly mash some of the beans with a potato masher. Set aside.
Heat a large saucepan or soup pot over medium heat. When hot, add the olive oil, wait a few moments, then swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Toss in the celery, carrot, onion, garlic and chili flakes and cook, stirring, until the onion turns a light brown, about 10 to 12 minutes. Add the tomatoes and continue to cook until the tomatoes are slightly reduced, another 10 minutes. Now stir in the beans with the kale and add the vegetable stock and water. Bring to a slow boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook until the kale is tender, about 25 to 30 minutes.
Remove from heat and season with salt and plenty of fresh ground black pepper. Serve hot in wide shallow bowls and scatter with pieces of stale or lightly toasted bread.
~ Enjoy! ~
Jennifer Macaire: Hello everyone, today we’re interviewing Meagan Cadet, a herder from Home Planet.
Meagan, what can you tell me about your lifestyle?
Meagan Cadet: I’m a herder, that means I follow my horses from planet to planet. We, my brother and I, are the last of our family, the Cadets, and we have a small herd of horses compared to some herders.
J: I hope you don’t mind me asking – why is your herd so small ? What happened to the rest of your family?
M: It’s a sad story. My father, mother, and baby sister were captured by alien Raiders. Only my brother and I escaped. We had to battle with the Federation to keep our herd, but finally they gave in. The other herder families helped. So now Carl and I are the youngest herders in the Federation.
J: What’s a typical day in the life of a herder? What do you eat?
M: We wake up at dawn, and I like to make myself a cup of coffee. Carl likes tea, so we boil some water and get breakfast. That can be eggs from local wildfowl, or fried fish, or even whatever fruit is in season. We drink mare’s milk, and I have my great-great-grandmother’s yogurt and cheese recipes, when we have time. Mostly we eat dried beans. They’re light, easy to carry, never go bad, and you can make loads of different recipes. We’re vegetarians, we don’t usually eat meat, but we eat eggs and fish. I have, on occasion, been obliged to eat lizards, but I don’t recommend them. As for a typical day – it varies. We have to take care of the horses and that’s time consuming, especially when we’re training the youngsters. And then there’s the traveling. I feel like we’re always packing or unpacking.
J: What’s your favorite planet?
M: Cumberland – without a doubt. The animals and birds and amazing. Most are deaf, so they communicate with light and color. The whole planet has been declared off limits for settlers, so it’s still pristine. Carl and I love it when the horses take us there.
J: Herding sounds hard. What was it like growing up? Did you go to school?
M: We were partly home schooled, and partly sent to boarding school. Carl and I hated boarding school at first – I don’t know too many herder kids that like it. We’re too used to being alone, to being with our horses. It was tough in the beginning. But our parents were adamant. Plus we learned a lot. I took classes in animal husbandry, and Carl studied veterinary medicine. In the end, we were lucky we got to go to school, especially when a horse gets sick, or when foaling season comes. We love he new foals, and it’s wonderful to be able to watch them grow and become adults.
J: I’m started to feel jealous. Traveling with your horses, going to other planets – is there anything you don’t like about your life?
M: The raiders. They are terrifying. We were very unlucky to have ever run into them. Most herders go all their lives without seeing a single one. They are rare, and no one has ever captured one alive. I’m sorry, I’m shivering now, but just the mention of Raiders makes me feel ill.
J: Let’s change the subject then. Aside the Raiders, what are some of the hardships of being a herder?
M: Missing hot baths and showers – there is nothing like a hot shower, believe me. We bathe in lakes, rivers, and cold streams. Sometimes the water is icy, and sometimes it’s full of mud and algae. When the weather is bad, we’re stuck in our tents. Thank goodness for our electronic books and the interplanetary free library! We can watch movies, read books, and play games. Carl is a mean chess player, and I love cards. Otherwise life is pretty idyllic. You have to like solitude and nature – if you do, and you like horses, then herding is the life for you!
J: Thank you for your time, Meagan. I hear you and Carl are heading out tomorrow. The rains are coming to Home Planet, and soon we’ll all be inside the Dome Cities, dreaming about your adventures on far away planets. Take care!
GIVEAWAY: $10 GC Evernight Teen
About the author:
Jennifer Macaire lives in France with her husband, three children, & various dogs & horses. She grew up in upstate New York, Samoa, and the Virgin Islands. She graduated from St. Peter and Paul high school in St. Thomas and moved to NYC where she modelled for five years for Elite.
She went to France and met her husband at the polo club. All that is true. But she mostly likes to make up stories.