When Granny woke me, I knew something bad was going to happen. She’s not my real grandmother, just an old Indian woman who worked her way into our lives and refused to let go.
She found Pa nearly frozen to death in the hills and nursed him back to health on the journey back home. Granny turned up on our doorstep, shrouded in the strangest-looking shawl with a magnificent black horse. She was just what we needed-and so was the horse.
Ma took to them both right away, but she died shortly afterwards, killed by raiders.
Every time Granny woke me, something bad had or would happen.
The first time Pa broke his ankle and we had to hire help for the harvest. The second, was Ma and the raiders. Granny saved me by hiding me in a quilt in the closet.
I didn’t want to know what could go wrong this time. “Granny?” My brain refused to shift gears.
Granny bustled around, whisking out a pair of my brother’s pants and shirt. “Dress quick.” She mumbled. “Jack hurt.”
“Jack?” I fumbled with the buttons, hurrying after her. “How?”
“Shot in leg.” Granny tugged her ears with a moan. “Hurry girl, hurry!” She hustled me to the table with a steaming bowl of soup. Thrusting a spoon in my hand, she returned to the stove to ladle out another helping.
“Eat quick!” Granny muttered. “Carry message.”
The customary prayer was whispered over the bowl as I slurped as fast as I dared, the urgency dawning. Jack was a Wind Rider, one of the folk who worked with the sheriff in bringing gangs and raiders to justice.
The moan from the corner of the room drew my attention to the disheveled figure of my brother in the shadows.
“Jack!” I dropped my spoon, staring at him.
Granny sent me a look. “Quick, girl!” She spooned soup into Jack’s mouth. “You ride Sundancer to Sheriff before raiders move.”
This time, I choked on my soup, my stomach threatening to betray me.
Granny cleared away the bowl moments later, hurrying me out to the barn. “You ride fast.” She admonished, pulling jewelry from her ears and neck. “Wear this!”
Fiery red gems glowed in the flickering lamplight. Granny’s spider rubies, beautiful gems with a black spider embedded in each center.
Granny hooked the lamp on Sundancer’s stall door, turning to help me. Her expert fingers clipped the earrings to my cold ears, the heavy necklace given to Sundancer.
“Granny-!” I started to say when she pushed me forward to mount.
“He talk. You listen. Find Sheriff.” Granny tugged on the bridle, leading him out of the stable as I tried to focus.
She unwound the black shawl from her shoulders and handed it up to me. “Godspeed, child.” Her hand flashed out and slapped Sundancer’s rump.
I couldn’t breathe for the next few minutes as the air was literally snatched away from me. Sundancer was a horse like no other, I’d never even dreamed of riding him. We’d had horses before, but they’d eventually grown old or we’d sold them.
“If you would stop pulling so hard, I could run faster.”
The projected thought would’ve startled me, except for I had no where to jump. “Sundancer…?” The name chattered through my teeth. “What in the-?”
“Yes, Sundancer. You’re pulling the reins too hard.”
“I’m dreaming.” I said, stupidly.
“You can’t talk!” I sputtered.
“Can too. Isn’t that why you put this bauble ‘round my neck?”
One hand traveled self-consciously to my ears and then I quickly grabbed the shawl tighter ‘round my shoulders. “Never mind this….I’ve got to get to the Sheriff quick, it’s about the raiders.”
“Then hold on!”
If I thought Sundancer was fast before, I was truly dreaming. Everything blurred by in scenery I would never remember. He seemed to know where he was going, so I let him have his head.
My tired brain tried to piece together the impossible-I was talking to a horse, and he was talking back.
Earlier memories of Granny began to pour into my mind. I saw every instance where she helped and cared for animals of all kinds, the trademark rubies helping her communicate. She’d chosen to share her secret with me, as secret that would save lives tonight.
Tears brimmed and flashed away with the furious wind. I leaned forward, closer to Sundancer, the night cloaking us in its grasp.
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