The portal continued to stretch. Something small and solid emerged from the center as if pushing a membrane, impossible to make out between the lightning flashes and churning leaves. All at once, a very large object exploded through and flew past them.
Leinos shook water from his eyes. The creature was moving away fast so all he could see was the powerful thrust of its hind end and a flick of silvery tail.
Hind end? Tail?
He and Pheeso exchanged a startled look. The Ravery still spun, but their attention was riveted by what had already emerged. In the next lightning flash, they could see a rider atop a large beast. The magnificent animal slowed, stopped, turned. Leinos’ breath caught in his chest. By goddess, it was a horse. He’d seen enough statues and paintings to know.
The rider pushed her sodden hair back and looked around. A woman. A woman who could be goddess incarnate, but not the Horsecaller. The tiny spark of hope in his chest flickered out as surely as their fire had been doused by the cold rain. The horse pranced forward, shaking his head and snorting. Leinos straightened, and the horse stopped an arm’s length away.
He could touch it, if he dared.
The woman on it spared him a glance, missing nothing.
“What the hell?” She vaulted to the ground.
Leinos noticed she wore strange attire that fit her like a second skin. Was she real?
He could touch her, if he dared.
“Where are the wise ones?” Pheeso asked.
A ripping sound came from behind them, and Vraz tumbled out, landing flat on his face in the mud like a great hand had tossed him through a window. Sebira followed, gracefully settling on her feet.
Leinos helped Vraz up without comment.
The sage rose, brushed off some of the heaviest bits of mud, and beamed. “We did it.”
“Her?” Leinos gestured toward the woman. He started to say she could not be, but the unfamiliar woman stared beyond them to where the Ravery had begun to shrink.
“No!” she shouted.
She launched herself toward it, dragging the horse along. Had Vraz just said he had done it? Could he mean…? Leinos stepped into the woman’s path and caught her. She thrashed and twisted, stronger than he expected, landing a kick to his shin before he pinned her legs between his. Still, she fought, almost knocking him off balance, pummeling him with her fists and writhing against him. She elbowed his head and yelled to be let go.
The Ravery squeezed shut with a sigh.
“No,” she said again, this time an anguished whisper.
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