Shelagh sat in the tackroom, mug of coffee in hand, and heaved a sigh. "Well, that's the last of them gone. I think this week's gone quite well. How do the rest of you feel?"
"Knackered!" said Tina with a grin.
There was a chuckle from the rest: Claire sprawling on a pile of rugs in one corner; Julie cleaning a stripped-down bridle, balancing her coffee on one knee; Gwyn looking out of the doorway to where Sugar and Snow were grazing in the orchard.
"Shall I bring those two in?" she asked.
"Better had," said Shelagh, "or they'll be down with laminitis again.
"Poor little sprats," said Claire. "It must seem mean – they get onto some decent grass for two hours, must think they're in Heaven, and then some miserable toad puts them into the barn for the night with nothing but a section of hay!"
Gwyn grinned. "Cruel to be kind," she said, picking up two lead ropes. "I'll be off home soon," she added. "My parents are due back later this evening; I'd like to be there when they arrive."
The house was very quiet. Gwyn dumped her bag in the kitchen and put the kettle on, glancing at the clock. Shaka paced up and down the hall, uneasy.
"What's your problem?" Gwyn asked, looking at him. The wolfhound lay down on the rug, sighing.
The silence seemed somehow oppressive – unusually so. Gwyn was generally at home with silence. The ticking of the clock, usually barely audible, began to seem loud.
Gwyn shut her eyes, leaning back against the larder door.
Vivid images flashed, nightmarish, through her brain: noise, jarring, screams somehow muffled, and then a crushing blankness. This has already happened, something in her head seemed to be saying.
She jerked away from the larder, shaking her head to clear the after-image.
"What the Hell...?"
She found herself shaking, and wandered into the sitting room, turning the light up full, needing light. She drew the curtains, and filched a cigarette from the silver case on the mantelpiece.
Daddy wouldn't be best pleased, she thought. Mind you, it wouldn't be the first time. She lit it, her hands trembling. Shaka had followed her into the room, and pressed against her legs, quivering, his tail down.
Gwyn finished the third mug of coffee and looked up at the clock again. Half past eleven...they should have been home by now.
There was the sound of footsteps on the front path; a knock at the door. The hairs stood up all down Gwyn's back as she got to her feet.
Gwyn looked out through the spyhole. The two police officers – a man and a woman – were clearly visible under the porch light.
She opened the door.
"I'm afraid we have some bad news. May we come in, please?"
Funny just how quickly three weeks can go, thought Gwyn, sitting with one hand on the phone. Sweat trickled down the small of her back. Somewhere in the recesses of her brain she was aware of the throaty purr of the MG in the road outside as she dialled the stables' number.
YOU ARE READING
The Unknown Quest (Book One of The Horns of Elfland)Fantasy
Thousands of years ago, one of Sherath's distant ancestors refused to take on a quest. The task has to be done - it's vitally important - but nobody knows exactly what it is. Their race is dying out, and time is running out; and until Sherath comes...