Geoffrey was polite enough, seemed interested in the horses—but he raised Owain’s hackles. Maybe he would prove to be completely wrong for the job. Owain shook his head and led Adain out the opposite end of the barn.
Adain pranced, tossing his head and yanking at the lead. Owain firmly pulled his head down until they neared the cliff edge. Then he unclipped the lead and slapped the horse on his flank. Adain snorted, flexed his wings, then broke into a gallop. A handful of steps later, he leaped off the cliff and spread his wings, soaring out over the roofs of High Meadow, banking into a turn that would line him up for a sprint.
Power and grace blended perfectly in the winged horse. No one had ever been able to explain why they thrived only in these hills, or where they had come from. Owain believed, as did many, that the horses were a gift from Rhiannon, the horse goddess. He was proud of his part in preserving them. His present was important, his past must die.
As the day wore on, riders came and went in the barn, with and without horses. This time of year was for casual riding, maintaining limber shoulders and strong chests for spring’s training. Owain alternated his time between Adain and the three M’s, favoring Adain, of course. He couldn’t shake Geoffrey’s smug face out of his head. Had he really known him in Merioneth, or was it all some kind of ploy to gain favor in High Meadow? Owain grimaced. He had no favor to give anyone. It didn’t make sense.
Every so often he glimpsed Geoffrey with Pryce. They had long ago finished the barn tour, and the newcomer pitched in to help, his blond head towering over the slightly built Pryce. That was impressive, but Owain watched critically when they were nearby. Geoffrey’s arms were lean and muscled; he was no stranger to working. Not with horses, though. Pryce had to show him how to do everything. Geoffrey was cheerful enough about his deficiencies, and eager to work. Owain felt guilty about his persistent mistrust.
Once he caught sight of Geoffrey at an angle that sent a bolt of lightning through his gut and left him gasping. Fragments of the ever-present nightmare lurked at the ready, prepared to burst forth like charging warhorses. Blond boy, hanging above him backlit by the sun. Geoffrey. The blond boy was Geoffrey. The gods must be playing tricks on him.
After that, every time he spotted the man Owain grew more certain. Geoffrey was the boy from his dream. The threat was real and vivid, causing Owain to wipe away sweat that beaded on his forehead. As a child, he’d been so helpless against whatever threat Geoffrey represented that even as a man grown he couldn’t conquer the fear that choked him. Owain delved into his fragmented memory. He knew his sister, Briallen, was involved somehow, and he knew she wasn’t in his nightmare. Unfortunately, that was all he knew.