The horse screamed out a challenge and Prince reared up to scream an answer. That, as nothing else did, galvanized them into motion. Farris drew his sword and Errol handed the mule’s lead to Mattie. Cisco snagged the reins of Jenny’s horse and herded Mattie and the mule off the road into the trees. Larry strung his bow and he and Errol stepped up beside Farris.
Sean found himself on top of Prince without remembering how he got there, and they were charging down the road directly at the big gray monstrosity with its black-garbed rider. Farris yelled something after him, but Sean couldn’t distinguish what he’d said over the thunder of Prince’s hooves.
The two charging beasts had reduced the distance between them by half before it occurred to Sean that he was riding into battle and he had yet to draw his sword. The distance was suddenly shrinking at light speed, and he had reins in his hand that he didn’t know what to do with. In true John Wayne style, he clamped the reins between his teeth and drew his swords simultaneously in a spectacular cross draw that fortunately missed cutting the reins. He had no plan of action, he was just trying to solve a problem, and he had less than seconds to do it in.
A few lunging strides later, they crashed together. Prince knew his business, but Sean was at a disadvantage; not only did he not know Prince’s business, but he had never fought a true battle with a sword before, let alone from horseback. Prince’s head went down, his teeth reaching for legs or underbelly and the reins were pulled from Sean’s mouth.
Somehow, Sean managed to keep the sword of his opponent from decapitating him, then they were apart again. Prince whirled on the spot, nearly unseating his rider, and he was in the middle of it again. The big gray, standing almost two feet taller and proportionally heavier than Prince, was a fraction slower. Prince was at them broadside and went directly for the rider; Sean had all he could do to protect his horse and himself from the man’s flashing sword, then they careened apart again, if only by a few inches.
Sean heard the man cry out, but it didn’t stop him from going for any target he could find. His attack was disrupted when the big gray started to pitch and kick. The great gray’s head snaked around and reached for Sean. He had no choice, but to backhand him and knock those really big teeth away. He didn’t think he had ever seen teeth so big. Though he didn’t realize it in that second, he did a second later; those teeth were broken and black. The horse wasn’t dripping blood like Prince had been, but he’d been there. The monster gray horse was another death-horse. He would want to kill anything that moved - anything within reach.
Prince wheeled away and let loose with a double-barreled kick with his back feet that landed solidly on something; it sounded like two pieces of wood slapping together.
The rest of the horsemen had reached the battle by now, but those on Sean’s side were also closing. Larry was shooting his bow with remarkable accuracy. Two of the men were already out of their saddles and quite still, and another one was wounded and out of his saddle as well.
Sean didn’t have much time to look as they were crashing together again. Prince climbed high to attack with his front feet this time, putting Sean at an extreme disadvantage. With Prince standing up between them, Sean couldn’t reach the other rider to protect Prince from most of his attacks, all he could do was keep the gray’s teeth from him and from Prince; it was a full time job.
They broke apart again with another parting back kick from Prince; Sean at least was pleased to see that both the rider and the gray were now bleeding. He wished he could claim credit for some of it.
During a brief interlude, Sean heard Farris yelling at him. “What are you doing, you fool? Kill them!”
What did he think he was trying to do? Then Sean remembered; he didn’t have to use a sword to kill. They crashed into the gray again and he toppled over like a statue knocked on its side. Neither of them were prepared for the sudden lack of resistance. Prince tripped and they tumbled over the body of the big gray. Prince did a horse’s version of a somersault and Sean was thrown away to roll, it must have been a hundred times, before coming to a halt.
He climbed to his feet unsteadily, while Prince scramble to stand between him and the downed horse and rider; he put no weight on one front leg. ‘I hope it’s not broken,’ thought Sean at the sight.