Chapter 20

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By late afternoon, eight heats had been run and the winners were getting ready to face one another. Though not the sentimental favorite, Vhalkhette was, bad leg and all, the odds makers bet. She would be challenged by Setryv who was excellent on horseback. Another possible threat was Khavhad, known throughout the continent as a superior breeder of the Royale horses which were supplied to the King and nobility. He was also reasonably good off a horse, receiving five points in hand-to-hand combat due to Bheirz' disqualification. Mharkhel was also one of the eight but did not figure to be a factor. He had been fortunate just to win his heat, which probably had been the weakest group of eight.

The race started and the field quickly narrowed to only six riders. As was anticipated, Mharkhel was the first casualty. His horse was a jet black Ghwer warhorse and unaccustomed to jumps. They barely made the first fence but were unable to cleanly negotiate the second and took a fall. The second victim succumbed to the next fence. The horse came out of it unscathed but the man received a broken leg. Though neither he nor his horse were injured, Mharkhel was sullen. He would receive only five points for his meager effort. If Setryv won or even if he placed high, the blonde knight would take the overall lead in the trevhette. The same would hold true for high finishes of Vhalkhette or Khavhad. Mharkhel left the field hanging his head low, already concentrating on tomorrow's final event.

Vhalkhette, in the lead from the start, was the first to encounter the next obstacle, the trenches. She rode a black and grey Sud, known for their speed, courage and their endurance in dry, arid lands. She was closely followed by Khavhad on his prize Royale and Setryv who forsook his Ghwer for a grey and dun Nord, a horse that was fast and surefooted though usually found in colder climates. All three leaders had little difficulty with the trenches but another rider misjudged the jump badly which resulted in the field being reduced to five.

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