Chapter 20

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Vhalkhette and Khavhad were neck and neck as they approached the passageway. It was obvious neither rider nor horse would yield to the other. But Vhalkhette had better positioning and pulled slightly ahead. Her black and grey Sud entered the passageway first and Khavhad was unable to alter his course. The Royale's shoulder collided with the Sud's right flank. Vhalkhette's injured leg was crushed against the left wall but she still maintained her grip on her horse through the passageway. Khavhad and his Royale went down heavily. The breeder would fight the effects of a concussion for only a few days but it would take much longer for the effects of his stubbornness to wear off. Khavhad had lost his prize horse to a broken leg.

Vhalkhette was the first to emerge from the passageways back into the Commons. She held tight to the reins with one hand and to the Sud's mane with the other. Her left leg hung limp at the horse's side but her black and grey showed no ill effects from the collision. She had only one final trench to surmount before crossing the finish line.

Setryv appeared next, fifty yards behind. He had a brush with danger when his Nord's back left hoof struck the top of the fence during his jump. But they were able to maintain their balance and race down the final stretch. The knight had no hope for victory. He assumed Khavhad had somehow finished ahead of Vhalkhette seeing as how he was nowhere in sight.

As Vhalkhette approached the final trench, the pain from her leg clouded her mind and the feeling of nausea was overwhelming. She had all she could do to hold on to her horse and dropped her head down to the Sud's neck. No longer able to guide her horse, Vhalkhette relied completely on the steed's instincts. And he intuitively responded. The Sud easily cleared the trench and covered the remaining distance, flying across the finish line. Setryv followed suit several seconds later with the remaining rider finishing a minute after that.

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