Read an Excerpt
Excerpt from Prologue and Chapter One
"Grandmother! You came!"
"Of course I came."
"But it's so far, and with your leg being-"
"Never you mind what can't be changed. How is she?"
"I don't know. Not well, I think. She's just been circling all day."
"Circling." The wrinkled face nodded. Papery eyelids drooped, then lifted on dove gray eyes flecked with gold.
"That is good. Circling brings luck. Circling...completes the journey."
Head bobbing, the heavily robed old woman lifted the latch and limped into the stable's shadows. She pulled the shivering girl into the sweet-smelling grass piled in the corner. Together they silently marveled at the swollen sides of the white mare that stood, ears pricked, staring expectantly into the night.
"See?" A knobby finger was thrust from beneath the fraying edge of the deep blue silk robe. "She knows to wait for the right time. We will wait with her." Opening her robe and pulling the young girl within its warmth, the old woman continued, "Your mother tells me you have many questions-about what happened in the past." A sigh, like a weak breeze sifting through dried leaves, floated into the darkness. "That was long ago, a different time, a different land even. But perhaps, before the night is through..." The white ears of the mare flickered forward and back, trying to catch the low tones drifting through her stall. But the woman whispered her story only for her granddaughter, whose small body curled beneath her arm. It was the ninth day of the ninth month; the moon rose full. The time had come.
The Black Mare
I don't remember on which day it happened. I do remember the earth warm against my back, the dirt soft beneath my fingernails as I cried out. So it must have been June, or maybe July, for the months of summer are but fleeting visitors in Mongolia.
Before the hands came, pulling me up, before the voice joined mine, wailing, in that brief moment of chaos where all becomes calm, there was the mare. As I lay upon my back, a helpless, whining toddler, she lowered her head to nuzzle me. Like the falling of night her great dark head pushed away the pale sky, for she was all I could see. Warm gusts from her giant nostrils blew across my face. Silky black hide, stretched over bony sun and shadow, framed liquid eyes. I stared into their depths. Like black water on a moonless night, they hid what lay beneath, yet drew me in, breathless.
I think that in that moment I did hold my breath, stopped crying.
Then the mare lifted her hoof, passing it over my head, and moved on. She picked her way daintily now, as if fearful of crushing a flower. But there it was already-my crushed foot. With the rushing pain came the blood; with the blood, the screams. I remember my mother hurriedly wrapping my foot in a silk sash of pale blue-the color of good luck. The blood seeped through anyway, warm and wet, and I could smell it. It is the same smell as when a baby goat plunges into your hands from its mother's womb. The smell of birth.
This was my birth into the realm of the horse.