The barren branches clawed at Temper’s back like an angry bobcat, and the cold November wind stabbed his lungs like knives. But with a gentle tap from Billy’s spurs, the midnight steed streaked across the open plain toward destiny.
Up ahead not more than few hundred yards, Ayita waited for Billy, and once he had her in his arms, he’d never let go.
But Akando’s horses thundered close behind, and Billy knew the chief would not allow his daughter to leave without a fight. Already, the men were shouting orders to each other, and arrows zipped past Billy’s head. The deadly stone tips thwapped into trunks, and feathers brushed against his ears.
Finally, with the terrifying thunder of a hundred angry men jarring his very soul, Billy guided Temper over the last gully and snatched Ayita into his arms. He turned the horse toward home and prayed he could make it to town before one of the arrows pierced his heart.
Just as the first ramshackle houses came into view, someone called his name … “Billy!”.
Hooves thundered behind him, and arrows swarmed like a hive of angry bees.
“Billy!” the voice called again, louder this time.
The town was in full view now, and his own cabin lay straight ahead.
The voice was in his ear. The front door opened, then slammed shut, and Billy winced as something hard cracked into the wood.
When he opened his eyes, his mother stood in front of him with her hands on her hips.
“It’s time for dinner, Billy. Put that book away and go wash up.”
His mother closed the door behind her, never noticing the split in the top panel.
Billy looked at the book in his lap. It was shut tight, but an eagle’s feather marked his place.