History is written on the back of horses. The Lassarian empire knows this well; less than fifty years have passed since the Battle of Ardena, when the tide was turned by a grey stallion named Chanteron. Now war marches on the kingdom’s borders again. The legendary horseman of the Edanan ride north, the kingdom gathers its full strength, and the captain of the King’s Riders continues to journey towards Port City with a vision and a ghost. Lassar believes it is ready for anything – anything except the death of the king.
Enri did not see the grey horse again in the daylight. But it haunted his dreams. One night it was a tiny figure across the river, motionless, ghostlike, and the next night the horse was larger than life, charging at him with teeth bared and red eyes gleaming. It stirred some memory deeply buried, of a book, a name, a moment of grief, a long night in the candlelit chamber, listening to the voice of a dying man. Six days upriver, he awoke and remembered the name. Chanteron.
The ghost was still with him when he passed the watchtower, and the ground began to dip and swell, the trees thinning and giving way to stone and grass. There was crumbling stonework at the edge of the water, where the bridge had once stood. It had been a clear day, still bright and hot in the sunlight, but as Enri stood on the riverbank and brooded, a cloud covered the sun, and threw the Ardena into shadow.
Thousands of men had died here. The years had washed away the stain of battle, but Enri knew that if he searched through the grass he would still find remnants, the rusting steel and bones the crows had left behind. The river was full of it, tangled in the silt at the bottom of the darkness. Emeri was there somewhere. If Enri stared long enough at the western bank he could see the soldiers clashing there, banners and battle cries and the screams of dying men. He wondered how far into Lassar his brother had gotten before the sword had stopped him. He wondered who had held it. The end of Emeri’s story had died with him, and been swallowed by river and earth.
Thousands of men had been forgotten, and all they remembered was the horse.