Pat, a repressed púcca, is enjoying his career as a top jockey. He rides for his father, a sorcerer and notable breeder and trainer of top thoroughbreds. He, like his father, seeks glory on the track. The Triple Crown hasn’t been won since 1978, and they have a horse who might be the one to do it. But first, V-Tach must prove himself worthy by winning the Wood Memorial, and someone or something is out to stop them.
Pat hates magic and wants nothing to do with it, seeing it as nothing more than a cheat. But the power of magic can’t be denied forever, neither his own magic nor that of V-Tach. When Pat discovers that V-Tach is a shapeshifter capable of changing into a human man, he’s outraged. Will the magic bring the end of their racing dreams?
Pat woke with a pounding heart. The dream had been so vivid! He was sweating and his muscles ached as if it’d been real. Of course, it couldn’t have been. Pat was up and moving though. I have to check on Vee. Something’s amiss, I know it. He grabbed a pillow and a blanket. As restless as he was, he might as well sleep in the barn for the rest of what remained of the night.
For some reason, he felt the need to run. Even though there was no sign of trouble. The night, if anything, was quieter than it had been earlier. He quickly covered the distance between the house and the barn. When he got there, staggering and close to exhaustion, he could hear Vee moving restlessly in his stall—and the stall door was open!
Pat flipped the switches, flooding the barn with light. A crazy-looking man was in Vee’s stall. He was filthy, unkempt, unshaven, with long yellow fingernails and wild black hair that looked as if it hadn’t been combed in years. All this Pat saw in a flash, along with the rags the man wore in lieu of clothes. Pat grabbed a pitchfork and leaped into the stall to defend Vee, but he wasn’t fast enough.
Before his horrified eyes, the wild man bit Vee, right on his left haunch, and Pat shrieked in anger when he saw the blood. He charged the man, because he couldn’t swing the pitchfork without hitting Vee. The man nimbly avoided him and ducked back out of the stall, and Pat gave chase, bellowing for assistance, but the man disappeared, impossibly fast, but for the trailing cackle of glee he left in his wake.
* * * *
He had awoken abruptly when the door to his stall creaked open. He’d heard his rider walk though earlier and had assumed that all was well. He clambered to his feet, blowing softly to tell his rider that he was awake now. But it wasn’t his rider. It was a stranger. He backed up and sounded an alarm. The strange man followed him, quick as a cat, and laid a hand on him.
He started to rear but froze as a voice spoke in his mind, not in sounds so much as in concepts, thoughts, ideas. But it was the equivalent, to him, of words to a human. “You are more than you seem, more than you know, and all that you desire can be, if you reach for it.”
“I will help you.”
His rider was suddenly there, pitchfork in hand, and he feared that the strange man would leave without telling him how to realize his dreams. He was greatly surprised when the man bit him, and he squealed in anger, twisting to bite back, to bring his own hooves into play. But his rider was forcing the man away from him, and he didn’t want to hurt his rider, so he settled and stood hipshot, easing his weight off the bitten leg, though truth be told, it didn’t hurt that much.
He was pleased that his rider had defended him, even if the man had gotten away. His rider cared about him as much as he cared about his rider. If only the strange man had stayed to tell him how this dream could come true.