A sound like thunder reverberated in the still morning air as the pack of stallions tore across the field. Their sleek yet powerful frames propelled their overlong legs at a speed any pegasus would be envious of. Flim gave a predatory snarl at his nearest opponent. It was about time to make his move. "You're about to eat my dust!"
"As if!" A silver unicorn next to him snorted, lowering his head. He managed to surge ahead a length, much to Flim's annoyance.
Flim stared ahead at their finish line, a stand of trees flanked by a wall of spectators. They were barreling closer and closer to it. It was now or never. With a tremendous lurch forward, he caught up with the unicorn and kept going and going. An exhilarating rush of adrenaline coursed through his body as he propelled himself forward. This was not just a race, it was an addiction. His hooves crossed their drawn out line and he kept going until he was well past the crowd.
His opponents slowly pulled up beside him seconds later, snorting and blowing every bit as much as Flim. Well, maybe not quite as much as he was. Flim felt a surge of pride at that. A crowd soon formed around him, and before he knew what was going on, he had a blue ribbon thrown around his neck. A portly unicorn sporting a bowler hat gave a short speech rambling about him being the winner of the amateur West Coast steeplechase circuit. Flim could have cared less, he had a good race and that was all he needed.
As soon as he could, he pushed his way through the crowd to cool off in peace. Slowly, he began to retrace the course. It had been well designed in the short time they had to put it together. But everything felt too clean, too easy. The jumps were conservative, short and with easy footing. Much too boring for his taste. He needed a real challenge, not this foals' play.
"Excuse me. Might I have a moment?"
Flim awoke from his reverie to stare at the largest walrus mustache in Equestria. The steel grey earth pony it belonged to let out a girly sounding giggle Flim could only assume was his version of a laugh. From the over small pinstriped business suit to the ridiculous corsage pinned to his chest, it was difficult to find any bit of him to focus on. Realizing he was gaping, Flim composed himself. "Sorry. Of course you can."
"Excellent." His high pitched voice contrasted starkly with his burly frame. "That was a good race you ran today, son."
"Thank you sir." Flim knew better than to disrespect a pony like him. No matter how ridiculous his appearance, he was one of the big wigs that hosted and organized their races despite the risk of being caught. "I enjoyed it."
The pony stroked his mustache thoughtfully. "Hmmm. I should think it rather bored you."
Flim felt his face heat up. How did he know? He put on his best show laugh, "Well, I suppose it did a little. The course was way too easy."
"Really?" The stranger's eyebrow raised ever so slightly. "It's the most difficult amateur course I've seen in years."
"I could have jumped fences twice that height!" The words came out before Flim could stop them. He pawed nervously at the ground. "Sorry sir, I didn't mean anything against your course."
"Oh it's not my course." Once again, he let out that strange laugh of his. "Oh no. I don't trifle with amateur races. I run the high stakes my boy. The only real steeplechase left in the world." He held out one of his massive hooves, "Phineas Darby at your service."
Flim chuckled nervously, taking the hoof. "Flim at yours."
"You don't have a last name?"
"Not that I go by." Flim grimaced. The last thing he needed was to have his parents finding out about his illegal ventures in steeplechase.
Darby winked knowingly, "Right." He jerked his head over to the now diminishing crowd of spectators. "You've done well for yourself here. How would you like to step up your game? Run for me?"
"For you, sir?"
The mustache wiggled, and Flim assumed he must be smiling. "Yes. You see, I could use some fresh blood. I've got an open position. You'd be coached by some of the finest. And, if you prove yourself sufficiently in practice, I'll give you your chance." His blue eyes twinkled with admiration. "It's not often I see such raw talent. What do you say?"
There was no need to think over Darby's offer. Flim knew the answer before he had finished announcing it. "Yes!" Realizing he had shouted, he cleared his throat. "It would be my honor sir."
"Excellent. I'll see you tomorrow morning at six o'clock sharp." He pulled out a business card from his pocket. "There's the address. Don't be late." With that, he flicked his tail and walked off. Flim nearly started when he realized exactly why the pony's voice had been so high. He watched the gelding walk back the way he came in wonder. The world really was a strange place.
"Flim? Equestria to Flim!"
Flim wheeled around to stare muzzle to muzzle with his doppelganger. "What?"
Apparently he had chosen the wrong response because Flam cocked him over the head. "Pay attention when your brother talks to you. What would Mom say?"
"Not to hit me." That did it. In a matter of seconds, Flam lurched forward, chasing Flim around the field. Flam eventually gave up. He really was a lousy runner. Flim could not help but laugh at the look on his twin's face. "Celestia, you're out of shape!"
"Well forgive me for not running around like a freak all day." Flam snorted a laugh, then joined his brother on the grass. For a time they simply lay there staring at the sky and enjoyed each other's company. Flam chuckled, patting him on the shoulder. "Good race today, brother of mine. You're always my favorite."
His's green eyes grew wide, "You didn't put another bet on me did you? What if I lost?"
Flam snorted, waving the thought away. "As if you'd lose a race like this. It's foal's play! You said so yourself."
He was right of course, but Flim could not help but be unsettled by Flam's willingness to trust his word. Bits were hard to come by around here, and if they weren't careful, they would blow all they had saved up for their business ventures. He rolled upright again, looking back at the now empty lawn of the manner house. "Say, Flam?"
"Yeah? What? Got another of your harebrained schemes?"
"Not really. But, it's going to mess up our plans again." The thought of slowing down their already delayed ventures made him nervous. But, the prospect of running against the best of the best was too good to pass up. "I've been scouted by one of the big wigs. He's starting me in the high stakes circuit."
"Seriously?" Instead of the expected scowl of disapproval, Flam actually hugged him. "That's great!"
"You're . . . you're not mad?"
"Why in Equestria would I be mad?" Flam chuckled, giving him a rather rough hooved noogie. "My brother gets to do the thing he's dreamed about since he started racing. Why would I mind that?"
"But, we won't be able to leave the West Coast for a bit, and it's illegal. If Mom and Dad find out . . ." Flim found himself trailing off.
"So?" Flam started back at him, a defiant look in his eyes. "This is your dream, Flim. It's what makes you happy, isn't it? So what if it's illegal, it's not like it should be in the first place." He stood, shaking off the loose blades of grass. "Just because a few ponies get hurt running, the princesses decide it's dangerous enough to ban. But you can't ban what comes natural, right?"
"You're right." Flim shot up, beaming back at his brother.
"I know." He flicked his tail, walking back towards town. "Come on, numskull. We've got to celebrate."
Flim nodded, following close behind his brother. At that moment, he could not be more grateful to have his twin beside him. No matter what he did or said, Flam was always there to support him. There was nothing he could not achieve with his help.
Steeplechase was not a hobby to be picked up lightly and dropped as one saw fit. It was an all-consuming addiction fueled by the adrenaline coursing through your veins at each jump. And, no matter what any other ponies said, that was the only truth Flim would accept. As they passed through the crowds on the way to the tract, Flim could already feel his heart pounding in his chest. Today he would run his first real high stakes steeplechase race.
"Flim? Are you even listening to me?"
"What?" Flim turned to see Flam glowering back at him. "I'll catch up with you later." His eyes drifted to the throng of ponies lined up to place their bets.
"Right." Though he knew he should care about letting Flam loose with a saddlebag of bits, he could not be bothered. All that mattered was getting ready for what was bound to be the best race he had ever run.
It only took a few minutes to find the other competitors. From their lean, muscular frames, each and every one was more than prepared for this moment. A few looked up at him, smirking or smiling as their personalities saw fit. Flim ignored their gazes and began to survey the track. It was incredible, nothing like the amateur races. The first jump alone was at least twice the height of the tallest jump in the low stakes circuit. But he was running with the best now, and that meant graduating from the mundane.
By the time the race was about to start, he could feel the instinctive urge to paw against the ground as he waited. Every fiber of his being wanted to charge forward and begin the chase. Beside him, the other competitors were beginning to join him at the starting gate. The nearest, a burly earth pony with a bite like a bulldog glowered at him. "Forget your blankie, kid? This ain't the amateur circuit you know."
Flim rolled his eyes. He had heard better insults from his baby sisters. Ignore him, Flim. Ignore him. Give it time and he'll be eating his words. As a response, he snorted and looked away. The adrenaline coursing through his body made it impossible to come up with a witty retort.
Finally, after what felt like an eternity, they were ready to start. A kind of hush fell over the stands as the announcer stepped forward. Flim did not care to listen to his words, only for the bell that heralded the opening of the gate. Then it came and he leapt forward, tearing up the earth in his mad dash. From the instant he took the first massive jump, he knew this was exactly what he had been missing. This was what it meant to be alive.
Rain beat down on hard on the track, turning the grassy thoroughfare into a treacherous river of mud. Flim could have cared less beyond what it did to hinder his progress towards the finish. Just in front of him, a tall bay unicorn was taking the last jump. He miscalculated. The moment his hoof stuck the wood, his body contorted and he flipped unceremoniously on his back. No doubt something was broken, likely his spine, but Flim was not about to stop.
With a practiced precision, Flim took the jump at the perfect spot, landing some distance ahead of where the pony lay. A smirk stretched across his face as he saw his last obstacle just in front of him. The long legged earth pony mare was just ahead of him. Flim could not count the number of times she had bragged to him about her skill in the "chase." Well, today she would be sorely disappointed.
Gathering all that remained of his energy, he surged ahead towards the finish line. Mud flew in all directions, and a less trained pony might have gone down in the slick substance. But Flim had more than enough experience to tell him exactly how to navigate through it. In a matter of seconds, he had passed the mare, leaving a look of stunned disbelief on her face.
After crossing the finish line, he kept going for several paces before finally slowing down to a trot and then a walk. A congregation of ponies came to greet him, led by none other than Phineas. The stately gelding's face was stretched in a wide grin, hid by his mustache. "A spectacular race my boy, a spectacular race."
"Thank you sir." Flim's heaving sides started to ache in the typical manner. He took it as a badge of honor for his efforts.
Phineas looked wistfully at the track, "What I wouldn't have given to join you." A heavy sigh followed this, and his eyes dated momentarily to his flank. "But, after my injury, well . . . Let's say I was less than competitive." Rumor around the track was that Phineas had been gelded after sustaining a serious injury in a high stakes race. The very though made Flim's skin crawl.
"You would have given me a run for your money, sir." A loud, hollow cough followed Flim's words.
Phineas' eyebrow raised at that. "Best have that checked out, my boy. Can't have my star performer getting sick." Clearing his throat, he motioned Flim to follow him. "Tell me, Flim. How would you like to run the Cup?"
"The Cup sir?" An unbridled excitement surged inside him at the prospect. The Cup was the highest stakes steeplechase left in Equestria. If he could win the Cup, he would have surpassed every racer there was. "Yes sir! I'd love the chance!"
"Excellent." The light laugh of his made Flim grin. With a clap on the shoulder, Phineas turned to his attendant who had been keeping a respectful distance from them. "Coat Tails?"
"Yes sir." The black and white paint trotted up to his employer.
"Do gather the paperwork for Flim entry to the Cup. As always, I'll take care of the entry fee."
With a low bow, the earth pony stepped back. "Of course, sir. Right away."
Phineas gave an approving snort before turning back to Flim. "There's another race tomorrow. I hope to see you ready to win as always."
Flim snorted indignantly, "I'm always ready to win, sir."
"That you are. As is your brother." The change in tone when Flam was mentioned set a sinking pit in Flim's stomach.
"What did he do now?"
"Oh, betting with the wrong crowd." Phineas adjusted his bow tie, glancing over at the crowd of spectators. "And they get more daring with each race." He turned back to Flim, eyes serious. "I know you're top notch, but I don't think anypony can win forever, Flim. For him to put everything on the table at each race, that can't end well."
He had heard the argument before. Again and again. But what was he to do? Stopping Flam's gambling was every bit as impossible as stopping his racing. They would undoubtedly answer for their stupidity in the future, but at present, they were happy. Still, it would not hurt to try. "I'll do my best, sir, but Flam's not easy to convince. He's stubborn."
Phineas' eyebrow raised. "Like you?"
Flim chuckled weakly, "Yeah, like me." Just as they were about to part ways, a loud commotion started behind them. "What's going on?"
Turning their heads, they watched as a pair of ponies pulled a wagon down the lane. What was so unusual was the crowd of spectators milling around it. Flim watched it pass, and cringed. There, lying still on the flat bedded wagon, was the bay unicorn. "He's dead."
Phineas nodded sagely, "Yes. It is a most dangerous game we play, Flim. At any given moment, it could be you in that cart. Always remember that." Without another word, the gelding faded into the background once more.
The sound of his twin's voice jarred him to his senses. "Yes?"
Flam cantered over to him, eyes still focused on the now disappearing cart. "Did you see that?"
Flim shrugged, walking away from the scene. "Hard to miss."
"Yeah well, it was pretty scary. I watched them pull him out." Flam gave an involuntary shudder. "He snapped his neck clean in half when he flipped. No way in Equestria he was going to make it."
"It's no big surprise. He took the jump wrong, he was asking for trouble." The cold quality of his voice startled even himself.
Flam looked at him as though he were looking at a stranger. His own voice was harsh, "That's no way to talk about the dead, Flim. What would Mom say?"
Flim snorted, rolling his eyes. "What would she say about your gambling?" That did it. Flam's expression became clouded, and he avoid eye contact. A soft smirk stretched across his face. "Yeah. That's what I thought. Even Phineas is noticing, Flam! Quit betting on me winning."
"But you always win, Flim! I've seen you come in first place the last ten races! You'd never let yourself lose again." Flam gesticulated around the now emptying track. "I saw the way you ran today. Why's it such a problem getting some easy bits?"
There was no point in arguing with Flam and he knew it. Sighing, Flim started back towards town. "I just don't see the value in putting all our eggs in one basket."
"Well, I'm going to keep doing it as long as you keep racing. You never said this racing thing would be so dangerous? It could've been in that wagon today!" Flam made to put a hoof on his shoulder, but Flim recoiled.
"Don't pretend to care about me, Flam! The only reason you're worried about my health is how it will affect your winnings." Flim was sorely tempted to gallop off, but he was far too tired for that. Instead, he looked away from his brother. Flam had a point. Certainly he knew steeplechase was dangerous, and, it was likely eating away at his health. But he, like his brother was hooked. There was no breaking loose, no turning back. Running was his life, and, if he stopped he was certain he would go mad. So he would continue playing this dangerous game a while longer.
Three races three days in a row. It sounded like a simple idea, foals' play. Until one understood that the races were not mere sprints on the flat. No, these three steeplechase races were designed to push the competitors to their limits and to weed out the unworthy. For the top five competitors in these races would run the Cup for the grand prize. Flim was bound and determined to be one of those five.
But, after finishing first in the second race, Flim knew something was wrong. Normally, he would recover his breathing within a few seconds. This time however, he could not seem to catch his breath. Conscious of the crowd's focus on him, he walked away from the stands to a quiet corner. The dry coughs came again and again, sending a stinging pain through his chest. When they stopped, he came face to face with his trainer.
The wiry pegasus glowered at him. "You said you'd have that looked at."
"I . . . did." Flim grimaced, avoiding the stallion's piercing grey eyes. "I'm fine, Cob."
Cob snorted, forcing up Flim's chin and eyeing him appraisingly. "That's not what I see. You're pushing yourself. I should have never suggested putting you in these races, you're not ready."
"I'm ready!" He attempted to hold a convincingly strong pose, but his sides continued to heave unnaturally fast.
"I'd hate to see a fine young stallion ruined in his prime because of some stupid race."
Flim rolled his eyes. If there was one thing Cob thought stupid, it was not the races. The pony practically worshiped them. "I'm not going to ruin myself."
"Fine. I'll let you run tomorrow. But," He lowered his voice, speaking each word carefully, "Do not for the love of Celestia keep pushing after the pain starts up again. If, after the race, you can prove to me that this," His hoof swept over Flim's sides, "does not happen again, I will allow you to run the Cup."
"Right." Flim watched his trainer leave. A sinking feeling began to rise in his gut. He was right. Tomorrow he would have to take it easy. With his placings the way they were, he would still qualify even if he got fifth place tomorrow. It would all work out. It had to.
Flim galloped past the finish line behind the two lead ponies. The oppressive sunlight made his lathered sides burn. It had been the most trying race all year, and it was nothing short of a miracle that he managed to come in third at all. He watched as ponies gathered around the winner, as they normally did around him. For once, he was glad of the inattention.
Walking over to the sidelines, he began to cough again. Though he had made certain not to push himself to the limit Cob described, it had done little good. His sides ached worse than ever, and the dry hacking was becoming almost unbearable. A few times he wondered if he would stop breathing. But, slowly, it subsided.
"You've gone and done it now."
He looked up into Cob's grey eyes. "Sorry." Another cough ratcheted his body, and he sunk to his knees. It was humiliating, but there was little he could do about the situation.
Instead of the expected lecture, Flim felt Cob's hoof rest reassuringly on his back. "No kid, I'm sorry. You weren't ready to run, and I gave the go ahead to Phineas anyway." He grimaced as Flim's sides heaved again and again. "You're bad off now, but, if you rest for a few months, you should heal completely. The damage isn't permanent yet."
"And if I run tomorrow?"
"Even Celestia herself won't be able to put you back together." Cob sighed heavily. "Go home, get that crazy brother of yours and start that business you've been talking about."
Flim wanted to slap him. There was nothing he wanted better than to run, and Cob was suggesting he stop for months on end. But, he did have a point. It would do no good to ruin his lungs forever for the sake of one race, no matter how important. "Yeah. I'll do that."
"Good kid." He started back towards the track where a group of trainers were gathered. "Don't let me catch you here tomorrow!"
He could only nod, gritting his teeth. This little setback was the last thing he needed. Why should his lungs fail to keep up with his legs? Every part of him wanted to cry out in frustration. Then, a new more detestable thought came to mind. How was he going to explain this to Flam? It would not be easy, but he would have to try.
Seaddle was hardly the center of sunshine and warmth. But, after the unusually sunny day, Flim had at least hoped for a dry evening. That had not been the case at all. A heavy mist had followed him ever since he left the track in search of Flam. Normally, his over confident brother was there to greet him at the finish line. Today he was nowhere to be seen. That did not sit well with Flim.
As the weeks had passed, Flam's gambling had become more risky by the day. It was no longer just the steeplechase he was betting on. Again and again, he would come back to their apartment and find gambling tickets, and bills strewn across the floor. Try as he may to talk the stallion out of it, he simply ignored any plea for reason.
Flim stepped gingerly across the cobblestones, hooves and legs aching from the race and the miles he had walked in search of Flam. The only conclusion he could muster up was that his twin was at home. Of course that was ludicrous as Flam had never missed one of his races. Perhaps he was just disappointed in the results. Undoubtedly he was angry at losing money. But, he was certain Flam would come around once he explained the situation.
Cautiously, he opened the door. "Flam, I don't think I can race tomorrow. Need to—" He was cut off by the sight of three complete strangers in their living room. The business suit clad ponies were smoking cigars and surrounding an unusually meek looking Flam. "What in Equestria?"
"Welcome back, Flim." The largest, heavily muscled pony spoke in a voice like thunder. "I thought you'd never show up."
"Yeah." A wheezy, high pitched voice came from the scrawny pegasus beside him. "What's this about not racing?"
"I, uh . . ." Flim really did not know what to say. Get out of my house? No, that would be pointless. Maybe a diplomatic approach. "Flam, you didn't say you were having friends over."
His brother avoided his gaze, staring hard at the floor. "Well, they're not friends per say, brother of mine."
"Shut up!" The last greasy looking earth pony kicked Flam in the ribs. Flim was more than tempted to knock him in the jaw for that. Instead, he waited for the pony to turn back to him. "This brother of yours owes our boss some money."
"Yeah, yeah. Some money." The long muzzled, weasely one nudged his partner in the ribs. "He made a big bet."
"And lost big time."
Celestia have mercy on our souls. Flim turned back to his brother, voice low and laced with venom. "How much, Flam?"
His eyes looked away again. "Well . . ."
He stamped a hoof hard against the floorboards. "How much?"
Flam's voice was smaller than Flim had ever heard it. "Three thousand."
Three thousand bits? Had he lost his mind? Flim turned back to the group of ponies who nodded in agreement. "What do you want me to do about it? What if I don't pay?"
"If you don't, well then." Their apparent leader did a slashing motion across Flam's neck with his hoof. "Your brother just might end up caught in an unfortunate accident. Kapeesh?"
Flim gulped, lowering his ears. Flam had really done it this time. Making a deal with the worst possible ponies in Equestria. Why did he not see this coming? His heart pounded rapidly in his chest. No matter how stupid his brother was, Flim needed him. "What . . . what can I do?"
"Simple really." He released Flam's neck and started towards the door. "You run that race tomorrow. And you make sure you win."
The other two hoisted Flam up and dragged him towards the door. Flim cantered over. "What are you doing with him?"
"Safekeeping. In case of funny business." The wiry pegasus sniffed, "He won't be harmed if you keep your end up."
With that they left him standing alone in the apartment. For minutes, all he could do was stare out the door at the ponies. Of all the messes in Equestria for them to get caught up in, this was the worst. There really was only one solution, and it stung worse than any kick to the gut. Tomorrow he would race, and he would win. What happened next was beyond his control.
Clouds blotted out the sun, allowing the morning haze to linger unnaturally thick over the track. Flim stood in the starting block, looking around nervously. There was no sign of Flam or the ponies who had taken him. But he knew they were the type to collect. As long as he won, it would all work out. So why was he so nervous?
The stallion beside Flim glowered at him, gritting his teeth. Flim lost count of the number of times he had attempted to pass him and failed. Yesterday he had managed to pull ahead, but Flim had let him. Today would be different.
His eyes focused to the stands where a Cob stood, shaking his head. Though he had started a shouting match with Flim about the dangers of running, Flim refused point blank to back down. It took Phineas' intervention to stop Cob from clobbering him. Phineas wanted Flim to race and Flim did not blame him. He was the gelding's investment. And Phineas was not the type of pony to lose bits on his investments.
Snorting, Flim prepared himself for the start. In a few seconds, it would not matter what anypony thought of him. It would just be the race, and that at least was a comfort.
At the sound of the bell he shot off, just as he had done countless times before. But this time it would be different. It would be the last steeplechase he would ever run. From the instant he set off, he knew he was in trouble. Not only were his competitors in better shape physically, they all had the burning desire to beat the young upstart.
But Flim had one edge on them. Timing. If there was one aspect to racing he excelled at other than speed, it was that. In a split second, he could judge just about any jump and take it in such a precise, mechanical manner that there was no room for wasted movement. This was perhaps the only reason he managed to keep up with them.
After the second jump, he was in agony. Each breath came out more painful and labored than the last. But there was no way in Equestria he would back down. Every time he even considered it, Flam's face would float to the forefront of his mind. He could not let him down, he would win. That one thought gave him the strength to continue.
He continued, flying across the track and over jumps no pony had a right to take at impossible speeds. It was insanity, and Flim knew it full well. Despite the surge of pain, he could not staunch the joy filling his heart with each jump. This was the challenge he had longed for, a challenge that would test everything he had worked for.
Beside him, his competitors were starting to pull ahead. Flim allowed them to pass. It was not time yet. As the last jump neared, he knew it was now or never. Though his lungs were screaming in protest, he charged forward. His hooves struck the ground faster than he ever imagined possible. For a brief instant, he felt no pain. All his concentration, all his energy went into pushing his body to its limits.
So intent was his focus, that he did not even register passing the finish line at least three strides ahead of the others. The only thing that stopped him was a wall of spectators. Like a thousand pieces of glass, the mirage shattered. His lungs seized up, and he collapsed in a heap.
Try as he may, he could not catch his breath. Slowly, his surrounding began to blur. The pain was beyond anything he could bear. This is it, I've killed myself. Sorry, Flam. I tried.
A firm shaking jerked Flim into reality. Gritting his teeth, he opened his eyes to see Applejack staring back. She looked almost panicked. "What?"
"What? That all you got to say for yerself?" Applejack sighed, looking around the barn. "I know I said you could sleep in an all, but it's nigh on noon."
"Already?" Flim yawned, looking up at the farmer. As usual, her hooves were coated in a thick layer of mud and her coat was matted with sweat. "Hot out?"
"Huh? Yeah, I guess." Applejack's eyes focused on him as though expecting him to go crazy. "You all right?"
Flim jerked a nod, getting slowly to his hooves. "I suppose. Why?"
"Well," Applejack pursed her lips, as though deciding whether or not to broach the subject. Then, in a smaller voice, "Just looked like you were havin' a nightmare."
"Not really. Just a bad memory." Flim started towards the door. "So, you need help in the fields?"
Applejack rushed over to him, shaking her head. "You don't have to work. After what you did to help Apple Bloom."
Flim rolled his eyes, patting her gently on the forelock. "I want to help. It'll clear my head." If there was one thing he needed right now, it was a distraction.
Gosh. This was a groaner chapter if there ever was one. It took me several tries before I was satisfied with the result and I'm still not sure I am. Normally I don't write flash back chapters. But, for this story, I made an exception. I hope it worked out. Back to normal, present day business next chapter.
In case you're wondering, I based the steeplechase in this universe more off of Eventing than Steeplechase. I don't ride either, so I'm no expert. Here's a few pictures so you can see the scale of fences I was writing about. They're insanely high and wide! Not every horse can take these jumps. Even the best horses can miscalculate and fall.