Written in Red Page 149

As Simon spun around to tell Meg he had to leave, Crows were screaming about attackers. And then he heard Jester’s fear-filled and angry shout, <The Pony Barn is on fire!>

* * *

Jester listened as the Crowgard raised a call to battle, listened as that buzzy motor sound came closer and closer to the Pony Barn. He watched as smoke filled the winter sky above the Utilities Complex and thought, <Blair is going to rip out someone’s belly for this.>

What else had Meg told them about the buzzy motors? Men dressed in black. Men with guns. Sam howling. But Sam wasn’t howling. Plenty of other Wolves, but not the pup, so . . .

Hurricane bolted out of his stall in the back of the barn and cantered toward the open door where Jester stood, followed by Cyclone and Fog. A moment later, one stall window shattered, then another. And a moment after that . . .

“Out!” Jester shouted at the ponies as fire suddenly roared up from the deep beds of straw in two of the stalls. “All of you, get out!” Then he added in a shout to anyone who could hear him, <The Pony Barn is on fire!>

Hurricane bolted out the door.

Buzzy motors. A gunshot. Blood spraying the snow as Hurricane went down.

Jester howled in fury and ran to the pony. Another shot as he dove for cover, Hurricane’s dying body shielding him from the bullet.

The rest of the ponies shifted as they surged out of the barn. While they looked like horses, they were now the Elementals’ steeds, and the screams of rage that rose from deep within the Courtyard as Hurricane died came from Earth, Air, Fire, Water . . . and Winter.

Cyclone and Fog were the next steeds out the door. As Fog ran, he instantly veiled the land all around the Pony Barn, while Cyclone whipped up the fallen snow into a smothering, stinging weapon. They chased the buzzy motors, no longer bound to flesh that would stumble in deep snow or be stopped by bullets.

Quicksand and Twister raced after Fog and Cyclone, while Tornado and Tidal Wave raced for the Utilities Complex, the snow spinning into a funnel around the hooves of one and rising in a growing wave behind the other. Avalanche kicked up the snow around the barn, smashing through the barn wall and sending a river of snow into the stalls to smother the fire.

Earthshaker and Mist galloped off, heading for the trouble in the western part of the Courtyard. Thunder and Lightning were the last two who leaped out of the barn, cracking the sky with savage light and a rumble that shook the ground.

“Wait!” Jester shouted at them.

They turned back, snorting and stomping.

He didn’t know what to tell them. He took care of them as his service to the Courtyard, and they listened to him up to a point. But they weren’t his to command.

Then he didn’t need to decide what to tell them. In a voice filled with fury, Winter said, <Coyote, bring the sleigh to the lake.>

* * *

Simon rushed up the stairs and almost knocked Meg over when he bounded into her apartment. He grabbed her arms, aware of Sam running out of the kitchen. The boy’s eyes were bright, but Simon didn’t have time to consider if that brightness came from excitement or fear.

“Meg, I have to go. The Courtyard is under attack. You and Sam stay here until I get back. Do you understand me? Stay here.”

“Go,” she said. “We’ll be all right.”

He raced down the stairs, and he and Nathan trotted toward the BOW. Then he stopped. Three entrances into the Courtyard could accommodate vehicles when the roads were clear. Someone must have come in through the Utilities Complex gate to cause that explosion. But there were also those two breaks in the fence where someone could sneak in. Someone had come in through the one on Parkside Avenue to cause the explosion in the western part of the Courtyard. The other one . . .

Growling, Simon turned to Nathan. “The hole in the Main Street fence is between our stores and the Green Complex.”

<Deep snow,> Nathan said. <Hard to break a trail.>

“They have runners they can put on their feet. Skis,” he corrected, thinking of the human word. “And those sleds with motors.” Buzzy, annoying things, but maybe useful. “I’ll find Blair. You check that hole in the fence and make sure none of those monkeys invading our land are trying to come here.” He looked back at Meg’s apartment.

Nathan took off. Simon ran to the BOW and headed for the Utilities Complex at a reckless speed.

* * *

Meg rubbed her sweaty hands on her jeans, then held one out to the boy. “Come on, Sam. We’re going to stay at your house until Simon returns.”

“But I wanna stay here,” Sam protested.

She shook her head, unable to explain, even to herself, why she wanted to be in a place where the door opened to ground instead of stairs.

He whined quietly as she led him out the kitchen door to the second-floor entrance in Simon’s apartment. When they reached the living room, she knelt in front of him, that gray-eyed boy who made her wonder if she had any younger brothers. She had never heard of a male cassandra sangue, and lately had begun to wonder what happened to the male children who were born to the girls who were bred. Were they abandoned? Killed? Fostered somewhere for some other use? She would never know. But for a little while, there had been someone in her life who could have been her little brother, and she loved him.

“Listen to me, Sam,” she said quietly. “Some bad people have come into the Courtyard, and they’re causing trouble.” She could feel him shrinking into himself. When she took his hands, they were furry and no longer shaped like a human’s. “You need to mind me and do exactly what I say. All right?”

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