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FIRESTORM

Chapter 1: Onyx

Onyx walked through the woods, making no more noise than the creatures around her. Onyx had grown up in the woods, inheriting a love for them from her father. Also from her father, she gained a love for horses. Her famly owned a breeding and training farm, and she and her brother had been working in the stables since they were little.

Onyx stepped out of the woods and onto her family's farm. Acres of fenced in fields and stables stretched as far as she could see. In the field directly in front of her were five foals and their mothers. Climbing the fence, Onyx strolled casually towards them. The mares raised their heads and whined fondly as she approached. Onyx smiled and rubbed their backs softly. The foals ran over to her and nuzzled her hopefully. Onyx laughed and pulled out the wanted sugar cubes.

Juan, a stable hand, and his friend Lou leaned against the fence. Juan shook his head skeptically.

"I tell ya it's uncanny the way she gets along wit' dem horses," he said in disbelief.

Lou nodded. "Aye, that 'tis. That girl's only nineteen an' already she's had mo' sucess than any handler I know."

Onyx walked uo to them smiling. "Morning Juan, morning Lou. How are you guys this fine July morning?"

"Fine, and how be you?" Juan replied.

"Aye, you were out early this mo'nin weren't ya?" said Lou.

"That I was," Onyx smiled. "The woods are very peaceful in the morning."

"Aye, that they are," Lou nodded sagely.

"Enought chit-chat, time to do some work," Juan interrupted.

Onyx said goodbye, then sprinted back to the house. She arrived just as breakfast was being served. Jogging into the dining room, she flopped into a chair, breathing heavily.

Her mother looked at her reprovingly. "Must you come to the table smelling like a well-run race horse?" she teased.

"Motherrr!" Onyx whined.

"Hey, Onyx, don't forget you promised to help me train Snow Fairy today," her brother reminded her.

"Alright Chris, just lemme get my chores done," Onyx replied.

Two hours later, Onyx watched as Chris led a pure white thoroughbred onto the track. It had taken twenty minutes just to tack the fiery mare. Now Chris fought to keep her from bolting while he tried to mount.

"A little help please!" Chris gritted.

Onyx smiled and walked over to them. Gently taking the reins, Onyx talked to Snow Fairy soothingly. The horse pricked her ears at the soft voice. Shaking her head, Snow Fairy snorted then stood still.

Chris shook his head disbelievingly. "I don't know how you do it."

"Practice," Onyx grinned.

Chris mounted without a problem, and after taking the reins from Onyx he began Snow Fairy's training sesson. Onyx watched as Chris nudged Snow Fairy into a graceful canter. When she was warmed up, Chris turned her around and brought her to the starting line. Chris nodded to Onyx who was waiting to open the starting gate. When they were ready, Onyx opened the gates.

Snow Fairy took off quickly, and Chris had to fight her to gain control. Pulling hard on the reins, Chris checked her stride and brought her closer to the rail. It was not until they were in the home stretch that Chris gave her full rein. Snow Fairy then opened her stride and blazed past the finish line.

"How'd we do?" Chris asked when he had brought Snow Fairy back around.

"You shaved three seconds off, but you're still a little rocky in the start," Onyx said. "You're not attempting to control her until after the start. You have to choke up on the reins before the gates open. If you keep her under control at the start, she'll be a more efficent runner."

Chris nodded, wiping his forehead wearily. "Okay, let's do this again."

Onyx watched as Chris brought Snow Fairy back to the starting line.

"It's gonna be another long day," she mused.