Chapter 11:

Entry Of A Wild Card

Black and White

(Scene one: Hopes)

The riders and friends came back home at the first light. It wasn’t much of a spectacle to see the sunrise from the station but the great feeling of returning home is enough. Ones who slept in the last crate had a rough night with the hay bales. Brian, James and Whitney came with their horses, itching their backs and under the arms because of hay being stacked inside their suits. Not just that, they forgot to wear the casual suits for the Broken Willows and accidentally came wearing their cold-weather suits. Which leads to making them feel the heat and stay boiling on the inside. “You guys slept well? Oops. Looks not.” Jane ask then took it back. “Feels good to be back home. Isn’t it Brian?” Serena said with an evil smirk. “You bet.” Brian returned the same emotion. The emotions of rivalry. When Whitney stepped out of the station, almost all town’s people screamed and cheered saying “CONGRATULATIONS!”. They even prepared small banners. Most of the people were from the ranches. They lifted Whitney with the runners-up goblet and took her to her home. “What about me?” Serena cried out loud. “Oh Serena…Are you jealous of your own sister?” James probed while smirking. “OUCH!” Serena hit James’s stomach with her elbow. “I’d never be jealous of my own sister dummy.” She said. “Besides, Serena was also taken to home like that couple of times. First time our town selected to the December derby and times when she finished the inter-town in third or second.” Jessica said. “Yeah. Gerald and the other elites also had chances to get that feeling.” Jane added up. ‘So, Serena didn’t joke when talking about full potential.’ Brian was lost in thoughts. “From Broken Willows to Brian…Hello!” James tried to wake Brian from wandering. “Oh oh! Sorry. I…just…” Brian tried to excuse. “Serena. When do we have the selection race?” Brian asked desperately. Serena looked at the calendar in the station. “Hmm…I guess…No wait. We’ll definitely do the race on this nineteenth. How’s on your schedule?” Serena set a date and asked while pointing to the number. “Thursday!? Uh…” Brian held his tongue from accepting. ‘Whitney has an exam that week.’ Brian thought. “If you are thinking of taking your sis to school, I’ll do it.” Mr. Bolt said. Brian was glad his father took that job. Then Mr. Bolt and Emily mounted onto Charisa and left the station. “Fine, I’ll join the race. Morning?” Brian asked in excitement. Serena smirked. “We don’t do this race in daylight.” Brian got a bit anxious by that. “Why? You thought this race will be that easy to win. We have the advantage of experience. This race is ten minutes long. The track will be told on the day before the race was set. The track is chosen by Paul and Smith.” Serena said. “By the way…can Mustangs race in inter-town?” Jessica probed. “That reminds me the times when they let Charlotte, Oliver and Pete compete, when they had the chance to get to the inter-town derby. That bastard judges cut them off. They only send the Thoroughbreds to the December derby.” Jane said. Serena looked down with sorrow. “Well, I need to get going. Also, tell Smith to decide a track with Paul quickly. Bye.” Serena made a fake cheer and ran out of the station. “Jane, Jessie, James I have a plan. Come to my house. We can’t discuss this on either any ranch. Jane, Jessie bring all the elites to house too.” Brian seriously said. Three of them trust Brian so got excited with the plan. “Jane, Jessie can you take Luna to Whitney’s house.” James said. “Oh, and Bring Whitney too.” Brian added. “Okay okay. we understood.” Jessica and Jane walked with Luna, out of the station and Brian and James mounted onto their horses. “What exactly are you planning Brian?” James probed. “You’ll see.” Brian’s furious face didn’t change. “Then the date?” James asked. “I FORGOT TO TELL THEM!” Brian shouted. He grabbed James from his shoulders and asked, “Can you tell them? You need to talk to them when they are totally alone.”. James sighed. “Unbelievable. The smart planning guy in the town forgot to tell the time. Fine I’ll do it.” James said. “Tell them to meet me on the night of nineteenth.” Then two of them went out of the station and to their homes.

Six days later, on the night of the day before the elite’s race, Brian asked Phantom to sleep early. Brian and the elites gathered at Gold-key ranch since it’s close to most of the elites. Mr. Paul and Mr. Smith were there with Marshall and Natasha. “Good night racers. We’ve decided the track. Natasha will be on the start and Marshall will be near the finish line as usual.” Mr. Smith said and let Mr. Paul explain the course. “Alrighty! Here’s the track. Three rounds, around the school ground. Rhymes.” Mr. Paul slightly giggled. “Arhm.” He cleared his throat and continued. “After completing the three rounds, come to this ranch, passing Bolt’s house. Pass the stable and jump over the fence. Those who break it need to repair it. Then you have to go to Steellock, passing Serena’s house. When you reach the ranch, go AROUND it for one round and one round around the entire town and head to the green peaks. The first two to reach the foot of the hill will be chosen for this year’s derby. There’s a red ribbon, which means you have to cut past it. Understood?” Mr. Paul finished with a question. “Understood!” the elites said together. “Then I will meet you near the school ground. At…five fifty-five in the morning. Nighty night fellas.” Natasha said and left the ranch. “I’ll see you tomorrow morning at the finish line.” Marshall said and also left. Brian had a sudden thought about the time. he took out his pocket watch and wondered. “You think he figured it out so quickly?” Oliver whispered to Charlotte. “By the looks of his face, I think he did.” Charlotte replied.

In a matter of hours later, Brian and the elites came with their horse companions to the school ground. Though their horses had slept well, some like Brian, barely kept their eyes open. “Good morning folks! I marked your positions. Get ready, you have…three minutes to prepare.” Natasha said and went to the starting point. Brian sensed a huge difference in his environment. But that was not from the wind, light or anything from the environment. But a scary feeling about the intensity of the race that was about to be commenced. “Alright riders. When you hear my clap, RUN!” Natasha informed but Oliver took off. He realized that no one was following him and he stopped after going a few feet. “Wait for MY CLAP!” Natasha said while pouting. Oliver came back, embarrassed. “Jockeys on your mark. Ready…” Natasha clapped while ending the words. The riders whooshed leaving Natasha in the dust. At first, there was Whiplash on the lead and followed by Swifty, AceWind, Elena, Phantom and Rush respectively. The position didn’t change a bit even until they exited the school ground and headed to Gold-key ranch.

Point to point order of the racers changed. There was a time Pete took a huge lead, but not for too long. Brian passed him. That happened when they got close to Steel-lock ranch. Also, from that moment onward, Oliver was the last, and the competition was with Whiplash and Phantom to be the second, just because Serena was in a lead, almost impossible to reach. And so on, after about eight minutes of the race, the riders’ aim was to reach the foot of the green peaks. “Keep your eyes off the ridge. Aim to the foot of the hill buddy.” Brian whispered to Phantom. Just a few seconds later first light fell upon the riders. The rays of sun peeking from the middle of the two tall peaks hit directly onto the rider’s eyes. Charlotte had forgotten to be prepared for it, so she accidentally went on the wrong track with Elena. “Damn I forgot!” She blamed herself. ‘there’s no point to run through, but…’ she thought. “Let’s finish what we started! You with me Elena?” Elena neighed in agreement as a reply to Charlotte’s question. They had an extreme distance to cover on time to as not to be last, but they wanted to finish the race somehow.

At the moment Charlotte went off track, Oliver use it to his advantage and charged in full speed when there were only a couple of yards to the finish line. Oliver and Rush speeded up. At that moment, Whiplash and Phantom were about to get to the same place as runners-up, as Rush overtook them. Gerald was astounded. He accidentally gave a nudge to Whiplash, asking him to speed up. Whiplash also wanted to win, but the moment it thought, was too late. Whiplash tripped its leg but didn’t fall. Rush passed Phantom and Whiplash by inches and finished in second place. Unfortunate for Brian, not only did he finish third, but also Gerald finished third. The moment Whiplash tripped and finished with Phantom; Whiplash fell, crushing Gerald’s right leg to the ground. If Whiplash didn’t trip, Gerald will be fourth. Gerald couldn’t take out his leg. Brian quickly dismounted and aided Whiplash to get on its feet. Serena and Marshall came and dismounted Gerald. “Off of me!” Gerald yelled and pushed away Serena and Marshall. “Whiplash, are you alright? Can you walk?” Gerald went limping and asked from Whiplash, worrying after the fall. Brian brushed off the dirt on the legs to see any serious injuries. “You’re luckier than Phantom.” Brian said to Whiplash. “What do you mean luckier?” Gerald interrogated. “Well, after a normal break, Whiplash can run as he normally do.” Brian informed while tapping Whiplash on the neck. Gerald gave a heavy sigh in gladness. “Damn the sun got me good. WAIT! You’re limping!?” Pete asked in surprize while finishing in fifth. Then Charlotte finished sixth. “I’ll be alright. Just got my ankle sprained. It’ll heal with time.” Gerald said and mounted back onto Whiplash. “Let’s go home.” Gerald whispered to Whiplash. “Remember to come to meet me tonight.” Brian shouted. The elites gestured thumbs-ups. Since it was the morning, Serena and Pete went to Steel-lock and Charlotte and Oliver went to Gold-key with Brian. They mounted their horse buds and headed to their destinations.

 On the same day’s night, all the elites came with Jessica, Jane, James and Whitney. “Thanks for coming this late at the night. I thought not to tell the plan if Gerald and Serena got selected.” Brian addressed and continued. “I got this plan because Jane and Jessica said only Thoroughbreds go to the December derby. Is it true? Serena, Gerald.” Brian asked to make sure of his assumptions. “Actually, we can’t deny there.” Gerald said. “When someone from us became first, the committee president gave the trophies. Then told us he’ll give us the venue and time. But it never came. The next thing we knew was there’s another jockey representing our state in DD, instead of the one who got first and in our town.” Serena said. “But Jane, Jessie, you also said Serena got to the December derby, right?” Brian interrogated. “That because the committee president gave me a slip of paper with an address and a time.” Serena interrupted Jane and Jessica before they even try to say anything. “Hmmm” Brian hummed and started to wonder. The group went into complete silence. Moment later they heard some, people struggling undertones. The next thing that happened was Marshall and Natasha came out of the front yard. They were eavesdropping. “We’re so sorr…” Jane and Jessica tried to apologize but they saw Brian staring at James with narrowed angry eyes. “Wh…why are you staring at me like that?” James asked while shivering by seeing Brian’s creepy look. “Marshall and Natasha, won’t know the time to be here if they heard from Jane or Jessie.” Brian explained. Jane and Jessica gladly sighed. James started to get called sweat. “To be honest, Brian is right.” Natasha said while grinning. James went to his last breath after hearing that. “Arhh fine. Come and join. This is top-secret and should be well planned.” Brian invited Natasha and Marshall over. James started to breathe normally after Brian put away his scary look.

“Since Serena and Oliver were going to the inter-town derby, the plan has a good chance of execution. Although this is tough. Since all of you elites, won the inter-town at least, once right?” Brian asked. Everyone nodded. “Then we all should participate!”. Everyone gasped to Brian’s decision. “ARE YOU INSANE!?” the elites asked all together. “I know it’s a rule to only two from each town. But there’s no limit to the number of racers specified. Let’s make this year they get more visitors.” Brian said with an evil smirk. “I sense a plan.” “Yup. Me too.” James and Whitney said and giggled. “I still don’t get it.” Charlotte said. “Us neither.” Serena said on behalf of others. “All elites will participate only Serena and Oliver will go under our town’s name. the others go as non-competing participants. But there’s a catch.” Brian looked down on his own plan for the first time in his life so far. Everyone got intrigued to listen. “We’ll do anything to get our true positions.” Pete said. “I never thought, we’ll get to hear it from you.” James said. “You must win.” Brian whispered. “We didn’t hear it. What happened to your energetic voice?” Natasha mocked. “YOU two MUST WIN.” Brian shouted. “Excuse me!?” Marshall said. “If one of us or a person with a different breed than a Thoroughbred won the first place, Serena should come third and Oliver should come in second. If Oliver won, Serena should come to second place.” Brian detailed. “Hey hey you can’t force them to take places in the race. This is about representing the town.” Gerald said. “If Serena wins, we’re okay. But that won’t be a help to prove the committee cheated on you guys.” Briand aimed the words at non-Thoroughbred jockeys. “He has a point there Gerald.” Charlotte said and Pete nodded. “But…” Gerald tried to say something before he was interrupted. “I’ll do my best.” Oliver and Serena said together and looked at each other, in surprise of having the same thought. “Now then that’s settled. I’ll inform you all of the plans on a different day. Now it’s almost tomorrow. Everyone, please go back to your houses.” Brian said and ended the meeting. They said goodbyes and mounted their horses while Marshall, Natasha, Jane, and Jessica were offered a free ride to their homes by elites. “Serena.” Brian called. “Yes…” she replied. “When is the next race? The inter-town one?” he asked. Serena wondered for a moment. “December eleventh. Why asked?” she probed, expecting a fair answer. “Eleventh December? You mean in winter!? How are the horses supposed to go on an ice track with cold winds?” Brian questioned. “Ah, no need to worry about that. The race date announced after checking weather. And the tracks are called white turfs. There’s only a thin layer of snow, like a coat, above the dirt.” She answered. “But snow starts on about the second or third of December. What about the snow that piles up on the track? I mean turf.” He said. “That snow is pushed away from the path and equally distributed among the sides, so riders won’t go off course. Don’t worry, there’s no way a horse could slip there.” She giggled after saying “Seriously!?” Brian probed. “Of course, not silly. Just don’t worry about the tracks” She said. Then after, she went with the others to their households to get a late-night rest.

(Scene two: Surprises | Season: Winter) 

Days later, Autumn ended and the winter arrived with a few snowflakes. Everyone was wearing cold-resist coats woven with sheep cotton. Oliver and Serena were preparing to head to a town called, Dustvale. This is always the place where December derby state qualifier rounds have been held. The race details have been sent a week ago to all the towns state-wide. The racers should run a distance of one mile and two furlongs. In short, one and a quarter mile on white turf; also, can be called a track with a thin layer of haling snow. Oliver and Serena passed the Gold-key ranch. “Natasha! Can you put these in the attic? My back is killing me.” Oliver heard Mr. Paul saying something. “Serena, how many minutes are left for us to catch the train?” Oliver stopped Rush for a moment and asked. “Let me check…” Serena looked at her watch and counted. “Twenty…no. nineteen minutes. Why asked.” Serena questioned back. “I’ll go help Paul for a bit.” Oliver said and Rush jumped over the fences behind the stable. Oliver went to meet Mr. Paul. “Hey Paul, mind if I took your box to the attic? I heard you over when I’m passing by.” Oliver said. “Really!? That’s a big help lad. Just put it anywhere you want in the attic. I would’ve done it by myself, if not for this stupid back ache.” Mr. Paul thanked him indirectly. Oliver nodded and went to the stable with the heavy but small, wooden crate. At the moment Brian, Whitney, James and the other elites arrived on their horses. “Sis? We thought you two are at the station?” Whitney probed. “Well, we should be but, Oliver took a work to do before he gets going.” Serena said. “That’s Oliver for you. He always helps the others whenever he can.” Gerald admired. “Someone turning soft…” Charlotte gave a small hit from her elbow to Gerald’s while smirking. “Stop it. I am tough but I have a warm heart.” Gerald said. “Pfff.” Serena stopped her laughter. “Stop giggling.” Gerald yelled in embarrassment.

“AAAARRH!” Suddenly, out of the blue, the riders heard Oliver screaming from inside the stable. “What was that?” James panicked. The elites didn’t wait. They rushed and jumped and approached the stable and dismounted. What they saw was terrifying. One of the four, six-inches-wide, two-inches-thick wooden planks, holding the attic, had fallen onto Oliver. Luckily the attic didn’t fall, and the three other planks holding it; barely. Pete and Gerald pulled Oliver when Brian just lifted the heavy plank that was almost crushing Oliver to the ground. “Oliver what happened? Are you alright?” Serena asked. Then Mr. Paul showed up with Whitney and James. “What’s going on?” he yelled. “The pillar just gave me a good push.” Oliver said and tried to put his hands to the ground and get up. But he couldn’t. Both of his wrists were fractured and hurt when tried to wobble. “How could you do this to yourself!? RIGHT BEFORE THE RACE! JERK!” Serena yelled. “Blame the plank.” Oliver said and giggled. “Gerald, can you…” “No can-do mate. The sprain is not over in my stupid leg. I can barely maneuverer Whiplash.” Gerald rejected the offer by Oliver. “Then the place goes to you, Brian.” Oliver said. Brian was shocked to the core in an instant when those words ended. “Wha…WH…Haw…I CAN’T. I didn’t practice much. Nor had time to teach Phantom. We didn’t…” Brian panicked in confusion with the sudden decision. “You coward!” James grabbed and punched right in his face. “Hey James…” “What are you doing?” Mr. Paul and Whitney asked. “WAKE UP! Don’t tell me you race because you are sure of Phantom’s speed.” James grabbed Brian by the shoulders and shook him. Brian looked down because he felt the reason was false-free truth. He felt he raced without a goal. “You aren’t the real Brian I met in high school. Nor the one I taught horse riding. Not even the Brainiac you used to be. ARE YOU EVEN TRIED LISTENING TO YOURSELF?” James exclaimed. The words stabbed Brian’s heart like a sharp-edged sword. The whole place went completely silent. “You owe me ten gold if I practically show you the speed of the ghosts.” Brian said with an evil-looking smirk. “Now that’s the Brian I know. Although some I said was not true and some are just hunches.” James said while grinning and the whole power of his heart-stabbing speech was vaporized. The elites gasped when they heard, that most of what they heard from James today, were guesses. The next thing James realized was Brian punching in the face. “Now we are even. I could’ve not hit you if you said the hunches part.” Brian said while adjusting his gloves. “Holy…I’m out of words but, the train comes within two minutes.” Serena informed and quickly mounted onto Swifty and whooshed. So did the other riders, except Gerald and Oliver. They’ll be coming with Natasha, Marshall, Jane and Jessica.

The train arrived, the moment the riders entered the station. Everyone went to the last crate of the train. “Good to go,” said the railway guard and blew his big silver whistle. Then he waved a green flag and went back to the ticket counter, giving the station master a break. “Man, we made it in time.” James said with a heavy sigh. “Brian you know the race details, right?” Whitney asked. “I know the race details. How much time gonna cost to go in this train?” Brian answered and asked when he looked at Serena. “Eleven hours actually. In summer this is the most beautiful route of all railroads in this state.” Serena said. “Eleven hours!? Then I’m gonna sleep.” James said and covered himself from a rug and curled up. “Where did you get the rug?” Pete asked. James put one arm out of the rug and pointed. There’s a bunch of rolled rugs in the haystack in the crate. “Those are for the horses.” Charlotte exclaimed and pulled over the rug. “Come on James, we still have hours to midday. Put it together.” Brian said. “Midday? Then why the place is so dark and hot?” James asked drowsily. “Is he this dumb?” Charlotte whispered to Brian. Brian sighed and went to the other side of the crate. “What are you doing?” Serena asked. Brian slid open the door of the crate slightly, just enough to get some air. Cool wind entered the crate and filled the crate with chilly air. “CLOSE THE DAMN DOOR!” James yelled when he was awakened by the freezing breeze. He pulled the door and shut it. “Are you cold blooded?” James asked. “That depends. Did you ask scientifically or metaphorically or any other way?” Brian asked with a fake confusion. James facepalmed and laid and tried to sleep again. “I can’t believe we are going with these two.” Charlotte said to herself and sighed. “I don’t know why I am sensing that something good going to happen, but also my thoughts saying, that good is bad for me.” Serena said.

“We still have more than ten hours. Are you three gonna stand in the whole journey?” Pete said while covering his eyes with his hat. He instantly slept. His body gradually slid down like a slime from the wall he was laying and now, laying on the floor. The ladies’ faces went unamused. “I guess the sleepyheads are right. We should rest for a while.” Brian suggested. The ladies unrolled the rugs and slept on them. “You said, those are for horses.” Brian said to Charlotte in disappointment. But she ignored it and slept. Brian went far back of the crate and opened the other door slightly enough to see the outside. He put his back to the wall behind him and kept looking outside and feeling the cold wind. He made sure the others, including horses, won’t feel the cold. The wind was cold enough to make Brian shiver, even though he was wearing mittens and a cold-proof jacket.

After the hours of the journey, the train arrived close to Dustvale town. It was night and Dustvale looks beautiful when the whole town got lit up. Brian actually didn’t notice anything to call beautiful while he was staring at the environment, covered in white snow. He was in utmost boredom. Suddenly, Brian heard someone sneezing. He was startled but he wasn’t sure either. Part of his mind started to say ‘it’s a ghost. It’s a god damn ghost.’ while the other part started to say, ‘There’s no ghost. They don’t exist’. Brian approached close to the place he was sure, where the sound was from.

Also, suddenly, the train hit hard brakes. Brian fell, rolled and hit the front wall and next to James. The riders were woken up by the impact sound. Then they heard it. “Welcome to Dustvale train station. The train arrived from Broken Willows, and will leave the station in two minutes.” An announcer at the station said. The riders who slept, stretched their arms and legs before they mounted their horses. They talked to their horses and moved out of the crate. Just like in Iycehaven. In here also, the station was decorated and there’s a comparatively huge banner saying, ‘Welcome to Dustvale jockies!’. For a person who doesn’t know about equestrian stuff, the banner sounds like, they’re inviting cookie makers or people who compete to make socks. Luckily the banner won’t sound like either of them, because it had a background of pictures of horses. “Serena, do you feel like, that…” Brian hinted. “I thought I was the only one.” Serena said. “On three.” Brian said. But when Brian said two, all the riders turned. “Emily!?” “Harry!?” Whitney and James said together. “I should’ve known. Why are you here? Dad might be worried sick!” Brian casually said; for two reasons. He didn’t want to scold her. And if she cried the entire situation will be a kind of an embarrassment. “Don’t worry. I gave a note to uncle Paul, to give it to dad.” Emily said. That made Harry a bit anxious. “Harry…let me guess. You didn’t inform mom or dad. Did you?” James narrowed his eyes. Harry looked downed and said, “Nope.” While making imaginary lines from his leg. James went to meet the station master. He wrote and gave a letter to him (stationmaster); asking to send it directly to his father in Broken Willows, via the postman. The station master agreed. “Thank you so much. Sorry for the inconvenience.” James gladly thanked. “No problem at all. Enjoy your visit.” The station master said. “We will for sure.” Brian replied. After the riders mounted and were all set to go, they went outside the station. Emily and Harry were with their siblings. They went to the ONLY ranch in Dustvale town; the Dustvale ranch, to get registered for the race.