The Creator's Eye: Mover of Fate, Part I, page 4
Michael threw himself into the saddle and kicked his horse into a gallop back towards New Canaan. He crouched low, his head tucked against his horse’s neck to avoid being hit by the shots, but before he could get past the first fruit stand, a blast struck him in the side. His whole body rippled in agony as he tumbled off his horse. Stars flashed before his eyes as he collided face first with the ground.
After rolling to a battered stop, he lay stunned on a dusty road for the second time in twenty-four hours. He was certain this was bad for his brain. His chest hurt and it was hard to breathe. The fall had knocked the wind out of him. He stared up at the stars emerging from their nighttime veil. He wanted to stand up and get back to his horse, but his legs were numb. His head throbbed and he tried to bring his hand to it to see if he was cut, but his arms would not respond either. They just flopped like fish suffocating out of water. Suddenly, a sword tip was pointed at him just inches from his face.
“Don’t move,” growled a horned figure standing over him.
“I can’t,” said Michael. “Or at least not really…”
“Shut it, roundhead!” snapped the man, pressing the sword to Michael’s cheek. Its point dug into his flesh, cold and sharp. Michael cried out, but was answered by a boot to the ribs.
“Watch it!” called another horned man from atop a shaggy horse. Michael noticed that he seemed to have longer horns than the rest of the assailants. “Don’t beat them up any more than you have to, especially their faces. Just tie them up and get them out of here.”
The first horned man grunted in reticent acquiescence, then shoved Michael into a sitting position with the toe of his boot. As he bound Michael’s hands with metal shackles, the effect of the blast seemed to fade. His breath returned along with the feeling in his appendages.
Michael’s captor called to another horned man who helped him hoist Michael to his feet. They shoved him toward the main group of horned people, who Michael could now plainly see where soldiers. They wore the same black armor with red-starred insignias as the dead man at Roak Rock. John, Aiden, and Donald were tied and on their feet as well. They didn’t appear to be hurt. Michael looked around for somewhere to run, but there were too many soldiers. He would not get far, and would probably suffer a worse beating than before. He could feel a warm trickle of blood dribbling from his hairline. It met with the cut on his cheek and coursed down his chin.
“Drastos!” called the long-horned man atop the horse. He seemed to be the lead officer.
“Sir?” responded the soldier who had assaulted Michael.
“Chain these profaners together and march them back to the city. Take three other kulpas with you. I shouldn’t need to remind you again that Lord Acheron needs to look them in the eye and wants them breathing,” the captain said sternly, “but if these roundheads try to escape, I am sure you can invent other ways to make them obey.
THE DROP OUT