Kayla screamed again as an enemy's horse went down over a log. A sparkling buckskin came galloping up past the fallen animal to Kayla's right.
"Don't worry about them! Keep going!" Dara commanded, gesturing with her left hand.
Kayla hunched further into her saddle, scared she would be hit by a spell at any moment. She and Beta jumped two more fences before heading into the turn that led to the waterfalls. She could barely see Culter's black rump through the mist created by the rushing water. Why did I let her talk me into this? she asked herself, recalling the events of only a few hours prior…
"Come on!" Keeshee begged. "It's even on your favorite course!" She grabbed Kayla's arm to try to make her stop walking away. Dara stood a few feet back with her usual non-caring expression present.
Kayla turned to her friend. "I…I don't know," she said, shaking her blonde hair side to side. "You know how much I hate magic races. I don't think I could throw a spell at someone's horse. It's just too mean."
"You won't have to. The other team got a new member and we'll forfeit unless we get another player," Keeshee explained. "Dara and I already talked about it. I'll take the lead with Culter and draw away most of the fire. You will ride in the middle of the pack with Dara behind you to block any spells cast in your direction. And you two can cast at the other team to keep them from slowing me down. Dara's comfortable casting all sorts of spells, but you don't have to cast any spells that you don't like to use," she reassured.
Kayla looked over her shoulder at Dara who nonchalantly closed and opened her calm, purple eyes. That's a "yes" from her, she thought. She looked at Beta and stroked down his long nose. She sighed. "Okay. Let me get Beta ready then." Keeshee beamed.
She asked Beta to jump over the slippery patch of rocks under the waterfalls to avoid slowing down but an enemy placed down a chunk of ice where she would have landed. Her only choice was to glide over the cliff to the water below.
Dara's horse, Na-chan, had greater speed than Beta and was able to simply run through the waterfalls and double-jump over the ice. She kept her sharp eyes on her timid friend. While she continued to trail Kayla on the cliff, she gathered some boosters. At the last second, she would use them to outrun the other team's horses to the finish line.
Kayla managed to receive a shield spell and cast it as an enemy locked onto her. They knew she was the one to take down and they weren't giving her an inch. As soon as the shield dissipated, she was hit from behind. It felt like gravity lessened for a moment, before her vision was clouded with shadows. Oh no! Beta was at her whim when she started panicking, steering left and right in an effort to figure out which direction she was headed. He was forced to slow to a hand gallop to keep from colliding full speed with any boulders. When the spell ended, they found that the track had narrowed and that they were back on solid ground. That was their signal that the race was near its end. Kayla could see that during her magical bombardments, Dara had succeeded in slowing down two of the other team's riders. Now, only their best rider was left to contend with Keeshee and Culter. There were no more spells to grab at this point and Dara was waiting for her random spell to materialize. All Kayla and Dara could do was ride their hardest and hope Keeshee would cross the finish line before the other team.
As Kayla and Dara converged from their alternate paths, Dara let out a gasp. Startled, Kayla looked at her friend and then forward at Keeshee, whom she was staring at. To their horror, Culter had the last of five fire balls forming around his neck. Dragon fire!
Dara and Kayla urged their horses on, jumping over every fence they could to get even a tiny bit of speed burst. Culter let out a scream and went down, rolling over Keeshee with the force of the spell. "Ahhh!" Keeshee yelled. The blue ribbon tied to the enemy's tail streamed past the fallen duo.
Kayla heard a chuckle and turned her head to see Dara throw a glowing, yellow orb at the attacker. "Alright, Dara!" Kayla praised.
Dara gave Kayla a serious look. "Here, take my boosters!" she shouted. Beta glowed from the energy transfer. "I'll stay behind you to block the fire from behind us but you have to use all the speed you have left to win this race!" Dara pulled Na-chan back and positioned herself between Beta and the gaining blue team.
Kayla never had to use such a huge boost before and was afraid to make fifteen year old Beta run so hard. She started to doubt herself and clung to Beta's neck, frozen. Beta sensed her fear and made the decision himself. With a buck and a snort, he threw his head down and forward as he charged ahead towards the finish line. Culter was only starting to get up to speed after rising, while the enemy's horse was recovering from the lightning shock. Kayla continued to ride with her eyes closed in apprehension as Beta burned his horseshoes on the ground.
"Keep going, Kayla!" she could hear Keeshee yell.
"No!" the other rider groaned as she realized there was no way to get the speed she needed to catch Beta.
With a forceful, rearing halt accompanied by a pair of wings acting as parachutes, Beta finished Kayla's first ever magic team race. Keeshee, followed quickly by Dara, crossed the line and came up to Kayla with no end of praise for their friend. The lead rider of the blue team was too stunned from losing to a novice fighter to finish the race within the time limit.
"Gloat time!" announced Keeshee, throwing her arms in the air, causing Culter to rear. Together, with Kayla in the lead, the red team galloped across the open fields of Pheobe. But Kayla still didn't feel too comfortable with all the attention. So Beta did her a favor. Taking double-jumps, he glided several times to let her know it was okay to be the center of attention. She smiled and wrapped her arms around his neck as they continued their dash of triumph.