We kept up the laughter as we did the stable chores, especially after I finally managed to duck into our rooms to safely store Josh’s hat for now. I’d have to find a way to flaunt it in the morning, and I wanted to wear my new helmet for a little bit longer. Evening had been eyeing it with a little too much interest anyway, reminding me that my horse was a possessive twit and I didn’t know how this applied to humans yet. The baroness found us shortly after we finished getting the horses ready to leave, needing our help to find pearls that had broken off their string, and were part of an heirloom piece. She’d found most of them, but there was a half dozen or so still scattered somewhere on the winery grounds.
It didn’t seem like that big of a deal, so we agreed. She gave us her route, and we split it in half between us, planning to meet at the back of the winery where the races started. There was a fair amount of scrounging to do. The baroness’s inspection had been no morning constitutional! We found them mostly around the front, which made me sigh in exasperation. Trust our luck to start at the opposite point we should have! The baroness was grateful and gave us a yellow trench sort of jacket. I rather liked it, and decided to keep it instantly. But rather than run it back to our room, I joined Savvy in thanking the old dear so we could be off. Linda was waiting for us, after all.
Linda was back at the castle, and seemed down. She cheered up a bit when we rode up, and said she had a lot to do now that she was back. But she had all sorts of adventures of our own to go on. Suddenly, I was so happy Savvy took me on a holiday or else I will be guaranteed to go batty.
She did have the beginnings of two. One of Carney’s brothers was setting up another show jumping track, making me perk up in interest and Evening shift in a way I think was uncomfortable. Poor dear. Linda told us how to find him, but also mentioned that she had been in contact with Thomas back in Moorland, and he wanted to see us.
It was unanimous pretty quickly that we should go see Thomas first, and see how well he was handling Justin being missing. He tried to put a smile on for us and the other campers, but you could see he was worrying. There wasn’t any news on his end, and he seemed caught up with our own recent distractions. But that wasn’t why he had called us here. Apparently, the git was having a bit of a kerfuffle with his latest batch of tourists. I bit my lip to keep from whining. He got himself into trouble, surely he could get himself out of it this once, right?
But no, that would be mean. So we turned towards Fort Pinta. James was really upset, making me feel at least a little bad for the mite. A small family of tourists had disappeared, parents and a girl. He was certain the horses were calm ones, so he had no idea what could have happened to them. But he told us where they were supposed to be going, towards the castle via the road alongside the Fields of Gold. His face really paled when we mentioned we hadn’t come from that direction, so we had no news. But Savvy was pretty sure that meant they had to be between the abbey and Steve’s farm, so we agreed to take a look around and send them back to James.
That brought some color back to his face.
One turned up by the abbey, sure enough. The family was apparently German, and his name was Gunther. Bald with a rather intense mustache to compensate and a rather loud shirt that I swore no one actually wore on vacation, he was also missing his horse and the rest of his family! His wife, Helga, and their daughter, Gretchen, had apparently gone on ahead after his horse and a bumblebee had a bit of a spat. The horse had run off, and he needed help finding it. He thought he was hearing it over by the ruins.
So around the stone fence we went until the horse appeared. He was perfectly content, grazing. I had to apologize to him for interrupting his snack, but grabbed his reins. He was a bit indignant, and I explained that not only was his rider worried about him, but eating around the bit wasn’t good for him. Savvy checked him over as he calmed down, pronouncing him fine. We led him back to Gunther, who promised to go straight back to Fort Pinta to tell James what was going on.
I dithered a bit about whether we should walk him back or not. But the horse seemed to have calmed down after his snack, and Savvy was off. Evening made the decision for me and took off to catch up with Heart.
The road was only in use by various other girls going from place to place, chattering loudly like a bunch of birds. I was suddenly glad that Savvy and I could both talk and be silent and comfortable with each other. But there was no sign of the missing tourists at first. I was looking around just to be safe when I spotted them out in the field, which worried me right from the start. Steve had a machine running there!
Thankfully, they seemed to be alright. Well, being relative. No one was dead or seriously injured…yet. Gretchen was almost in tears and Helga was trying to comfort her. Savvy was quick to introduce us and give her the news of Gunther. That set Helga a little at ease, but their problem was definitely a more immediate one. Gretchen’s horse was trapped in a hole.
I immediately led Evening away from the area to be safe, and then dismounted. Savvy did the same, and we both turned grim when we got a better look at it. It wasn’t just a singular hole that the poor thing had gotten stuck in, but a huge series of them. And right on the race track! I quickly reassured the worried Gretchen that we would get her horse free. (I was reassuring the horse too, since it needed to stay calm before it hurt itself!)
The hole was too deep, though, so Helga suggested a shovel. We led the horses away from the area (just to be safe) and down a bit of a hill next to the stable to find him standing by the well like normal.
And he quite alarmed about what we had to say. Big holes in the field weren’t a good thing, either for farming or for the horses! I was a bit fretful, so he quickly wrapped it up and gave us a shovel. Savvy and Helga quickly took charge of the digging, so I helped Gretchen keep the horse calm. It also helped calm her down. Once they had gotten the dirt cleared away, I didn’t pause and think, just slid right down there with the horse.
He was a bit scared, and I could feel him being sore. I gently ran my fingers down his leg, checking for anything that would be a problem when he stepped out. And there it was again. That strange spark, like with Wendy the cow. I rubbed my hands as I climbed out, frowning, but told Savvy I hadn’t felt anything wrong. The horse’s ears perked forward, and with a bit of encouragement, he hopped up out of the hole. Not even limping. I breathed a sigh of relief.
…And even now, I’m rubbing my knuckles, trying to figure out what I was feeling both times. It just didn’t make any sense. That horse should have at least had some bruises. But James texted us after supper to confirm he was fine. It just doesn’t make any sense.
Well, I gave Gretchen another hug and helped her mount back up. They were on their way back to Fort Pinta and Gunther. We took the shovel back to Steve and told him more about the holes…which were everywhere in that section of the field. Poor farmer was understandably upset. His poor fields! And we weren’t the only campers who used that path for a shortcut, apparently, not to mention the race. He needed to know what was going on. So we left the horses in the barn and tried to sneak up on what was going on.
Savvy swears that she saw something like mice or moles, but bigger, poking out as we walked up. I wouldn’t know. As soon as we got close, it was like that old arcade game, Whack-a-Mole. Not a thing to be seen.
As disappointing as it was, we went back to Steve and told him we just weren’t stealthy enough.
But he had an idea. There was an observatory up near Valedale. He thought we should talk to Mario, the man who ran it, and see if we could borrow the telescope. I wasn’t quite sure an observatory telescope would work like that, but what the heck? We didn’t have any better ideas.
Since Valedale was pretty far off, I pointed out that we had better swing by Carney’s brother’s place first before we went that far north. We had no idea where he was going to send us, and too much running around would wear out the horses. Savvy agreed, and we went back through Silverglade. (I caught her waving at Derek, sneaky, sneaky.)