Camelot's Destiny stood in the dark and dreamed of running free, her feet flying over the green turf, the breeze fluttering the baby fluff of her black mane. She nickered in her high-pitched voice, calling to her mother as if to say "Watch me! Watch me run like the wind!" She bugled challenges to the other youngsters in her herd. Many ran to join her races, but none could match her pace. She loved to run. She was born to run. Though misfortune and cruelty had locked her away, she still dreamed of the day she would run to meet her destiny.
Samantha Milford and Katrina Dugan appeared as different as night and day. Samantha's tall, lanky form and dark wavy hair contrasted with Katrina's petite stature and short, sandy locks. Where Samantha's demeanor was shy and thoughtful, Katrina's bubbled with energy and occasional, careless enthusiasm. Even friends and family couldn't understand how two so different could be so inseparable. In truth their personalities seemed to balance one other. The cement that bound their friendship was their shared love and unwavering passion for horses.
Since their first meeting at the age of seven, the two girls had spent nearly every free moment pursuing all things equine. From books to models, they had it all. They took riding lessons when their parents could afford it and cleaned stables when their parents could not. One way or another they always found a way to be around horses.
Excitement had filled both girls when Katrina discovered an advertisement announcing the reopening of the famed Rosewood Stable in two weeks. The equine loving community of Great Britain had been shocked when news of the collapse of Rosewood had been reported in all the papers and horse magazines. Rosewood was one of the oldest and most famous racing stables in all of Great Britain, and the final home of the great racing Thoroughbred stallion, Excalibur, who lost only one race in all of his career and went on to sire many champions.
The equestrian world was shocked to learn the owners of Rosewood were accused of a long list of horrible crimes including animal cruelty and mismanagement of funds. They were forced to sell all the horses and give up ownership of the stable to pay back taxes and creditors. One magazine reported that some of the horses had been sold at auction without their papers and pedigrees because they couldn't be properly identified. The new owners of Rosewood, Patricia and Howard Prescott, had bought the stable with the intention of reopening it to the public, creating a riding academy and leasing out sections of the facility to smaller trainers.
After hearing about the reopening, Samantha and Katrina had hatched a plan to offer their services in exchange for riding lessons. Samantha and Katrina stood outside the Rosewood stable office waiting for the new owner to arrive. The girls looked around in both awe and sadness. The stable was grand with its cobbled grounds and stone buildings, but moss, ivy and years of neglect had taken a toll. The stable was in horrible disrepair. It would take a small army to return it to its former glory. Samantha and Katrina hoped their offer would be one the Prescott's couldn't turn down.
"Sam," Katrina said, "did you bring those two letters of recommendation from Mrs. Pembry?" Mrs. Pembry had often given the girls short rides on her aging mare, Daisy. Mrs. Pembry was also in her golden years, so Samantha and Katrina spent several afternoons each week doing chores, giving Daisy much appreciated grooming and mucking out her stall and small paddock.
"Yes, Trina, for the umpteenth time!" Samantha said with a sigh. She watched her friend nervously fidget and pace awaiting the arrival of the Prescotts. Being patient was not one of Katrina's strong suits.
Both girls turned when they heard the sound of boots approaching on the cobblestones. Patricia Prescott appeared through the gates of the stable. Samantha and Katrina were impressed by her crisp white shirt, riding jodhpurs and shiny black boots. However, both shrunk a bit at the woman's stern demeanor.
"Good morning girls," said Patricia. "What brings you here so early in the morning. I'm afraid the stable won't be open for several more weeks."
Samantha looked at Katrina expecting her to say something, but for once Katrina was at a loss for words.
"Um...good morning," said Samantha. "Are you Mrs. Prescott?"
"Why yes," said Patricia. "And you two are...?"
Katrina, finally recovering her usual aplomb, said, "I'm Trina Dugan and this is my friend Sam Milford. We were wondering if you might be hiring stable help?"
"Well..." Patricia replied, pausing a moment looking the two girls over, uncertainty showing clearly on her face.
Katrina continued quickly before Mrs. Prescott could turn them down. "We don't want to be paid, Mrs. Prescott. We'd like to work in exchange for riding lessons once you get the riding academy going."
Samantha nodded her agreement and stepped forward with their two letters from Mrs. Pembry. "We have recommendations from our neighbor Mrs. Pembry. We help take care of her mare Daisy. We don't have our own horse, but we know a lot about them."
"And we'll work hard," added Katrina enthusiastically.
Patricia paused a bit, taken aback by the girls' assertiveness. She studied the two, thinking they were an odd pair and perhaps too young to be reliable. However, she could see the passion in them, the same passion that drove her to start such a crazy venture like Rosewood even after all her friends and family had warned her it would never work. She knew she could use all the help she could get, but had little to pay for it. Patricia made up her mind.
"Well then...." she said. "Since you two are here even before the lads I had hired, I'll give you a try today. If I like your work, I'll hire you on."
Samantha and Katrina nearly jumped for joy. "Oh thank, you Mrs. Prescott," they said in near unison. "You won't be disappointed."
Patricia put on a serious face. "See that I'm not," she said in her no nonsense manner. "Are you ready to start now?"
"Oh yes!" the girls beamed. "We brought our wellies and gloves!"
"Good," said Patricia. "You can start with the stalls on the south side of the stable. They are empty and need mucking out. I'll get you rakes, shovels and a barrow. Some of those stalls are knee deep."
Samantha and Katrina changed into their boots and followed Patricia to the tool shed. She showed them the tools and lead them to the row of stalls to be cleaned.
"I'll be in the office if you need me," she said, turning on her shiny boot and disappearing around the corner.
"Whew!" said Katrina, letting out a large breath of air, leaning on her rake.
"Whew, is right," said Samantha. "That is one tough lady. I can't believe we got the job. I thought for sure she was going to say no."
"Me too," said Katrina handing Samantha a shovel. "But we haven't got the job yet. First we have several million pounds of horse manure to shovel."
Samantha turned and looked down the long row of stalls. Some stood with their doors open. Samantha leaned in the first one and scrunched up her nose.
"What a mess." she said heavily. "It's at least a foot deep in there."
"Well, we better get going," said Katrina, her enthusiasm helping to motivate them both.
Together the girls began digging out the stall, about to uncover one of Rosewood's darkest secrets.