‘How did I get into this mess?’ sighed Heath as he felt his body sink further into the squishy mud. A sense of doom crept over him as the crushing sludge tightened around his chest making it difficult for him to breathe. He could have easily yielded to panic but knew that the tinniest move would give his enemy leverage to pull him under quicker. He regulated his breathing by inhaling deeply but slowly. He closed his eyes and concentrated on the only person able to hear his cry for help, Nick.
Another cry blended with his, though not human. He shot his eyes open to gaze at his faithful companion Charger thumping his hoof on the ground, neighing and snorting at his failure to reach his master in desperate need of help.
“It’s okay, friend. It’s not your fault. You warned me not to get my feet wet even if it were to save that calf.”
Charger tossed his head back and forth as he risked another hoof into the squishy mud. He quickly retreated to step sideways and try another spot that proved as risky as the first. But the animal wouldn’t give up. He stopped and perked up his ears at the faith moan coming from his master whose chest was now completely immerged. It was only a matter of minutes before the mire would swallow him whole.
He neighed to draw Heath’s attention to him. When his master responded, he knelt on the ground as close as he could to the pond of mud and extended his head as far as he could to allow Heath to grab a hold of his bridle. Heath flashed a grateful smile at his savior, but the horse was still too far to reach. Charger raised his nose to provide a few more inches. Heath stretched out his fingers to the fullest, the tips brushing against he horse’s muzzle. With a little effort, Heath was able to grab hold of the bridle. Charger then raised his head and wiggled his body backwards to pull his master toward the bank.
Horse and man huffed and puffed in unison, drudging to avoid a tragedy. Their efforts paid off. The mud finally released its stranglehold on its prey with a squishy sound. Exhausted and panting, Heath lay sprawled on the ground trying to catch his breath while Charger staggered to his legs and began licking his master’s face.
Heath painfully rolled onto his back to scratch his savior behind the ears. “I owe you my life, my friend,” he breathed out, still trying to catch his wind. “Double serving of oats for you tonight.”
After a few minutes, Charger nuzzled his master on the arm, encouraging him to lean on him for support as he raised himself to his feet. Failing that, the animal knelt on the ground to allow his master to heave himself on his back. Once in the saddle, Heath grabbed a hold of the horse’s mane as he slowly hoisted himself up.
Barely twenty minutes later, they arrived at the main gate of the Barkley mansion. Charger ambled all the way to the front door where he knelt down to allow Heath to dismount easily. The animal hopped the two steps and rapped his hoof against the oak door.
“Mr. Nick!” Silas yelped at the sight of his visitor.
“What is it Silas?”
“It’s…it’s…it’s a horse, sir,” the servant stammered, taking steps backward in fear of the animal biting him.
“It’s Charger. What the…” His sentence was cut short when he caught sight of his little brother covered in crusty mud. He rushed to his side to help him to his feet. “Heath what happened to you?”
“It’s a long story.” He gazed at his faithful companion and buried his face in his neck in a deep gratitude, with tears rushing to his eyes. “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”