The headless horseman rode straight towards the small band and all time
seemed to lose meaning. The dwarves began to lift their axes, Fred's head
turned to stare, and the silent monstrosity quickened its gallop. From
the point between the batting of his eye and the reaching of his sword a
million images swirled within the mind of the Knight from Allaria;
whatever the rider might be –whether ghost, ghoul or some other unholy
thing- the noise of the horse's hooves and the debris they kicked up meant
it was a real, solid being. And if real, then powerful though the animal
be, it would still struggle to make any progress through a thicker tangle
of tree and bush. And that's when time seemed to regain its solidity (if
even only for a moment) and his lips made free to scream: "Off the path!"
Fred dived into the nearest bushes while the dwarves followed suit. Yet it was the forest itself that seemed to take its own course. The fog was still not gone and apocolyptic lights still burst through bramble high and low. As Fred sought to reach the safety of that clump of twig and leaf it appeared as if the fog erased them from existence! The dwarves, too, found refuge a thing hard found and the confusion that seemed a hallmark of this lost wood continued unabated for this weary crew. And all the while the silent rider, that headless horseman, galloped ever closer with his double-edged sword held at the ready.
Whether seconds passed or an eternity, no one could tell –not then at that moment nor when the ordeal was finished and all quiet anew- the motions of madness coalesced with the instincts for survival...and the stink of terror. A crazed game of musical chairs ensued between hero and bramble, dwarf and ivy, between the warriors trained for battles more mundane and a forest that seemed more than alive. And still the horseman rode nearer. It was Baren who found himself the object of the horseman's ire; it was Baren who was without cover when the hoof-fall of the fire-eyed equine shuddered throughout the glade; it was Baren who found himself as no other dwarf known to history –face to 'face' with a demon from the underbrush! The battle was swift, for Baren could barely hold his battle-axe. His adrenaline was pumping but not enough to save him that day. The horseman's steady hold upon his sword, the horse's uncanny stride through shifting branch and bush, and the momentum of rider and beast together saw to it that the ghostly vengeance of the wood would be appeased that night.
As Baren's head flew cleanly –cleaved from his otherwise strong dwarven neck- and the demon-rider continued on through the shifting forest, only one sound was heard, the desperate cry of Lem. "Ko!" he screamed into the night. "Khe hracht te krillsevenge!" And with those words he bowed his head and bitterly sobbed.
12/6/1999 9:53:23 PM
The Never Ending Quest Home
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