Introduction: When traveling dark unknown roads beware of strangers.
As I rode down the moonlit path in The Black Forest I was glad for the extra light because this was one of the darkest forests I could remember navigating in a fortnight.
“Black Forest indeed,” I mumbled to myself thinking it quite an appropriate name for it was black as pitch and dense. The moon was bright in an otherwise empty sky as I paused in a clearing.
I jumped off my horse appreciating the jolt of my feet on solid ground after a long day of riding. My horse had picked up a stone earlier in the day and I didn’t want to risk it going lame as I still had a long road to travel.
I loosened the small stone with my knife and released his hoof. I stood up and leaned on its warm flank grateful for the moment. He was a strong surefooted mount I picked him well but he needed rest.
I was bone tired, didn’t like this forest and now had to camp here. I had expected to make camp earlier outside of Belltower but the area was full of riffraff so I decided to ride on. Just as I was making good time my horse stumbled. Some days it didn’t pay to get out of my bedroll and this was one of them.
A half of an hour went by I got a fire going and noticed clouds starting to form in the sky. A slight breeze picked up and my horse got wind of something. Frowning, I thought I saw a dark shape moving through the clearing nearby.
It was very large, larger than a man perhaps a black bear. The moon ducked behind the clouds and everything outside the campfire was like black ink.
My horse cried out in fear and broke its lead crashing through the underbrush just as lightning flashed and hit a nearby tree. Sparks flew everywhere as the trunk split wide open and caught on fire.
As I took this in, I was spun around lightly but forcefully by something passing by. I regained my stance and was confronted by a hooded figure on a horse. This wasn’t your normal fellow traveler because the horse and rider appeared…to be dead.
I was frozen in my tracks while, “Run, run-you must run,” screamed in my brain. I dropped to my knees. My mouth was bone dry as I croaked out a muffled screech.
My eyes wild with fear the apparition made one last pass. The rider crossed by the burning tree and I caught a good look at it.
The steed was skin and bones yet it was galloping by with a figure actively riding it. The figures rotting flesh hung in chunks on his bones through holes in his tattered cloak and he brandished a sword from his skeleton hand.
Just then our eyes met and I was staring into a face where there was none! A toothless grin was somehow sneering at me as the eye sockets stared sightlessly through me. A dark mist was gathering along the ground and it was freezing cold!
He held one white rose in a fist underneath the sleeve of the black robe. I was drawn back to the eyes, the missing eyes, those eyeless holes, boring through me…
The mist was everywhere now swirling upward as I watched the dark figure make one more pass coming closer…
…as everything turned to darkness.
© Rebecca Sanchez 2013
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