Fri, October 20, 2006
I was making tea in the cottage, listening to the birds outside suddenly fly into a frenzy. Someone was coming. I could see the riders on the road as it weaved towards the cottage, tucked away at the edge of the village nearly into the forest. The intuition was strong; it was time, they had come for me. I was being hunted.
I knew this day would come. I had felt it in my bones since the snows began to melt; it was only a matter of time. I doused the fire, tucked the tea away and gathered the bundle by the door that had been made ready weeks previously. Stuffing some provisions into the pack, I threw on my long cloak and hurried to the barn.
On the way I sent out thoughts of calm to the birds deep in the woods, telling them I would be passing and to hide me as best they could. Once in the barn I radiated thoughts of urgency but calm to the horse in the stall, munching away on hay, content as could be. "Azrai, time to go now." He stuck his head over the door and nickered curiously at me. On first glimpse, he was a short, fat, dumpy looking draft; all feet and butt. I led him out of the stall and stroked his neck, murmuring under my breath to release the glamour held upon him all these years. All who knew him knew a retired plough horse that carried me and my herbs to town now and then; they would not have believed their eyes would they have seen him after that moment. As my hand passed along his neck onto his back, I released the illusion and revealed him for what he was; strong, slim of leg, with an incredibly athletic build. He was not terribly tall, but a supreme king of his kind- given to me as a gift from the king of the plains men, a dark king who thought it a fine gift after I saved his cows.
He shook all over, free of the strange feeling he'd carried since I brought him here- no longer a stocky dapple draft, but the sleek, black racer he was. He was entirely black but for the heart shaped blaze upon his brow- and beautiful. I saddled him quickly, tying on blankets and the pack, and led him into the forest. One small spell made him light of foot so we made no tracks and no sound. The birds were on our side, as it turns out; we walked a ways into the forest until we found the path leading out to the great fields. My plan was to make it to the mountains, where the witches there would hide us- I would be once again among my kind, as I was no longer welcome in the village I had called my home for so many years.
I knew what this was. It was not the villager's doings; they were relieved though apprehensive when I moved in the little dusty cottage by the woods. After I had done quite a bit of healing for them and their animals, though, I began to find gifts and offereings by my gate more and more often; I never hungered here. No, this trouble was coming from the crown city- always does.
We found the track. Before I mounted I pulled his head down and whispered in his ear: "This is it, friend, this is the time- I need your quick feet to get us to safety. Goddess give you wings." and lit softly onto his back. We trotted out to the field edge... the birds did not give us away... and I pointed him towards the mountains, loosened the reins, and let him go. Out of the forest we blazed, the very devil at our backs it seemed; but we had gained a lot of lead. The cloak hood was pulled tight round my bright hair; beneath it's cowl I looked at my cottage, ablaze... sadness crept into my heart... healer, witch, friend- enemy. I did not understand then, and perhaps I don't understand now. I could see one of them standing in my garden, hacking apart the careful work with a sword... and knew I was spotted; a great shout went up, and the company was on the move.
I bent low on Azrai's neck, whispering him on. "Go, great heart, now, go!" Though he was not tall, he was one of the quickest of his kind. I thought with intense gratitude of the king on the plains who gave this amazing animal into my care. Perhaps he knew, perhaps.
The company was swift, mounting and flying immediately into a galloping chase. Although my Azrai was small and swift, these horses were tall and long of leg- and had the advantage of constant training and fitness. Poor Azrai, I could not run him as much as I would have liked! It would have aroused too much suspicion; we trained now and then in the dark of night, under what illusions I could grant us in the waning moon... And so the soldiers began to gain ground.
I had a plan- a dangerous, heart wrenching plan; if Azrai could do it we would survive; otherwise, we would die trying or die at their hands. I wanted to pick the death of freedom. The horse, now, he was running of a will; what a great heart, great spirit he had! He was running tirelessly, feeling my urgency, carrying us away. I gently steered him to the east, away from the mountains within our sight, slightly. I had planned this escape in my mind for weeks now, because I knew we would not outrun them forever. We were headed for the Cliffs, the sheer precipice above the Lally River. It was a great crack in the earth, narrow yet deep; it was 10 feet across, that gap, and a half mile down straight into the rocky Lally- and certain death. No one would survive that fall.
We neared the cliff. My heart was pounding in time to Azrai's hooves. I leaned close into his neck, urging him on, giving him full rein...
I calmed my breath, and visualized the jump. Every day I had sat in the meadow with him by my side, visualizing this dangerous feat, imagining it flawlessly, beginning to end. We could do it. I meditated to him, sending him the image of this jump until I felt certain that he imagined it as perfectly as I, as if we had done it together a thousand times. I began this weeks ago, feeling this day was coming; now it was here- and we would do the jump, or die.
The host was closing in on us. I could hear the snorting breaths of their mounts. Closer and closer to the cliffs we went, and I could hear the men exclaiming in alarm, "Girl, stop now, surrender! That is death ahead! Stop, I demand you stop!" Closer they came, and closer we were to the edge... closer... I felt a sword whistle through the cloak streaming behind me, and closed my eyes.
I visualized a bridge ahead of us, in the air, made of pure light. Then I imagined wings of energy and light beneath my mount. I pressed my hands into his neck, pulling all the energy I could into my hands and down into his body. And then, before I could even imagine it, we were soaring into the air. He never hesitated. I made myself still on his back, imagined I weighed nothing. I felt we were suspended in time, suspended in the clean air above the gorge. My heart stopped, I felt, but I stayed calm, pressing energy into him, going, going...
And then we were clear. He made it. He kept galloping on the other side, and I let him run a little ways. Looking behind me I saw the company had come to a dangerous halt near the edge, horses screaming, balking, sitting on haunches to keep from flying over the edge, shoving gravel, stones and dirt before them over the precipice. They were angry. I let Azrai keep running- for once they realized we were clearing the gorge, the arrows began. We ran until we were out of range and I pulled him into a trot.
I dared not let him stop, for I knew they would regroup and gallop to the west a ways to the bridge. We had to keep our advantage, hard won as it was. Still, I pulled him down to a walk and slumped on his neck, crying tears of relief and joy- we made the jump! We would survive! He was lathered and heaving, nostrils flared, tired but proud- so proud... I praised him over and over, telling him he truly was the king of his band, the most amazing horse I have ever known.
This was inspired by bits and pieces of imaginings and dreams I have had over the years; most recently this morning, again to Prodigy... in the gym... who needs TV when you have an imagination like mine? Got my heart pumping. Hope you enjoyed the ride!