Here is the first entry into my weekly ongoing series The Horse’s Journey.
A parody of all things we love about Fantasy and the classic Hero’s Journey told through the eyes of the hero’s lovable but always underappreciated horse. Hope you enjoy!
“No! NO! NOOOOOOOOOOO! ”
I continue to chew the wild grass, trying my best to ignore the dreaming–and screaming–boy lying near me.
“Run, he’s coming for you! Maiden elf, run! Save yourself!”
This poorly scripted melodrama isn’t going to stop on its own, so I flick my tail in his face. He flinches and swipes blindly at it before returning to muttering sleep. Volume down. Excellent. I return happily to my grass.
“WHY ARE YOU CALLING MY NAME? WHO ARE YOU? I’M NOTHING BUT A SIMPLE FARM BOY, I’M NOT SPECIAL! WHAT IS THIS GOLDEN ORB?”
Seriously, the yelling. And what the hell did this kid eat before his nap?
I look around, making sure the coast is clear. No prying eyes. Good. I kick my leg out, and my hoof connects squarely with his ribs, sending him flying through the air and sprawling into the dirt face down. Crap! Too much! I gallop over to him. His shirt has rolled itself up into a bunch just below his chest, revealing the start of a dark bruise. But more disconcerting is the fact he isn’t moving. White frothy sweat forms along my back and neck. I didn’t mean to kill him! Sure leaving the bruise felt good, but killing him? Never!
I should leave, pretend I was never here and just return home. Yes, I can play dumb when his uncle and aunt ask about him.
Boy? What boy? I’ll say, prancing about innocently. You never had a boy living here.
What am I going to do? They are going to turn me into dried meat and fertilizer if they find out. I need to run. Yes, I will flee wherever my four hooves take me. Maybe become a rugged, hooves-for-hire warhorse. I would look good in shining armor. It’s my only rational option–the life of a lone warrior!
My destiny has been set.
“I’M NOT READY FOR THIS DESTINY!” The boy screams through the dirt. I rear up, surprised at the very alive child now thrashing about and still spouting off nonsense.
My sense of guilt is washed away by newfound annoyance. This screaming really needs to stop. One of his hands grabs a tuft of grass inches from my hoof. The kick to the ribs didn’t wake him, but a broken finger might. Turning my head skyward as if I’m fascinated by the leaves and sunshine, I stomp down directly onto his fingers.
Thunder claps in the cloudless sky, and golden light erupts from directly above, slamming into me. Something akin to electricity pulsates through my every nerve, forcing my back legs to kick outward and my front legs to curl inward. My neck twists without reason. I am catapulted through the air by a force that mows down the nearby trees, sending shards of wood into my skin. I can only close my eyes helplessly. This is the end.
Blinded I don’t see the ground coming up to meet me. But my body feels the full brunt of the welcoming. Skin shreds. Muscles tear. Bones splinter. I can’t see, or hear, or taste. All I can do is feel my body break.
I skid across the ground, leaving a trail of hair and blood behind. By nothing more than luck and happenstance I am alive, even as I careen to a halt dozens of feet away, barely missing uprooted trees. A squeak of a noise escapes my lungs as I barely raise my head off the dirt in an attempt to understand what just occurred. The world is bright lights and vague noises. Wetness coats me. More likely than not my own blood, but nothing I can do about that now. The patch of woods I had been standing in is now gone. Only a perfect circle of treeless, overturned dirt remains. I have no idea what caused this, but I do recognize the still form laying in the center of the clearing. Dread sinks into my stomach. It’s the boy. He’s dead.
I drop my head and don’t fight the tears. The boy was boring and lacked any real personality, but he was my boring, personality-lacking boy. I never appreciated him. Never loved him for what he was. I mocked and belittled him, but he deserved better. He was my friend. My family.
The form shifts. A groan escapes it. It’s the boy. He’s alive!
Spasms and convulsions rake my body, but I drag myself to my feet. Each hoof split. Most of my back flayed open. Blood running from my nostrils. None of it matters. If I can somehow save him, I will die happy.
The boy groans again, shifting slightly.
I urge myself to go faster. My back legs drag behind barely able to uphold the weight, but my front hooves dig into the soil, pulling me forward. The splits screech and bellow in protest, and my back cramps, sending shockwaves of pain through my body. I bully forward. The exertion will kill me–there is no use denying it. But regardless, I am dead anyways. At least this way I can do what I can for my human brother before my end comes.
I reach the boy. He is hardly moving, but he’s at least alive. He’s face down in the dirt, but by a miracle his back and legs are unharmed. I have little hope the same can be said for his front–not by the way he is groaning. He is at death’s door. I am too late.
Calling upon every bit of reserved strength I possess, I dig my nose under him to flip him over and assess the damage. My knees buckle. Blood spurts from my back. Air no longer reaches my lungs. But with one last heave I manage to turn him face up before collapsing at his side, so our faces nearly touch. My heart skips, and despair takes over. The boy’s face is contorted into a mask of pain and fear, his eyes are scrunched shut and his mouth is wide open, a ghostly exhale of air escapes his body for the final time. I failed him.
“Ahhhhhhh!” The boy finishes his yawn and opens his eyes. “Sorry for dozing off. How long was I asleep?”
Offspring of an ovulating hounddog! There’s not one cut, bruise, or red mark on his stupid bland face! How? What? Why?
Then I see the golden orb pulsating in his hand. Soft gold light emits from its core, particles of unknown matter fill the air around it. That can’t be good.
“What’s this?” he asks, bringing the unknown object to his face. Yeah, I wouldn’t do that. Whatever it is, it obviously caused the mass destruction and my impending death. He should drop it, like right now. I try neighing to warn him it’s dangerous, but the only thing that escapes me is a choked gasp and a stream of bloody saliva, which pools around me.
The boy’s head snaps to me. His eyes go wide in fear, realizing for the first time the situation I’m in. He shoots a look around at the surroundings before returning his attention to me. He grows pale.
“What happened?” he asks.
Seriously? How are you not figuring this out? But I don’t have the strength to even give an annoyed whine. My face sinks deeper into the lake of muddy blood under me.
“We need to get you home. Uncle will know what to do.” The boy’s voice comes out thick. Even he knows this is a lost cause. Nothing short of an outrageous, stupid miracle could put me back together. One final tremor shakes my body and I neigh for the last time. As darkness takes me, I hear the boy scream as if in a tunnel.
The child sure likes his excessive yelling.
Suddenly and with no warning, hint, or foreshadow, a golden light forces my eyes open, and I see the golden orb sink into the boy’s hand. Yes, sinking. Like a lead weight through water. An explosion of light and a strange gold symbol appears on the back of his hand. I knew he should of dropped the stupid thing.
The orb melts into him, leaving the his hand aflame in a golden aura. Before either of us can register what just happened, a streak of light shoots out of his hand and hits my face. I begin to float off the ground. Memories of being flung through the air fill my brain, and panic claws at my heart. I look to the boy in desperation, hoping beyond hope he can stop whatever is happening. My mouth opens stupidly as I see his eyes have transformed into orbs of gold. What the hell? That’s horrifying!
“Yjod od dyiqof!” He says in a booming voice.
He’s possessed and speaking absolute nonsense, I need to get out of here! I try to kick free of the light and this demon child, but my legs are useless. Not good. A feeling of needles puncturing my body freezes me in place. Can this day get any worse?
Then a warmth washes over me. My shredded skin stitches back together. Torn muscles reattach. Splintered bones mend. Four small clicks sound from the bottom of my legs, and I look down to find my hooves are no longer split. Bloods stops pouring out of my nose. And clarity returns to my vision and hearing. I’m fully healed. No sign of any lasting wound, injury, or scar. It’s as if everything horrifying and life-altering I experienced in the last five minutes has been completely nullified and wiped of any insignificance by a vague and confusing magical power.
I’ll take it!
The golden light sucks back into the boy’s hand, making his eyes return to normal. No longer held up by the light, I crumple to the floor. Sure save my life then throw me back to earth. Thanks, orb. I push myself up on legs that now work and see the boy’s eyes flutter before he collapses, unconscious.
Not a great time to pass out, kid.
I don’t want to touch him. The orb is now burrowed in his body, and it’s more than capable of blowing up again. But I can’t just leave him here. He did save my life. Damn life debts!
Hesitantly I tip-toe–not an easy thing to do as a horse–over to him and nudge him with a hoof before skittering away to a safe distance. I stare at him, ready for gold light and pain to fill my world. Nothing.
I once again move forward and again nudge him. I don’t run but I do turn my head expecting the worst. Nothing.
My muscles relax and I flick my tail in relief. It seems safe. For now. Okay, I just need to gently and quickly get him on my back and carry him home. But how? He’s completely flat on the ground. I lay down beside him before trying to worm my way under his body and slide him onto my back. I only manage to push him away and get both he and I dirty. Great.
Alright next option. I could drag him with my teeth. I stand up and bite into the back of his shirt. Dirt, grass, and sweat assault my tongue, but I ignore it and begin moving home. Oh by the Great Horse Lord, this child is heavier than he appears. But it’s only a few miles of rough, uneven terrain, surely I can do it with time, patience, and determination.
I get ten feet.
On to the next plan.
I look about unsure of what to do. I am alone, I am a horse, and I am handless. The now large and shining bruise on the boy’s exposed side catches my eye. Interesting. If he didn’t die from the first kick, surely he will survive a few dozen–or hundred–more. He may wake up sore, but he has the orb of healing. Best option available. Turning around so my haunches are facing him, I ready a kick. One. Two. Three. Go–
“So, it has begun.”
I hurl myself into the air at the voice with impeccable dramatic timing speaks out from behind me. Spinning mid-air, I land and find myself face-to-face with the town’s creepiest hermit and potential stalker of my farm boy, Old Man Fadder.
This day just got worse.
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