Horsemen

The horsemen are coming. They always come. Now we can hear them, the galloping monsters thundering through wasted lands and out of the forest.

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4. Brenna

I continued to scream and beg at the Rider to go back and get Fianna’s book. But he said not a word, just looked ahead. Though you would never have thought it, I could feel his muscles ripple as he turned the horse effortlessly. His riding was more like an art and a furious passion than an obligation.

After turning the corner, we reached the galloping hoard thundering through the thinning streets. Taking desperate glances at other beasts, I noticed I was the only maiden this team had captured. I wondered how many others there were, there had seemed to be so many teams. I worried for Fianna; she was still young enough to be taken. What if they raided our house? Even though Fianna was strong and clever, she would have no chance against this many Horsemen.  I squeezed my eyes shut, praying to anyone, to anything, that might have been listening to keep her safe and not to worry about me.

As we finally reached the forest we were joined by the other teams, I counted two other girls. The town was lucky this time; there were only three of us. I looked at their faces, searching for curly brown locks and sea green eyes and almost cried with relief to see Fianna was not there. She would be awake now, searching for me.

We were deep in the forest and heading towards a camp as the sun started to peep through the trees, lighting up fading fires. This is where the legends end. No one knew what happened to the maidens after this point, not one had ever returned. The Rider stopped the horse and dismounted, lifting me off, he set me onto the ground softly, hardly dislodging a hair on my head or the material of my dress. This could not be said for the others, who were dragged off of the horses and left to fall, their skirts tearing around their shivering bodies.

“Stay there.” He commanded quietly, whispering it into my ear before going into a large tent, leaving standing there, taking in my surroundings in the growing light. We were in a large clearing; hundreds tents dotting the area like a patchwork blanket. There were only about seventy Horsemen in last night’s Ride. This gave me hope that I would at least survive this, for maybe those tents belonged to the maidens that they captured.

“Follow me.” I jumped as I heard the familiar voice of my Rider. My Rider? He was not mine; he was the Rider that took me away from my home, where I belonged.

I heard him turn on his heal and quickly hurried to follow him, making sure to keep up with him as he paced back towards the tent. Stopping just outside, lifting the flap and retrieving a dull brown blanket. He then continued to lead me into the forest. This area darker, more crowded with its leering trees.

“You are to stay here. Lean against a tree, back first and sit.” I did a he told me, the rough bark scraping shallow wells down my back as I slid down against it. “Lean forward so I can wrap this around you.” The Rider instructed, motioning at the blanket. I continued to follow his instruction and allowed him to wrap the blanket’s warmth around me. Over the top he wrapped a thick piece of rope, tight enough to crush my chest and restrict my breathing.

I finally broke my silence, gasping at him, “What’s going on?”

He slowly turned his clean shaven jaw and pale face towards my own, our eyes meeting once again, sending shivers along my spine. My shallow breathing became faster as I realised how near he was.

“You will stay here tonight with the others. If you survive the night you will be let back into the camp. You will be welcomed into my tent and I will provide food and clothing, you will be given a place to sleep. Is this understood?” Just as before, he said this without breaking his stare.

“Yes. May I know your name?”

“No, you are to address me as Rider or Sir. Is this understood?”

“Yes, Rider.”

“Very well then. The others will join you shortly. Be… safe.” He finally broke his gaze and turned, slowly walking back towards the clearing.

I watched him go, tying to recollect my thoughts as the harsh wind bit at my exposed ears, numbing them, I wished I hadn’t tied my hair back. I was grateful for the blanket’s protection.

I heard the terrified screams of the other girls as they were dragged by their hair to the trees and thrown to the ground where they were tied. No words were said, no explanations given to them. Their Horsemen left them crying and screaming on the ground. They had no blankets to protect them from the cruel winds and their ropes were tighter and thinner, cutting into their flesh.

“It’s going to be okay, we just need to survive the coming night.” I shouted above the wind at the girls. One turned their head and I recognised her from our ally, her name was Berit. The only thing was that she was anything but splendid with short rat tails framing a sharp face.

“And how would you know that? We weren’t told anything. Don’t act like your know-it-all sister and grow up. We are going to die out here.” She sneered at me. The words slapping me in the face.

“Fianna is twice the person you will ever be Berit. And I was told, weren’t you? We need to survive the night and we will be welcomed into our Rider’s tent to live.”

“We were told nothing. And I think the question is why do you have a blanket?”

“My Rider gave it to me.” I thought this would have been obvious to her.

Your Rider?”

“No.” It didn’t sound believable even to my own ears, let alone hers. She just raised her eyebrow and looked over to the other girl, who just stared ahead, a seemingly endless stream of tears running down her cheeks.

I did my best to snuggle into the comfort of the blanket and settled down to wait for tomorrow morning.

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