Dullahan

This is now for NaNoWriMo (over a year after I first started it hahaha)
I'm rewriting what little I've done so far and then continuing more over the month so here we go.
Cover is made solely by me.


A promise is made between Fae, and a short number of years later it is time to repay the deed.

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1. The Beginning

Lightning crackled in the dark skies, streaking bright fractals of pure electricity down through murky clouds. In the distance thunder rolled steadily over the hills, deep rumbles seeming to shake the very ground. Rain splattered the ground, large droplets pelting down from black storm clouds, obscuring the moon. Wind swirled in large circles, throwing leaves and water in spirals, curling around trees and twisting through the hills.

The Lord’s manor at the top of the village looked like little more than a speck of orange, its measly glow dwarfed by the flashes of light thrown from the heavens. The village at its foot was a dark smudge on a darker landscape, barely visible through the haze.

Autumn storms were common, especially at the tail end of long summers. They spread through the land as quickly as the lightning they spewed, and with even less warning. They drenched any who dared travel during the turning seasons, spooking horses and livestock alike. Storms like this one, however, were rare. Storms that shook the very ground with their might were reserved for the darkest nights, when particular people had particular work to do. Storms like this one only happened when something very bad was about to happen.

So of course it was on a night like this that the lone traveller was headed toward that village, clad from head to toe in heavy armour made of dark metal. Rain pattered on its surface, seeping through gaps and drenching the light clothing they wore beneath. The black steed they rode was sure in its step, hooves clattering against the stones that littered the path, unfazed by the storm that raged around it. It kicked up clumps of wet mud as it galloped ever closer to the village, the pair bringing with them a troubling atmosphere.

***

The roof leaked, he noted to himself. He’d have to fix it later. It was a steady drip, every few seconds, landing in the centre of the porch. Drip. Drip. Drip. He narrowed his eyes, focusing on the small puddle that had formed as the storm raged. It was calming, watching ripples move across the surface every time a drop fell. He could almost forget the fate he knew was in store for him.

He sat in a creaky old chair, leaning forward with his head in his hands. He faced the front door, his gaze returning to it every few seconds like a panicked deer. He listened to the sound of the rain on the roof, battering the house’s thick stone walls, and the steady drip of the leak. He sat in complete darkness, his only source of light- a candle- having burned down hours ago. His mind was racing, flitting from thought to thought like trains between stops. It was too soon; there was still so much he wanted to do. He couldn’t leave her, but what choice did he have?

His insides twisted with worry, feeling as though they had turned inside out. At least this way I can stop her from coming to any more harm, he thought to himself. It was little comfort. He wasn’t usually one to face his problems head on. Especially not ones quite like this.

On the mantelpiece a clock ticked away, counting down the seconds, the minutes, until his departure. He didn’t like that.

***

The sound of hooves on cobblestone roused him from light sleep, ringing through the air above the rolling thunder and heavy rain. The puddle in the porch had grown a little, swelling with the continued downpour. It almost reached the door’s threshold.

He looked toward the window, the darkness outside too thick to see anything, so returned his focus to the door, glaring at it with dark eyes.

The world seemed to go quiet for a few moments, the rain easing, as time seemed to halt.

There was a slow, heavy, knock at the door.

“Why bother with such formalities?” The man spoke quietly, his voice barely reaching the other side of the room, let alone the figure waiting at the door. His voice was tired, seemingly devoid of hope, barely a whisper. Yet he knew they heard him loud and clear. “We both know you can enter, whether I wish it or not.”

There was a moment’s pause- a second that felt like an eternity- before he felt a ripple in the air, and the bolt slid open. The door followed suit, opening slowly. The sound of rain rushed back into the house, louder than it was before. Lightning streaked through the clouds, darting toward the horizon. Thunder followed, rumbling through the village moments later.

A tall, dark figure stepped into the room, lightning outlining its silhouette. The armour scraped against itself as it moved. Its booted footsteps were heavy, meaningful, and rain slid down the metallic surface, pooling at the figure’s feet as it cascaded down.

The man watched with hooded eyes, and let out a long sigh. He pushed himself from his chair with effort, and looked into the space where the figure’s head should have been.

“… I would offer you a drink,” he said, turning away and taking a step toward the table in the corner of the room, “But we both know that’s not quite appropriate.”

The figure stood still, silent. Lightning flashed outside, illuminating the edge of the sword it carried.

“Well, I’m not going to beg for my life,” the man said after a moment or two, looking back toward the figure. “I know it’s futile, don’t worry.”

The figure motioned with its free hand toward the door. The man shook his head.

“You owe me,” he said, his eyes hardening. “You owe me, Dullahan.”

The Dullahan didn’t move.

“You know what I ask of you in return.” His voice had gone quiet again, and he turned his head to one side, glancing toward one of the doors that led from the room. “I only hope that you are as true to your word as you always say you are.”

It took a step forward, hand tight around the blade’s grip. It quivered slightly.

“Just make it quick.”

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