Sweat rolled down Angeline’s flushed cheeks as she tried to maintain a half-speed run to keep up with Cedric. They had taken a turn down an animal trail and were walking through heavy underbrush. She stumbled over yet another stump as they made it to a small clearing, sporting a few boulders and a small cave on the opposite side from her. The sun hit her face and she moaned at the heat that welcomed her out of the trees. She couldn’t help but wonder why she bothered to even follow Cedric. The image of hellhounds out searching for her crept back into her mind and she picked up her pace again, that was why.
“Fine,” Cedric stopped, glaring at her in loathing. “You sweat like a pig. Set camp here, while I go look around for any signs of what I am looking for. We are close enough that it shouldn’t be far from here. Try not to get yourself killed while I am away, pet.”
Twisting her mouth, Angeline found nothing to say to him. She was far too exhausted to go any more rounds with him today, and the sun was setting fast. Pulling her pack off her back, she went to work setting the camp up for herself. At this point, she was no longer worried about catering to what his needs were. Cedric disappeared into the woods next to the cave. Sighing, Angeline could feel her muscles relax as she cleared a spot and managed a fire. All she had with her were some supplies she scavenged from her dad’s things. Dreading the heat of the fire for the moment, she crawled onto a nearby boulder and took a few swigs of cool water from her canteen. At least she was better equipped, with no need to ask his lordship for anything.
The sound of neighing came from the woods behind her. Stunned, she turned in the direction of the cave and saw a solid black horse. It stood there, staring at her, shaking its head and neighing again. As far as she could tell, it was the largest horse she had ever encountered. There were no signs of tackle, harness, or saddle; this must be a feral horse. Much stockier than a Shire or Clydesdale, its thick legs were embellished with long hairs from its knees down. A mane thick and wild crested its neck as it flicked its massive tail twice before stepping closer to her, curling its lips up. Perplexed, Angeline started shushing it as if she were talking to a baby.
“It’s okay, I am just here to sleep for the night.” Its lips closed and the black horse snorted, pawing at the ground. “I have no intentions of staying any longer, I swear. I respect this as your territory. You can keep it.”
Huffing at her once more, it came closer to the camp. Angeline pulled herself further onto the boulder, praying she was out of reach in case the horse decided to attack her. It was not unheard of for a horse of smaller stature to kill a stableman; she would have no chance against this horse. It nuzzled at her belongings and snorted at the smoking fire, pacing around the camp. The massive stallion inspected everything, flipping its ears at her as he went from item to item. He came closer to where she sat on the boulder, staring up at her. It neighed at her, pawing the ground once more, as if it were trying to tell her to come down.
The woods were growing darker by the second and Cedric still had not returned. Looking back at the large black horse, Angeline watched as it snorted at her, shaking its head again. She could see its large round eyes; a red glow seemed to crawl out of them as the sun started to fade ever faster over the horizon. Angeline whimpered. There wasn’t much else she could do but hope for either Cedric’s arrival or the horse’s departure. Hugging her knees did not comfort her as she exchanged glares with the thick muscled brute.
“Go away.” She whispered. It was a weak attempt and her voice was not very convincing. “I don’t have anything for you. I just want to sleep here. And just so you know, you’re rather hairy for a horse.”
Its massive head turned to watch the last of the sunlight fade. Rearing up, it let out a bone chilling scream. Flames erupted from its hind hooves, swarming their way across its entire body. What once was long hair now blazed with patches of blue and orange flames. It snorted smoke and steam from its nostrils as it turned back to face Angeline. Shocked, her eyes opened wide, they reflected the image of the horrifying creature. Before her stood what she remembered in children’s stories being called a night mare or shag foal. The stories told of the shaggy-haired horses with fiery eyes that would chase travelers who were alone to their doom in the middle of the night.
“Cedric!” She screamed his name so loud that it hurt her throat. “Cedric! Where are you?”
The fiery horse pawed the ground and snorted at her again. Tears tried to fight their way forward, but her stubbornness took hold and kept them at bay. Watching closely, she noticed that it was behaving the same as earlier. Stretching its muscled neck out, it attempted to nibble at her feet. She couldn’t back up any further without the risk of falling. Once more, she cried out for Cedric, but the woods were deserted. Looking down at the shag foal, she watched as he pranced around the field and returned to try to nuzzle her boots with his nose. A game of sorts was starting to take root as the fiery horse repeated this for a while. Her eyes took turns between watching the horse and seeing if there was any movement in the woods around them. Where is he? Didn’t he hear me?
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish