The Horse Came Back Alone, Part 2

The Horse Came Back Alone, Part 2

Photo: © muha04 |

Genre: Fantasy

Note: This is Part 2 of this story. It is also the final part. Catch up on Part 1 here.

I had gotten this far in practice before when it became more of a struggle to keep Ashe on course than it was to let go.

This was the point where The Nameless began to slip and where Edwin and I always had to turn back.

The damn horses wouldn’t stay their course.

We knew it was the devil tricking us again. Mocking us with his control over our horses. Our beautiful, deft horses who knew the landscape like the back of their hooves. Who were at once a gift and a burden.

Ashe was full-out fighting me now. His will was winning out over mine. His body fought my own, threatening to rip my grasp from his reigns, letting him run free and most certainly allowing The Nameless to slip. That was certain death.

The Nameless was moving toward four o’clock.

I swore that the heat from the ground was rising in flames around us. Like fingers from the lava pools reaching up and grabbing my legs, making me feel too warm. The cool fire no longer cooling.

The red sky was the same everywhere we went, no matter what direction we turned in. Blank and eternal.

I was losing the will to hold on.

Ashe was fierce as he lowered his head and dug his hooves into the sand, going faster and faster in the direction he wanted. Disobeying me.

I yanked hard in desperation, doing my best to pull him back, to keep him at twelve o’clock.

And his reigns snapped in my hands.

The worn leather, marred by the constant heat and the relentless practice, had given out. The broken end flew away from my right hand, just out of reach.

My left hand still held the other end, but Ashe was now free of my grasp and direction.

The devil was coming for me.

I grabbed Ashe’s mane, as the only reliable thing to hold onto now, and lowered my head toward his neck, smelling the musky scent of his body as he carried me toward death.

I waited for the hands of the devil to snatch me off his back.

But they never came.

Instead, I kept my face buried in Ashe, feeling the wind and the pounding of the ground as we continued to ride.

I hoped Ashe knew where he was going because I had completely given up control.

Why I was not being thrown from him was beyond me, but I held onto whatever moments of life I had left, the strands of his mane comforting me in the red heat.

I felt as alive as I’d ever been.

All the hours of practice, the time with my people planning, wondering how to reach The Nameless, the migrating animals, and the expansion of the lava pools had kept me in fear. And the fear had driven me. I hadn't navigated Ashe. The fear had navigated me.

And so the fear navigated Ashe.

It was the horses who knew.

On chance, I looked up, expecting to find only flames and death, and instead, I saw something else.

The Nameless at twelve o'clock.

We were headed straight for it.

Ashe held his ground and it felt like we were flying, rather than galloping, over the land, his hooves no longer pounding, grinding on the sand. The lava pools were smaller and easier to dodge, and the world was getting greener.

I sat up straight, using all the courage I could muster, hands still in Ashe's mane, and faced my death, if it was still upon me, in the only way I knew how.

On my horse’s back.

But somehow, I thought it had passed me over, and now Ashe's hooves hit dirt and grass, rather than sand and lava. The desert was changing, and we were now at the foot of The Nameless.

The sky above was blue, with clouds, and I could hear running water. A deer peeked out from behind a tree, glanced at me, and bounced away, its white tail marking the place it had once been.

I hopped off Ashe, and for the first time in my life, I touched grass and smelled air tinged with moisture rather than fire.

I turned and looked behind me and could still see the red of my previous life.

The devil had lost me.

I left Ashe where he was and jogged toward the stream that I heard, bent down, and touched the cool water that ran over rocks. Cupping my hand, I gathered some up and put it to my mouth, letting it run down my throat and feeling it cool my entire body.

Ashe was right behind me.

He, too, bent down to drink.

His broken reigns hung around him like a yoke no longer needed, and he moved his body to throw them off and get rid of them, which he couldn't do without my help.

I steadied him and grabbed the broken leather, lifting it over his head and discarding it on the ground. It would return to the earth eventually, exactly where it belonged.

I drank more water, loving the cool feel of it, and rested my hand on the bark of the tree next to me, its trunk massive. My gaze turned toward the top of The Nameless, and I knew we would give this place a name.

Placing my hands in Ashe's mane, I grabbed on to help myself up and turned back toward the red.

We would not come back alone.

If you enjoyed this story, feel free to buy me a club soda. All bubbly water is voluntary and appreciated, and I may just splash a little bourbon in it too. ;)

Amanda Linehan is a multi-genre fiction writer and indie author. She has published 13 titles since 2012 and has been read in 113 countries. Check out her published titles on the Books page.