Aw, crap, where’d they go?
As the branches whizzed past my head, the sound of Darcy’s hooves tearing through the forest undergrowth now drowned out the snarls of the reptilian monstrosities, but I knew they were still after me.
There was always someone after me…
Darcy bounded over a rotting log, and as I turned to face forward, a branch slapped me square in the face. Funny, that. I could feel the blood already beading on my cheek in several places, but a slap like that still hurts more with the force of a broken heart behind it.
A ghoulish snarl pulled me back from nightmares of the past, firmly back to the nightmares of the present: Darcy couldn’t keep this pace much longer, and only at this top speed was she faster than the scaly bipedal horrors hot on our tail. I glanced backward again. If we couldn’t figure something out fast—
Suddenly the trees were behind us and Darcy had skidded to a stop. Just in time, as it turned out. Before us was the ocean in all its churning majesty, at the bottom of a sheer hundred and fifty foot drop.
Darcy danced in place, nickering nervously.
I grunted my assent, nudging her sides as I swung her reins to the right, which was hopefully up the coast and back toward the shantytown that had grown off the island’s one set of docks. The villagers would be pleased to hear their legends [mc1] were true, if I could survive long enough to tell them. I adjusted the heavy bag slung over my shoulder. Hopefully they wouldn’t be interested in what I found…
Galloping between the edges of the forest and the cliff was faster than going through the forest, but the lizards weren’t leaving the trees. Curious, that. Maybe they weren’t steady on the ledge. Monsters did tend to have odd habits and fears.
Come to think of it, the Skelops [mc2] were rumored [mc3] to haunt this forest at night, but they never actually seemed to come into town. Could it be that they couldn’t leave the cover of the forest?
Next question: could we get back to the village without going back into the trees?
I eased Darcy down to a hasty trot closer to the edge than the trees, absently wiping blood from my face. Time to think. Which was hard, with snarling monstrosities lurking in the shadows, but we make do. No sense in plunging back into the darkness until we had to, so I kept us plodding along. The Skelops had retreated back into the shadows of the forest, though, and the sun was rising. It peeked over the ocean horizon and cast long, blades of light into and among the trees.
Sunrise. I groaned. My last shuteye had been before last night, and now tonight was ending? Reflexively, my hand went to the bulge in the pack on my back.
This better be worth it…
Judging by the ruckus caused by removing what had remained of that statue, finding a fence for this bizarre stone head wouldn’t be all that difficult, so perhaps it would be worth the mad dash. That is, assuming I’d get back to the Edgewater with it and myself in one piece—and nobody reported me to the Church.
A recent landslide had caused the cliff’s edge to plunge back under the trees, so Darcy and I were forced back among their sinister trunks. However, no Skelops jumped out from the shadows to tear our haunches off, so perhaps the other piece of the legends rang true: we were safe during the day.
I felt a weight settle back on me at that thought. Daytime. Again. At least we’d make it back to town, it seemed. And that meant the Edgewater. And that meant my blessed hammock.
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