From the trees, perhaps twenty yards away, the muzzle of a massive black warhorse appeared, covered in shining armor that reached to his ears, which were held back in warning. A reflection on his master. Massive hooves clomped slowly on the ground, like a demon sent from the underworld to take her. His master was equally impressive. Tall and thick, he sat the horse with expert ease, but the sheer size of him alone sent her heart into palpitations. Over a linen shirt, he wore a plaid she didn’t recognize, colors as green as the grass and blue as the sky. A thick iron brooch in the shape of a dragon. Leather boots covered his muscled calves to his knees, and a gleaming silver sword was held in one hand. Hair she thought at first to be brown, gleamed red in the light of the sun. His face was painted in lines and swirls of blue. Dark, fathomless eyes fixed on her.
Rose shook in the saddle, causing her own horse to shift restlessly beneath her. She dragged in a ragged breath, and bit her lip to keep her teeth from chattering.
“Dear God, save us,” one of her men muttered under his breath.
The warrior stared them down with an intensity that could have melted iron. His eyes met hers, locking her in, making her limbs go weak and numb. They were the color of storm clouds, and she swore if he looked up at the sky, he could command lightning to strike.
“Do not engage him,” she whispered. “Negotiate.”
“I dinna think the man has negotiating in mind,” Peter said.
Rose’s belly twisted into knots. She didn’t want her men to lose their lives, not in protecting her. They were low on men as it was. However, Peter was right. One look at the fierce warrior and she could glean that he never negotiated.
“Then we should turn and run now. We might be able to beat them back to the castle,” she urged, trying to save her men.
“Aye, my lady, I think ye’re right.” Peter nodded to the men and as one they whipped their horses around and kicked their flanks, Rose doing the same, until their horses fairly flew across the moors.
From behind she could hear the pounding of the warhorse accompanied by even more. How many had he brought with him? They made no vocal sounds as they advanced, only the thunder of their horses, and with every passing second, Rose grew more fearful. The castle was still a good distance away. They’d not make it through the gates to safety in time.
Was this to be her fate? Having survived a brutal attack at the hands of her enemies nine years before, only to die by a demon warrior in the middle of the moors, buried forever in a bog?
“Hurry!” Peter bellowed.
But his urging was all for naught. Behind her, she heard the painful cry of one of her men, and turning slightly in her saddle, she watched as the man was hit on top of the head with the hilt of a sword by one of the painted demons accompanying the warrior.
He didn’t stop.
He kept coming.
His eyes on her and her alone.
TAKEN BY THE HIGHLADER © 2016 Eliza Knight