Lupita Smith held the skull of the horse in her hands. “I can feel the magic in it. It’s not completely dead.”
“Maybe I should smash it with a hammer then,” said Sir Danielle Longbow coldly. “Those flaming horses helped slaughter my knights.”
“They’re steeds, just as a living horse is not to blame for the actions of the rider, you can hardly hold this one responsible. I can feel the remains of its soul clinging to this skull. Bound to the bone. It’s waiting.”
“Why make it wait, I’ll get the hammer.”
“No.” Lupita put a warm brown hand on the pale scars of Danielle’s. “I can make something of this. I can use the knowledge I gain from it. Let me do some research. Give me time.”
Sitting the skull on her writing desk, the witch retrieved books from her shelves and poured over them.
“Did you get more books?”
“Mhm,” said Miss Smith without looking up from a crisp tome. “I have copies of almost all of the books from the coven’s library.
“I can believe that,” said the knight. Looking around what had at first seemed like a spacious home, she saw none of the walls for bookshelves which had been crushed into place and nailed to each other. “You’ve got your own library here.”
“I have to do something to entertain myself when you and Nettle are off fighting monsters. I read. Does that bother you?” Lupita turned, deep hazel eyes meeting Danielle’s.
“No. Though it’s cramped in here now.”
“There’s talk of us moving into our own house.” Dreadlocks bounced as Sir Longbow’s lover turned back to her book. “Something befitting the commander of the Nameless Knights.
“I like it here,” said the knight in the voice of a child who wants to play instead of doing their chores.
“We need somewhere with room enough for Nettle and the baby. I could use a study, and you need somewhere to store all your armour, and weapons, and monster bits.” She nodded a head to a stack of dragon scales that had been among Danielle’s rewards for killing a dragon. The god’s emissary who had challenged Sir Longbow to the deed had also enchanted her sword so that it glowed green when she said the word ‘solasaich’.
“Do we have to move?”
“Unless you want Nettle to move out?” Lupita’s words took on a tone of anger.
“No of course not.”
“Then go and drink with your knights while I read. Go on.”
“Where is Nettle?”
“Off to see the midwife.”
“The what?” Danielle had never heard the term.
“Midwife. It’s a doctor who helps women have babies. They’re known as wise women or elders in most villages.”
Leaving her armour on the rack, Danielle kissed her bookworm of a lover goodbye and left her to the research.
Nameless Knights favoured the Dragon slayer Inn. It was named, much to her embarrassment, after Sir Longbow. The remaining fifty of them took up every table, drinking and singing the ballads that had sprung up since Crann had faced the might of the Empire of the Holy Proclamation and won.
“Barkeep, a round for the knights on me.” A cheer rose. “The cheap stuff, they’re too drunk to tell the difference.” Boos turned into laughter. Pink faces extolled burps to her. One fell off his chair to offer it to her.
“SIR LONGBOW!” Tankards clashed. Beer splashed. Another knight fell to the floorboards, rousing laughter from fellows before arms pulled him back up.
“To Leonor,” said Danielle, toasting her city. “To Crann,” she said of the kingdom.
“TO LEONOR AND CRANN.”
Serving girls brought trays laden with beer and smiled to knights. Her soldiers had told the tale of the Battle of Infernoste Glade enough that the whole city knew the story to the point of wild exaggeration. Though they had slain thousands, by their telling it was millions. She was in no doubt the continent was safer.
“To fallen knights. Immortal in their deeds.”
“IMMORTAL IN THEIR DEEDS,” yelled most of the drunks, some saying the bit about the dead first.
“Not only did we decimate the army of the dead,” said Danielle. “Their generals are dead. Their Empress of Fire and Bone is dead.” Sobered eyes watched her. Ears pricked up.
“What few infernoste remain will be hunted down when we have recruited more Nameless Knights. They will be trained harder than before. I will never witness such madness again.”
“Aye,” said a man, thinking the others were with him. A friend patted him on the back.
Danielle woke on the hard floor of her home. A goddess of green and brown gazed down upon her with a frown upon her face and hands on her hips.
“Wake up, drunkard. You and your knights were singing in the streets at midnight. You woke half the city.”
“Not so loud,” gasped Danielle through parched lips. She curled into a ball as Lupita’s words cut to the heart of her headache.
“I’ve got something to show you. Drink this first.” A steaming cup of something appeared at the knight’s nose.
Tipping back the scalding liquid burnt her throat and yet she liked it. “What is that? It’s wonderful.”
“Honeyed cider. I’ve been spending all your money.”
Danielle drank down the cupful and winced at the mixed signals of relief and pain her body was sending to her brain.
“Your magical horse,” said Lupita. “I can reanimate it. I know the spell. It’s just two words.”
Staring into the empty cup with a hungry babe’s disappointment, Danielle missed what her lover had said. When Miss Smith repeated it, far louder, it sank in.
“Really? Show me.”
Holding the black horse’s skull in one hand, Lupita dragged the knight out into daylight and down the stairs to the cobbled street. A rising sun left the passage in blessed shadow.
Laying down the skull, the witch stepped back. “Eirich cursach,” she said, ending with a guttural sound common to the old tongue. That sound was never used in the common tongue spoken by then across the continent thanks to the vanquished Empire of the Holy Proclamation.
Flames erupted from the skull. Bones that had not been there a moment before lifted the head from the cobbles. The magic horse stood to face them, waiting.
“Bloody hell,” said Danielle, then winced at the volume of her own voice.
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Excellent follow up on the horse skull. Once again, well written and engaging. Kudos to your great writing!
Thanks again, Roger.
Cool thing with the fire horse. Something you will use later?
Hopefully. I don’t want to overuse it though.
Youll have to decide what the right balance is.
I’m going to give it time to think that through and work on my other series’.
I’m transported to The Dragon Slayer Inn ….what a fun (K)night we’d have there. I can see and hear the bawdy laughter . Great descriptive exchanges. A winner.
Thank you, Mary. I have a lot of fun writing these stories.
The next story from the Daughter of Disgrace series is up now. If you want to read on, thank you. https://blog.reedsy.com/short-story/q39uji/