Microfiction: The longest night II

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She watched, arms still raised in summons as her people threw off the chains of the earth and took to the sky. Pouring from the barrow, mounted on their favourite horses, they stormed across the night in a moving dark cloud of hounds and falcons. Their cries struck sparks from the stars and fell as lightning bolts, their hounds belling with the cavernous voices of ancient hunger. Her own throat was hoarse with encouragement thrown across the miles but her heart was light as a crow-black feather.

The dark cloud that swallowed the stars wheeled about and swooped across the plain. Around her head the wild hunt flowed, hooves drumming, splitting the clouds and sending torrents of cold rain to batter the earth. She rose, her robes billowing about her, snatched at the bridle of a black mare and swung onto the broad back. Faces proud and cold pressed about her, horses jostled and hounds leapt, impatient to be away.

From the last light of sunset, beneath the otherworldly glitter of the northern lights, the wild hunt rode, and the earth cracked and shattered beneath them. They dragged the curtain of green and rose lights apart and trampled it underfoot, and the Queen of the Night exulted in the destruction. This was her realm; this chaos of death and desolation was the price earth paid for the liberation of her people.

Over grassy plains they rode sowing salt ocean tears. Mountains crumbled in the wind of their passing, the earth shuddered and rivers ran into yawning chasms. The Queen threw back her head and laughed.

But even the longest night must end, and though black clouds clung to the eastern horizon, the stars paled and the deep velvet black of the sky smudged with grey. The Queen hurled her anger at the sun, but could not halt its relentless ascension. The stars flickered and died, horses shied and hounds cringed from the light, and with a single cry of anguish, the wild hunt sought out the last shadows and the deep places to hide. Her black mare reared and bolted after the others but the Queen dragged on the cruel bit and beat her hard on the head, wheeling her about to defy the sun. Her people had sunk back into the earth, but she refused the chains again. The mare screamed one last time as the first golden ray struck her forehead, and plunged with her rider into the morning dark sea.

 

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Published by

Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

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