Despite the thunder of hooves and cries of battle, my mind was at peace as I mounted my horse. Somehow, I had a feeling this was the happy ending of some story. From here, forever would be bright. With a smile to my squire, I accepted my sword. “Hang back.” I ordered with no sense of urgency. I felt entirely serene as I rode my horse into the fray. My mare, White Lily, seemed to prance as I fell into the familiar motions of battle. Parry, lunge, evade– it all seemed so easy. A young man charged at me, and I deflected his blow.
His expression was grim and filled with such hatred. It frightened me.
My steed sensed my unease and pranced a step away. The rest of the combat seemed to fade into a dull roar around us as the youth spoke.
“Here and now, I end you,” he swore, “Here and now, you fall, and here and now, you cease your crimes!” A bright madness gleamed in his dark eyes as he glared into my face.
I began to tremble. I felt the blood rush from my face, and my ever-sensitive horse backed up farther.
The youth charged, and I tried to disarm him. That sense of an ending story returned as he instead disarmed me and rested his sword against the lump in my throat. I stared down at him in shock, and began to laugh quietly in fear as I raised my hands. “I yield.” I managed as I watched him. I tried not to shiver as the cold air of the valley slowly settled into my body. I almost heard music as he drove his sword into my neck.
With a heavy impact, I fell from my saddle. I couldn’t breathe. It felt like if I just coughed, I would. I tried and tried, but it did nothing. The youth didn’t have enough strength to stab deep enough at his low angle. My mind found peace, however, as the music inside my head swelled that sense of a happily-ending story. My horse nudged at me, and with a weak hand, I petted her nose one last time. As my hand fell and my eyes closed a final time, she tried to wake me. Her attempts were pitiful.
Eventually, she was captured, and my body was strapped to the poor girl. She was forced to carry me until the youth’s king saw my dead body for himself, and was told the tale of my demise. I don’t think White Lily enjoyed that; her ears pressed back and she lowered her head, as if to charge the young man. Only the firm grip of the guards stopped her.
For weeks, the castle’s stable master tried to retrain my White Lily to be ridden by the boy who killed me. While she was well-mannered with the stable master, she bit, kicked, and threw the youth with a passion that shocked me. Even as age made such things ache, she continued to refuse to give the youth satisfaction, and instead let only the stable master ride her, for he had not killed me, nor did he speak ill of me, as the youth often did. Finally, White Lily was put out to pasture and allowed to live the rest of her life as a fat mother to several colts. As she died, I slowly mounted her, and she carried me as she had once before. Several people exclaimed as they saw us ride through the town, right to the throne room of their king, where the youth stood to one side.
The youth looked snobbish as he stared ahead, as though he couldn’t see us. I saw the light of recognition, however. The king saw nothing, I was certain of it. I pointed at the youth, and I spoke to him. “Go to the pasture, and with your own hands, dig a grave for the horse you tried to steal.”
I’ve no idea why I requested that, when I could have requested anything else. With trembling hands, the youth-turned-man bowed to the king and excused himself. He claimed illness and left in a hurry. We followed him, and many an eye followed us.
For days, he avoided the request. Finally, a child spoke up. “Why you bein’ followed by that fancy man on the white horse?” he asked with the blunt innocence only a babe possessed.
The man looked ready to lash out, but stopped himself. “It’s nothing. You’re imagining it.”
I spoke then, to the child. “You’re not. He’s pretending he can’t see us.” I winked, and the child began to giggle as the man became irate. “He’s very naughty.”
The child giggled and ran off, and the man punched a wall.
“Why are you doing this to me? You’re rutting dead!” The man snarled into the empty road.
“You killed me, and you tried to steal my beloved horse. You ignored my request that you give her a proper burial. I believe a haunting is entirely justified.” I inspected my fingernails. They were as lovely as when I entered that fateful battle, but I thought the motion would irritate the man farther. “You killed nobody else during that battle, and I’m fairly certain you poisoned me at some point. I heard you speak of it with your king. If it wasn’t you, you at least played a part.” My gaze hardened as I looked at him.
“Stop looking at me like you’re some disapproving father!” The man growled. “Get lost, before I call in a priest!”
I chuckled. The idea that I could be banished now that I had dear, sweet, White Lily was oddly hilarious. White Lily pawed at the ground and whinnied.
The man threw his hands up and began to walk away, while we followed at a rather jolly pace. Our lives– or deaths– weren’t very unpleasant for us. Following our killer became a hobby, and the man continued to snarl and moan and growl at us any time he was away from prying eyes. He threatened and bellowed, and we continued to be fabulous.