(c) Jodi Ralston
Key Plot Point One: Edit One
This key point has been divided into several parts for easier loading.
You can find Part One, Part Two, and Part Three here.
Part Four (Last Part)
I didn't intend from the get-go to use the demon horse's stonehenge. It had a distinct lack of appeal, as the creature obviously wanted something from there and would go there when he woke up. He had sent me an image of it, placing me there too. If I could allow it a human level of reasoning, that all spelled one thing: a trap. All good reasons to stay clear and steer toward the woods.
But the nearer I got to the skeletal woods, the less I liked it. At certain angles, the woods looked more skeletal than I liked. Sickly. Diseased. And creepy. I couldn't quite convince myself things were not moving within, including the trees themselves.
The distinct lack of creepiness was what finally swayed me, and some better reasoning on my own. The horse could have killed me at the house. He didn't need to lead me into an elaborate trap--even if it could, which I doubted. If need be, I could lay in wait and set my own traps. I jiggled my pockets, palming another gold ball. There were a few more where those came from, and next time I wouldn't be so kind. The thing wouldn't wake up from his next nap.
That decided I changed course for the stonehenge, not far away. I sat down inside the outer ring, not really sure where to face, since apparently walking in this land could pop out of almost anywhere, especially anywhere that made the less amount of sense. By that time, my shoulder hurt like a bitch and needed more than some water tossed at it. Once the gore was cleaned off, it didn't even look as bad as it did back at the well. It wasn't even bleeding that bad. Nor the bite marks that deep. Maybe that worse of it had been a lingering horsy lie.
A damn painful one, if so.
Or maybe there was something to his image of grooming me beyond the obvious--therapeutic saliva? Well, if vamps could control blood flow by mind and bite, why not a demon horse this?
By the time I had my wound disinfected and wrapped, my stomach was growling from hunger. It wouldn't be denied any longer, despite the low throbbing in my shoulder. If anything, it made me even hungrier. I pulled out my provisions and laid them out before me on a handkerchief. Deep dehydrated, inch sized meat cubes, veggie mix, fruit mix, cheese mix, a grain mix, and a trail mix all on its own. A proper meal was a single cube of each food group. Any more, the rapid expansion in the stomach would kill you. But I was so hungry, I could eat it all, stuff it all in my face. I wanted to so badly, my hands were shaking. And that was the first moment I became suspicious.
Keeping my eyes on the food, I felt my scar with my fingertips. It had made a mark that I recognized only from my brief stay at the well, but I couldn't tell if those jagged lines, like a Z, with bursting points at the tips, meant the inhabitants of the house or the horse. Now I was pretty sure what it meant. Zorse? Nah, didn't like the name. Surely someone at Queens would tell me what the creature was, a better way of knocking them off their feet than a sleeper ball, and better yet, how to avoid them in the future. I picked up a food cube, one of the trail mix cubes, crushed it in my fist, and popped a sliver in my mouth. As I did so, I very clearly pulled out another golden ball and set it beside the food. And focused on that image clearly, as I chewed, until the great desire for food subsided to normal, human levels.
The image of the golden ball was replaced with the sun in the sky. That odd juxtaposition of thoughts had me looking up at the sun too. If I looked closely, I could see how it moved not at all. If I didn't look that closely, I could where the sun really was. An hour or two from setting. Crap.
My stomach growled again. Him, again. This focused on the contents of my meal. In great detail. No golden ball in sight. So strongly, I wasn't even sure until I reached out and felt it, where the schiz it was. Then the image came of the horse eating the meaty bits. His belly growing big. And he gave off a purr-like sound of contentment--the same contentment that filled my stomach after a feast.
"So you do eat something other than me? That's good news." That also meant, this reality had deep-dehydrated food here, since he had obviously eaten some before and liked it. Or maybe not. He could be just reading my mind that well, picking out the fact from my head what the small cubes of desiccated meat would become.
The horse came into sight, just outside the circle of stones, shaking his head. No longer a sheer beauty, not with his mouth stained green by the less than greatly-effective knockout gas.
Gas he did not like and wanted me to personally wipe off. This fact and desire he reminded of in great, meticulous, and repetitious detail.
I don't know why I did it, maybe because he had showed me a truth I hadn't caught on to. Maybe because I needed a guide and this was it for now. Maybe because I needed to break that cycle of repetitious imagery. Whatever the reason, I took out a cube of meat and I tossed it his way. He snapped it up in mid-air. While its mouth was thus occupied, I retrieved a sliver of one for myself. Even before he swallowed the tough, dry thing, he was imagining me sharing that one too. Did the thing eat anything but meat?
The answer was yes. And he filled me in on exactly all it ate in far greater detail than I ever cared to know. He was an omnivore. With a strong taste for the carnivorous pleasures in life, but it could make due with mere grass. He also had a tooth for sweets, especially today, but I didn't have any on me. He was greatly disappointed.
He was also very finicky about his appearance, since he re-imaged at me after another cube, the whole mouth-wiping thing.
"That's a great way to lose a hand," I said and rebutted with those images.
He showed me grooming again. The image that of me somehow overlaid or twisted, mind-warpingly, into the same as another horse. Grooming. Each other.
I shook my head and rubbed at my temples, to clear out that sight not quite meant for human minds. "Yeah. Right, demon. And do you usually try to eat your fellow horses?"
He snorted and stomped a foot at me. Lots of images and sentiment, strong images and sentiment, fast images and sentiment of sheer disgust entered my head. I waved him off. "I get it. I get it. Not cannibalistic, semi-cannibalistic, whatever. Fine. But that doesn't mean I'm stupid enough to go anywhere near your mouth. Again." The demon ate meat, and humans counted as meat to him.
He sighed, noisily, out his nostrils, and gave me another but half-hearted image of disgust. Then he came inside the circle. Once there, he began wiping his muzzle off on the nearest stone, all the while imaging the desire to rub it against my head instead.
I laid a blade beside the golden ball.
"Try it, horse."
He quieted, paused, then resumed rubbing against the stone some more.
That was when I realized as much as I was leery of the demon, the demon was leery of me too. And I didn't know why. And he didn't care to share that with me. If he were that leery of me, why in the schisms name did he follow me here? More than that, why did he want me here with him? What good could I possibly do him? I couldn't feed him, not for long, and that was certainly of foremost interest.
I just couldn't figure it out. So, I stopped for now and began gathering my supplies together and checking out the sun. Nearly gone now. That's what my soft-look told me. By illusion, the sky looked afternoon blue, but it was really darkening beneath traces of blazing color.
The horse looked, too, then came fully inside and lay down in the center ring of stones. Though tight, somehow within there, he made himself full-stretch comfortable, and sent waves of sleepy contentment my way. Which reminded me: it was time to find my own rest spot. Which wasn't going to be here. There was some brush out there that looked that could make a temporary shelter. It would have to do, as I had just ran out of options. I stood.
The horse sat up and expressed a strong desire of us staying put, even going so far to blot out everything in my mind except this stonehenge. I fought it, but for long, nerve-shaking moments I couldn't see anything but what he wanted me to see. He could be anywhere, right now. He could be sneaking up on me right now.
I backed up a step. The image unravelled, and I broke free of it. He hadn't moved from his spot, but still. Damn. No way was I staying with that all night. I started to back out of the circle by feel.
In a flash he was at my side, my arm within his grasp again. But this time with a difference: he held my hand between his teeth as delicately as he did the ball before he crushed it. But he wasn't crushing, he was restraining. He tried to send me images, but they were too scattered beneath the horror looming in its head. I caught glimpses of blood. Lots of blood. I tensed. But was socked with screams and pain, blood and fear, shadows and mist--shadows in mist, rather. All twisting together in scared knot.
Wasn't much of that what I had to look forward to if I stayed here?
But he was gently restraining me. My hand felt hot and damp with saliva, but not blood. And no pain. He was taking care to not pierce the skin, despite all he sent me. That convinced me more than anything. Something outside this stonehenge at night scared him, and whatever could scare such a frightful beast that already scared me, would do far worse job on me than a gashed shoulder ever could. I said, "Alright", and pushed at his nose.
He didn't let go. Even though I had a hand on one of his most sensitive parts, he refused to let go.
"All right. You convinced me. I'm staying put. With you. In here. For the night." I patted his nose gently. "Alright?"
He let go and backed up, away from my touch, and found a new bed within the second ring of stones. This time, but kept a close eye on me. I made up my own bed within that last circle of stones--just in case--using my jacket. In return, I kept an eye on him and my hand in my pocket enclosed over a golden ball.
End of Part.
Links to Key Plot Point One Parts:
Links to Key Plot Point One Parts: