The Barghest

final_b&w_barghest copySun-face climbs. Not today will Master take her. Before nightfall Sun-face leaves Green World. When light is neither here nor gone, we will come again.

Master is staying always in Scarstone. Nowhere is Scarstone. Not Green World. Not Other World. In between, it is. I know the way.

Master’s mind hunts in my iron hide. I am not knowing all that Master sees from my eyes. His will burns in me like fire. Our hound legs are strong. Our tail is sharp, like spears, and barbed.

Always I am bringing Master what I find. Master takes what he wants. Feeds me the remains. The tail wags. I lick Scarstone, the taste bitter as tarnished silver.

Master made me. Master is might.

I am serving Him.

~ from Chapter 3 Thresholds ~

*      *      *

Waiting in Green World, hearing the waves. Nothing to pursue. Master is not pleased. Wasting the dusk, he says. I am expecting nothing. The smell of her fear comes. Quick as a lash. In burrow nearby, she is. And alive. I am lucky not to be telling Master she is dead. Not liking mistakes is Master.

I run in the twilight. The path flows, swift under the running.

Far down on sand and rocks, Sea rushes toward us, paws the cliffs.

Far down on sand and rocks, Sea retreats. The feet of Sea are many and white.

My feet are four. They are black and fleet. My claws make the stones cry out.

My hound legs are strong. Sharp jaws and three barbs on the tail.

Bleeding, she is. Her wits lamed. I hunt for Master. His might is great.

for Master. His might is great.

*      *      *

Snuffling came from above, a rustle of dry grass, the chink of chain, and the click of claws coming and going. Relief flooded Wynn’s limbs. Someone had a dog. Someone had come to help her. She called out. “I’m down here.”

No answer.

No one would help her. There’d been the huff of the bellows, the fall of fiery rafters, the malformed silver in the ashes. Death. Exile. Her dream denied.

The bay of a hound crushed her mind. Two rays of light, lurid as blood, spilled down and stopped just short of her. Barking erupted, jolting her body with its violence. Claws screeched on the stones. Red light pulsed, in time with harsh panting.

It wanted in. It wanted her.

She swallowed the bitter taste of fear. Above her, stones ground apart. The band of twilight widened. Rock fragments clattered down and spilled across the floor.

It was coming.

The floor shook. The fissure grated shut and the light snuffed out. A howl rose like the wail of a banshee. A triangle of metal clanged down the wall to the cavern floor.

Silence. Had she gone deaf?

A voice roared, harsh as fire in gusting wind. “Master wants.”

She cowered against a block of stone, the surface coarse against her cheek.

“I am come to fetch you.”

A long pause. Wynn scarcely breathed. Chain rattled against stone. Her legs grew numb.

“Master is telling me that you are his.”

Terror, an icy spring, welled in her chest.

“He is knowing everything you must know. Everything you must do. Come.”

Could it hear the slamming of her heart?

A growl rolled over her like summer thunder. Her body shook with it.

The rumble sharpened to a savage snarl. “Come, now.”

Her legs twitched with the urge to stand. She clutched her mouth, her throat, fighting the impulse. The scarlet oak brooch pricked her skin. She took in a shallow breath.

“Not answering Master is making bad mistake. Other ways to reach you, Master has, other ways to use the dusk. You will be sorry.”

Metal shrieked on stone. The earth shook once, and a second time. The nightmare beast bounding away? Yes, let it be a nightmare.

Wynn shivered in a knot, too frightened to change positions. Her bones ached. With one hand she inched her hood over her head, the other still gripped the red and silver tree at her throat. Languor, sweet as sunlight, came over her. Though she struggled against it, struggled to keep alert to danger, she drowsed, even as flutters announced the bats’ return.

Even as footsteps padded toward her in the dark.

*      *      *

Girl is making trouble. Not coming when called. Beatings and burnings should be for girl. I try hard to please. Master is not liking this pursuit. Wanting other ways. Snares to hold her. Ploys to lure. Master is wanting to beguile her. I am wanting to use the teeth.

~ from Chapter 4 Secret of the Hawthorn ~

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