Leaps From Lucidity
By Mark Silverhawk
Adryn’s steel gaze is fixed on the ever growing line of forest green in the distance. The bright indigo and emerald flecks of his irises show only in broken dashes, separated by blocks of jet as they peer through squinted creases. The warm, confronting wind sweeps the long locks of his raven hair back, whipping them like a tattered pennant on high seas. His thin brows are furrowed deep against the opposing wind, against the late day sun that glares at him from the western mountain ridge, against the utter lack of options.
Adryn’s companion, Kalana, an ash-black mare he has known since she was still wet with womb, races across the lush savannah undaunted, as if the expanse were barren and true.
Brilliant red mane grass, as thick as its namesake, blankets the land in all directions. The tuft ends rise to buff boot tips and stirrups alike. The soft, feathery blades roil in the southern gale like meandering waves of some great crimson sea.
Kalana’s powerful breast parts the shag of tall grass like the bow of a ship, her toned muscles rolling beneath her rider with no hint of ebbing their inexorable flexing. But her extraordinary prowess of flight has indeed met its match this day.
Adryn can no longer find confidence in the hope that they will reach the protective density that still lingers as a darkening emerald strip on the horizon.
The young ranger dares another glance over his shoulder.
The land dragon is within two horse lengths now, its flickering, cloven tongue, the girth of Adryn’s arm, nearly licking the whipping braids of Kalana’s tail.
We’re not going to make it.
Adryn relaxes his clenched fists and the braided reins fall free. He brings his bare hands down upon Kalana’s rolling shoulders, allowing his deep affection to seep through the tense shroud.
Neither of them have ever conceived such a maneuver under such conditions as Adryn is in the throws of considering, but such a bond as theirs permits impromptu leaps from lucidity to lunacy to be well within the realm of coping.
A few emphatic pats ends the touching moment.
Adryn’s resolve folds around him like a warm cloak. He does not want to kill this magnificent creature, but he more so does not want to die, nor witness the death of his dearest friend.
The hunter, turned prey, must now turn back the table.
Adryn hops effortlessly to a squatting position in the saddle and launches himself up and backwards into the air. Extending his arms outward and bringing his boots together, he arches his back upon leaving the saddle and stretches the pose -allowing the rush of air and momentum to coax him into a somersaulting arc that will inevitably, hopefully, land him squarely on the back of the wingless dragon. He can only hope that Kalana alone is the prey item and a tossed morsel, such as he is at the moment, will be completely ignored and not merely gulped out of the air like a pet’s treat.
Adryn drops to his hands and knees upon landing, performing the brash stunt as if had been well rehearsed, his superb balance instantly acclimating to the rolling, scaly stage.
The land dragon never faltered in its stride, its attention transfixed on the tantalizing meal of Kalana drawing ever nearer to its empty paunch. Its maw is slightly agape now, bearing glistening rows of jagged bone daggers. Long ropes of drool swim down its neck and over its shoulders before spattering across Adryn’s boots.
Adryn unsheathes the crystalline sword from the scabbard lashed across his back. Warm, tingling energy siphons up his arms and into his chest as he eyes the v-shaped crevice at the base of the land dragon’s skull. Taking three lithe steps up a broad neck, he scoops the sword’s tip under a predestined set of scales there and leans into a brain-probing thrust.
The translucent, cerulean blade bursts into illumination as it bites into flesh, sinking to the hilt with little resistance.
Adryn had meant to leave the sword buried and use it for steering, but the catastrophic result did not adhere to such hopes.
The land dragon lurches as if struck by lightening and freezes mid-stride, cleaving its forked appendage as the rows of bone daggers clamp shut. Fans of red mane grass and rich black soil spray high into the air as the paralyzed behemoth skids to a halt.
Like the end of a long fall to solid stone with only a protruding sword pummel to cushion the blow, it happened so abruptly.
Adryn’s body flings violently away, heels over head, twirling like thrown rag doll high and out towards Kalana. His faithful companion brakes her momentum instantly and veers into his projected path.
Kalana’s attempt to intercept the prone form of her trusted friend, apparently “leaping” albeit unceremoniously to her, is timed perfectly, but she proves to be the only functional member of this endeavor.
Adryn’s broken body crumples into Kalana’s right flank with a sickening sound, not unlike a dropped sack of wetted clay pots, and rolls up her backside to her mane before spilling off to the side and into the wake of parting mane grass.
The Great Monitor of The Gap stands exaggeratedly erect a short distance away. It moves about as though the air that surrounds it is as thick as deep water and its joints are becoming unhinged. It noses down suddenly and relaxes, exhaling a long, low, haunting breath.
The last rays of sunlight fade from The Gap, dulling the vibrant vermilion hue of the grass plain to that of dried blood in the deepening twilight.
Kalana circles back and finds Adryn -a tangled lump of unmoving flesh and leather. Her ears perk suddenly at a familiar, and instantly dreaded, sound. She tosses her head and whinnies. She nudges the pile of Adryn with her hoof. She hears them again.
The witchwolves are on the move, and heading this way…
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Originally from St. Louis Missouri, Mark Sliverhawk is an artist/writer currently enjoying the edenic beauty of Hawaii from the isle of Maui. When He's not manifesting his imagination onto canvas or computer screen, he seeks the company of musical instruments, nature, animals, the ocean and a few select people.
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