Bewildering Stories

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by P. D. Morton

Through the mist, one could hear their distant hoofbeats. “They come! They come!” cried Manuel. Though trembling with fear, he shed tears of joy. He knew retribution was near. The years of anguish and oppression were finally over. But the price — yes there was to be a price — and that price would be great. As others danced with delight, Manuel’s fearful grimace told the real story. Kneeling with fists clinched to his forehead, he quietly wept. As prayed for, the riders came. Although the sound was distant, their arrival was imminent. Nothing, including prayer, could stop them now.

While others had only heard stories of the avengers, Manuel had witnessed their deeds. Though Patron’s harsh will had been cast upon the village, his methods were barely worse than those of the riders. While Patron’s oppression was lengthy and gradual, the ancient riders’ justice would be swift. Not even Patron had witnessed their rage. Only the years of Manuel would allow such recollection. Yes, he had been there the last time. Fifty-three winters ago, the riders came, and they let live only a few. With sword and mace, they destroyed the good with the bad. Their justice is surely blind. By prayer, they come; by blood, they’ll leave.

In his life, Manuel had seen too much fire, death, and rape. “Thank you kind one!” he screamed to the sky. At least, it would now end. Death would be better than oppression. Patron had destroyed or tarnished all that he saw, but now the time was near. His rule was over and his blood would spill, but so would that of many others. Manuel’s courage had failed him in many times past, but it would not that day. Although he’d hidden in the bramble as a boy, he was now a man. And as a man, he’d stand and face the vengeful riders.

As the thunderous hoof beats grew nearer, their dreadful rhythm slowed. And, from the west, rode Patron and his fools with their blood-coated swords. Though costly, vengeance was to come. With slice of sabre and crushing of axe, the battle was short, and through its heat, Manuel stood tall and motionless. As he saw the last of the oppressors fall, he felt a tremendous blow. With young and old laid to waste, he could see the rest of his body lying at least twelve hands away. With good fortune, death came quickly for Manuel.

That day, the magick was thick, and the silver mist had set. If by nothing less than magick, Manuel awoke. With blurry eyes he saw the face of a rider above him; it was his father’s face he saw. Mounted with weapon brandished, it was the purest likeness of his ancient Papa. With a gentle smile, the rider pointed the edge of his axe over Manuel’s shoulder. Turning, Manuel saw a riderless steed, and he realized his destiny. Justice would now be his name.

Copyright © 2004 by P. D. Morton

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