The Rider
Abby, Age 12, Poynette, WI

The woven, twisted trunks of the numerous oaks protruded from the rich soil every few feet, immense roots emerging from the plentiful, mossy earth in high and elegant arches. Their hopelessly tangled branches created a sturdy canopy far above the forest floor, though despite the tiny gaps in the limbs, bits of sunlight were not able to seep down into the once beautiful glade. Although the forest held a rather cheery air  from the outside, its depths were quite the opposite of its exterior appearance.

A thin, silver mist had chosen its home in the vast wood’s seemingly impenetrable center, hanging just inches above the ground as if hovering on invisible wings. Tall grasses and brambles reached hungrily up toward the damp atmosphere, leafy tendrils swaying in the gentle breeze that had drifted so boldly into the forest’s opaque core. No sound broke the eerie silence that now lay lovingly upon the heart of the wood, unable to lift in fear of being left with no other place to call home. Not a bird could be seen and not a thicket stirred, save for the light breeze that was currently causing a ghostly whisper to ricochet off of the surrounding trees.

Although silence seemed to have taken over the glade completely, the faint beat of horse hooves could be heard as an unknown being approached from the west. Diamond-hard ebony hooves met with the cobblestone path in audible thuds; their rhythmic pulsation echoing throughout the forest’s many hills and valleys.

A fine dapple-gray stallion moved along the thin road carefully, neck arched and tapered ears swiveling about in apprehension. He had been in forests before, more times than he could count, but none of them had been as sinister and quiet as this one. A handsome warhorse was he; muscles rippling beneath his sleek pelt of gray with each stride he took. His silken mane stretched just a hair past his wide and finely muscled neck, forelock falling delicately over his liquid-brown eyes. Tiny droplets of sweat could be seen trickling down the horse’s shoulder blade as his nostrils flared in anxiety, for the gentle beast knew that something wasn’t right.

“Easy, my friend. I sense them too, though we mustn’t lose ourselves in futile attempts to break away.”

The voice was calm and gentle, though at the same time held a rather nervous edge. Seated securely upon the warhorse’s back was a dark figure, his form nearly invisible in the dense fog. A faded black traveling cloak adorned the mysterious figure’s masculine frame, the faint clanking of armor emitting from beneath it. Worn leather gloves gripped the equine’s reins firmly, though not once did they cause stress to the horse’s fragile mouth.

Pulling his mount gently to a halt, the cloaked being gazed about the area with unseen eyes. Something was thoroughly unsettling about the forest’s cold stare, and his beast of burden seemed to sense the approaching danger as well. It began to toss its handsome head and prance about in an anxious manner, ignoring its rider’s soft words of comfort as a cool breeze carried the scent of an unknown terror into its midst.

Suddenly, a vicious snarl emitted from a nearby thicket of brambles, and a rather shadowed creature leapt swiftly from its clever hiding place. The horse and its rider immediately charged forward and began racing down the cobblestone path, not yet willing to be eaten by some half-starved beast.

The cloaked figure upon the equine’s back had not been allowed enough time to examine their stalker, but he knew by now that it wasn’t something to toy around with. As his mount thundered on through the dense foliage, he turned his head in an attempt to see the pursuing animal.

What he saw was a creature only described in folktales and myths, and it was known to occasionally haunt the minds of young children as they slept. A seriplin.

Its form was that of a wolf, canine-like features visible as it “slithered” after its much-wanted prize. Though despite its wolfish appearance, there was something very different about this foreign beast. Its gleaming emerald eyes were oddly shaped, and their black pupils resembled that of a cat‘s. Large patches of matted gray fur were missing from its skeletal frame, and its scaly black skin could be seen in the thin pelt’s place. Its stained fangs were bared and poised for the attack, an iridescent green liquid making its way slowly down the ivory canines.

It was then that the fleeing figure confirmed his theory: This was not something to mess with. 

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