Short fiction: The Goal Oak
July 23, 2021 at 4:18 PM #207SteveParticipant
I had the same dream again last night.
I lay in warm, wet earth. It pulsed around me like a great beast.
Faintly came a voice; a voice I knew. I pulled myself up from the sucking mud to find the source. The speaker’s words, I could not make out.
Standing, I could see young Rybert; my squire. He leant against a mighty oak, perhaps a hundred paces from me.
In my dream I made my way towards him, straining to hear what he tried to say.
I grew closer, beneath the canopy of that enormous tree. I could see Rybert’s lips move.
“My lord, our journey has been long and full of sorrow. Won’t you rest a while? I will stand watch beside you.”
As Rybert spoke it seemed to me his voice came not from his mouth but somewhere above, floating down to land around me like falling Autumn leaves. I looked up, but there was nothing but the gentle sway of softly creaking Oak boughs to see.
“My lord, just a short rest to ease your weary bones. Our quest will wait an hour or two.”
His words rang true, even in my dreams these days I am painfully tired. Old wounds, aching scars, it would be bliss to rest, to forget my quest for a time.
The air about the Oak was warm and sweet, inviting me to sit, to close my eyes. Yet under that sweet odour, something else, stale and sickly. A scent I knew too well, a scent that haunted me.
Suddenly came noises, echoes from the past and visions flashed like lightening. Clashing steel, screams and death.
Poitris… that first battle. I was a young and eager Knight. My steed was killed beneath me; rolling into the muck and blood of war, the horse’s carcass pinning me. Days trapped under that rotting flesh; hunger; delirium; Gods that smell!
The shock of these visions woke me in terror. The sun is low, the morning only just arrived. I remember that Rybert disappeared; vanished on our first night in these woods.
My body trembles and I am soaked in sweat. My bones ache and eyes burn. Four nights within these woods, four nights these dreams have haunted me.
Something evil lives within this ancient forest, I have no doubts now. But my quest is everything and I shall press forward to the end.
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