THE WIND WHIPPED THROUGH THE TREES, CAUSING the leaves to fall upon the earth like the debris of a battle-torn castle. The sky was dark and hazy, with the moon shining full in the sky. There were noises, whispers of the forests, which were quiet and deafening at the same time. Keena walked cautiously through the path, her hooves causing the leaves to crunch. I held onto her reigns with one hand, putting my other hand on her thick, black mane. I sensed her uneasiness just by her touch and wondered if anything else could hear us.
I pulled the reigns back, causing Keena to jerk to a stop, neighing with dissatisfaction. I rubbed her neck to calm her as I lifted my lantern out in front of me, looking around in the dark trees for anything. Suddenly, a pair of eyes glowed in the darkness, followed by other pairs appearing on all sides of us, the light from my lantern reflecting in their pupils. The quiet forest suddenly came alive with miscellaneous sounds. There were howls, grunts, squeaks, and caws. My lips curled into a small smile.
The creatures came towards me, crawling or slinking or hopping through the underbrush. I predicted that they were various types of beasts, mystical and empathetical creatures native to the country of Ebonia. As they came into view, I saw their true forms and named their species in my mind. There were imps, which looked like a combination between a squirrel and a lizard, gnomes who were like little animalistic people, harpies who had unsettlingly human faces with an owl’s body, hydras with multiple heads on a snake’s body, and wisps that looked like large, glowing wasps. I had not seen these many beasts since I had entered the forest. They usually stayed within the trees of the forest, since the human world was not so welcoming.
An imp started to nip at Keena’s heels, and I figured that it was time to put a stop to it. I put my hand on the top of my head, feeling the soft wool of my knitted brown hat. I pulled it off, feeling my hair flow down into my eyes in messy dark curls. Instantly, the beasts saw my head and retreated back into the woods, whimpering as they vanished out of sight.
“Not so scary now, are they, girl?” I asked Keena. She snorted, looking at me with her big knowing eyes. Keena did not seem to care for what I had to say but still listened nonetheless. “This seems like a nice spot to set up camp, isn’t it?”
I set my bag on the ground and began to rummage through it. I took out a turnip and gave it to Keena, who ate it in one big bite. I got my flask and began to drink the fiery whiskey. Drinking had become a nasty habit for me ever since I was on my own. It seemed to numb a lot of fears that swarmed my mind whenever I was sober. I began to gather some wood into a pile, whistling a tune that came from a distant past of mine. After I made a suitable fire pit, I took a big gulp of the whiskey and forced the liquid to go down my throat with its burning taste. I felt the fire coming back up but knew that it was not the whiskey this time. I took a deep breath and, with as much energy as I could muster, breathed flames onto the logs, creating a scorching fire that reached almost to the top of my horns.
Yes, you heard me correctly. Horns.