by CSyphrett and Martin Maenza
As the final bell rang, signaling the end of the school day, Tim Hunter hurriedly made his way to the Bestiary. There was an undeniable allure to the black horse he had encountered earlier, and it had ignited a curiosity within him that he couldn’t ignore. Eager to delve deeper into this mysterious connection, he had cunningly procured a couple of apples from the cafeteria during lunch. Everyone knows horses like apples, Tim thought to himself.
Positioned at the fence, Tim’s eyes flickered with anticipation as Mrs. Cable emerged, her attention seemingly captivated by the enchanting melodies of the avian choir. One bird’s song danced like the ringing of a delicate bell, arousing a flight of fancy that sent the smaller birds into a frenzied flutter. It was then that she noticed Tim, her gaze locking onto him with a startling clarity.
“Hello, Timothy Hunter,” greeted Abby, her voice laced with an ethereal charm. She found that reciting the students’ full names aided her in remembering them. “How are you today?”
“Just fine, ma’am,” Tim replied, a sparkle of excitement illuminating his eyes. Delving into his trusty book bag, he retrieved a small red object.
Arching a curious brow, Abby inquired, “What have you got there?”
“Just an apple,” Tim said, his voice infused with hope. Extending his open palm through the fence, he proffered the fruit for the black horse’s inspection.
Drawn by an invisible magnetism, the ebony steed trotted toward the fence, its magnificence emanating an air of enigmatic grace. Lowering its head, it cautiously sniffed the tantalizing apple Tim was extending.
“I don’t know if that’s a good idea…” Abby cautioned hesitantly when, suddenly, the horse plucked the fruit from Tim’s palm and promptly discarded it onto the ground.
“See?” Abby said.
“Hmmm,” Tim mused as he stooped to retrieve the forsaken apple. Gently cradling the fruit in his hand, he pondered. “He must not be hungry.” But before he could process the idea, he suddenly felt hot breath cascading onto the nape of his neck, jolting him with its intensity. In a breathtaking whirl, the stallion tossed its head, propelling Tim over the fence in an astonishing leap.
“Aaa-aaahhh!” cried Tim.
Abby Cable swiveled her head at the sound, her eyes widening in alarm. “Oh, my God!” she exclaimed, her heart racing within her chest. Witnessing Tim being seized by the once-placid horse now whisking him away, she knew she had to act swiftly. “Hold on, Tim!” Her voice resounded with determination as she took hold of two sturdy metal posts, deftly heaving herself over the fence. Landing gracefully on the other side, she wasted no time, her legs propelling her onward in a desperate pursuit of the enigmatic creature.
As Abby sprinted, the world around her seemed to transform. The ground beneath her feet shifted and crumbled, as if succumbing to a bewitching metamorphosis. Above, the sky darkened, relinquishing its ethereal luminosity until it dissipated, leaving naught but a shroud of ominous gloom. Her mind reeled with questions. What’s going on?
Yet, in the midst of this bewilderment, Abby’s focus remained unwavering. Her eyes remained solely on the equine silhouette that led the way before her. She knew that capturing the elusive horse on foot was an impossible feat, but she clung to the hope that she could trail it until it stopped galloping or until Tim was on solid ground once more. For Tim was a friend, one of the first she’d made on the island. She cared about the boy as if he were one of her own and didn’t want anything bad to happen to him.
Abby’s mind raced with questions as she observed the scene before her. “What would possess Gallowglass to have such a dangerous creature out in the open?” she thought, her eyes fixated on the horse that wasn’t a horse. “All the other creatures are kept locked up in the Bestiary.”
The enigmatic Mr. Gallowglass had been a source of frustration for Abby since her arrival. He was a mystery wrapped in a riddle and dressed as an enigma. No matter how hard she tried, Abby doubted she would ever truly understand him.
With determination in her heart, Abby followed the horse and Tim as fast as her legs could carry her. She could hardly believe her eyes as she watched the horse buck up and down, while Tim somehow managed to keep holding on despite having no saddle or reins. How is that possible? she thought, awed by the boy’s unwavering grip.
The wild ride brought them to a citadel, standing tall amidst a desolate plain beneath a dark, brooding sky. Fascinated, Abby watched as the horse made a beeline for the citadel’s imposing wall, digging footholds in the stone blocks with ease. Before her very eyes, the horse scaled the barricade, effortlessly crossing to the other side.
“How in the world?!” Abby exclaimed, her brow furrowing in disbelief. Still, despite the sheer height of the wall, Abby knew she couldn’t waste a moment. Tim needs me!
Without hesitating, Abby raced toward the wall, noting the cold and abandoned aura it exuded. “Shouldn’t guards be patrolling the ramparts or something?” she wondered, briefly troubled by the absence of any security. But there was no time for doubts. Placing a hand into the enormous hoof-print in the stonewall, Abby began her ascent, pulling herself up one foothold at a time. It felt like hours, an eternity even, but finally, she reached the top. “How had the horse gotten down, and where has it gone?” she pondered, her curiosity piqued.
Cautiously, Abby walked along the narrow, few-feet-wide pathway on top of the wall, until she stumbled upon an entrance to one of the towers. The door beckoned her inside, promising refuge within the wall itself. Descending a small stone staircase, Abby found herself on the ground level, where a broken-down wooden door revealed the path her quarry had taken.
Navigating her way through the deserted stone building, Abby’s eyes widened with hope when she discovered yet another hoof-print, this time etched into a stairwell. “At least I still have a trail,” she sighed with relief. Taking the stairs two at a time, her heart skipped a beat when she heard a voice echoing above. It was Tim’s voice.
“Tim! Tim!” Abby called out desperately, her voice carrying a mixture of fear and urgency as she rushed up the last few steps. But when she reached the top landing, she froze, her eyes transfixed by the sight before her.
A towering statue of a man dominated the room, poised to strike with a sword held high, its deadly glint reflecting in the flickering torchlight. To one side stood the horse that wasn’t a horse, a sense of guardedness emanating from its every stance. And amidst it all, Tim stood there, engaged in conversation with an unseen presence.
“T-Tim!” Abby stammered, her words trembling with emotion.
As Timothy Hunter walked around the magnificent statue, lost in his own thoughts, his small yo-yo danced up and down in his hand. It was a prized possession, a simple distraction from the weight of the world on his young shoulders. But today, even the yo-yo couldn’t ease his troubled mind.
“Tim!” called Abby, her voice laced with uncertainty. “What’s going on?”
Tim paused, turning to face his friend, his expression one of deep contemplation. “Black wants me to change his friend Dilvish from a statue back to a man,” he explained, his voice tinged with both confusion and disbelief.
Abby’s brow furrowed in confusion. “What are you talking about, Tim?”
Tim pointed toward the majestic horse named Black, his eyes filled with a mixture of awe and confusion. “Black can talk,” he said, his voice tinged with wonder. “He believes I have some kind of magical powers, like an apprentice magician. But I have no knowledge of magic! I’m just an ordinary kid. I have no idea where to even begin.”
“And you never will, boy!” warned a deep, baritone voice that echoed through the room. “None may enter my keep and not pay the toll!” A figure emerged from the shadows, a large, bald man dressed in an elegant silver and green tunic, his green cloak gracefully cascading from silver clasps.
Tim’s eyes widened in fear as he took in the imposing figure, while Black pawed the ground restlessly. Abby, too, was taken aback by the sudden appearance. “Who are you?” she demanded, her voice laced with uncertainty.
The stranger smiled maliciously, his eyes glinting with a wickedness that sent shivers down Abby’s spine. “Hello, my dear,” he greeted, his voice oozing with menace. “It seems that I’ve stumbled upon a new plaything to delight in!” He followed his words with a chilling laugh.
Black neighed and reared, positioning himself protectively between Tim, Abby, and the menacing man. Abby’s mind raced, scanning the room for any form of defense. And then, it clicked.
The sword. It was right there, lodged firmly in the stone fist of Dilvish, the very statue they were trying to save. Abby dashed toward it, determination etched on her face, and tugged at the stubborn blade.
The bald man sneered at the brave attempts to resist him. He turned his attention toward Black, addressing him with disdain. “Foolish minion!” he spat, his voice dripping with contempt. With a wave of his hand, he sent the majestic steed crashing through one of the stone walls, the sound of splintering stone reverberating through the room.
“Black!” Tim cried out in anguish, his voice a mix of desperation and sorrow.
The bald man’s gaze shifted back to Tim and Abby. His expression twisted into a sinister smile, one that chilled them to the core. “Now, what shall I do with you two?” he mused aloud.
Fear gripped Tim’s heart, causing him to press himself against the statue of Dilvish, as if hoping it would offer some protection. Abby, refusing to back down, took a defiant step forward, positioning herself as a barrier between the magician and her vulnerable friend. “Leave us alone!” she shouted, her voice filled with unwavering resolve.
The bald man’s smile widened, his eyes gleaming with sadistic pleasure. “Yes,” he hissed, relishing in their defiance. “It will be an absolute delight to break such a spirited young soul as yourself, my pretty.”
Almost instinctively, Tim felt a strange warmth emanating from his hands. He couldn’t explain it, but the glow grew stronger, more intense. As if in response, the statue of Dilvish began to creak ominously behind him. Tim’s gaze darted upwards in astonishment, just in time to see the sword plunge forward.
In that moment, Tim closed his eyes, not wanting to witness the gruesome scene unfolding before him. But even through his closed eyelids, he could hear a piercing shriek, a sound as chilling as it was triumphant.
“No more, Jelerak,” the voice of the unfrozen adventurer named Dilvish declared with undeniable authority. “I have waited a long time to put an end to you!”
Overwhelmed with relief, Abby rushed to Tim’s side, shielding his eyes from the unsettling scene.
Gareth Gallowglass and a stranger wearing a red uniform stood at the edge of Black’s meadow, their eyes fixated on the fading figures of Dilvish, the young woman, and her small companion. The distant sound of galloping hooves echoed through the air as Dilvish disappeared.
With a heavy sigh, Abby Cable and her diligent student, Timothy Hunter, turned around, only to find themselves facing the enigmatic duo who were awaiting them. “Mr. Gallowglass,” Abby started to say, hoping to explain the peculiar scene that had just unfolded, “let me explain…” But she was abruptly interrupted by Gallowglass.
“Mrs. Cable,” the headmaster’s tone was curt, his abrasiveness evident. “This man is Adam Strange, a traveler who has journeyed quite far to find you. His arrival has been fraught with great hardships.” Gallowglass’ disapproving expression suggested that he was less than thrilled about welcoming an outsider to his island. “He claims to have met your husband in outer space and brings with him a message for you.”
Hope blossomed within Abby, her face suddenly illuminated despite the harrowing ordeal she had just endured. “Can this be true?” she exclaimed, her voice tinged with relief.
Adam Strange, a blonde man drenched in mystery, nodded solemnly. However, just as he was about to divulge the details of his extraordinary encounter, a blinding surge of light enveloped him, leaving nothing but a void in its wake. The shockwave of his sudden disappearance shattered Abby’s heart, causing her to cry out in despair.
“No-o-o!” Abby cried out, throwing her hands to her face. Here was someone who had word of her Alec, and now he was gone.
Distressed and without hesitance, Tim approached his mentor and wrapped his arms gently around her bloodstained dress, offering a small sense of solace. Though his action may have done little to alleviate Abby’s anguish, it was the only gesture the young boy could fathom in that moment.