A few kills later I had found myself face-to-face with what I could only describe as a Cyclops with poofy red hair.
The stuff of nightmares, really.
I’d been getting a bit tired (the wound was starting to act up) and I really wasn’t as good a shot with pain shuddering up my arm, so I guess I should have seen it coming when the clown-cyclops smashed his foot into the ground beside Omen and he reared wildly, whinnying.
And I flew off of the saddle.
I’d been expecting pain. Or, more pain. But I just felt myself slowly floating through the air, drifting towards the ground.
It only took a moment for me to remember the time I’d been thrown off of the castle. How time slowed. And I dropped safely to the ground.
Surely enough, time resumed its course and I plopped into the bluish grass, hardly the worse for wear.
I looked up to see Eversio trotting towards me, holding Omen’s reins with a look of concern on his face.
“Commander! Are you okay?”
I slowly got up, nodding.
There was movement in my peripheral vision and I saw the same hooded figure I saw the first time.
“Eversio, give me the reins.”
I swung myself onto Omen’s back, taking the reins and spurring him into a trot.
“Hey!” I called, “You!”
“Get back here!”
I put Omen into a gallop, keeping my eyes fixated as we began to close the distance.
I felt myself blink, and when my eyes opened again –
I spun Omen around, scanning the horizon to no avail.
“Were you looking for the Cyclops?” Eversio asked, his white horse trotting leisurely towards me, “I kinda…killed it. Sorry.”
“No,” I sighed, “There was this…cloaked…person. I was trying to catch them.”
“A cloaked person?” Eversio asked incredulously, “Out here?”
“Yes.” I muttered, “I’m not crazy, okay?”
“Let me guess, they…disappeared into thin air?”
There was an awkward moment of silence.
“Crikey.” His horse said suddenly, shaking its head, “She’s totally lost it.”
I looked at the horse, stunned, before noticing its horn.
“Rocky?” I asked incredulously, “What…what happened to your hair?”
“Had it bleached.” He snorted, “Nobody takes pink and purple seriously out here.”
I could have been hallucinating…but he actually looked sad.
“Um…that’s too bad.” I offered, “I…take pink and purple seriously.”
Rocky looked at me with his large blue eyes, as if scrutinizing me.
I tried not to make it sound like a question. Tried.
“You know,” Eversio started, a mischievous grin on his face, “I’m sure the Commander would love to stand up against the problem we have right hair.”
I glared at him.
“Did you just-”
“Yes.” He replied unapologetically, “I did. But, as I was saying…”
“What? Come on!” Eversio wheedled, “For the greater good!”
I kept my eyes fixed on the camp as we rode back.
“What kind of a message are you sending to Rocky?” Eversio asked with mock concern, “You just said you take pink and purple very seriously!”
“Yes, I do.” I clarified, “But other people don’t. And I already have enough people looking down on me for being a female human.”
“So what you’re saying is that what other people think is more important to you than what you think?”
I looked at Eversio, eyes narrowed.
He was his father’s son.
We slowed and Rocky turned his head to look at me.
“You won’t do it then, Commander?”
I looked at the unicorn and felt my resolve weaken.
If it was possible, it looked like the unicorn was making puppy dog eyes at me.
And, right then, I ended up making a decision I would regret for a while.