Chapter XIX: Into the Mind of Fire (10/18)Mature

Tayna stopped her horse on a hillside close enough to Castia that she could see it lit in the evening light, but further than she was allowed, as a message of rebellion. She slid off of her horse and felt her knees buckle, collapsing on the grass with tears soaking her face and pules of despair escaping her lips. The sky had turned deep purple overhead, a ribbon of pink at the sunset, stars shining in the sky like diamond eyes. Her horse huffed and rested its muzzle on her shoulder comfortingly, it nuzzled her cheek persistently and forced her to chuckle, reaching up and smoothing its bristly, white coat.

'You knew my parents, didn't you, Equus?' she asked weakly, 'you're the only one I know who does. I want to believe they left you with me so I could home one day.' It wasn't long before she felt like crying again, 'can you take me to them, boy? Please, I need to find somebody who doesn't think I'm a freak.' Equus huffed in her ear in protest, she chuckled again. 'Thanks, at least I have you.'

Tayna dried her eyes and led down on the grass, job done, Equus trotted a few paces away to graze, pulling up dandelions and daisies and chewing loudly behind his owner. Tayna tried not to think about all the names she could call herself, instead she looked for constellations in the sky, tracing them with her index finger, whilst she commanded the breeze to spin around her and comfort her, drying her tears. Will sat not far away, cross-legged at her side.

She remained on the hillside until the lights in the houses began to go out one by one, she even saw the farmhouse light go off, though the barn light remained on. Her brothers slept in the barn whilst she and her mother took the beds in the house, the three of them would always talk late into the night, telling stories and playing pranks.

They're not my family. They never were. I was stupid to think I could ever call them that. She tried to make herself believe this, but imagining her brothers - and even her mother - as anything but the most cherished people in her heart made it ache, like it mourned the loss of them.

'Do you think my parents will look for me, Equus?' Tayna asked after staring at the sky longer, 'I want to leave, but then how will they find me? How will I find them?' Equus whinnied. 'That's very helpful, thank you,' she added sarcastically, she was halfway through laughing again when she heard a strange noise.

She sat up and looked with intrigue, tracing the noise to the forest to the East of Castia's boundary. She crawled forward, slipping down to the other side of the hill to look better, she realised what the sound was - clopping - and then saw something materialise from the forest.

Down the track pathway which led from the forest to Castia came half a dozen horses as dark as pitch, fitted with helmets with spikes that made them resemble metal unicorns. Their eyes glowed bright red - the colour of rogue Noxian horses. Alongside the clopping came voices, 'hiya's' and joyous hollers, the voices were deep and male.

Tayna watched, lost in wonder as the riders sped towards the gates of Castia, they all tried to make it through the gate at once, some succeeded, some knocked the gate off its hinges, and others managed the incredible leap over the spiked fence. Then, following an ebullient ululation, she watched an orange glow flicker from the village square, growing brighter until a woman screamed and it became clear what it was - fire. Black smoke began to billow into the sky like Castia was mere kindling. Very soon, the intense and putrid odour of smoke and burning things reached the hillside.

The End

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