Through the darkness they rode for an indeterminately long time, throughout which the pace of the black horse never faltered and the rider never spoke.  At length, however, they came to a halt upon a stretch of flat, empty land that stretched out for miles on every side.  Ahead, Reymu could make out the silhouette of the southern mountains against the ever-so-slightly lighter sky.  The rider dismounted, so Reymu did too.

        The rider produced a knife, bent to the ground, and slowly drew a seven-pointed star in the blackened earth, speaking in a voice that was hardly human, "By the power vested in me by my master, lord of the sun, I command thee, Dirt, to bring forth Heat, and the Light by which to see it!"

        There was a spark, and then an unearthly roar, and flames sprang from the ground, burning without wood, yet contained to the lines it had been drawn into. 

       "You're a sorcerer!" Reymu exclaimed.

        "Sorceress," the rider corrected him, pulling back the hood of the cloak.

        And indeed, the face he saw before him was that of a woman, young, but not youthful, with pale skin and dark green eyes.  Her hair, red as blood, fell in wavy curtains upon her shoulders like liquid fire.

        "You can call me Scarlet," she informed him.  "But that is not my name."

        "What is your name?" Reymu inquired.

        "Why should I tell you that?  Now rest, boy.  We cannot stop for long."

        Obediently, Reymu lay down in the dirt beside the enchanted fire and closed his eyes.  Although he was tired, he did not think he would be able to sleep.  But sleep he did, for when he next opened his eyes, the sorceress was shaking him awake and placing meat, freshly cooked, and water at his side.

        "Eat quickly," said she.  "We leave soon."

        "Where are we going?" he asked.

        "To the mountains."

        "But there are goblins in the mountains, aren't there?"

        "Exactly," she replied.  "Just don't call them by that name to their faces.  They prefer to be known as elves, specifically the tribe of the Madaram Uolxan."

        "But why are we going to the goblins?"

        "To take back what was stolen."

        "And what is that, exactly?"

        She narrowed her eyes at him.  "I shall tell you when you need to know.  Now eat.  Time slips away."

The End

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