Yay! This is the last chapter! Finally! Everything will be explained and for those of you who hung on this long, I congratulate you all.

December 14, p.d.

Kurt had gone out to the barn every day, watching and waiting for Kitty and Anevern's flight. Due to all the snow days the school system had had lately, Kurt's permission forms were obsolete, the now Boy Scouts camping trip on the calendar was all he needed. Getting a horse was harder, but not impossible. Kurt had taken Archie, an experienced half-draft hunter roughly the size of Anevern and outfitted him with his hunting tack and things to survive for a week or so in the winter. Tricky, but he was mentally thanking his Outdoor Education teacher.

December 15 dawned as a crisp Saturday morning, perfect for riding. Kitty woke early and tacked Anevern, confident that nobody knew. Her heart was pounding, galloping towards its last few beats of the year. Kurt had slept the night in Archie's stall, and was roused when he heard Anevern being led down the aisle. Ever so quietly, he tacked Archie and waited until Kitty was out of earshot to mount up and move out.

She was dressed in that amazing old hunting tack again, looking a pretty picture mounted on Anevern, fully dappled, as he raised his head and pricked his long ears at a sound in the distance. They set off down the drive and wandered down the road at a walk, Kurt and Archie following a good distance behind. Kurt's heart was pounding with adrenaline, as he had no idea what laid ahead, and he loved a good adventure.

Up ahead, Kitty and Anevern broke a trot. Kurt rose to Archie's trot as he struggled to keep his tail in check, flicking over Archie's flanks. Let the hunt begin!

December 16, p.d.

Kurt had lost Kitty. Three hours ago. On a back country road. Night was falling. He dismounted and hunkered down on the side of the road where he'd lost Kitty. With any luck, she'd be going in a circle, as she'd been doing for the past day. He turned his head to the sound of hooves pounding an icy road. Far down the road, Anevern was coming at a full gallop. Kurt's eyes grew wide and he swung up onto Archie's back, ready for a chase. Anevern's coat was darkening as night fell, dapples fading into a shining jet black coat.

Kitty looked alive, eyes bright, urging her horse faster and faster until they were flying so fast, Kurt swore not a foot touched the ground. It was magnificent. They looked like a pair of rough-riding demons bent on racing Hell and the Devil himself. Archie rose to the occasion magnificently, racing along behind Anevern with unwavering stamina. Kurt watched for signs of recognition. None came.

Ahead on the road, there were low-hanging branches that were drawing rapidly closer. Anevern flew right under them, and Kurt shouted, "Duck!"

Kitty turned in her seat to look with shocked wide eyes at him. A branch hit her upside the head and she went spinning from her seat, Anevern continuing riderless. Kurt desperately tried to pull Archie up, but an object, especially one as large and travelling as fast as Archie, tends to stay in motion. Archie ran right over Kitty's winded form, pursuing Anevern. The horse, stirrups flapping, ran right towards a high stone wall.

He'd never make it, Kurt knew that the second he misplaced a foot on the takeoff. Off balance, he careened over the wall and landed with a heavy thud on the other side. Kurt emergency-dismounted and clambered over the wall to see the stallion lying there with a broken neck and blank black eyes. He steeled himself, going back to Archie, and cantering to where Kitty lay. Blood was pooling around her from a huge gash in her abdomen.

Kurt could see grey, shining coils of her guts through the gash, undoubtedly caused by the spiked cogs on Archie's shoes. Her back seemed to be broken, and her eyes were blank, but she was alive, as her chest rose and fell in rapid, shallow breaths.

"Keety! Kätzchen!" Kurt shouted, dismounting and running to her side. Recognition flickered briefly in her eyes.

"Kurt . . . I have something to tell you . . ." Kitty said slowly, weakly, in a strained voice. Kurt nodded fervently, taking one of her hands. "I am Kythera Wylde. . . . I had an affair with Kurt Wagner, the blacksmith, your ancestor . . . and married him after killing my husband, Lord Wylde . . . I die every year with Anevern, whom I stole from Wylde one night . . . and robbed a stagecoach . . . selling my soul to the Devil . . . when I died for the first time, and came back . . . it was amazing . . . but when I found you, I knew my time had come. I'm going to die for real this time . . . and Kurt . . . I'm scared."

Kitty's eyes, filled with pain and fear, broke Kurt's heart. She was his ancestor . . . the great Kythera Wylde, lady of legends, lying broken in his arms . . .

"Don't be scared, Kä . . . Kythera . . . it's fine, dying, it's natural . . . what was dying like before?" Kurt asked softly.

"A relief for the pain . . . it was like falling asleep . . . then when I'd wake up, it was like the yearly nightmare was starting again . . ." Kythera rasped.

"Just fall asleep, Kythera . . . you won't ever have to face the nightmare." Kurt whispered.

"One thing for me?" she questioned so softy, Kurt had to strain to hear.

"Anything," Kurt said.

"Tell me you love me," Kythera breathed, eyes searching Kurt's face. "I'll never see Kurt again . . . for he is in heaven . . . and I will go to Hell . . . . let me die a happy woman . . . before Hell."

"I love you, Kätzchen," Kurt responded. A weak smile appeared on Kythera's face, one of pure joy and relief. Slowly, the pain drained from her features and the light left her eyes. A breeze blew over Kurt, chilling him and bringing his last words to Kythera back to him.

That was it. The nightmare was finally over. Kythera Wylde had died for the last time, 541 years after it had began.

Everything was at peace.




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