The Outlaw, The Star and the Big, Big Sky
By TotalOverflow, 2012
A large, cloven hoof rustled in the inky darkness.
Rising from its resting place, the figure pushed aside the curtains of its lavish tent to step out into the cool night. With heavy hoof-falls, the hulking, grey form made its way through the encampments, breathing in the smell of the mountains under the starry sky. Torches here and there crackled, lighting the rocky cliff sides. Moving in a way that betrayed a lifetime of mountain dwelling, the creature clambered over the hills, its lumbering form crushing unfortunate pebbles under its hardened hooves. Large, spiraling horns glinted in the moonlight, between which glimmered a set of cold, determined eyes.
"Greetings, Lord Spire," a raspy voice echoed from behind the rocks, "Aries Parath." An oddly shaped boulder contorted and changed in color, shifting into a thin and gleaming white creature. It deftly hopped down the side of the mountain toward the other, lowering its head in a bow; long, curled horns on the sides of its head nearly touched the ground.
The first returned the greeting. "Aries Parath."
"Come tomorrow's eve we shall be ready," said the second as the pair marched between the clefts of rock. The first nodded his horned head, his matted beard swaying slightly.
"As we should be," he said, "I will not have a repeat of last year."
"I can assure you, we won't."
"Hmm," snorted the first, "don't disappoint me, Thorn. Your head would make a fine trophy should you do so."
"Yes, well, I suppose I shall take my leave of you then, Lord Spire," grinned the white one, "best to ensure the preparations are complete so you won't have to make good on that threat."
"Don't humor me," grumbled the elder, shaking his horns.
"Your lordship." Thorn smirked, gave another bow and with a brief flash of his horns, vanished. Lord Spire grunted and resumed his journey.
Small cascades of pebbles ran down the cliffs with each step the large ram took, short tremors rumbling beneath his massive hooves. Coming into view around the rocky hills was a large tent, its entrance flanked by tall torches and a pair of guards adorned in silvery armor, helmets hiding their faces and accentuating their horns.
"Aries Parath!" they said in unison, pointing their hidden snouts to the sky, "hail, Lord Spire!"
"Aries Parath," replied the bighorn as he pushed aside the drapes, stepping inside the poorly lit and dank tent. A creature stirred in the darkness, its movements clinking the chains fastened around its hooves. Lord Spire leaned over to a weakly sputtering torch. His long, spiraled horns shone for a moment and the fire surged, illuminating the tent and fully revealing the chained creature.
A deer, legs bound in shackles. Her hooves were sore and bloody, her horns dripped with a thick, black substance that ran down the lines of her slender face.
"Good evening," Lord Spire said, his lips curling into a twisted smile, "please forgive the chains, but we were afraid you'd leave us."
"What is it you want?" growled the deer.
"To talk. Guard!" called the ram.
"Sir!" The soldier poked his head inside.
"Bring us something to eat. I'm sure our guest is hungry."
"Sir!" the bighorn disappeared and barked orders at his subordinates.
"You fools," said the deer, shaking the black liquid from her nose, "you truly do not understand what you are about to do."
"Oh, no, I think we most certainly do," breathed Lord Spire, "surely you can see that ours is a noble cause? Our forefathers have been working toward this for generations. Ever since those wretched Sisters destroyed the honor of Ovisica."
"Spare me your sentiments!" the doe hissed.
"Ah, here, have some fruit," said Lord Spire, hoofing the recently arrived bowl toward the deer, "again, forgive us for keeping you this way. And please, forgive the meager assortment of fruits available to us in these mountains."
"You fools are about to make a terrible mistake," she said, kicking the bowl aside, "your eyes are blinded."
"I would say the same for you. Unlike you forest dwellers, we have faith. He will not lead us astray."
The deer held her piercing gaze upon him, silent.
The ram sighed, long and painfully. "A forest. A sight I've only once ever laid my eyes upon. Can you imagine what our lives have been like, knowing nothing but these rocks our entire lives? No, of course you can't. You've lived sheltered beneath those trees all your life, food enough for all with no fear of death breathing over your shoulder. Being forced to hide in the shadows of these accursed mountains...after countless generations the pieces have at least been set. And you hold the final key."
"I'llitchqa!" spat the deer, the oily ooze pooling beneath her dark eyes.
"The ancient tongue must not be so carelessly spoken," whispered Lord Spire, "you are in no position to judge our actions. Now..." he stepped closer, lifting the deer's chin in his hoof, who contorted her face in disgust. "Will you help us willingly or not? Either way, you will help us."
The deer narrowed her eyes in response, squinting through the black liquid.
"The ceremony begins tomorrow evening. You have until then to decide," said the ram, lowering his hoof and stepping toward the exit, "the longest day of the year comes in but a few weeks, and then our conquest will at last begin anew under His leadership. And..." he gave a light bray, "you shall be the one to free Him."
The deer shook in her shackles.
Lord Spire pushed aside the tent's curtains.
"Until tomorrow, then. Aries Parath."