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Drip-drip-drip went the icy cold rain falling from the dark evening sky above, forming puddles of inky wetness on the cobblestone streets. The water seemed to fall from every object and structure left outside to withstand nature’s fury: rusted lamp posts that had seen better days, crumbling roves on less-then-stable looking houses and the fountain in the center of the normally bustling city square, complete with arches and dolphins made of white marble leaping upwards alongside larger then life rocky surfaced clams that housed stone skinned mermaids. Their lifeless eyes, grey and flecked with black, stared outward to the ghost town of a once prospering metropolis.
Every form seemed to be only a shell of something that was once grand and magnificent, devoid of color and lacking the essence of a city. Neither motion nor the slightest form of life could be seen or sensed as the raindrops fell down harder. Drip-drip-drip.
Drip-drip-drop, and from the world’s vast outskirts came a sound, a thundering echo that shook glass windows and seemed to be louder then the sky’s persistently falling tears hitting the ground in a deafening drone. Louder it became still, all the while creating an eerie mood, a morbid air that stops blood cold. Mixing with the emerging noise, an ear-piercing whinny joined the chorus of phantom song from a place that seemed an eon away.
A rush of other-worldly wind and a blur of black lashed out of the shadows with hurricane gale force, eyes like orbs of smoldering coals shining as hellish glow that could only be described as being full of rage. The trio of devilish mavericks let loose their cries, rearing upwards on long hind legs where bones could be seen and wisps of grey smoke emanated from each nostril. Sparks sprang up like dancing lights as their hooves struck against the stone streets.
They were silenced, suddenly transforming from unruly and wild to a tranquil state when the soft whistle gently rode on the wind. The change seemed like magic, a spell cast upon the demonic steeds that took its course in a few short seconds.
“Orior,” A warm but haunting voice said softly, a male’s voice. “Conquest, Famine.” The beasts turned their long faces left the right, hoping to catch a glimpse at whomever or whatever spoke.
A flash of gold was seen from down a pitch black alleyway, catching the ever-watchful eyes of the shadowy creatures. And from the darkness emerged the face of something strangely morbid yet elegant. Pure white and cream colored diamond patterns danced across a perfect avian visage complete with a gently curving gray-tipped beak on the ghostly mask. The light of a nearby flame-lit lantern cast a warm rosy glow on the figure lurking in the night.
He was well dressed, the gentleman: a solid black long coat with a swallow tail style to the back that billowed in the evening breeze with silver and ivory buttons, hand crafted, down each side. Sitting upon his head of muddy colored locks, an ebony top hat accented with a charcoal feather and opal shards. His long flowing shirt and pants matched the color of the stallion’s flowing onyx manes, as did the boots on his feet.
Click-click-clack, his footsteps went as he drifted to the lead horse’s right side. Hands, covered by milky white gloves, covered the frail fingers and bones which lay underneath a pale covering of flesh, gently caressed downward on the creature from its bony shoulder before jumping up onto its back with the greatest of ease. It threw its head back and snorted, wisps of gray smoke curling from its flaring nostrils.
Running off like underworld demons blessed with the gift of speed, they dashed into the dark, a lingering trail of death and decay behind them.
- - - - - - - -
Somewhere near the river’s edge sat a ramshackle inn known as The Old Gray Gull, housing a young aspiring musician gifted with a songbird-like singing voice. She sat at an open window and gazed out: the rain ceased to stop, making ripples on the river outside and almost on the brink of flooding.
Her voice began to sing words both beautiful and terribly haunting.
The highwayman came riding, riding, riding.
The highwayman came riding
Up to the old inn’s door.
A heavy knock from the entrance echoed through the building, and her maiden heart seemed to halt for a moment.
The highwayman, indeed, rode up to the old inn door.