Welcome back once again to Flash Fiction Friday!
This week's entry comes from the prompt for R. B. Wood's podcast, The Word Count. Go check it out, if you haven't yet. Richard is a good guy, a good author, and has a fantastic podcast featuring all kinds of other good authors.
Anyway, this prompt was "take a line from your favorite song and write a story around it."
It's not my all time favorite song, but I do like it, and this story almost wrote it self once I said the line out loud. Keep in mind that this is the first draft of this story, and it's going to get edited before I record it and submit it to the podcast.
In the mean time, please enjoy!
A Horse with No Name
“I rode through the desert on a horse with no name,” the stranger said in response to Ahmed’s question.
“Bah!” Ahmed said, his lip curled in a snarl. “No one rides through that desert, not and lives. There is a reason we call it the Land of Death.”
The stranger’s eyes, strangely blank and focused at the same time, turned their attention on Ahmed, burning into his skull, as if the man were looking at Ahmed’s very soul. Ahmed took an involuntary step backward.
“But I did,” he said. “And I found it there. The legends are true.”
“Legends?” Ahmed said, his eyebrows raised in confusion. Then, the man’s words sank in, and his eyebrows lowered, his eyes squinting in understanding. “You don’t mean…?”
“I do,” the stranger said, and then reached into his robes to pull out a long, straight bundle of blankets, as long as a man is tall, and thin, like a pole. Or a spear, Ahmed realized.
“That is it?” Ahmed said. “Are you sure?”
The stranger pulled back the blankets enough for Ahmed to see the spear point. Pure platinum, he could tell even just by looking at it, with a single ruby at the point where the blade met the shaft. And runes, ancient runes of a long dead language, were carved into the metal. He gasped, turned to make sure no one else was looking, then quickly wrapped it back up!
“It is…” he said in a whisper. “It’s he Spear of Time, the one prophesied to be used by the Great Defender in the final battle that will either save or destroy the world."
“Indeed,” the stranger said. “I found it… out there.”
His eyes went glassy. Well, more glassy than before, like instead of looking through Ahmed, he wasn’t even aware that Ahmed was there. The stranger was clearly looking at the past, his recent past.
“I… I can’t remember much,” he said. “The heat. I can’t even remember my own name.”
“The desert does that to people,” Ahmed said. “Go on and tell me what you do remember.”
“I…” The stranger paused. Then, he sat down suddenly, on the dusty ground by the building that held Ahmed’s shop. He leaned his head back against the wall, and for the first time, Ahmed say just how tired the other man looked. The bags under the man’s eyes were swollen and purple, and the hair on his chin was clearly at few days worth of growth. And where before he saw a smelly mess, he now saw a man who had torn clothing and a dirty countenance that came from hardship. Ahmed frowned. Sympathy was not an emotion he was used to, and he wasn’t sure he liked it.
Suddenly, the stranger’s head snapped back up.
“A city,” he said. “I remember a city… made of… jewels?”
“Ala-mashad,” Ahmed said automatically, thinking of the old stories and prophecies about the so-called City of God, said to be hidden deep in the desert. He stopped before he said anything else. Ala-mashad? The Spear of Time? Legends. These things were not real. This stranger was just… what? A crazy man? A wily merchant, trying to pass off items as legendary artifacts? No. Ahmed didn’t believe that. There was more to this stranger than either of those options. He just wasn’t yet ready to believe that this man before him was the Great Guardian spoken of in the sacred texts.
“I remember… a man… another man… I…” The stranger continued. “I followed him… into the desert… he had committed a crime, I think… I can’t remember his name, either. I followed him, to that strange city where… something happened. Something rose up… a giant snake? and… ate us?”
Ahmed almost opened his mouth again. Dal-Hashad, the world snake, that was said to devour the light and the dark at the beginning of time, and would spit out the Great Guardian and the Dark Agent before at the end of time, when the Final Battle would happen. This man had to be pulling his leg.
“I don’t think…” the stranger said, still looking into that strange past he saw. “I don’t think I’m the same man as the one that went into the desert, the one that was chasing after a criminal. But at the same time, I am he. I have his… memories. Or some of them, at least. And the man I was chasing, he is different, too. After the snake spit us out, we landed on a pile of treasure.”
Ahmed noted that the man’s words were coming faster now. He was obviously remembering more.
“I remember looking at him, this other man, this dark man, and wanting to kill him, as if that were my purpose in life. I reached out to the treasure around me, and grabbed that spear. I struck at him with it, but he too had reached into the pile, and grabbed a shield. A black shield, that appeared to be made from darkness itself. He laughed, then touched the shield and vanished. I left the city, found this house, and rode… here.”
He sighed and closed his eyes, leaning back against the building. He looked tired once more. A bone deep wariness, as if he had been walking for a hundred years. Which he could have, from the look of him, Ahmed thought.
“I also found…” the stranger said, fishing around inside his shirt. “This. It was around my neck when I awoke on that pile of treasure.”
He pulled out a small, round pendant and showed it to Ahmed. Ahmed gasped, and took a step backward again. He had to stop himself from taking more. It was impossible. But there it was, the symbol, the chain, everything. Proof that this man was telling the truth. For the pendant was made out of a green materal known as Jade, something that didn’t exist anywhere but in legends. But it had to be Jade? What else was that green color? Touching it, it was no stone that Ahmed had ever seen. Jade. Te Rock of God, they called it. This man before him really WAS the Great Guardian. He had to tell someone.
“I…” Ahmed started, looking from the pendant to the stranger. “I need to… tell someone. The priest, maybe. He’ll know what to do. You, you stay here, inside my shop. You’ll be safe.”
The stranger nodded, and stood up to go inside.
“Take my horse,” he said to Ahmed, who nodded. Without thinking, he got on the horse and rode, fast, toward the temple in the middle of town. The priest, he had to know what to do next. He looked down at the horse. The Horse with No Name, the stranger had called it. When that thought went through his head, Ahmed almost fell off.
The Horse was part of the prophecy too. The horse with no name would bring the Guradian out of the Land of the Dead, and it would also carry the Guardian’s herald, who would bring news of the guardian. It was said in the prophecy that the horse would carry the herald to a great leader, where he would share his news. It was also said that the horse would carry the herald in the final battle, where he would die, sacrificing himself to protect the Guardian.
It occurred to Ahmed that he was that herald. He was right now heading to a great leader, the high priest of the temple, to bring news of the guardian. And e was doing it, riding on a horse with no name. It was almost enough to make Ahmed cry.
A bloody horse with no name.