He watched the impenetrable mist curl into intricate shapes, forming an ethereal spectacle in the dim light of the late afternoon. It danced around the sturdy oak trees and caressed the rough barks in an almost tender fashion. Gnarled branches swayed and leaves rustled, murmuring a soft melody that resonated throughout the bog and pierced right into its heart. Though in motion, the scenery seemed strangely cold and lifeless. Darkness encroached from below to boldly sweep across the land, before swallowing it. Tendrils, smooth and tortuous, reached for the old barks’ roots, as if trying to pull them underground. Perhaps, they had succeeded before. Uprooted trees presented labyrinthine curtains for inspection.
Amidst all of that, there was a tall, equine creature, slick and damp, its dark skin strangely mythical and alluring. The way it moved was fluid and graceful, but only appeared harmonious from a distance. As it approached, the beast’s strength and presence became overpowering. It was wilful, proud, untamed; its pose spoke of determination. This bog was its territory and even the tendrils of darkness made room for it as to not hinder its path.
He felt reminded of a tempest; and yet there was something elegant, almost fragile about this unnerving encounter. Perhaps it was wrong, but he had always been fascinated by the destructive and perilous. And now, here he was, faced with the incredible and unfathomable. Was this even real? His eyes nervously scanned the beast. Something inside of him twisted. The creature’s legs were so strong he thought its gallop might tear the world asunder. But where there was strength, there was also intricacy. Mane and tail were a tangled mess of wet grasses and the bulbous spikes of bulrushes. Bulging black eyes burned, seemingly lit by cold fire.
It was decided there and then: He had to tame it, had to ride it, and feel the strange creature’s power. The darkness was calling out to him seducing him with its smooth calm. He approached slowly and cautiously, so he would not be perceived as a threat. His steps were light and gentle, echoing only softly, nay imperceptibly. They were a pair of opposites, his lightness contrasted with the boldness of the beast. And for a brief moment the bog became suspended in time. Pale hand resting against dark skin, two of different origins became closely acquainted. It was only then that he noticed the pouring rain disrupting the subtle chant of the old oak trees. The rhythm of the bog had changed.
The rain drummed a powerful and hasty refrain, as if to lead into the battle of wills that was to ensue. Steam rose from the creature’s nostrils as it reared and moved to strike with its front legs. He, a lithe and graceful soul, moved away before the beast could crush him with its weight. With great speed and agility he moved to the equine’s flank, and then mounted it within mere seconds. He slinked his arms around its broad neck. The dark beauty bucked and reared, trying to shake its unwelcome rider. Its snorts and blows where rough and loud, enough to unbalance the rhythm of the rain. Hooves slammed into the ground. Nobody took possession of the Prince of the Bog.
He had a rare power of his own. His strength came from within. The beast could twist and turn all it wanted, he would prevail. He shifted with easy elegance, counterbalancing the equine’s every move. Their battle became a dance and before long its moves flowed to his tune. In a last effort to resist, the beast tried to bolt. Just like that, they were running. Yet, it felt as though they were flying. Cold flames had lit around them, defying the thundering rain. Oh, what a strange place this was!
Not knowing where they were going, he found that he didn’t care. He held onto his Dark Prince with all his might, enjoying the fleeting moment of near victory. He closed his eyes. The cold, wet wind blew into his face chilled him all the way to his core. His fingers stiffened in the creature’s bulrush mane. He felt his throat constrict; his fear rising, he tried to hold on tighter, tried to find a way to stop the force he had set in motion, but it was too late. Wherever this journey would take him, he would see it through until the very end. His vision blurred and their surroundings bled into braided streams of colour.
Though he couldn’t see the bog around him changing, but he could hear it. Dark spirits were snickering from behind the gnarled trees; the rain was outright laughing at him and the wet leaves made no secret of their squealing amusement. The song of the bog had become an eerie cacophony, at last revealing the sinister nature of the place. He felt panic welling up from within. What had he done? What was this place? What would happen? His breathing came in rough and disjointed bursts; his grasp on the beast’s mane almost slipped. And then, all of a sudden they stopped. Had he won? He allowed himself a deep breath and opened his eyes.
Soon he realised that it wasn’t him who had given the creature pause. They had reached the rim of a large pool of thick and murky water. The cold fire reflected strangely on this foamy mirror of olive green. The Prince reared and, as his forefeet fell, the water cleared and shimmered like a million crystals.
Leaning forward, he watched the spectacle with wonder and disbelief. Before he knew it, they were in motion again, heading straight towards the crystal mirror. A nervous laugh disrupted the rain’s rhythmical drumming and in that moment he knew he had to let go. This creature could not be tamed. He tried to release his grasp, but found that the beast’s mane had wrapped itself around his hands and forearms firmly forcing him into place. He fought to rip the soggy grasses, but they held fast, empowered by unnatural strength.
He struggled and flailed as the creature took him into the pool of water. “Help!” he yelled, but his only response was the cackling of the dark spirits. Already he was submerged all the way to his chest. His face was wild, his fear evident, but the equine pressed on without regard for its rider. Soon his screams were muted as water rushed into his lungs. He tried to kick himself free, but made no headway in any direction. He gasped. Kicked again. His eyes were wide open, fear evident on his face. A twitch. Hasty breathing without any air. He ripped on the creature’s mane with his last strength, but the beast only nickered softly, sounding hollow, sinister and unnatural.
His eyes glassy and empty, he was unable to focus. Cool. Soothing. No longer could he hear the rain, no longer could he hear the creature’s hooves thunder. All that remained was a faint echo in the distance, serene and beautiful. There was no struggle now. The beast released him into the depths. As he sank he felt weightless and finally relieved of his heavy burdens.
He came to rest peacefully underneath a heavy blanket of muddy waters. The Prince was nowhere to be seen.