"The Outrider" is the fifth short-story in Remember - Amnesia: The Dark Descent. It's written by Mikael Hedberg, and includes an illustration by Rasmus Gunnarsson & Jonas Steinick. It takes place on August 2, 1839, and follows Gabriel, the Outrider, as he follows a mysterious creature that kidnaps a cat from Altstadt.
Gabriel is working as an outrider, scouting roads for carriages carrying passengers. He is escorting a carriage carrying an Englishman to Altstadt, which is Gabriel's home town. They arrive in Altstadt, and the Englishman, Daniel, checks into the local inn as Gabriel catches up with the young innkeeper, Jacob. As he does this, they hear a loud noise, and witness a hooded creature kidnap a local cat, Tinker. Gabriel grabs a rifle and gives chase. At the edge of the forest, he loses the creature, but the local cooper hears the commotion and hands Gabriel a lantern. Gabriel continues into the forest, and catches up with the creature. He puts a bullet into it, which causes the creature to drop the sack with the cat in it, but the creature isn't killed and instead stumbles into a cave. Gabriel gives chase, and is captured by the creature. He manages to save himself by catching the creature on fire by smashing the lantern over it. He runs away from the cave as he can hear several more creatures approaching from inside the cave.
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Gabriel looked behind him to see how the carriage handled the winding forest road. The journey had been long and these last few miles had been the longest. The Englishman had chartered the carriage to take him from Bremen to Altstadt near the eastern border of Prussia. The driver had not been thrilled by the prospect, but was swayed as the man kept offering more money. Gabriel worked as an outrider, following carriages on horseback, helping out with scouting paths and keeping the peace. Like the driver, he had also been hesitant to embark on such a long journey. In the end, it was the destination which had enticed Gabriel to come along. Out of all towns, the Englishman had chosen Gabriel’s hometown, the small hamlet known as Altstadt.
“It’s just up ahead,” Gabriel called back to the carriage.
“You see Englishman, I told you we’d make it before nightfall,” cackled the driver.
Gabriel looked up into the dark sky. They were cutting it close. The fiery red horizon was all that was left and soon it would be snuffed out too. He waited for the carriage to pass and followed it into the town.
Jacob was far from being a man, yet he already worked the stables at Der Mühle, the only guest house in town. Altstadt was never particularly busy, not even during market days, and Jacob spent most of his time being bored. He walked across the town square to the community well. A black cat sat on the rough stone work and peered into the darkness below.
“Hi there, Tinker, found any mice lately?”
The cat was unfazed by Jacob’s presence and kept staring into the well. Jacob sighed and stroked the black cat’s sleek fur. Suddenly, he heard the rattling noise of a horse-drawn carriage in the distance and got excited.
“Someone’s coming!” he called into the guest house. The carriage thundered into the square and came to a halt in front of Der Mühle. The driver pulled the brake and climbed down from his seat, stretching his worn body with great pain, and swung open the carriage door.
“Englishman,” he said, “we have arrived.”
Out climbed a thin and considerably tired man. He muttered and gestured towards the luggage.
“Allow me, sir,” grumbled the driver and pulled down the luggage.
Jacob tugged at the leather straps and unbuckled the carriage horses. He noticed that the outrider following the carriage had stopped to hoist some water from the well. Jacob left the horses and walked over to the lone rider.
“Gabriel, is it really you?”
“Good to see you again, Jacob.”
“I was beginning to think you’d never return. It’s been well over a year.”
The Innkeeper came out to greet the Englishman and make sure everything was in order. Feeling his master’s eyes on him, Jacob sprang to action and hurried off with the horses towards the stable.
“Come inside and have something to drink and eat,” said the Innkeeper. “You too, Gabriel.”
The light of day had passed and Jacob was finally done. Exhausted, he sat down on the ground in front of the entrance. It had been a good day after all and tomorrow was going to be even better. Drivers, outriders, and not to mention visitors, always had the best stories. When they had rested he was going to hear them all.
Tinker, the black cat, passed by in front of him.
“Hey, Tinker, come here – come here Tinker.”
The black cat glanced at Jacob and then continued on his way towards the church.
“You’re no fun.”
Gabriel stepped out of the guest house and sat down next to Jacob.
“What are you still doing up?”
“The horses – they take time,” answered Jacob.
“Here,” said Gabriel and handed him an apple.
“Thank you. You know, we don’t get this kind of apple around here. The only ones we have are tough and sour.”
“You should plant the seeds after you’ve eaten it then.”
Jacob looked at it for a moment, smiled, and pocketed it.
“Maybe I will.”
Jacob got up on his feet and brushed the dust off himself. He picked up a pebble and flung it through the air and hit the well. Gabriel chortled and patted his jacket in search for his pocket watch. The Englishman had given it to him after coming to the conclusion that it was broken. Gabriel knew it was unlikely he would ever get around to it, but he wanted to have it repaired. It was a nice watch even though he couldn’t figure out why it had the name “Herbert” engraved. He was fairly sure the Englishman said his name was Daniel.
A terrifying yowl shook them both. It turned into a violent hiss.
“Tinker?” said Jacob and made his way towards the church.
“Damn cats.” Gabriel wiped his brow. He put the watch back into his pocket and stood up. He heard Jacob call out to someone.
“Hey! You there, what are you doing?”
Gabriel moved closer and saw a dark figure shove the black cat into a sack.
“Let him go!” called Gabriel.
The thing swung its arm around and struck Jacob. He fell to the ground. Gabriel ran over to Jacob. Blood seeped from his nose and he was barely conscious. The thing struggled to keep the black cat inside the burlap sack. It was dressed in a large cloak and reeked of clove and sage. Gabriel found himself staring. It seemed unreal somehow.
“Who are you?” he said under his breath.
The thing rose and stretched its limbs. Its face remained hidden behind the cloak, but its moldering hands were revealed in the silver moonlight. They looked twisted and unnatural. As if the bones had grown past what nature intended.
“Whiiil...!” it shrieked into the night.
The shattering cry woke Gabriel from his daze and he grabbed Jacob by the hand and pulled the young boy towards the stables. Gabriel dropped the boy in the hay, grabbed the spare rifle from the carriage, and returned to the square. The thing had disappeared, but Gabriel felt a need to deal with it. He couldn’t let it go, it reminded him too much of the thing his father went after.
Gabriel returned to the front of the church where he had confronted the thing. A faint scent remained from the strange herb combination. He followed it down the side of the church and stopped to listen.
A sudden cry from the black cat gave Gabriel a sense of direction and he began to run. He passed the last house and emerged in a small pasture separating Altstadt from the forest. The dark thing shambled across the uneven ground.
Kill it before it escapes into the forest, his mind cried out to him. Gabriel raised his gun, took aim and fired. The rifle stock struck his shoulder as it recoiled. The bullet rushed across the pasture and lodged itself in a pine tree.
Herr Zell, the cooper, had been startled by the muffled crack outside his home. He picked up a lantern and stepped outside. A man stood in the pasture with a rifle at his side.
“What is going on out here?”
Gabriel turned to face the startled townsman. What could he say, he reasoned – tell him that a monster from his past had revealed itself?
“It’s that thing, isn’t it?” shuddered Zell. Gabriel exhaled, relieved, and looked back at the forest.
“It only comes at night. It’s one of them lost souls. They come for the animals. They collect them.”
“I’ve seen it before. A long time ago, when I was boy,” said Gabriel. “Are there really more than one?”
Zell seemed to give it some thought.
“Who knows? Maybe it’s just the one,” figured Zell.
Gabriel looked up into the moonlit sky and then back at the dark forest across the pasture.
“I could use your lantern.”
Gabriel ran through the forest. He was already regretting his decision. He was tracing the footsteps of his father, and he knew it. It was he who had brought the lantern that night and watched him step into the darkness – never to return.
Gabriel waded across a shallow brook running through a ravine, climbed its rocky side, and continued even deeper into the forest. Suddenly he saw the thing, with its burlap sack shifting from side to side. It was heading for an opening – a cave. Gabriel dared a careful smile of triumph. He readied his rifle again and took aim.
The shot echoed through the sleeping forest. The thing arched backwards in pain and dropped the burlap sack. Tinker, the black cat, tumbled out of the sack, and leapt to safety up a nearby tree. Gabriel watched closely from the distance, waiting for the thing to fall over. It didn’t.
Instead the thing shambled into the cave. Gabriel quietly cursed under his breath and pushed forward. He was shaking from fear and the cold water which had soaked his legs as he had crossed the brook. He tried to control his breathing, but he couldn’t and the air stuttered in and out of him.
As he came closer, he noticed that the cave was glowing. Whatever that thing was it had lit up the cave with fire. He glanced at Tinker perched on a branch above him. The black cat seemed to peer into his soul, urging him to take vengeance. Gabriel peeked inside. The wounded thing picked up a torch from a metal holder fixed to the cavern wall. He could see that the tunnel was fitted with more holders, but this was the only one with a lit torch. The terrible thing turned around and looked directly at Gabriel, who was transfixed by its presence. Suddenly it dropped its torch, made a swift lunge at Gabriel, and thrusted its bony fingers into Gabriel’s chest and lifted his body. He cried out in pain and tugged at its cloak. And with a cruel twist of fate, Gabriel unveiled its hideous face. Its skin had given in to the weight of the flesh and collapsed like hot wax on a candle over the misshaped skull. Gabriel panicked, kicked with his legs, and smashed the lantern against the thing’s face. The lantern cracked open, shards of glass rained on them both, and burning oil poured out onto the monster. He fell to the ground and watched the thing wrestle with the fire, which had spread all over its body.
Approaching lights flickered from inside the tunnel. There were more of them. Gabriel let out a desperate scream, scrambled out of the cave, and ran as fast as his wounds would let him. He fled through the dark forest, making his way back to Altstadt. As he reached the brook he stopped and felt the madness within him burn his senses. He stumbled into the water and submerged himself. The cold water calmed him. He drifted face down in the water, letting the gentle stream pull at his body.
I can end it all, he thought. If I stay like this, it will all go away. Is this what father had done? Maybe he wasn’t killed by that thing. Maybe he witnessed the horror, ran away, and killed himself.
He turned himself over and continued to float on his back. Orion, the Hunter, ruled the starry sky above him.
Gabriel refused to join his father and pulled himself up and out of the dark cold water.