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.
The Outrider - Full Short StoryEdit
Click the "Expand" button at the right to read the full short story.
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.
nightfall,” cackled the driver.
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.
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.
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.
The carriage thundered into the square and came to a halt
in front of Der Mühle.
climbed down from his seat, stretching his worn body with
great pain, and swung open the carriage door.
muttered and gestured towards the luggage.
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.
well over a year.”
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.
the Innkeeper. “You too, Gabriel.”
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.
way towards the church.
around here. The only ones we have are tough and sour.”
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.
back into his pocket and stood up. He heard Jacob call out to
black cat into a sack.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
crack outside his home. He picked up a lantern and stepped
outside. A man stood in the pasture with a rifle at his side.
he say, he reasoned – tell him that a monster from his past had
relieved, and looked back at the forest.
come for the animals. They collect them.”
Gabriel. “Are there really more than one?”
the dark forest across the pasture.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
away. Is this what father had done? Maybe he wasn’t killed by
that thing. Maybe he witnessed the horror, ran away, and killed
back. Orion, the Hunter, ruled the starry sky above him.
and out of the dark cold water.