A Tale of Six War Mares and Their Pilgrims
First published A.S. XXI
Chronicles of the Dreiburgen Light Horse.
My Lords, Ladies, and Gentles all…I pray leave to recount unto you a saga of six bold and adventurous Lords… and Ladies fair and courageous beyond all telling, who set forth upon a quest to seek the Sacred Shrine of our most exalted patron Saint Geronimus. The tale I am about to reveal is no idle traveler’s dream conjured out of flat ale and sour wine around some fitfully smoking fire of a dull and dreary camp; for I, myself, know this band of pilgrims well, having provided them with war mares from Araby and sundry equipage so as to tip the scales of chance a bit towards a favorable culmination of so perilous a quest. Now here is the tale as it was told to me.
‘Twas just after the month of the two-faced god, Janus, in the depths of the Dreiburgen Winter, that the Lords Aladric, Ivar, and Malcolm accompanied by the fair Ladies Drusilla, Elzbeta, and Rathyen ventured forth from House Montrose into a bewitched, desolate and desecrated land that lay under a lowering sky to the East. They rode over the Hills of Pedley into a land where dark and evil magic had twisted even time itself.
The first portent of this fell blight was the presence of stout metal plates inscribed with cryptic words of warning “DANGER HIGH VOLTAGE”. What manner of “high” danger that betokened our company knew not. Worse than this obscure threat were divers round holes pierced straight through this plate armour. None know what awesome weapon possessed such power…yet they rode on.
On into a lair of manifold dragons! Verily they were in mating season for bright were their colours and loud their bellowing…land of such a size as to make the very Earth shake and tremble beneath their armoured tread. These dread monsters even carried their names emblazoned upon their hides for there was horrible HYSTER, mighty MITSUBISHI, jangling JOHN DEERE, and cacophonous CATERPILLAR.
Scarce had they escaped these clawed and befanged nightmares than they were set upon by a full score of Iron Devil Ponies ridden by strangely armoured and helmed imps and snorting fire, smoke, and fumes most vile. Slipping swiftly behind a cover of trees, an escape was affected, and thus they entered the Hamlet of Rubidoux.
Rubidoux, once a fair burg, was founded upon land granted by His Excellency, Governor Alvarado, long before the dark and twisted enchantment occurred. Now, the very sky is smeared with smoke and fume and the land overrun with a veritable devil’s brood of armoured monstrosities.
Here it was that our company suffered its first loss for fair Drusilla, to spare her convalescent war mare, noble Ba’nat Ar’rih, regretfully elected to turn back to brave the long leagues home. Now there were five. I shall only briefly mention the resident witch of Rubidoux’s canine familiar who most fiercely did come a “whauff-whauffing” only to turn tail at the sight of five undaunted chargers bearing implacably down upon her.
I shall pass over the accosting by the strangely garbed dragoons whose weird chapeau peaked above the head like a sugar loaf surrounded by a flat, broad brim which I am told are worn by the “boys of the cow”…a rather odd group, that. Fortunately they proved not hostile, but pointed the way to the great river of Saint Anne. The roads were passing strange, seemingly fashioned of endless streams of smooth stone that would have excited the envy of the ancient Legions of Rome.
Nor will I dwell overly long upon Lord Aladric’s encounter with the insidious “sucking sands” of the Saint Anne whilst seeking the ford. The native populace most oddly call them “quick”.
Lest ye may think, my Gentles, that these were all of the trials upon this arduous pilgrimage; I will briefly allude to the tortuous time in a labyrinth of vast extent whose walls were cunningly contrived of countless woven links of metal.
I was assured by Lord Aladric and Lady Drusilla that such did not even exist when they scouted the way a short time prior to this quest. Oh, the wizardry of that land! But at last our indefatigable band passed even this obstacle and rode up to the Shrine.
Once here they were accosted by a pack of foreign infidels who administered a rite of catechism at the Shrine:
“Is that your horse?” (Aye.)
“Does it bite?” (No, she doesn’t.)
“Does it kick?” (Not good subjects of the Barony.)
“Can my sister go for a ride?” (Not now.)
Having successfully countered this onslaught, the pilgrims finally dismounted and ascended to the mountain grotto to pray and give thanks for their safe passage through the dark lands and to humbly ask for water from the Holy Well (for often it is dry). A miracle! The water was there! As our staunch pilgrims filled a cannikin with the sacred water yet another miracle was vouchsafed unto them.
Saint Geronimus, may he rest in Heaven, had caused these waters to become the habitat of a witch called “Salmon Ella” with all her myriad brood. So effective can she be at times, that for the affected believer all ills, aches and pains of this world are cured…PERMANENTLY! A veritable shortcut, as it were, to Heaven. (Unkind varlets for whom the cure is not quite as efficacious claim the experience is more akin to the “other place”).
Our pilgrims then remounted and wended their way homeward into the red and setting sun. I shall spare ye the tale of how dark bewitchment struck the powerful war mare, Kabira Far (whose very name means “Magnificent Mouse”), causing her rider the fair Elzbeta Belz to dismount. Now there were four. Or how at the crossing of the Saint Anne, Lord Aladric turned his great witch steed (none other than the illustrious war mare, Morgan Le Fay) in an effort to succor and lift the spell upon Kabira Far. Now there were three! Or how, in the absence of the powerful aura surrounding Morgan Le Fay, the waters of Salmon Ella generated a “brain fever” in Lord Ivar. There were almost only two! But of all this I shall not weary you. Lady Rathyen, the adventureless? Remember, my most esteemed listeners, that she rode the greatest of them all, Bint Rafeek. And Rafeek, as we all know, in Arabic means a GUIDE, a guide without peer, and so it proved.
At long last, as a full and rising moon just grazed the hilltops, I saw them come riding out of darkness and into the ever-burning lamps of House Montrose; two bays, two greys, and the chestnut…Bint Rafeek. Was it true? By all the miracles of Geronimus Lacknose, I swear to its veracity for I saw them return. Morgan Le Fay and Kabira had overtaken the lead three at the very edge of the Dark Lands.
The Waters from the Holy Well, ye ask? They now reside…or so I’m told…in a Carafe of Crystal in the keeping of the Barony to cure ye…PERMANENTLY…should ye so desire!
And that concludes, my Lords and Ladies, my tale of six pilgrims, six noble war mares of Araby, and the Waters from the Well of Saint Geronimus. So have I told ye…in all equestrian humility.
Originally submitted for the best new relic contest at the Saint Geronimus Tournament 21st day of February, A.S. XXI by the Dreiburgen Light Horse, along with the bottle of the water we filled from the Saint Geronimus shrine/fountain at the base of Mount Rubidoux.