He Knows Not What The Curse May Be
There had been sound and now there was silence. The wet and heavy fields of snow gleamed dull to the edge of the tangle, where a horse stood silent under the star-budded branches of winter's night. There, where the hunched spruce cached its shadow, lay a dark five-pointed figure, face upward in the snow. Footprints made a winding line from the sleeping horse to the still body, and a cold wind turned the top branches of the trees toward the west.
"There will be rain," he had said, "And the road will be muddy." He rode on, his horse chuffing in the light wind. "And there is no road," he said, "Only a wet field of grass." And he chirruped the horse, and they followed the road into a tangled brown forest. "It is too dark to turn back," he muttered, and repeated it quietly. The moon rose then, stark red, but white and gleaming later. Then he turned back, in the night, the rain, and the wet grass, and crossed many fields and stone bridges until he saw the old house. The house was tall and smooth, ruining in the red and yellow moon. He rode up to the house, to the narrow door in the flat wall, and dismounted. The slick weedy gravel crunched under his boots. He lifted the horned knocker and sent it knelling through the spaces behind the brown wall. "She is not here," he said, but his horse wasn't listening. The man walked around the house in the rain, brushing away the clinging tangle with his hands. The wet grasses clung to his waist, and ringed his legs. He had to draw a knife to break their overgrown grip. He walked around the dark house; he counted every high window, five hundred windows, every window dark, first to last. "She is gone," he told his horse. "Not one candle burning." He looked upwards, and saw the yellow moon, the black night. "Not a star in the sky."
He mounted his horse and crossed many fields until he came to a great highway. Long fields of wintry farm lay equal wide on either side the narrow highway and its ditches. The man rode a long way in the night and in his heart he said, "Not a single star. I should have stopped when I heard her singing."
An archer stood in the ditch far down the road, five black arrows in that quiver. The archer watched the horse and rider pass under a pale moon. From the reeds, with careful aim, the archer loosed an arrow. The sky blossomed into stars. The horseman looked up and shuddered in his saddle. His horse neighed loudly and slipped into the ditch, but climbed out and cantered across a snowy field to a thicket. The horseman dropped out of his saddle there and staggered across the frozen ground until he fell. His body starred the snow.
The archer rode back to her house and lit a candle.