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The clerk jumped to his feet to ring the warning gong, a bronze plate hanging from the porch rafters by silk bindings.  “Chashool, chashool!” he announced.  The rider, the rider.

Instantly the station came to life.

Stable boys and old warriors came rushing out of the lodge, a beautiful building, ornately furnished with the gold articles of fallen kingdoms.  Inside the lodge, a young attendant tightly wrapped the head, chest, and stomach of the next rider, named Ransis.  At hearing the gong, they leaned over to the window to look out.  Ransis frowned seeing who it was.

“Who is it?” asked the attendant looking up at the rider.  He hoped to be a messenger like Ransis someday.

“Scabus, only Scabus,” he murmured disdainfully.  “He’s not that good.  Must have had a good horse for such a fast ride.”  Ransis pulled the boy back from the window and urged, “Come on.  He’s almost here.”

In the stable, the stationmaster and his apprentice prepared the next horse.  The distant jingle of bells grew louder.

“Pull down tighter like this.”  He pulled down tightly on the synch.  Then they rushed the horse out to Ransis just as he came out of the lodge tucking in his sel and strapping bells around his waist.  He mounted the offered horse, sitting high in the short stirrups.  With hardly a perceptible nudge, he started off in the same direction as the approaching rider but well ahead of him.  Ransis picked up speed just as Scabus came along side holding out a gold tablet and scroll bound and sealed with general Araknik’s signet ring, not losing stride.

The clerk strained his eyes.  Seeing a glint of gold and a pterodactyl figure on the tablet as it passed from one rider to the other gave him a renewed sense of urgency.  He quickly jotted down the time in his book with the special mark of the gold tablet.  The gold tablet was reserved only for the most urgent messages.

An old warrior with a limp solemnly performed his task, followed by an entourage of young children.  He carried with him a copper lantern from the lodge to a tube standing straight up out of the ground.  It was about the height of an eight-year-old child and the diameter of a man’s fist.  The old warrior pulled out from his faded sel a cylinder that came to a point at one end and a wick at the other.  He lit the wick with the flame from the lantern and dropped it into the tube.  The children jumped up and down clapping their hands in excitement.  The tube hissed with a hollow vacant sound.  The old warrior stepped back holding his hands out and urging the children back.  One young girl named Lassa, drawn in by curiosity, leaned down to look into the smoking hole at the bottom of the tube.

“Lassa, girl!”  Yelled the old warrior.  “Get back!”

She jumped back just in time, and with a “foof” a stream of curling smoke shot straight up into the sky.  A slight breeze pulled it around like a cat’s tail as it dissipated.  A bright flash filled the noonday sky.  A split second later a loud crack sent the children squealing with glee, some holding their hands to their ears.

The newly arrived rider, Scabus, slowed and wielded his horse around as he did so.  He approached the lodge with a sweaty, dirt-smudged but smiling face.  He jumped off his horse handing the reigns to an attendant, and plunged his face, head, and upper torso into a water trough.  All waited to hear of the news he carried.  No one but the children moved.  He remained there immersed with his elbows pointing up in the air unmoving for such a long time that the children began to wonder if the fast ride had killed him.  His warning bells had long since quieted.  Finally, he pulled himself up flinging water up and back and gasping for air.

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Copyright 2000 by Darrell A. Newton, All Rights Reserved.
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Last updated: October 21, 2000.