For those who are curious about what one does with a classical song prompt, you aren’t alone. I was curious, too. I was surprised where my imagination took me. I think I was as much influenced by the name of the Geminiani piece–La Foresta Incantata–as the music itself.
The genre of the story is a departure from anything I have written before. Is it a dream? You decide. So here goes:
An Enchanted Forest Ride
by Fay Moore © 2012
“I’ll be back for dinner,” the master called out to his manservant, as he rode his horse across the courtyard cobblestones, heading for open field. The master saw the servant’s reflection in the rippled glass of the manor house window, in his hand the ledger that he had been reviewing with the master for several hours. The reflection looked like a man dressed in a floating sheet.
From atop his horse, the master admired the finely chiseled ears on the head of his prize stallion; ears forward, the horse attended to the direction the lord of the manor was steering him. The woods loomed ahead. As the master recalled his steward’s ghostly specter in the window reflection, his neck hairs tingled.
The owner of the equine settled deep into the curve of the leather seat, relaxing his back, pelvis and legs to float upon the saddle in tune with the motion and gait of his mount. The tension that built up through the hours spent in accounting flowed down through his loosened frame and out the bottom of his stirrup-cradled soles, where breezes carried the bad energy off into space.
The day was magical. A cold front pushed all heat and humidity from the air. Neither man nor horse perspired as the sun beat upon their backs. Zephyrs blew both creatures’ hair, lifting and dropping tresses in waves, the same way ribbons flutter from the end of a lance.
Sensing the tempo playing in the air, man and horse began to move in union with it in a slow, deliberate canter. The rhythmical rocking of the rider crescendoed with the hoof beats of the stallion. By the time the pair entered the cutaway into the forest, they were galloping.
Once inside the shade of the forest canopy, the duo felt the air temperature drop. The freshness of the air and of the horse’s spirit urged the animal faster into a dead run. Birds flushed in droves from the bushes, but the pair ignored the feathered bursts. Dirt clods flew into the air, flung aloft by pounding hooves. The man loosened the reins to give the horse its head. Ahead in the path, a small tree was down. Horse and rider sailed effortlessly over the log in one motion, a union of body and spirit. Off to the left, a herd of deer, thrashing through the understory, scattered like a burst of fireworks. The horse dashed on.
Ahead the lord spied a shaded opening in the trees. He felt drawn toward the space. He slowed the horse to a walk, patting the animal’s powerful neck. The exhilaration of the run caused both man and horse to breathe deeply.
In the opening, the master dismounted. The air glittered, amazing the man. He rubbed his eyes. The horse yawned. Their breath took shape and sparkled in clouds before them. Overtaken with a sudden urge to sleep, the horse folded its legs beneath itself and dropped to the soft, cool earth. It stretched out its neck and rested its jaw bone on a mound of grass. The man followed suit, sitting on the ground and leaning back against the prostrate animal. As if cast under a spell, both were soon snoozing.
Out of fallen hollowed logs and half-standing snags at the edge of the opening, or descending by spider-silk from leafy bowers in the treetops, a troupe of ragtag phantoms and sprites appeared. A shade stood by the head of the horse and a shadow by the head of the man, each casting dream dust when the sleepers’ eyelids fluttered. The others poured over the prone bodies, emptying the man’s pockets of two gold coins and gleaning half-chewed corn from between the horse’s teeth. Six tiny hands grabbed a loose thread in the man’s woven vest and pulled, unwinding the wool. A team of specters wound the thread into skeins and whisked the rolls away. When their work was done, an apparition looking like a fairy waved a wand above the sleeping pair. The magical troupe disappeared in a flash.
The sun was falling fast toward the horizon, and shadows were growing long. The gentleman was confounded that he had slept. What earlier seemed an enchanted space, now grew chilled. He leaped to his feet as the horse surged up from the ground. Wasting no time, he hoisted his toe into the stirrup and pulled himself up into the saddle. Reins in hand, he spun the horse on its heels and spurred the steed. Shaking off its supernatural drowsiness, the animal plunged through the woodlands, racing for its barn.
Feeling cold, the horseman glanced down and spied his vest was missing. Only a wisp or two of the distinctive yarns remained, caught in his belt buckle. As the dusk deepened, there was no time to sound the depths of his confusion. He bent at the waist, tucked himself as close to the body and neck of the horse as he could, and rode for the manor as if ghosts were chasing him.