by Kyle Curcio
Some folks need all of the help they can get...
The way seemed more dismal now than the day before, the woods more gnarled and the wildlife now vanished. Not a squirrel or even a breeze rustled the trees and where once there had been the songs of birds, now only the lonesome plodding hooves of Galeas' bay in the leaf litter and Evinrude's own tired shuffling behind.
"It grows dark, squire." The horse snorted and stopped. "We'll rest here."
Catching up, the boy was relieved to put his rucksack on the ground. It had been hours.
"Shall I look for kindling, M'Lord?"
"Better to stay close, Evinrude," his master cast cautious glances about as he spoke, "This isn't safe. It's only a place of temporary repose."
"The harpies, Sire?"
"Aye. The gorgons won't be far now. They lay in wait beyond that rise."
"Will they waylay us, Master?"
Galeas motioned Evinrude to him.
"They would like to, boy, but we've got a surprise for them." His master pulled him close with a wink. "The hunters tonight will become the hunted. I've a trinket to call them to us so they cannot ambush us, as is their wicked way!"
The knight laughed at his servant's wide-eyed wonderment.
"It beckons them in the dark and glows when they come near. We will be ready for them."
Galeas smiled and shook his squire by his shoulders.
"You've got it, Lad! It's been in your pack since we left town yesterday. Fetch it! The fiends will be out for us soon. We need to be ready."
...Suddenly the talisman began to glow with an eerie blue light and Keck nearly dropped it. He'd been admiring it since he had stolen it from a young wayfarer in the pub the night before. He had thought it beautiful then, but now...