Denmark sat up with a start. Gasping for air, he sucked in great gulps of the icy mist that enveloped him.

 

He was very familiar with this place. The soft nowhere land, half way between consciousness and the dream world. He often ended up here when he had over-indulged in the pursuit of the elusive dragon, but this time he had no clear recollection of how he had gotten here.

The mist clung to him, an opaque wall of light shifting restlessly before his eyes, effectively blinding him. He waved a hand in front of his face, trying to clear his view but the mist was a thick soup that refused to clear.

There was a strange high pitch pulsing sound that he felt more than heard, the vibrations set his jaw on edge. He sensed motion and gradually became aware of strange dark shapes, shifting through the mist. They seemed to be circling him. One of the shapes loomed over him, its form pulsing in time with the sound. He pulled back from it in apprehension and it dawned on him that he couldn’t move.

Memory flooded back.

He thrashed about in a futile attempt to pull himself back up into consciousness. Sharp tendrils of adrenalin spiked through his chest. He was convinced he was being attacked by one of the great beasts, perhaps the mate of the one he had managed to kill.

The looming shape began to coalesce in form as the adrenalin cleared some of the mist.  It was a horse and rider, moving swiftly around him. He had never seen a horse like this before. It appeared for all the world to be made of steel. Its broad flanks shone brightly through the mist dazzling his eyes like a mirror reflecting the midday sun. It was also the source of the pulsing sound. They seemed to be defending him.

When he observed the rider he decided that he was, in fact, dead. He must have crossed over into the dream world through the poppy mist and would never wake up.  Why else would an iron horse with a flame haired rider be protecting him from the beasts of the underworld?

 

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