Joy KitaMiddle Grade Book Author
The Haunted Knight of the Underworld (For East Lambton Grades 4-5)
By Joy Kita
Nothing could stop the knight from riding again. Not even death. He took one look at the monstrous horse made of fire, and knew it was his destiny to defeat the Lord of the Underworld. The knight had earned the horse’s loyalty with affection over many long years of captivity. He had worked hard for this moment, and knew the time had come to ride once more.
He grabbed the reins from the only friend he had, heartsick to leave him behind.
“I’ll come back for you.” He settled on the horse dressed in all his chainmail and a sword at his side. Flames engulfed his legs, but he felt only power coursing through him.
The grizzled ghost man, his trusted servant shook his head. “Do not look back. You have an opportunity to escape. Fell the mighty beast and rejoin the living. Forget the Grave Forest as it has forgotten you.”
The knight felt a tightening in his chest. He had died in a vicious battle for a cowardly king. Fate had given him this one chance to right a terrible wrong.
The knight whispered words of encouragement to the horse. This beast of the Underworld may have had limbs of liquid fire, but it had the heart of a warrior. Without it he would still be trapped in the Grave Forest. Man and beast rode past the entangled trees through the dark shadows until they were free of the grasping, reaching limbs.
They hadn’t gotten far when a flash of blue blinded the knight and startled the horse. It reared up on two legs and snorted fire. Standing before them was the King of the Underworld, a skeleton monster with glowing red bones. He had thick cords of blue hair that draped down his back and serpent green eyes.
“You may not leave the Underworld. I haven’t given you permission to ride this beast. Go back the forest where you will remain forever.”
The Knight had calmed his horse, but still it pranced nervously in the presence of the King. With a great battle cry he brandished his sword and charged. The fire beast snorted as he obeyed his rider and galloped forward. At the last second before impact the King spun and dodged the sword’s sweeping arc. Throwing back his head he raised his bone arms upward and screamed.
“I call upon the dark. I banish all light. Ready and on my mark come forth to FIGHT!”
The knight grew rigid on the back of his horse. He knew what the king had called, but he welcomed the chance to redeem his life. Too long he’d been kept prisoner in the Grave Forest. How many times had others come and gone? They journeyed to the afterlife while the knight rotted in the darkness.
The ground shook and split open and a great beast rose up from its depths. It was at once beautiful and hideous with jewel coloured scales covering its entire body. A long barbed tail swung back and forth churning up dirt and rock. Giant leathery wings unfurled from its back. His jaws snapped open revealing rows of razor sharp teeth as long as the knight’s arm.
“Kill him,” shouted the Skeleton King.
The knight jumped from his horse and knelt before the dragon with his sword at his side before standing to his full height. He looked like a knight of his ranking ought to. The silver chainmail had been a gift from a princess in a far away land. It was precious and beautiful, but he knew it could not protect him from the dragon’s fire.
“I will kill you if I must. But consider whom you serve. You are as much a prisoner as I. Fight with me for the freedom we both deserve.” The knight laid his sword at his feet and lowered his head hoping the dragon would believe he was no threat.
The Skeleton King’s laugh was rich with venom. “He listens only to me.”
The ground shook as the dragon leapt into the air and opened his mouth. A stream of fire poured out alongside his roar. In one motion the knight rolled forward and grabbed his sword thrusting upward just as the beast came at him.
His aim was true.
The sword sunk into the soft underbelly, the only part of the dragon not protected by jeweled scales.
“No,” screamed the king shaking his head as his dragon fell. He reached for the knight with clawed hands, but was too late.
A white light appeared in the darkness shining so bright the knight had to shield his eyes. It faded to reveal an open door. The knight laughed when he saw the rolling green hills of his youth. He stepped past the threshold feeling for the first time since his death, the slow steady beat of his heart.
“I’m home at last.”
**If you want to draw pictures I will publish them on my website.
Headless Horseman Rides Again **Holy Rosary School grades 3-5)
It was hard to see anything without a head. The headless horseman had to use whatever senses he had left to guide him. It had been a relief to discover his heart was nearly as handy as his brain. He wandered the cemetery each night as per his contract with the Gatekeeper to the Underworld. If ever came a day he neglected his duties he’d be sent to rot in the depths of the darkness. Only those with a head could gain entrance to the Afterlife, which meant he would never see his family again.
Night after night he rode along the graves making sure nothing was amiss, ensuring all who dared entered left terrified. It was a waste of time. No one ever came by except on Halloween night. Even then he could barely scare them away. Children weren’t afraid of anything these days.
He finished his rounds and made his way back to the old tomb. When he was close he sensed something moving in the grass. A cold breeze drifted past making him shiver and his horse tremble. He paused waiting for someone to talk to him. It was hard without eyes or a mouth to communicate.
“Three nights from now the werewolf that took your head will be back.”
The horseman stiffened in his saddle. He recognized the whispered voice. He had encountered the witch before. She was always skulking around the cemetery stirring up mischief. She did a better job scaring people than he did.
“Once he turns you will have only the hours of darkness to lead him to me. If you can do that I will return your head.”
A breeze blew once more and the horseman knew he was alone. He jumped to the ground to investigate. Maybe he had imagined the whole thing? His fingers brushed something soft. Without seeing it the horseman knew the long feather he held was black. He knew the witch often took the form of a raven.
Three nights later the headless horseman waited by the tomb hoping the witch would speak to him again. He sensed her presence but she remained silent.
Hours later she finally spoke. “He’s here. Go and bring him to me.” The Horseman took off at a gallop forgetting for a moment to be afraid. The werewolf was a dangerous, magical beast with the power to banish a ghost to the Underworld with one bite of his poisoned jaws.
The air around him changed causing his brave horse to stutter to a stop. He turned in his saddle sensing the wolf was near, and forced himself to focus though fear had quickly overtaken him. It wasn’t like a ghost of his stature to be so cowardly, but memories of the last time he encountered the beast assaulted him.
He knew what he had to do. Nudging his horse forward he got as close as he could. If he couldn’t hear the rattle of the werewolf’s ragged breaths he sensed it. Still he waited and got even closer.
One. Two seconds…
The werewolf pounced, but the horseman was ready.
Come and get me!
He galloped back to the tomb knowing the wolf was right behind. “Earth, water, fire and air I call upon your might. Within the reaches of darkness without the need of light. Release the man from the beast free him from his need to feast.” The witch’s cry sent the horseman’s horse into frenzy. It reared up violently but he held tight to the reigns. All around him the air was charged with a current of power.
“It is done.”
A flash of light, a sharp zing of pain and then the horseman could see once more. He reached up to touch the head he’d long since lost.
“Thank you.” The words were rusty and sounded strange, but they were sincere. He looked at the man lying next to the witch and felt only pity. Before he could ask if he would survive a white light engulfed him. He closed his eyes and enjoyed the warmth coursing through him. All was forgotten but the family he would soon see.
**If you want to draw pictures I will publish them on my website.