There were six of us on the road that night - Prima, Secundus, Tertius, Quartus, Quintus, and me, poor little Amy. I'm not, strictly speaking, part of the club - I'm Secundus' apprentice, fosterling and assistant. There's worse games I could be sitting down to play, and she really is nice, so I'm not about to complain. The freeway was quiet that night, and the only lights we needed came from the headlights on the bikes and Tertius, his lantern-flames guttering in the wind, leaking from his eyes and hair in great licking gouts. We road separately, taking up all four lanes because, hell, why not? Every now and then Prima would surge forward to ride beside Secundus for a little while. The two of them were an odd couple - the shy beauty made all of black-and-white line art and the mountain nymph with the lilies in her hair.
Quartus slowed his bike down to ride beside me, flashing me a dirty grin. Quartus was like that - small and always dirty, hard to notice despite the crown of stars that circled his brow and the bastard sword slung over his back. I'd thought he and Quintus were going to be a thing for awhile, but I still had scars from when I'd asked her about it, so I guess not. The girl sharpened her fingertips, a feat made possible by the total lack of flesh on her arms from the elbow down. They hurt like a bitch.
It was a clear, beautiful Summer night and the sickle moon was high in the sky.
Then we heard the hooves.
From the stampeding sound of them I was sure the Wild Hunt - no, the entire Host of a Thousand Princes - had to be behind us, but there was only one rider. A tall thing, made all of bones and silk, rode on a black charger that frothed foam and flames from its muzzle. The rider had a dark swallowtail coat and a bright steel broadsword, but no head, and the pounding of his steed shattered the concrete at every step. Before we even knew what was happening, he gained on us and smashed his blade downward at me. The steel blurred as it moved and just as my mind was starting to register that I was about to die, Quartus yanked me off and onto the saddle of his ride, gunning the engine.
My gas tank exploded, lighting up the night with bright orange flames and permitting the others to see our hunter.
Tertius was the first to react, turning in his seat to call upon the wrath of high Summer. A lance of light stabbed out from his eyes, blasting towards the rider, but the headless horseman clove through it with a savage blow of his blade, parting the beam around his body.
it commanded in a voice that was both there and not there, like a slither in my mind. In front of us, a jagged chunk of road rose up suddenly, and Quartus almost collided into it, only barely swerving aside to save our lives. Quintus leapt off of her bike as a spike intercepted her, hanging in the air for a brief moment before Prima swerved to catch her. We gunned the engines to get away from the rider, weaving and dodging spikes of asphalt and concrete that moved to destroy us.
And then suddenly he was in front of us, riding us down. Bright steel flashed and Tertius ducked under a scything blow that would have taken his head. Instead the blade crashed into his vehicle, sending it and its rider into the air trailing gasoline. The horseman swung at Quintus, only to meet a wall of shimmering moonlight that made sparks fly. The gasoline lit, igniting a trail of flame after the motorcycle.
Tertius hung in the air like a flaming star for a brief moment before he transformed into a living avatar of flame seconds before his bike exploded. He rode the blast, laughing like a mad thing, until he alit upon Secundus' bike and became physical once more, just as the rider was bearing down on us.
Quartus let go of the handlebars, and it was like the whole world slowed down. I lunged for the bars, steering the bike from behind him, as his bastard sword literally leapt into his right hand. His left hand drew a flintlock pistol - Widowmaker - made all of thorns and bones, taking it from a holster on his hip. There was a loud bang and a flash of smoke as a hole appeared in the rider's coat, and his sword was parried by Quartus' own, the two meeting in a shower of sparks. Quartus rolled the momentum of the headless horseman's swing over us, and I gunned the throttle, putting more distance between us and the rider. From behind us I could hear its voice screech, "THIS ISN'T OVER, OATH-BREAKER!"
We pulled off at the first exit ramp.
* * *
"What was that thing?" Secundus asked, tearing off a bit of the chicken we'd bought at Wal-Mart while Tertius stoked the campfire. All eyes were on me.