The woods are quiet as he makes his way home, walking slowly in the twilight. It’s been a long day of gathering and foraging for ingredients, but Farmer Stilinski needs his expertise, and Scott hates to let him down. He hates letting any of them down.
The thunder of hooves behind him sends a chill up his spine in the cool evening air. There are rarely horses even close to the forest; mostly they spook and run away as soon as the whiff of fey magic becomes apparent to them. Horses, Scott thinks, are often smarter than people. Like dogs, and cats, and the sweet, fatted rabbits he sees in Missus Martin’s garden.
The fall of hooves grows closer, anyway.
He clutches close the little basket he uses to gather herbs and plants from the edges of the wood. There are stories, old widow’s tales about a deadly horseman who follows anyone who trespasses here until their heart stops from fear of him. Scott knows that isn’t true, though. There are deadly things in the wood, but he’s faced them each unafraid, and has nothing to fear from them after.
The horse is almost upon him before Scott looks back, sees a dark knight on a darker horse, eating up the trail in a billowing cloud of dust. For a moment, he thinks the widows were right after all. But then, abruptly, the horse stops, and the fear in its eyes is so understandable that he can’t help it. He reaches out a hand, hoping to comfort the poor beast.
“There, shhhh, they won’t hurt you,” he murmurs, trying to soothe it as its eyes roll and its breath heaves.
“And you know that for a fact?”
He startles, thinking wildly that the horse spoke to him before remembering the knight upon its back.
“I do,” he says, squaring his shoulders. “There is no need to fear these woods, as long as you are with me, Ser Knight.”
“And why is that?” The knight’s voice is muffled by his helm, a large faceplate covering all but flashing eyes and the hint of dark scruff. “What protection are you from the fey? You’re barely bigger than a boy yourself.”
“I’m a witch,” Scott says proudly, defiantly, daring the knight to question him. “And they are afraid of my magic.”
The knight sheds his helm, running his gloved fingers through a thick thatch of dark, sweaty hair, pushing it away from the most beautiful face Scott has seen in many years. His green eyes crinkle with humor as the knight says, “Well. You must be very great indeed, then. May I request your company the rest of the way through the wood? I would hate to be caught out here unprotected.”
Though Scott knows he is being teased - somewhat relentlessly, even, by a big man on a bigger horse - he still flushes deeply at the compliment. “Of course, sire. I, too, would hate for you to be harmed. Walk with me. I’ll see you safely to the road.”