RG Liberty


Lo! The fire is lit,
and round ring eager faces,
and in the yellow flames,
all spines feel chilly traces.
All ears warm to the telling,
hearts echo muffled sound.
The cups are filled with lager,
and all eyes glisten round
All eyes glisten round.
Without the tavern,
hungry winter
gnaws the icy ground.
Within, the mood is merry
as the stories all unfold,
Of shifting ghosts and demon hosts ~
and Riders on the Cold.

Friendly shivers tickle each
as glance is cast around.
Safe knowing that the horrors spoke
are shadows without ground.
Ghostly, ghastly stories,
beyond all earthly charm.
Together, here at comfort's glow,
each free from every harm.

From soulless banshee crying out,
Or the witch's curse unfilled -
The ghostly hand, crawling about
The corpse, with hate instilled

All merely brazen phantoms,
without threat of consequence.
With warmth and drink and burning hearth,
no dread can evidence.
No evil need be feared
while in good confidence.
But, one who drank too deeply
from the courage of his cups,
Rose among the ring of faces
and spake he bravely thus:
"I cannot fear these specters of the gloomy shroud
of night.
"I dread not tales of ghoulish things beyond the
soothing light.
"My head to the filthy demon that braves
the fire's cast,
"That it shall come into our midst and make
its presence fast!"

At that, the firelight dimmed, and an icy wind rushed past.

The tavern door slammed opened to a black and
hoary gale.
Hollow hoofbeats clattered just
beyond the pale.
Ragged breathing issued from the throat of a
headless horse.
Booming laughter cannonaded in a
rumbling course.
High boots crunched the courtyard snow in deep and
lengthy strides,
And there, at the open doorway a black-clad
figure bides.
All eyes turn from the dying fire to the figure
as it said;
"Which one among you simple folk has wagered me
his head?"

The figure strode into the room trailing the stench
of hell,
Cups and pitchers clattered and every eye
Save the drunken farmer, whose gaze held fast
its stare.
Again the creature spake, fixing its own
dark glare.

"Which among you wagers his head that I fear to
show myself?

Its voice was that of many and rose to
fill the room.
Its eyes shone, burning deeply, and with a
fiery doom,
The braggart stood up shakily and turned to
face the ghost,
Whose breath was that of charnel houses and of
funeral hosts.
The ghoul approached the frightened man and laughter
split its face.

"Does your deep, abiding passion compliment your race?
"Can your piety keep pace?
"Are you blessed of purest heart and unencumbered soul?"
"Do you love your god," it wondered?
"Does temptation take its toll?"

"It was but a boastful jest," said the farmer
in a humble voice.
"I would take it back this instant,
if I had the choice."

At this the demon swirled its cloak and the guttering fire fled.
"Yet, as it happens, on this night, my horsey needs a head!"

A thunderous peal of laughter shook
the tavern floor,
And the sound of crashing hoofbeats receded
past the door
When the fire blazed again and the cozy
light shone through,
The braggart stood without his head, in plain
and ghastly view.

And cried the headless victim, from out
that gruesome hole
"I beg thee, Wild Huntsman,
give me back my soul!"

And in the cheery fireplace, burning bright and red
Was thrown the stolen object, the farmer's severed head.

And as it seared and crackled, it faced the room and spoke;
"The Huntsman loves a wager, too. But more than that,

A joke!"


The End