Tracey creeps along like snakes in a rat hole.
Daren't go faster.
Lady Moonlight slips silver grace behind a cloudbank, but her path still calls like a silken chain on charred skin.
And Tracey can feel her encouragement. The surge of powerful protection scouring open her veins. Sees her pitted features in full vision. No matter where she is. No matter how the Earth eats her face.
Joined now in harmonic intention. Fused by purpose.
Sharing mind, body, mass. Meld destiny.
Tracey guides a path over the meadow and pierces the paddock.
Steals distance on the stables.
Steals time from the aether.
Takes a talon to the moonbeams.
Rakes an autograph on the door.
Tracey gathers contemplation. Composure. Veracity. Allure.
Gleams with evil portent.
And Tracey laughs.
Hercules fidgets like a rash of lice.
Scraping the ground and snorting disdain.
There's something he senses.
Something he smells.
All too familiar. But not an odour he knows.
Still, he recognises it just the same.
It's been there before.
Been here before.
But tonight there's a shift. Intensification. Heady mix of metallic blood and danger and soil.
And a multitude.
No longer single sentience. Even though Hercules knows that only one pair of legs, two hands, ten fingers approach, he can feel so many.
Hercules shrinks into the dark and warmth.
But there's nowhere to hide inside this square box.
Desperate to call out to Lucy for reassurance.
Frantic for silence to listen for the beast. To fox it's seeking sense.
Hercules stares wide and wild into thickening blackness.
And Hercules is afraid.
Tracey sneaks invisible and silent up cinder and turf. Out onto paving and smooches to the door.
Bolted. As ever.
Padlocked. As never.
Tracey rattles the bolt and nothing gives. Yanks on the lock, batters the hasp. But makes only din.
What the fuck is this?
Did they know?
Did she know?
Tracey steps back into moon scabbard. Bathes in her calm. Soothing panic before it can bite out a disabling nest. Ponders her move.
No matter if she is discovered.
No one is here to see. No one here to take her down and hold her off.
No one here now.
Obviously, nobody thinks that the danger is real. Just precautions to allay some intangible unease. Gut feelings felt and acknowledged.
But not fully understood.
Tracey prods at the door and feels it quiver. Listens to it rattle.
Gouges a chip from the grain. Flicks the splinter aside.
There's more than one way to skin a cat. Slice a horse. Unlock a barrier.
And Tracey pounds.
Hercules whinnies and stomps as the panel bows again. Something unspeakable is trying pry the locks and hinges away from the frame.
Screaming banshee nightmare booms out slurping rants of hysterical psychosis.
Shudders reverberate 'neath Hercules hooves, above his head. Deep into his bones.
Planks shatter inward, exploding across the stall, assaulting his head and neck. Grazing taut skin. Tasting fevered blood.
Hercules backs into a corner, frothing and stamping, coughing displeasure and rumbling terror.
Too scared to pound past the figure glowering evil mayhem. Filling the doorway with imposing, stunning maleficence. Air saturated with hissing, wheezing poison.
Hercules stultified by shimmering moonbeams like a deer, mesmerized by onrushing headlights heralding pummeling punishment.
Sweat stings his hide, blinds his eyes. Freezes his muscles. Ices his heart.
And Hercules bolts.
And Hercules falls.
Sweat stings Tracey's eyes. Moistens her face and fingers. Pungency of fear. Acrid, streaking offal encased in animated carcass.
Tracey's intention to set it free. Paint the walls with red-hot release. Redecorate in shades of decease. The Devil's interior designer. The Devil to pay.
Tracey's excitement pounds in her ears. Surges through fingers and steel.
Gripping and tense. Fluid and fearless.
Eyes rolled white like full moon again, limbs surging with power and menace and justification.
The greatest love.
Tracey advances on the stricken lamb. Stallion. Sacrifice.
Talons prepared. Released to their worst. Their utmost.
Hercules screams and accepts the gift.
And Tracey tears.