The Highwayman by ShadyMinion
SM: Ok, this is another one-shot. (sigh) Nervous as hell though. I was trying to capture a kind of imagery, and I went out on a limb experimenting with it. I know it's choppy and seems out of order...I was a bit disappointed with the finished product...
Thanks to raven_skye_blackhawk for helping to convince me to post this, as I was shaking when I finished, to scared to post.
This is based heavily on a song called "The Highwayman" by Loreena McKennit. It's an awesome song full of beautiful imagery. The song itself is a story, so I decided to try to tell the tale using Inuyasha characters, filling in some extra scenes for a bit of plot and drama. I highly suggest listening to the song if you can find it. The cd is called Book of Secrets, and I think it's her best album yet. Of course if you do listen to the song, you'll think that what I've written is utter crap. I've tried to inegrate parts of her lyrics and whatnot into my story...but, I don't think I did a good job. Well, I tried my best....
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"Jii-chan! Jii-chan!" Little Souta called as he clambered into his grandfather's lap. It was half-past eight and the moon shone brightly through the glass panes of their window. "Tell me a story!" The little boy said excitedly. He loved his grandfather's stories. They were always about demons and mythical creatures from the past, but his jii-chan made it sound so real.
The old man cast a weary glance at the moon. The glowing disc hung low in the sky, too low for the time of night. It looked but a few meters above the bare, gnarled tree in the front of the inn, and far too close for comfort. He exhaled slowly. "Maa, okay, but only one story tonight." He said, affectionately ruffling the boy's hair. "It's going to be a different story tonight though, on account of what night it is."
Souta's curiosity perked after the initial disappointment of no monster stories on this night. "What is it Jii-chan? What's so special about tonight?"
"I'm getting there. Hold your horses." The old man leaned back in his chair, a contemplative look on his face, eyes closed. Souta nearly vibrated in impatience on his lap. After a few excruciatingly long minutes had passed, the grandfather opened his eyes and stared down at his grandson. "On this night, about two hundred years ago, a great war was taking place. It was a war between two powerful countries, who had been rivals for centuries. But I'm getting ahead of myself. The real story begins on the night previous...
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The wind whistled through the bare gnarled trees, eliciting a piercing shriek with every sharp gust. Moonlight streamed onto the foggy moors through thick, dark clouds. Despite this, a lone rider made his way along the highway.
He spurred his horse up the hill, barely pausing as they crested. The rider was focused on but a single goal the small speck on the horizon, an old inn. Trying to bury the excitement growing within him at the sight of the inn, he refrained from spurring his horse faster. The animal was a fine beast. Sturdy, dependable, strong, and sleek. His horse had served him well over the past few years. Moonlight shone off the horse's gleaming flanks, glowing against the pitch of the animal's fur.
The rider pulled the brim of his French hat over his forehead and tightened the cords of his velvet coat about him. The wind was harsh as it battered their forms across the moor. A rapier bounced at his side, glinting in it's deadly beauty. Black leather boots, strung up to his thighs, shined from the stirrups. The rider was a foreigner.
He rode straight up to the inn and tapped his whip against the shuttered windows and door. They were locked tightly. Horse hooves clattering on the cobblestone of the inn grounds, the highwayman rode his horse to the front of the building, just below a window on the second floor, overlooking the West.
He whistled a strange tune to the window. The shutters were thrown open and the man found himself staring into the pale, white face of his beloved.
The young woman had her long, black hair over one shoulder, and was busy plaiting a crimson ribbon into her silken tresses. Her sapphire eyes sparkled as they fell on the highwayman. A loving smile lit up her face. "You came tonight." She murmured in soft English tones, her voice as gentle as a butterfly kiss.
Still atop his horse, the highwayman smirked. "I will always come. But tonight is something special." He spoke in a velvety baritone, laced with an alluring French accent. "A prize comes my way tonight."
"Oh?" The woman raised her eyebrows, teasing the man.
The highwayman grinned, fangs flashing in the silvery moonlight. "You shall soon see, love. You shall soon see." Golden eyes bright with promise, he tilted his head upwards. A gust of wind caught the brim of his hat, causing a cascade of silver to flow down his back like liquid silk.
The woman gasped. Her love looked never more beautiful. "Do you promise?" She asked, a light blush tinting her features.
"Aye. I'll return to you before dawn breaks over the hills. But if they press me sharply and through into the day, then I'll come to you by the moonlight. On the night of the full moon, watch for me. I'll come to you, though Hell should bar the way."
"I'll watch for you." She promised. She leaned down from her window. "A kiss for luck?"
He grinned, rising up in the stirrups, but she hung just out of reach, their fingertips barely brushing as they reached for one another. A frown marring her features, she swept her hair from behind her, tugging out the silk ribbon. A black cascade of her perfume tumbled over his shoulders, enveloping him in her sweet scent. He flushed in the darkness, shielded from her eyes by her dark tresses.
The woman held out the crimson ribbon, the moonlight staining it the color of scarlet blood. "A token for luck, then."
He grasped the ribbon, the thin strip of material connecting them for a moment, before she smiled and drew back. The highwayman held the ribbon to his lips in a gesture of promise and was off to the West. The woman watched her love ride off swiftly, until he was nothing more than a fading cloud of dust in the distance.
"Sesshoumaru." She whispered lovingly into the darkness. How she wished that the stars were not the only witness to their love. If only things weren't the way they were...if only he weren't a Frenchman, and her an English lady.
"Kagome." The soft yet stern voice behind her startled the young woman.
She turned wide eyes onto her father, landlord of the inn, and a loyal Englishman. "Father!" She exclaimed worriedly. "What are you doing up? You need rest! You shouldn't be up so late, father." She chastised gently, moving across her room the clasp her father's arm. She went to lead him back to his bed, but the man stood resolute.
"He came tonight, did he not?" He questioned, his eyes staring steadily into hers.
"Yes." Kagome replied, unable to lie to her father.
He reached out and grasped her arm tightly. "You shouldn't see him. It's dangerous!"
"For him as well. I know the dangers, but I love him." Kagome answered without hesitation. She gently removed her father's fingers from her arm. He was still weak from illness, and Kagome worried. She lead him silently to his room, sitting him atop his bed.
"Don't worry father. I won't leave you. I cannot. Sesshoumaru knows this as well. We're not foolish enough to try to escape. We don't have the money or the resources. This is just a silly dream of mine. Allow me to dream just a little longer." Kagome pleaded, her eyes glassy with unshed tears.
Mr. Higurashi stared into the gentle eyes of his daughter. He knew she understood their position. They were innocent bystanders in a war between England and France. Though they lived on English soil, the war had been drawn to them as well. His daughter's beloved was a French assassin. She had taken him in when he was injured, and she simply fell in love. He didn't have the heart to tell her 'no' at the time, but the danger was coming too close to them now. "Kagome, I-" He was silenced as she lay a gentle finger on his lips.
"I know you worry, father. Don't, please. It's all a fantasy of mine, of a true love...It will end soon, I promise." With that, she tucked her ailing father into bed and blew out the candles. "Just silly a dream of mine." She repeated softly to herself. She didn't want to forget Sesshoumaru, but their next meeting would most likely be their last. She knew that his assignment in England was soon to be over, and he would return to France. The moon would be full for the next three nights. She had until then to see him.
Kagome retreated to her room, staring out the window that framed the road he would ride to see her. She wrapped her arms around herself. "This is a dream I never wish to awaken from." She said sadly into the moonlight.
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He did not come by the dawn of the next day. The sun reached it's zenith and began to fall, passing over the inn into the West. Kagome worried. She sat by her window, watching without rest. Sesshoumaru would come to her, she knew, but the longer she waited, the more dangerous it became for both of them.
The sun dipped below the horizon, streaking the sky a fiery scarlet. Orange flames fanned out over the hills. Kagome's heart sank as she saw a troop marching toward them from over those hills. It was a red-coat troop!
They marched in twin, ordered rows, discipline shining in every stride. The two lines advanced like two blood colored serpents, vicious and precise in their movements. They snaked their way up purposefully to the inn, barging in without invite. The men, good, loyal, Englishmen as they were, sat at tables and drank their ale and ate their meat. They said no word to the landlord, eyeing his daughter instead.
Kagome was taken and bound to the foot of her narrow bed. Her father, too weak to defend her, was cast aside. The men surrounded Kagome, grinning mockingly. Jesting at the bowed girl before them, they crudely joked about her, insulting the purity of her love for a Frenchman. They gagged her when she snarled, disgusted at them.
The stench of ale hung thick in the air as two of the men leered at her. Sniggering to themselves, they pulled her up to a standing position, tying her up at attention. A musket was bound beside her, its barrel resting beneath her breast.
"Now keep good watch." They grinned, kissing her on her cheek. Then they knelt beside the window, their own muskets at the ready.
Kagome despaired. At least two red-coats were posted at each window.
There was death at every window.
Hell at one dark window, as Kagome could see through her window, the road that he would ride.
In her ears, she could hear the words of the dead man, "I'll come to you by the moonlight. On the night of the full moon, watch for me. I'll come to you, though Hell should bar the way."
Silent tears rolling down her cheeks, she decided that she would never let Sesshoumaru die at the hands of these jackals, not if she could help it. She twisted and writhed her fingers, but the knots, tied expertly by practiced hands, held strong. She refused to give up, curling and bending her hands, coiling them, struggling against her bonds. The ropes chafed at her skin and her hands were soon slick with sweat and blood.
The moon crept over the sky. Minutes crawled by like years. Still Kagome writhed her hands, gaining purchase with each painful motion. Her hands were raw and bleeding, she could feel her own blood drip thickly from her fingertips. Finally, at the stroke of midnight, the tip of her finger touched it. She may not have been free, but at least the trigger was hers!
The cold metal was abrasive to her skin, but Kagome held on. She watched in hope as the moon dipped lower and lower. Perhaps he would not come this night! If he did not come, he would be safe. He would live if only he did not come this night!
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All was silent. The posted men had not moved a muscle in hours. They sat, like still, living messengers of death. Kagome stood, hopeful that he would not come. Her ears, sharpened by the desperation and fear, listened intently for any sounds from the outside.
Her eyes shifted to the red-coats, who remained motionless statues.
Could they not hear him? Were they deaf to the sound of the horses pounding hooves? Kagome strained against her bonds. He was coming, and she had no way of warning him!
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Sesshoumaru had traveled for many hours. His target was of little challenge, and dispatched quickly. It was the bounty he sought. He had been saving his money ever since he met the landlord's daughter. He knew of their situation, besides the inn and that small plot of land, they had nothing. So, he went after increasingly higher paying targets in hopes of earning enough money during his mission to be able to take Kagome and her father with him back to France.
He was no fool. He was well aware of the dangers associated with what he was planning, and that it might as well be wishful thinking on his part, but he loved her like no other. If he had to return to France never to see her again...well, he'd prefer to live in constant danger in England, if just to be near her.
The leather pouch of gold jingled at his waist. It was a pouch full of promise. He couldn't wait to return to her and tell her of his plans. This was the last assignment. He had been able to collect enough money. They would leave for France on the morrow, together...
That had been his plan, but somewhere along the way, his cover had been blown. He spent the day doubling over his tracks and hiding. It had been difficult to cover characteristics as unique as his, but he had been able to eliminate any who came too close to discovering him.
He spent the last hour of sunset in an old tavern. Ignoring the stench of ale and the English whores who all but threw themselves at him, he waited impatiently for the sun to set before he saddled his horse. On the first night of the full moon he was going to see her. He had been lucky today. Tonight, they would be safe.
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The soldiers shifted. The locks on their guns sounded ominously as they primed their muskets to fire. Kagome's eyes widened. No...she couldn't let them.
Nearer the hoof beats pounded. In the dark she could barely make out a slip of a silhouette in the distance. She closed her eyes and drew her last deep breath. She wouldn't let them kill her love.
Glowing coldly in the moonlight, Kagome's finger moved. The trigger pulled.
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The moon was already setting. He had taken too long! Irritatedly, Sesshoumaru spurred his horse to a halt, just slight from cresting the hill where he would be able to spot the inn. He was so close, but he dared not to approach her in the daylight. He did not wish to bring unnecessary dangers to her doorstep. Kicking his horses flanks, he changed direction, spurring his horse to the West.
The sky began to lighten over the hilltops, brushing the darkness with gentle fingers.
A musket shot shattered the last of the moonlight.
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The musket was bound tightly beside her. It's barrel beneath her breast. Her finger had moved in the moonlight. The musket shattered the moonlight. Her head hung over the barrel, her chest open to the dawning of the next day.
She had watched for her love in the moonlight, fired the musket in the moonlight, and warned him with her death.
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Sesshoumaru's eyes widening. Forgoing any presence of mind for his own well being, he galloped to the top of the hill. He raced down toward the inn, eyes taking in the scene, branding his mind with it.
Too far away for any person to be able to see, Sesshoumaru could see! Kagome stood by her bedside, her head hung over a musket. She was tied, gagged, and bound, drenched with her own red blood.
He spurred his horse like a madman, shrieking a curse to the sky. White clouds of dust exploded from beneath his horses hooves as they raced down the highway. Brandishing his rapier overhead, he flew towards them.
His coat was dyed a scarlet wine, his pants a crimson shade. The highway was painted a vivid red as they shot him down.
His horse whinnied as it fell, its rider sliding off his mount. They shot him dead on the highway. Muskets firing down upon him like a dog on the highway.
Sesshoumaru lay in his blood on the highway. The pouch of gold slipping from his fingers.
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Souta stared up with wide eyes at his grandfather. The elderly man simply lay back and closed his eyes.
"Well?" Souta asked impatiently.
His jii-chan cracked an eye. "Well, what?"
"What happened after that? That can't be how it ends! That's too sad! That's unfair!! Sesshoumaru couldn't have just died like that! And what about Kagome? Dying in the dark, waiting for her love!"
"Well..." The grandfather said slowly. "There is something else."
Souta was all but shaking in anticipation.
"They say that on a winter's night, on the first night of a full moon, when the wind is blowing through the trees, over there," Jii-chan pointed through the window, along a white path that crested the hill, "a highway man comes riding. He'll ride right up to the old inn door, seeking his love in the moonlight."
Souta gasped, eyes wide. For a moment his mind conjured up an image of a rider atop a coal colored horse, riding toward them. "He's real?!"
"Of course he is!" His grandfather chastised. "All my stories are real!"
"Maa maa. You always say that." The little boy mumbled, sliding off his jii-chan's lap.
"Souta!" A kindly looking woman appeared in the doorway. "It's past your bedtime, sweetheart. Time for bed."
"Ok." The boy yawned sleepily, hugging his mother.
"By the way, Souta." The woman smiled, placing a hand on the round of her belly. "The doctor says that your new sibling is going be a girl. Any ideas for a name?"
"Kagome." He replied instantly, giving a toothy grin.
The woman shot her father a look. Jii-chan only gave an innocent shrug.
"Alright. Kagome, she'll be, then."
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Outside, the wind whipped wildly, howling through the trees. Dark clouds parted, revealing a ribbon of moonlight streaming over the hills. A pale form appeared on the moor, traveling the highway. He rode atop a dark colored stallion, a French hat cocked on his head.
The rider rode across the moor, right up to the old inn door.
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SM: Please tell me what you think. I know my last oneshot songfic didn't go over too well. Oh well. Mayhaps people will like this better since I didn't make Sesshoumaru the bad guy...