Arty’s fall and imminent death were delayed, but he couldn’t quite comprehend how or why. He found himself hanging upside down with the sky below and the intense darkness above. Looking up or down, whichever direction showed him his feet, Arty realised that his horse had somehow wrapped the reigns around his left leg and was now fiercely pulling him back up the cliff. A few backwards strides and what passed for man and horse lay and stood respectively upon the narrow path.
‘They’re gone, the whole lot of them,’ he gasped.
‘Yep,’ replied the horse.
‘The gems, the bird took the gems, it will take forever to find them. If I don’t find them, the King will kill me!’ Arty’s voice rose to a level bordering on hysterics.
‘And,’ he turned to the horse, ‘you can talk!’
‘Since I was a pup.’
‘So,’ Arty said, dragging his armoured self to a precarious standing position. ‘You’ve been able to talk this whole time, and you said nothing?’
‘Well, didn’t have anything to say,’ the horse replied, lips flapping around long yellow teeth.
‘What’s your name?’ Arty asked with a shrug.
‘Who says I need a name? Maybe we horses don’t conform to the human need to name and control things.’
‘Ok. What do I call you then?’
‘Because that’s my name.’
‘Ah, I see. I’m in shock after the fall, so I’ve gone temporarily mad.’
‘I’d suggest you were mad before the fall, but I’m not one to diagnose prematurely.’
Arty tried his best to ignore the horse, figuring that engaging would only encourage his damaged mind and make things worse.
‘What to do? That bird could be anywhere.’
‘I would suggest heading towards the pantomime desert.’
‘Never heard of it,’ Arty replied, forgetting himself.
‘Well, that was a pantomime bird, and that’s where they come from.’ Percy seemed to smile, although horse facial expressions were not Arty’s expertise.
‘Ok, I think I’ll go to the pantomime desert,’ he decided, hopped back atop Percy and slowly made his way forward.
After a half day’s travel, they were off the ridge and noticed a less precarious landscape.
‘Oh damn,’ Arty said suddenly.
‘What?’ replied Percy.
‘I really don’t know what the pantomime desert is.’
‘That means you can’t be a figment of my imagination. I’m not crazy after all.’
‘Well, I may be real, but that second part is up for grabs.’