Rain poured like a thousand watery whips lashing on his skin. Yet the rider didn’t stop. He urged his horse to go faster even as his ears strained to pick up noises from the hooves of the horses of his enemies who were in pursuit. It was well after midnight, and the rider knew that he had the best part of two more hours of hard riding before he reached his destination.
He muttered a prayer, hoping for the success of his mission. Ensconced within his robes were the documents that detailed the battle plans of the Mughal army. He had to get the documents to his commander, Lachit Borphukan, at any cost. The Ahom army, with its weak militia, had no hopes of defeating the much stronger Mughal army that had formed alliances with other enemies of the Ahom Kingdom. These documents would give the smaller army a significant edge in the upcoming battle.
His thoughts were disturbed by the sound of hooves thundering from behind. It appeared that the enemies had caught up with him. His steed was stuttering – the poor beast hadn’t been given rest or allowed any nourishment. The enemies with their thoroughbreds were faster and they had the numerical advantage. At that moment, the fort of Itakhuli looked worlds away and the rider was losing hope. He didn’t want to fail his kingdom.
A sudden thought came into his mind. He didn’t know if he should act upon it. What if the stories weren’t real? What if they were only the results of the imagination of fertile minds? Yet, he knew that he was exposed on the road and would soon be overtaken. His mind made up, the rider directed his horse through a thicket into the woods.
The dark forest was silent – even the heavy rain could manage to only trickle down through the thick canopy of leaves. There were no howls, grunts, or screeches. The animals were asleep, or afraid; very afraid. The only sounds were from the hooves of the horses and the occasional commands barked by his enemies. The rider hazarded a glance backward and saw that his enemies were flanking him. He knew that it would be minutes before they caught up to him.
He prayed. Not to his God, but to something else.
The thundering of the hooves increased in volume. He closed his eyes. The end was very near. Suddenly, he realized that the sounds behind him had ceased. He stopped his horse and was greeted by an eerie silence. Where were his pursuers?
A sudden bolt of lightning illuminated the space behind him and he was shocked to see the bodies of his pursuers and their horses on the ground. They had been killed silently, and violently. The rider now knew that his prayers were answered. There were muffled sounds of hooves that were traveling away from him. He hurried on his way towards Itakhuli.
The Ghoda Paak was indeed real.
Note: This story’s backdrop is set against the Ahom – Mughal conflict that occurred between 1615 – 1682. The might of the Mughal army was not enough to defeat the clever and determined Ahom army. The decisive event of the conflict was The Battle of Saraighat of 1671, a naval battle in which the Ahom navy commanded by Lachit Borphukan crushed the Mughal navy.
Ghoda Paak is a supernatural entity from the Assamese folklore. They are supposed to look like humans but with the hooves of horses. Some legends claim that they are helpful, whereas others claim that they are extremely deadly.
There are no available pictorial depictions of the Ghoda Paak. Since their descriptions are close to that of Centaurs, the image of the latter has been used here.
My books are available on Amazon: Please click the links to buy them and support a fellow writer. Thank You.
1. Tales With A Twist – A collection of my short stories.
2. Route 13 : Highway to Hell– An anthology of horror short stories.
Are you a writer? Here’s a great opportunity to get published. The Hive is inviting submissions for their next anthology. To know more details, click here.