Manuscripts Burn


"Manuscripts don't burn"
- Mikhail Bulgakov

Hi, I'm horror and science fiction author Steve Kozeniewski (pronounced: "causin' ooze key.") Welcome to my blog! You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon. You can e-mail me here, join my mailing list here, or request an e-autograph here. Free on this site you can listen to me recite one of my own short works, "The Thing Under the Bed."

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Hussar 7

***And enjoy the grand finale of The Hussar. Something new on Monday, probably commemorating Memorial Day. After that, who knows? Maybe shut this blog down for once and for all.***

Jacques de Ris was a young greenhorn but he was not stupid. He was an idealist but he knew he'd been beaten. His regiment had been cut down. He was the last hussar. Somehow he'd have to get back to France and rejoin the army. And let them know that the river Vonne was now under British dominion.

The safest way to get back to France was to sneak through the forests. It wouldn't really be far to Paris once he'd thrown the Britons off his track by going through woodland. He patted his horse and goaded it on through the dark forest.

An owl hooted. The trees billowed under the influence of the wind, casting shadows that looked like great claw reaching out to grab de Ris. The sun occasionally broke the forest's canopy, but her light was not enough to ward off the darkness of this forest.

De Ris came to a bend and turned. A huge regiment of British cavalry stood there, searching for him.

"There's nowhere to run, hussar!" yelled the lead horseman.

Jacques de Ris pulled hard on the reign, and his horse turned full about. After the 180 degree turn the horse took off like a torpedo in the other direction. The horse was at it's fullest speed and de Ris had to lean forward hard to stay on the beast.


The entire regiment of Byron's troops gave chase. The billowing beasts of muscle and sinew they rode upon pounded the ground into dust as they stampeded after the Frenchman. Jacques spurred his mount onward, forcing it as hard as it could go.

The horse almost stopped in surprise after a moment, but de Ris kept spurring it on. Then Jacques saw what the horse had been startled by. A whole legion of cavalry was directly in front of them. He could tell by the banners the standard bearers flew and by the beat of drums that this was an English legion. In the forefront of the legion, astride a great black horse, sat Lord Byron.

"Come on, French pig!" called Byron, "I've got my eye on you."

Byron waved his sword, motioning de Ris to come forward. He almost stopped, but the regiment behind him would've pounded him into a pulpy mess under their hooves had he stopped for even a moment. A plan formed in his head.

"We've got you on both sides. You might as well surrender and not be killed...right now, anyway."

He only had one chance at this. Jacques pulled his rifle from the saddlebag. He leaned as far to the right as he could without falling off the saddle. In one swift movement he flung his rifle to the left, kicked his horse hard to the left, and dove to the right. When he hit the ground he rolled and rolled until he was out of the way of those pounding hooves. The eyes of the Englishmen watched his rifle fly into the air and didn't even notice him jump off his horse.

The regiment behind him smashed into the legion in front of him full force. Like an elemental force they swept through their own legion. Total chaos ensued as the English were swept up under the wave of their own troops. Before anyone knew what happened they had routed themselves, and horses pounded off in every direction.

De Ris got up and scrambled to run. He tripped over his own feet and got back up. A bayonet pointed straight at his head. A man like an Olympian god with one eye stood there.

"Get up you French dog," said Lord Byron.

The hussar was unaccustomed to tromping through rocky terrain on his own two feet. The man who called himself Lord Byron had taken his horse, as the lord's own had been killed in the rout de Ris had caused. About twenty of the British cavalrymen had survived and now tromped along behind the lord, their heads hung low. Actually about twenty-one had survived; Byron had shot the leader of the regiment that crashed into the legion.

"Where are we going?" asked de Ris, "Why don't you just kill me now?"

Byron had been holding his rifle a few feet away from the hussar before but now he rode up alongside de Ris and jabbed his bayonet into his side.

"We're looking for a nice clearing. You and I are going to have a duel. Now giddyup."

Byron poked de Ris hard with his bayonet, cutting the little hussar. They tromped along until they reached a spot Byron thought was fine.

"Stop here. Cut the pig's bonds and give him a musket. Do it!"

One of the British troops took a knife and cut the ropes that held de Ris' hands together in front of him. He handed him a flintlock musket.

"Yours is loaded," said Byron, loading his own musket.

"What's this all about?" asked de Ris perturbedly.

"It's about this," Byron pointed at his eyepatch, "You gave it to me in our last little skirmish, remember?"

Recognition crossed de Ris' face.

"That's right, me. You've robbed me of my honor, and now I'm taking my revenge."

"You English dogs have no honor."

"On ten, shoot. One. Two."

De Ris clenched his fist...

"Three. Four."

..and fingered the trigger...

"Five. Six."

...felt glory well up within him...

"Seven. Eight. Nine."

...and suddenly he knew what it meant to be a hussar.


Shots rang from both sides of the small arena. One man fell. It was Lord Byron. The bullet had pierced his good eye and left him bleeding.

"Hussar! Hussar!" called out the lord.

De Ris walked over to the downed lord. He was in his death throes.

"Lord Byron," said de Ris, trying to sound respectful but having trouble hiding his contempt.

"Listen to me, boy. I lost one eye by accident. But I went blind because I wanted revenge. I want to tell you: I'm sorry."

"I forgive you," said de Ris, not knowing what else to say.

A smile crossed Byron's face. He died. De Ris stood up, and walked away from the dead Briton. He mounted his horse and spurred it. The horse plodded slowly away from the dueling field. None of the British troops tried to stop him.

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