The breeze sighed softly as it breathed caressingly over the grass, which rippled, changing colour slightly as it moved and as the light of the moon glimmered through scattered clouds and its shadows played over the smooth and silent earth. The breath of the Horse was in his nostrils; its blood pulsed through his veins. He was eager to run. His perspective shifted, no longer was he just a man seated on the back of that strangely flowing figure of great antiquity, known as the White Horse of Uffington, cut unknown ages ago into the chalk of the Berkshire Downs. Was it really meant to be a horse? Some considered it to depict a dragon. In either case, he felt that he was riding it, and had indeed become it as it flowed rather than strode through the magic of the night and merged into or traversed the paths of the inner land.
William the Rider was experienced in making these night journeys, although they were not easy nor were their courses entirely of his own volition. This night the feeling was unusually intense, and the vision strong. He felt drawn along at dizzying speed, his consciousness blurring, as if to an unknown destination where his presence was imperiously required.
“Halt Rider!” he heard as his mind cleared and he found himself in the presence of a great golden Wyvern outlined in fire, apparently within a large but dilapidated Hall, whose dimly seen furnishings seemed dirty and decayed. “I am the Voice of the Land of Wessex, within the House of Wessex. I summon the King. His Land has need of him. His kingdom is failing and it his task to restore it. Carry this message to him. Tell him to meet me at a beacon fire on Dragon Hill within the month; else neither he nor his kingdom may long survive. Go!”
Impelled even more rapidly and confusingly through the reverse of his previous journey, William found himself recovering his senses on the hillside as the sun rose over the serene fields and hills of Wessex.
He believed the Voice, but it would not be easy to obey its command. This was not the sort of story which many people would accept. They would rather laugh and sneer, call him a drunk, a fool, a lout in need of being taught better manners if he persisted in annoying his betters. A good beating would be the least he could expect if he tried to contact the King, and the King would be unlikely to even hear the message, let alone believe it. The command could not be disobeyed, however. He could not be the cause of the fall of his country. He must find a way.
Time out of mind, the people of this area had been involved with horses, and it was through this connection that a way was found. That evening, one of his wife’s cousins unexpectedly came to visit them. He worked for one of the stables which trained and looked after horses for the Royal family, and was on his way with a message to the Royal Court, escorting a riding horse for the king.
That young man is far too idle and dreamy thought Princess Matilda the King’s aunt, as she saw her nephew cross the courtyard below and go into the stables. He pays far too much attention to childish tales about King Arthur and Good King Harold. He should pay more attention to the advice of the Royal Council and attempt to get a grip on the country as well as improve the management and income from the Royal estates. A young king who was more interested in old tales, servants gossip and galloping around in pursuit of foxes or hares than in the accumulating pile of reports of debts, unpaid taxes, unpaid servants, riots, disturbances, bad weather, crop failure, disease and disobedience amongst the people and corruption and strife amongst their rulers, whilst his own lands no longer produced their old income, but their debts never seemed to diminish, was not what the Kingdom needed. Her own son John would make a far better King she was sure. There he was again, coming out of the stables leading a new white horse which he could not afford and listening to whatever a couple of stable hands were telling him, probably about the horse. It was a fine looking horse though.