The Midnight Rider Myth in Zheng-Kitar | World Anvil

The Midnight Rider

The mysterious horseman who rides under veil of night, appearing beneath the starry sky veiled in baleful black

Seen the rider, day 'fore last. Strange fella. Can't 'member much 'bout 'im, though - even though I know we talked 'round our fire.   Others, too - all six of 'em can't 'member nothin' neither. They blew 'im off, mos'ly...forgot him mos'ly, come mornin'.   Me, though? I can tell he's still followin' us - Followin' me, more like. Rest o' these idjits don't believe me. Say i'm spooked.   But I seen him, jus' now - ridin', 'longside a horse jus' like his, with empty saddle and eyes like moonlight.   Can't help but feel like...that horse is mine to ride.
— Journal Excerpt from a six person, Coalition of Nine funded expedition into the Yudao Rainforest

Summary

The myth of The Midnight Rider is one told by travelers, wanderers, adventurers, and all those who roam the world's untamed reaches by night, around the light of their campfires - it is a myth of a mysterious rider who travels the land at night, visible only in the haunting witching hour where the moon is highest in the sky. Though each telling might well be different, several key bits of information have stayed relatively consistent through each iteration - all speak of the Midnight Rider as a being of mystery, who approaches those far from civilization's light, drawn typically by the light of a campfire or the sound of laughing voices echoing through the hills or trees; The rider will often approach the campsites of these groups or even lone individuals, speaking with them and possibly asking questions to them, staying for what typically is spoken of as a short amount of time before riding off into the dark.   Each time it is seen, it is described as rarely dismounting from its horse, and wearing a hood that hangs low over its face - only rarely when it deigns to sit down alongside those it encounters does more detail become visible, as many tellings of its tales tell of bits of armor and cloth woven into its rugged but patchwork outfit, its very clothes telling a tale across ages as it speaks, its voice dusty and hoarse. What it says, almost none can remember - as the rider leaves, so too does memory of its arrival and of its questions - but very few manage to retain enough frame of mind to write down or remember its conversations, telling tale of simple but strange and even haunting questions few, if any, are equipped to answer...commonly, questions pertaining to unknown figures and their locations, directions to places none have heard of, and references to dates and times in formats understood by none are those which dot the minds of those who retain their memories come the light of dawn.   Almost no iterations speak of it as a hostile figure - though almost all speak of it as one that induces a fear state so intense that unconsciousness is a common result of glimpsing its form, with extreme paranoia being an almost universal side-effect of encountering it, sometimes for months later. Its face is never visible, its horse is described as having "eyes of white" or similar such descriptions, though neither are typically described as dead or undead - there are often one or more blades on the rider's back(Though it is rarely spoken of as using them), and it is often described as "vaguely polite".

Historical Basis

Little historical basis exists to validate the existence of The Midnight Rider - its existence is supposed through countless hazy fugue states, dim memories, and the occasional clear recollection rather than through any specific event or fact. However, though almost never confirmed, many dissapearances have been linked to the Midnight Rider - at least in theory. Oftentimes, those who encounter this mysterious rider display extreme paranoia for a varying amount of time afterwards - however, in extremely rare cases this paranoia lingers on for much longer than normal(Often accompanied by impending visions of one's own death or misfortune), with the creature in question often vanishing entirely, typically forgotten by their peers unless pointed investigations are conducted.   These disappearances, combined with the extremely rare cases of physical evidence(Such as hoofprints and the occasional cigar or smokeable left behind by the rider) suggest at a real and tangible presence - though nothing has ever been confirmed.

Spread

The myth of the Midnight Rider is known mainly to central and northern mainland Zheng-Kitar - other cultures have heard neither hide nor hair of the Midnight Rider, though many suppose that this may not hint at a lack of its existence there, and instead simply mean its appearances have gone more unnoticed than they have elsewhere.   In these lands, its tale is told quite commonly around the fires of travelers, wanderers, adventurers, and the like who roam the world's roads and untamed reaches as a scary story - a tall tale most do not particularly believe, but find fun to tell and listen to.

Variations & Mutation

Many variations of the myth of the Midnight Rider exist - some paint the Rider as wearing a wide-brimmed hat that cloaks its face in supernatural shadow as well as a poncho rather than a cloak and low-hanging hood, some even describe faint facial features(Typically the chin, which is often described as stubbled and gnarled), while many others describe the rider as never dismounting their horse during interactions while others say much the opposite.   Many variations speak of it directly as a type of undead, others as a spiritual being bound to the material plane by the power of the witching hour, while still others name it an avatar of death itself, come to guide those who die far from the reaches of civilized lands into the true and proper afterlife. Other, much more grounded variations speak of it as a horseman from ages gone by, who experienced some immense misfortune or curse and was forced to wander for all eternity - destined to search for a goal, destination, time, or creature it cannot find or reach.

Cultural Reception

Typically the myth of the Midnight Rider is seen as a tall tale by most all of the cultures that speak and tell of it - only the select few who have personally encountered it, or heard of such a tale from a somewhat close source, tend to put weight in its tales and myths. When spoken of, it is often talked of as a "test" of sorts - a figure approaching a campfire requesting answers and shelter for a short while, such that the kind-hearted travelers who welcome it and answer its questions find themselves given kind company and relaxing tales around their fire, while those who refuse or anger the figure finding themselves cursed, dying, or even just vanishing from the world at large.

In Literature

The Midnight Rider is something of a local legend in the lands of the Coalition of Nine, where its myth is believed to have originated even before the country's formation - there, it is written about in poems and in books, and in one extreme example, made the subject of a particularly popular folk song known as "The White Rider", often sung around campfires and hearths with a quick and jazzy tune.   Elsewhere, it is rarely, if ever, spoken of or written about.

In Art

The Midnight Rider is almost never depicted in art outside of the lands of the Coalition of Nine, where its myth is believed to have originated even before the country's formation - there, it is a common thing carved into wooden and clay dolls, sold on tapestries, and generally used as a local "mascot" of sorts to drum up interest in tourism. In one particularly famous instance, a life-size statue was commissioned of it by an eccentric Ustanan noble and put on display at his seaside manor in his homeland of Ustana - where it is said to have emitted guitar-like twangs, horse whinneys, and the smell of cigar smoke at irregular intervals until the noble's death of natural causes, at which point the statue vanished overnight, taking its owner's body with it to parts unknown and leaving hoofprints scorched onto the floors of the manor in which it was displayed.
 
One man, Two Horses, A ride that never ends, with a rider that's lost his way ♪   Ridin' on, through the night, burned away by light of day ♪
— Excerpt from the Shaoshuan Folk Song "White Rider", Author Unknown
Date of First Recording
3684 ASK
Date of Setting
3609 ASK

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