Wordcount: 972 words
Story as Old as Time
“That’s the Black Horse of Eolian, isn’t it.” The girl was watching the stallion as he bickered with Moonstar. As the bickering consisted mostly of hoof stomps and voices she couldn’t hear, Wendy was rather surprised she’d picked up on it. For all their otherworldness the two horses did act a lot like horses most of the time.
“Might be,” Wendy shrugged. “I’ve never asked him.” Which was true enough.
“You can talk to horses?” The look the girl gave her was the generic preteen response to a potentially cool skill claimed by a grownup. Nice to know some things were constant at least.
“I talk to them, no clue if they actually listen.” Wendy finished mending the last patch on her torn blanket, a sad victim of a fight between Cat and one of the caravan’s dogs, and carefully refolded it. “But if he’s really the Black Horse, he’d been able to answer me, yeah?”
“But horses can’t talk.” The girl gave her a patronizing look. “Everyone knows that.”
“You’d be amazed how often ‘everyone’ is wrong.”
The girl rolled her eyes, “Yeah, well, everyone knows the Black Horse only obeys Sparrow Brown so it can’t be him.”
“Then why did you ask?” She stood, blanket tucked over one arm, looking over at the frustrated preteen.
“Because you’re the only one with horses and it’s not fair!”
Wendy blinked, “I am?”
“Well, yeah. I mean the outriders have ’em, but those are company horses. And a couple of the mercs have them, but those are mercs and they make way more than we do.” The girl waved a hand at the mostly horse-less caravan. “You’ve got two and you don’t even ride them!”
Ah, well that explained the odd looks she’d been getting. The caravan actually had little use for horses, the wagons were much too big to be pulled by equines, using massive cow-buffalo-things instead. The outriders served as scouts to make sure the way ahead was clear, using rugged little mule-like ponies that never seemed to run out of energy. There were two long-legged horses, used for messages if an emergency came up, but those stayed tied to the wagons rather like equine life rafts. So her two examples of iconic horse-dom were a little more unusual than she had thought. Great.
“Do you know how to ride?” She asked in a purposefully bland tone, and grinned as the kid froze, eyes wide. “Hey, it can’t hurt to ask him, right?” She whistled and the two horses looked over, argument temporarily forgotten. “Hey, I’ve got a question for you, com’ere.”
Moonstar snorted, and the Black bobbed his head in his normal I-am-a-stallion-you-can’t-tell-me-what-to-do stubbornness.
“Please?” And if her tone was more sarcastic than polite, the horses didn’t seem to care, ambling over with an overly dramatic air of ‘not being interested.’
“Miss– what’s your name hun?”
“Miss Riley here has a question.” She nudged the girl with her elbow. “Go on, can’t hurt to ask.”
The two horses looked at each other and then at Wendy.
“This is setting a really bad precedent you know.” Moonstar turned to itch his flank, eyeing the girl. “I’m a unicorn you know, we don’t just give rides to every horribly cute preteen with visions of grandeur.”
“No, but he does.” She raised and eyebrow at the Black who did his best to look offended while sidling closer to the girl. It was clear the stallion had missed the rather blinding adoration of young girls for large handsome untamable horses. “Oh go on, it’s not like anyone’s going to believe her if she does tell them.”
“Well they won’t, even if he isn’t the Black Horse of Eolian. No one in their right mind rides a horse with no tack, yeah?”
The girl blinked, then giggled as the Black lipped at her hair.
“So that’s a yes?” The black looked thoughtful and then offhandly stomped his assent. “Right, then you wander off by yourselves and have a good time. I’ll be over here minding my own business.” She turned and started heading for her wagon to put the blanket away. She very carefully didn’t notice the two subtly making their way out of camp.
“You sure that’s a good idea?” Moonstar followed her back to the wagon, nibbling at the various flora along the way. “He’s been outside the story for an awfully long time.”
“At his core he’ll always be the wild horse waiting for the child to tame him.” Wendy tucked the blanket into the wagon and paused to give Cat a skritch. “That’s an archetype as old a horses themselves; no matter how Heather wrote him, that’s what he’ll come back to.”
“But you aren’t a child.”
“Never said I was, but I’m the mother of a child and that gives me some power.” She reached out a hand to itch Moonstar’s forelock and he grunted happily, leaning into her. “I’m my own archetype of sorts, and things’ll bend to me because of that. It’s why I took the slow route, I need time to shape the story; I can’t just drive it like Heather did.” She patted his forehead and then leaned back against the wagon to look at him. “But you knew that, didn’t you.”
He just looked at her with sky blue eyes.
“You’re not part of this story any more than I am. She never traveled with the unicorns, they were more of a Deus Ex Machina for when she wrote herself into a corner. You aren’t here to heal people or places, so I’m guessing you’re the third one, the one that heals time.”
“No,” she paused. “No, not time; you heal stories don’t you. That’s why you pushed me through the gate, you couldn’t fix this by yourself.”