Wordcount: 874 words
The unexpected never happened.
Two days later the three search barges pulled into the docks at Five Sheep and the most of the crews immediately vanished into the nearest pubs. They hadn’t found any more remains nor any signs of the animal that had attacked the river gator. Everything about the river had been perfectly normal; the local wildlife was out in force and the riverbanks were undisturbed. It gave the trip a decidedly eerie quality and after forty-eight hours of nothing Wendy wouldn’t have minded hitting the pubs herself.
But the feeling of weight was still there and she was pretty sure this wasn’t the best time to get drunk. As soon as things had been squared away with one of the inns (dish duty again) she headed out to the pens to talk to Moonstar. There was something wrong about not running into anything on the river and she wanted to find out why.
She found him standing in a corner with the Black, tail to nose and lazy swishing at flies. Wendy was tempted to point out that insects in general already gave the two not-quite-horses a wide berth, but decided to save that argument for later.
“So,” she leaned on the top rail of the fence, “see anything that we missed?”
“I’m not sure.” The unicorn shook his head and nosed the ground in front of his left hoof. “There was a smell that didn’t fit, but the river washed it away before I could follow. Other than that, nothing.”
“But there should have been something, right?”
He didn’t look up, “It wasn’t part of the story; it was never supposed to be part of the story.”
“But it should have been there.” Because that felt right, it fit the patterns she was familiar with, and she knew Moony could feel it too.
There was a frustratingly long silence and then the unicorn nodded.
“So something took it out of the story.” Wendy didn’t blink when Moony’s head snapped up, blue eyes startled. “Someone put it in and then someone took it out again.”
“They can’t do that.”
“Somebody did.” She tapped the rail, “Look, you put me in the story, right? What’s to stop someone else from doing the same thing?”
“Power.” And there was that echo again, of something ancient thing that lurked beneath.
“But you said the story was starting to unravel, and that means other things are starting to remember what they used to be.” Wasn’t that was a terrifying concept, ancient evils chipping away at the masks of bumbling incompetence. “You’re telling me there isn’t something else here that can’t make little shifts? They didn’t pull something in from the outside, they just moved it.” Or at least that is what she was guessing, there wasn’t anything from home that could have done that sort of damage. “It’s possible, right?”
“Maybe,” but the admission was forced and Moonstar’s ears were flicked back in anger.
“So what do we do about it?”
“We don’t know who is doing this, or why they’re doing it, or even how.” Moonstar stomped a forehoof. “If we don’t know how, we can’t protect against it. If we don’t know why, we don’t know if they are trying to keep us from doing something or if they are trying to encourage us into it. And if we don’t know who, then we don’t know who to kill.”
“Kill?” Wendy stepped back from the fence as the unicorn moved towards her.
“Yes, kill.” Moonstar was glowing again, although much fainter than he had during his confrontation with Gray. “What did you think was going to happen? That we’d show them the error of their ways and they’d forget everything they’ve been and everything they’re meant to be?”
“Um–” because she really hadn’t thought that far ahead.
“Death won’t hold them for long, it only slows them down until the next story starts. But that’s long enough.” He stopped just short of the fence meeting her gaze with eyes of something much older than unicorns. “I won’t ask you to kill anything, you haven’t the strength or the courage for that.” He snorted at her outraged expression. “You’re here to finish Heather’s story not mine.”
“You have a story?” She hadn’t thought they could be plural.
“Everything has a story, but not all at the same time. Riley’s story wasn’t meant to happen yet, neither was Gray’s.”
“So I did that? Pulled them into their stories before they were meant to happen?” She looked over at the Black, suddenly horrified at the idea she might have set them on the path to their deaths, because every story had an ending and if she’d messed up the start did that mean she’d messed up the ends as well?
“I won’t ask you to kill on purpose, why would you think I’d let you do it by accident?” Moonstar shook his head and started to turn away from the fence. “Just go to bed, we’ve got a long road to start tomorrow.”
“Go to bed.” And he was gone, wandering over to the Black and back to pointless fly-swatting.
And because she didn’t know what else to do… she did.