Day 200 of 365 Days of Writing Prompts: Start this story with three horses.
Shannon: “Three horses stand before you. Each will determine your next destination, as well as your future. Please choose wisely,” the women gestured for me to step into the pen.
I examined each one, all of them beautiful in different ways. One was white, another black, and the last one was a mix of black and white spots. I considered the common expression, “not everything is black and white”. However, I didn’t know if that was the lesson here. Maybe it was about making a clear choice, because you can’t always have both.
Which one did I want? After some thought I realized I’d be happy with any of them, and from what I was observing none of them stood out as any more capable of leading to something great. What really mattered was which horse wanted me.
After some more review, my choice revealed himself. I picked the black one.
Erin: “Pick your partner,” my friend sneered.
“It’s not fair you know which one in fastest,” I argued.
“A poor carpenter blames their tools,” she chuckled.
“Whatever,” I rolled my eyes. She went to grab her riding gear. “Which one of you is going to help me out here?” I scanned the three horses as I whispered. One turned her head away. She was out. The second one kicked his back leg which scared me. I looked deep into shadows eyes. She seemed like a winner. “She’s my girl,” the fear in my friend’s eyes proved I had picked correctly.
Three horses to start, how are you going to finish.
Three enormous horses stood there, braying lightly in the frosty air, and pawed anxiously at the ground, their round eyes wide and shining. With my gaze locked on their heaving, muscular frames as they remained stationary, I took a few tentative paces toward them. Behind the stallions was a spectacular backdrop of the sun setting in a blaze of phenomenal colours just on the other side of a white-capped mountain range. When my eyes darted to the harsh, fiery shades of the sky, the horses bucked wildly to regain my attention. Tossing their heavy heads back, the wind caught viciously at their manes, sending the silky strands into swirls about their gorgeous faces.
I paced forward until I could see myself reflected in their eyes and stopped, studying each in turn. On the far left stood a shockingly blue stallion with a coat and mane shot through with bronze, whose eyes were reflected chips of the deepest indigo sky you’ve ever seen. When I took a few more steps toward him, he took two massive steps forward on bronze hooves that echoed hollowly on the icy ground. With his body right in front of me, I reached out a trembling hand to stroke his coat, feeling electricity shoot through my fingers as I did. Staring into his night-sky eyes, I watched stars shoot past and searched the surface for constellations. After a few minutes of being lost in the intelligent, dark eye, I backed up a couple steps, and he mirrored my movements as though he knew what I meant to do.
Turning my watering eyes to the next magnificent beast, I studied the flaming coat of the second stallion. He, too, moved forward to greet me, his charcoal hooves leaving burnt traces in the snow as he walked. In his eyes I could see the last remaining embers of a drowned fire surviving amid black, murky coal, sputtering and struggling to relight. Gently stroking the flaming scarlet, orange and gold mane, my fingers came away slightly singed and tingling with heat. Bowing his head to me, he stepped back to let me pass before him to the final horse.
When I stood before the pure white stallion, he tossed his head defiantly and wouldn’t look me in the eye, instead watching his brothers. Instead of taking a step forward as I approached, he paced backward on his golden hooves and bucked irately in my presence. Tilting my head to the creature, I rolled my eyes and sighed dramatically; when I did so, he calmed and puffed back at me.
I shrugged my shoulders and turned my back on the three superlative specimens and headed back to where I’d been standing before, off in the distance. “Well,” I called into the wind, letting it carry my words to my companion, “I don’t know that hiding them in plain sight will work as well as we expected.” When I was just a few feet from the smartly-dressed woman holding a clipboard, I paused to give the horses one last look. “Okay, I suppose you may as well terminate if we’re going to try the next experiment,” I sighed, concentrating very hard on not screaming with fury.
As she waved an opal wand, speaking quietly to it in a language I’d primarily seen written, the blue stallion became an undulating cloud of pale blue dust that was too dense to see through. After a moment, something enormous and winged emerged from the obscurity and flew high up into the swirling clouds above our heads. Letting out an echoing screech that split into two octaves as it reverberated, it was struck by a bolt of lightning that sent it into a sudden, planned, tailspin. It headed straight for us, but hit the ground in a puff of snow, upright and unharmed. With a small hiccup, it set its large, beady eyes on me and made a few small chirrups in my direction that were meant to be intelligent speech.
I skipped up to it and the falcon’s head nudged my shoulder affectionately, picking at the heavy cloth I was wearing so I would move my arm. When I lifted it, the brilliant blue bird nuzzled its giant head under my hand, begging to be pet. Stroking the soft, static-y feathers I glanced back at my assistant, who was busily making notes on her clipboard while attempting to keep the smile off her face.
“And why didn’t the thunderbird appear normal?” she called, her voice betraying the grin.
Staring at the cooing bird before me, I replied in a terse tone, “He shocked me when I stroked him. Like he’s doing now, actually,” I added despite myself. We’d been attempting to disguise mystical creatures as normal, non-magickal ones for eons to further our battle strategies and the transference of magical abilities, but nothing we tired worked; there was always one little thing that made the whole thing fall apart. “He’s so clingy lately; what’s up with that?” I asked aloud, glaring at his contented expression as I have one last pat and stepped forward. “Off you go; go on to your roost and I’ll get you when I need you!”
Eyes open wide, he dipped his body and sprung into the sky, causing the dispersing clouds to roil violently again as he shot straight through them. As he disappeared into the open sky, the clouds settled and snow began to drift peacefully around us.
“Next!” I shouted at the assistant, wishing this plan, last of nine-hundred-and-twenty-one-thousand-six-hundred-and-eighty-four, had worked.
As the second stallion disappeared, consumed by a towering inferno, the third glanced at his brother nervously. Bursting forth from the bright glow of flame was the scaly, serpent-like body of a blood-red dragon, soaring in perfect circles as it roared. The sound vibrated the ice beneath my feet as the ferocious beast beat the snow drifts with its mighty wings before coming to a rough landing in front of me. Little puffs of smoke and sparks issued from his flared nostrils as he shook his long neck and fixed his beady charcoal eyes on mine. “He burned my hand,” I called back to the assistant, waving my hand in the air; the dragon’s puppy-like curiosity had his head following my movements carefully.
Reaching forward politely, I braced as he dropped his head to touch my fingertips gently with the top of his scaly head. With all four legs coiled under his wide body, he ruffled his bat-like wings of brimstone and beat them forcefully with all his might. As he circled a few minutes behind his brother, he screamed into the air and shot a bolt of fire through a mass of dark storm clouds, dispersing them.
Without my say so, the opalite wand was waving through the charged air and words were whispered on the wind. Before me, puffing and stamping indignantly, was a startlingly white and shimmering beast that could put the beauty of any mortal to shame; a unicorn. His flowing mane was stardust and his coat was moonlight ringed with the last drops of dew on a midsummer morning.
“Right, and the unicorn is just too proud a creature to pretend to be anything else,” spat my assistant, jotting something so forcefully in her notes that I worried for the clipboard. There was an uncomfortable silence where the sentient being and I exchanged a spiteful glance before he started to shiver. See, unicorns aren’t used to Antarctic temperatures, which is part of why we were here in the first place; any magical being ought to be able to withstand any sort of environmental issue, but these creatures are simply too full of themselves to help themselves.
Even as I thought about how silly he was, the unicorn had touched the glowing, golden horn in his head to the frozen ground to instantly melt it into a pool of reflective water to admire itself. Unfortunately, as neither my assistant, nor I, was a maiden any longer, we could not command the unicorn so someone would need to be sent here to direct it with a gentlewoman’s touch.
With a sigh, I turned on my heel and marched to my assistant’s side, hating myself for being such a failure. After all these millennia we had never been able to hide a magical creature in plain sight, but perhaps it simply wasn’t meant to be. “There just must be a way to do this,” I complained loudly, unable to hold my tongue on the subject after all this time. “We can’t have tried everything; there has absolutely got to be a way!” Stamping my foot with all my might, cracks and fissures streaked across the surface, momentarily distracting the unicorn, which bent and filled the crevices with molten gold. “Stupid thing,” I mumbled, kicking insolently at a glittering gap.
“Well, there is one thing we haven’t tried yet, you know,” replied the assistant, hiding her face behind the clipboard. When I gave her a surprised glance, she smiled wryly and continued, “Well, see, we could just let one of them loose in the world. I mean, those mortals will do anything to not believe in magic.” I chuckled dryly, but my mind was already made up; those silly mortals wouldn’t believe in them anyway.
August steps into the stable, hearing the horses shuffling around in place. “Okay… Atlas and Domino,” he mutters to himself. Two horses poke their heads out over the half-doors. “Oh, okay.” He goes to the closest. Then he sees the sign above the stall. “…Domino.” He gets a lead and attaches it to the rope around her neck. He then opens the stall and brings the black and white horse to the corral. He takes the lead off and goes back for Atlas.
When both horses are outside, he starts to clear out the first stall.
‘Sheesh, I knew horses were stinky, but-’ August itches his nose. Domino’s stall is cleared and filled with new hay, then he puts water and feed in the stall. He goes to Atlas’, but stops as he notices a stall across from him.
It says Blaze on above the stall door. He looks at the horse inside. Blaze eyes him as he steps closer. He reaches his hand out, but Blaze snorts on it, then turns away. August sighs. He turns to Atlas’ stall, finishing and hauling another bucket of water, and feed. He then gets the horses again and puts them in the right stalls. When the last stall is closed, he sighs, rubbing his arms.
Once again, he looks at Blaze. ‘It’s just a horse, August,’ he tells himself, ‘a horse that means a lot to Heather, apparently.’
Three beautiful horses stood out in a small pasture. Tora watched them contently, then ,moved to catch her horse.
They called Dusty Moon a ‘wild thing’. They being the ranch cowboys, of course.