This is an original novel I'm writing. It's kind of like Warriors, or Redwall, but it's different too. I'm just starting this, so bear with me for a while, as I might not post this very fast. I will try to use correct spelling and grammar, but there may be some mistakes, so feel free to point them out to me. A little bit about this: It's very much like Redwall because the animals are the characters, but the majority of animals are horses. So to make this easy for all those who do not know much in the way of horse terminology, I have included a list of terms used in this story. I have also included a list of character names, to help you (and me) keep track of the characters. I hope you enjoy this little enterprise of mine, but please point out mistakes or improvements. SaynaSLuke (talk) 20:30, April 27, 2014 (UTC)
Please comment! >':'<
Horse terms (this is not in alphabetical order)Edit
Stallion: male horse over four years old
Mare: female horse over four years old
Colt: male horse under four years old
Filly: female horse under four years old
Foal: newborn horse of either gender
Pinto: to make it simple, a spotted horse
Overo: a pinto horse whose patches are on the belly, sides, and face.
Tabino: a pinto horse whose patches go across the back. often has white legs and a small face mark.
Appaloosa: while a pinto has large patches, an appaloosa has small ones, almost speckle like
Blanket Appaloosa: has a white patch on rump that is speckled with color
Snowflake Appaloosa: white speckles on colored base coat
Leopard Appaloosa: colored speckles on white base coat
Palomino: gold with flaxen mane and tail
Dun: gold with brown legs, muzzle, mane, and tail (these are called points)
Buckskin: gold with black points
Bay: brown with black points
Roan: colored and white hairs mix to create a salt and pepper affect
Red/strawberry Roan: looks red
Blue Roan: looks blue grayish, has black points
Rose Roan: this color is very rare but very striking. It literally looks pink, and has dark points
Rocky Mountain Color/Liver Chestnut: chocolate brown with a flaxen mane and tail
Albino: a natural mutation, an albinos skin lacks pigment. It is snow white with pink or red eyes
Sorrel: brown with flaxen mane
Chestnut: brown with brown mane
Grullo: mousy brown with black points
Creamello: cream like color
This is a list of names, to help you keep track of the charactersEdit
Lead Stallion: Icewind, an old, wise horse. he was once gray, but his coat is now snowy white
Lead mare: Brushfire, a once beautiful, battle scarred middle aged sorrel
Healer: Hawkseye, a young bay male
Seer: Featherwisp, an old albino mare, blind in one eye
Fighters (in order of rank)
Panther: black stallion with white streaks in his tail (the most prominent fighter, has the right to take Icewinds place when he dies
Dream: creamello mare (has the right to succeed Brushfire
Sand: palomino with white stripe on face
Coyote: dirty brown stallion
Cyclone: light gray mare
Carp: red roan stallion
Breeze: Grullo stallion
Star: albino mare
Aurora: rose roan mare
Eclipse: rocky mountain colored filly
Spots: black leopard appaloosa colt
Storm: blue roan filly
Sirocco: buckskin colt
Amber: dun filly
Flight: bay colt
Lead Stallion: Thunderstrike, a red dun
Lead Mare: Skydance, blue roan
Healer: Raindrops, dapple gray mare
Seer: Glowingspark, palomino stallion
Dark: chocolate bay stallion
Wind: light gray mare
Snake: blanket appaloosa colt
Red: blood bay stallion
Lark: dun filly
Wisp: very light blue roan filly
Thorn: brown overo pinto stallion
Rocks: dapple gray mare
Fire: chestnut filly
Flame: chestnut colt (Fire and Flame are twins)
Mothers and foals
River, a blue roan, and her foal, Drip, a gray
Lead Stallion: Eaglescry, bay tabino pinto
Lead Mare: Deersleap, brown snowflake appaloosa
Healer: Lizardtail: mottled red/blue roan mix (stallion)
Seer: Harespring: dun stallion
Jump: sorrel stallion
Hawk: chestnut mare
Wisp: gray mare
Fly: bay stallion
Weed: brown filly
Patch: bay tabino pinto filly
Fish: dapple gray colt
Rain: chestnut colt
I hope these help you make some sense out of this story. >':'<
Chapter 1 StormEdit
The gray light of dawn was slowly brightening the desert. A few sand rats scurried across the cool dirt, while an eagle swooped in the sky, searching for breakfast. The desert was colorless, waiting for the kiss of sun to bring forth its breathtaking hues. Besides the sand rats and the eagle, one other creature was stirring. She was a lanky filly, blue roan with a glossy black mane, and dark, sparkling eyes. The desert was so quiet her hoof beats reverberated through the air, filling it with a wild, beautiful music.
The filly was steadily trotting toward a large mesa which resembled a running horse. As the sun rose, spreading its golden rays over the landscape, the horse broke into a lope, then a gallop. This was Storm. She was a lone horse, and had no herd. She had no friends either, and no family. Her mother had been killed by a cougar when Storm was very young, and as to her father, she had never met him. In fact she knew nothing about him, for her mother had never spoke of him, or mentioned his name.
Why Storm was headed toward the oddly shaped mesa so doggedly, she could quite say. Maybe it was because of the fact her mother used to live here, or maybe it was because of the amazing stories she had heard. What ever the case, her hooves were set in the course she had chosen, and she wasn't turning back now. Whatever danger she might encounter, whatever trouble might befall her, she was going to go to that mesa, and discover if the stories were true.
Chapter 2 SiroccoEdit
The day was dying as Storm neared the horse like mesa. She was discovering the land was not as flat as she had thought. Between her and her objective was a large canyon. Storm began her descent slowly, enjoying the feel of smooth, cool rock under her hooves, rather then hot, sifting sand. This was the life, she thought. No more gritty, irritating sand getting stuck in her feet. She twitched her nose as she stepped on a sharp stone. She would have to watch out for pointy rocks however.
Storm shook her mane as she came to the bottom of the natural trail she was following, and stared about this place. It was a lush meadow with a brook flowing through it. she could see the other wall of the canyon, many, many horse lengths away. The blue roan filly took a bite of grass before heading toward the crystal stream. She switched her tail and began drinking contentedly. This place was nice, she decided. It had everything she needed. Food, water, shelter, every thing except . . She looked down at her reflection. Except other horses. Storm flicked an ear, irritated with herself. What was she thinking, that just cause she came here, she would find the fabled herds of her mothers stories? She resumed drinking, mentally berating herself.
A strange voice made her jerk her head up, splaying water droplets every where. Standing across the stream, not twenty paces away, was a golden buckskin colt. He had friendly brown eyes and a crooked smile.
"I'm Sirocco. What's your name?"
Storm flattened her ears and stared at this new arrival defensively. He was a little older then her, and seemed nice, but Storm had learned to trust no one. The buckskin didn't seem fazed by Storms flattened ears.
"Hey are you deaf or something? I said, what's your name?"
Storm hadn't spoken in so long she could hardly remember how to. She tried to pronounce her name, but all that came out was
Sirocco cocked his head "St?"
She stomped her hoof, angry that she had forgotten how to say her own name.
Then, despite Siroccos whinny, she wheeled around and galloped away.
Chapter 3 DiscoveryEdit
Storm stayed away from the stream all that night and the next day, but in the evening, thirst forced her to return. For some reason she did not leave the canyon, or head toward the horse shaped mesa. Maybe it was because she had found a live horse, and he was real, not just a story. As she came in sight of the brook, she caught sight of Sirocco grazing beside it. He looked up and pricked his ears, but said nothing. Storm had a refreshing drink before she fell to eating.
Neither horse said a word, but Storm felt content knowing that there were other horses in the world. Finally Sirocco looked up.
"Where do you come from?"
Storm jerked her head up, and flicked her ears back. "Just around. I've b .."
She thought about her words. "Been a lot of places."
Sirocco cocked his head. "Why do you stutter like that?"
Storm flicked her tail, saying matter-of-factly, "I've been alone for so long, I'm for ... getting how to talk."
Sirocco looked genuinely horrified. "No horse should be that secluded!"
Suddenly he smiled. "Hey I know what! you could join my herd!"
Storm let grass fall out of her mouth. "Your HERD?!? There are m ... more of you?"
Sirocco nodded. "Oh yes! A whole lot more! I belong to the Canyon Dwellers, and we own this canyon."
He looked down. "In fact, you probably shouldn't even be here ... But if you joined us it would be OK."
Storm took a step backward. "I d ... don't know .."
Sirocco dipped his head. "You may want to think about it for a while, so tomorrow morning, I'll be waiting here till the dew leaves the grass. If you decide to join us, meet me. If not, you'll have to leave." With that, he trotted away.
That night Storm stared at the stars. They looked like crystals strewn on black velvet, twinkling like a million lights. Where the stories true? Her mother had told her that every time a good horse died, a new star was born, to remember them by. Thinking of her mothers stories made her think of the great stallion. Storm smiled, remembering her mothers words.
"The great stallion commands all forces of nature. When he shakes his mane, the snow falls. When he runs across the sky, we hear his hoof beats, the thunder. When a good horse dies, the great stallion is sad, and he morns, bringing the rain. He watches us, and loves us, and he will never leave you Storm, never."
Storm blinked back tears. "Are you real?"
She whispered. "Are you watching me now? Do you care? I don't even know your name, but ..."
Storm fell silent and hung her head before murmuring, "What should I do? I've been looking for herds for so long, but now that I've found one I just ..." She sighed. "I just don't know."
Chapter 4 DecisionEdit
The next day a thick, low lying mist filled the canyon. Storm plodded toward the stream, slowly, reluctantly, but compelled by an unseen force. When she reached the small river, the mist was so thick, she could not see three horse lengths ahead of her. Sirocco was no where to be seen. Storm heaved a sigh and turned to go, but the clop of hoof striking stone made her pause.
"You came." The buckskin colt whickered as he stepped from the fog.
Storm snorted, "Against my bet ... better judgment, I d ... did."
A crooked smile lit up Siroccos face. "Great! Follow me."
Storm took a deep breath and did as she was told.
Sirocco plodded along silently for a while before coughing, "Look, Storm .. Err about my herd ... Well they're not perfect Ok? Some of them are nice, but there are some .. you know ... some are mean. You seem Ok, and I almost wish I hadn't suggested this .."
Storm flicked an ear. "It'll be f .. fine Sirocco. I feel like I have to d .. do this. Be .. lieve me, if I had wanted to leave, you w .. would never have seen me a .. again."
Sirocco stopped. "Here we are."
Storm stared into the mist to see horses, more horses then she knew existed. A magnificent white stallion stood watch over them as they grazed. As Sirocco approached him, he looked up and pricked his ears. His voice was strong, and despite his faded coat and sway back, he acted young.
"Who is this Sirocco?"
Siroccos ears flicked back and forth, betraying his unease. "This is Storm Icewind. She was a lone horse, but she wans to join us. Is that, Ok?"
Icewinds brown eyes surveyed Storm carefully, before he remarked, "Any horse may join the Canyon Dwellers, but it is up to them whether they stay."
Storm held Icewinds gaze steadily, and the old stallion smiled. "Not many have the courage to do that young Storm, but I admire it. I think you will be a valuable addition to my herd."
Chapter 5 Featherwisp's WarningEdit
An old albino mare appeared from the mist beside Icewind. One of her eyes was milky, blinded by some long ago injury, and she cocked her head like a bird to see Storm. There was an air about this old mare that told Storm she was wise and respected, despite her handicap. Her voice was not cracked by age, it was soft and beautiful, almost lilting.
"I've been waiting for you, young Storm."
Storm was completely dumbfounded, as were Icewind and Sirocco.
The buckskin colt stuttered, "But .. but how do you know Storms name Featherwisp?"
The albino mare shrugged. "My voices tell me much young one, for the great stallion himself whispers in my ear, and what does he not know?"
Suddenly she broke off as her good eye widened. "Evil ... a cloud of darkness ..."
She shook herself. "Icewind, trouble is coming."
Icewind pricked his ears. "Is it coyotes? cougars? What must we be wary of, my trusted seer?"
Featherwisp shuddered. "Not from the outside, but from the inside. This evil is more devious then coyotes, more deadly then cougars. This evil is unlike any we've ever faced. It comes not from predators, but from the hearts of horses."
Her eyes darkened. "And sometimes they can be the most dangerous enemy of all."
Chapter 6 Meeting the HerdEdit
Icewind dismissed Sirocco and Storm, telling them to join the herd. Sirocco made wide circuit around the main body of horses, coming to a small clump on one side. All these horse were young, and they pricked their ears up as Storm and Sirocco approached. Storm noticed her buckskin friend was more subdued then when they first met.
"W .. what's wrong?" She asked.
Sirocco looked down as he whispered, "I'm not exactly popular."
"Well look who came back!" A palomino filly laughed snootily.
Sirocco hung is head as a bay colt snickered, "Old Sirocco the silent!"
Storms dark eyes flashed angrily as she stuttered, "He's o .. only silent cause you b .. bully hi .. him!"
The palomino curled her lip. "You're one to talk .."
The bay colt laughed rudely, "She can't! What's the good of a horse who can't talk? I bet the coyotes will get her in a month!"
A rocky mountain colored filly stepped in. "Now wait a minute Flight! She's seems nice!"
Flight snickered. "Yea. Nice coyote food!"
Storm refused the tears the tried to well up in her eyes. She wanted to kick that mean colt, to bite him, to hurt him, but she knew she couldn't.
The palomino filly tossed her head. "Come on Flight, she's so dumb she's not worth talking to"
As the unsavory pair walked off, a leopard spotted appaloosa colt nickered, "Sorry about Amber and Flight. I'm Spots."
Storm raised an eye brow. "Spots?"
"Don't I look like it?" He laughed jokingly.
Storm could tell she would like Spots. "Y .. you do. I'm Storm."
The filly that had stood up for her whinnied, "I'm Eclipse. We don't mind you, even if Amber and Flight are stupid."
An older horse had approached them. He was fairly young, and his sleek black coat rippled while he walked. He was a massive stallion, who looked like he had draft blood in his veins. He dipped his head. "Welcome Storm. I hear from Icewind you plan to stay with us."
Storm shrugged. "I guess."
The horses brown eyes were friendly. "I'm Panther, second in command of the Canyon Dwellers."
As the day wore on, Storm met the rest of her new herd. In addition to Icewind and Featherwisp, there was Brushfire, a battle scared chestnut lead mare, and Hawkseye the young bay healer. Among the fighters, there was Dream, a beautiful creamello, Coyote, a dingy brown stallion, Aurora, a rose roan mare, Sand, a palomino male, and Star, an albino mare, as well as many others. All of them struck Storm as OK, well almost all. When she had been introduced to Sand, the stallion had been polite, but it was a forced acceptance. The horses smile hadn't matched his eyes. There was something wrong with Sand, Storm could feel it. She couldn't say exactly what, but there was definitely something wrong with Sand.
Chapter 7 Something's Wrong ..Edit
Panther hurried down the north path, which was no more then a twisting trail high on the canyon wall. Icewind had ordered him to check the boundaries that morning, and Panther was not one to argue his leaders words. He didn't like the north path however, for it was rocky and unsafe. Even now his hooves sent bits of shale clattering down into the canyon.
"Panther you coyote brain! You should have stuck to the bottom and not taken this dumb shortcut!" He told himself, completely unaware that by choosing to take this unstable trail, he was playing directly into evils hooves ...
Icewind was enjoying a hearty breakfast, when Sand came running up.
"Icewind! I caught the scent of a lone horse by the north wall!"
Icewind was instantly on alert, for Featherwisp's warning was weighing heavily on his mind. He called Brushfire to him and murmured a few things in her ear, before turning to Sand. "I'll come with you."
Sand and Icewind had made it to the north wall, and now they were searching for the scent Sand had claimed to have found. Icewind was a little cross as he watched Sand sniffing the air.
"Where is it?"
Sand looked sheepish. "I can't quite remember, I was in such a hurry to tell you."
He brightened. "I know! You go that way, and I'll go this way. But remember, it was close to the wall."
Panther was plodding along steadily, when a noise came from behind him. It was a rumbling, sickening sound, which started out small and grew into a crescendo. Panther skidded to a halt, spinning around and staring down into the canyon, to see a rock fall. The black horse bit his lip. Had he started it?
Sirocco and his sister, Eclipse, were taking Storm on a tour of the canyon. Storm was beginning to enjoy the company of other horses now that she had experienced it, and she noticed that her stutter was already fading. She was pleased with this, for she figured the sooner she acclimated to herd life, the better. Despite the enjoyable day, Storms mind was still on Featherwisp's warning, and her words,
"My voices tell me much young one, for the great stallion himself whispers in my ear.." Did the great stallion actually speak to Featherwisp? Storm had heard of such things but ...
Suddenly her reverie was broken by Siroccos nervous whinny.
"Did you hear that?"
Storm couldn't say she had, for she had not been paying attention, but Eclipse answered,
"I did. It sounds like a .."
Sirocco interrupted, "A rock fall!"
Now Storm heard it too. It was a rumbling, clattering, frightening noise. Suddenly Storm felt great fear wash over her, like a torrent of icy water, and her instincts screamed for her to run, but she would not.
"S..Someth .. thing's wrong!" Her terror made her stutter worse.
Sirocco looked surprised "How do you know?"
Storm took a step back. "I .. I d .. don't know h . how, b .. but some .. thing's w .. wrong!
Chapter 8 NightmareEdit
Eclipse wheeled around. "That's enough for me Storm. Hurry, we've got to help!"
The three young horses galloped toward the North wall, dreading what they would find. When they reached the rock face, Sirocco neighed, "Be careful. These rock falls are dangerous."
Suddenly his ears pricked up. "I hear something! It sounds like a horse .."
Storm brushed past him toward the noise. As they got closer, Storm could tell it was not a cry of fear, or anger, but grief. Sand was standing over of pile of rocks, his head thrown back in anguished mourning.
"What happened?" Eclipse gasped.
Sand looked at them, eyes filled with sadness. "It's Icewind! The rock fall killed Icewind!"
The arrival of Panther broke the conversation. The black horse leapt from rock to rock like a mountain goat. he landed beside them, instantly discerning what had happened, and lifting up his voice in a strangled cry.
For a moment, no horse moved. Then Sand looked up with fire in his eyes
He pinned his ears at Panther. "Murderer! You killed Icewind!"
Panther open his mouth to defend himself, but Sand was quicker. "And not only that, you did it in cold blood so you could steel the leadership! Murderer!"
Panther tried to speak, but Sand wouldn't give him half a chance. "Traitor!"
Sirocco interrupted "Sand, you know the law. He must be tried. You can't go hurling accusations at him until he at least has a fair trial!"
Sand bared his teeth. "Very well young whelp. He will have a trial, but you know that blood means blood. If what I say is true, Panther will pay the price!"
When they reached the herd, Brushfire was shocked, and very upset. The old sorrel mare was taken aback by Sands accusation, and would not believe it at all, for Panther was her child, and his father was Icewind. Sands demand for a trial, however, she backed instantly, hinting it would go bad with him. Sand angrily snorted,
"Well if I'm right, Panther will die, and you can't protect him."
Brushfire looked furious, but her voice betrayed nothing. "Very well, I'll give him a fair trial, and we'll see who turns out to be a liar."
Sand couldn't hide his surprise. "YOU'LL try him??"
Brushfire held her head high. "Of course. If you wonder why me and not you, it's because Icewind had the sense to leave me in charge until he returned. As I see it, he's not here, so therefor I shall conduct all legal business. Do you have a problem with that, Sand?" She snorted, emphasizing the name Sand.
The palomino shook his head, but Storm noticed he looked rather crestfallen for a moment, before brightening up again.
Chapter 10 The TrialEdit
The entire herd gathered around Brushfire as she leapt onto a flat rock, calling them together. The battle scared mares voice was steady, despite the loss of her mate.
"Listen all of you, I have bad news. Icewind is presumed dead, killed by a rock slide. Sand has a accusation to level against Panther in this affair. Speak your mind horse."
Sand snorted. "Simply this. Panther purposely started the rock fall!"
Outraged cries erupted from the assembly, for Panther was well liked.
Brushfire shook her mane. "Enough! Peace all of you! Sand, can you prove what you have just said?"
The palomino curled his lip. "What is there to prove? Panther was on the north path when Icewind was under it! He did it on purpose!"
Brushfire flicked her ears back. "And why may I ask, was Icewind by the north wall? It was because you, Sand, took him there."
Sand looked mortified. "I only wanted him to check a scent!"
Panther spoke up. "I was doing what Icewind told me to do, check for intruders!"
Sand leapt on this instantly. "Why were you on that unstable trail? Why didn't you go the other way?"
At this, Panther hung his head. "I wanted to save time. I shouldn't have been so lazy."
Sand snorted. "How do you know you didn't start the rock fall by accident?"
At this, the herd fell silent. Something screamed in the back of Storms mind,
'No Panther didn't do it!'
But how could she prove what she felt? And why would anyone listen?
Brushfire had a horrified look one her face. "Panther, what have you done?"
Star whickered quietly, "Sand has a point."
Coyote, Panthers fast friend from childhood was staring at him with a look between fear and pity. Dream gasped out a strangled sob and turned away, not wanting to see her mates demise. Sirocco and Eclipse watched their father in terrified silence, refusing to believe Sands accusation. Featherwisp watched silently, great fear in her countenance.
For a few minutes, the herd was silent, but then Brushfire spoke in a cold, grief filled voice.
"Do you deny this Panther."
The black horse shook his head, half stupefied by the realization of what he had done.
"Does anyone deny it?"
No one spoke. Storm wanted to, but seemed as though she was choking on her words.
Brushfires gaze was clouded by sorrow. "This horse will not die, for what he did was an accident. However he will be banished from this canyon forever, and his name will never be spoken again."
She turned to Sand. "Sand you will be our next leader. Featherwisp will tell you what your new name is according to the great stallion."
She turned back to Panther. "As for this horse, Coyote, Aurora, escort him from our land. Henceforth, he is no longer my son."
Brushfire whirled away, tears pricking her eyes, as Aurora and Coyote reluctantly did her bidding.
Chapter 11 Speaking Your MindEdit
The next day, Sand became Sandstone, leader of the Canyon Dwellers. The herd mourned Icewind for three days. all of this time, Storm felt like she was a traitor to Sirocco and Eclipse for letting their father be banished without so much as a word. But oh, how could she have interrupted Sandstone, telling him Panther was innocent just because that was what she felt? No one would have believed her, and they would have thrown her out next! It wasn't fair, and now she didn't even want to look at her best friends because of how guilty she felt. She could tell they were angry with her, but she couldn't bring herself to talk to them, to face the guilt. She became more and more depressed and secluded, but she was afraid. Deep down, she knew, she had lied. She had lied by just keeping quiet. However something would happen to bring all this to an end ...
Storm was grazing by herself on the fourth day since Icewinds death, when Star approached her. Storm had never cared for the albino very much, what with her quiet, honey-sweet voice and her soft yet unsettling gaze. She would have escaped, but Star was quicker.
"Sandstone wants to talk with you Storm."
Storms stutter had gotten considerably worse since she had become so secluded. "A .. All righ .. t, I'll c .. come."
Star wheeled around. "Follow me."
Star led Storm to the flat rock Brushfire had tried Panther at just four days ago. Sandstone stood atop it, and the herd was gathered around him. Storm began to feel nervous as she approached, because of the way everyone was staring at her.
Sandstones voice was hard "Thank you Star."
He turned his gaze to Storm. "Do you know why I've called for you?"
Storm tried to say "No sir, I don't", but it came out as "N .. no si .. sir I d .. don't."
Sandstone looked superior. "I have decided that the Canyon Dwellers will not have loners joining it right and left. You will be escorted from our land."
Storm stared at him. "What?!?"
Sandstone was emotionless. "You are being banished."
Suddenly all of the things Storm had been afraid of vanished. All the guilt, fear, and sadness she had been controlled by for the past four days morphed into one thing. Anger. She pinned her ears, and amazingly, her stutter dissipated slightly.
"You lied a .. about Panther. He didn't start that rock fall, I know it!"
Fear flashed in Sandstones eyes for a fraction of a second before he ordered, "Star, Flight, get her out of here now!"
Chapter 12 Now What?Edit
Star and Flight drove Storm toward the south wall. Flight was gloating all the way, and Star did nothing to stop him.
"I'm glad you won't be an eyesore in the herd anymore, but I'm sad I won't get to see the coyotes eat you! Ha, maybe your to ugly for coyotes to want you! Then you'll wander around til you die, and the vultures'll eat you. They aren't to picky! HaHaHa!"
He leapt back as Storm snapped at him, coming close to biting his ear.
"Ahhh! She's vicious!"
Storm stuck her tongue out at him. "Coward! letting a filly get the better of you! Come on and fight you overgrown foal!"
Flight lunged at Storm, but all he succeeded in accomplishing was letting her give him a lovely rip under his eye. He screamed and groveled as Star intervened by giving Storm a hefty kick in the shoulder.
"Quit that you little wench! get moving!"
Storm glared at Flight through squinted eyes as she silently bore the pain of Stars punishment. Flight sounded half-hearted.
"Yea shift yourself Coyote Food."
It took considerable work on their part, but Star and Flight managed to get Storm to the canyon rim and drive her away.
Storm wandered away from the canyon, limping slightly from Stars kick. Now what should she do? She had found a herd, and been thrown out because of her ancestry. It wasn't fair! Why did she have to have her stupid stutter? Her mood was as dark as the menacing clouds that filled the sky. What was her purpose in life? Why had she even been born? The rumble of thunder in the heavens brought Storm to reality. She whispered,
"The great stallion runs across the sky, and we hear his hoof beats, the thunder."
Storm stamped a hoof. "Why? Why did you let this happen to me? Mother said you'd never leave me! Where are you?"
Her angry cry changed into a half sob. "Don't you care?"
Something was gnawing in the back of Storms mind. It wasn't a nice thought, but it was there all the same, tempting her.
"Are you even real?"
Dusk fell early that night, for the clouds blotted out the sun, much like the battle in Storms heart blotted out her hope. She took shelter at the base of a mesa which was very jagged and foreboding, it's sharp spires scratching the sky. The filly lay down wearily in a large cave in it's foot, not listening or searching for danger. She was past caring. She stared blankly at the sheets of rain that pounded against her shelters entrance, never starting at the flashes of lightning, never flicking her ears back at the rolls of thunder. It didn't matter anymore. Nothing mattered anymore.
Chapter 13 True FriendsEdit
Old Scratch was a mighty hunter in his day, but now he was old, to old to catch much. He was a lean, battle scarred cougar with one eye sealed shut from an ancient injury. Scratch had not had a pleasing hunt that day, and now he was hungry, very hungry. He was also wet through from the storm, and so being was not in the best of humors. He slunk into his cave to sense the presence of another creature. A horse. Scratch licked his chops in anticipation. For once in like what seemed forever, he would eat well.
Storm came awake slowly to realize she was not alone. A dark shape stood silhouetted in the caves mouth, it's scrawny form visible only by a brilliant flash of lightning. She struggled to her feet. The filly had only ever seen that kind of animal once before, and the memory flashed in her mind as vivid and real as if it was still happening. The unearthly screech of a predator, her mothers scream of agony as it's claws tore into her back. Storm shuddered. This creature was underfed and ancient, but it was still unmistakably a cougar.
Storm readied herself to fight, and fight hard. While she could easily best a irritating bully like Flight, she was not adept to battle a starving cougar. The creature moved with speed and silence she hadn't thought possible. One moment he was standing in the cave entrance, and the next, he was gone. While she was still trying to pinpoint her enemy's location, she felt the terrible, sickening weight drop onto her back and dig it's needle-sharp claws in.
Storm bucked crazily, twisting and writhing, trying to rid herself of the heavy, frightening weight on her back, to no avail. Those terrible claws dug in deeper, and the next second the teeth would sink into the back of her neck ... but that second never came.
The furious scream of a horse blasted from the blackness, accompanied by the sickening thud of hoof striking muscle. The cougar was catapulted from Storms back, and made a gasping noise as it slammed against the cave wall. There was a strangled screech from the large cat as a set of powerful, unshod hooves trampled it to death. Storm regained her breath as a flash of lighting illuminated the cave to reveal Sirocco staring at her with concern, and Eclipse, standing over the mangled body of the cougar.
Storm whinnied, partly to convince Sirocco, and partly to convince herself.
Siroccos voice was worried. "Are you sure? Your back is all bloody!"
Storm realized she could feel the sticky wetness spread out from her wounds. She sank to the ground with a sigh. "Yes, I'm fine. Just let me rest."
Eclipse and Sirocco settled themselves beside her as she murmured. "I'm really sorry about how stupid I was."
Eclipse nuzzled Storms neck. "It's okay, I forgive you, and Sirocco does too. It was his idea to come looking for you .. hey!"
Sirocco slapped his tail in his sisters face.
Storm was to exhausted for this statement to register fully in her mind. "Oh, well that's nice ..." Her voice faded into nothing as she fell asleep.
Chapter 14 A Little Unexpected HelpEdit
Storm came to reality slowly, as the morning sun broke through the caves mouth. She blinked her eyes open and tried to stand up, but gasped in pain.
Sirocco awoke instantly. "what's wrong?"
Storm jostled Eclipse as she groaned. "Oh my back! It's on fire!"
She looked franticly at Eclipse. "It isn't really is it?"
The filly yawned. "No, but the scratches it," (she indicated the dead cougar) "Gave you look pretty nasty."
Storm looked frightened, for to a horse, the fear of a quick death is much less then being immobile. "I .. I can't m .. move like this! I .. I c .. can't!"
Sirocco was alarmed. "It's okay Storm! We'll get some herbs or something!"
Eclipse gave him a frightened look. "But what herbs? Hawkseye was the one who knew about them!"
Sirocco was worried, but he tried to be brave for Storms benefit. "We'll just have to get along with out him."
"Well said young'un, well said. Not that there's much truth to that statement, but still, trying to make the best of it, that's the ticket."
All three horses stared at the speaker. He was short and stocky, with a curly coat, a velvet nose, and the largest, most ridicules looking ears they had ever seen. He might have been the cutest little burro alive if it wasn't for the incredibly glum expression he had plastered on his face.
Sirocco dipped his head. "Good morning."
The burro's ears drooped. "Well I wouldn't call it good. I daresay the suns out at least, but that doesn't mean it won't rain, or snow, or do something as equally disagreeable. Of course if it doesn't, the little lady's scratches here will just fester and ... Well I shouldn't say that, it might dampen your spirits."
Storms spirits were rather damp to begin with, and this did not help.
"Oh w ..why do these th .. things happen t . to me?" She sobbed, miserable.
The burro looked upset with himself. "Now look what I've done, made the little lady cry. That's what comes of being so glum and all. Well dry those tears young'un, what I should have said was that if the scratches do fester, it'll be a lot nicer then if they fester and make you get a fever. And of course after that .. well there I go dampening your spirits again."
Sirocco interrupted the burro. "Look, do you know anything about herbs?"
The creature looked droll "Well I don't know about anything, it all depends on what you need."
Sirocco snapped rather bad temperedly. "Oh come off it! Something to heal our friend!"
"Well I do know something about healing. Not that it would do any good, and my herbs are probably soggy from last nights rain .." The creature murmured to himself.
"Please?" Eclipse begged.
The burro nodded "Anything to help the little lady I suppose. I'll be back, that is if I don't get lost, or eaten, or .." His voice faded away as he left the mouth of the cave.
Chapter 15 For What it's WorthEdit
The three young horses stared after him, puzzled.
"What's up with him?" Eclipse asked.
Her brother shrugged. "I don't know."
Storm winced as she took a peek at her back. "You think he knows how to heal?"
Sirocco was about to say, "We'll find out," when the clop of hooves on stone announced the burro's return. He had a large wad of leaves in his jaws, which he had a hard time talking around.
"Here's somfing for va wittle wady."
He proceeded to chew the leaves up, before plopping them on Storms wounds. Storm could barley hold in the painful gasp she wished to make. The juices stung terribly, but within a few seconds the shooting pain was down to a dull ache, then it was hardly noticeable. However, when she tried to move, fire shot down her back again, and she was forced to stay still.
She managed a weak smile. "It does feel better. Thanks!"
The burro shrugged. "Don't thank me yet. It hasn't really worked, and it might not. Even if it does, it'll probably have some ghastly side affect ... Oh here I go dampening those spirits again."
Eclipse and Sirocco exchanged a glance that meant, 'what else does he do?'
Sirocco dipped his head. "Thank you sir. What is your name?"
The burro looked glummer then usual. "Dusk. But if you forget it, that's okay."
Eclipse raised an eyebrow. "But why would we forget it?"
Dusk shrugged "Most creatures don't care to remember it. In fact most don't care to remember me."
"Well we can see why." Sirocco mumbled unintelligibly, and Eclipse poked him.
Storm sighed. "What am I going to do?"
Sirocco looked surprised. "Rest what else? We'll stay with you until you're better."
"You will?" Storm asked.
Sirocco looked shocked "Of course!"
Eclipse added. "We aren't a part of the Canyon Dwellers anymore."
Storms mouth dropped open "Sandstone d .. drove you out too?"
Eclipse wrinkled her nose. "No we left. I for one don't like or trust that Sand, he lied about our father."
Sirocco snorted. "Right. After they drove you out, things just got worse."
Storm looked confused. "Worse? How so?"
"Well for one thing, Amber and Flight got meaner .. And by the way, the scratch you gave Flight was absolutely lovely." Sirocco whinnied with great admiration in his voice.
Eclipse agreed. "Oh it was gorgeous . simply gorgeous. But that's not all. You see, I started noticing that horses like Coyote, Dream, and Brushfire, they just gave Sand what he wanted."
"Except Featherwisp." Sirocco put in.
"Right. Featherwisp just got all uptight and scared." Eclipse continued.
Storm was getting tired. She yawned. "That must mean something .." her words faded into a gentle snore.
Dusk murmured, "Hush now young'uns, if anything'll help her, it'll be sleep."
Chapter 16 What They LearnedEdit
Storm woke to the gray light of dawn the next day. She carefully hulled herself to her feet, wincing. Her back hurt, but the pain was no longer excruciating. What she did notice however, was Stars kick ached something awful. She limped from the cave seeing Sirocco grazing on the sparse grass nearby. She limped up to him, and he looked surprised.
"The cougar hurt your shoulder?"
Storm shook her head. "UhUh. Star kicked me cause I hurt Flight."
Sirocco was shocked. "Star? But she seems so .. well ..."
"Nice?" Storm asked. "I know. normally she is."
"Hey! You aren't stuttering!" Sirocco exclaimed. Storm looked surprised.
"I'm not? Oh yea, I'm not!"
Eclipse trotted up, all business. "So what do we do?"
Storm looked blank. "Do?"
Eclipse nodded. "Right. Do."
Sirocco stamped a hoof. "We've got to prove Panther's innocent!"
"Yes but how?" Eclipse said drily.
"That .." Sirocco began, "I don't know."
"Is Panther a large black stallion with white streaks in his tail?" Dusk's voice came from behind them.
Eclipse whirled around. "Yes! Have you seen him?"
The burro tore up a mouthful of grass. "I have. Of course, he was headed for the Wastelands, and that was nearly six days ago. I imagine he's dead by now, or at least not in the best condition .."
But Sirocco and Eclipse were not listening to him. The siblings stared at each other, frightened. "The WASTELANDS?!?"
"Oh NO!" Eclipse gasped.
Sirocco looked sick. "Poor father!"
Storm didn't understand. "W .. what are the Wastelands?" Her stutter momentarily returning because she was nervous.
Siroccos eyes were wide. "You don't know?"
"Well I haven't exactly been here very long." Storm snorted irately.
Eclipse looked hesitant. "It's all rumors of course, but they say there is no grass or water there, just sand. And not just any sand. Black, hot sand that will burn the inside of your hooves. It is said that a horrible beast guards the entrance, allowing all in, but none out. However the worst thing is,"
She paused for a minute. "They say Sicarus himself lives there."
Storm felt the hair on the back of her spine stand strait. "The dark stallion?!"
Eclipse nodded. "Right."
Storm shuddered. "W .. well what will we do?"
Sirocco looked determined. "We've got to save father!"
"Before it's to late." Eclipse added.
Storm was worried. "But does anyone know where the Wastelands are?"
Sirocco snorted. "Who doesn't?"
"I for one." Storm said coolly.
Sirocco looked embarrassed. "Oh gosh Storm I'm sorry. I guess I just kind of expect everyone to know these things."
Storm's gaze softened. "It's ok. Where are the Wastelands?"
Eclipse indicated the direction. "That way. You can't see them from here, but believe me they are there."
"Well then, we'd best go." Storm stated. She took one step and faltered as the pain in her shoulder and back stopped her.
Siroccos voice was final. "We aren't going until Storm is ready to travel."
Storm tried to protest, but Eclipse interrupted. "Sirocco's right. We will wait. And while we're at it, we might as well make a plan."
Chapter 17 Back at the HerdEdit
Spots had been very lonely since Storm had been banished and Sirocco and Eclipse deserted. Amber and Flight got worse and worse, making fun of him at every opportunity, calling him Freckle face, a name they knew he despised. Not only that, but they had grown bold enough to give him a nip or kick if he came to close to them, or tried to eat 'their' grass. At the same moment Storm, Eclipse, and Sirocco were discussing what to do about Panther, Spots was wandering around the outskirts of the herd lonely and forgotten. He knew that grazing with the full fledged fighters was not an honor trainees had, but he was so hated by his own rank that he was considering breaking the rule.
Spots sidled up to Brushfire, who was despondently staring at the grass in front of her nose, but eating nothing.
"Could I graze with you Brushfire?" He whispered.
The old chestnut stared at him blankly, as if she could not understand his question. Spots was startled by the lead mares appearance. She was reduced to little more then a living skeleton, every rib painfully clear beneath her once glossy coat, which had lost all its luster. Her eyes were dull, void of hope and life, giving her the look of something not dead, yet not alive. She seemed caught between the land of the living and that of the dead, and wanting to be in neither. She nodded once, but Spots wasn't sure she really knew what he asked, or even realized he was there. He pull up a mouth full of grass and chewed it, before murmuring,
"Foods top quality today, don't you want to try some?"
Brushfire didn't respond, and Spots doubted she would. He grazed beside her a while, before leaving so he wouldn't be caught by Sandstone or anyone else.
Spots was deeply disturbed by what he had seen in Brushfires eyes, so he wasn't really paying attention to where he was going. All of a sudden, he heard voices up ahead, low voices. Spots stopped instantly, glad of the large rock in front of him. He quietly slipped toward the noise, hugging the rock tightly as he went. He suddenly stopped, still as a statue, afraid to move or breath, lest he give away his presence.
"So what do we do now?" That was Stars voice!
"We wait. I have a plan, and it will work, but we have to sit on it for now." And that was Sandstone! Spots trembled. Why were Star and Sandstone conversing in secret like this? What plan did they have? What was it for?
Before he could hear anymore however, the hoof falls of a horse made him dart from his hiding place like a startled fawn, only to run slap-bang into Flight. The bay colt snarled.
"What are you up to Freckle face?"
Spots mind worked franticly. "Uh .. I . well .. I just wanted to .. err . find some better grazing."
Flight snickered rudely. "Ha! Better grazing? Well then, I'll just take it, and you can get some more else ware. Get going!"
Normally Spots would have put up a fight, but under the circumstances he was only to glad to get away.
Chapter 18 Spots Gets a JobEdit
Spots hurried away from Flight, not fully comprehending what had just happened. He settled down to graze a little and calm his nerves. The young colt ripped a large bite of grass up and chewed thoughtfully. He shouldn't have jumped from his hiding place, that had been dumb. Sandstone and Star had a plan, so what was wrong with him knowing it? Maybe Sandstone wanted to move the herd to better grazing, something that badly needed done, come to think of it. The grass was short and well picked over, Spots thought as he munched on a dry, flavorless plant with distaste.
He spat, disgusted. That was forage for Desert Runners or Mesa Climbers, not the mighty Canyon Dwellers, how lived off the fat of the land in their well watered canyon.
Spots whirled around to see Dream. "Oh .. uh .. Hi Dream!"
The creamello's eyes were grief filled and dull. "Spots, I have something for you to do."
The leopard appaloosa was instantly on alert. "Really?"
Dream nodded. "Yes. It's really important!"
Spots wiggled, excited. "Oboy! What is it?"
"I want you to follow Sandstone. Can you do that?" Dream asked.
Spots shrugged. "Well .. Yea. But .. err . why?"
Dream thought about it for a minute. "I just think someone should watch him, and you're the perfect one for the job. You're so silent and such a good tracker. It's only for the good of the herd, I promise."
Spots was pleased that the creamello had praised him. "Okay! Do I have to follow him around all the time?"
"No." Dream shook her head. "Only when he leaves the herd."
Spots jumped up and down excited. "This is gonna be great!"
"Look, Spots," Dream interrupted. "Don't tell anyone about this."
"Okay!" Spots whinnied, to elated to care. "And Spots! Whatever happens, make sure Sandstone doesn't see you!" Dream called after him.
"I won't!" Spots neighed back. "I'll be just like a spy!"
Chapter 19 How They Set OffEdit
Storm yawned, slowly coming awake. While it is true that horses nap, and sometimes even sleep standing up, if they are very tired or wounded, they will lay down. Storm heaved herself onto her hooves, realizing that while the pain in her back and shoulder was still there, it was far less then the day before. She nudged Eclipse.
"Wake up sleepy mane. You want to tell me where that brother of yours is?"
The filly hulled herself upright yawning, "Oh I don't know."
They jumped as Siroccos voice came from outside the cave. "I'm right here. Come on and see what I found!"
The fillies followed him out of their shelter. "Look up there!"
Storm stared up the side of the mesa blankly, missing the point. "Uh .. so?"
Sirocco looked exasperated. "The trail! Can't you see it?"
After staring at the jagged rocks for a bit, Storm saw what he meant. A tiny, steep, and twisting path meandered it's way up the mesa.
"Oh that's nice." Eclipse snorted sarcastically. Sirocco rolled his eyes. "Look, we go up there to get our bearings!"
Siroccos common sense kicked in. "Of course!" Storm shouted. "let's go!"
The trail was steeper then it looked, covered in bits of shale, and all in all very dangerous. However, Storm, Sirocco, and Eclipse were determined, and they made it to a lofty precipice that gave a fine view of the herd lands. The earth was spread out before them like a quilt, parts were brown, others green, with an occasional pool of water here and there. Rising from the landscape were mesas, larger and more majestic then the one they stood on. Storm knew none of the places names, but Sirocco and Eclipse did.
"This must be Devils Spires. I should have realized, what with the sharpness of the rocks." Sirocco stated.
Eclipse nodded. "Right, and there's Black Rock Mesa! And Running Horse Arch! And Red Stone Rocks!"
"Oh look behind us!" Storm exclaimed.
"The canyon!" Eclipse gasped.
Sirocco blinked, "Look at how clear the Leaping Fish River looks from here!"
Eclipse smiled. "I can even see the Upper grasslands, where I was born!"
Storm squinted her eyes. "What's that gleaming thing on the flatlands?"
"Crystal Oasis!" Eclipse gasped. "We can see Crystal Oasis from here!"
Sirocco nodded. "Aye, and look what else we can see from here."
The two fillies whirled about to see what had captured their friends attention. Even though no one had ever told Storm what the Wastelands looked like, she instinctively knew them when she saw them. They were nothing more then a black smudge on the horizon, dark and foreboding.
"We have to go there?" Storm asked unhappily.
Sirocco nodded. "Yep."
Eclipse started back down Devils Spires. "We best go, before our nerve fails."
The three friends made it to the ground with nothing worse then a few slip ups. Storm looked at the cave and surrounding property sadly.
"I wish we could say goodbye to Dusk. He helped us a lot."
Eclipse looked wry. "There's no such thing as saying goodbye to Dusk."
Sirocco smiled "Perhaps we'll meet him again someday Storm."
Storm blinked away her tears. "He saved my life. True friends like you guys and him are hard to find."
Sirocco placed a hoof forward "For the Canyon Dwellers."
His companions touched their hooves to his. "For the Canyon Dwellers!"
It was a oath between three friends, three true friends. They were about the walk into the mouth of a dragon, for their herd, for their families, and for each other. They would need every bit of courage and loyalty they possessed, and with the grace of the great stallion, they just might pull through.