The years passed and the filly grew into a mare. She loved to wander through the woods where her Circle lived and occasionally came out of the shelter of the trees to graze on the succulent grasses and flowers that grew in the nearby meadow.
The stallion grew up on the plains. There he would run with the other members of his Circle. For hours they could go without stopping, or so it seemed. There was nothing around them but grasses, nothing above them but sky. It was as if even the wind could not catch them.
But then came a special event, one that didn’t happen very often. The Circles of the Realm came together. It was a time of great festivities and of course a chance for the foals of one Circle to meet with the foals of another. This time five Circles met in late summer, at the base of a mountain range.
There was much to do, and many Serians to meet. The mare met up with some other fillies, and like silly little girls chased butterflies and gathered flowers. The stallions paraded themselves about, engaged in mock battles, and basically tried to show off for the mares. The mares tried to ignore them, but some had to admit, a few of those stallions were mighty handsome. There was some batting of eyelashes and a few giggles and more than one stallion was given an inflated ego.
As the afternoon wore on, the Serians lay in the grasses to rest, insects buzzing lazily about, the sound of an occasional tail swish the only thing to disturb the whisper of the wind over them. The black stallion thought of the bright red mare he had met. Her eyes reflected the blue of the sky and her wings glittered in the sun. She had taken a great interest in him and had not left his side for a moment. Even now he could feel her back against his. Yes, she was beautiful and lovely…she was also making his back sweat. It was too hot for such close company. He fluttered his own little wings to help cool himself down. The mare sighed happily. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad, he thought, starting a Circle with her.
The silver mare lay nearby, a little disappointed. Many of the stallions here were nice enough, but she just wasn’t looking for one who liked to fight or show off. She wanted someone more…she just didn’t even know what she wanted. She was just sure she would know him when she saw him.
She was the first to feel the first droplet of rain. Though the sky had been clear up till now, hidden in the mountains had been the clouds, lying in wait. She flicked the droplet off her ear and looked up at the darkening skies.
Now more and more Serians were roused by the cool rains. At first it was fun, an afternoon shower to chase away the sweltering humidity. But the gentle afternoon rain began to take a more malicious turn. The clouds went from light grey to a deepening black. The raindrops grew colder, and icy, and the winds grew chill. The soft drizzle became a downpour and thunder rumbled in the heart of the mountains. The Serians stopped their playful laughter and gathered together in their Circle groups or with their newfound friends.
The black stallion was to discover that the red mare was scared of thunder. He was used to it having lived on the plains, racing away from the lightning that always threatened to strike. He’d even felt the crackling in the air as one bolt had hit far to close for comfort. He did not fear the storms, but he had great respect for them. The mare trembled at his side, and as hard as he tried to get her to return to her Circle, she refused. She refused to move at all. Even as the other Serians were moving away from the clearing to find shelter, the mare remained rooted to the ground. Try as he might, the stallion could not coax her to come with him, and he simply could not leave her standing there alone.
The silver mare was with a group of her childhood friends. She didn’t care much for the rain driving against her face though. In her forest home she’d been protected from that kind of onslaught. As her little band was about to disappear into the shelter of a cave, she noticed the two forms still out on the field, one red, one black. She wondered why they were still out there when everyone else was here.
The stallion decided that if he had to, he’d carry foolish female all the way. So he knelt down on his knees and tried to wiggle underneath her. That’s when the mountains began to rumble. He felt the vibrations through the ground more than heard the sound. The sound was so deep, it sounded like a monster was trying to rouse itself from an very long sleep.
He only had time to throw the mare to safety when the water struck. For days water had been collecting high in the mountains, blocked by a natural dam. But as the rains fell, the pressure had increased till at last the obstacle gave way and the water came down in a torrent. The red filly galloped towards the cave but the stallion didn’t have time to get to his feet. There was water rushing all around him, over him. Soon he was being tossed about in the raging current.
The silver mare watched in horror as the black shape out on the field was swept away by the water. One moment it was just rain, the next, a hungry river. Without a thought she galloped forward, passing the terrified red mare running the other way. Had she paused to think, she might have run back with her, but something pushed her forwards.
And she ran as she never had before.
She could not see for the rain. Could not hear for the flood. The ground slipped and slid beneath her hooves as the waters turned it to mud. Somewhere there was that poor stallion who had been washed away, she hoped and prayed that he was still alive, that she would not find his broken body upon the rocks.
A voice…yes, she was sure of it now. It was faint, but it was a voice. She stopped, sides heaving, her breath coming out as mist. She stared into the angry river and tried to find the voice that called to her. The rain still stung her eyes, leaving her nearly blind, but finally she found him. He had indeed washed up against a large boulder, and though it had saved his life by stopping his wild ride, it was also slowly killing him, as the water crushed his body and the stone held his head barely above the surface. Should the water rise even a little, he’d surely drown.
Now what could she do? She didn’t have wings to fly over to him, no fins to brave the water, no anything that could be of any use. She’d always felt somewhat less compared to those others, the uniques, the rogues, the warriors. She was just a simple silvery grey, no fancy tails or horns, or anything. And now she was helpless.
But she could do something the stallion could not. She could see ahead. If she could free him from the current boulder, there was another, not that far away, that would stop them from being swept out of control. They could pause there a moment before letting the waters take them to the next and then another. There she could see a ledge they could climb onto and be safe.
Gritting her teeth, she leapt into the icy waters. Swimming across the river, she allowed it to bring her downstream. As she neared the rock she stared in horror at how fast she was moving. Bracing herself with all four hooves she struck it hard. Fearing she had broken all four legs, she struggled for a grip. The stallion watched her, his eyes wild with fear. She supposed her eyes must be as wild and white as his.
She tried to explain her plan to him, but there wasn’t time. She was slipping and was going to be washed away on the wrong side of the stone. She managed to wiggle across the stallion, and gripping the back of his neck in her teeth, kicked off.
They swirled and were sucked under and over. With a painful thump, they bumped up against the second rock. The mare wasn’t sure they would make it, she must have been insane. But it was too late now. Before she had time to chicken out, she pulled them both back into the current and to the third rock.
Exhausted and struggling for air, they stared up at the ledge. It seemed much higher up than when she had seen if from solid ground. The stallion was barely able to move, and though her body ached, she helped him up. With what little strength remained in him, he pulled as she struggled to safety as well.
It was the next morning when the others found them. The waters had receded and nothing but a trickle remained. They had cuts and bruises, and the stallion had a couple of broken ribs, but surprisingly they were otherwise unharmed. The other crowded around the miraculous survivors, some calling to give them space, others to get healers, and finally those that wanted to get close and to know what it was like. As the two of them were being pushed further and further apart, the mare called out to the stallion, “Your name…what is your name?”
“Lore,” came the reply. “And yours?”
The old mare looked up at the foals who had been so captivated by her tale. All but one. “That’s just a story, I’ve heard it before. They become mates, never really joining a Circle, go off on their own, living happily ever after and no one ever hears from them again.”
The old mare tilted her head to one side. “Silly young thing. In every myth there is always a core of truth.” With a grunt, she raised her dull red-coated body. Her wings may not glitter the way they once had, but her eyes still reflected the blue of the sky.