Travellers from the planes. Book one in a tales of a Herd. Ark of Hoof Prints Hoof Prints- Travelers From the Plain. Horses‘ hoof prints are driven from the grass plains, by the storms and flames of fire. The Blue Mountains are where herds of horses have from the beginning of time sheltered from the seasons‘ storms. The horses have to leave without finding many other who have survived the storms.She-With-The-Sight and her cruel owl try to hold the survivors from the great herds to feed to their shrouded needs.
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To Uwe, who made it all possible.
“The planes were made by the large ones; they grassed on the trees and bushes, and their weight made the waterholes. The trees moved back to accommodate them and Earth Mother sowed seed in the place of the trees, making the planes green for our herd’s to gallop over. The winds blew, the sun climbed high till the green grass turned golden; the herds set hoof on the trails to the Blue Hills for the Gather, before the grass becomes dust.
Sage’s white coat told the foals he was very old. They did not know as a herd father his hooves had rang over the plans. The herd’s mares said he should have been taken by the wolves long ago, but they were glad to have someone who would tell the youngsters the old tales so they could gossip and graze without their youngsters asking questions.
Bounder always enjoyed the old tales; he had been three times to the Blue Hills and all ready knew the rain and the sun lead the heard back to the wide plan again; as Sage was explaining. None of the foals showed signs of dozing in the warm sun as Bounder did his muzzle rested on the ground and the smell of clover made him feel sleepy as the sun warmed his back; he had got rid of that fly with a practised swish of his tail.
“It is said the Large Ones were also in the Blue Hills…. I have seen Large Ones hoof prints many times bigger than a full grown herd farther.” Sage paused as he revelled in the bright eyes of the foals flowing to his every wicker.
Herd Mothers usually learnt the ways from their herd mares. Herd Fathers had to have speed and stamina before they could learn to keep a herd. But a Teller had to have long ears! Bounder was trying to be discreet Sage could see him thought the long grass. It was time to take young Bounder under his hoof. Tellers were rare, and if young Bounder was ever to take challenge Herd Father and lose He would be sent away. Either way, Bounder must learn the Tellers tales. Sage knew the wolves would one day get him as the aunts said, but he still could gallop with the wind, when he had a mind to!
This would be as good a time as any to start instruct Bounder. The foals started as they heard the herd mother’s whinny. Sage encouraged them to get up and return to their mares, their mares’ milk was waiting.
The Herd Mother’s filly rust coloured coat matched hers, that filly would be a herd mother; you could see it in the way she moved to her dam.
“Some things you have to learn.” Sage said to Bounder: “And some things you just are.” Bounder had also been watching the foals return to their mares, he started a little to hear Sage speak directly to him. It was Sage’s way to talk to everyone not to someone!
“Before your third trip to the Blue Hills, you were between ages, to old to play foals and not flash enough to take on those trying to play at being a herd father, outside of the main Herd Mother’s group games can get a bit tuff.”
Bounder stood up, kept his head low to show Sage respect as he moved out from behind the long grass he thought he was hiding behind! Sage nodded to Bounder to take a sandy place warmed by the afternoon sun.
“The flies are not so irritating at this time of the sun.”
Sage nicked as he stretched his legs and lay back into his grass covered sandy bank, his eyes closed. Bounder thought Sage slept as he did not move as a white healing bird landed on his flank; she started to take out those bugs that made a good rub or roll a must!
The healing bird eyed Bounder before she said:
“He and I have all ways got on, as my egg warmer before me; I have always known when he needs to snooze.” Her head was tilted on one side as she looked up and down Sage’s flank.
“He is getting to thin, tell him to eat more seeding grass, My friends call me Elf; of all the four hooves I keep my eye on I have a soft spot for him.”
“I do not think I can tell him anything.” Bounder blinked.
“He has chosen you.”
“How do you know that?”
“Well!” said Elf, “I was hatched and you were born. Wing over hoof and I was there when you were born!” She hopped along to Sage’s withers and be became very interested in the roots of his mane. Bounder half snoozing half watching as Elf took care of Sage’s coat.
Sage shook his head, his mane waved Elf over backwards! She sat up between Bounder and Sage hooves, after quickly smoothing down of her feathers she became very interested in Bounders fetlocks.
“Why do we not see the Large Ones any more?” asked Bounder not really knowing who the Large One were.
“No horse really knows anymore, they were lost with the trees, my Dame told me about.”
“Trees what are trees?”
“Trees are like tall grass that brushed the skies, spreading cool shadows to snooze in. Mother Earth did not put them back on the planes; maybe she does not want to see them again? My Dame did not know, I was always asking, I feel, I feel we need to know.”
Sage’s eyes seemed to be looking at something far away or long ago: “We need to know...”
“Know what?” Bounder interrupted Sage’s thoughts.
“Why they did not come back!”
The air was bussing with flies; one was a trying to land on Bounder’s muzzle he blew it away as Sage turned his head to look at Bounder:
“If they did not return, whatever happened to them could happen we to us; there would be no more hooves on the plane”
“No more hooves on the plane!” Bounder thought he could not begin to think what that meant; he could only half under stand what Sage was trying to tell him.
“But there have always been horses on the plane, we have always gone to the Blue Hills Gathering and returned again. Herd farther said so. The sun is always kind to the planes when the winds have blown the rain away.” Bounder stuttered.
“My youngster I feel we need to know why the trees did not return, why the large ones did not come back. I have been keeping my eyes open for many suns, watching for little signs that could tell me something, why we follow the ways; we use the waterholes, grazes on the grass in the Blue Hills!
I have stood on the Blue Hills watched the thunder and lightning roll over the planes, seen the clouds drifting before the sun. But, I do not understand the shadows! Bounder it is time for me to put those ideas in to a new head, before the Black Stallion comes for me. I need to tell you how to look out at the plane, use your muzzle, eyes and ears; maybe the Earth Mother will show you what she has not shown me.
Take what you see and tell the old tales, and the new ones to those that will hear you. Remember tales are important, they are not just to give the mares a break from playful foals!”
No one had ever spoken to him like that, as everyone said he was between ages too young to understand and two old to play games. Sage was talking to him as if they were equals! If the herd must know was up to him!?
Elf broke the silence by pecking Sage smartly on his pastern:
“Time to do some grazing.” she chirped. “Before the sun goes down!”
“Silly old bird you have become very bossy!” He moved his fore legs to push himself up before Elf could peck affectingly on his quarters; Elf squawked at Sage for swishing his tail at her.
Sage and Bounder started to move nearer to Herd Mother and the mares with their foals, others could be seen moving towards the herd centre. Last seasons foals were coming in a cloud of dust, as they tried to catch up the two suns and three suns heading towards the waterhole.
Herd Mother and the mares with suckling foals watched the returning members of her herd. She sensed Herd father was near, his bright brown flanks trimmed with his thick black main and tail could be seen standing on a noel of grass, tasting the breezes as he watched over the herd evening grouping. He was glad to see the four and five suns were not annoying the mares with foals, it always made for squabbles.
Herd Father always found it sad to send away the young he had sired; there could only be one herd father. He had not sent Sage away as Sage was a Teller and had been a good herd father when he had had all his strength and speed. Tellers are rare and not a threat to the blood in the new foals, he wanted his blood roaming the plan for many suns to come.
Bounder left Sage and Elf chatting to one of the mares, they were discussing how good this sun’s foals were, and exchanging feeding tips as Bounder trotted over to his suns group playing in the waterhole.
White Mane would make a fine mare when she was full grown, her red coat made her mane and tail look whiter and her large bright eyes had away that made her easy to talk too.
She was playing with Sugar Cane in the shallow water.
Sugar Cane was called Sugar Cane, because she enjoyed eating it, if it was to be found, she was the one to find it! Her name was not to do with her pale sugar coat and dark mane and tail, her forelock fell over one eye in a thick wave and she had a dark strip running down her back.
Bounder watched Grass Runner as he tried to box with Willow; Willow was not interested in a boxing match on his hind legs, he would have preferred to eat watercress than dance around with Grass Runner told:
“Get them up!” Grass Runner’s dark earth colour coat disappeared into the darkness of the falling evening, leaving his pale muzzle hopping over Willow like a Healing bird!
Willow’s coat was like a patch of soft sand that some bird had spat seeds over. Willow was the one you could really talk too, were as Grass Runner is good to gallop about with.
You could play with any of the young suns but if you wanted friends Bounder preferred Grass Runner, Willow and White Mane and Sugar Cane.
“I was looking for you, I felt like a gallop, but I could not find you Bounder.” said Grass Runner.
“He was with Sage.” Broke in Sugar Cane as she brushed up next to Bounder:
“He is always listening to Sage’s old stories.” she added, as she nipped at Grass Runner’s rump, he squealed and tied to nip her back. Her winning laugh set the old mares grumbling, Herd Mother looked up with disapproval towards their group.
Sugar Cane lowered her head as she tried out of hide behind Willow ever though he was smaller than she was. The mares’ ears were alert; behind their expressions of disapproval they enjoyed the evening gathering of the herd and the games of the young ones played.
“We have set their ears waggling.” said Willow softly to Sugar Cane. “You would think they had never been young!
The evening had turned into a shadowy moon light night, with clouds drifting across its face as the herd had settled down to graze with foals sleeping near their mares.
Old horses kept an eye on the last season’s suns and the last suns looked after the older horses, the best way to keep an eye on both parties. Elf had said.
Mares and the older horses speculated as to which of the troublesome four and five suns would stay with the herd when they return from the Blue Hills, would they join another herds? It was agreed when the young fillies moved away it was sad; there could be too many colts running around. For herd leaders it must be trying having to keep a hoof on those young bucks.
The night breezes filled the muzzles of the herd, it would not be long before the herd leaders would be moving the herd towards the Blue Hills Gathering. All the foals were thankfully strong this season. The Healing birds had reported everyone was in good health and that Sage would make the trip with a little luck.
Herd Mother had seen Sage’s friendship with young Bounder strengthen. She knew the herd would have a new teller. She was not sure if the all the stories were true, even if her dame had said so. Old stories should not be forgotten. Her dame had also said you did not know when you would need them.
It must have been the next half moon when Herd Mother got the healing birds to tall everyone, they would be would starting to move towards the Blue Hills, in the cool of the next sunrise, everyone was pleased as grass and herbs here were drying out around them. Even the stinging nettles that had been sun dried were getting scares; the season was showing signs of changing as the healing birds pointed out. The mares and older horses always seemed to need a supply ready for use, when they had over indulged!
Elf was circling with a group of Healing birds before she landed by Bounders hoof, she inspected a Dandelion leaf before she flapped up on to Bounders withers.
Elf was twittering about the young healing birds:
“Egg heads!” she was twittering: “Have they taken in, what they what they have to look out for? No! It is who can fly the highest! They have forgotten their assignments it is the same every turn of the sun! But, when I see your egg-lings weaving about the air ways; I cannot keep a dry eye. Don’t you let on I am proud of them, will you? They only try to go higher! One egg head went up into the path of a hawk, only feathers came down!
Sage is going to tell the foals the travelling story. Bounder’s ears waved forwards, he had heard the story many times but he enjoyed his time with Sage, even if his friends thought it was a little strange.
Willow interrupted Elf and Bounder:
“I too, will be delighted to come.” said Willow as he finished trotting a circle around them both before standing close to Bounder, to take a closer look at Elf grooming Bounders mane.
“Did you have to learn that or are you born with it?” He asked, “Can you lean in the egg? Or do you have to wait till the egg shell brakes?”
Elf was used to youngsters questions, looked at him with her head on one side. Willow was she felt not making fun of her when he asked questions. Young suns usually had pollen in their heads! They were more likely to snap at you, before whining their heads off with mirth and all of that before you could chirp.
“Sage has chosen the sandy bank for his travelling story.” said Martel, as she swooped past on her way to tell the others.
Martel swooped back missed judged the height of Willow’s withers and nosed dived into a patch of cores grass, She hopped out laughing and scolding Willow:
“You have not grown much this sun; we will have to look into your grazing needs, the Blue Hill’s wild rhubarb leaves are good for growing bones.
That grumpy mare fretted her milk was sour, I had to stay up with her all night, and now she is sure she has colic!” That started a dissection between Elf and Martel that got louder.
Bounder waited for Elf to slide down his mane to hop over to Martel, then he and Willow slipped away to drink before going to take their places for Sage’s the travelling tales.
Sage, he had decided to stand on the sandy bank to give more importance to his tale; He raised his head in greeting to Bounder and eyed Willow as they joined the increasing group.
Sage cleared his throat with a gruff whinny that made the foals start, when he stamped his hoof they were all ears.
“Herd Leaders have decided to start the move towards the Blue Hills when the sun comes up.” While Sage spoke no foal moved it was as if they were holding their breath as he explained how they would be taking the old trails made for them by the Large Ones. The foals were told to stay by their mares, if you loos her keep still, hide in long grass and wait for a healing bird to find you!” Sage did not tell them there was not much hope for them if they be came separated from the herd. There were some things better not to tell the youngsters.
“The plane has kept all the creatures supplied with their needs till the sun starts turning the grass to dust. Wolf’s easy meals are going underground, so they will be looking for other food, they will think of wild horse meat” Sage asked:
“In a group we are strong, with the warning of ‘Wolf,’ move together and as the head’s speed increases keep with your mare, do not look back, keep straight, do not try to dodge to one side or your will get into someone’s path.
We have been going to the Blue Hills Gathering and back to the planes for many turns of the sun. For you foal’s it is your first trip. There will be new ground for you to see; you will see a river…”
“What is a river?” asked an interested foal.
“Water that runs over the earth is like a blade of grass in the sand, only much, much, much bigger and we have to across it to get to the Blue Hills.”
“Oh!” said the foal, whose only understanding of water was the warm waterhole he drank and played in.
Willow nicked sideways to Bounder this was not so much a story but ‘a foals guide to travelling’! He would have said more but he saw Sage looking at him from under his forelock; Willow decided it was better to keep quite.
Tossing his forelock from his eyes Sage told the youngsters, there would be rocks so tall that the sky had to move far away to make room for the standing stones. Then he told them of the green sweet grass they would find on the Blue Hills:
“When you get there you will be able to see over the plane we have travelled over...”
“See like a bird!” chirped in a young healing bird, a bit out of tune for Sage’s liking.
Bounder could almost see the scene in his head.
“What will we do then?” asked a foal finding the talk a bit too long for her to stay still.
“Meet herds from all over the planes.” Sage told the inquisitive foal. The idea of meeting other herds existed everyone! It saddened Sage to think another season was coming to an end.
It was some time before the foals settled down again; every horse seemed to be enjoying the muddle up, even the mares and older horses joined in looking for foals in the long grass and the dust they raised. Healing birds were swooping in and out trying to get foals back to their mares.
Willow had said Sage’s travelling tales was a list of does and don’ts, the fun was when the foals got exercised; it remained everyone of when they were small!
Bounder was surprised see Sage laughing as Elf and Martel landed in the long grass, they were grumbling at the commotion and having to flap around the night before the travelling began.
“It is the same every sun.” said Martel; she stuck her head under her wing, leaving Elf with no one to grumble with as the warm night’s darkness dropped over the herd.
The sun came up yellow and golden with tinges of orange turning the planes into waving strips. The herd moved as one, Herd Mother took the lead; she chose the broadest stripe leading into the waking sun. They moved slowly, no more than a walking pace, a horse trotted now and again to keep up, after snatching a mouth full of whatever grass had caught their eye.
Herd Mother led the mares with foals and sun-lings and the older horses had the older suns around them. Herd Father was seeing to those trying to stray to fare behind kept up as the herd wandered along the trail they had taking for as longer as the herd’s tales had been told.
By third day the foals were getting used to travelling and did not dash about it was a better way to enjoy the old trail.
The healing birds twittered and circled about watching from above. Bounder shared his time with Sage and his sun’s group.
On the drawn of the forth day the sun was alone; a burning globe in an empty sky. The smell of parched earth filled their nostrils long before they could see the parched land stretch before them.
Grass Runner reported to Sage and Bounder that Herd Father was intending to move faster that day, before the grass around them was also burnt by the sun.
Bounder felt Elf land on the crest of his mane, before she could cheep at him, Sage blew down his nose at her; his breath sent dust out of her feathers,
“Do we know how far the hot dust stretches?” he asked.
“We must move to the day side of the sun’s path, the flyers say the dust band is at it narrowest there, but to reach water we will have to go over the stony mound.” Elf informed them as Sage’s eyed the way forward, they should keep together nose to tail as the healing birds advised.
Willow and Grass Runner led the little group of Bounder’s friends. Sage was moved between Sugar Cane and White Mane. Bounder was behind them with Elf still on his mane.
Bounder could hear others blowing the dust from their noses as the tempo quickened. The wind seemed to be playing with the dust their hooves lifted from the dried ground; it was mingling with hotter clouds.
Herd Mother could be heard at the head of the herd and Herd Father answering from behind, with the thud of their hooves dust rose and fell; somewhere in the time they were moving Elf pecked Bounder hard as he was falling asleep. Grass Runner was trying to tell everyone Martel was a stranger as her feathers were now no longer white; she was the same colour as everyone and everything!
The droning of the herd’s hooves was a sound with no beginning and no end; until stones sent their sounds to break the hold of the falling dust.
A wall of rock rose suddenly before Bounder, it steeply claimed out of the dust! A dried river bed offered away in and away from the dust of the planes.
Herd Father saw the dried river bed fill with his herd, they were moving before him like a sand coloured wave of water though the stony banks. Dust was in his nostril but there was another smell, fire! He raised his head, nostril flayed wide if the plane burnt they were safer in the old river bed.
The herd kept moving under stranding their need to do so. The river bed let larger rocks grow out of the lose stones, their pace had slowed, the foals were not the only ones tiring.
Willow had seen the clouds of smoke as they came over the top of the mound they had climbed, Bounder saw them also, he warned him not say anything they needed to keep on going. The rocks grew and the stones crept away as the dry river bed smoothed out, it was easer to move.
The rocks were becoming walls on both sides. The sky was lost behind the fire’s smoke as was all sense of where they were going. No one spoke. Even Grass Runner was quite, he had been trying to tell jokes to those around him. Sugar Cane and White Mane had stopped Sage still was with them. Bounder looked up to see a great wall of rock towering over the backs of those in front of him.
Healing birds took to the air Elf and Martel were with them. They flew above the stone wall that looked as if it ran a line between a rising sun and evening sun; other Healing birds flew to higher thermals to see how long the wall could be.
“A trickle of running water has been found.” said Martel, but news about the wall’s length was not coming back. The clouds were to low for any bird to get high enough to see much.
The herd were glad to use what water they could find and what little there was to eat was soon taken, they were all glad to rest. The foals the older horses took the weight of their hooves, Herd Mother watched the others grouping themselves together making ready for the night’s darkness to fall.
Herd Mother could sense Herd Father moving around the herd, he was telling those able to keep an ear out for other animals drawn down to the river bed.
The walls were still there when the sun spilt light into the river bed cutting the herd into half by a sharp line of light and shadowed darkness.
Returning healing birds reported the way to the nights’ sky dropped steeply, the herd could get go that way, but land led them out into a swamp! Where the biting flies were more than dangerously plentiful to horses!
“You only had open your beak and your meals flew in!” one bird was heard to remark. “The other way to the midday sun, other healing birds were looking into that now.”
Herd father did not want to movie it would to waste their energy, but to wait here when the plane behind them burnt could mean others would be coming! If wolves came into this confined place it would be very difficult to get away.
Herd Mother was also restless what grew here was all ready nibbled down!
Bounder asked Sage: “Can we only wait?”
“Herd Father will let some sleep as others take watch, this is not a good place to be waiting in.” observed Sage.
Willow and Grass Runner were standing by Sager Cane, White Mane close by, Bounder stood by Sage and all around the rest of the herd waited and watched as all the healing birds were away.
Waiting and watching was easier said than done thought Bounder. Sage did not seem to be concerned even when fresh clouds of smoked blocked out the sky.
Small animals were begging to enter the old river bed. The three suns were aware of rustlings and scrabbling. White Mane was dosing as a ferret as white as her main, when it was not covered in dust of the plane, scampered between her front hooves to get to the water trickling out of the stones. Sugar Cane started, pushed against Willow whose tail swiped Grass Runner across his muzzle! On seeing the ferret, Grass Runner jumped with all hooves ready to come down on the little invader. The invader squeaked turned in a blur, shot up White Mane’s near fore leg diving into her mane before any horse could blink!
That stopped Grass Runner’s attack he could not hoof an invader that was hiding in a friend’s mane!
Black beady eyes peeped out from White Mane’s mane; why she stood there and did not try to shake out the intruder she could not say. Willow pointed out it was not usual to have a ferret in your mane. Bounder asked White Mane if she would like him to get it out for her.
“No” squeaked a high pitched voice, then little paws pulled together White Mane’s mane blanking out the black eyes.
Sage muzzled White Mane and said:
“Ask him his name?” before she could a sleek head popped out:
“Pip” said Pip they had to wait for him to speak again; when he did he looked from Sage to Bounder:
“A Teller is a rear wonder, but being a white ferret is a nuisance. A teller a herd needs but a white ferret is a hawk’s meal a wolfs’ snack! I cannot hide even in banks or in stones; even to pretend to be dried grass is out!”
“Oh!” said White Mane
“Yes, I have to think to keep me together, I cannot trot off like you lot.” Pip had a point there.
“We are going to the Blue Hills Gatherings” someone said.
“That will do fine!” nodded Pip, “The plane back that way is on fire. Your healing birds tell of swamps that way, it is not for me.”
“There is a wall in front of us.” Bounder wanted to say, but he felt Pip already knew.
“Do you know how the land lays that way?” Asked Pip,
“Not yet.” said Sage: “We are waiting for the healing birds to comeback.”
Pip dropped from White Mane to dart at a mouse as it tried to pas by. Grass Runner shifted his hooves, he did not like creeping and squeaking animals under him, he was not sure if he liked a squeaking or creeping thing in White Mane’s mane either, but White Mane said she thought it was a very clever idea to hide in her mane, she would have never thought to do that.
Sugar Cain said it strange to see two black eyes peeping at her from her friends mane, but as Willow pointed out the healing birds liked to travel resting on their manes, was there any deference?
“Travel!” piped in Pip, “Good idea!”
Before they could ask what was a good idea a healing Bird had started to wing its way down to the herd.
“The way of the wall to the afternoon sun is an option,” said the healing bird that had landed by Herd Father.
“It is a cliff that runs away round to the sun, a half a days travel from here, there is grazing and water seeps from the wall. But...!” The Healing bird pursed before saying:
“The cliff leads us to the Blue Hills bring us to the wrong side of the hills”
“What dose that, mean? The wrong side” asked Grass Runner, when the group heard the news, Sugar Cain asked the same question.
“The season’s storms, thunder!” Sage reminded everyone. Pip popped out of White Mane’s mane. Sage seeing he was about to lose the chance to tell a tale said:
“The winds blow over the over the planes, when we are in the Blue Hills, we have the hills tops between us and the lightning and the thunder, we are shelled from the full strength of the flooding rains and the worst of the storms.”
‘But the rains bring our grass back.’ thought Bounder so why had the larges not returned? Had they gone the wrong side of the Blue Hills?
Sage knew Bounder was thinking about the Large Ones, he was glad had found a Teller, who could to take over from him. All Bounder needed was a little schooling.
It took them more than half a day to travel to where the healing bird had said there was grazing. It was a tired and hungry herd that arrived at the edge of the shelf its cliff on the sun down side it fell away to open plane and the other cliff sweep away to the morning sun. There was water in pools at that the base of its cliffs, and the grass was thick enough to keep everyone happy while they waited for the more information from the seeking healing birds, when they returned.
The herd grazed, rolled their coats clean in the soft white sand at the foot of the cliff. The sand had little stone flowers that crushed when you rolled over them, noted Bounder. Willow complained the grass had a strange tang to it. White Mane and Sugar Cane were just glad that there was enough water and grazing, no matter how it tasted.
As the herd rested and grazed. Elf and Martel and a few other healing birds came back to see to the herds’ needs. One foal had a mild attack of colic as he had eaten too much of the new grass type!
Elf and Martel did not hear much more from birds that had returned to help, they could only add that some of the other birds were looking for a brake in the cliff, that would lead the herd back onto the plane they were on before that dust storm had taken them from their trail.
The herd lazed in the midday sun, it had been three days and still the searching healing birds had not returned, they had seen dear and a pair of foxes coming out of the dried river bed, they had rested before they moved down onto into the new plane.
Pip said a she wolf had also gone by; she was not thin but well feed and heavy with cubs! Pip was sure the wolf was getting enough fresh meet. Pip was not doing to badly, there did not seem to be many mice living in this place but edible rodents were passing along the riverbed under the high cliffs.
The sky’s had cleared of smoke and dust clouds, the air was fresh with the new planes smells; it was good to be free of the dust that had even got into your eyes and ears. But here it was grey and white, even that colour was lost in the cliffs colourless sands; not the warm greens of the other plane they had come from.
Bounder was standing on a drift of colourless sand that had been blown up against the base of the cliff, he could see the sand and grey grasses stretch away into the bland mist on the straight horizon. This was not herd country thought Bounder. He understood why the herd was staying close together.
Sage and he with Willow had discussed the strange new plane.
Sage said it must have been something else before, but could not say what, as old as he was he had not been here, no herd he had been with had travelled this way.
There was something else strange there were no other birds in the sky to be seen only the healing birds that had stayed behind.
Willow said if it was not for Grass Runner joking about this place would be too quiet!
Sugar Cain and Elf were looking for something sweet to nibble. Not just for Sugars Cain’s sweet tooth but for a foal that was being faddy over its milk. There was only cores grass as far as they could see. They had turned back towards the herd when they saw the shadow of an eagle flash over the white sand. Then a second and a third was now gliding towards the herd.
Sugar Cain screamed a waning galloping towards the herd. Elf was flying behind her. The eagles were large enough to take a foal!
Herd Father was standing before the herd, the mares and older horses tucked the foals between them. Herd Mother was ordering the yearlings to stand behind the older suns.
Pip had just run up the first leg he could find, it was Grass Runner. Grass Runner was not happy about it!
“The way he hops about, he may as well wave a white ferret at an eagle!” grumbled Pip.
Grass Runner was sure Pip would provide the flying rippers a good snack.
“I will pretend to be a white patch then, to match your nose! A good patch for an eagle to fixes his eye on!”
White Mane had been looking for Pip in the long grass came over when she heard their grumbles and squeaks. Just as the eagles’ shadows swiped over them, they turned and came even lower, their shadows dropping over the herds backs.
The herd members moved closer to each other. Herd Father could smell the eagles’ need for flesh meat beat down at him with every wing beat.
Sugar Cane was galloping as low to the ground as she could, her head and neck stretched forward she was only strides away from Herd Father when the first of the eagles turned towards her! It was between her and the safety of the herd. It was coming for her, its’ shadow darkened the sand before her and the wind from the beat of its wings was trying to send her back out into the plane!
From where Willow and Bounder were it looked like a black cloud was going to take Sugar Cain! They saw Herd Father rise to hoof the great bird away, then they heard its angry screech, it had almost rapped its wings around Sugar Cain before it was tossed aside by Herd Father rearing up again and hoof the young eagle aside. Black feathers drifted down on to the white sand.
Sugar Cain shot into the outer circle of the tight packed herd, as Herd Father screamed with rage at the eagle now keeping its self out of Herd Father’s reach.
The other two eagles stretched wings and glided black shadows over Herd Father, swept the third eagle with up with them into a clear sky till the sun blended their outlines.
They circled over the Herd and landed on the cliffs’ top, and folded their wings.
Sugar Cain eyes were still wild with fright, Martel came to see she was all right. Elf had kept low behind Sugar Cain when she saw Herd Father’s hooves rise decided to dive straight into the herd. She landed on one of the older horses much to the horse’s surprise.
Elf twittered as Martel fused over Sugar Cain:
“Sugar Cain is a lucky mare, not a scratch!” Martel told Sage, Willow and Bounder. Pip jumped from Grass Runner onto White Mane back as Grass Runner pressed close to his friends that needed comfort.
The herd could see the eagles’ silhouette on the cliff top.
The eagles did not seem to be following when the moon appeared over the cliff tops. The skies were clear of their dark forms when Herd Mother called a halt; they had travelled along the base of the cliff on the white sands, following the way the healing birds had flown.
“Have the healing birds lost all their feathers to the eagles?” asked a mare when Elf and Martel came to see if their foals were all right for the night.
Everyone was talking of Herd Father’s defence of Sugar Cain, not everyone seemed to be happy about just waking away from the eagle’s cliff.
Sage was saying to Herd Mother:
“It must have been a very young bird that tried to take Sugar Cain, because the two birds had guided the attacker away, just like a mare steers a foal out of trouble!”
“We live from the planes, bring our young through the suns best we can.” replied Herd Mother, she was glad not to see the eagles form pressed against the night sky.
A Teller of tales told of the need to respect the others on the planes, and the tale of the eagles and Sugar Cain and Herd Father would be told too many young ears, if the look in Sage’s eyes were anything to go by and Bounder would be well schooled in its telling.
The herd saw the sun rise twice before the third brought back the healing birds. Elf and Martel flew up to greet the returning birds. Tired birds dropped down, there were some untidy landings, followed by disgruntled twitting before the healing birds took up perches around the herd with drooping wings and heads tucked under; it was up to Flight Leader to tell the herd leaders what they had found out.
The herd leaders all ready knew from the healing birds that the cliff ran to the Blue Hills, that this side of the hills did not give the herd protection they needed from the turn of the sun’s blasting storms.
“I sent birds to see if we could take the herd back to the river bed. They report was of a swamp, it is an unsafe option. The other option of returning to the burning plane, it is not dancing with flame, but the damage to the grasses is too wide spread for the herd to travel over. Grass has been clouded by the burnt dust.” Flight Leader made himself more comfortable next to his partner Pair.
“We did wonder why you had moved here!” Pair said when Herd Mother told them of the eagles that had paid them a visit.
“We saw them flying on a higher thermal than us. There was nothing moving on the plane below the wall. We have seen little movement coming out of the old river bed.” The Flight Leader continued. Herd Father said so only Herd Mother hear him that it was strange to see such little animal movement; he would talk to Sage and see if he had any ideas as to what was going on. Herd Mother nodded before turning back to the Flight leaders:
“We were worrying about you all, what kept you away so long?”
“The wind took us on to a thermal that sent us out over the new plane, where there is wing beat after wing beat of sand. The grass ends not far out, all there is to see is sand with a white topping of crystals. Herd Father, we need not think to travel on that plane!” said the Flight Leaders.
“We were then grounded for two suns by an unwelcome storm.” Pair said, “Before we could fly back to the wall. We all ready know the wall goes to the Blue Hills…”
“But, on the wrong side!” Flight Leader took over from Pair:
“To travel along the wall leads a brake some travelling suns from here. The herd needs to get find away up onto the plane we came from Once we are on our plane the Blue Hills has itself thrown out a wall in our way, the land bound will have to go a round it. The burnt back of the plane is a guide we can use; it runs a parallel line to this wall.”
The Leaders decided to move off without waiting for the healing birds to rest or the help of the new moon. Tired healing birds could rest by travelling on willing members backs. The herd needed to get underway and to reach the Blue Hills before the turn’s storms broke on the planes.
“Do you really think it will take us over ten suns to reach the brake?” Elf asked Pair as they moved off.
“I hope not, it is so hard to judge the terminals are obeying the wall.” Pair was travelling on Sage.
Sage and Bounder were very interested in all the healing birds had seen, Pair was asked if the crystals they had seen on the white sands had a taste. As Pair explained crystals are not grass seed, so no bird had tried them!
Pip had surprised a healing bird that had asked White Main if she could travel with her; by popping his head out and grinning at her with blinking beady eyes at her. That startled the healing bird so much she had to be picked up out of the sand and preened before recovering enough to take a lift from Willow.
It was going to be a long trek in sand that was dry, making travelling difficult. Tufted grass would not let the young pass through. The stronger older suns took the lead to trample the sand so it was firmer for smaller travellers, deep sand is very tiring to move through, everyone joined in taking the lead when they saw those leading tiring.
Herd Mother and her mares and the older horses were amused to see the between age colts working so hard to keep the herd moving. Herd Mother knew they would be good sensible animals going to join new herds.
Herd Father was aware they were being followed but no one had seen anything move on the strange plane. He thought of the she wolf that had past the herd sometime ago, if she had pups, their hunger would send her hunting! Keep your eyes and ears open for followers, he reminded every horse to keep watch.
The sun had moved twice from it rising side to the night sky, before for the unseen follower could no longer be felt.
“Keep alert.” said Herd Father, “Do not let trouble, surprise us!”
The youngsters heard Herd Father they tried to match his rhythm with their hooves as they trudged along the wall brace.
All the healing birds now had recovered from there thermal trip were flying about in their usual busy way.
The sun had gone down many times before the chatter of many healing birds told of the brake in the wall they had seen. As the terrain they were moving on was seeming endless sand, the herd had decided to move at night as well. If they were moving so were the thermals above them, so would the turn’s rain storms, they needed to be on the safe side of the Blue Hills before they came!
Dusk was settling down when the first of the herd saw the wall brake, the white sands seemed to push against the rook, as if the sand slope was trying to rise higher than the wall.
The Herd came to a halt; all were trying to see what lay ahead. Healing birds spread word from Herd Mother to rest till day light returned.
The dawn came showing the brake in the wall like a lost tooth! The black and white shadows did not show if they could ride up and over the wall, it only market the time as the sun rose.
Younger members of the herd could not see why the herd waited, but knew not to question their Herd leaders. The herd busied themselves with what water and grassing there was.
“Can we take the herd upon that sandy slop?” Herd Father said as he and Sage stood looking at the sand blown against the wall:
“It is hard to say, sand moves.” Sage was looking up and down the sand bank.
“I cannot see below the sand to see how stable it is, if you got up there the sand could bring you back down again! What would happen with move horses’ weight on it? It could take the whole herd down.” finished Herd Father.
Herd Mother came and stood beside Herd Father.
Their thoughts were interrupted by a healing bird swooping down and landing before them.
It was Pair, she said:
“Flight Leader has sent all healing birds up, he and I have flown over all the sand in the brake, we cannot find anything to tell us how stable it is.”
The three horses shook their manes as Pair continued:
“We were taken by a thermal out onto the new plane, before we could fly low over the brake. Flight Leader and I are nervous about getting caught on another unfriendly thermal. But, we feel we need to take to the air again and do a close search of the continuing wall, in the hope we can find another way for the herd.”
“If there is one brake there could be others!” said Sage lifting his head to see over the backs of herd members between him and the wall, only to get the sun in his eyes!
Herd Mother whinnied, a soft laugh.
“What are we to do? This grazing is not going to last long, and water is not so plentiful here.”
Herd Father walked forward and felt the sand with a hoof at the base of slop, his eyes following the sand to the top, it seemed only a small step over the wall it self, if the sand could take his weight? Maybe the herd could…! There was a squeak beside him; he turned his head to see Pip standing on a stone.
“You are thinking of trying the sand?” Pip’s beady eyes held Herd Fathers attention:
“You have hooves I have paws, I can feel smaller movements.”
Herd Father thought over what Pip said. Flipped his forelock out of his eyes and said:
“Want to lead, I will follow?”
Pip started up the sand slope he had reached maybe three horses lengths before Herd Father started.
Pip’s set of paw prints did not show any movement in the sand, even though the sand was not as firm as at the walls base.
Willow and Bounder were with the fillies and Grass Runner, their attention was on Herd Father and Pip, as was the whole herd!
White Mane was standing closes to Sugar Cain, it was a fine thing Pip was doing, but she whished it was not her Pip.
Martel landed rather heavily on Sugar Cain making her stager a bit.
“Oh ha!” Squeaked Martel as Sugar Cain righted herself:
“Woops! I have just come from Sage.” She said “He is with Herd Mother if you are looking for him.”
Martel settled down on Sugar Cain’s back to watch how Herd Father was doing. He had climbed the first third of the way. She could see Pip was still a horses’ length above him, he had stopped to examine a step in the sand.
The sun had not thrown a shadow to mark the step. The sun was shining now from behind Herd Father as he drew level with Pip. Pip would need a hoof up to get over come the step.
“Will!” Explained Pip, “I think this is it, for me to dig my way through this step is no problem, but...”
“Under normal conditions I would not set hoof on it!” Nodded Herd Father as he nosed his way slowly along the step:
“Here take hold of my mane I will drop you onto it and see if we can learn more.” He lowered his head for Pip to catch hold of the rich thick black mane, he hang on as Herd Father lifted him to the edge of the step. But before Pip could drop down onto the step, white sand! Herd Father could not be seen in the gap as was sand sliding towards the herd; it was not clear what happened next as members of the herd took off in all directions to get out of the sands path. Flying hooves and whinnying screams were hidden in the sand clouds raining down on them.
It was as if a new tooth had grown into the wall’s gap, when the sand had sunk away from the stone wall.
The rumble shrieked out into the plane, but the sand did not follow it but settled down like a lazy mist coming to rest, coating every horse and every bird, and every rock.
Herd Father reared out of the sand, his whinny broke the silence that had fallen with the sand. Whinny’s and squeals came back to him as others shook them self’s free from their sand coating. Those who had not been quick enough to get out of the way, look as if they came out of the sunken sand wall.
Pip was swing in Herd Father’s mane a good thing Pip had jumped into his mane; they would not have been able to find him in all of this! Pip looked up to see the healing birds rising in the walls thermals. Everyone help reunite foals with mares that had gone in different ways, Elf and Martel busied themselves calming upset foals and stressed mares.
“That one is hurt is a surprise!” said Herd Mother as she and Sage moved though the sand covered herd to fined Herd Father.
“If the eagles where looking for us they would have trouble seeing us in this!” remarked Sage, looking around.
The sun sank slowly into dust white plane, Herd Father and Herd Mother and Sage heads hang low they could not bring the herd to the plane above, the sand had sank away leaving only the wall, even the healing birds chatter was not to be heard as they settled the herd down for the coming night.
The moon whole and round took the path of the sun in the night sky it came over the wall. There outlined was a horse! Sage blinked it was gone; Sage thought he was getting old as he blew down his nose.
Mares and older horses came softly by to see Herd Father, no one said much, for the moment it was enough he was all right.
As to what the herd should do so fare from The Blue Hills and the coming of the storms. The safety of the herd weighted heavily on the Herd Leaders minds that night.
In the commotion of the rising sand Martel and Willow had followed the frightened fillies onto the plane they did not see Grass Runner or Bounder speed along the wall nor stop safely out of reach of the pursuing sand. The two colts stood and watched the herd appearing to drown in its whiteness!
Grass Runner turned his back unable to watch any more, trotted away along the wall, his whinny brought Bounder swiftly to his side:
“Look!” he snorted, Bounder also saw what made Grass Runner so excited. There was a split in the rock, it that seemed to run all the way to the top! Was the split wide enough for them, maybe a horse could to walk up!
“Want to wait till the new sun comes up, Grass Runner?”
“No!” snorted Gras Runner, he set hoof on the firm rock with Bounder close behind him.
They were both breathing heavily as they set hoof on sweet smelling turf as sweat gleamed on their flanks in the moon’s light.
They shadow boxed with each other before cantering circles in the new freedom, it did smell good up here without the strange tang of the plane below, and the grass was just waiting for them!
Grass Runner wanted to go back down straight away but as Bounder said, for the safety of the herd they should wait until dawn, and not eat two much of the delicious grass or he would stick in the narrowness of the split! They kept an eye open during the night as there were rustles in the grasses. They did feel alone without a healing bird or their herd around them.
At last the sun showed over the green plane, a darkened blue band held it separate from the sky.
Bounder and Grass Runner trotted to where they could see the herd below them. The sand was shaken from the backs of the horses’ coats now brown, red and black were the only colours to be seen on the plane below. Sage and Willow were hard to spot. Was Sage by Herd Father and they could see Herd Mother?
Bounder nudged Grass Runner to show him where Sugar Cain and White Mane were, they were to be seen a little to the side of a group of mares and older horses standing over sleeping foals; with them was a camouflaged Willow!
Grass Runner started to trot along the edge of the cliff with his head held high, tail flowing behind, Bounder reared and whinnied as loud as he as his lungs would let him.
The sun light lit the herd below him, had they seen him and Grass Runner?
Healing birds filled the air around him and Grass Runner; the whole herd had seen them!
Sage did not need to blink his eyes again to see Bounder, and there was Grass Runner too. How had they got there? He would know soon, with all those healing birds flying around!
Sugar Cain was trembling with excitement and White Mane were trying to move so she could see; with out disturbing a white sleeping Ferret almost woven into her mane. What if Herd Father had not been able to bring him down with him?
When Pip had felt the sand start to split, he had jumped blindly at Herd Father the second before he had turned, luckily for Pip! Herd Father had a thick mane to hold on too! Pip did not want any more excitement for a wile!
Willow had not liked to leave the fillies to look for his two friends; he was surprised to see them up there?
Soon the whole herd was whinnying in excitement at the two horses bathed in the morning sun.
Flight Leader and Pair landed by Bounder and Grass Runner before they could ask, Grass Runner nearly blew them into the air again when He bellowed!
“There is a split in the wall over there!” flicking his head towards it. Pair was hoppling up and down.
“Shall we come back down with you?” asked Bounder after he had told Flight Leader and Pair of how they had be come separated from the herd and discovered the split and how they had climbed out breathless onto the plane stretching out before them.
Flight Leader said it was waist of energy to go down again, they would be more use to the herd, if they greeted those climbing out and he himself would make a sweeping flight down the split.
“It is narrow, only enough space for one horse to push thought.” said Grass Runner, Grass Runner snickered as he pictured a fat old mare trying to squeezing through! Bounder guessing what Grass Runner was thinking, swished his tail at him, typical of Grass Runner to see the funny side of things!
“Well!” snorted Grass Runner rolling his eyes, it was a funny thought. If the healing birds thought it was a funny thought they did not say.
“We cannot wait!” Flight Leader reappeared into the sky behind Grass Runner.
“Rain clouds!” He beaked, “Pair would you go and tell The Herd Leaders? I shall take a flight controller and get him survey the split, for a second opinion. Good work you two Colts.” He added as he turned to find his bird.
Pair winked at the two as she steeped into a thermal that spiralled down to the herd below.
Pair landing neatly by the Herd Leaders, Sage was standing near by with Elf on his withers; she told them of the split and the outcome of the discussion they had with the two colts. Herd Father nodded his head, asked Elf to tell the mares and older horses to move slowly towards the split’s base.
Willow was staring up the split’s base, wondering what would happen now. Willow was rather sorry he had taken of after the fillies instead of going with Bounder and Grass Runner they seemed to have had much more fun!
Elf pecked Willow on his mane’s crest:
“You did the right thing keeping an eye on them; everyone is precious to the herd, Willow.” As they to see what would happen next.
They did not have to wait long; healing birds were shooting and wheeling out of the split!
“They look like harks hunting, not healing birds!” squealed Martel as she landed on Willows back next to Elf, She was laughing as she and Elf hopped along Willows rump.
Horses were starting to push towards the split.
“Stop!” Whinnied Herd Father, “We cannot all eat the same daisy!”
“It is a tight fit in the split!” boomed Flight Leader, as he circled round the herd.
“It is one horse at a time.” Squawked Pair as she joined Flight Leader’s flight circle, Herd Father and Herd Mother stood in fount of the split, before turning to the herd.
“It will take sometime to get us all up the split, as it is only one herd member at a time.” said Herd Mother, “So see before you are called you have grazed and watered, I know there is not much here.”
“We well call you forward in your sun’s group.” continued Herd Father. “Would the four suns come to us?”
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