Is the third book in the Ark Of Hoof Prints. Tale of Tails Hoof Prints-Tale of a Tail. The land that had been closed for so long is now open to sightseers. Mara lived with a herd of horses when she was a baby, after her parents were killed in the accident, till she was rescued by other members of her family. Her father was a rescue driver in the War Zone. It was all Mara dreamed of, becoming a rescue driver with a team of horses, like her father. A program controlling the Com-Pax that runs everyday life has been stolen! The missing program has been found by the Co-Driver of a Team of ponies who were taken from the Closed Lands! The program must not fall into the hands of those that wish to have control of the ‘Black Gold’. It is in the interest of Oil the War Zone is enlarged. This is part one- Part two- A twist in the Tale.
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Ark Of Hoof Prints- Tale of a Tail.
Is the third book in the Ark Of Hoof Prints.
Tale of Tails Hoof Prints-Tale of a Tail.
The land that had been closed for so long is now open to sightseers. Mara lived with a herd of horses when she was a baby, after her parents were killed in the accident, till she was rescued by other members of her family.
Her father was a rescue driver in the War Zone. It was all Mara dreamed of, becoming a rescue driver with a team of horses, like her father.
A program controlling the Com-Pax that runs everyday life has been stolen! The missing program has been found by the Co-Driver of a Team of ponies who were taken from the Closed Lands!
The program must not fall into the hands of those that wish to have control of the ‘Black Gold’. It is in the interest of Oil the War Zone is enlarged.
This is part one-
Part two- A twist in the Tale.
The Tale of a Tail.
“The experts in care of the land have been watching the land’s regeneration after the population were evacuated.
It was said that the gasses and nuclear vapours, were tested on the abandoned land and the animal inhabitants found to be misleading we have not been fully informed.
All lost in the files of those in charge. Things have not in proved much to day.” He laughed, the traveller companion had to pores to sip at the vacuum drink he had in his hand.
“Had the next officials not blanketed what their fore runners had done, we would have had chance to discover the truth!
The land you see below you has been untouched by human hands a full century now! Giving us the unique chance to study a regenerated land till the time limit has run its course.
As we traverse this island we can see the animals that have survived the trauma that the land had suffered on ‘That Day’ hundreds of years a go.” He pursed and glanced at the tourist seated in the glass bottom solar flying ship, before he glanced at his notes on his console.
“As you see from your list; that the animals that have survived to inhabit the island make’s strange reading. How, the red tail parrot came to be here is not clear, as it thought to have come from lands that had tropical rain frosts, there are many theories, the one I like is that they were some ones pets! The people of those times use to have pets as will as use horses, though the horse was mostly for sport!”
Would his ordnance ever laugh? He had made the trip many times before. The rest of the trip to the outer Inland would take another two hours:
“Did anyone want a drink?” he asked; someone then asked, was it known why the outer island had not been affected by the excrement?
“Popular answer is that the Gulf Stream protected the Outer Island from the effects of the nuclear vapours.”
The next question was how had they established which species had populated the Inner Island?
“Satellite sight; despite the difficulties of defining the information due to the sensitivity of the system, we can tell with an accuracy of ninthly percent which species had survived.
The only grey area is the smaller spices of rodents, as their movement could be interpreted as anything. That there were worms in the soil, could also be seen, though their existence, were for a long time confused with the rodent population.”
A herd of horses appeared in a valley that had been up until that moment covered in cloud. No one spoke as they drifted over the natural fields below; the travel attendant pressed the magnification sensor to show the guests the individual animals grassing unaware below. He was glad to start the taped messages that wished the guests a pleasant time on the Outer Island. All their wishes were included in the all inclusive survival land tours. They were remained to take care they did not leave their personal belongings in the solar flight. Their baggage would be waiting for them at their land observations accommodation.
Even though the robots were programmed to remove unwanted objects from the parks, it would be appreciate if they would dispose of unwanted waste in the receptacles placed for that purpose.
‘Appreciate, not contaminate’ was what the soft female voice was saying as the landing site came into view on a cliff above the emerald sparkling green sea.
The name of the horse Marvellous Markus may have been forgotten but not the horse himself; he had one eye with curling ears and a snow white coat. That he had been in a circus of entertainment was had been lost in the mists of time. The word circus nowadays was used to describe the disorder and uncoiled impulsion of the one season’s games. But the tales of his deeds and those of their forefathers were told by the Teller of Tales, not just to amuse the youngsters, horse, bird or ferret on a spring evening promising summer.
That no one should forget the origin of their world and how crows and pidgins, barn owls and the red tailed parrot had played their part in the horses adjusting to existing without the humans that had dominated the land. Had they known what the travel guide, or what a travel guide was, was saying to the guests in the shielded solar fight, hovering over them on this warm evening!?
That humans still existed on the land that rose out of the sea that had channelled between their island and the continent; that was unseen beyond the sea that rolled onto sands and shingle and beat the cliffs of their island in the winter storms.
Had they know the old tales would guide them in the times to come; the group of youngster would have listened to their Tellers more carefully!
Parsley a hard teller was trying to lie back in the long grass to enjoy the afternoon sun, but the soft muzzle of an inquisitive foal was interested in her ear.
Silver had the biggest inquiring eyes a filly foal was aloud to have, and she knew how to flash her eyes at her elders to get what she wanted even though she was so young. She had been born at the last new moon.
Parsley could not ignore the tickling little muzzle anymore, the surprised foal took a step backwards forgetting to take her hooves with her and she sat down with a bump.
Parsley was fully awake; she sat up to see if the little one was hurt, but before she could ask, Silver asked her why did she have such long ears?
Parsley did not try to answer as Silver was asking another question this time, would she turn brown when she was older, were all foals the same colour and what was so special about colt foals, was there always such a fuss when a foal was born?
That there had been a fuss when Silver had been born, Silver had forgotten.
Parsley was not disturbed by youngster’s stream of questions, they made her laugh. ‘Out of the muzzles of foals’ that was so true!
The Herd Father though a dark brown himself, placed his stamp on his youngsters, by giving them all the colours that could be called a dun and the soft silver grey that Silver had, to the sand tone the new foal that Stream had foaled during the night.
There was always a fuss, when a new member to the Herd was foaled, it was a joy every time, though when Rose-Mary had foaled there had been a time where Parsley had thought they would lose both mare and foal, as the foal had tried to come out backwards, hind hooves first!
That Smoky’s dame had called him Smoky was not a surprise he not only had a sweet smoky grey dun coat, he had looked at his new world, with the wonder that put a tear into anyone’s eye.
As Silver straightened her legs, she shook her foal’ wool mane and sank back into the soft grass. Had the asking of so many questions or the comfort of the warm sun made her tried, anyway Silver was soon asleep.
Parsley could only dose as she watched over the sleeping foal.
There had been so many mares foaling this season Parsley was not sorry she had not had a foal herself this time, maybe next season. Had they not had the help of the healing birds and their knowledge of how to use the natural plants many an animal would have to suffer, life’s unpleasant ailments!
The healing birds were constantly flying for herbs and flowers to tempt someone that was fussing about even the best of the seasons grass!
If only the young of the herd understood how hard life could be, and not fuss when things were not to their liking.
Parsley was as always, looking forward to the telling of the old tales, as she had done for so many seasons. She wandered if their forefathers had the same problems as they had knower days, though form the old tales it must have been hard when the humans left. She was wandering what a human looked like? There was no one to ask.
Parsley was among the oldest in this herd and the other herds they would be seeing when the midseason full moon marked the season of high summer, when they gathered at the Old Winter Gather.
There would be the usual questions from the one seasons; why was it called Winter Gather when it was summer?
Parsley started when Mam dropped down with a flutter of feathers.
“Just been over to the ferret’s hollows to see Cola. The young ferret is expecting her young anytime now! I have to say she will be kept busy if I am right, she is carrying many pups! The crows are also hard pushed to feed their boisterous young this season! Why dose it all have to happen all at the same time? Well, we have always coped before haven’t we?” said Mam breathlessly, “And if it wasn’t so we would miss the fun of circus wouldn’t we?”
Parsley and Cola with Mam had been laughing over the daily trials and tribulations of over seeing the foaling and ferreting, the usual going on’s, that were to be enjoyed at this time of the season.
Parsley mused as Sky swooped in like a scared parrot with the news that the first time foaling mare was showing signs, but no one could stop her from gadding about!
Parsley was glad that she had to keep an eye on the sleeping foal and could not trot over, to see to a way would filly the fun was all Sky’s!
Stream would not want the sweet foal left alone not while she was keeping a mare company that had lost one of her foals, the other twin was week but hanging on.
Parsley was just glad to have some time to herself, whatever her excuse she was enjoying the warm sun and the company of the thankfully sleeping foal.
The night Thorn was foaled it was a night that no one would forget the storm had come up from the south with such a speed that no horse or any bird had expected it.
Thorn’s mare had she known, would have chosen to foal another time but the thick cover the woodland offered was as comfortable as anywhere else. She was as surprised as anyone else when the trees to her right swayed and bucked as wildly as any young stallion that was showing off at the Winter Gather. The tree cracked and fell to the ground; as if a bird sitting on top of it was too big!
This foal was not going to wait for her to ask questions of this fallen bird. Sky, she was in charge of her foaling was not happy with the place Pond had chosen! And when the flash of light lit the wood, the trees stood out as dark shapes standing against the unusual lighten sky, Sky decided to drive the silly mare to a place more of Sky’s liking!
They could not see or hear over the storm coming from the exploding bird; it burnt fiercely despite the rain that was falling like mountain streams over everything!
What a night to choose to foal! Why had Pond decide to foal tonight she was usually a sensible mare, all Sky’s grumbling was stopped as soon a perfect colt foal slid into the world right under a hoer thorn bush!
Sky had all ready decided the name of this teaser should be Hoer Thorn, not just because of his foaling under the bush but for other reasons she did not like to say to Pond. It was usual for the mares to chose the foals names but Pond liked the name, Sky had suggested. The other foals found Hoer Thorn a muzzle full, he was called by them, Thorn.
Pond was so proud of her colt and would not let Sky rush her as she lead Thorn from the trees even though the wood around them was burning, red flames licking at the sky and the lighting was answering back as it argued with the thunder.
“What is that? Over there?” asked Snake, his brother was not looking where Snake was looking he was more interested in the bank opposite they had been watching for any signs of mouse, he for one was hungry!
Why did Snake always have to be deferent, first he had not liked the name his mother had given him and called himself Snake. Though he did have a snake like way of move when he was hunting, and second he had a pail cream coat that his other brothers did not have.
“What do you want now, Snake? There is mouse movement over there!”
“And there is movement in that strange hep.” Burt made to move across the grass to the bank, the tree roots indicated there was a good chance of the rodents that would made the best meals.
Snake stopped Burt by snatching him at the back of his neck and pulling him to look at what had caught his attention.
There in the open field was a… it could be a bore that had left its skin and had rapped it round a wriggling something. Was how the two ferrets described what they had seen when they brought the continence to Parsley.
What they had seen was a tube filled with the soft seats that had been in the solar fights cabin.
“There it has moved again!” Now Burt was interested! Maybe Snake had found something, not something, but someone, exactly what animal it was they could not tell, not even from the rather strong smell.
There was a mowing kind of noise coming from with in the hep, Snake was the first was to reach the moving package, there were two round eyes looking back at him, surprised and a little worried pair of light brown eyes with thick lashes blinked at him, but they did not give him any clew as to which creature she was! Young that was for sure, there was the hint of milk in the stink that the bundle gave off.
Burt held his breath as he looked at the thing he found there. Not a thing, she giggled as he pocked her.
“Well, what are you going to do with this; it stinks too much to eat! And it giggles!” Burt was again loosing interest in the bundle and it continence, he would have liked to return to their hunt among the roots. But one look at Snake and he know that fun was going to have to wait.
Snake was un-wrapping the animal, packed inside. It laughed as Snake walked across it and giggled and sneezed when Snake’s tail tickled she nose, chubby legs kicked free and little paws patted Snake’s sleek back.
“There she is free, but I still can not say what she is! It is too long legged to be a bore and she dose not have the right type of paws.”
“She had just taken out a paw full of my coat” Burt wanted to step back but the little animal came with him, Burt moved again and so did she, to his horror she cried, her mouth open and a horrible sound came out!
“You were moving to fast!” Snake announced, demonstrating by crawling in front of her. A little paw started to try to catch hold of him but he kept just in front of her, the giggling sound returned and the horrible sound had stopped.
The three playmates were enjoying the game so much they did not see Sky and Mam flying over head, but they soon did! Sky was scolding them:
“What would have happened to you if we had been hunting owls? All we would have found of you would have been little balls of fluff!” Sky would have gone on. But bundle started that horrible nose again!
“You have stopped the game; I think that is why she is ah, so loud!” She was loud and big round tears were dropping from her long lashes.
“No I think she is hungry,” said Mam in a quite calm voice, she settled on the grass beside the foundling, and cooed at her, the big eyes turned and looked at her, had she known not to sit to near to her she would not have lost a feather. But as the young foundling was happy to play with it, she did not mind, better that than that noise! A very young something she was. She turned to Sky who was still ticking the two ferrets off for not watching out for themselves.
“She has not long been hatched, though I can not tell you what she is, she will need feeding.” As Sky pointed out and she also needed cleaning.
Had Snake and Burt known what they were letting themselves in for, maybe they would have chosen not to play with the bundle in the first place. The two ferrets rolled the foundling thing out of the rest of the packaging and turned it over in the long grass, she may not have looked any better but after intensify rolling her in the grass she smelt a lot better!
Mam was not as excited as Sky, over the young thing the ferrets had found, how were they going to feed it? How did you feed such a foundling?
The soft hair on the top of her head made her look so sweet, soft little dark curls but with a lack of an all over coat how were they going to keep her warm?
One thing was clear two young male ferrets could not be in charge of a foundling female. At least Sky was in agreement with her. Mam wondered why they had taken so long to come to the idea; Parsley was the one, the only one that could look after this foundling!
The next problem was how to get the founding to Parsley?
She was, too heavy for them to carry nor could Snake and Burt carry her, though she seemed able to get about crawling through the long grass trying to take hold of one of their tails.
The sobs started again as the little thing sat in the grass, it was a sound that everyone got use to as a cry of hunger!
Parsley was on the other side of the herd to the problem foundling when Mam found her, Sky was trying to keep the foundling happy, if you can keep anyone happy when they are so hungry.
When Parsley got to the group standing round the tear stained something with such large eyes, a worried face turned to greet her. Everyone had tried to stop the newly found foundling from crying but had failed.
Parsley breathed at the foundling, warm breath and a soft muzzle touched the sobbing youngster, two soft paws reached up and hugged Parsley’s nose, she held on to Parsley till she was standing on her hind legs hugging her till Mam flew in with a beak full of food to for the foundling to try. Parsley lowered her to sit on the soft turf.
The worm that Snake brought her was taken away promptly be Sky, not suitable for someone so young! But she did not waist it, nor did Burt waist the mouse he had found.
The red berries that Mam brought were taken in the little paws and put into the mouth of the no longer sobbing foundling; she was laughing and asking for more.
“Well, that’s a start!” said Mam. “Though one cannot live from berries alone, we will have to find other foods for this…!”
“Little new foal!” said Parsley, nudging it to eat more of the fruit that Mam had brought, she made it quit clear which berries she did not like, they were spat straight out!
The two ferrets had to clean the unexpected flying fruit from their coats.
“She is a little pet.” said Parsley, making a fuss of the little bundle. Mam and Sky were so glad Parsley thought so, they were soft hearted they could not see this foundling get lost in the jungle of survival, but to have to watch over the thing was not their idea of fun.
Horses do not eat flesh but there were animals that did, it must have crossed the ferret’s minds as they watched the foundling feeding on the berries.
Good hunters were ferrets, especially those two ferrets as Herd Mother had said later, but if anyone can keep the foundling alive, it was Parsley.
That the little one would become so quickly a member of their herd was a surprise! She was able to crawl when she first came but now she was standing on her hind legs a lot, trying to totter on only two hooves! She would, totter a short way and loss balance sitting down with a bump, Parsley was not always happy with this game as the foundling was not always careful where she landed! The things she sat in, what a mess! That was not to mention the smell!
“Roll her in the grass!” Sky and Mam would say, but there were times when more than that was needed, if you could get the foundling to take washing seriously, she would splash with the other foals, giggle as they jumped away from the water she splashed, squeal as the water was sent back by dancing hooves.
Herd Mother thought that the foals did not notice she was any different to them! Parsley and Herd Mother enjoyed the games the little thing got up to!
One day she managed to totter on her hind hooves from the fore leg of Parsley to an unsuspecting foal, were upon the startled foal that had been grabbed by the unsteady foundling warbled and swayed till they both fell over.
The next thing to happen was the fondling caught hold of Thorn’s tale and for the next few days you saw, some would say, poor Thorn or Smoky pull the fondling along till her hooves could not keep up and she had to let go.
The two foals soon learnt to tickle her with their muzzles to make her giggle and not wail, as she sat again in the grass!
If she was not playing with Thorn and Silver she was lying in the sun with Silver and the newly foaled Flicker.
When the foundling slept Parsley stood over her, like any mare would. That she played with Smoky and the others were because their mares were friends of Parsley, that she did not know she was not a foal was not surprising.
Parsley did not have any milk for this strange foal, but Parsley’s friends did not shoo her foundling away when she came with their foals to suckle.
The founding was growing as were the foals, her eyes were to be seen peering over the youngsters withers and now she could totter from one foal to another, a paw would catch in the soft wool of their mains and her soft hooves would try to match their stride. There were moments when she did and there were the moments when she did not. Parsley was always somewhere near if she needed to be picked up and nuzzled; as did most of the foals that were experimenting how to move on their four legs and making a mess of it at times!
The youngsters were always fun to watch, the one seasons could not believe they had been as wobbly as foals! Their remarks always made Parsley smile when the one seasons looked down their muzzles at the foals games as if they had never done that themselves!
The summer was going to be warm, just the right weather for growing youngsters and everyone’s thoughts were turned towards the fun of the Winter Gather up on the white hills by the sea.
The young friends were playing on the sun warmed bank. Burt and Snake were teasing the foals by running over them as they dosed in the sun. As for the foundling, she had a long strand of grass in her paw and was using it to tickle the black rimed ear of Thorn, she loved to teas him as he was always so serious! And he took longer than the others to realise it was her, again!
Cola, Burt and Snake’s mother were always warning the pair and the foundling not to run between the foals legs as one day the might get trodden on:
“They cannot see you! With their eyes on the sides of their heads they can not see you when you are just in front of them! But a horse can see you if you are to one side or on their back!”
That was true Burt and Snake had already found that out.
If it had not been for the foundling they would not have made friends with this group of foals.
It was not unusual for friendships between ferrets and horses and the healing birds and their friendship with the crows had been since the time of ‘That Day’, so not one was surprised at the scene on the bank.
Healing Birds were still busy with foals and mares, recommending feeds and plants. There were lots of plants the foundling would eat, though she did not seem to know which ones not to eat, there was many times when she had to be told to spit a poisonous plant out, not a lot of difference between foal and a foundling!
Life was as it should be, so when the evening came, no one was ready for the foundlings that came, for that is what they must be, as they looked like their founding! Only her head came up to their knees.
Three large foundling came out of the trees before anyone could raise an alarm ran across the field towards the bank where the youngsters were snoozing, the warning of the healing birds got the foals to their hooves sending them to their mares the only one that could not keep up was the little foundling. Parsley could see her head bobbing in the long grass, she was alarmed, she ignored the whinnies of the others she did not let her eye lave the bobbing head, she could see the foundlings were getting nearer to her foundling!
She jumped over the little youngster to stand between them and her pet. The little foundling had turned to go to Parsley her paws reaching out for her.
Parsley could not get to her; the intruders were to close now! They were shouting and waving something they were carrying, Parsley screamed at them to leave, she stood before her foal, one of them tried to go round her. She jumped to stop him. He went to grab the precious foal from behind her.
Parsley’s fore hooves knocked him of his feet. She turned to see another make for the youngster her hind hoof caught him on his head. The third foundling stood his ground his fore paw held a straight branch, he razed it to point at her, as she jumped at him there was a bang.
Parsley fell; the little foundling was running towards her, her cry was joined by those of the healing birds.
It was the last time they heard the foundling cry, she was taken up in the large foundlings arms and they carried her way back into the trees.
There was nothing they could do to get her back from them they had reached the huge bird they had come with.
All Herd Father could do was to watch with those with him as the cumbersome bird rose in the air. The healing birds had to back away as the bird cut through the air to enter the higher thermals faster than any of them could follow!
Parsley knew she would not see her foundling again! How long she had lain there she did not know, slowly she could recognise the shapes of those that stood around her, she tried to move her head, pain held her down. Light seem to go through her left eye as lightning through a tree in a storm!
Parsley was one mare that the herd did not want to loos, her wounds would heal, but how were they to give her the will to live?
At first Herd Mother thought it was better to keep the young away from her but the little ones wanted to help so much they could not be kept away, either Steam or Pond was always with Parsley, how often had Parsley helped them and the other mares and now she need help, they did not know what to do for her.
Driftwood was Parsley’s youngest colt had all the anger and energy Parsley needed to get back on her hooves, but for all the hoof stamping he did and wish that the large foundling that had fallen from the kick Parsley, had given had not been lead back to the trees by the others and disappeared before he could do anything to stop him them from going.
If he had been there! If he had been there! How could he to have known?
“How were we to know that the foundling would have been looked for by her own herd?” said Herd Mother, trying to comfort Parsley’s young son: “They were trying to do what Parsley was trying to do.”
Driftwood eyes were flashing; his coat was the same bright bay, his mare had given him.
“Protect their own!?” Driftwood repeated under his breath.
Heard Mother had not much time to disuse what had happened, the worry of how to help Parsley, and the unrest her encounter with larger foundlings had on the whole herd.
Herd Mother stood close to Parsley taking the sun in the small grass cutting with a clear stream they had managed to lead Parsley to. The group of this seasons foals that had been the foundling play mates were fast a sleep in the long grass, Pond was standing over them dosing.
“I have been thinking.” Said Parsley, Herd Mother turned her head towards her, she too had been dosing.
“I have been thinking of the tales that were told about ‘That Day’, it is said that ‘humans’ left taking with them all they could. We stem from those horses that survived ‘That Day’ and came to the Winter Gather.” She stopped her head lowered her muzzle rested in the fresh grass; it was a long moment before she spoke again:
“I think they that came here were humans!” For one that had lost an eye, and as fare as the healing birds could tell the sight in the other eye was week, Parsley was seeing with a surprising clarity:
“She is a human baby, they did not want to harm her; they thought they were protecting her.”
Herd Mother touched Parsley softly. Why had she taken to the little foundling? But she did not ask Parsley, it was the right of every mare to choose to foal and protect the very young.
The weeks before the herd started towards the Winter Gather was clouded by what had happened. Herd Father could not help worrying what it could mean. He did not like the fact that humans had been so close to his herd, they had not been seen since the telling of tales had began!
He would have liked to talk to Parsley but he did not want to up set her anymore, she was still weak from the injuries she had received, that the foals were staying so close to Parsley was good to see and the two ferret brothers were still coming to play with the them, that had been the group the little foundling had been a member of.
He shook his mane there were other things he had to think about. Going to the Winter Gather meant there would be a lot of talk about, next season’s foals and which of the young full seasons would chose to change herds, or build a new herd.
There was always the fun of seeing old friends and seeing how the newer herds were getting on.
The exchange of happenings and going-on’s, that thought brought his mind back to what had happened, as he dosed in the warm sun.
Herd Mother was beside him her coat was a warm chestnut glowing in the evening light, like the day he had first seen her at the Winter Gather were their hearts had entwined the moment they had first seen each other.
Hard Mother also was thinking of the coming Winter Gather and all the little problems it brought, like foals getting separated from their dams, upsetting everyone.
Was there going to be enough feed in the Race Lands as the number of horses were growing, last season there had been a water shortage problem, hopefully that would not be a problem this season as the spring had been accompanied by much rain.
Would that mean the river they had to cross by the Hill of the Old Stones would be a problem this season?
It would be good for Parsley to show the foals the old fossils, that had been there from before the start of tales and it was believed that the stones held horses from before time began, before humans had been seen on the planes there had been horses, or so the old tales told.
Parsley was always so good at telling the youngster about the fighting horse held in the stone, and the mare that stood guarding her foal.
To chose, to have a foal and protect it, every mare had that right, did it come form so long ago. Herd Mother would ask Parsley.
What would she, as heard mother have done if they had lost Parsley to the humans that had come? It was something everyone said when they did not know something. ‘Go and ask Parsley’.
Herd Mother had worried even more when Parsley had said, she thought it was a good idea to begin to train others in the old tales; she could not be the only one to know them.
It first Herd Mother had thought Parsley wanted to leave them, but she had assured her that it was wiser to share the knowledge than it was locked in one head!
The trip to the Winter Gathering was to take them longer than the last season as Parsley insisted on stopping at the hill where the cave was with the fossils of what must have been the forefathers of the races of horses that were now to be found on their Inner-Island.
“Before ‘That Day’ now so long ago, there were horses and ferrets and many other animals, many more than we see nowadays.” Parsley was explaining to the young gathered in the domed cave that housed the stone horse family.
The Stallion ready to attack! What-who ever were threatening the mare standing before her foal.
There was something that looked like a bird in another stone; that was turned away from them, more evidence that there had been other animals, the crumbling stones did not say.
That did not stop the young one’s asking questions that Parsley could not answer.
The two ferret brothers were constant companions to the two colts Thorn and Smoky their games were heard and seen by all, as the group played in the long summer grasses.
Thorn and Smoky were mystified when they could not find the ferrets, they muzzled through everything to find them.
Not every one was happy with this game as an expecting mare screamed with surprise at finding a ferret and another mare all but fainted as a foal pop out at her from dark shadow!
All Parsley would say was it must have been the same before ‘That Day’ as it is now!
That ferrets and horses; and birds had been friends since from ‘That Day’ to this. One thing she wanted the young to understand was, that their forefathers have been pounding their hooves into the earth since the seasons had began and their young hooves would led them into the future!
They could not go to the future with out a past! None of the youngster understood what she meant but it sounded as if they should.
Herd Father did not mind Parsley telling the tales to the youngster nor did he mind that they had to come out of their way to pass over this hill where the stones were in-caved.
It was more usual to visit this strange spot on their way back form the Winter Gather. But spring rain had raised the water level in the river that crossed their path and pushed them further in land.
He wandered what had been there before, so many seasons ago, the cave was not the only thing to suggest that there had been something here before, a stone shape pressed out of the ground.
It was not clear to Herd Father what it could be, but it must have been left over from before ‘That Day’ and it must have been something to do with humans.
Did it tell them something, something horses did need to know or all ready knew? Herd Father stood before the strange thing deep in thought.
Herd Father and Herd Mother had been asking questions of the owls and the high flying crows. Had they seen anything that could describe as strange? Most of those asked could only tell of normal events.
But one old crow said she had seen a bird so large, a bird it had to be, but the amount of sun light it had cut from sky above her crows nest had made her wonder.
Barn owls were living in a small wood that edged a bend in the river, not fare from where they crossed in its shallower water, the water ran over flat stones in its bed, marking a good ford, even when the spring’s rains had been generous.
One of the owls told of how they could not hunt one night as there was too much light in the sky, their night sight had been disturbed even though it did not remain for long in their sky. But it had remained long enough for them to remember the incident.
Other than one of their young chaps had pared up with one of the owls from over the hill and were planning to start their own nest sight, was all they could say that was new in their normal daily life! They did add they had seen other horses on they way to the Winter Gather.
The herd from River Bank had come past two nights ago. They were so excited about showing off their foals!
Why were horses so happy to show of their young? When there was new beaks to feed you had to hunt deep into the night!
Herd Mother did understand, but it was a joy anyway to have a new born foal or fledglings!
The Hard had mover on as the sun rose the next dawn, the wood as quite as their owl inhabitants slept.
The Gather was a happy occasion as it usually was; foals to be shown off. Younger stallions who were deciding to start their own herds. Young mares all in a fluster as choices were made.
Then others heard what had happened to Parsley they could only stand in silence. Parsley was well liked by everyone and was always seen busying around Gathers, swapping advice and tips in the up bringing of the youngsters. Also Parsley was a teller of tales and the young from other herds would gather round her to here her telling them.
Herd Father was concerned that the other herd leaders would not take the incident over the foundling seriously. Humans had not been seen for so long that only the tales told about them. The other herd leaders asked what could it mean? The only thing they could do was to watch out for any other sightings.
A herd that had come down from the fare north, had seen, as they put it, a shadow hanging over a meadow in the hills where they lived, though the shadow did strike them as strange, not for its mass but more for its solidity.
The sighting of humans and what had happened to Parsley was being discussed by everyone; the usual gossip was still being exchanged though!
The only real difference at this Gather was that those wishing to see Parsley came to see her rather than let her trot round to visit them.
When it was time to tell the old tales in the sun warmed grass four foals would lead her to the top of a bank, where her every word could be heard be her listeners.
Parsley’s older colt Driftwood took it upon himself to see she was well looked after. When the older Aunts could not lead her to grazing, the four foals took her, under his careful eye!
Before the herds prepared to return to their usual grazing, and the newly formed herds, eager to start out on their own, they sent their leaders, to represent them in the front rows to hear the horse they called The Sage speak of the open plains waiting the print of their hooves and the sound of their whinnies, join with the wind that flowed in their manes.
Parsley was supported by Driftwood as they left the meeting.
“The Sage gave a good a speech as ever, though he needs to see he gets enough salt.” Parsley could feel her son was surprised at her remark:
“How can you know that, he was so fare away from you?”
“You do not have to see to know such things, being an old dam has it advantages!” and a little bird had told her The Sage had a little problem and sort her advice! But she kept that to herself, she could not stop a smile from escaping her muzzle. Driftwood glanced at her then decided to change the subject.
“Well, all the herds are going to be watching out for any more sightings of humans, I can only hope humans do not mean there well be trouble...”
“I felt the same when I first lost the foundling.” Said Parsley sadly, in away she had lost a foal, as strange as the idea was to become attached to the little fondling. She sighed and lent against Driftwood for a moment. The foundling was not a foal but a little human and they had the right to protect her, Parsley new that.
Burt and Snake were laughing as the two horses they were riding on speeded up the hill. They were still play fellows after so many seasons!
Smoky could not get his muzzle in front of Thorn’s, Burt was shouting in his ear as he held on to his mane, Snake turned and waved a paw at the pair as Thorn pulled away.
A dark shadow passed over the playing group, it was not unusual to see such a shadow pass over the land and hover over the planes the herd were grazing.
Over the last four seasons it had become quite common to see the massif birds in the skies over the middle of the Island.
The shadow did not speak to any of the inhabitants of the land they was just there in the sky, if anyone had thought about it, it was as if they were there, watching!
There had been so many sightings that no one gave them much of a thought any more, only the herd leaders remarked upon the sightings at the Winter Gathers, since the humans had taken the founding, it had not been clear as to where they had gone after hurting Parsley no sign had been found.
The playing friends did not take any notice of the hovering thing; their game was taking all their breath. It was lowering over them till they could feel the very breath it used.
Their game was over in the next hoof beat; Burt was hugging the neck of Smoky. Smoky’s had lowered his head to turn away from the breath that was chasing him! Thorn was next to him Snake was trying to look up at the ever nearing shadow, all he could catch a glimpse of its smooth underside before it rose sharply to avoid the trees that stood out against the shadow. The trees allowed the friends to slip into their shelter hiding them from massive bird’s sight.
The two youngsters wanted to hoof it back to where their herd where grazing and would have done so had Snake not stopped them from braking from the cover the wood gave them.
“It cannot see us, not under the cover the trees give us!” he said as he dared to run up the nearest branch and on up into the old oak tree, Burt was close behind him:
“Where are those interfering healing birds when you want them? They are all ways telling us what not to do, but not what we should do now! What can you see Snake?”
“Nothing, everything looks normal there are healing birds fussing over the aunts and the foals. Why, they get into such a fuss before the Winter Gather! As those two horses down there say, what’s so special about foals anyway? As if they had never been foals themselves!” grumbled Snake.
“I did not mean that lot; do you see where the shadow is?”
“No, yes, it is over our heads!” As Burt said that, the tree top swayed in the sharp breath it sent down on them.
“That was a strange way for the shadow to behave!” Herd Father had said when they had told him. He too had seen the low flying shadow and wondered at how close it had come to his herd, though he was not sure that the youngsters were not exaggerating when they said they thought the shadow was after them! Why should it?
They had never before gone after those that roamed the land. Herd Father shook his head, his thoughts needed to be set in order, in two days they would be entering the open land where the Winter Gather was.
They would soon be seeing other herds making their way over the white chock hills.
Had they been the only herd to have seen the shadow come so close? How long had there been shadows in the skies?
Parsley had tried to protect that foundling, was it after that? Or after the next Winter Gather, they had noticed the shadows going over head?
Up and till now they had not been so close. It had risen over the tress and hovered over his herd just long enough to disturb the mares; it was not enough that the aunts were fussing over the foals, as they all ways seem to do before a Gather!
Though he had to admit this season’s foals were some of his finest. Did he say that, every season?
No, the youngsters had exaggerated. He would see that they had responsibilities to carry out round the herd and less time to play games.
The dawn was sending its warming rays to push the night away. Snake and Thorn were on watch on the hill top, on the side of the valley where it is said that the Winter Gather used to be held before the herds became spread across the land and had swelled in size.
Had the Winter Gather changed much since the tales began? How many youngsters had asked that question, wondered Thorn. Snake said he did not think many would even think about it! It was their bad luck they had to be here instead of in the herd.
Thorn had so wanted to tell everyone their tale of how they had escaped from the shadow! That’s why they were here! Thought Thorn, they were being kept busy and away from the others. Snake could over dramatise some of his adventures! Would the ferrets find them here? They would have liked to pick them up on their way here, but they had not been aloud to take the time it would have taken to find the hole the pair of friends had diced to sleep in.
As it was they did not have to wait for long as the two ferrets whistled at them, not from a hole in the ground, but from a branch in the tree over the heads of their two friends!
“Could not wait for us then?” said Snake, leering at Smoky as he hang on to the branch with his hind feet and pulled the thick forelock of Smoky over his eyes before he slid onto his back. Thorn did not greet Burt, as Burt stepped with more care on to him withers:
“We!” he said as he cleaned his breakfast smeared whiskers: “We have been hunting. This is really good hunting country! I could not eat another mouse till the next one.” Burt let a belch escape his lip: “Why are you here? We wanted to surprise you but Driftwood said, you had been sent on watch. He seemed to think it was a good thing, keep you out of trouble. So he said!”
“Want to go a head of the herd today and see if we can spot any herds we know?” asked Snake, not letting anyone answer: “Forgot, you are on watch and Driftwood will be coming a round to see you are here. He thinks he is so important now he has six seasons under his hooves, he is really bossy!”
They all jumped as a voice loudly put a stop to Snakes chatter.
“There are four seasons that needs to be bossed or nothing would get done around here. And being on watch is a duty not a time to play games!” Driftwood trotted off, not as quietly as he came. The group pulled faces at his retreating back; they had to try to look normal when he turned to look at them before he cantered on down the hill to rejoin the peacefully grazing herd.
The sun was willing to warm their backs as the midday shadows hide under their hooves, Thorn and Smoky were dosing with sleeping ferrets draped over their rumps.
It could have been a bee or it’s like, they heard drone over the grass, but the sound was accompanied by other sounds that did not match with bees! Thorn was asking himself these questions only half consecrating on what he was thinking.
Black and yellow they were and droning loudly as they skimmed the grass on leaf like pads. A ferret like body sat up right, with longer fore arms….
Thorn wanted to warn Burt that he was going to gallop down the hill to the herd had he not bumped into Smoky first. Smoky would not have been behind him if he had not shaken him, but still a sleep on the hill.
Somehow the two galloping youngsters did not look like two play fellows having a race, but two horses in flight form the unknown forms following them out of the trees, there was not time to take account of them, as the, horses in the valley were taking to their hooves.
Herd Farther was calling everyone to follow him and Herd Mother out of the valley and into the trees on the other side. As they reached the first trees there were other hovering forms standing in their way.
Herd Father stopped for a moment before turning to his left leading the herd to the hill over looking the valley, the other side of the hill sloped away from him and his worried herd. He could only pick up speed and hope the youngsters could keep up with the frantic pace.
Water splashed and swirled round them, hooves sang on the stones as they crossed the river to join what once had been flattened stone grassless way but turf had tried covered it a very long time a go.
Their way swung up the next hill, Herd Father want to reach the wood that covered its top in hope he could be able to catch his breath along with everyone else, but though the chasers were not gaining on them they were not dropping away ether.
The horses from other herds did not come this way out of choice. The old tales told of the horror of a giant human that had made a mountain of bones. Bones that he had taken from the animals he had hunted down and killed, animals that had been left here after ‘That Day’. Even now there was a cold stillness to be found here even on a summer day.
To the horror of the first horses to come out of the woods the meadows were fenced on both the left and right, they were to high to jump for the little ones, Heard Father could only lead them on down the long meadows, now the horror followers were also coming out of the woods with their droning and hovering over the grass that edged the meadows they were closing all of the ways back into the woods.
The whining of the bewildered mares trying to keep with their foals and the screaming from older colts trying to protect their mares and the younger fillies and colts voices mixed with the sound of humans shouting orders at each other.
Space to fight was restricted by more fences; Herd Father knew that the sea was not fare away, there were cliffs that dropped down to the sea, there was not a way the Herd Father could be use to add an escape for his herd.
The fences were made of wood, jumping them were becoming the only option Herd Father could see and with the weight of others behind him the wooden blockages could brake!
Any chance of a way out had to be taken. The two legged humans were leaving their solar hovers to close the fences around them!
Herd Fathers voice rose above the calls of the others giving the order to move to the side he was going to jump. His hind hooves cleared the top rail.
Driftwood was torn by the order to go and the sight of Parsley standing, her sides heaving as she took breath her head low. “Go!” she whined at him: “Go!”
There was movement at that moment, the sound of braking fencing and hooves turning to make for the gape.
The humans shouted, something snapped in the air a horse fell! From the air the healing birds could not make out what was happening, horses were running every where and other horses were falling.
Humans were pointing at animals and they fell to the ground, Heard Farther called those left standing to follow him. He could see Herd Mother lead her foal and two other youngsters away from the closed meadows.
Horses lay still, lay as if they were in a stunned sleep as if time had stopped for them. The sounds of other horses calling did not wake them.
Snake and Burt tried to raise their companions but not even pulling their ears could waken them. Snake lifted Smoky’s eyelid but the eye did not look back at him.
It was sometime later when Smoky got to his hooves there was not much room for him to move, there were horses penned in a round him he did not at first see Thorn, till Thorn got up from the shingled beach a few paces away from him.
Smoky was glad he was close enough to him to answer his call. He pushed his way towards him through the other horses, with Burt standing holding onto his mane, eager not to loss sight of them in the mass of others.
Round them were not only members of his herd, there were many he did not recognise was that Driftwood, over there?
How long they were left hemmed in on the small beach was only countable by the setting of the sun.
More horses were herded into the small cove protected by high cliffs. The gape the track ran through was closed by a un-jumper able barrier. Nor was there space to try such an escape as Herd Father had made.
Frightened animals were looking to escape with the sea.
But its tide was turning and bringing more water to fill the shallows and shrinking the shingled beach.
Dawn brought a new sound, the drowning of an engine; they were to learn, it rode the water!
Smoky was half dosing as he stood next to Thorn, they had been pressed against each other as the light of the last day had left the sky. Thorn had then said he thought that the next day would not be something to look forward to, which was typical of him, as it was to prove an understatement.
The sound of the engine took all other sounds out of the air and the very shingle of the cramped beach shook. Thorn could not see what was happing nor could he turn to look!
Horses were pressing agents him; trying to move away from the sound that was coming in with the sea.
Snake and Burt did see mouths so large they seemed to be eating the horses closest to them. Smoky was drawn towards the gapping opening. Thorn tried to hold back but was pushed forward by the weight of those behind him, salty water splashed into the air and into their eyes.
The feel of hooves on the small stones was exchanged for the base of the flat bottomed craft. Then the daylight was shut out as its mouth closed, the friends could only press closer together, they felt that everything that they known had gone with the light.
The ground under their hooves changed its feel, was there water under them? Then the container they were in swayed as it was lifted into the air, their senses were confused all ready by the unaccustomed feeling of water under them, how could they have known the sea was holding them up and was gently rocking them, till the crane snatched them from the sea and set it into the hold of the ship waiting of shore.
If they had known that would they have been less frightened? As it was they were protected by the shock of what had happened to them; that they could only stand pressed together with the other horses, unable to speak, or move, only feel the engines driving its beat through the ship’s structure.
Burt and Snake were able to move from one horse to another but the other horses that were not use to having a ferret on its back found the experience too much, so Snake and Burt decided to tie themselves into the manes of Smoky and Thorn. To lose contact with their friends would be a great loss, and under masses of hooves they did not have a chance!
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