Bridling Fire:3Mature

The Horses' POV (yes... I do think horses should have a point of view in this too.)

Tempest snorted. She stamped her hoof once, twice, and when the stupid little deerfly didn't leave, she brought her teeth down angrily onto her leg. She didn't care to know whether she drew blood herself in chomping her own leg or if it was from the bug, but either way she tasted the salty stuff and wanted to get rid of it.

The Fell pony's tail swished lazily around her hind legs as the mare made her way through the rest of the herd toward the little stream. She heard Momentum flare his nostrils in the dark and let out an angry snort, and she struck out at his neck like a snake as she passed, setting a good nasty cut near his crest. The stallion yelled out and reared at her attack, and Tempest tasted blood again.


I think it might have been Frostbite that woke me up, or Momentum screaming a challenge yet again at one of the more rebellious ponies, but either way it wasn't like I was going to back to sleep anytime soon now that I was up.

We were camped in that field that still hadn't ended; no tents, just bedrolls and a fire. And the ponies tied to a string tied to the one stick we found, its head sharpened by James's knife and stick in the ground.

I sat up. Everything was so quiet. And so open, too; I didn't like it. There was no forest cover, no foliage, and nothing to shield the glare of the wide, bright moon from my eyes. I pulled on my boots, grabbed my hunting bow, and stood up.


Something slithered to a stop by my ear, and I shot upright.

"Hey!" It was Jacie. She was standing right by my bedroll, her hand outstretched and open down toward me as if she was waiting to help me up. That's what I thought, for a minute, before I caught sight of the heavy silver chain she had just let slide through her fingers to land next to my ear. That's what the slithering noise had been.

"Check out what I found," she said, and knelt down on one knee to pick up one end of the chain. It wasn't silver, after all; it was something much heavier, duller. Obviously meant to outlast strain and weathering.

"What is it?" I asked. "And where did you get it? And when?" I was starting to get slightly suspicious, but I wasn't exactly surprised. My sister and I had few things in common, but one of them was running off when something didn't go right. Or if we had excess energy. Or something.

"Never mind that. Your horse woke me up, so I went for a walk because I couldn't fall asleep. It was over there, at the top of that little hill-thing." I raised my eyebrows. Jacie looked at the sky for a moment, then back down.

"Well?" I asked. "What, did you trip on it?"

"Yeah, actually, I did. It was strung up, like a trap or something." She looked serious. After a minute of thinking, I realized that this was probably the longest conversation we'd ever had that wasn't an argument.

"Alright. Whatever. Take me there, though. Traps are set up with twine or chord, not chains. Then again, twine and chord are only meant to hold up rabbits or squirrels, things that are light. Animals like that don't require chains, especially not like this." I stood up. "Either there's something really big out there that we don't know about, which is super unlikely, or someone escaped the cities and has totally lost it."

Then what I said actually hit me. Jacie pointed it out first, though.

"Lyric. Do you realize what's going on here? We're not the only ones outside the cities. Animals don't do this. We're not alone."

I had already stopped dead, but recovered quickly. This wasn't that big of a deal, really. Well... You know what, I didn't want to think about that just now. I just wanted to keep to the little picture with the chain and the trap and not take it any further than that.

The sun was almost above the horizon, but not quite. Everyone was beginning to wake up; early mornings were a part of habit. We all found it hard to sleep in, whether we actually wanted to or not. I kicked Felix's shoulder as he stretched and flipped onto his back, informing him that he was in charge until Jacie and I got back. He grunted in reply, but I'm not sure he actually heard.

This hill was way further out than I had expected. Jacie and I walked in silence, and I resisted the urge to trip her and run like I had always done when we were kids. Little kids; before That Night, when dad went to remove the horses on the orders of the Authority, and had one of his lungs stabbed through by his own rib when he got stomped on. The barn was far enough away from the house that no one found him until we realized that, even with the horses this troublesome, it really shouldn't take this long for someone to set the out behind the fence. When we did find him, my mother lost it completely with grief and stress, and drove me out when I tried to defend the foal Momentum against her threats to kill him and the other three, Phoenix included. Jacie had hidden through the whole thing, being her frightened little eight-year old self, and me, at nine, had simply taken Momentum and Phoenix and run away through the still-open fence. The reason horses were set out and not killed was because the Authorities figured that the people in the cities could use a reason to fear escape; wolves and bears had gone extinct in the year 2048. The Equine malfunction took place in 2072, and it was 2079 right now. My birth year was 2063, and I'm 16. That Night my mother drove me out was the night I decided that rules no longer had any effect on me, and I went total rebel. Then, of course, I met Felix, and he got along well with Phoenix; then I found Jacie again, who had run away and come across a wild pony herd. She had gotten attached to a filly and named it Tempest, a perfect match for the beast's personality... And so on.

Obviously though, we weren't kids anymore, so I didn't trip Jacie and we just walked silently and acted as if the other didn't exist.

"Here," she said, and we stopped. This hill-thing she had described looked more like an overgrown dirt mound cut in half; the far side ended simply, as if someone had neatly scooped up half the structure with some giant hand or machine of some sort. Or as if it had slid down. Into a hole. Because yes, when I looked over, there was a hole where the other side of the hill should have been. A very big, dark, scary hole probably filled with big, dark, scary spiders.

I did not want to investigate this.

"Umm... Was that there when you found the chain?"

Jacie looked up from where she was kneeling, studying where the chain must have been.

"Yes. Well, not really; I tripped over the chain and barely avoided going down with the landslide. I think it triggered it, or something."

"Good thing you hadn't ridden. Tempest would not be happy with disappearing land."

Jacie laughed. Like, she really laughed. For once. "No kidding," she said, "I can imagine her prancing around with her hooves in the air, afraid the ground under her feet would cave in."

I could picture it; it was just like Jacie's mare to do something like that. I laughed too. Until it occurred to me that maybe Tempest would have had the right idea.

"Wait..." I breathed, stepping carefully down to the very dark hole. If it sloped, a very short horse and rider could get down without too much problem. Unfortunately, it seemed to lead straight down. I voiced my thoughts. "What if... What if there are more? Like, more of the land-slides. Tempest might have the right idea here."

Her brow furrowed under the silvery side-swept bangs. "I think there would be more chains. Or... Maybe this one was supposed to lead into a chain reaction and didn't."

I couldn't help but chuckle. "Heh... Chain reaction... Sorry."

Jacie made a face. "Maybe we should have ridden. The horses would have been able to tell more, like scents and stuff. I know we'd need more than that, but at least we would be able to tell if they were nervous or not. Body language isn't that hard."

I nodded. "Let's get Kylar and maybe Felix and check it out. Or... Maybe let's just keep moving and just keep an eye out."

"Sounds good to me."

We left the hole as it was, leaving the claw marks on the edge conveniently unnoticed.

The End

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