Girls Horse Club Blog

Spirit of the Mustang

Published by • Aug 31st, 2009 • Category: Fiction

by Violet Inkpen, age 13

The proud chestnut stallion narrowed his eyes as he saw the tan colored stallion lead his sunset colored herd towards the water. The chestnut and his herd was far off from the water and they watched the other herd closely. The chestnut was named Fleet after his father. His mother, Duchess, was a beautiful mare and, despite her white color, his father was a chestnut and so was he. He was the only foal of Duchess to become a chestnut, and he proudly carried the banner of his father’s gleaming coat. As the oldest, his father called him back to the herd. He remembered his exact words.

“You are the first born son I have ever had, Fleet. I had to send you away as all stallions do, but… I want you to take the herd. Duchess only has a few years left and she wants to spend them with her sister. I am going with her, dear son. Take over the herd, I know you are old enough and strong enough to fight for them, protect them, and take care of them. Be the best you can, do your duty; give them the love and respect they deserve. My herd will thrive with you leading them.”

Then Fleet the father turned around, his mane blowing in the wind, and he walked off with his oldest and favorite mate. Duchess looked back once, tears in her eyes. “I love you Fleet, you truly are as majestic as your father. You look like him when I first met him. I will always love you!”

Then Fleet watched his parents walk away, forever.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Fleet shook off the memory with a flick of his tail. Right now he had other problems. Tiger’s son, Sege, was down there with his father’s herd. He was fiercer than his father and he’d kill any horse that wasn’t of a ‘pure’ color. Before dying Tiger had trained his older son to be a Shadow and Wind, then three years before his death he trained his son like a pooch to seek and destroy any off-color horse. His son was a perfect weapon. But when Tiger died, Sege was left to unleash what he had been taught on everyone. Many herds were attacked just because there was one or two off-color horses that Sege tried to kill, some he did. The herd that Duchess originally came from was nothing but exotic colors, but thankfully they lived too far away from Sege for him to travel there just to kill, and he’d have too many to kill — too much work. So he left them alone… for now.

Fleet shook his mane. Sunset, his lead mare and also his sister, stood beside him. Her chestnut coat was beautiful, with white stripes in the mane and down the neck; she was stunning. Fleet looked sideways at her. “We can’t go down there. Sege will attack our herd. We have ‘impure’ colors in us,” he said in disgust.

“The world used to be safer than this. We didn’t have to fear a killer horse,” Sunset sighed sadly. Fleet flicked his ears in response, telling his sister he agreed. Unlike his polite and chatty father, Fleet was a stallion of little words. If nothing needed to be said, he said nothing. He wasn’t too polite either; he carried himself with pride and in a way that commanded respect.

“What will we do?” Sunset asked.

Fleet sighed and looked at her. “We’ll wait our turn,” he said gently, despite his irritation with her.

“Oh,” Sunset said, wishing her brother was more of a talker.

Fleet walked away from her and back to his herd. He had two sisters in his herd, and seven other mares. He had three foals so far, all girls. One mare was going to give birth soon. They all hoped it was a pure color. These days you couldn’t afford to have too many colors. Fleet narrowed his eyes at the distant herd. “I wish we could rid ourselves of them,” he grumbled.

“I know you worry, we all do. Sege will pick us all off one by one. With all his Shadow and Winds lurking about he has an army at his beck and call,” Sunset whispered, looking worried as if the shadows or winds would really tattle on her.

“What about the banished colors, the stallions sent to live alone without a herd? Aren’t there plenty of them to outweigh the Shadow And Wind?” Fleet asked.

“You think they’d help us survive? You don’t think that many have died from old age or other things? Nowadays all foals that are the wrong color are killed, not banished,” Sunset snapped.

Fleet looked thoughtful. “I doubt they’d help us anyway,” he sighed.

Sege looked up towards the ridge and bellowed a challenge to Fleet. Fleet backed away, pinning his ears back.

“You could take him if it wasn’t for all his Shadow and Winds,” Sunset said angrily.

“Move the herd out,” Fleet snapped. “I’m going down there to beat him. Move to the Hide Away Canyon, you’ll be safe there.” Fleet took one last look at his herd, his family, his children, then galloped towards the challenger. “I have to do this. I have to do this,” he whispered. Fear gripped him like the mighty eagle held its prey. He shook it off and concentrated on the rhythm of his pounding hooves. He must not show fear. He must beat Sege, and his spies if he had to. This was for every horse that ever walked the earth that Sege wandered. This was for every mustang that cowered in fear in front of the stallion. But mostly, this was for his family.

He slid to a stop a few feet from the proud stallion, who was an exact copy of Tiger. “Sege!” he called out, narrowing his eyes.

Sege smiled wickedly. “So you know my name? Now you will know my sting!” He raced towards Fleet, muscles flexing in anticipation.

Fleet didn’t falter, he didn’t flinch, but inwardly he was shaking. This stallion was trained to kill without mercy. He was more monster than horse. Fleet stood his ground and raised his head, silent as the grave.

Sege finally was close enough for attack, but he kept coming, swinging his head from side to side as if he was herding a mare. Fleet knew it was a charge. At the last second he side-stepped with a flick of his tail, which whipped Sege’s ear and embarrassed him in front of his herd.

Sege wheeled and glared at Fleet. “You think you are so smart?” He sneered.

Fleet shrugged, slowly walking forward. Sege charged again, but this time he reared up and dealt a blow to Fleet’s shoulder. Fleet backed away in pain, blinking away the stinging and throbbing. He raced forward and gave a half rear, pushing against Sege’s belly and throwing him to the ground. Fleet pinned Sege there, breathing short angry breaths. “I should kill you! You have spilled too much innocent blood, you have ruined too many herds, too many foals shrink in fear because they have more than two colors. You deserve to die!” he bellowed.

Sege looked up at him smugly. “Kill me and soon you shall be killed. My Shadow and Winds are coming here this very minute. I sent my son, Racer, to get them and he is the fastest horse ever. If you wish to live you better gallop away right now,” he taunted.

Fleet raised a hoof. “I will not cower from you. Your herd needs freedom!” He threw his hoof like a punch at Sege and left a big bleeding mark on his nose. Sege yelped in pain. “You are no leader, you are a tyrant! It is not wrong to have many colors to you! It is natural and beautiful! It makes us different! If we all only had two colors then many horses could all look the same! How would they ever be defined? How would we ever keep them apart? I will not fade into the crowd! I will not be like everyone else! I am different and I am PROUD! Kill me if you wish, but never take away what makes me special.” He shouted this to the wind, making sure the whole herd could hear him. Then he got his hooves up from Sege’s shoulders, turned, kicked dust in his face with his hind feet, and slowly walked away, pushing past the tan colored herd.

He paused when he saw three foals, all about six months old. “Come with me little ones, you have no future in his herd,” he said gently, nuzzling them. There were two colts and one filly. Fleet couldn’t stand to see them grow up under that beast!

The foals smiled in joy and relief. “Please, couldn’t we come?” they begged.

“Don’t you dare!” their mothers cried.

“I’m going,” One colt said bravely.

Finally the other two nodded and they all followed Fleet. When they were a good distance from the herd, Fleet heard a voice calling him. “Wait! Wait! I want to come too!” He turned around and saw a beautiful filly following. She was about two years old, with a flowing graceful mane. Her color was not tan. It was cream colored with white mane and dark black markings down at her feet. She was beautiful.

“How is it you aren’t dead?” Fleet asked, stopping to welcome her to join him.

“I was to be… a sacrifice… of… c-color,” the filly panted.

Fleet touched noses with her in friendly greeting then they moved on, eager to get far away from Sege.

“My very mother was a Sacrifice of Color. And if she hadn’t been then I would have never met her,” he said.

“But… the Sacrifices… they… they die. The wind swallows them up and spits them up at the earth to bring many colors to the ground and the trees,” she said slowly.

“No, they are only given to other stallions so your leader doesn’t have to worry about his herd being taken. He makes a deal with them—a mare every two years for the stallions to never come near his herd. Ever. He is full of lies,” Fleet said, eyes flashing

“Like what?” the filly asked.

“The whole color thing. The whole Shadow and Wind. That is just to keep the colts of the herd in check, from stealing his herd, and to form an army so he can take over every living mare,” Fleet said, looking down at the precious foals. “What is your name?” he asked the filly.

“Astro,” the filly said slowly.

“Alright Astro, welcome to my herd and a brighter future than you’d find with Sege,” Fleet said, smiling.

Astro smiled too. “No more fear,” she whispered.

Fleet laughed. “No more fear of Sege; there are other dangers you’ll face without Sege’s army to protect you. Like mountain lions, humans, other stallions, many things. But it is a better life. A life with meaning to it.” Fleet shook his mane as if to wipe away the memory of Sege’s sad looking herd. Astro did the same, copying his movements. The foals laughed and shook their little tuff of mane.

Fleet shook his head in wonder. These horses needed saving. He realized now more than ever that Sege’s herd could not go on as it was. Maybe… he began to wonder. Was it his destiny to save them? Was it far-fetched thinking to think that? He looked at Astro then at the foals, and saw smiles on their faces. Perhaps the first time in their life they ever smiled. Surely horses were meant to be happy?

He looked over his shoulder and saw tiny outlines of horses being herded away. He knew they deserved freedom. They were mustangs that lived like slaves! And it enraged him!

When Fleet got back to the herd he introduced Astro to the rest of his herd. Astro was shy and very submissive. She flattened her ears in fear when anyone approached her. It was obvious she hadn’t been treated well in Sege’s band.

Sunset took right to the foals and adopted them immediately as her own children. The foals said that they had no names; horses had to earn their names in that herd. If they grew up impure they would be murdered so why bother naming them until they knew they were safe?

So Fleet, Sunset, and even Astro worked fiercely on naming the three little foals. Astro suggested Ruby for the filly because her coat was sort of cherry colored. Sunset just loved the name Simba for one foal; she said that his coloring was as beautiful as a lion’s. Fleet had the honor of naming the third, a sort of golden colored foal. “He deserves a name of honor, like a king. He is crowned in gold,” Fleet said with admiration in his voice. The colt beamed in pride and stood taller, head high.

“What do we call him then?” Sunset asked.

Fleet was thoughtful.

“Bob?” Simba suggested. “Like, as in bob cat!” he added when the adults gave him puzzled glances. No one was amused. The foal sighed in sadness at his wasted joke.

“He should be called Duke, like the Grand Duke of the wild!” Fleet finally decided.

“My mother was called Duchess and she carried her name as if she was royal. I know Duke will do the same.” He reached down with his nose and nudged the foal, sending the tiny little horse into a fit of laughter.

“Right then. Welcome Duke, Simba, and Ruby to our humble herd. We promise to protect you and give you the best life ever,” Fleet said in a booming and majestic voice.

“And we won’t be Shadow and Wind?” Duke asked.

“Nah, just bachelor stallions,” Simba said shrugging.

“I was thinking you didn’t have to leave when you grew up,” Fleet said slowly. “You could stay with us for a while. Our herd will prosper under the watchful eye of three stallions,” he added, as if the foals were doing him a favor.

The colt’s eyes grew wide with wonder. “Wow! Too cool!” Duke shouted, prancing around Simba. Simba laughed.

Ruby rolled her eyes. “Colts! They behave like baboons,” she muttered.

“Perhaps we should have named HER with a royal name,” Sunset whispered to Fleet.

Fleet didn’t share her smile. He was concentrating on his thoughts. He looked into the sky and worry filled his face. He was sure, knowing Sege, that the other stallion would not take well to defeat. In fact, he may be gatherng his whole army of stallions at that very moment. Yes, dark times were in store for Fleet, his herd, maybe even all mustangs that lived within a certain distance of Sege. He shivered in the cool evening air. Change was coming… and maybe war.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Two day passed and Fleet watched the foals burn bright with their own personalities. Ruby was very dainty, always trying to be grown up and elegant. Simba was always joking around and looking for good fun. Duke was wild and hyper, always jumping around and yet he was more serious when it came to having conversations than either of the other foals. He also noticed that Astro was still shy around adult horses. The only horses she seemed to trust were him and the foals of the herd.

Despite the seemingly good will all around, Fleet could feel something coming; something bigger than a squabble between Sege and him. He knew Sege was gathering his army so kept alert, and constantly moved his herd. The adults understood the sudden and frequent changes of territory, but the foals were unused to moving so much. So as the sun began to set on the third day with the new members in the herd, Fleet left his herd to sleep. He told Sunset and Astro and a mare called Jade to look out for any danger. He said he had ‘business’ to see to that night. They had wandered close to the territory of the stallions sent in exile by Tiger and Sege.
Fleet was cautious, wary of meeting these fellows. The lies they had been fed, they may attack. But he had to go into the woods and see just how many stallions lived there. So he gathered his courage and faded into the shadows of the night, the muffled sound of hooves treading on the dirt and grass were accompanied by crickets chirping.

Moving slowly and silently Fleet made his way deep into the woods until he found one horse, one lone stallion, dozing by a river. “Friend, how are you?” he called out.

The stallion nodded awake. “Wah?” he asked, looking up. “You look a little old to be newly banished,” the stallion observed.

Fleet dipped his head. “You are very wise and observant aren’t you?” he asked.

The stallion rolled his eyes. “Flattery doesn’t work,” he snorted. “What do you want?”

Fleet chose his words with care. “I came here looking for someone. I thought he may have come here. How many stallions are there? Do they know each other enough that someone may have seen him?” he asked.

The old stallion leaned against a tree and relaxed, his hooves cocked off to different angles. “We all know each other. We are loners, but unless someone has died we see at least every stallion here once a week. At least. As of now there are twenty-three stallions living here. We were told that our colors were impure. Half of us believe it. Half think we were just a threat to the leadership of the stallion that sent us away. I was sent away by Tiger. But I hear someone new sends them away now. Someone called Sege.” The old stallion’s voice was cracking, silver hairs coated his body, he was slow and feeble looking.

“So you’ve never tried to start a herd? If you don’t believe in the impure colors why do you stay here?” Fleet asked.

The stallion scratched his shoulder with his teeth before answering. “Well young ‘un, you are full of questions aren’t ya? I guess we’re all just afraid of his Shadow and Wind army.” He looked at Fleet with hard eyes as if he was saying ‘there, you have your answer now quit prying into my business.’

Fleet realized the end of the conversation. He dipped his head. “Thank you, this information should bring me closer to tracking down my friend.”

The old stallion raised an eyebrow. “Not many stallions choose to come here, it is a place that we are cast to keep us our of trouble. Whoever your friend is, he is pretty stupid to come here when he has a choice to start a herd. Course, I’ve heard that Sege attacks other herds and sends stallions into exile, kills foals, and stuff. Sounds horrid but it really isn’t my problem. Just gives us old folks something to gossip ‘bout. Not many newcomers enter here no more, most are killed I hear. Every now and then there comes a foal that a mother sent away to save ‘em. Or Sege allows ‘em to live to be sent here. Usually they are the weak ones, the ones that aren’t a threat to him. The ones that could never start and defend a herd even if they hadn’t been sent here.” The Stallion flicked his ears. “Sad times we’re facing. Sege will probably raise up someone like himself, but worse. Each generation has more hate.”

Fleet nodded in understanding. “Well I better get going,” he said. He knew that stallion didn’t trust that he had a ‘friend’ he was looking for. But Fleet had some information that he liked. Twenty-six stallions. Some old, some young, some injured or weak, and some just plain loners. It didn’t seem too hopeful to turn to them for help should things with Sege reach a horrible and unbearable level. Fleet left the forest and went back to his herd, his mind buzzing with thoughts.

Just as day was breaking and Fleet had finally finished telling Sunset about the old stallion, three terrified mares came galloping at them. Fleet positioned himself in front of his herd. “Stop!” he nickered. The three mares slid to a halt, shaking and soaked in sweat. “He… they… foals…. herd… fire!” The mares stuttered.

Fleet gently touched his nose to one of their shoulders. “Shh… settle down. You are safe now,” he whispered.

“What happen–”

Fleet shot Sunset a look and she clamped her mouth shut. The mares needed to be calm before they talked about what had spooked them. They needed to have their brains about them to get the facts straight. After five minutes of gentle words and grooming, the mares took deep breaths and began telling them what happened.

“We were grazing, all of us. There were seven mares in the herd. I had a foal and so did Cleo.” The spotted mare looked at the cream colored horse with the dark brown spots and mane who was sadly looking at her hooves. “We were grazing, our foals were playing, then out of nowhere comes Sege and an army of about ten stallions! They carried branches of fire from some human campfire and they threatened to burn us all if our leader didn’t leave to the exile woods and give us all up. We knew that most of us, being spotted, would be killed or ‘sacrificed’, and our foals? Killed. We fought. Well, our leader did, but ten against one with burning branches… he lost. Then they set the whole place on fire and told us to burn. Sege killed all our foals and some of us were captured. He even killed one mare on the spot because she told him to leave her alone. And because she was colorful.” The mare shook in shock and anger. “Our whole herd is split apart, half murdered, half sent to exile, half living in his herd, and us three alone escaped.” The other two mares nodded.

Fleet paced pack and forth during the story. The mares nervously swished their tails. “How far away was this?” he asked.

“About ten miles. We’ve been running for a long time,” Cleo whispered.

Fleet nodded and looked at Sunset. “We will be happy to care for you as long as you need it. We’ll even welcome you into our herd if you do not regain your herd. Which… is doubtful. Tell me, did your leader escape?” Fleet asked.

“I don’t see how.” The third, a black and white mare, growled.

Fleet looked at Sunset and she shook her head sadly. He looked over at the three foals playing. “This place hasn’t been safe since Sege was born,” he hissed in anger. Cleo looked at him as if he was a dragon about to unleash his fury on Sege and save them all. As if he was a hero.

Fleet finally nodded at them. “Rest, graze. I am moving the herd in three hours. Sege will be sweeping the entire valley looking for herds to ‘purify’. We must keep moving. I’d kill him if it wasn’t for his Shadow and Winds,” he added in a dark voice.

The three mares looked at his herd with admiration and walked off to graze and gossip, fitting right into his herd as if they were born there.

Fleet began to pace again, thoughts swirling around in his head. “We’ll be alright,” Sunset assured him. He snorted in disbelief and kept pacing.

Astro came up to Fleet with Duke and Simba beside her, talking nonstop about silly little things. “Sunset, please make it stop!” she whimpered.

Sunset looked fondly at her adopted sons. “Duke, Simba, why don’t you play a game? Maybe you can pretend to be eagles hunting their prey?” Sunset suggested, tugging their mane with affection.

“OKAY!” they both shouted before bolting.

Fleet watched them go halfheartedly, his mind worrying. Astro sighed in relief. “Thank you Sunset,” she mumbled shyly, looking down. Sunset smiled warmly, but Astro didn’t notice or didn’t acknowledge it. Sunset frowned in disappointment and walked away to talk to one of the other mares in the herd about raising foals to be wise and courageous. The three foals were her first children ever and she wanted to raise them right.

Astro watched Fleet, unsure how to interact with anyone else in the herd. Fleet she understood. Quiet, thoughtful, still, at peace with the wind and the earth. She took a mouthful of grass and chewed slowly, savoring the flavor.

Fleet finally sighed and looked at her. “Well, what do you make of all this?” he asked.

Astro thought over her answer carefully, chewing with purpose. Finally she swallowed and spoke. “Every now and then Sege would go out to other herds and attack, but never with fire and… he never harmed the leader. We weeded out those he thought to be impure color and either killed, banished, or captured for the Sacrifice of Color. He killed all foals that were impure. He killed all colts period, no matter what color. He fears losing his power, enough to make him kill every other stallion in the world if he has to. But he needs his army to keep power. He knows every herd out there fears him. One leader against him and an army is no match. If those Shadow and Winds knew the truth they would never serve him. They think it is their duty to serve him because of his pure color and his birthright as the ‘Monarch of Color’. But why now? Why is he now attacking with brutality and murder? Killing everyone? Instead of just showing off his power by taking and killing a few he seems to be trying to… exterminate.” She whispered the last word with fear.

Fleet admired the way she talked slowly, considering each word. She wanted to tell the truth, but being unsure of Sege’s dark mind she said what she thought the best answer, and she considered it for a long time before just rushing into answers. She was honest and he understood her cautious approach to every answer. He nodded, satisfied. “If indeed his purpose is extermination, then we must act quickly to save the herd… and the life of mustangs as we know it!” he said, looking around. His eyes narrowed at the shadows near the cover of a forest. Suddenly he screamed in challenge and went racing towards the forest, his mares lifting their heads to watch. Some nickered out at him. “Fleet! Fleet! What’s wrong?” But he ignored them.

Astro followed, unsure what was happening but unwilling to be left out of the action. Simba and Duke tried to follow, but Sunset reached down and grabbed their tails in her mouth, keeping them at bay. Though they trotted, they made no progress. Ruby sneered at them from her place beside Sunset.

Fleet was giving chase to what he had seen. Rays of sunlight that had peeped through the canopy of leaves now flashed on and off his coat at such a fast pace that it was as if he was shinning. He galloped faster, then threw himself at whatever was escaping. They both came down in a crash of hooves and a snapping of branches underneath their weight.

Astro arrived just as Fleet went down. She slid to a stop, kicking up leaves onto Fleet. The stallion got to his feet with a snort and placed a hoof on the shoulder of his captive, a young stallion about four years old. “What mean you?” Fleet demanded.

The stallion shivered. “I am a bachelor looking for a herd,” he stammered in fear.

But Astro saw through it. It was mock fear, fake fear, staged fear. She whispered something into Fleet’s ears and he nodded.

They both noticed the stallion’s tan color and black mane. “You lie. You work for Sege and we know it. Well, tell your Sege that if he wants to wipe us all out he’ll have to fly to the moon and bring it down here to crush us all, because we will never give in, we will never give up, and we shall NEVER die! Neither man nor horse nor any beast on earth will ever break us. We are the mustangs and we will stay where we belong, alive and kicking. And nothing he can do will ever remove every single mustang from the earth.” Fleet shook his mane, as if that would further his argument.

The stallion sneered at Fleet. “We shall rise to power! You are a pure color, but you disgrace yourself with a herd like that. You should be one of us! You are our brother, a pure color! The spirit of color will strike down all who oppose. The spirit of color tells Sege how to ensure its survival. It feeds off of bad colors and that is why we sacrifice color!” The stallion spat at Astro, knowing her to be the escaped sacrifice.

“You speak as if the earth swallows up the mares that are sacrifices. My own mother was the very first Sacrifice of Color you know — she and her sister and another mare. Truth was, they were only given to bachelor stallions so Tiger didn’t have to worry about them trying to steal his herd.” Fleet said gently.

The colt looked outraged. “You lie! The spirit of color ate them!” he shouted.

“Then how was I born, bonehead?” Fleet asked.

The colt looked confused.

“Listen to what I tell you. The only thing Tiger, Sege, or ANY stallion fears is his herd taken away from him. Some stallions would do anything to keep their herd, even giving their daughters to other herds in return for promises to keep away. But Tiger took it too far. He invented this ‘spirit’ thing to keep you all living in fear and under his control. Horses that think things like that are easy to manipulate. He lied to you young one. Color is in our blood! It gives us life, character — it defines us! If I didn’t have this white marking on my leg I’d be like any other chestnut stallion, wouldn’t I? Without my white color against my chestnut, I’d be completely like every other. I am different! I am unique! Color gives us that affect. And no color is better than any other,” Fleet said.

Astro looked at the colt. “I thought I was worthless because of my color.” She took a deep breath and looked at Fleet who nodded for her to continue. She leaned her head down next to the colt’s. “But I realize that I am this color for a reason. I have a rich heritage. My family all had different colors. It makes me proud to be the way I am! And no spirit is upset. If there was a spirit of color, wouldn’t we all look the same? Wouldn’t the spirit make us the same color if it existed?” she asked, careful to keep mockery out of her voice. If the colt felt offended he could blow up at them.

The colt looked more doubtful every second. “Well… but…” He finally looked up at Fleet. “I think you are right.” he said slowly.

Fleet removed his hoof and backed away. The colt got up. “I did always think that horses like Astro and the spotted ones were pretty. I even thought of taking over a herd of spotted ponies when their leader died. I was off on a mission from Sege. He sent me to watch that herd. I really liked Cassandra; she was beautiful and so smart and pretty. We met secretly by the woods. She loved me for me, not my color and I loved her for her. She was beautiful, but I knew I couldn’t see her anymore. She had spots. I thought meeting in secret and in the dark would hide it from the spirit. But Sege found out about it. He said the spirit told him. That is when I knew the spirit was real. But now that I think about it, he could have sent another Shadow and Wind, and that one could have seen me,” he said, blushing at his silly belief in some spirit of color.

“I don’t want to be a Shadow and Wind, I hated helping to kill horses. Horses weren’t meant to kill other horses,” he whispered.

Fleet nodded. “I know, and I am trying to figure out how to defeat Sege,” he said.

The colt gasped. “Not with his army! He has too many Shadow and Winds!” he said, wide eyed.

“What do they call you colt?” Fleet asked.

“Crock,” the colt said shyly.

“Alright then Crock, perhaps you can help us defeat Sege. It is a lot to ask but could you… go back to him? Instead of being his Shadow and Wind, you are ours. You spy on him instead of spying for him. It is dangerous, especially if he finds out. That is why you can’t give him false information or anything suspicious. In fact, be the best believer of the ‘spirit of color’ that you can be. He’ll think of you as valuable.” Fleet was already forming a plan. “Talk to all the foals when you get the chance, make sure they understand they are being lied to. Make sure they know the truth. We’ll turn his herd against him! We’ll raise an army to fight his. I will have to gather the other herds together. If we work as one we may stand a chance. But we’ll need all the help we can get. This may not be one battle; this may be war. Can I ask this of you?” Fleet asked.

Crock nodded eagerly. “Anything! Anything! Oh, but I should warn you… there is a plant in your herd, giving Shadow and Winds information. I was to meet her tonight. I don’t know who she is because this is my first assignment with her. But she was to tell us where you’d be so we could figure up an attack.” Crock looked around. “She was to be around here,” he whispered.

Fleet looked over his shoulder. Astro was backing away.

If Fleet was like any other stallion, he’d accuse her of being the spy and send her away since she was the only mare that he’d ever taken from Sege’s herd. But he was wise, thoughtful, and kind. He took a step towards Astro, and she screamed and shot off, back towards the herd.

“I’ll do as you asked,” Crock said, turning and leaving.

Fleet nodded and raced off after Astro, determined to find the truth. He surged foward and shouted to Sunset, “STOP HER!”

Sunset lifted her head from nuzzling Ruby and went into a gallop, straight for Astro. The two collided and fell down in a tangle of legs and hooves. Fleet hurried over to help them up. “Astro, I do not accuse you. Do not run away. I only want to know the truth –do you have anything to do…”

Astro cut him off. “NO! I would never betray all you kind horses! I was to be a sacrifice. A SACRIFICE! I thought they were going to kill me, to let some spirit eat me. I know it was a lie, but… I would never, NEVER help them! You have to believe me!” she begged.

Fleet searched her eyes and found truth. He nodded. “Alright then Astro, that is good,” he said. “Sunset, did anyone slip away from the herd, even for a second?” Fleet asked.

Sunset thought hard. “I saw Simba and Duke run off towards the lake, but they were playing tag and I brought them back,” she said.

Fleet frowned. “Not towards the lake, towards the woods. A mare, a female,” he urged.

Sunset shook her head. “I mean… no one actually left, but…” she trailed off.

“But what?” Astro insisted, eager to clear her name.

“But someone did look like they were leaving, before you charged into the woods Fleet,” she said slowly.

“Who?” Fleet snapped.

“It was Cherry Blossom,” Sunset said quickly, pinning her ears back in fear at Fleet’s harsh tones.

Fleet wheeled around and charged at the strawberry roan mare. She had a white patch on her flanks with dark brown spots that marked her as impure color. So why would she help Sege?

Cherry Blossom raised her head, grass poking out. Fleet slid to a halt and stared at her. “Why Cherry?” he demanded.

She swallowed her mouthful with a gulp of nervousness, but smiled coolly. “Why what?” she asked, tugging her foal close to her side.

“You know what I mean. Why were you going to meet a Shadow and Wind?” Fleet asked.

Cherry laughed nervously and looked at Fleet mockingly. “Me? Why, I hate those fellas. They’d kill my foal if they had the chance. Why would I meet them? You are the only stallion for me,” she said, batting her eyelashes.

Fleet sighed. “Enough games Cherry Blossom, your secret it out. Just tell me why. You aren’t in trouble… yet,” he added impatiently.

Cherry Blossom pinned her ears back, obviously trapped between the truth and the lie. “I… don’t know what y-you mean,” she stammered.

Fleet pinned his ears in anger and snapped his teeth at her. “You know what I mean, now fess up!” he shouted.

Cherry Blossom was crying now and her foal was whimpering. “I did it for her!” she screamed, pointing her nose at her daughter. “I thought they’d kill her and take her away from me. I love her Fleet, and I didn’t think you could protect her. One stallion against an army will NOT save her life! They promised to save me and her both if we helped them…” she gulped.

“But you didn’t get the chance,” Fleet growled. “You were going to give away our position to them, watch us all die, then live life with them… for a while. When you least expect it they’d have sacrificed you to the bachelor band. You mark my words. If you trust them, go and tell them we’ll be in Sweet Grass Valley tomorrow at sunset. They can come and kill us. But I warn you, you will soon die too; or at least be sacrificed to any stallion that threatens Sege’s herd. He fears the bachelors because they are close enough to take mares before he could call his army to him.”

Fleet looked sternly at Cherry Blossom, who was burning in shame. “I thought… I didn’t think that they would… she… I thought Lilly would be saved,” she whispered.

Lilly sneezed, then walked off to play with Ruby. Cherry Blossom watched her go.

“She’d have no future with Sege! His foals live in fear, they aren’t allowed to play and have fun or make friends, each wonders if they will die soon. You think they’ll save her? Sege lies to his whole herd, what makes you different that he’d keep a promise?” Fleet asked.

Cherry Blossom burst into tears. “I am sorry Fleet, I will never do it again! Please don’t banish me!” she sobbed.

“No,” Fleet said, turning his back. “I will not be that kind of leader.”

Fleet headed towards Lilly. He lowered his head to whisper in her ear. “Survival isn’t living if you pay with your friend and family’s lives to get it,” he whispered.

Lilly looked up and blinked. “What?” she asked her father.

Fleet closed his eyes. “Your mother almost killed us to ensure her and your survival.” He looked at the other five foals gathering around. “Does anyone know why this was wrong?” he asked his children.

Duke spoke. “Because it is cruel, it is betrayal, it is shoving kindness and love back in the face of those who showed it to you. It is the lowest trick someone can play.” He narrowed his eyes at Lilly and she flattened her ears in fear.

“That is right Duke, but try not to be so very hard on Cherry Blossom. She only meant to protect her foal,” he said looking at Lilly. If she could melt she would have been slipping into the ground that very moment because all the foals watched her with anger.

“If I would have died I’d come back as a ghost and make sure you joined me!” one foal named Cloud shouted.

“It is NOT lady like to betray your friends,” Ruby said smugly.

Fleet snapped his teeth at all of them and shook his mane. “Do not punish Lilly for her mother’s crimes! She had nothing to do with it; I simply wanted you ALL to learn a lesson. Fear drives towards places we do not always want to go. Fear makes us weak, drags us down. We must join together with our friends and family to defeat fear. Nothing good will come out of betrayal. Ever,” he said, growling.

“Tiger betrayed his herd when he lied,” Simba whispered.

“Now Sege betrays every horse ever born,” Duke sniffed sadly.

Fleet’s eyes softened as he took in the worried faces of the foals. “Yes little ones, Sege betrays us all. Every horse ever born under the stars, and every horse that ever grazed on wild grass, has been betrayed by a killer. He is more like a wolf than a horse. But do not worry, he will be defeated. Whether by time or by other horses, his reign will end.” Fleet smiled kindly at the youngest members of his herd. They all smiled back, trying not to show fear.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Two months later Fleet was driving his herd across the river, fire and wind lunging at their heels. Once they were all safe on the other side, they watched their home burn down. The fire spread to the forest where the outcasts of Tiger and Sege’s herd lived, and they heard screams of terror.

Fleet lowered his head, his body shaking in anger and rage. Sege had gone too far! He had destroyed everything! Fire could not be tamed! It wouldn’t just destroy what you wished it to, it would kill everything in its path. Fleet watched the fire jump from tree to tree, racing towards the mountain, spreading out in all directions, even towards Sege’s kingdom.

Sege called out a battle cry, and with his army raced towards the river.

Fleet turned away from the fire and Sege and continued to urge his herd into a gallop. Sunset led them towards possible safety. While they were running, Duke tripped and fell, being left behind. Fleet slid to a stop just inches from the foal’s head. “Get up! Quick!” he shouted over the roar of the fire.

The foal scrambled for his footing. Fleet slid his nose under Duke’s belly and lifted him into the air. Duke found his feet and took off again, stumbling as he went. Fleet tried to encourage the foal to move faster, but he was exhausted. They all were. The fire managed to get across the river, using the falling trees of the forest to do so. It was like an animal, alive with spirit, threatening all living things. It was only a matter of time before it figured out how to get across the water.

Sege leaped over the river and ran towards Fleet and Duke. Fleet pushed Duke with his nose, trying to scoot him. Finally Fleet knew he had to delay Sege if Duke was to survive. He stopped running, wheeled around, and stood, waiting. Duke called over his shoulder, begging Fleet to keep running, but Fleet was firm.

All of a sudden Fleet felt a small body next to him. He looked down and saw Duke standing beside him. Fleet didn’t bother to protest, it was too late — Sege’s mocking laugh rang through the night air. His army of Shadow and Winds laughed with him.

Fleet didn’t concentrate on their mocking. He searched for one horse… there! Crock! “Looks like I finally caught Fleet, the unstoppable stallion! What a laugh!” Sege bellowed. His army laughed with him. “You took away four horses, one being my sacrifice! In turn I had to kill a whole herd of horses to apologize to the Spirit of Color,” Sege laughed, stepping forward.

“I beat you once! I can do it again! If you had a spec of honor or courage you’d call off your army and fight me like a REAL stallion,” Fleet sneered.

Sege shook his mane. “I am real,” he shouted.

His army looked at him. “Do you fear him, Sege?” Crock taunted.

“Is he too much for you?” another jeered.

“It would be the stallionly thing to do — fight him. Prove to us you are a worthy leader,” another added.

“Yes, prove it!” More joined in. They wanted to see if they were following a chicken or not.

Sege lifted his head proudly. “ENOUGH! I could easily beat him, but he is tired. It wouldn’t be fair to him. Just kill him now,” Sege said.

His army seemed to agree.

“I can still fight, Sege. Can you?” Fleet snarled.

“Are you backing down?” Crock asked.

Sege looked over his shoulder at his army, waiting to see if he’d back down from a challenge. “If I win, I kill you and your WHOLE herd,” Sege shouted.

Fleet dipped his head. “If you kill me then take this young colt to my herd and he will tell them that on my order they are to give themselves up to your mercy. If you have any,” Fleet flicked his tail.

“I’ll kill them all,” Sege said, narrowing his eyes.

“Even the pure colors?” Duke gasped.

“Even the purest,” Sege growled.

“Even the pretty little fillies just waiting for a strong, handsome stallion to be their mate and their king?” Fleet asked.

Sege was getting distracted form the fight, just what Fleet needed. “Pretty? Young?” Sege asked, smiling.

“Run kid,” Fleet whispered.

Duke seemed to get a second wind. When all the stallions looked away at their leader, he ran. Fleet stood taller.

“Well then Fleet, perhaps I’ll keep some of them for myself.” Sege smiled.

Fleet nodded. “Let’s fight then,” he said. “And If I win, your Shadow and Winds will back down and leave me and my herd alone.” He looked pointedly at the big grey stallion in the Shadow and Winds. They all agreed, eager to see their leader in action.

Fleet lunged at Sege, then at the last moment veered away. When Sege side-stepped to avoid the lunge, he got tripped by Fleet’s veering and fell. Fleet reared up and slammed his front hooves on Sege, pinning him down. Sege was fighting and wiggling, trying to get free. Fleet put his back hooves on Sege’s flanks, pinning him down altogether. A few stallions took a step forward, but Fleet snapped his teeth and they backed away again.

“I win Sege, so soon. You will stay away from my herd from now on,” he hissed.

“You… haven’t… killed… me yet.” Sege panted. “Aka veer twelve!” he shouted.

The Shadow and Winds surrounded Fleet. Fleet caught Crock’s eye and shook his head slightly, telling him not to give away his loyalty to Fleet… yet.

“Get off of me Fleet, and die at my hooves,” Sege said.

Fleet shoved a hoof in his throat. “If your stallions make one move towards me I will kill you,” he said.

“Then they’ll kill you too,” Sege laughed.

“Maybe so, but you’ll die. Then what good would surrounding me be? If you wish to live, call them off,” Fleet hissed.

Sege growled. “I DO NOT TAKE ORDERS FROM YOU!” he leaped to his feet and lashed out, throwing Fleet off and leaving a trail of blood down his neck. Fleet gasped for breath, but ten stallions surrounded him. He kicked and fought, leaving a few of them bleeding, but they were too many. They pinned him.

“The glorious Fleet died!” Sege laughed.

Fleet thought hard. Glorious? That was his father’s nickname that other horses called him. His father never liked it, but it was what they called him. Sege thought he was the original Fleet?

“Fool, you can’t kill me.” Fleet said calmly. “I have outlived your father, I have outlived Duchess and Speckles, who were younger than me when I took them. Your father ‘sacrificed’ them to me, or something like that. I forget what he called it.” He could see Sege’s Shadow and Winds looking shocked. “He said that if I took those two mares, I had to promise to stay away from his herd. He said that every year he’d bring me another sacrifice… what was it now? How did he call it?” Fleet pretended to be confused.

“Sacrifice of Color?” Crock asked in a fake shocked voice.

Fleet grinned. “Oh yes, that is it. I have lived for many Sacrifice of Colors, Sege, and I cannot die. My spirit lives in every mustang! I am the first mustang and I shall be the last! I am the spirit of freedom, the call of the wind! I am the wind that tugs at your mane, I am the grass that tickles your feet, I am the song of the birds, the howl of the wolf, the stars in the night, the breeze in the day, I am the river’s whisper, the shadow’s chill, I am the butterfly’s flutter, the very soul of the wild! I am the rain that falls, the thunder that cracks, the lightning that lights up the night with fury! Kill me as a horse, fine. But you can never kill me as the spirit of freedom! I am mustang! You are a mustang, I am THE mustang! The spirit of freedom! I shall never die!”

Sege’s army grew more and more agitated as they worked out the lie behind the sacrifice of color. Some grew afraid of Fleet, while others grew angry at Sege. Crock had vanished.

Sege laughed. “Lies, all lies. You may have outlived all those horses somehow, you may not be as old as you should be, Fleet, but you are mortal, and no spirit. The only spirit is the Spirit of Color!” he mocked.

Fleet smiled politely. “Lies? Oh, but you do so enjoy lies, don’t you? Lies about a spirit of color, lies about why you banish some stallions to live alone. Lies you tell to ensure your herd fears and obeys you. What lies did you tell them,” Fleet motioned to the army, “to get them to serve you? To keep them from stealing your herd, as they are meant to try? What kept them from being bachelor stallions, as they should be? What clever lie did you tell to keep them under your hooves? To have them worship you? What lie was that?” he asked, standing up.

Sege growled. “Attack him!”

Five of the ten stallions obeyed without question, while the other five ran away, confused and angry at Sege. Fleet narrowed his eyes and pinned his ears back. He was still outnumbered, weak from a long run, tired, and injured.

Just as the stallions were about to attack a battle cry rang up from the forest and a herd of stallions came rushing to aid Fleet. With a close look he realized he recognized two of them — Crock and the old stallion from the forest. The banished stallions! Fleet watched them fight with the Shadow and Winds, younger horses, stronger horses, meaner horses. He watched them be defeated.

Fleet turned towards Sege, who was escaping. He lunged out and pinned Sege again, then with the cry of every horse that had ever been abused by Sege or Tiger, that died for them, that feared them, he killed Sege.

All you could hear was joyous shouting of horses, horses long dead. Their spirits called out to Fleet with thanks. They nickered, neighed, and then appeared in the sky. The stars vanished and turned into the horses that were killed by Tiger and Sege, or abused by them. Fleet saw foals, mares, stallions, and his own mother and father. The sounds of hooves and nickers was deafening, but not unpleasant.

Then as one voice, they all shouted out “HE IS DEFEATED!”

Fleet smiled at his new friends, the lost stallions. The ghost horses faded back into stars and their voices grew still. “Join me, my friends, join my herd. Be in a real herd,” he said gently. They shook their heads. “We were happy to help, young’un. But we lived alone for so long… we just don’t fancy herd life.” The old stallion from the woods laughed.

Fleet nodded in understanding. “Thank you,” he said, dipping his head.

“Thank YOU, for freedom,” the horses shouted before running back towards the woods.

The fire was just burned wood and embers, barely a flame left. Fleet went back to his herd to find them crying for him, afraid he had died. Duke was there, looking sadder than anyone. “Do not cry for him,” Fleet said. “He was a waste of horse life.”

The all looked up and cried in joy. “You killed Sege?” Astor asked, eyes wide with shock.

“He is defeated once and for all,” Fleet answered. Everyone rejoiced.

* * * * * * * * * *

Crock took over Sege’s herd and told them of the lies and tricks played on them. They were so glad that they didn’t have to fear anyone!

From that day on, the name Fleet would be passed down to the first born of every favorite mate of every stallion that was an offspring of the original Fleet. Fleet and Astro had a beautiful son, a mixed color, named Fleet too. Fleet was nine years old when he took over from his father. The older Fleet loved Astro above all mares and she loved him.

Fleet, the original, and Duchess smiled upon their son and their grandson. The name Fleet was a legend because they made it so. Every horse alive and free knew that the name Fleet belonged to a horse that was said to be immortal, that died and came back to life as a different colored horse every generation and took over the same herd. No one believed that each Fleet was just a child of the one before them; they believed every Fleet was the one that saved them. Everyone except Fleet’s herd believed so. It became a tale, a story, a legend of glory and every foal knew it by heart.

Duke and Simba grew up and chose to leave the herd, each taking one of Fleet’s daughters whom they had fallen in love with.

When Fleet and Astor died, the next Fleet took over. It was said each generation has the wisdom of the previous generation, and then some. Whether or not this is true is still unproven, but each Fleet seems to have wisdom, kindness, and the spirit of their ancestors helping them.

10 Nickers »

  1. You are a grand story teller Violet! Champion story details. Many people are touched to write about the freedom and streangth of a wild Mustang. But you put life and excitement and give personality to each individual horse. I like how you use personification!
    I wonder…. can horses see every color we do?

    ~HF

  2. I am touched by your words, HF, as always. You are inspiration to everyone and you never have something bad to say about anything! You are so kind to so many people and we all love you!

  3. Wow. That was really good! REALLY good. I like what Fleet said when he was pinned, about him being the mustang. That was so cool. I seriously love this story. It’s so good! What talent! Girl, don’t ever stop writing. EVER.

  4. that’s what i wonder every time Titian bites my shirt or eats a carrot. how do they know colors, if they even do? and how do they know if a carrot is a carrot and that grass is grass? I mean, sure they’d know that grass is the green stuff under their feet that they eat and trample and poop on every day. But carrots can be cut differant ways and could be cooked or raw. and besides scent, how do horses identify people?

  5. Wild’n’Free – i have come to the conclusion that maybe horses smell color than actualy seeing it. Scent and hearing are the basic principles horses use. I can just imgine a horse has a scent for each person it comes incontact with. That would kinda be funny by human standards your friend holds their nose up to the air and says oh here comes HorseFeathers… lol.Anywho its interesting to think about

    Your welcome VI and keep up the champion work

    ~HF

  6. Amazing story! breathtaking characters! Would you mind if I drew pictures of them for the gallery? My fav is Astro, she reminds me of Phantom Stallion’s Hoku.

  7. Hey Violet Inkpen, could I print out the story so I could memorize the character descriptions? I would love to draw them!

    Namarie for now,
    Rochlia

  8. I’d be honored, Rochila, if you’d draw them and submit them to the gallery! It would be the highlight of my day! I can only hope the charters inspire you all to remember that no matter WHAT you look like you are no better or worse than anyone. We are all unique, equal, and every one of us is special. No one can ever change that.

  9. Violet, you are amazing. Somehow, you’ve managed to capture the spirit of every mustang who has ever lived. And I love that you wrote a sequel to “Follow your heart.” I loved that story too!

  10. Thanks Gypsy! When I started the tale of Speckles I wanted to inspire a different mood and a new way to tell stories…..