The Horse from the Woods: Prologue

Running through the forest, a young girl brushed rough branches from her face. Her long maple-colored hair snagged on low-hanging leaves as she passed, slowing her speed. Scanning her surroundings with her dark emerald green eyes, she tried to find what had uttered the long, painful cry that she had heard earlier. Her heart raced in her throat as she glided through the woods. She searched through the mystery of the foliage. Growing tired, she slowed her pace to a fast walk, her chest heaving up and down under her white blouse as she gasped for air. Her heart rate slowly began to return to normal as she continued her search.

Wandering through a thicket, she suddenly heard a small whimper that seemed to echo throughout the woods. Thinking back to the long neigh-like whinny that she had heard earlier while sitting in front of her house, she straightened up her messed up hair. What had made the peculiar sound?

Pushing some green foliage aside, a small clearing was unveiled before her. The small child gasped at the sight of the marvelous creature hiding here. Kneeling in the soft blades of grass was a small foal, neighing silently. The horse’s beautiful white coat was speckled with large, dark brown spots, creating a stunning paint coat. Along with her silky coat flowed a matching dark black mane and tail that had not fully grown out yet.

The curious child took a few cautious steps forward, trying not to startle the shy animal. As she approached the creature, it looked up at her with its shining sky blue eyes. With a slight neigh, it flinched back as the girl reached out to touch its forehead. Disturbing the elegance of the beautiful horse laid a massive wound in between its soft eyes, trickling deep, red blood along the foal’s brow and down the side of its head. The skin that had once covered the forehead of the animal looked as if it had been scraped away, and blood continued to pour out of the scratch, suggesting that it was still fresh. Wondering of how the poor animal became wounded, the child kneeled beside the creature and once again reached for its weakened area.

Suddenly, the frightened foal sprang to its hooves and quickly galloped into the thick vegetation, crying loudly in fear and pain. The girl ran after the creature, curious and full of wonder of where it had come from and why it was hurt. The filly trotted through bushes and around trees trying to escape from the fear that was following. Small drops of blood speckled the leaves, leaving a trail for the girl to follow.

Tired and unable to keep up with the swift legs of a horse, the little girl came to a stop and leaned against a moss-covered tree trunk. Her mother would be wondering where she had run off to by now. She decided to give up the chase and to start returning home, although she had not quenched her curiosity yet. As the young child wandered slowly through the thick wilderness around her, pushing aside stray twigs and branches, she realized that she had lost her way, and was unsure of where to go.

Searching through bushes and brush to find any clue of where to go, she stumbled upon a small field of gorgeous flowers and clovers. Stepping into the colorful field, she noticed the hurt foal was lying a few feet away in a soft patch of fragrances. Too weak to dart away once more, the foal directly focused its gaze on the stranger’s every move. Its nostrils flared as it regained a normal heart rate and its breathing started to return to normal after the short run. The bleeding from the creature’s forehead had momentarily paused, although its white fur was still stained by the rivers of blood.

The little girl closed her eyes, as she felt relaxed, soothed, and refreshed. She was quickly revived and she felt ready to run again. With her eyes closed, she daydreamed in the soft meadow. Thoughts of prancing beside the small foal throughout the maze of trees floated in her head. The smell of ivy and grass filled her nose and the soft sounds of songbirds seemed to lift her feet off of the forest floor as she jogged. She dreamed of gliding around the tall obstacles of the forest with the wind blowing against her face, throwing her hair back to trail behind her. The small filly galloped and leaped in glee beside her, feeling the same happiness and joy as she, amongst the animals hidden within the plants around them watching as they frolicked about the woods without a care.

Slowly opening her eyes and releasing her dream to float to the sky above, she began to trudge through the velvet flowers of the wild garden with one arm outstretched towards the resting horse. The animal focused upon the pink fingertips of the child as they crept nearer to where it was lying. She walked closer and closer, yet the foal did not move. Finally, the young child approached the small creature and sat beside it. She reached her arm over the creature and softly laid her head against its side. She could hear the soft, relaxed thumps of the creature’s heart, not changing in speed or rhythm, although she was lying against it. The foal glanced over its neck to the little girl curled beside it with its crystal blue eyes. The ten year old noticed how the creature’s eyes had a sparkle to them, and seemed fresh and clear, like the water in a soft, trickling spring running down the side of a mountain.

Feeling that the lonely beast trusted her, she raised her pale hand and placed it softly on the dark brown fur of the creature’s muzzle. The animal snickered and stared deeply into the girl’s eyes trustfully. The child glanced once more at the animal’s large deep gash directly in the middle of its forehead. She reached her hand up to the creature’s wound and gently covered it with her hand, causing the beast to close its sparkling blue eyes in relaxation.

“Natalie!”

The little girl jumped up in surprise from her comfortable position at the call of her name. She had not realized that she had fallen asleep alongside the pinto foal. As she jumped up, she accidentally frightened the small animal and sent it galloping into the deep wilderness once more. Natalie quickly began to jog after the creature, despite her mother’s call, tripping over dead logs and getting struck by sagging tree branches. A large shadow swept overhead the dense forest, quickly jerking Natalie’s head to look at the bright afternoon sky. She saw nothing out of the ordinary although she heard a loud roar bellow through the skies. Natalie continued to stumble through the thicket following every swish of the foal’s dark tail.

Suddenly, the young creature came to a walk, allowing Natalie to catch up to it. The foal looked up at Natalie and gave its ears a flicker with a small grunt. Natalie brushed its short, black mane with her skinny fingers and pressed its long head against hers. She loved this animal and wanted to help it. Some strands of her light brown hair fell over the horse’s face and the animal gave its head a slight shake.

Natalie’s heart leapt as she heard her mother’s terrified scream in the distance, followed by the same roar she had heard earlier, and the sound of rushing fire. “I must go,” she yelled out to the foal although she knew it didn’t understand her language. She started to run through the green foliage, until she stopped and turned to the foal. “I’m sorry,” she whispered, staring back at the lonely animal. She focused on the swirling blue eyes of the creature, then turned forward and continued running home. She ran through thick brush and vegetation, waving her arms frantically to shield her face as she ran, yet her speed decreased as she grew more and more weak and exhausted. She slowly stopped and placed her tiny hands on her bent knees, curving her back, and letting her long hair hang down as she breathed heavily in deep gasps. She looked around and thought of her mother once more. Why had she screamed? She must hurry to rescue her if she could.

Suddenly the little foal came running through the trees, galloping under the light child through her outspread legs, and lifted her on its back in a single, sweeping motion, continuing to run at full speed towards the edge of the forest. It took a moment for Natalie to realize what had happened and to position herself on the galloping foal. Then, once she was finally in somewhat of a riding position, she looked around at the blurred scenery passing by. Although it was wounded, the foal was quickly carrying her to her home with no trouble, following the frightening scream. This was the fastest horse that Natalie had ever seen, even though it was not yet full grown.

As Natalie and the horse grew closer, to their destination, the temperature began to increase drastically. She noticed that in the trees ahead, there was a warm, flickering red-orange glow that seemed to be coming from her home, along with a loud crackling sound. The forest was burning! Frightened, she gave the foal a little kick with the heel of her foot, causing it to run faster. Trees began to crumble ahead and a glow was emitting through them. The fire spread quickly leaping from one tree to the next.

As they approached her quaint house, Natalie saw a scene that would stay with her for the rest of her life. The foal trotted out of the last patch of plants and stopped to stare at the horrific scene before them. Natalie looked to her house, covered in raging flames. Fire destroyed her home and tore at her heart. Remembering her mother and father, she screamed as she leapt off her mount to the ground and ran towards the burning building with tears streaming from her face. Just as she was about to approach the door to rescue her parents, or at least try to find them, a large piece of the thatched roof caved in, blocking the single door. Natalie frantically searched around the house for another way to enter, but she had forgotten that her father had built the small, wooden house without any windows.

With courage raging inside her as strong as the fire licking her face she did not surrender. She continued to search for a way to enter the building until a large piece of her home exploded in flames, throwing her back. Her hair was matted to her face with tears and smoke, along with her blackened hands. Stumbling to her feet she cried out in agony and rage. She wiped her face with the sleeve covering her arm, although it did not help much. She then dropped to her knees and smashed her hands into the dirt, frustrated with the fact that there was nothing that she could do to help her parents.

Overhead, she heard a loud roar as the cause of the forest fire landed in front of her. Towering over her was a large, ferocious dragon with thick leathery wings, sharp claws, and a long, spiked tail. Two, dark brown, ram-like horns curved around the side of the monster’s head. His face bore a twisted snarl as he studied the small, frightened girl before him, with his dark navy eyes flickering in the fire’s light. He gave another loud roar and glared at his victim. His thick, golden-brown, scaly hide flickered from the fire’s light as smoke dwindled out of his nostrils.

Natalie glanced once more at the terrifying beast and screamed in fear. She stood to her feet and screamed louder, then ran to the foal that had been pacing nervously at a safe distance, hidden amongst the trees. The foal gave her a neigh, and then kneeled to let the girl on its small back. As if she had been riding her whole life, Natalie smoothly jumped directly onto its back and galloped quickly into the thick, overgrown protection. The young foal galloped with great speed through the brush as its rider struggled to stay on without riding gear. Natalie looked back to see if the beast was following them, only to be met with flaming bushes and crackling fire. Thick, dark smoke filled the air as Natalie began to cough and choke.

Suddenly, the trees began to shake as the dragon’s roar vibrated the land once more. Natalie discovered the flying beast circling the forest overhead, its wings creating a gust that caused the trees to sway as he hunted his prey. Prey, Natalie thought. She was being hunted like an animal. Jerking her head back to glare up at the beast flying overhead, she cried out, “You will not get me! I shall not surrender to you!”

Afterwards, a towering tree slammed against the ground behind the young foal with a loud crash, spreading embers and sparks. The foal screamed out in fear and was sent running faster, kicking and crying out loudly. As the young foal ran for its life trying to escape from the raging inferno, Natalie struggled to cling on to the tiny, dark colored mane.

Suddenly, her foal tripped over an outstretched root, and crumpled to the ground as its back end flipped over its head, sending Natalie crashing into a pile of leaves and brush a few feet away. Natalie moaned from pain as she shifted out of the uncomfortable position, but quickly jumped up when flames swept over the pile. She quickly ran to the foal that had also recovered quickly. Swiftly scrambling back onto the wounded creature, Natalie galloped into the wilderness once more.

Forgetting about their golden predator, Natalie screamed aloud when it crashed through the trees above them, and landed its four large, clawed feet directly in front of them. With its intimidating wings outstretched, it lifted its long, golden brown head and cried out to the world that it had cornered its prey. Natalie could see the thick, dark veins, like rivers on a map, twisted inside the webbed wings that were arched behind the dragon’s back in a beautiful display.

The foal’s shiny blue eyes held much fear as it began to slowly back away from the dragon. Panicked, it flung its head from side to side, searching for a way to escape. As fire raged closer behind them, Natalie frightfully looked around for a way to escape, along with her animal. The fire behind them continued to burn everything in its path, still drawing closer to them. Finally, Natalie had an idea. She gave the foal a slight kick in the side, and it darted forward, towards the dragon just as the beast engulfed flames behind them where they were just standing. The young horse ran, resisting the raging heat, although unsure of Natalie’s plan.

“Almost…not quite…now!” cried out Natalie as she jerked the foal’s long neck to the side and under the large winged beast. The armored, brown scales covering the dragon’s vulnerable stomach brushed the top of Natalie’s head as she and her brave steed galloped to the other side of the furious dragon. She could feel the burning heat boiling inside the monster’s stomach and could hear the roar as he emitted a blast of fire from his mouth. As they approached the other side of the dragon, just missing his whipping tail, they ran deeper into the thick woods.

The large beast roared in fury as he tried to turn around in the tight space to continue the chase. With his clawed tail pulverizing all the trees around him, he added to the damage already done to the forest by the fire. Just as Natalie had planned, it took the golden brown beast a moment to turn and chase her and her new friend. The foal looked up to Natalie as if asking if the plan had succeeded, then threw its head around, flicking its short mane, and darted forward. Natalie jumped off of the foal and looked up to the clear, sunny sky. Soon, she spotted the mighty dragon fly out of the deep forest, its large wings beating a gust that caused the trees to sway the other direction once more. It scanned the forest below, and then soared away with one last cry, telling the world of its surrender.

Natalie glanced at the beloved horse, then jumped and yelled in glee. The foal began to neigh and prance, feeling the joy; however the celebration did not last very long. She suddenly remembered her parents. She had just been left an orphan.

She sat down on a fresh clump of grass with her knees bent to her chin, back curved, and her long arms wrapped around her legs. Her straight brunette hair covered her face and her dark green eyes. The horse felt her sadness and walked slowly up to the small child, nudging her knee a bit. She placed the foal’s dark muzzle in her hands and stared into its mysterious eyes. The bright blue beads swirled and danced as the creature studied Natalie’s sweet face. There was a small glint in the foal’s eyes from the bright sun beating overhead casting a magical look to them.

Breaking the silence, Natalie spoke aloud to the foal beside her. “And you…” she started, “Where did you come from?” She stared into the foal’s eyes deeply as if looking for an answer, although she knew that it couldn’t possibly give one. “You saved my life,” she said, changing the subject. “It’s like you could understand me almost.” Then Natalie chuckled a bit. “Horses can not understand humans. I am just not thinking straight.” The horse gave a slight neigh, and threw back its head, waving its fairly short mane about.

“The wound!” Natalie said in surprise. She had forgotten all about the foal’s gash. She quickly looked at it, studying it deeply. “Where did it come from…why?” she asked, her questions blending together in her mind and speech. The foal gave a slight snicker and stood to its four feet. “I forgot,” started Natalie, “We should probably go somewhere for help. The nearest town is just a few miles up the main road. I have been there a few times,” she stated. Natalie climbed onto the small, yet sturdy animal and guided it through more trees and bushes back to what was left of her house.

There was a small crackling noise off in the distance, as some fire still remained, spreading in the opposite direction. “We probably should not stay here too long, although I would like a moment,” Natalie said, her voice raspy from holding back tears. She overlooked the bare, scorched land before her, and felt her throat tighten, troubling her breathing. The grass was blackened and the trees were leafless. Their ugly, twisted branches were black and mangled as they stretched in awkward positions. Where her house had once been, lied a large, crumpled pile of wood and straw.

Climbing off of the foal, Natalie stared at the horrific and frightening scene that used to be her home, as her knees began to feel weak. She collapsed onto the warm dirt below her and started weeping with her blackened hands to her dirty face. Her nostrils burned, as the terrible smell of rot and smoke hung in the air as it was filled with thick, dark smoke. The fire had burned the trees to the ground and all that remained of her house was a pile of smoldering ashes.

A piece of a wall crumbled to the ground, adding to the large pile, and emitting a sizzling sound as smoke arose from it and danced above before vanishing. The foal walked slowly around the debris, leaving tracks in the dirt and singed grass, and began to sniff around before returning to Natalie. She finally stood up after a moment of tears, and wiped her eyes. “Let us go,” she firmly commanded to the animal beside her. Walking up to the young foal, she climbed onto its back and trotted to the dirt road nearby.

The trip to town was long and silent. Natalie did not speak a word during the hour-long walk to the small village, and the foal kept quiet. They both walked the couple of miles very slowly, while Natalie thought of her parents and what she was going to do once they reached their destination. The old dirt road was seldom used, so there were no passing wagons or people on horseback. Switching from horse to foot, Natalie continued to tear and start to cry every now and then, letting all of her feelings out into the world.

Soon, the little girl and her paint horse approached a small wooden sign welcoming them to Anzama. “Well,” started Natalie with a weak, raspy voice from sadness, “We are here.” She quickly wiped away the remaining tears and straightened up her frizzled hair. Her appearance wasn’t the best with her blackened face and hands, and neither was her foal’s. Its beautiful white fur had been turned a deep grey. With the clear of her throat she then guided her steed in, calming it with her soft words. “Here we go,” she said with a slight smile placing her hand onto the foal’s neck. Natalie guided the young foal into the small, peaceful village with houses and shops lining the streets. A wagon full of chickens, pulled by a large, sturdy, brown quarter horse passed by the awkward sight of the little child walking her small horse. A few people looked at her strangely, and then continued on to tend to their business.

Natalie walked her foal down the main road, past staring people and many buildings and approached a large, wooden, well in the middle of the small village. The well was circular with a small, shingled roof covering it, held up by four, skinny, wooden poles. There was one wooden bar that hung from under the roof with a crank on one side. Natalie turned the handle towards her in a circular motion and let the long rope that was tied to the bar wind around it. A small wooden bucket rose up from the darkness of the well, tied to the end of the rope. Inside the bucket was a large, metal ladle that Natalie used to drink from. The foal beside her snickered and shared the water impatiently licking up every last drop. With a small creak, she lowered the bucket back into the well.

Natalie had not noticed the people talking before, but there were two women nearby, gossiping to each other in a loud tone that was hard to ignore. Thinking to herself that she might hear something useful as she was still unsure of what she was to do now that she had reached town, Natalie leaned against the well casually and listened in on their conversation.

“Yes. It was awful, or at least from what I have heard,” began one lady, flicking back one of her short brown curls behind her ear.

“Really?” continued the other lady, her blue eyes filled with curiosity. “What was it like? What exactly happened?”

“Well, I heard from a rancher that he passed by a crumbled, burnt down house beside a smoldering forest. He also said that he knew the family that lived in the house, and that they had a little girl,” explained the somewhat chubby woman.

“Oh my,” gasped the other lady. “Do you know what happened to them?” she asked with fear in her voice.

“All I know is what he told me,” replied the first lady. “He said that it looked as if a dragon had attacked, and he feared for the child. He mentioned that the house had been completely destroyed along with the forest nearby. Their land is gone, their home is gone. I do not know if they survived.”

“Oh my,” gasped the other woman, dropping her head, letting her long blonde hair cover her face. “I wonder if the family is alright. Just think; dragons! They haven’t attacked these parts in quite some time now. What do you think one was doing way out here in the farmland? Did the family have any livestock?”

“The rancher did not mention any animals…” stated the larger woman.”He told me that the father was a craftsman. He worked with wood to make furniture to sell here in town every once in a while.”

“My, do you think that this could be the start of a war?” exclaimed the responding woman with a dreadful face.

“Oh, I hope not!” replied the other woman. “The dragons have stayed away from these parts for quite some time now…”

Natalie couldn’t stand to hear anymore, being reminded of the horrific scene of the burning house. She grabbed the foal’s neck and started to run down the cobblestone path. Tears streamed down her face, as she ran not knowing or caring where she was going. The foal trotted behind her, its hooves clanging against the gray cobblestone below.

Suddenly, Natalie collided into a man, about in his late forties, and fell to the ground. She looked up to the short man and studied his stern, stiff face. He had thick, curly, black hair that sat limply on his head with a short beard that looked as if a thick, black caterpillar had crawled up under his nose.

“Watch where you are going!” said the man in a gruff voice while reaching out his hairy arm to help the girl up. “You should be more careful and look where you are going next time,” he replied, this time with a more polite tone of voice.

Natalie grabbed his hand and lifted herself up, then brushed off her brown pants and apologized to the man. “I…I am sorry,” she said as she brushed the remaining tears away and rubbed her eyes. “I best be going,” she quickly said, trying to excuse herself politely from the short, strange man. Feeling a little frightened, she quickly lied, “My parents are most likely expecting me.” She then turned to leave, hoping the man would leave her alone.

“Parents, huh?” the man questioned, rubbing his rough chin. “Say,” he snapped, “You wouldn’t happen to be able to help me out now, would yah’?”

“How so?” Natalie asked turning back to face the ugly stranger.

“You see, I am looking for this girl…Let’s see. She is about your age I would say, and has brown hair much like yours. I am not quite sure what color her eyes are though,” he said, desperately trying to think of describing words for the girl he was looking for.

“Her name? The girl’s name would help,” said Natalie, wondering if she actually did know of whom he was talking about.

“Ah, right…her name. What was it? Something with an “N” I think…Oh right! Natalie! That is what it was. Yes…Natalie,” he said, quite happy that he was able to remember the name.

Natalie froze immediately when the man said her name. What did he want with her, and why had he been searching for her? She then quickly thought of a way to find out. “May I ask what you want with this…Natalie, you say?”

The man looked suspiciously at the girl before him, and then answered her question. “Her parents have been killed and she has nowhere to stay. I am here to provide her with a room for the night. Maybe even longer…” A room? Natalie was so busy thinking of what had happened that she forgot all about what she was going to do about it. She had nowhere to stay for the night. She quickly thought of whether or not she should stay with this man, then answered, “I am Natalie…But who are you?”

“Natalie?” the man asked surprised. His eyes bulged further with his question. He then looked closer at her face and whispered, “Green eyes, like your mother…” Natalie looked strangely at the man, wondering how he knew her mother before he spoke again. “Parents!” You said your parents where expecting you, did you not? Why?”

“Oh, well…about that…I wasn’t sure who you were. In fact, I still don’t know who you are. How do you know my mother?” Natalie snapped back at the stranger. She was determined to find out more about this man before she was to go anywhere with him.

“Oh, right. Sorry. I am your mother’s older brother, George Spicker. I feared for her safety when I heard of a dragon attack nearby, so I went to check on her and her family,” answered the strange man.

“My mother’s brother?” Natalie said aloud to herself. “So you are my uncle and you are letting me stay with you?”

“Well, I guess you could say that,” started Natalie’s uncle. “However! There are rules that must be followed!” Natalie looked down at the short man who had his pointer finger raised with a stern look on his face. “You must work for your place on the ranch,” recited the man, before being interrupted.

“Yes, I understand, Uncle. It would not be right if I did not work,” interrupted Natalie with a bright smile on her face.

“Enough!” yelled out her uncle. “Do not call me that! You will address me as Mr. Spicker at all times, and you shall never interrupt me while I speak. Also, you shall never complain about the work that I assign you, and you shall do as you’re told, unless you would like to go the night without dinner.” Mr. Spicker scratched the curly hair on his chin in thought, and then said, “Now come along. We best be going.”

Natalie thought over the strict rules that her uncle had given, and then followed him to a small wooden wagon fit for two people, with a strong, black horse to guide it. The horse looked to the small foal hiding behind the girl and gave a slight whinny. Natalie turned to look at the foal, and then tapped her uncle on the shoulder. “Excuse me, sir, but what shall I do with my horse?”

The small man turned to look at the animal, and questioned, “Your horse?”

Natalie thought back to the strange encounter with the horse in the woods, then answered, “Well, you see…I found it in the forest near my house. I was out exploring when I saw this creature. That was when the dragon attacked…and…” Natalie felt a tear slide down her cheek only to be wiped away quickly from embarrassment. “This foal saved my life. I do wish to keep it.”

Mr. Spicker looked sadly at his niece, then to her horse and replied, “I see. There is room at the ranch; extra stalls, plenty of food. It shouldn’t be too much trouble for another horse to stay.”

Natalie was surprised at how kind her uncle was when it came to animals, as she ran up to him and gave him a hug. “Oh, thank you! Thank you very much, sir.”

The cruel man who never had children of his own was caught by surprise with the girl’s embrace and stood flabbergasted with his arms outstretched. He looked down to the child still hugging him, and then quickly replied with a pat on the back, “However, you will need to supply its needs yourself. I will not look after it for you! It is your horse, not mine.”

“Don’t worry sir, I will!” cried out Natalie finally releasing her uncle. She stared into the foal’s eyes deeply with much joy, and then turned to look at Mr. Spicker. He was also staring at the foal, studying it in his mind.

“Let me check this here foal out for you,” he said walking up to the small animal and crouching to his knees. He reached his rough hands out towards the horse, and soothed it with whispers and coos. The foal looked uneasily at the man; however it trusted him enough to allow him to rub his hands along its sturdy legs. Natalie’s uncle felt around the horse’s fetlocks and boldly stated, “This horse here has very strong legs; good for running.” He continued to feel the rest of the horse’s body and completed his check. “This is a very healthy horse and will most likely live a long while, as long as you take good care of it.

Mr. Spicker suddenly noticed the large gash in the middle of the foal’s forehead and lightly touched it with one of his stout fingers. The small creature winced back in pain, while the man said to his niece, “Clean this up when we get back. It looks bad, and it will most likely scar; however the foal will still be quite healthy if you clean and wrap it. Now, help me tie her to the back of the wagon.”

Natalie looked through the wagon that her uncle was pointing to and found a rope on the seat. Bringing it to the small man, he tied the rope around the foal’s neck and to the back of the cart, leaving the animal to trail behind it. He and Natalie then climbed into the wagon, as he slapped the black horse’s back with the reins and went about their way. As the sturdy horse pulled Natalie and her uncle in the wagon down the dusty road towards the horse ranch, Natalie thought to herself, glancing back every now and then to watch the filly stumble behind the cart. Her uncle finally broke the long, awkward silence when he asked, “So what is your foal’s name?”

“Name?” Natalie replied. “I guess I haven’t given it much thought yet.” Her uncle stared at her, waiting for an answer until she replied, “I will think of a name by the time we get there.” Mr. Spicker nodded in approval, and then continued to look forward towards the open plain, guiding the strong, black horse.
Bored, Natalie decided to watch the passing scenery; however there wasn’t much to see. Riding out on the open plains in a slow, two-person wagon, Natalie was given nothing but fields of dusty, yellow wheat and a few farms to stare at. There were no towns, villages, or even trees to please the eye.

Natalie began to expand her creative mind in deep, rich thought, analyzing everything that had happened to her recently. The experience with the strange foal that had saved her life, the terrible dragon that ferociously tried to capture her, the two women gossiping about the start of a war, and meeting an uncle that she had never heard of before. Was he even her uncle at all? As the world began to grow blurry from the clear tears dancing at the bottom of her eyes, Natalie decided to change her thoughts and remembered what her uncle had said. She needed to decide on a name for the foal. With the thick smell of wheat lingering in her nostrils, Natalie’s mind then jumped from the past to the future, thinking of a name for her newly found friend…

“We are here, Natalie,” said Mr. Spicker, shaking Natalie awake. She yawned and stretched out her arms, trying to remember when she had fallen asleep. She glanced at the foal, which Mr. Spicker was untying, and jumped down from the wagon. She studied her new home closely with her dark green eyes. There was a small wooden house in front of her built with two stories, and a small window on the top floor. The door to the house was rather large for such a small man to occupy it. Next to the house was a large barn. Natalie noticed the pile of hay that rested at the side of the barn, and four horses that had stuck their heads out of their stall windows to catch a snack from the pile. By the barn was a wooden corral with a single green tree near the back, and much grass for the horses to feed on, spread throughout the fenced area. On the other side of the house was a small wooden shack, most likely used for storing tools, and a very small brick well with a bucket and a rope sitting on the edge. Surrounding the ranch were miles of wheat fields, except for the main dirt road, from which Natalie came from.

Natalie kicked some of the dry dirt below her and looked up to the bright, clear sky. “Clean and wrap this wound,” commanded her uncle while walking the foal up to Natalie. “The well is over there, and there should be some old rags in the shed right over there,” he continued, pointing to the designated areas. “After you’re finished…” he paused for a moment and looked Natalie over. “Clean yourself up.” With that remark, he walked into the house and left Natalie to the chores.

Looking herself over, Natalie noticed that her clothes were caked in dust and her skin was dry and dusty. Her face was still blackened from the fire and the foal’s white fur was darkened to a grey. Grabbing the rope that was still tied to the foal’s neck, she walked slowly to the well. She cranked up some water using the rope and bucket and began to tend to her foal’s scabbed wound. Looking up to the soft sky once more she softly said, “Well Duchess, this is our new life…”


| The Horse from the Woods | Chapter 1 Part 1/4 ->