Here I give you my new flash fiction tale, Winter Baby. Never mind the cryptic list at the top, that’s for the anthology we’re building. In fact, you can follow the link at the bottom to read more of the stories.
Author: Hannah Steenbock (which is a pen name)
Dedication: To all those school horses that have born me in my lessons
Winter never was a good time for a horse. Food was scarce even as they needed more to stay warm in the cold wind. For Falba it was even more difficult this year.
She gently bent an ear towards Leir, her stallion and companion. Her only companion. She missed the warmth of the herd, the closeness of the other mares. He nickered back.
Now it was only the two of them. Mognar, the black stallion had seen to this. In late summer, he had attacked again, and this time, Leir hadn’t been able to withstand his onslaught.
Leir had been forced to leave his herd, his mares, his foals. He had lost them all, as he had lost his strength. Falba had chosen to go with him, though, and Mognar hadn’t stopped her. They had always hated each other. Most likely, the black stallion had been quite willing to let her go, knowing Falba wouldn’t accept his position easily.
So now Falba was wandering the wind-swept steppe together with Leir, carrying his latest foal in her belly.
It wasn’t a good time for a horse to be with foal, with only dry grass and some leaves to browse on. She diligently ate everything she could, aware her foal needed all the nourishment she could give it. Leir guarded her like the treasure that she was.
And finally, her time came, in the darkest days of winter. She choose a hill where Leir could easily defend her from predators. The cold, bitter wind didn’t matter, even as it would spread the scent of a birth. The gusts would also dilute it and confuse any preying nose.
Falba strained and finally lay down. She knew what to expect, this was her third foal, after all. She could see Leir circling her, head up, ears and eyes everywhere, guarding her and the precious new life she was birthing.
She heaved, waves of pain running through her belly. Her hips ached. She ignored all that, caught in the process, feeling the foal work its way through the narrow passage. Suddenly, the pressure eased.
Falba took a deep breath and hauled herself back onto her feet. Leir nickered and touched her neck in a gentle caress before both of them bent over the foal.
It was completely white.
Noses touching, they expressed their wonder. Leir had heard of white foals being born, but neither of them had ever seen one. And now a little filly was lying before them, with the rarest color of them all. Falba sniffed. The baby’s scent was a little off, a little spicier than that of her other children. She raised her head and snorted.
The filly lifted her head, making a little mewling sound.
With a little sigh, Falba lowered her head again and began licking the little girl, licking her into life.
Leir took up his guard station again. His posture told Falba that he had accepted the white foal as his own and would defend both of them with his life.
Falba agreed, still licking the little one. It was theirs, after all.
Soon, the filly tried her legs. This was the most important part of her young life, she had to be able to run with her parents. Watching her sort her legs after each fall, Falba was sure the white baby would manage to do just that.
She started thinking about a name. Leir gave her one ear to listen, the other still on the rolling hills that might hide a pack of wolves.
The white filly stumbled towards her, instinctively searching the teat that would give it warm milk. Falba took in her scent again, filling her nose with it, filling herself with love for this strange child.
Then she noticed.
Falba snorted in alarm, and Leir was at her side with two quick jumps.
He stared at the filly, then bent to lip her wide forehead. His eyes filled with pride and he pressed his nose into Falba’s neck for a moment. She felt his overwhelming gratitude.
In the middle of the white filly’s forehead sat a small, round knob. It glistened even in the wan sunlight of the winter day.
Falba had birthed a unicorn.
Want to see the other stories? Click here: