Summer was so amazing… All I had to do was enjoy working at a few chores, then bask in the sunlight most of the afternoon. But when fall came, I found myself spending an increasing amount of time just trying to survive. And, as the prospect of winter began to surface on the horizon of my thoughts…
Maybe in the middle of the fall, that wildly colored flying horse friend came by for a visit in the morning. Well, she had walked out to my house from town. Of course I had her quickly in, out of the cold, and we laid on our bellies in front of the fire together. She laughed, and said it was too cold for flying, but she absolutely could not sit still. She loved walking too, but would much rather fly. I think I realized for the first time that cold weather was probably hard for those of us small horses that could fly. We talked for a while. She was very friendly and we had a nice visit. And I guess she, I think my magic teacher sent her to ask me if I could come in for a magic lesson this afternoon. I jumped at that opportunity; my teacher was so helpful and so friendly last time. So, I said I would try to make it. We visited for an hour maybe, then she headed out. Well, the sun was up pretty high now. I would have said it was pretty cold still, but she was quickly in the air, flying, laughing. Yes, freezing cold must be hard for flying horses.
It was freezing cold when I started the fire that morning. Just a few leaves, larger twigs, then small logs… But instead of continuing to feed the fire, I let it die back down. When all I saw were a few embers, I used my magic to push them towards the back of the fireplace. And that was a very new experience for me. Those embers were hot and would surely burn my hoof. But I could use my magic to easily and painlessly move them. That whole thing was just an interesting experience. Once I felt it was safe, I walked out the door, making sure to close it, then I was on my way. There were a few oats in a small patch on the way to town, so I stopped there and ate some before I headed into town, to the castle, to my next magic lesson. And I stopped and got a drink from a smaller pond on the way. Again, finding the castle was easy enough. But I kept stopping and looking back at my house. I was trying to find a way to locate my house just as easily coming back home. My small house didn’t have a spire, or anything else like that. Surrounded by trees, it sort of just blended in with the meadow. And I realized as I walked this time that my house was on a gentle hill, but on the far side, away from town. Half way to that spire, and I could not see my house at all. But I could see the gentle rounding of the land that was hiding my house. Well, if it was dark I wouldn’t see that. But I didn’t think I would be gone that long. My magic teacher had only promised me an hour last time. I suspected that she was probably very busy with other students, anyway. I just shrugged. I wore my coat this time, so I didn’t think it would be a problem either way. My flying friend walked out here this morning with no coat, so…
Once I got to the castle, I walked around to the front side, and… Well, there was a dragon on the steps. It wasn’t huge, but I was sure it could easily kill me… And I thought to myself “Of course, there is a dragon guarding the castle.” From the stories I had read, that seemed only right. But I was scared.
There were a few other mares outside, in front of the castle. One of them walked over and stood right next to me, then looked at the dragon. “He won’t hurt you, he is very nice” she said, very quietly. Then she told me her name.
On my last two trips into town, I said I was “little blue”, a cruel nickname I was given in school. But when this quiet pony told me her name, I quietly told her the truth. “I feel bad, but I don’t want any name right now.” And after I said that, I was fighting back tears. Those memories still hurt…
But… she started crying softly. “I know…” she said quietly. We were quickly hugging. I have no idea how she could know what was going on inside me, what I carried inside. But she knew, and she was crying because she knew, she was crying for me, with me, feeling my pain. We cried together, hugging, for a few minutes. Well, like I said she was very nice. “I live on the edge of town. You can visit any time you want” she offered quietly.
“Well, I live almost directly north of this castle, out in the meadow, and you can visit me any time, too.” I almost started crying again. I think these were real friends. I had NEVER had any real friends before. And I kept finding new ones here. I liked it here. This new quiet friend quietly asked why I was here at the castle. I explained about my magic teacher, and she volunteered to take me into the castle to see if we could find my teacher. I walked carefully past that dragon, and hoped he didnt sense my fear… My magic teacher was in the library of course, surrounded by books and a few other students, I guessed. Wow, flaming red mane and tail. The last… Nevermind… My new friend hugged the magic teacher, and her two students (twins I guessed), and then they all hugged me. The magic teacher was struggling a little, how she should introduce me, to her other students, I think. I tried to help her out. I said quietly “You can call me nobody if you want. I… got called a lot of names growing up, and so I don’t really want a name.” My new quiet friend started weeping softly, so I did too. But I continued. “But I am really amazed at how friendly, how caring…” Then I cried a bunch more. We all hugged and cried together for a few minutes. That was just very strange to me, but I realized I could get used to it. Caring horses… I think I picked the right town.
My magic lesson started soon after. The two other students stayed, which I didn’t mind, except that their magic was clearly so much more advanced than mine. Well, my magic teacher stopped me at one point. “You really should not be intimidated by these two girls…” The other two students both laughed loudly, then took turns hugging me again. My teacher kept going. “These two Unicorns are very amazingly endowed with very powerful magic. I think that is why they are here, to help us protect our land. They are like my two adopted daughters…” The two students both almost cried, and took turns hugging the magic teacher a little while more.
Well, we did study magic. Only this lessen was about the language of magic. Us Unicorns alone seem almost naturally able to learn a language composed entirely of glyphs, strokes, small, subtle marks that all look like gibberish on paper. Magic is like a language. When you put letters together you say things. When you put the language of magic together, you do things. I guess that is the best I can explain it. We worked that day on the language of magic, and my magic teacher wanted to see what magical glyphs I did know, which was not many. And so she introduced me to a bunch more. And, again, I am a Unicorn, and so I didn’t need to go home and work tirelessly to memorize them. They seem to naturally stick. Well, it was very fun too, and the two other students were also very helpful, helping me understand things that the magic teacher was trying to communicate. Well, it was just a lot of fun with magic. We had a lot of fun with magic together, and I’m sure we went longer than the hour my magic teacher originally promised me. I don’t think anyhorse minded.
Well, we had to stop at some point. And everyhorse hugged me again. I cried. Real friends that were Unicorns… The flying horse and the quiet horse from earlier (who also had wings) joined us and we all hugged everyhorse again. I didn’t think we minded. I didn’t.
Two flying horse friends walked me home that afternoon. The first flying horse I met knew the land well, and had no problem with the path. She even showed me a nice landmark to get me going in the right direction (a very peculiar looking tree). I was glad that the quiet friend came too. I am not sure how, but I think she understood so much of what was going on inside me. That was just very comforting.
Once my house was in view, we all hugged, then they walked back to town. I walked into my house. There was an ember or two near the back of the fireplace. I could have used them to start a few leaves, then sticks and so on. Instead, I found that paper with the spells my magic teacher had written out for me a month ago. I used one of the advanced levitation spells to move a good sized chunk of wood into the fireplace. Then I tried the third of the four fire spells she had written. Fire burst forth from that log, but went out. I just kept casting that same spell, and the fire soon rose continuously from that log, and was spreading around… I used my magic to put another log on each side, then just rested in front of the fire as my house warmed up again. My mind wandered, and I drifted quickly back to this afternoon, remembering the real friends I had met. I was lonely after that.
But that second magic lesson made a huge difference. It made a huge difference for my magic because I had a lot more glyphs and stuff that I could use, and now I could actually cast all the spells on the list my teacher gave me. Moving stuff, starting fires, and even putting them out — all this made my life simpler in a lot of ways. My neighbor to the west mentioned having to keep the fire going constantly. I’ll bet that was a real headache for them! And, using those higher level spells, well it was like exercise for my magic, and I could feel my magic getting stronger. That meant I could do more with the same spells. It was just… Well, I think you need to be a Unicorn to really understand that part. But I realized that just those two lessons with my magic teacher, that made a huge difference. Every time I started a fire in my fireplace, I wanted to run back and hug her again.
The quiet mare walked out to my house to get me a few weeks later. I guess it was time for another magic lesson. Well, I had her inside right away, and got her warmed up again. It was a lot colder than when my last lesson was. Still, we hugged for a few minutes. Neither of us said anything, and we just cried softly together. I didn’t think I needed to say anything, and I’m not sure why. But I liked this mare. She was a real friend too. It was clear she cared about me. The friends I had made since I arrived here… Well, it was very different from the first years of my life. We were soon on our way, walking back to town, to the castle. The dragon wasn’t even out front on the steps. Maybe it was too cold for even him.
My quiet friend led us into the castle, and into the library. My magic teacher was there, of course, and the three of us hugged, then my quiet friend left. My magic teacher asked me how my magic was doing. Well, I started crying and hugged her again. I thanked her a few times, and explained that just the two lessons she gave me had helped me so much… She said she was so glad she could help me. I was pretty sure she meant it. We did have a magic lesson though. First, she gave me some new levitation spells, and taught me the glyphs that I didn’t know in those spells. Wow! I could even lift one side of one of the reading tables in her library! The rest of the time we just sat and talked about, well thinking about using magic. For example, she said I could easily start the grass in the field on fire now, but that the rest of the field would catch fire, and could burn down the whole town. Her point was that when a Unicorn learns magic, she really needs to accept all responsibility for the use of her magic. That was a sobering realization, but I knew she was right. And, she said that I could probably develop my magic to the point where I could lift very heavy things, but that meant that I had to accept responsibility for that, if they fell, or fell over, things like that. Well, she was right. My use of magic needed to always be carefully thought through.
Our magic lesson was over after that discussion. I jumped up and hugged my teacher, and cried just a little. When we were done, she said quietly “We really should come up with a name for you, well, a name you can live with. I understand why, but we might want to put some thought into that. Well, I started crying quietly, and she hugged me again. But I understood what she was trying to say. I just didn’t know what to do about it.
Right about then, my new quiet friend and another Unicorn mare walked in. Of course, we all hugged again. This other Unicorn mare, well every single hair of her mane and tail, absolutely had to be in exactly the right place. She looked very pretty. I didn’t think her eyes were too close together… And my magic teacher tried to introduce me, and was having trouble. “I apologize, but I have been called so many names, I’d rather be nameless for now.” Then I cried. We all hugged again though.
But the other Unicorn mare was holding a box with her magic, and she set it on the floor. I was pretty sure, well it had to be for somehorse else, probably my amazing magic teacher. I didn’t even know this new mare, and… Well, it was for me. It was a new small horse coat… And it was very pretty, and even matched my colors… Before I knew what was happening, my magic teacher and this new, pretty Unicorn friend had my old coat off, and this new one on! The new pretty Unicorn said softly “Well, I think you are beautiful.” I just cried some more… And we all hugged some more too. Such amazing friends…
A little while later, my magic teacher was talking, and said quietly, clearly to me “Well, we need to call you something. Things will just stay difficult for you if we don’t.” My new quiet friend started to cry quietly.
But I knew my magic teacher was right. I thought a minute, then said quietly. “Maybe you can call me hopeful… Since I came here, I have met more amazing friends…” I really felt that way, and was quickly crying, and my quiet friend was too. We all hugged some more.
It was quiet, then the pretty Unicorn said “Hope is a pretty name, and fits you well, I think.” I guess that was that. I made a note to try and remember when anyhorse said that, they were talking to me. I still didn’t consider it my name though, I don’t know. But I understood this would make everyhorse else’s life a lot easier, and that was fine.
But my magic teacher wasn’t done. “Hope, tonight is the Fall Frolic, sort of a party the town has before the cold of winter really sets in. We want you to come with us. And we know that means you will probably need to spend the night here in town, but” (she used my quiet friend’s name) “wants you to spend the night at her house.”
I hugged my quiet friend, then I said quietly “That will be fine. I have never been to anything like this before though, so I apologize ahead of time for that.” We talked for a little while more, then we were on our way. The frolic was in the town hall, and so we went there. I decided I should stay with my new quiet friend as much as possible. I think she had the same idea.
The first event of the night was lighting the frolic bonfire. It was pretty cold in the town hall. The roof was high, and even higher in the center, so… There was already a huge stack of wood in the center of the town hall for that. It was cold; I told my quiet friend I hoped they lit the fire soon! She just smiled back at me.
I guess my magic teacher got the frolic going. “Stallions and mares, welcome to the Fall Frolic. The lighting of the bonfire to start the frolic will be done by our town’s newest member, Hope!” Every horse stomped their front hooves on the ground. Maybe they were cold too…
Wait… Hope… That was me… Surely… But I was so small… My eyes were too close together… Wasn’t anyhorse listening? Well, it was quiet. I wanted to run and hide… My magic teacher, she walked calmly over. “Light around the outside, in maybe four places. You can do it!” She said this quietly, then she hugged me tightly. Well, I have never felt so small… Compared to the horses all around me… But we would all freeze if…
I tried the third spell from that list my magic teacher had made for me. I had been using that for a week. Well, I could start a fire, but the first log was big, and I realized this would take a while. Well, I absolutely knew I had to do better… And everyhorse else… They were all watching me… I tried to remember that fourth, stronger spell… The first time… Wait, that’s not right… I was about to break down and just cry… My quiet friend walked over and stood right next to me… I wanted to hug her and cry… My new pretty Unicorn friend walked over and stood on my other side. Maybe they were helping me hide… I tried to do the fourth spell again… and failed… I decided on one last change, one different glyph… Most of the log turned instantly reddish, and burst into flames… My friends walked around with me to light three more spots… Then everyhorse cheered… The town leader had a bunch of other stuff to say. I just cried as I hugged my two new friends…
I guess the frolic started as planned. There was yummy food, plenty to drink, even some stuff that smelled like… My dad had told me it would just make me act stupid. Well, I felt I was on the verge of doing that already so I stayed away from that stuff. There were a lot of horses here though, stallions and mares, the whole town somehorse said. Everyhorse seemed happy enough. Well, that huge bonfire warmed the town hall up quickly. And most of the new friends I had met since coming here, they came over, we hugged, talked for a while, then they disappeared into the crowd.
My quiet friend led me to a spot near the outside wall of the town hall. It was a little quieter there, and I think she felt more comfortable with that. We just sat and watched. We had not watched long… Living in my house out in the meadow… I was already feeling lonely because of that… But watching the townshorses… So many… Stallion and Mare… Necks together, nose to nose… I had watched my mom and dad, they were clearly devoted. I knew what I was seeing. I just felt… so… alone… I wanted that, but… Well, look at how small I was… Even from our corner here, most horses were… And then, my eyes… I didn’t say anything. All this went through my head, my heart… As soon as I started weeping softly, my quiet friend did too…
“Waiting for the right stallion hurts the least…” She said this quietly, slowly, and I knew she really felt that way… I hugged her right away… And I, she was right. I had seen that in the big city. Well, I had seen the wrong side of this… She was right… After a few minutes of silence, I just observed in my heart that waiting is so hard… She just answered quietly “Yes…”
My magic teacher’s two adopted daughter twins joined us soon after. Over the course of an hour… My new pretty friend, my first flying friend… Each new friend, we would all hug them as they came over. And some came and joined us that I didn’t even know. They still hugged me… Soon a bunch of us were just sitting there in this quieter place, just watching. Then my magic teacher came up to us and said “Girls, take Hope and just head for the castle. Make yourself at home in the library. I’ll be along in a bit.” Thats what we did. We were soon laying on the wood floor in the library on our bellies. I just listened as everyhorse else talked for hours. I was pretty sure all these mares had been friends for years, and it sounded like they had been through a lot together. I had no idea why I was here. I was easily the smallest of the bunch. And, my eyes… I just listened. Well, nohorse teased me about anything. My magic teacher came in later, and just joined everyhorse on the floor, and jumped right in. And when they went to sleep, early in the morning, I did too.
We all woke the next morning at about the same time. And everyhorse hugged everyhorse again, and that included me. All these friends soon headed out to start their days. Well, everyhorse else said together something amazing that made my magic teacher cry. Soon enough, my quiet friend and I headed back to my house. I was using my magic to carry my old coat… She thanked me for spending the evening with she and her friends. I stopped and cried, and we hugged. Through tears I explained I didn’t think real friends even existed any more. But I had been hugged more in the last day…
And she said just once, quietly “I think Hope is a temporary name…”
I could see my house, and she had stuff to do in town. We hugged again, and she headed back and I walked into my house. It was very cold inside. My old coat went in my room. And my new coat was a lot warmer… And I quickly had a fire going. As I laid on my belly waiting for the house to warm up… My mind was all over the place… But I kept coming back…
I left the big city because I was fed up with the colts and phillies around me who clearly hated me. And coming here, well I was away from them, and I was REALLY glad about that. But I realized that, always being by myself, that was not quite what I had in mind either…
1. The Background Music for this entire story is entitled “The Divine” from the “Forever Today” add-on for the original soundtrack for the “Seekers of Adoulin” expansion for Final Fantasy XI, and is copywritten by Square Enix. Players of FFXI will recognize this tune immediately, and this tune is fitting since a lot of this story takes place in the dead of winter. Please purchase this tune, and play it softly in the background while you read each chapter.
2. This story, “CSR Princess” is vol. 14 of the Chronicles of Summer Rain, and is copyright 2017 by Shysage