He woke me up the next morning again with his soft nose on the side of my head. I smiled as soon as I woke up. My mom used to wake me up that way when I was little. That was one of my few pleasant memories. I stayed smiling briefly as I realized it wasn’t my mom, it was the Unicorn stallion I had all but dragged in out of a blizzard a few days ago. I didn’t mind any of that. But that smile… Hope was not allowed to hope just yet.

He said quietly “Someone is at the door, knocking.” I got up right away, and walked to the door, and opened it with my magic. It was my neighbor, and I told her to come in out of the cold, then I closed the door. She was facing the stallion. She didn’t gasp, but she didn’t say anything either. I took care of everything. I started to cry. I explained that I had rescued him out of the snow the day after this bunch of winter storms had started. He seemed to be healing ok, he was just blind, he couldn’t see. And, to be fair, I still had dirt on my legs, on my side, my pretty coat from that ordeal.

It was clear she believed me. But she said “I know a thing or two about this, let me have a look.” She walked around in front of the stallion, got down on her front knees, and looked into his eyes. She moved her head to alternately block and unblock the light coming from the fire. Then she said “Wow, no activity at all…” She got up, came back near the door, over next to me. “These storms aren’t over, but we should have the doc come out and look at him when we can. He probably knows more about this than I do.” It was quiet for a minute, I would trust her on that. Then she said excitedly “Hey, get these things out of my saddlebags. I wanted to bring you some food. And I guess now, it will probably come in handy.” I started crying right away, there were over a dozen good sized oat pies. This is probably the simplest pastry dish you can make with oats. They could be very good if the cook was good. I didn’t have any doubts about that; I had tasted their cooking. And feeding both the stallion and myself now, this would make a big difference. I used my magic to carefully pull them out of the large leather carry pouches on either side of what she called her saddlebag. The oat pies got stacked down with the oat plants under that table.

I hugged her for a minute maybe while I cried. “Thank you for being such an amazing friend…”

She smiled. “That’s what friends do.”

Trying to calm down, I smiled back. “I’m trying to learn…” Then I looked over at this presently blind stallion in front of my fireplace. “Yes, I’m trying to learn…” I added quietly.

She headed back home, and I made sure to close the door after she left. It wasn’t snowing outside right now, but it was windy, and cold. But I explained to the stallion that I should probably pull some more wood from the porch into the house, then move more wood from the big pile of wood out front onto the porch. Well, I really needed to heat the house back up, but I should move some new wood into the house first. The stallion frowned, then said quietly “Well, I guess you need to do that. And I really am…” He didn’t finish, but he didn’t need to. I decided to try to do as much as possible from the doorway.

I also quietly said this. “Listen, I told you I will not leave… you… I am trying to be a real friend too, and you need me right now, and that’s ok. And you also need to know I am near, and that’s fine too.” I stopped and thought a minute, then added “I will try to mention that I am here, so you will know. You will probably hear me bring the wood in anyway.” I think he was working on not crying. I got to work. I brought in some of the smaller sized wood from the porch. I used them occasionally when I wanted to add wood to the fire, but I was going to sleep. I also brought in a bunch more of the larger logs. Again, all the wood went up against the wall that was opposite the fireplace. Then, I stood on the porch, but left the door open, as I pulled a bunch more wood from the pile and stacked it carefully on my porch. I had to break a few of the smaller sticks. Using magic to bend them on the ground until they broke, that was a new experience for me. Then I came in, closed the door, and put two more logs on the fire, and quickly got them burning. Then I laid on my belly in front of the fire, and waited until the house started to warm back up. We just relaxed there in front of the fire. Little was said.

Maybe two hours later, there was a knock on the door. It was my neighbor again, slightly out of breath, and she had brought an older Unicorn stallion, probably the town doctor she had mentioned. She must have run straight into town, then brought him out. The doctor was using his magic to hold a large, well-used leather bag of stuff on his back.

I was sure he was the doctor. Right away, the following memory played out quickly in my head. Well, in the big city, the doctor didn’t come to you, you went to them. And the entire room was filled with huge glass jars of different colored horse pills. You would go in, explained what hurt or whatever, then he would tell you which pill or pills you needed, and you would need to buy one or more of them. They were not cheap. And when you came back some other day for a different pill because the first ones didn’t work, he was never surprised. He just asked you again what the problem was, and pointed to a different one. And you had to pay for them too. My mom explained all this to me, then said quietly “You really need to eat well, exercise, and take care of your body. That is your best chance.”

I shook my head to return to the present, then opened the door so both could come in. This doctor had braved stormy cold weather to come look at the stallion I had rescued… I said quietly “Stallion, the town doctor is here to look you over. He is a Unicorn too, but please trust him, and let him do his job. My friend ran straight into town to bring him out, on a nasty cold day, and I would trust her with my life.” I thought a minute, then added “My friend and I will be right outside the door until the Doc is done.”

The stallion said quietly “Miss, I will do as you say.”

My neighbor and I walked outside, and I closed the door. Even with coats on, it was cold. She said right away “Thanks for helping me with this, a bunch of us are just really concerned.” She stopped briefly as if searching for words. Then she asked “Do you feel he has any intentions, to, you know, …take advantage of you?”

It was like I knew what she wanted to ask even before she was done. I spoke honestly. “I could not stop him if he did. But I don’t think… He seems pretty considerate to me. I just don’t think he is the type to do that. And I am sure he really is blind right now…”

It was quiet a minute maybe. “Well, stallions can be pretty good at concealing their real motives…” My neighbor said this, probably with the voice of years, I think. I would trust her on that too. Still thinking, she added “If it gets to be, well, hard, let me know, maybe we can watch over him at the house while he heals up. Might be safer, I don’t know…”

I just hugged her. The thought that this stallion would rob me of my favors, give me a foal, and then leave, that had never even crossed my mind. Well, she really was right. My dad told me once that stallions that want from a mare, they can be very unpredictable, even downright dishonest. I only now understood what he was trying to say. My neighbor was right. I needed to be careful.

My neighbor started “Well, the Doc will know if…”

The door opened at that point, and the Doc told us to get inside before we catch a cold. He explained what he found. “Extensive ice-bite around the legs; just above the hooves, knees, some on the nose, a bunch on the ears, private areas. He was in the snow for a while, and you probably did save his life. Usually it is the hearing that goes as the brain is affected, but with him… The injury to his body will heal up. Just keep him calm, warm and make sure he has plenty of food and water. Hearing usually comes back in a week or so. I have no idea about his sight. Might be a while.”

I was having trouble not crying. It sounded like it really was close, as close as I thought, to him dying. But I started to say “How much…”

My neighbor jumped in right away “Aww, don’t worry, I took care of that already.” I hugged her again. I think I needed to hug somehorse just then… And I only then realized I couldn’t pay anyway…

The Doc said “Let me know if there is any change; bleeding, sharp pain, things like that.”

I hugged my friend again, then they left. I felt bad. I knew it would be dark probably, about when they made it back into town. But then I guessed that my friend would probably stay with one of my other new friends. They were all nice like that.

I flopped down on the floor in front of the fire, near the stallion. “Thanks for letting him…” I couldn’t say anything more.

He answered quickly “I have nothing to hide. And he was pretty amazed somehorse found–”

We both cried for a while.

Calming down some, I did manage to say “Well, he wants you to eat and drink. My friend brought over some oat pies, and I am positive they are delicious; I have tasted their cooking before. Just let me know if you need anything, water too.”

He didn’t say anything, but I got up and got one of the oat pies, broke it in half, then broke the half into half again, and gave one of the quarters to him and I had the other. Well, once he found it with his nose, he managed to use his magic to pick it up, to eat it. He had trouble finding his mouth a time or two and I supressed a laugh — but he did laugh. And, of course, the oat pies were very good. I brought the bucket over, and we both took a drink. Then I put it back.

I laid back on my belly back where I was, my spot for now I guess. It was quiet briefly, then he said this. “My ears work fine, and well, your friend is right.” I blushed right away. He had heard our conversation on the porch. He didn’t sound angry at all. He kept going. “When stallions want from a mare, they turn into absolute monsters mascarading as the most gentle lambs, just to get what they are after. They, we, cannot be trusted at that point.” He stopped here, both deep in thought, and also trying not to cry. “Everything I just said leaves you with no reason to ever trust me, and I understand that. But you really did save my life… I will never…” Then he did cry softly for a few minutes.

He was right. By his own admission, I could never trust him if that’s what he wanted. But I still felt, like I explained to my friend… I didn’t think that was the way he did things. But, like I also said to her, I wouldn’t be able to stop him if he tried. But, I just felt… Staring into the fire, I said quietly “I could not stop you if that was your goal. I am assuming though that I can trust you, that this is not your intention. In this area, I guess my life is really in your hands, as much as yours is in mine. Only time will tell.” Then I put my leg over his, and put my head down to try and sleep. I was tired. I think he realized that was the signal, so he put his head down too.

I didn’t fall asleep right away. That last phrase stuck in my head. I kept playing that over and over. In so many ways, that was the only approach I could take… Whether he stayed or ran when his eyes worked again… Whether he robbed me and left a foal, or stood by his word… Or even if he ever could see again… I knew nothing about any of this right now. I just had to wait and see. Yes… Only time will tell…

————–

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

 

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