Melaina Chapter 2

She walked on, heading towards the east. It was no direction in particular, but she liked the warmth of the morning sun on her face and over her back as it rose higher bringing new colour to the world and waking all the myriad creatures that inhabited it. Above her larks and swallows caught insects and in a field somewhere to the south of her she could hear cattle lowing as they moved towards the barns for feeding and milking. She considered their trust in the humans for a moment as she paused and picked through a patch of clover. They weren’t very stupid, but they were easily pleased, and liked the structure of familiar schedules. It was almost against their nature to be anything but what they were, each and every day.

Melaina snorted, ruffling the grass under her nose. She didn’t want to be like that. No amount of safety or regular food would deter her from exploring the world around her, as free as one of the larks over her head. So long as she didn’t end up being caught. She’d have to take much more care in future. She moved on again in search of the next patch of sweet clover making sure not to be too far from cover.

And so the day went. She had nowhere to be, and no especial hurry to get there. She ambled through the countryside, jumped fences and clambered over broken cobblestone walls that lay scattered across the landscape. The sweet grass had turned into harder and shorter moorland coverage which meant she had to browse more to find nice bits, but it was enough for now. In the distance a large river sparkled for a moment before the sun was hidden behind approaching clouds. For now they were high and fluffy, unlikely to turn into rain clouds as they moved on in the high winds miles above her. Distantly if she pushed her mind out, she could feel incredible forces of nature swirling around her, wind, earth, water, the very essence of life. Her power was nowhere near enough to control that kind of force, she knew to try would be stupid and would probably kill her so she withdrew her will into her own self as her mother had taught her.

Another cloud interrupted her experimentation and she moved on again, her mind deep in thought even as she browsed through the sparse grass like the sheep in the area around her. Maybe her problem was that she needed something to find. Needed a deliberate direction to travel in. Some sort of goal to give her purpose. She’d never had a purpose just knew she didn’t really intend to stay with her mothers herd. All this indecision vexed her, she didn’t feel happy like she thought she would at being on her own in the great outdoors which were more vast than she expected. She couldn’t really have traveled that far, but there had been plenty of climbing up to reach the moorland plateau she now grazed on. It seemed to stretch from horizon to horizon, the sky infinitely massive above her and knee deep in heathers of pale greens, ocres and vibrant purple.

The clouds continued to thicken as the afternoon drew on making her automatically start looking for shelter. Melaina was not too proud to think she could survive without it, her coat was not yet winter thick and she hated the rain and mud it produced. It usually turned her pale mane into knotted tangles and her tail a gloopy mass of mud and leaves. How mundane horses could enjoy rolling in mud she couldn’t fathom. Give her a nice sand bath instead. Sand soothed itchy patches, collected the grease and grime and if carefully shaken out and groomed made her blue black coat shine.

Happy thoughts turned to miserable ones as the first fat drops of rain headed in her direction across the landscape, heading in from the north. Like a sponge it sucked the colour from the heathers and bracken and took the warmth of the sun with it making her shudder. She forged on until she found a better marked sheep path scattered with pale white gray rocks that turned dark when wet. Sheep like cows knew their purpose in this world, eventually this path would lead either to better grazing, to water, or to shelter. She rather hoped it was the latter and as she topped a small rise sighed in relief as she caught sight of a derelict stone barn in a sheltered gully which the sheep were already gathering in.

She swiftly made her way down towards it as the rain got heavier, leaving riverlets of cold water dripping from her nose and back as it ran off her coat. As politely as she could she worked her way into the barn with its crumbling walls and half missing roof, but in the corner was a large pile of old straw protected from the elements. It was no cleaner than the dirt floor of the rest of the barn, but it was better than nothing. She drank from a large tub quickly filling with rainwater and shuffled into the corner as much as she could, the sheep surrounding her like a knee deep wooly blanket. They settled themselves, unperturbed by their larger visitor and the heavy rain outside in the gathering dark. Their calls back and forth and the rain hammering on the slate roof lulled her into a fitful sleep.