Melaina Chapter 5

“He is a loner that’s for sure.” An older mare stated before snorting. “I am Desdemona, and here is Sephrenia,” She said in turn.

This chocolate coloured mare was clearly the unnamed matriarch, though both of them had the air of ageless wisdom that was a sure sign of their position in the larger herd.  Imber had immediately deferred to them so Mel did the same, touching noses with each of the mares to catch their scent.

“I am grateful for your welcome, I had no idea that such a place could even exist.” She murmured staring around her.

“We are lucky indeed,” Spehrenia said with pride shaking her mane as they all turned and escorted Mel further into the area around the main buildings.  Everywhere was a riot of spring colour, and roses of every hue were already starting to bloom, even while the daffodils and last of the snowdrops held on.

“Here we have a sanctuary, and help from the humans when we need it or wish for companionship as of old.” She continued as they entered through a large open gateway into the ancient abbey. Around them, activity continued unabated and again Melaina was startled by how the humans largely ignored them with the exception of a young lady with alarmingly pink hair who ambled over and immediately began giving Desdemona and Sephrenia scratches behind their ears and handfuls of what looked to be chopped up carrots.  

“OOh, a new arrival!” The girl laughed walking past Desdemona to pat Imber on her neck and give out a few more treats. “I’m Sherbert, you probably don’t care and don’t understand me but my horses are like you too, here I have more carrots!”  Melaina gingerly let her approach given how relaxed the other mares were and allowed this small, strangely coloured bundle of exuberance stroke her nose.  She slipped some carrot slices onto the palm of her hand and held them out until Melaina acquiesced and took them.  Crunching on them thoughtfully she watched as the girl gave the last carrot to Imber and walked off into another building.

“They aren’t all like that, but generally the ones here know not to bother us,” Sephrenia whispered touching her nose gently to Melania’s neck. “It’s easy to spot the ones to avoid, but the pink one is harmless and carries sweet things to eat.”

They turned and entered what looked to be the main courtyard, arches adorned in climbing roses made a walkway around the edge next to the buildings, and in the centre was a large fountain surrounded by more flowers.

The buildings all seemed to have been repaired and converted at some stage with the exception of the huge church which lay mostly in ruins with no roof.  It’s tall pillars like topless trees covered in yet more ivy and roses. Closest to them was a long row of stables, mostly filled with curious horses of several breeds, and further around the courtyard were grain stores, hay barns and an opening into a dark tunnel.

When Mel remarked on this feature Imber laughed, “come let me show you around properly. We might even spot Cosira.”

“She is?”

“Cosira is one of Sephrenia’s daughters, she’s like me, just a bit different.”

They both wished the older mares a good morning and Imber lead the way across the courtyard towards the broken wall the lead into the great church.

A sense of deep reverence crept across Melaina as they entered what she would eventually learn was the nave.  Giant pillars of a warm sandstone stood in pairs lining the central aisle, though it was not possible to discern where the path ended and the garden began.  Everywhere inside was covered in flowers and bushes, with ivy and vines overflowing in a riot of green hues everywhere she looked.  As the wind whispered through the open window arches it made the leaves dance, a living, breathing oasis.  They made their way carefully between the pillars towards the central crossing and paused, listening to the birds high up above them.

With her senses heightened she heard rather than saw the movement through an archway and raised her head to better focus on what it was.  A rabbit bounded out and scurried away into the undergrowth.  “The abbey welcomes you Melaina, daughter of Omorfia and Ajax,” Imber said touching noses with her.  The mare flicked her ears and nodded to Melaina to make their way back out of the nave and into the dark warmth of the converted stables and undercroft.

“There are few as antisocial as my sire, but he loves his solitude.  They say the only reason the abbey still stands is because of the gifts Akiosthos have.” Imber said once they were out of the stables and into more walled gardens.

“There are so many of us here, how did we all find out about this place?”

“Well, probably the same way you found it.  I was drawn here because I was looking for my sire, and Fabio was drawn here because he was looking for solace. We all ended up finding each other.”

“And the humans?”

“Probably the same thing, this place has a tendency to draw people together who are seeking peace.  Out in the woods is a stone monument, older than the abbey. This place belonged to ancient people long before these buildings.”

“I think it’s going to take me a while to get used to the idea of being around humans, the herd I left, they avoid all contact, at any cost.”  Melaina shuddered at the thought and turned away.

“It’s the only thing you’ll have to get used to if you do stay.  The humans here, we trust them.  They allow us to do as we will and come and go as we please.  Nobody is forced to do anything, come, let me show you more before you make your mind up.”  Imber said kindly.