Photo via VisualHunt
Aleesia flattened herself behind a small rise in the ground. The herd was still grazing, though the grass was limited. The branches and dead trees provided a hazard to Aleesia and her team as they prepared to attempt a capture. Her client had specified which horse they wanted. She’d already located it and her team had a plan how to separate it from the rest of the herd.
“Jessa, Liesel, are you ready?” she whispered.
The elven twins flashed her a gesture, indicating their readiness. They didn’t speak the human tongue though they understood it. They considered it too crude to even attempt. Aleesia found that opinion amusing and accepted their peculiarity with good grace. Few other wranglers would have done so. But the twins made capturing animals much easier so she dealt with all of their odd habits.
Breton squirmed closer to her. His dark skin was a blot on the terrain and he was keeping himself even farther down the hill. “Are you sure you know which one it is?” he whispered.
“Yeah. It’s pretty distinctive, considering it’s the darkest one there,” Aleesia said. “Are you ready?” He nodded. “Jessa, Liesel, go.”
The twins slipped over the hill and vanished, using their magic to turn invisible. They would be moving into place on either side of the dark mare. Aleesia called her magic to her hands. She took a deep breath and gestured at one of the dead trees. It shattered with a loud noise.
The horses screamed in terror and took off running. The dark horse lunged after her herd but suddenly found herself unable to move. She strained against the invisible bonds holding her but couldn’t break them.
“My turn,” Breton said. He scrambled over the hill, the halter and rope in his hand. He approached the horse. The twins’ magic held it in place as he slipped the enchanted leather over the mare’s head. He attached the lead and took a good hold of it. “Okay, I’ve got her.”
The twins shed their invisibility and released the mare. The horse tried to rear but Breton’s great strength held her down. She snorted and struggled but he stood fast. Aleesia climbed over the hill and joined the others. “She’s beautiful,” she said.
“She’s really spirited too,” Breton said.
Aleesia felt a pang. The client who’d demanded this horse was brutal when he broke them. They were truly broken when he was finished. She’d be utterly without spirit or personality. “I hate turning her over to him,” she said.
Liesel made a few hand gestures. “Liesel has a point,” Breton said. “If we don’t we’ll lose our reputation and we won’t have work.”
“I know,” Aleesia said. She put a hand on the proud beast’s neck. “I’m sorry sweet lady.”
Don’t be sorry. Don’t do this. The voice echoed in all of their minds. All four of the wranglers jerked back and stared at the horse.
“You can speak?” Breton asked.
Yes. All of my herd can. The horse snorted. Did you think we were the ordinary dumb creatures who roam the plains to the east? They could not survive in these lands.
Jessa looked at Liesel. They spoke in their own language for a moment. Then Jessa made a face before turning to Aleesia. “This is not a horse,” she said, her words heavily accented. “This is a sithana.”
“What’s a sithana?” Aleesia asked.
We are kin to the elves and fae, the sithana said. We have existed in this world for millennia. We can take many forms, from gentle creatures such as my herd to those beasts you call imaginary – dragons, gryphons, and chimera to name a few.
“We should let her go,” Liesel said. “We will lose reputation but we will save a life as precious as our own.”
“How will we eat if we don’t deliver?” Breton asked.
Should you release me you will be granted good fortune, the sithana said. That I swear.
“She has the power to do that,” Jessa said. “She has more magic than us. She can do what the fae do.”
Aleesia was silent, thinking hard. “Breton, take off the harness.”
“Aleesia, we’re going to lose out on a lot of money,” Breton said.
“I won’t enslave a sentient being,” Aleesia said. “Release her.”
Breton scowled but did as he was told. The sithana shook her head and reared up on her hind legs. Good fortune is yours, wranglers. You will find it as you pursue your future. Farewell. She took off chasing after her herd.
Aleesia sighed. “Let’s go tell our client we couldn’t catch his horse. At least if we lie we can save some face.” The other three nodded and the wranglers headed back to their own mounts, each lost in their thoughts of the beautiful being they’d just set free.