Luna Station Quarterly is a speculative fiction magazine featuring stories by emerging women authors.
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Noble Steed

Plod, plod, plodding along. The sky is blue, the grass is green, and the air is fresh. The hills we ride up are a little steep, but I don’t mind. It’s all worth it for the title of noble steed. The honor the title brings, and the carrots and apples that come with it, are worth the occasional day of hard riding. I’m right at the front of the herd, too, ahead of all of the other horses and there humans. It’s an honor any stallion would be proud of. I can see them all behind me, anxious to get to the top, to see what we face. I myself am becoming uncharacteristically excited.

So we plod along, our hooves making noisy clip-clop, clip-clop sounds on the ground, which is becoming harder under our hooves. These are no longer hills that we’re traveling over, but instead mountains. The humans rarely venture into them, and it strikes me as rather odd that so many of us may travel up at once when we may draw unwanted attention to ourselves. No matter. These humans do tend to do rather odd things.

There’s almost no grass no, and not a single tree. The mountains are nothing like the moores and woodlands I’m used to, nor the busy, bustling cities we sometimes visit. But I don’t mind. What kind of noble steed complains that the ground is too hard? I like the ride. I even like the weight of the human upon my back, his armour a little too heavy and clunky. It’s a comfortable weight, one I’m quite used to. I don’t mind it at all.

I’m enjoying the ride, the nice weather and the fresh air, the chirping of all the little birds flitting around. But as we get further up the mountain the air doesn’t seem quite so fresh, and the humans become a little too tense for my liking. There are no longer little birds chirping away, but instead the sky is filled with big, black crows, cawing at us and watching our ascent with hungry looks in their eyes. It’s just a little bit unnerving. Not so much that a noble steed like myself would be bothered, mind, but I can hear some of the others whinnying their displeasure behind me, and I’m sure a few are trying to turn back.

As we climb higher, the mountain growing steeper as we go, the air becomes thicker as we go, which is the exact opposite as what happens when you climb up a mountain. Usually, the air get thinner, until it gets so thin that you can no longer breathe, and then you know you’ve gone too high because you can’t breathe and you choke. At least, that’s what the old mare back in the stables tells me. I’ve never gone so high up myself. But I doubt the mare would lie to me, and so the thickness of the air, so thick that the humans can’t seem to breathe and even a few of them are trying to turn back now because of it, can’t possibly be natural.

I keep pondering this strange situation as we climb higher and higher up the mountain. The path is getting harder and harder now, steeper, and the air thicker. Many of the other horses are struggling now. Some couldn’t keep up and are somewhere back down the path, trying to catch up. Some have turned around and abandoned the ride. As we climb higher and the air stops feeling so thick, but instead begins to feel thin, just as the old mare said, I fleetingly think of turning back myself, but that would not be noble.

As the path begins to level out a little, not quite as steep, a large, dark cave comes into view. I don’t need to stop and wonder whether or not this is our destination, since the humans tug on our reins to tell us to stop and draw their swords. As they do, something reaches out from the cave. Something large, and red, with four toes, each tipped with a sharp, black claw. I barely dodge out of the way in time as the claws swipe at me. I don’t need any more warning about what’s inside the cave, but still it provides a puff of smoke, just so that I know.

Well fuck this.

It’s easier than I expected to throw the armoured man off my back. Easier than I expected to push through all of the other horses; all whinnying in terror and panic, unable to think for themselves. If they want to stay up here and fight a dragon, they’re more than welcome to. Bu I – I – I am not about to be serves up for dinner, well done and extra crispy, for some overgrown, bad tempered, bad smelling, fire-breathing lizard. No, not for all the the carrots and apples in the country.

I leave them up the mountain as I head down, hoping to find a nice patch of grass to graze on. I hear faint screams from behind me as I make my dishonorable but perfectly sensible retreat. I briefly wonder what my own human’s fate shall be. No matter, he’s only a human, after all. I can easily get another. Ah, there it is. I come across a nice patch of grass: fresh and green and perfect for grazing. I can only just hear the last few faint screams of humans and the occasional horse from where I am. Just enough to be grateful that I’m really not all that noble a steed, after all.

A bit about the author:

L J Perry adores talking about zir self in third person and will one day be the Supreme Overlord of the universe. Until then ze will remain in England and write fantasy stories. Visit author page