|Inspired by the song by Hozier.|
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The Herdland is a pretty plain place. It’s grassy all around and you can see anyone approaching from miles around. The Herdland is the herd’s territory. The herd is the horse population of The Land. Along from The Herdland is the Packland. The Packland is a rocky prairie with a few small hills. That’s where the dogs live. Then there’s the Prideland for lions, the Flockland for birds, the Troupland for monkeys and apes and so on and so forth. Only travellers and merchants stray into other species lands and, if they are of good intent, they are usually quite welcome. Sometimes species integrate their lands and sometimes orphans of one species are adopted by another. There are sometimes more than one group of the same species occupying a land. Sometimes they get on, sometimes they don’t and sometimes they are neutral. This is the case with the dog pack and the wolf pack. There is a bachelor herd and a zebra and donkey herd in the herdlands who do not cause too much strife. This story centres on the Herd and the pack’s inhabitants, specifically one filly. Her name is Eleven.
There are three gods of the Land. They are Carni, Omni and Herbi. Every three hundred years three prophets of each god are born. This time the prophets of Carni are of the wolves, of the wolverines and of the buzzards. The prophets of Omni are of the rats, of the gulls and of the pigs. And the prophets of Herbi are of the Elephants, of the deer and of the horses. There are also seers who, while not common, are more common than prophets. It is the seers who can foretell when and to whom the prophet will be born. There is usually one or sometimes two seers to each species.
* * *
The winds were high and the grass blew to and fro making slithering noises as it glittered under the midday sun. Hawthorne, the bay lead stallion stood on a hillock watching The Herd. His thick black mane billowed in the wind and his amber eyes moved back and forth over the large, grazing herd. His niece Strawberry and nephew Austenaco lay back to back, talking. His mate Hazel grazed peacefully. He looked to his right and saw a dark brown figure moving toward him. It was Rosa, the herd’s seer. She greeted him and asked permission to converse with him. He welcomed her and nodded. “Saint’s child will be the Prophet of Herbi” she said simply and then smiled.
A rare smile graced Hawthorne’s otherwise serious mug. He reared and bugled and everyone in the herd looked up. “We have the Prophet!” he yelled at the top of his voice and the herd cheered. His mate, Hazel came up and stood beside him proudly and said “That’s great news Thorne. Is it your sister’s foal?” Hawthorne nodded and added quieter “I am glad it’s not our foal you known. He will be just as important to me.” And Hazel smiled, a weight lifted off her heart. Then she laughed “You’re intent on our baby being a he, aren’t you? What if it’s a girl?” Hawthorne looked serious for a moment and then looked at her and laughed “I’ll love it just as much.” Hazel was glad to see Hawthorne so happy, his leadership duties usually left him a little taut and serious.
Strawberry and Austen were overjoyed, if not a little jealous. They went to see their mother, Saint, who was lying down in a small hollow of the hill, accompanied by Denitha the silver dapple guard and trainer and Artemisa the cremello splash guard. Soon most of the herd had gathered, at a polite distance, to give their congratulations. They left to give the small family some privacy as the foal began to make its way.
It took most of that day and all the night. Something was wrong. The foal was the wrong way around. Saint began to cry and so did Strawberry. Austen’s eyes sparkled but he refused to cry, he just stood at a distance and looked worried and upset. Finally the foal was turned the right way around and slid out onto the dirt floor. Its pinky white nose was sickly pale, its blue eyes were half shut and its body was still. Nobody moved, nobody breathed and there was no noise at all. Finally Austen walked away, watery eyed, feeling sick with grief and went to tell his uncle.
As soon as Hawthorne saw his almost crying nephew his heart sank. Hazel woke up blearily and saw Austen’s unshed tears. “Oh dear” she said softly.
Artemisa stood, shivering and saddened when suddenly she thought of something. She walked up to the foal and opened its mouth with her hoof. Denitha frowned in confusion and stepped forward but Art stopped her “No, wait.” She put a hoof on the foal’s chest and stepped down gently, then harder. The foal coughed and Artemisa’s heart missed a beat. Saint lifted her exhausted head, confused, and looked back to see the small fall flailing and coughing. “You’re not dreaming” Artemisa laughed exuberantly, a lump of joy rising in her throat, tears in her eyes “she’s alive!”
It was at that moment that Hawthorne, Hazel and Austenaco rounded the corner, confused about all the laughing. “She’s alive!” Strawberry yelled and everyone cheered and laughed. The foal was duly confused and struggled to its feet, bleating hungrily. Saint rose and obliged the now very alive little foal. The sun rose, pink, revealing the foals beautiful apricot splash coat and blue eyes. Everyone was happy and they named her eleven, for she was the eleventh equine prophet in the 23,000 years of The Herd. It is the year 23000 AOCH and it has been 3000 years since the last equine prophet. Time to celebrate.