Vixenscratch

Short stories and serials by Alexandra Herakai

The Star-Spangled Colt

This #FridayFlash fic was written as part of a prompt call themed around saws, idioms and proverbs; inspired by a prompt by Anke Wehner: “Out of the blue”

The black appaloosa mare had only walked in McAllister’s pastures for a forthnight when one morning he came to check on his horses and found a foal by her side. That alone was surprise enough – the mare had maybe looked a little on the well-fed side, but nothing that would have made him conclude that she’d been with foal, and the neighbor who’d sold her had mentioned nothing of this foal or its lineage. Maybe he hadn’t known.

Add to that the color of the delicate, doe-eyed filly’s coat, and McAllister was of half a mind to suspect the missus had added a little something more than just cream to his morning coffee. He’d heard of, and seen, blue roans before, of course, but that was just something you called them. This… Here, before him, was an honest-to-God blue roan filly, the color of a summer sky with just a hint of wispy almost-clouds of irregular patches where her wooly foal coat had slightly denser concentrations of white hairs.

After checking to make sure mother and daughter were healthy, he left his unexpected new addition in the pasture, and as soon as the unmistakably blue coat of the foal was out of sight, he began rationalizing. It must have been a trick of the light. Or maybe a neighbor or one of the farmhands was playing a joke on him? Anything but to admit the impossible, that he had a living, breathing blue horse walking out there in his pastures.

He named her Skye.

As Skye grew, McAllister personally took charge of her training, rather than assign a stablehand to take care of her like he did for most of the foals born on the ranch. He taught her to walk calmly on a lead. He taught her to lift her feet on command. He taught her to take a bit and saddle, when to walk and when to stop. And Skye, though smaller than most stockhorses he’d had, absorbed all this knowledge like a sponge.

There was something eerie about the blue horse, he found as she grew into a strong, brave young mare. His livelihood had started taking off around the time he first started handling her, but that he could write off as pure coincidence. What was more difficult to ignore was how effortlessly she moved across the most treacherous ground, never so much as throwing a shoe, much less doing herself any real injury, but McAllister congratulated himself on his exceptionally sure-footed horse and tried not to think too hard about it.

When he took his little mare to the shows, they didn’t always win, but they did have more luck than any one man – or horse – had a right to, and often that did at least earn them a runner-up ribbon. The cow hadn’t been born that could outsmart Skye, and when they moved the cattle to new pastures she’d willingly pursue would-be escapees across the most difficult terrain, never so much as slipping on the rocky slopes or muddy crossings.

Through her life, Skye gave him six good foals, three of which he kept, and three of which he could sell at a price he’d never have dreamed of getting for a horse with only partially-known lines. McAllister didn’t ride as often, anymore, when his beloved blue mare was with foal, as though he couldn’t bear the thought of mounting another horse, his own favorite having no match even among her own offspring, and none of them ever looked like anything but ordinary horses.

Then, when McAllister came to check on his mare, due to have her seventh foal, she surprised him once again, just as she had when she’d first looked back at him, there in the pasture, next to her mother whom nobody had known was anything but a little too fond of good grass. Next to her in the straw of her loose-box lay a colt just as extraordinary as his mother, and just as unique.

His coat was the deep, dark blue of a cold winter night, and like his grandmother, he looked as though someone had spread a blanket across his hindquarters. The white of the colt’s blanket wasn’t, however, unbroken, but seemed comprised of thousands upon thousands of tiny, gleaming pinpricks, and from his withers grew a pair of similarly star-dusted, downy wings.

“What have you given me, Skye?” the weathered man asked into the rumbling not-silence of chewing horses that filled the stable, now like all those years ago having trouble believing his eyes.

The blue mare met his gaze, and somehow almost seemed to smile.

Then, McAllister knew, without knowing how, the answer to his question.

Everything.



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