Yea…I suppose I should probably post more at some point, huh? At some point I’m going to go back and edit the scene at the end, with Dann and Noah, and possibly remove it. I don’t like it. And on another note, Ilar (EYE-lar) is actually the name of a girl I sit next to in my Art History class. Apparently I was feeling too lazy to think up more names when I wrote this. And on one more note, my current wordcount is 14,137. I haven’t written any yet today…going to hopefully get 500 words or so in before said Art class tonight, and at least 1.5k afterwards. I’m shooting for about 2k a day for as long as I can possibly keep it up. I did 4k the first three-ish days, which is why I’m so much ahead. I’m hoping to continue moving ahead of schedule as long as I can. Although the due dates for an art paper, a psychology lab, a ballet paper, a liberal arts paper, and an art research paper are fast approaching…why all my classes would assign multiple large papers all due within the same two weeks (which happen to be in November) beats me.
…and actually I have one more note. Rebekah, you need to skype me.
Ok I’m done now.
Dann shouldered the wide Corral gate open. Slipping inside, he pulled it carefully shut behind him, giving it an extra tug to make sure it had closed securely. To either side, the strong fence stretched out of sight into the dim light. Encompassing a few square miles, the Corral really was a magnificent structure. Within its confines, hundreds upon thousands of wild horses had at one time or another been held. For year on untold year, the Corral had stood as the nomad’s livelihood, the thing on which their world depended. When once the nomads had been the plains’ only inhabitants, the corral had served as a congregation point. In those days, they had lived in much greater isolation, with each family moving in their own territory and at their own pace. The Corral was where they gathered at times, and where they worked together to lay a taming hand upon the wind-curried manes of the wild horses.
Now, with the settlement towns growing among the foothills of the mountains, the nomads had drawn together to form an established clan. In defiance of the settled life of those that dwelt in the new houses, the nomads still roamed the vastness of the plains and ran with the wild horses, and the Corral was still their central gathering place. Traveling about the land for most of the year, the nomads carried their homes with them. They followed the horses, moving when they moved and pausing where they paused. A few times a year, however, they moved back to the Corral. These were always exciting times, as they meant a trip into one or another of the towns, an exchange, albeit a distrusting one, of news and goods, and a respite from constant travel. Each time they returned to the Corral, the nomads brought with them a new herd of horses, captured on their wild roaming across the plains. Safe within the Corral, these horses were tamed and gentled until calm enough to endure the often unsteady hand of those living beneath the mountains. Calm enough to be traded for something the nomads needed. A bolt of cloth or a weapon, perhaps. Given in exchange for these cheap goods, the wild horses lost their freedom.
Leaning against the Corral gate, Dann pulled his thoughts back along the running strands of time. It was long since the nomads had been the only human dwellers in this land. It was long since the horses had lost their untouchable gift of surety in freedom. He shook his head, pushing himself away from the rough wood of the great fence and stepping forward into the Corral. Cupping his hands around his mouth, he called out, mimicking the bleeding cry of the stallions. The ground trembled beneath hooves.
In a few moments, the horses stood near him, just out of arm’s reach. Huffing and blowing through dilated nostrils, a stallion approached closer, his neck arched and eyes wide and glaring, striving to intimidate. Dann smiled. Slouching carelessly, he addressed the great animal. “You know I’m not scared of you, friend. Hush now. No more of that. No one will take you in the towns; you’re too proud. Maybe that is what you want,” he added, his voice trailing off.
From the fence behind him, a voice spoke up softly. “Don’t talk to them like that, Dann. You’ll make them sad.”
Dann turned, a grin lighting his face. “Sorry, Ilar,” he said, nodding to the young girl who clung to her perch half way up the outside of the Corral fence. “It’s just hard, isn’t it, to see such creatures forced before a cart or made to wear a bit and bridle. So used to the wind out here in the plains as they are.”
Ilar nodded, her young eyes wide and serious. “I wonder if they miss the wind. Papa tells me there’s no wind in the towns. I’ve never been before, you know.” Her face lit up, and she jumped down from the fence, running around to peer through the bars of the gate. “What’s it like, Dann? A town? Is it strange? Do people really live in square houses out of wood? How do they move them? They must be heavy!”
Dann laughed. “It is strange. And they do live in square wooden houses. But they don’t move. That’s the thing about towns, see. They stay put in one spot forever. The only moving they do is to grow larger.”
Ilar gasped, pushing a dirty lock of hair from her face to fasten her eyes fully upon Dann’s face. “Don’t move? But…but why not? Oh Dann, it must be so interesting! I’m going to see them this year! The towns! I’m coming along!” Ilar exclaimed, bouncing on the balls of her feet.
“I heard,” Dann replied, shaking his head in amusement. “You should be helping your mother ready the tents for travel, Ilar,” he continued, adding quickly as the girl turned to dash off, “If you see Noah on your way, tell her to come here!”
“All right!” Ilar called back over her shoulder, speeding back to the camp through the tall, whispering grass that reached nearly over her head.
Turning back to the stallion, which now stood nearby, grazing quietly, Dann shrugged. “Well. Someone has some energy, eh? Come here, friend. We’re moving soon. You’ve got to take the rope again.” The stallion shook his head, snorting and turning his back on Dann, who shrugged, amused.
“Come now, you can do better than that.” Dann turned around a second time, his eyes falling this time on Noahryn, as she slipped through the bars of the fence and joined him. “Naiki and Fyndon are coming to help,” she continued. My father said to tell you the horses need to be ready to move out in an hour. We’ll go on ahead with them, and the rest of the camp will follow as soon as they are ready. He wants to move out as quickly as possible.” Noahryn gestured to the swirl of dark, heavy clouds overhead. “The wind is picking up. We want to get more into the shelter of the mountains before a gale hits. It will spook the horses, and make travel more difficult.”
Dann nodded. “All right. Let’s get started,” he said. “Here’s Fyndon,” he added, as the young man appeared coming towards them.
“Dann, Noah,” Fyndon said, nodding to them as he too slipped between the bars of the fence and stood. He reached out, clasping Dann’s arm.
Dann returned the greeting, as Noahryn tossed the two of them an armload of thin, strong rope halters. “Get a move on, you two,” she said, laughing. We’ve got thirty-odd half-wild heads to wrangle in an hour. Naiki,” she called out as the girl appeared, climbing over, rather than through, the fence. “Here’s some for you.”
Naiki nodded wordlessly and took the halters Noahryn held out. The four of them began to move gently through the herd of horses, running a hand down a flank here, whispering words of calming there. As each horse submitted to its bonds, it was led to the fence and secured there, waiting to move out.
As she worked, Noahryn found herself near Naiki. Just barely younger than herself, Naiki was much smaller than Noahryn, a mere wisp of a girl. As she flitted amongst the horses, she hummed softly, speaking to each one as she tugged its windswept forelock out over the halter rope. Pausing beside Noahryn for a moment, she addressed her quietly. “It’s a shame, isn’t it?”
Noahryn reached out, placing a gentle hand on the neck of a grey mare, coaxing her head around. “Yes, it is. It always is. But they get used to it, Naiki.”
“Do they, though?” the smaller girl asked, rubbing the horse she had just captured behind its ears. “Do they ever really get used to captivity? It’s like going deaf, after being able to hear the wind all your life. Or suddenly finding you can’t breathe.”
Noahryn shook her head. “Don’t think of it that way. They go to homes with people to love and care for them. It’s hard, out here. You can see it just by looking at them. The mares have to fight to keep the stallions from hurting them. The stallions have to fight to keep their mares and not lose them to another herd. Sometimes a young stallion challenges another, and one of them dies or is badly hurt. You know all this. In the towns, everything is safe. There is no cold winter wind to fear. They will have shelter, and all the hay and grass they could ever want. It isn’t all bad.” Noahryn turned to face Naiki, laying a hand on her shoulder. “Don’t think of it as captivity. Think of it as safety.”
“I would…I am trying. I try every year,” Naiki said, shaking her head. “I can’t. I don’t believe I ever will. So wild and free…and then to be caught beneath a rope or under the lash of a whip…” She trailed off, turning away.
Noahryn shrugged her shoulders, tugging gently on her halter rope and leading the mare towards the Corral gate. “You can’t change it, Naiki. None of us can. This is how it has been. This is how it must be now. And this is how it will be, for our children, and theirs, and for many generations after, until the world is changed. This is life.”
“Yes. It is,” Naiki answered, her voice soft. “This is life. Freedom, and a halter rope.”
Dann met Noahryn at the gate. “We’re nearly finished. How you doing?”
Noahryn shrugged, faking a bright smile. “Oh, you know. It kills to do this to them. I would open the gate and let them all run free again if I could. Like the wind lords of old. But that’s not how it’s done now. Naiki’s taking it just like last time.”
“Mm. I don’t understand why your father keeps sending her here to help. It only hurts her,” Dann said, sighing.
“My father does what he thinks is right,” Noahryn said firmly, eyes snapping in the dusky light. “Soon enough she’ll learn. Soon enough she’ll forget this and move on. If she comes here every time, is made to help us halter and tame the horses, she’ll harden.”
“Yea, I suppose she will,” Dann said softly, turning away.
Noahryn sighed. Reaching out, she placed a hand on Dann’s shoulder. “Hey. It’s hard. I get that. Naiki and Fyndon get that too. It’s always going to be. Especially for you, the one in charge of breaking them to the rope. And for people like Naiki, who can’t forget the way it used to be, even though they weren’t alive to see those days. But this is what our livelihood is now. This is what we do. And we can’t change it now.”
“Your father could,” Dann said, voice barely a whisper in the chill breeze.
“No. Even my father could not,” Noahryn said flatly. “You attribute him with too much power, Dann. He cannot turn back time or undo the work of generations.”
“He could, though, Noah. He could start it,” Dann answered. Noahryn shook her head sharply and turned away, walking quickly out into the vastness of the now-empty Corral. The horses stamped restlessly along the fence where they were all now tied, waiting to move out. There was no life left in the grass beneath Noahryn’s feet.
“Hey.” Dann followed her away from the others at the fence. “Noah…I’m sorry. You’re right, of course. And I have not the right nor the place to criticize your father. His responsibility is the greatest, the weight on his shoulders the heaviest. He does all he can. Forgive me? I shouldn’t have spoken,” he finished, looking down.
Noahryn sighed. “No, it’s all right. I was upset.”
“And still are,” Dann added, smiling slightly. He reached out, brushing a long strand of Noahryn’s black hair from her forehead and cupping her face in his hands. She closed her eyes, letting him pull her closer into a tight hug. “It’s going to work out. We’ll reach town in a day or two, three if the winds catch us while we’re still out here. We’ll trade the horses and be heading back in no time. Then we can start over fresh like we always do. It will be just us and the wind again. And the wild horses. We’ll run with them, like always, and travel with them. We won’t need to capture and sell any more for a while at least.”
“But we always do have to,” Noahryn said softly, looking up into Dann’s face. “We always do have to do it all again in the end. When I was little, I used to think it would get easier. But it has only grown more painful as I’ve gotten older, as I’ve understood the old stories better.”
Dann smiled. “Dreamer. Come back out of the past, Little Flower. Come on, your father is waiting.”
Noahryn nodded, pulling away from him and allowing the corners of her mouth to lift into a smile. “Yes. And we have a gale to beat.”