I’m still working on this entry to the Random Image SciFi Writing Contest, but its getting so long no one will read it in one go, so I’m breaking it up into parts. Here is the second:
“Child,” she said softly in her crackled voice, “give me your ear.”
Amaleia felt the delicate touch Nan’s soft knobby fingers on her ear, a sign that she had learned in her youth meant Nan had something important to say.
“You have not walked in a long time, and the future is never clear.”
“Oh Nan,” corrected Amaleia, “I shan’t be gone long. We will return once the honeymoon is over.”
“Walk today child, your friend misses you. You cannot tell how things will change.”
Amaleia started. Did Nan know that secret from her childhood? Her long walks in the wild parts of the estate were no secret to the servants of the household. They had begun when her father died. She found solace in the solitude of the wilderness, but that was not all she had found. How could Nan have known?
She stared blankly at the woman who had been her comfort and counsel for so many years. If Nan said it, there must be something to it. Against the cries of her mind about her next appointments and all there was to do to prepare for the wedding, something in Nan’s dark eyes surfaced a deeper yearning in her heart. It was a yearning she had suppressed for quite some time, years perhaps, to feel the wind on her face, and the warmth of the sun on her skin, to smell the freshness of the earth at her feet, and smell the wild grasses of Preminary.
Nan was a woman of few words, and no more words were needed here. Amaleia simply nodded and turned to her wardrobe where her outing skirt hung. She changed quickly, there would be little time. The florists would arrive before noon and she had to be there to oversee them. She hoped her secret friend would be there.
Breaking from the lush tree line her footsteps crunched in the dry scrub grass releasing their sweet dusty aroma with each step. She approached the field of scarps. Rocky mounds of earth dotted the plain like the round noses of a hundred giant faces staring skyward.
She wasted no time passing between and through them. She knew the subtle landmarks well, she had passed them a hundred times in her youth. After nearly twenty minutes she found it. This scarp looked just like the others. She passed around its northern slope and approached the steep face on the opposite side. The cavern entrance lay hidden exactly as she remembered it.
The mouth of the cave was hot and dry, like the plain, but further inside it grew cooler as it opened into a large cavern. Despite being nearly invisible, the entrance to the cave was large and let in a stream of morning sunshine that lit the soft sand colored walls. The light reflected off the surface of the still pool of water that filled the lower part of the cavern.
Unable to resist Amaleia slipped off her shoes and dipped her feet into the water. The stoic walls came to life as the ripples of reflected light danced and played across them, illuminating the vaulted roof.
Amaleia’s eyes danced along with the shimmering patterns all across the cave until something broke her abruptly from her revelry. There, standing still and solemn on the opposite bank of the pool stood her childhood secret.
The horse, if it could be called that, was just as she remembered. Tall and muscular, red as blood and streaked with white. It most like a stallion, wild and fierce, but its ears and nose were smaller, and its dark eyes, which spoke of affection and comfort, were larger. Its hooves also, were different, being separated into one large centered hoof between two smaller.
Splashing through the shallows she rounded the pool and wrapped her arms around her long time friend. As always he was silent, but by the nudge of his nose and the feel of his sweet breath on her neck she knew he was likewise glad to see her.
She had spent hours riding among the scarps and exploring these caves with the red stallion. They had become fast friends from the first day she had found him in the secret cavern.
“I’m so sorry I’ve been away,” Amaleia sobbed into the creatures neck. “Everything just gets so different when you grow up.”