A clear air swept through the trees; pines for the most part. A small distance away from where a small, wry girl perched on a stone surrounded by green branches, a creek murmured softly in a rippling way. There were no birds over-head, merely the dark blue color of an approaching storm. A silence had over-taken the forest, unnatural in its swiftness, unnatural in its texture.

Nothing moved, save for the surging branches. They seemed to sigh into the wind, as if willing the wind to die down and let them rest. Still, the girl did not move. Her gray eyes were focused on a small stone near the opposite side of the creek. It was partially coated with slippery green moss, and lay imbedded in the muck of the earth below it. Only a small area penetrated the clear current, rising above it.

She was young and understood little of patience, only instinct. And her instincts were raw. They had led her to this point, where she still balanced on the stone under her bare toes, listening to the wind and trees speak. Instinct, or maybe something deeper than that, had drawn her focus to the stone identical its surrounding peers and caused her to settle on it, to go over its every detail. Curiosity told her to lift it, to see what it was hiding, to know it's secrets, yet instinct told her to wait.

Her under-developed child's patience was running thin, and she was beginning to move, first to rest her hand lightly beside her, and then place both feet on the chilly forest floor. Still, something inside her told her to stay away, to wait only a little while longer. Eyes still upon the creek-stone, she turned her attention to the wind, listening for what she felt she must wait for, and presently, it came.

The soft noises she heard coming through the trees behind the creek-stone were foreign to her. She only knew they were not the heavy steps nor the even heavier breaths her brother took when they walked together. Her curiosity over-took her desire to move away from the unknown, yet her instinct still held on enough to stop her from moving towards the sounds. She could hear now a sort of pleasant snorting, but very different from the sounds her uncle's pigs made. Almost like a sigh, yet stronger. A breath of air forcefully removed from the body.

"I know you are there, little filly." A voice spoke to her, and she turned her head in an attempt to find the direction of the sound. Yet is appeared to come from everywhere and nowhere all at once, instead filling her mind seemingly of its own accord. "You must be lost, gone away from your herd. One such as you should not be left alone for the hungry to find, and there is a storm coming.

"Yet this time, you are lucky." The girl's grey eyes stared beyond the creek-stone, attempting to see behind the branches. The steady sound of movement still came from beyond them, and she had decided the person speaking was most certainly there. "I will return you to your herd, for I know how it feels to be a mother searching for her lost filly in the storm." The branches moved slightly, and an animal she had never seen before stepped from behind them. The mare was the color of sunset with a mane as silver as the stars, and the girl could only stare.

"Who are you?" She asked, and would have asked more, had the mare's ears not immediately flattened, her eyes seeming to narrow distastefully.

"I am someone who is never to be spoken to like that. The languages of humans are abrasive and malformed. You will speak to me, and to all others, as I am speaking to you now. Do not open your mouth and form those coarse sounds, speak with your mind and send the words out through your heart."

There was a pause, and the mare seemed to be waiting expectantly. "Like this?" The girl was ashamed with the way her words sounded. Compared to the dew-like sound the sunset mare spoke with, her words were gritty and harsh. The mare scoffed, yet at the same time appeared slightly pleased.

"You sound like a newly born donkey just learning to speak and instead managing only to bray. And yet, it is much better than what you spoke before. Come with me, little filly. I will return you to your herd. Perhaps you will learn to master our language along with the piglets born yesterday." The mare stepped slowly through the creek, stopping next to the girl who still sat on the rock.

"May I see what's…under the stone?" Her words were forced, and staccato, yet they were there. "I just want to see." She added, half-way pleading.

The mare seemed to regard her slowly for a moment. "Yes, little filly. Move the stone, and if you speak of her stone, take the collar. Put it on you, and never remove it.

"Yet if you do not find the collar, do not search for it again; if it does not come to you, you were not meant to come to it." The sunset mare watched the grey eyed girl wade into the river and displace the stone. She watched her small fist reach down into the murk dislodged with the stone, and then rise from the water, clutching a dripping necklace.

"Put it on, little filly, and let us begone from this place, and in a hurry. Move as quickly as your legs may take you, for that stone will surely tell it's master what has happened."


"Hello." The brown eyed mare I knew as Fresha flicked her ears in my direction.

"Did you say something to me, human?" Her tone was condescending, as if she were too good to be speaking to me, but the half-second flick of the ears betrayed her surprise.

"Yes. My name is Raina. I just wanted to thank you for helping me get…" The sentence trailed off. I wanted to thank her for helping me go home, not for helping me to meet Derek. "For helping me get to Rigby."

"Well it's not like I had any choice in the matter." She bent her head down and took an exceptionally large bite of hay. There was a long silence as she continued munching, and I flicked at a large fly that had landed on my arm. I could never communicate with insects…they refused to listen, or perhaps they simply couldn't. Stubbornly, they would continue on as if my opinion didn't matter; they reminded me of my uncle. "Tell me human, where did you learn to speak properly? Surely not from another of your hopeless kind."

"I met another mare as a child and she spoke to me. I had been in the woods, and she told me I would take me back to my her, but she couldn't stand the sound of my normal speech, so she taught me to speak like this." A slight wind stirred up the dusty ground of what the inn-keeper had tried to pass off as a stable, and I closed my eyes against the grains. When I opened them again, the brown mare had gone back to eating, apparently content to pretend I didn't exist. "Well…okay, I'll be going then…" Fresha didn't even flick an ear as I turned away.

I turned and walked two stalls down to where my uncle's second mare, a pretty black thing, was being kept. "Hello."

"Don't worry about Fresha, she's always grumpy, and never particularly friendly. Besides, I think you caught her off guard, talking to her like this." She was eating as well, but didn't seem to have a problem speaking to me regardless of manners, not that it really mattered; she didn't speak out of her mouth anyway. "I'm Leena, although I'm sure you already know that. And you said you're Raina, right? What a curious filly you are."

I smiled. "I haven't been referred to as filly in a long time." Some of the animals I talked used my name, but most just called me human.

"Yes well, I'll call you by your name if you wish. Or I can just scream human like Fresha whenever I want you, but I figure if you're not going to yell 'horse' at me, I could at least return the favor." Two stalls down, Fresha gave a loud snort. There was a pause as both horses returned to their feed, and in the silence I vaguely heard Simon, the man my uncle had hired to drive us to Rigby, calling for me.

"I don't suppose you're going to go to him so he'll shut up?" Asked Fresha, with a slight stomp of a hoof.

"I wasn't actually planning on it; I don't like him, and I like my uncle even less." I sat on the side of Leena's door in an attempt to prove how much I didn't want to leave. "They can think I'm deaf and daft for all I care, just so long as it keeps them out of my hair for a few more minutes." Neither of the horses seemed inclined to comment on that, so I let my eyes sweep around the barn. It was small, but serviceable, and had the same pleasant, almost musty, scent as the barn at home. "Why am I curious Leena? Fresha just thinks I'm annoying."

"And strange," added Fresha. "Strange and annoying."

"Well," started Leena, "for starters, you're a human talking to a pair of horses." I giggled. "And besides, I've never met a female human who could speak to us. Or maybe the female humans just don't want to talk."

"In my experience, the females are more talkative than the males." An exceptionally large orange cat I hadn't noticed before rubbed his head against my legs. "Always yacking on and on about their clothes and shoes…" He yawned, then jumped into Leena's feedbox.

"Stupid cat…" She muttered, and I probably would have laughed if I my mind wasn't spinning.

I felt like a tornado was trapped behind my eyes, but I finally stuttered out "There are more of us? More of me?"

"Strange, annoying, and dense." Grumbled Fresha.

"Yes of course," yawned the cat. "You silly human, silly kitten, silly filly…whatever it is you want to be called…"

"Raina's fine."

"Whatever." He spoke in a sort of droning, lazy tone, as if he wasn't sure I was worth the effort it took to talk to me. "Either way, I agree with the grumpy horse; you are quite dense."

He seemed to be waiting for something, or perhaps that was all he had to say to me. I was beginning to dislike him. "What do you mean?" I asked, forgetting to speak 'properly' to him, and his ears flicked back against his skull momentarily. "Sorry…"

"Yes…yes, quite dense, this one…" He licked his paw and rubbed it against one ear, and then the other. "Perhaps all humans are dense. Or maybe my brilliance simply outshines you all."

I had never done well with cats, especially if they were raised around humans. Cats who knew little of humans still had the same holier-than-thou aura, but were more likely to give you an answer and spend less time mauling your brain before hand. "Silly human...why do you think I was not surprised when I heard you speaking? Why do you think I was not as alarmed as that cantankerous animal you call a horse? There is another of you here, and I do mean here." He flicked his tail once up in the air, and then wrapped it over his nose, closing his eyes.

Ruck had never been a particularly helpful cat, and seemed to go out of his way to cause problems for me, no matter how many tidbits of fish I snuck to him. Regardless, I had always found him somewhat amusing in an aggravating way that seemed to work only for him. "Where here? In this town or in this building?" The girl with the curious grey eyes seemed to be frantically scanning the barn, and even the two horses with her were eyeing their surroundings. Ruck, however, seemed to be asleep, although experience told me he was only pretending.

I slung my legs over the edge of the loft, and both the horses immediately heard my movement and sent their eyes searching up at me, the girl's gaze following. "Hello, my lady."

"Hi…" she answered back carefully, at the same time frantically whispering "Is he the one, cat? Is he the one?"

"You need to learn to guard your thoughts, my lady." She started, and for a moment, her grey eyes locked on mine. "You never know who could be listening in on your conversations." I had her full attention now, as well as Leena's. Even Ruck opened an eye, watching her face. So you don't want to go to Rigby? Well…I could help you with that. I can take you far away from here, to a place where you'll never have to worry about Rigby again."