Welcome back, everyone! Today’s short story is a paralogue of sorts from my second novel, The War for Yokendale. If you haven’t read that book, that’s okay! All you really need to know is that about halfway through it, one of the main characters is forced to leave her horse, named Hustle, behind on their adventures. This is Part One of Hustle’s story, which wasn’t resolved in the book but will be here on the blog.
In other news, I haven’t received any submissions for the BJL Creator’s Guild yet! If you would like to have your short story, poem, or other creation (videos are welcomed, too, as long as they meet guidelines) featured right here on this blog, please email your work to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more info on the guild, click here.
Tales from Yokendale: Hustle the Horse
They packed up and left. Tulla, Tobias, the boy, and the fat bear were all gone. “He’ll be fine,” Hustle heard Tobias say as the cave was resealed. Hustle whinnied, shaking his mane and stomping his hooves. I will not be okay, he thought. He knew his purpose though, as Tobias had disclosed it to him — though he thought Hustle wouldn’t understand. Tulla had never held loyalty to Hustle, because she hadn’t been his master long enough. She was a wizard’s aid at best, a bandit at worst, and Hustle held no pretense that Tulla of all people was able to hang on to the same horse for long. As such, when Tobias suggested that Tulla leave Hustle behind where he’d be ‘safe,’ Tulla, in an attempt to save the animal from war, kissed her horse’s spotted snout and went on her way.
Hustle dragged his hooves across the ground, moseying over to the waterhole in the cave and dipping his white face eyes-deep into the water. He lowered his tail to the ground and sat, and then he just stared into the rippling reflection of himself. He stared for a long time. For a horse, he was doing a lot of soul searching there in that hillside cave, so much that he began to think past his horse body and his cave confinement. After a long time, he stood from the waterhole and turned about the cave until the crates by where Tobias used to sleep caught his eye, one of them left partially open. He trotted over, now happily unsupervised, and scooted the loose crate lid from its post to reveal the rows of colorful tonics and potions within. He sniffed and snooped through the selection and then, feeling suddenly guilty, pulled away and stooped to the ground to sleep.
Sleep he did not do, however. Not at first. Instead, Hustle laid awake, staring down the long cavernous hallway towards the closed entrance and occasionally glancing back at the shadowy rear of the cave that frightened him greatly. The shadows hid the inner cave from him, but it was, in fact, a passage into the deep center of the Crack of Dawn mountains that were famous in Yokendale before the war. The lonely horse’s eyes, with thoughts of adventure on his mind, finally drifted to sleep.
It might have been hours, or days, but to Hustle, he’d taken a nap, waking occasionally to drink some water and eat from one of many barrels of grass along the far side of the cave that he’d discovered at some point in partial alertness. Whatever day it was, Hustle was finally roused at the scuttling sound of something deep within the cave. He stood carefully and peered over the crates of alchemicals. And he saw nothing. He couldn’t speak, not in a way that humans might understand, but in his own horse way he said simply, “Hello?” And no answer came.
It was then that Hustle began to panic, though it started slow. He backed away from the crates and the shadows of the cave, and then he turned casually, or as casually as possible, and trotted down the hall to the cave’s blocked exit. It was, as he’d feared, still blocked. A secret passage, hidden from the world, and he had no idea how to trigger its opening. After a moment’s thought, he turned and eased his way back into the cave, watching from the archway as nothing happened. After a few more moments, he crossed back to the crate of liquids. He took one last glance at the shadows and in that fateful moment, saw a bat flapping out from the darkness like a dragon rising from the night. A winnie and a neigh, a cry and a shout, and Hustle dove his face into the crate with the hopes of taking something to help him slay the beast. When he lifted his head back up, four bottles were pinched between his teeth, and he threw his head back and gulped them down.
The potions tasted tart and citrusy like a bad wine. They made his throat warm, and he felt them moving all the way through his body. He flapped his tongue in the air to ward off the flavor, with the bat growing closer every second. It was in that instant that Hustle felt himself change. He was abruptly strong, taller than he had been already, and powerful, and he stared the black-eyed bat down with his azure eyes. His hooves locked to the cool stone ground. His shoulders tensed around his neck, flexing in a show of unearned confidence. And then he passed out and collapsed to the ground faster than a wooden push puppet.
To Be Continued…
Back in March 2019, I wrote another three part short story inside the world of Yokendale called Finding Fire. If you would like to read that while you wait for more Hustle the Horse, click here.