I ruffled my way through the snapping twigs and leaves of the bushes, snagging on the vicious thorns. But what I saw in front of me was worth a few cuts and bruises. I looked back for only a second to see Kati baring down on a quivering man, and I chuckled to myself. Turning back to the horses, I gently emerged from the hedges, and there they stood, tethered to stakes in the ground as the old rope slithered its way through their feet and legs. They were what I thought they were, the real things, not pictures that I had seen in books or scrolls. Beautifully coloured, bright eyed.
"Outstanding..." I whispered, as one of the horses whinnied calmly at the sight of me. I circled them, staring in awe at them, heart beating and breath taken away from my very lungs. In my fascination, I heard Kati come up behind me. She looked suspiciously at them, like she had seen a ghost.
"Telion, what are they? They don't look... natural." she asked. I ignored her for a slight while longer, getting closer to them to feel their patches of scales. It was like crocodile skin, with lumps and bumps dotting its skin irregularly like leprosy. I stroked the front of one of the horses' noses, turning back to Kati.
"These," I quietly began, "are Western Fire Flies. Fastest horses that exist, said to be bred with dragons themselves." I continued to stroke the beast lightly. "They are so rare. Too rare. These two beauties were probably going to be sold at a black market, or worse at an alchemist's lab." I started to stroke the mare's neck. She had pitch black hair, and had a lurid green line running down the length way of her back. "I think these two will come in useful for our journey." I turned back to her, and she looked rather hesitant to step any closer. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing, nothing." she tried to convince.
"Come on, there is nothing to be afraid of. Look," I pointed down at Kati's cat as he weaved through the other horse's legs and purred, brushing himself with closed eyes and a smile. "even Karina loves them." The horse looked down at him with a look of confusion, yet the cat still hummed with content. "They aren't that scary. Come here, just take your hand" I stepped over to her, grabbing her hand and pushed it towards the black horse's nose, delicately. "on her nose, like this." Her hand laid flat on the mare's snout, my hand on top and I felt her fingers relax at touch. "See? Now just lightly stroke her nose." She began to lightly go up and down the nose, staring into her eyes with a smile.
"Wow." she huffed. "Her hair is so silky and smooth."
"It is, isn't it? Fire Flies have always had glossy, soft hair. Even if they are dotted with scales." I giggled. I made my way over to the white stallion, where Karina was still winding around his feet. The stallion was slightly larger than the mare, white bright hair and a dashing red diamond in the centre of its forehead. His marble blue eyes gazed into mine, and I saw fire that burned with passion.
"Hey," Kati interrupted promptly, "since when did you become an expert in horses?"
I chuckled at her.
"Why, they were the only other animals in our village that wasn't fish. So I read up about all these magnificent horses, like Southern Stone Hooves, Northern Icicle Teeth and Eastern Dread Manes. All horses that have unique and specific specialities. And of course, your plain old horses like Black Foots and Hazel Barks." I informed her. "Yet those are just a few."
"Goodness... But is it really true? That these were bred with dragons?" she asked in disbelief.
"Who knows? It was just a rumour, but I believe it. They certainly look like they have been."
"Hm... if you say so." she bent down to untie the creature.
"Let's keep them here for a bit a longer. We could always stay here for the night. Nice fire going and some roll beds." I suggested, holding out my hand. "Let's see what food they have here in this place."