Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Prompt: Running with the Cloud Herd

Dero whistled the low coos of a mourning dove, signaling his rite brothers, Bagi and Huta to fan out on either side of him. They had stayed within sight as they silently crept through the morning mist that nestled against the rocky mountainside. Now they stood at the edge of the Cloud Herd’s pasture, and the edge of manhood. “All” each boy had to do, and Dero almost snorted, thinking of the “all”, was capture a cloud mare and ride her over the edge of the mountain, into the clouds that stretched in unbroken, billowing waves to the horizon.

Bringing the mare safely to ground proved their readiness to become men among the Kaupiku. It was a harsh test. Failure at any point meant death. If he did not find a mare before the stallion found him… If he did not capture her with his handspun halter before she attacked him… If he did not mount her in time to run with the herd as they fled the intruders into the cloud cover… If he did not control her to ride to the ground…

Dero shook his head. He had no time, no room, for doubt. Riding before he could walk, Dero was destined to be a leader among the Kaupiku as he grew into his manhood. His uncle was the tribal chief, and he had only daughters. The oldest, Kinta, had eyes like flashing emeralds, and Dero planned to claim her as his bride when he brought his new mare to honor Uncle and his parents. Thanks to his father’s skillful negotiations, Dero already had three child-brides promised to him, but he only had eyes for Kinta. The others would be good second wives to build his household.

Dreaming of lifting Kinta behind him onto his cloud mare, Dero watched his rite brothers fade into the mist, then he stepped out onto the pasture. Holding his breath, Dero listened for the horses’ muffled noises. He had to find a mare before the stallion realized the intruders endangered his herd. There, a soft whicker to his left. He angled towards it, and out of the mist appeared the most beautiful mare he had ever seen. Her bright golden coat gleamed with a fine mist of the morning dew. Her long mane and tail trailed to the ground, blending their silver strands with the clouds surrounding them. She startled when she saw him, then froze as he did.

Reaching out a hand, Dero whistled a low note that he used for calming the Kaupiku horses. She shook her mane but did not run away. He took a step toward her, and she lifted her head up and down to warn him away. He approached slightly to her left, and she turned her head and rolled her eyes to keep him in view. But she did not step away, and she did not whinny for the stallion’s rescue.

Close enough to touch her delicate nose, Dero began to change his whistled note, giving her a tune that would be their very own. She twitched her ears forward, and he almost smiled at the sign. He reached up to stroke her neck, lead rope in hand, when they heard an alarmed whinny in the mist and the stallion’s furious scream. With no time to lose, Dero slid the rope around her neck, afraid that she would bolt.

But she turned toward him and bumped him with her head. Hurry up!

He started and stared into her liquid gold eyes.

Come on! We have to go!

None of the Kaupiku men had ever said anything about this!

Dogs in house:

Brahms, Symphony No. 3 in F major, Op. 90

Time writing:
~30 minutes

March word count:


  1. Prompt: Running with the Cloud Herd

    The sunlight on the tundra was bright and unrelenting. Heeva had thought she would never pine for the darkness again, after this winter's months of night. She rested her hand on her mount's soft fur. The reindeer seemed unfazed by the extended day, and Heeva had taken to using the animal's cues to tell when to stop for meals and sleep. Surely she had come far enough north, now.

    But there was still no sign of the fabled white reindeer herd, the cloud herd. She tightened her legs, squeezing her plain, brown reindeer's sides and urging him forward. Something floated low across the ground ahead. She goaded her mount into a pace and chased after what turned out to be a tumbling handful of white fluff. It snagged on the leaves of one of the miniature, twisted trees that spotted the tundra.

    Heeva dismounted and knelt beside the fluff. She reached out and touched it; it was wiry, but softer than horse hair. White reindeer fur. She rested her forehand on her hands and let out a sigh. They did exist.

    She pulled the bits off the tree and stuffed them in her satchel. The swaddling clothes should be made from hair combed from the chest and belly, but she was not about to leave the precious stuff to float away. Her mount tugged on his reins in her hands and grunted. A barely perceptible vibration tickled the soles of Heeva's feet. She stood.

    One crested a hill unexpectedly close -- like a cloud with legs, it sped across the ground. Then another, and another. She vaulted onto her mount and urged him after the running cloud herd. Now all she had to do was catch one.

    1. I really like this. Nice touch to tell about reindeer! Good teaser bits about swaddling clothes - is she pregnant on this adventure, or is it for someone else? And of course, what happens next?