Popinjay was born late in the season, the frost was already beginning to gather on the grass when she opened her eyes to the world. And it was a big world, although she didn’t know it. Then it had seemed very small, only her, and the great warmth of her mother. She had been licked clean until the blood smell had dissipated, and then she began the arduous task of standing.
It took her her entire life to stand.
Or anyway, it felt that way. When you’ve only known the world to exist for an hour, a few minutes can certainly seem like your entire life. Mostly because it has been.
Now, that time is already fading, dark but warm, the taste of milk on her tongue, the smell of blood and horses strong around her, and the husky nickering of her dam. No detail, only flashes of out of focus memory. She remembers they did not stay there long but soon moved, if slowly, to another area. This area she cannot recall at all except that there were more horses that pushed close around her.
It is not much to carry with her, this light load of memories, and how she came to be here is a great mystery. She did not remember magic from before, but what rules does magic follow that it cannot have touched her world and stolen her away? She’s alone now, and that is the only detail that comes sharp and clear.
She is small, even by foal standards, light-boned and delicate, with short ears and large eyes. She is dark, the brown of her coat nearly black, so that the large star on her brow seems to glow in the early morning light. As she borders the edge of the small clearing, she is little more than a slip of shadow, flitting at the treeline, cautious. And then, suddenly, she squeals and bounds forward, springing high and kicking out as though reluctant to remain grounded. There is abandon in her way of running.
When she reaches the center of everything, Popinjay comes to a noisy halt and thrusts her head high into the air, taking in her surroundings. Have they changed during her dash? Not appreciably. She relaxes, lets her nose dip to a more natural height.
hm-hm-hmm ta-duh duh dumm
Sing-song nonsense escapes her lips and she casts about for something to do. A small bit of wood catches her attention and she grabs it between new teeth. It is light and smooth from ages in the water and, like a dog, she shakes her head, twisting her neck to feel the weight of it.
Popinjay drops her toy and leaps away, startled. Eyes widened and focused. A rock! She watches it suspiciously. Just where had that come from? Small nostrils widen, drawing breath, waiting for the rock to move, to show some sign that it could do so. Nothing of the sort happens and, slowly, the filly creeps forward with bent knees, ready to spring back to safety at a moments notice. One step, two steps, three, nothing. She is close enough to touch now and reaches out, pressing her nose against the cool, grainy surface. Still nothing. And then, she licks it.
It tastes like dirt.