She was new.
Shivering in the early spring air, her newborn eyes blinking at the bright light. It filtered down with little care for where it landed, dappling the fuzzy filly and drawing glints of blue-green light from her coat. Her eyes shone similarly, unnaturally bright where they caught sunbeams. A shrill pitched whinny squeaked from her dainty mouth.
No one answered. No mother. No father. She tried again, still curled against the mossy hummock. The pony-sized girl sighed, and laid her head against the ground in defeat. The heavy breath twisted away in a miniature dervish, carrying flecks of moss and bits of leaves in a playful dance before her nose. She didn't care.
The scrappy puff of her tail tossed against the earth listlessly, a tiny bit sulky. Her eyes shut against the bright light, her nose buried against her chest and her ears flopping to each side. Maybe she could sleep. It would be better than this dreary moping, waiting for some shining mare to remember she had a daughter and where she'd left her.
An itty bitty sniffle wrinkled her itty bitty nose as a gurgle of hunger clenched her belly. It couldn't be long now. It just couldn't.
The truth is, Neverwhere doesn't actually know where she is. This is not a part of Beqanna that Heartfire showed her, nor one she had happened on before. Truth be told, if she knew where she was, she would not likely stay, not likely press further into the strange little copse, but she can see the fairy lights flickering back and forth and, in spite of herself, she is curious about them. The magic of this land is not usually so visible, so independent of a horse, and so the bald-faced mare finds herself drawn in. She is lost, though, in her own reverie. This is a strange thing, and she might normally avoid it, but there is a novelty in being drawn to something simply because she can see it, flashing little lights that zip past her and around her, buzzing at her face and then gone in a flash of light that seems so obviously irritated
. Bugs, she would think, if she were still blind, and part of her thinks they may still be just that, but the magic feels like electricity on her tongue and she knows they are something more.
What the mare is not
doing, is watching where she is going until one of the creatures flicks itself off her nose with a scolding tone and pain blooms bright red on the glossy skin between her nostrils. Blue eyes widen and Neverwhere steps backs, then her ears pin and she snorts into the air at the little beast. The angry snort is answered by the soft breath of someone else and a despondent dust devil the whirls around her legs, tiny tornadoes from a filly nearly hidden in the early spring grass. Her head cocks to one side, pinned ears lifting, then twisting in all directions. There is not hint of a mother, no hint of a band or family, only a flickering gathering of angry fairies hovering nearby, each ready to ping themselves off her should she nearly trample the child again.
It might be the kindest thing to do. Just kill her now rather than let her starve, but the furious chittering of the Fairies grows louder and, uncertain of their actual power, the scowling mare only drops her head to look into bewildering eyes. Well, perhaps there is another way, then, Fairies.
"You are very small," not a promising start, "your tornado was also very small. I know a place that's windier than this."
She is in uncharted territory.
She'd almost made it to sleep, had pushed the hunger aside just far enough that her eyes were fluttering shut and the cold of abandonment was not the forefront of her inexperienced mind, when a crashing occurred.
Maybe not a crashing, but a shuffling noise, a huff of surprise. A jolting wave of shock
rolled through the girl, tempered somewhat with curiosity
. The sudden emotion made her roll back as if physically pushed. Eyes wide, she snorted at the large figure now standing over her, blue tinged as everything was, haloed in flickering lights. She blinked hard, but she was still there, and the drumming emotions had dimmed into only a current of the mix of feelings that she would someday learn most folk carried with them, highlighted only with indecision
The minute black curves of her own ears subconsciously mimiced the conflicted mare, laid backward to sit in the bright tufts of her mane. It felt like something important was being decided, and the glossy mare's face held no promise of what that decision would be.
The wobbly filly didn't like to be looked down on this way, so she struggled and stretched until her feet were under her. A little better, she thought, being on her own feet. It gave her time to really look at this larger horse, to try to piece together what was happening aroumd the famished presence of her belly. Really, the hunger was beginning to feel like a solid thing, a living beast intent on clawing her to death from the inside out. Her little glassy hooves shuffled nervously on knotting grasses until the mare spoke.
Her ears swiveled back and forth at the sound of the bald faced woman's voice, her eyes darting between mouth and eyes. Small. Yes, she was small. Was that a bad thing? It was impossible to tell by the mare's tone. And without warning the subject changed to the wind, and the little sparkling girl felt distinctly off balance.
What did the wind have to do with her? She smiled faintly though, because that seemed to be the right thing to do if she wanted the gruff mare to like her. And something, some instinct made her think that it was a very good idea to be liked right now.
Her scowl does not change drastically when the dark filly stands up on glimmering hooves, it does not change much when she smiles, a bit absent, a bit hesitant, like she does not really understand what is being offered. She doesn't,
of course. How can she, so young? Neverwhere hums gruffly at nobody and lifts her head high, turning this way and that once again for the child's guardian, but none are forthcoming. If any were watching, they would be atop them by now, furious, but no hooves break the buzzing silence around them.
There really are only two options.
Well, no, there are three, but the third is the most cruel, to leave her here defenseless except for the scolding lights. She looks to the child again and considers how ill-prepared she is. What do you offer a child? She cannot find it in her to be what she is not, to speak sweetly, but there is a limit to what the girl may understand at this point and Neverwhere, gruff and unused to children, is incapable of knowing where that line is drawn. Does the girl even know she caused that twist of air? Perhaps not, though it's hard to go by the expression when the filly's eyes are simply faceted stone. It is... unnerving
and every time she seems to look directly into the dappled mare's eyes, Nev's belly clenches, the muscles of her jaw growing tight and rippling the skin of her cheek.
"Prettier than Ghaul, at least,
" she grumbles softly to herself, considering the way his ram horns burst from the sockets where his eyes ought to be, but then she reconsiders. Perhaps this is how he began, too, perhaps the child's eyes will grow and curl as his do. She frowns, and then she shrugs. Probably still be prettier, as these things go. So how to convince her to make the long trip from here to the North?
"You are... hungry?"
Children get hungry, right? No, that's a stupid question. Of course they do. Probably.
"We will find you something to eat," there is a confidence in her voice that doesn't fill her heart. Lies. Maybe they will. "Do you have a name?"
The indecision hangs in the air between them, heavy and unsettling. The black coated filly flinched softly at the humming sound that jumped out for a moment, expecting each next second to be the one that the strong eyed mare would shrug and turn around, decide that she hadn't found what she was looking for after all.
Revulsion twisted through her gut, the echo of feeling that flashed by every time she tried to catch the mare's eyes. So she stopped trying. Kept her gaze level with the mare's dark chest. Her ears pricked forward though, to catch the softly spoken words. Not directed to here, it didn't seem, the words felt like a choice made.
The commitment she'd made to avoid eye contact broke quickly when the words got more direct. They flickered upward, wide and shining for a moment until she remembered herself and looked away. Hungry. Yes, that she understood. Her head bobbed sharply. "Uh huh,"
she murmured, stomach growling loudly in an underscoring harmony. She'd follow a wolf to his den right now if he promised her breakfast.
The doubt bouncing between them made her wonder if that's exactly what she was doing. There didn't seem to be any other options for her right now, though. Hunger was stronger than doubt, stronger than fear. Strong enough to push the filly the three steps forward that toppled her face first into the uncertain lady's breast. "Nuh uh."
She mumbled, inhaling the wild scent her savior carried. She was warm, so much warmer than the skinny filly, and she leaned into the warmth with everything she had. She had no family. No name. No food or home. Now though, she felt she had been gifted a teensy tiny flame of hope.
No name, even. Neverwhere sighs and clouded eyes roll, unaware of how easily the filly reads her even when she is more careful about hiding her emotions. She has never had to name something before, never wanted or tried to name something before, and her lips twist together defiantly at the idea of doing so now, as if naming her is too much like claiming the filly as her own. Despite the hesitation, and despite the surprisingly accurate understanding of the reclusive mare's feelings, the child half steps, half tumbles forward against her chest and with an audible 'oh'
, Neverwhere stiffens noticeably against the pressure of that small body. The muscles of her neck and haunches tense and her teeth clench, but, unmoving, she simply draws a long breath then drops her head to rest the flat of her muzzle against the soft curve of the child's near-black back. Warm, grass scented breath spills out from her nostrils, tousling downy curls.
"Okay. We'll find you a name, too."
Surely somewhere between here and Nerine there would be something that she could call the child other than The Child - as tempting as it is to simply refer to her as that forever. Easier
, she thinks, So much easier.
But she is already shaking her head and casting around as if anything in the secluded nesting site will give her ideas, but she can't call the filly Rock or Grass or Fairy any more than she can call her The Child, and so she simply sighs and the scowl on her lips deepens.
"Food. Then a name." Neverwhere takes a step to the side, and another forward, neatly disentangling herself and drawing Northward, but she pauses to turn back, to see if the girl will follow, blinking away the dizziness she feels looking into the foundling's strange eyes, "Then I'll show you the ocean and Lilli can tell you about the wind."