From the river, the bright stallion follows a quiet tributary deep into the meadows. The Mountain still looms nearby and occasionally he casts a thoughtful eye at it, wondering what creatures must live there, fish no less than fae. He has a better touch with the former than the latter, nobody in his family has ever been known as a fairy whisperer, so despite his curiosity, he stays among the rolling grassland of the wide meadow, nostrils full of the scent of sun-warmed grass ripe with seed where it has not been grazed away and hooves sinking into the soft, marshy, soil the of the lowlands. A breath of wind brings hints of cooling, but it is still warm enough that his skin prickles with sweat in the midday sun with scant shade to slip beneath, and it is muggy in the bottoms, too, and despite the inexorable way the end of the year trudges towards them all, the vegetation under his feet does not feel like the sort that goes dormant beneath heavy ice and snow. The streams flow lazily, some broad, some thin, but all shallow and slow and warm with blackbirds gathering in the reeds calling musically into the smoky autumn air.
His grey-blue eyes skim the sparkling surface of the water as it rolls over smooth, grassy, beds, and he kneels beside the edge in the driest place he can find, tucking heavy hind hooves beneath his haunches and whispering over the water. He does not know the language of the fish, he cannot speak their words the way they do, it's a language made of the way water moves across their bodies, of the way it moves through their gills, a language of fin flicks and flashing, and ever so occasionally, one of grunting. He has heard there are fish that speak in electricity, but he has not met any in his travels. No, his magic translates their words to him, and his to them, so easily that neither knows the difference, and it takes no time before his soft greeting is answered by a young stonecat, smooth and fat and brown. Catfish can be a cheeky lot at the stallions ears waggle atop his fiery poll like flickering laughter.
"Water's a little slow for you here, isn't it?"
Oh, what's it t'you, Surface Dweller? Maybe I like the eelgrass on my belly, eh?
Dace snorts and breaks the glassy surface up into ripples that ebb away with the sleepy current. The catfish watches him inscrutably, nothing readable on its face with that wide straight mouth and those tiny eyes. When the picture above it clears again it pauses only long enough to feel his grey gaze on it once again then wriggles through the silky strands of long-stemmed algae. The stallion rolls his eyes at the little fish
"No, I only meant--"
I don't care whatcha only meant, do I?
The creature stops its luxuriant display of fabulous fish wealth to come uncharacteristically near the surface. Intrigued, Dace lowers his head further, but his curiosity is met with a stream of water gushing with uncanny accuracy for his stormy eye. It strikes home and he jerks back with a grunt, thrusting a foreleg out to splash the bright water, the culprit disappearing downstream in a wave of piscine laughter.
Too slow, Stone Fin!
all fish are friends.
"I hope somebody eats
The sun warms his green-striped back and the growing sunset curls of his mane, but now leaves or tendrils peek out from between the strands and the only smell of vegetation is the one that rises from the grass the yearling passes by, releasing a vibrant perfume as it brushes against his sides. Florian smells of warm horse, dusty and musky, and he relishes the freedom hinted by that smell.
The fear and anxiety of his childhood fall away and a small smile lifts the corners of his lips. Freedom
. His life stretches ahead of him, and anything can happen, now. He does not worry about the dangers of the world, knows he will be equipped to escape them, or fight them. Maroon eyes sparkle brightly in the afternoon light, skipping across the meadow light as a grasshopper. His ears strain forward and catch a murmuring voice not far away, barely heard over the slow sound of a languid stream.
Water's a little slow for you here, isn't it?
No, I only meant--
There is a grunt then a splash, the sounds of a struggle. That familiar panic rises in his chest, but nothing comes with it. Seconds tick by, his vision doesn't darken and his breathing soon slows.
I hope somebody eats you!
Those same ears, still full of soft baby-down, turn back at the tone and Florian, full of this false feeling of invincibility, charges down to the water's edge with narrowed eyes and his bright tail flagged high. He slips a little on the wet grass but is relieved to see that no-one noticed. There is only one horse here, flailing about half in the shallows.
"Um, excuse me, do you need help?"
His voice is soft and if it shakes a little, he hopes it will go unnoticed, too, over the clamor of water and squelching mud sucking at the stallion's heavy hooves.
"I... I'm not gonna eat you, it's okay. Who said that to you, did they push you in the water, too?"