Freedom and Glory: Part One
The first rays of dawn crept across the sky in hazy tendrils,
lighting the path of a young Uni who was fighting with all of her dwindling strength
to gallop on. Sweat lathered her muddied coat and her silvery hair was a mass
of tangles and knots. Behind her, she could hear the distant cries of "Over
there, over there!" as the Lupes followed her trail with their keen noses.
She'd done the impossible; the blue Uni called
Aloriel had escaped from the dreary monotony that was the dreaded Pound. For
months she had dwelt there, gazing listlessly out through the bars as countless
faces gave her cursory glances and looked uninterestedly onward. At first she'd
been hopeful, and would sit alert and bright-eyed as they came, but as time
passed her eyelids drooped, and soon she did not have the heart to lift her
head as the potential new owners passed by. After all, who could want a useless
and plain blue Uni?
So she'd escaped. Those who fed her had been
used to seeing her motionless form as they opened the cage door to fill her
food dish, and she'd been able to leap up suddenly and burst out with relative
ease. Somehow she'd managed to fly past the lined cages and rear up and smash
through the door with her pointed hooves. Then on she flew, crazy and wild as
the outdoor air filled her lungs.
She'd thundered with frenzied joy through the
thick forests circling the Pound, but her months of captivity had wasted her
muscle and made her limbs weak and shaky. The Lupes who followed were strong
and fit, and gaining every minute.
Aloriel coughed as she flew, forcing her heavy
legs to keep their ragging rhythm of stumbles, staggering determinedly through
the brush. Twigs grabbed at her with thorny fingers, and she could almost hear
the hiss of the wind laughing, and whispering, "They'll catch you, and back
to the cage you'll go. Run, run, but it is for nothing. They will not let a
Uni go wild, no; not where profit could be made."
The Lupes were close behind. With powerful bounds
they lunged forward, ears pricked to the cursed crunching of her hooves through
the dead leaves. Tears of frustration rose before the Uni's eyes, blurring her
vision and causing her trail to turn into a watery mix of green and red and
brown. "No," she panted in labored gasps. "I must escape …"
They were right behind her now. One gave a triumphant
howl as he spotted her, and they sprinted onward with renewed energy and strength.
A flash of terror lent spurts of life to her exhausted limbs, and she soared
through the tangle of forest with frantic desperation. She must get away,
she must, she must…
But then Aloriel cried out with heartbroken dismay
as a root caught her hoof, pitching her forward. She landed hard amid a pile
of rock-covered dirt and itchy leaves, and watched in helpless despair as the
Lupes surrounded her. It was over; they would take her back.
"Please," she begged from where she lay. Scratches
covered her body in painful welts from where the sharp rocks had cut her, and
her coat was a ruin of weighty snarls. "Please, let me go. I just want to be
The Lupes were all around her. She could hear
their winded breathing and smell their thick, shaggy fur. The Uni rose to her
knees, gazed up to see her soon-to-be captors, and gasped.
Plains Lupes! These were not the ones
sent by the Pound, but were unimaginably worse. Their intent was not simple
capture; they wished for her to be their next meal. They circled her slowly,
running their tongues along pointed, glimmering fangs, and driblets of slobber
ran down their frothing mouths.
Aloriel tried to get to her feet, but her legs
were beyond function. They trembled and collapsed, and she lay still in that
horrible last moment of silence, with tears wet on her cheeks, waiting to feel
the warm breath and pricking fangs against her exposed neck.
A crashing sound split the air and a group of
snarling bodies flung themselves at the leering Plains Lupes. The Uni lifted
her head, and saw that the Pound Lupes had caught up at last. They were smaller
than the heavily muscled Plains Lupes, but fiercer, for they fought with the
loyalty of the owners in their hearts, while the Plains Lupes fought for greed.
It was their duty to bring back the escapee unharmed, and they would not rest
until they had done as they'd been instructed.
Quick and agile, they lunched forward, snapping
and retreating before the large Plains Lupes could land an attack. The larger
Lupes slathered and growled, but the powerful strokes they dealt with their
clawed paws touched nothing but air. Finally an energetic young Lupe struck
the Plains Lupes' leader to the ground, and when he got up and slunk away, throwing
spiteful glances over his shoulder as he did so, the rest sullenly followed.
The Lupe who had defeated the leader strode over
to where she lay with concern in his dark eyes. "How badly are you hurt?" he
questioned in a surprisingly kind voice.
Wheezing for air, Aloriel struggled to her feet.
"I will be all right," she replied, fighting to keep her legs under her. Then
with sudden courage she lifted her head and looked the Lupe squarely in the
eye. "I thank you for saving me from them," she said coolly, and bright defiance
shone in her gaze, "but I will leave now, if it suits you."
She turned her back to them, hoping that they
would be fooled by her display of confidence. But no, they trotted up to block
her path, and the Lupe who had spoken before smiled knowingly. "It does not
suit me," he replied. "Our task was to bring you safely back to the pound, where
you can be sold to a good home. And we will do so."
Aloriel lost all pretences. In an overwhelming
tide of grief she sobbed, and made one last desperate plea. "If you have any
heart at all you will hear me. Let me go; give me freedom. It's all I want."
"Freedom?" asked the Lupe, puzzled. "Surely you
want a good home more? Come back to the pound with us. They'll clean you and
tend to your wounds, and then someone will surely take you home."
It was no use arguing; she could see that then,
for the Lupes were polite, but unrelenting in their duties. "Very well, I will
come," she sighed, giving in to what she knew must be.
"Good," replied the Lupe, and the group of them
escorted her as she began the long walk back.
The blue Uni held her worn head proudly, telling
herself that it would turn out well, that somehow she'd escape again. She would
slip out like before and run faster, so fast that no one would ever catch her.
Someday she would /fly./ Let the Lupes try to find her trail then!
Part of her knew that her hopes were foolish.
How could she ever learn to fly while caught in the confines of her metal cell?
She could scarcely stand in it, let alone hover above the ground. Without
her feeble dreams, though, she knew that she would be lost; how could she ever
face going back to that horrible place without hope, despite its uncertainty?
The workers at the Pound dressed her wounds,
and scolded her for running away. They claimed that she should stay where she
was safe, and thought that her "adventure" (as they named it) would prove that
to her, as she had returned injured. Aloriel could tell they did not know her
nearly as well as they thought.
She sat in her prison as the moon rose bright
and full in the sea of black night mist. How she longed to stretch her wings
and soar, to touch the very stars as they shone! Her throat was thick with suppressed
longing, and it was difficult to control the wistfulness consuming her. But
she would not cry; she knew it would solve nothing.
The door opened suddenly, flooding the dim room
with light, and breaking her scattered thoughts. Aloriel squinted and saw a
large form slip through it, silhouetted in the golden cast. Why, it was a Lupe!
Watching in open-mouthed amazement, the Uni saw
him approach. It was the very same Lupe as she'd met before; the one who had
told her that she must return. What could he want? Certainly he did not wish
to boast about his great tracking skills?
A key was in his paw. It caught the golden light
spilling through the doorway and threw it back in shards of rainbow and white
as he fit it into its lock… her lock. With a small click it sprung
open, and the door to her horrible cage allowed a space into the open world.
"I don't understand," whispered the awestruck
"You're free now," replied the Lupe with twinkling
eyes. "They told me to bring you back, and I have done so; now your wounds will
heal well. But you are not made for cages and bars, little Uni. I believe that
perhaps you'd have a better chance at finding a good home free. Go now, and
I will not say a word of your absence. They never said I couldn't let a wild
She opened her mouth to thank him, but he waved
his paw, bidding her to go. The young blue Uni reared up, gave a joyous whinny,
and leapt out of the open window and into the glorious night to freedom.
To be continued...