WARNING: This first chapter may contain violence that is disturbing to some. This is my first attempt at a Firebringer fanfic, though I've long been a fan of the books. At the moment even I do not know how the story will work out eventually, but I do hope it works out well.
The story is of an age of turbulence that erupts 400 years after the events of the final book. Overcrowding has created much fighting among the gryphon clans, sending refugess flying across the Mare's Back and causing a group of them to try and establish a colony at the edge of the Pan Woods. The pans are disturbed by this intrusion, and the ecosystem is unbalanced by the wingcat's predation habits.The unicorns of the Hallow Hills find in turn that their annual Summer trek to the beaches of the Singing Sands is disrupted by the tensions. When a band of two-foots come exploring inland on the backs of their daya, looking to expand their range beyond the City of Fire, all hell threatens to break loose in the Pan Woods and spill over onto the great Plains.
Into the chaos of this new age come three unlikely heroes - Tella, a young Plainsdweller singer; Salvor, Prince of the Moondancers; and Wirramishar, a vagrant gryphon tercel bereft of purpose and homeland. United by a prophecy and a common purpose, they must somehow find a way to bridge the gap between the races and restore balance to their troubled world.
(Disclaimer: The Firebringer Trilogy and all names/characters/material included in the books is the property of Meredith Ann Pierce and belongs to her. I didn't invent this wonderful and complex world, nor do I claim credit for it. However, the storyline and characters in this fanfic, with the exception of those named in the books, are copyright to me. Please do not steal them.)
She stood in silence.
Blood sprayed the ground at her forehooves. The pard before her raised its blood-rusty muzzle, hissed at her through crimson-splattered teeth, long and sharp. The reddened forepaws, claws still extended, lay clenched over bright orange hide, splotched maroon in ever-widening blotches. It was the orange pelt of a unicorn lying, splay-legged and prone, in the tall grass. The eyes were closed, the long graceful neck was thrown back at an unnatural angle, the black skewer horn tipped red.
She stared, and did not move.
The cat ripped red flesh from the dead mare's gaping chest wound and swallowed whole. She shuddered at the sight, ears flattened. The pard looked at her again as she moved. Its feral yellow eyes narrowed. It spat as it clambered forward, and the orange body beneath moved in a mockery of life. It snarled, the full-throated snarl of an angry grass cat.
Why do you watch, little one? I have my kill, I do not need you.She shuddered again, but her legs were frozen. She could not move. It was a dream. It was not real. She stared at the pard. It stared back at her A long thin slash ran along the ragged fur of one shoulder where the mare must have struck in the desperate fight for survival. The cat hissed again, a laughing hiss. It pounced in a single lightning leap. She shied, still half-bemused even as the rust-red claws reached for her. Pain erupted down her exposed shoulder. She wheeled away and forced her frozen hindquarters into a bolting gallop, her mind still in stasis though her whole frame was now in flight as fast as her spindly legs could carry her. She heard the cat yowl after her, returning to its kill.
Yes, run little one. Run!
She ran, but it was a forced run. She drove each stride to move forward as it came, breath gasping through her nostrils, her eyes seeing nothing but blood, the gaping wound, the pard snarling over her dam's body. There was no time, no past or present, nothing: only the carnage of the field turning crimson and orange. She ran with no destination and no purpose, unthinking.
She ran until dark shapes loomed out of the tall grass before her. She crashed into one and fell over, and only as pain lanced up her shoulder with the impact did she realize there was red all over her left leg and withers. She scrabbled for footing, her hooves found ground, and she stumbled onto her feet. There were voices, whinnies of surprise, a whistle of horror, and someone was nuzzling her bloodied wither. She shied away and tried to bolt again. A large solid something stepped into her path as she did, brought her to a shuddering halt."Here, here lass, be still." She looked up, her glazed blue eyes only half-seeing the tall midnight-blue stallion with his streaked electric-blue mane and kindly brown eyes. He leaned forward before she could shy away again, and breathed softly on her muzzle. The warmth of the contact halted her up short, and she stood shivering. Shadows at her feet told her there were others nearby. She turned to look at them. She saw only wavering shades, unfocused shadows. One of them threw his head back in dizzying motion. "Why, it's Clouded Sun! She was with Grain this morning, going to the water hole."
The sound of the words brought her back a long way. She looked up at them again, and she saw clearly now that there were three others besides her midnight blue companion. Two red stallions, one dark maroon and the other pale crimson, and a smaller golden mare. It was the dark maroon that had spoken. The mare was glancing down at her.
"Clouded Sun? Grain's filly…?"
"Well," the pale crimson stallion tossed his head nervously, "Where's Grain then?"
"And what happened to you?" the golden mare's tone was gentle as she knelt to extend her nose to the trembling filly, "That's a nasty scratch, that is."
The mare's eyes were cool, like a smooth pool beneath the sky; but her voice quivered as she spoke. The filly knew, suddenly, that the golden mare was afraid. And as she tried to answer, the whole world abruptly came crashing in on her in a roar of sound and blood and confusion. She screamed, thin and shrill and full of pain; screamed like she had not screamed while she stood beside her dam as the pard devoured her. They told her afterward that she had cried herself hoarse beside the tall blue stallion, who had stood steadfast as rock and patient as water while she pressed herself into his side and shrilled. The golden mare who was his sister had stood on her other side and cleaned her wound with soft, comforting noises. While the two red stallions, both half-brothers to each other, stood guard with wary ears and hindlimbs tensed to hear the thin, horrible squeals of despair.
They said she had gone quiet after nearly an hour, body and spirit spent with pain, blood loss and exhaustion. She crumpled to the ground, and the golden mare lay down gently beside her to hold her. The blue stallion stood guard over them, while the pale crimson hovered at watch nearby. His dark maroon half-brother left to find others. By evening there were three other unicorns with them. One was a healer. One was her father.
Her father was a dark gray stallion with black stockings that ran up to his belly. His eyes were the colour of amber, his frame rangy and sturdy, his voice soft and lilting like the singer he was. The golden mare shifted back as he came forward, and he knelt to push his muzzle gently against hers. She awoke at the touch and stared at him. His breath ticked her eyes as he spoke.
"Clouded Sun, listen to me: I am here, I am here…"
Her ears pricked forward at the sound. She lunged forward, slipped on her wounded leg, fell awkwardly against him. He arched his head over her neck and held her close, comforting. With his singer's gift he began to hum, slow and gentle. The steady beat of his heart and the deep rumble of his breathing against her shoulder soothed her.
"Still, my Clouded Sun, be still…"
She lifted her head, poking him on the underjaw as she did so, her voice small but certain, and audible only to her sire.
"My name is Tella."
He was quiet, and it seemed to her that he had frozen. Whether in shock or in resignation she could not tell. He let out a breath, and touched her softly on her foreleg.
"It is well, then, Tella. Till you find in yourself a new name, that is what I shall call you, and all others."
She heard the mare draw in a hiss of breath. Somewhere nearby, someone else stirred uneasily. The yearling filly called Tella, meaning "lost", leaned against her father with his low, soft humming, and slept while the healer tended her wound, and the others stood watch in the creeping darkness of dusk.