Saturday, May 13, 2006

A taleof 1001 words

Epona

Epona has always galloped across sky and earth with her beloved horses. Not horses alone, but all creatures. They are her kindred and her kind. It is for them she provides fields and forests for browsing, nourishes the fruit trees, planted the herbs. She leads the herds unfailingly to clear waters. Her hands aid the birthing of every living thing, singing joyfully over each new life.

Perhaps it was the familiarity with Epona that animals came to be tamed by mortals. It was certainly the association of animals with humans that drew Epona’s interest to them. Their care of her creatures warmed her heart, endearing them to her like any mother watching the kindness given her children. In return, Epona extended her largess to man.

Unlike creatures, mortals could not see her, save little children and mothers dying in childbirth. In the final anguish before Epona bore a mother’s soul to the otherworld, Epona was visible to her. Often the last words of the woman would be, “My Lady!” Mortals began to sense her love for them. As they began to love Epona, they began to glimpse through her glamour to see her. To some she was a dazzling white mare, to some a terrifying black one, to others a long legged woman running with horses. They showed their reverence by creating shrines to their vision of her, leaving offerings of apples, grain and roses.

Only one ever saw her truly, face to face, and he a soldier in the heat of battle.

As men stole ascendancy from women, wars began. Creatures died in countless numbers. Epona knew every one from their birth. On the battlefield her heart wrung in pity for soldiers dying, men she had cradled in her lap as tiny babes. She screamed in fury with the screams of dying horses, each one a foal she had danced with in spring. With the rain she wept over the rotting corpses strewn across her lands. Gently, she bore the souls of horse and man to the otherworld. Epona flew through battles an angry wind, weeping in rage and futility. The eyes of the dying beheld her and cried out, “Mother!”

Though she brought forth life from the womb and returned it to the otherworld, she could not interfere with destiny.

Except once, for a man’s love of his horse. For her love of that man.

His name was Equinnus. For many generations past, his family bred the finest warhorses in the Empire - stallions of exceptional strength and speed, fearless in battle, trained to slash with hooves as its master slashed with sword. To Equinnus war was the dance of manhood, a glorious rondele of muscle and might. He never felt as truly alive as when battle raged around him, Death nipping at him. Those that fell beneath his sword into Death’s maw were simply enemies. Equinnus never thought about what enemy meant. It was his life or that of a stranger, a meaningless entity from his point of view. He was bred to be a soldier as his horse, Cicero, was bred to do battle.

Cicero, the best of the best. The Caesar had wanted Cicero for his own son’s battle mount. But Cicero had thrown the young man time and time again, making it clear his heart’s loyalty lay with Equinnus alone. Equinnus had raised him from foal to the magnificent fighter he was. Together they were legends.

Though it is not for battle they are remembered.

With his last strength, a dying soldier impaled Cicero on his sword. Equinnus was thrown. Cicero’s gushing wound poured blood over his master. The battle frenzy left Equinnus as suddenly as swordstroke. He saw only Cicero. Disbelief paralyzed Equinnus. He struggled to the side of his beloved companion as the battle clamored around them. Disbelief turned to despair, Equinnus buried his face in the blood drenched side of Cicero and wept.

Equinnus’s grief made him an easy target for a Gaul swordstroke. But Epona plucked the sword from the air. The Gaul saw a dark horse-woman grasping it by the blade. Fire poured from her hand as if blood. He turned and fled, leaving Epona standing over Equinnus. One by one the soldiers became aware of her. Their weapons dropped as they stood gaping at her. She turned slowly, towering above the battlefield, raising the sword above her head fire streaming down her arms. As her eyes met those of the mortals, they fell prostrate. The horses nickered recognition, the men fainted in terror. She hurled the sword into the sky. It disappeared with a thunderous crack.

Silence.

Epona knelt by Equinnus, gently turning his face until her eyes met his. Equinnus did not see the fierce eyes of a giant horse-woman. He looked into the deep eyes of a slight, pale maiden. Epona turned her gaze to the fatal gash in Cicero’s side. Equinnus watched her lay her hands over the wound. The flesh melted together under her slim fingers. Cicero jerked, snorted, rose to his feet. He curled a foreleg back, pulling back in a bow to Epona, nuzzling her hand, the hand fragrant with his blood. She stoked his cheek, and turned her gaze back to Equinnus.

Epona knew Equinnus from birth. She knew him as the youth training horses, his face alight with exuberance. She knew him as soldier. Now she saw him as a man. Not a handsome man, but one whose heart was knitted with his horse. She who had loved as mother, now felt the love of woman.

Equinnus raised her hand to his lips and kissed her palm. “My Lady,” he murmured.

Epona‘s mouth blossomed into a gentle smile. “My Love.”

Their lips met in Epona’s first kiss. Equinnus knew nothing more than the woman before him

Hands clasped they walked through the thunderstruck battlefield, Cicero following, his head held proudly. The eyes of battle-horse and soldier followed as the three walked into the sky.

5 Comments:

At 12:41 PM, Blogger Anita Marie Moscoso said...

This was great reading, a very well told tale!

anita marie

 
At 3:50 PM, Blogger Heather Blakey said...

A wonderful tale that could be added to the famed stories of Scheherazade. Your story touched me on a number of levels. Great Wendy!

 
At 10:16 PM, Blogger Imogen Crest said...

Loved reading this. The white horse is still in Wiltshire, I think. Correct me if I am wrong, but I know it's Britain. Yes, a very touching story, I agree:-)

 
At 12:05 AM, Blogger Gail Kavanagh said...

Mgnificent, Wendybird. I love horses, have loved them all my life, and this brought a lump to my throat.

 
At 4:22 AM, Blogger Traveller said...

this brought tears to my eyes - magnificent

 

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