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The horses were waiting – dark, magnificent shadows in the still of the night. They would have been mistaken for statues if not for the occasional twitch of a tail or an ear. Merrie seethed with impatience, eager to be off on The Grand Adventure. The brown, sturdy filly had no idea what the Grand Adventure would entail. From the whispered conversations between Luke and Paige, she just understood that all of them would have to be very quiet most of the time. That’d be a challenge for sure, for she was ‘a spirited fine ‘lil lady with a penchant for letting others know her opinions, whether they like it or not’, as Luke always liked to say. Her spirits lifted when she thought of what she’d be doing besides keeping quiet; she’d get to run, and with her two favourite companions beside her no less. Four, if she counted Luke and Paige. No reason to exclude the humans since she loved them as well.

After all, one can’t help being born the way one is, her ma used to philosophise, and Luke, for all that he has a human form, might as well be a horse for he understands us like no other.

Poor old Luke, Merrie thought at that time. How dreadful to have only two legs, when inside one is a horse! She could not imagine such a thing and commiserated with him thoroughly for being born under such a blighted star. She made sure to nuzzle his shoulder extra lovingly that night as he bade them good night.

Shifting her legs as quietly as she could manage, Merrie turned her thoughts to The Grand Adventure and her travelling companions again. She revised the count of her companions to five, this time including Gabe, the man whom Paige was determined to get married to. She didn’t know him well enough yet to love him, although he had always been kind to her and her comrades in the stables. But she was inclined to generosity this night, since she got to be on The Grand Adventure, and so Gabe had been included in her counting exercise.

Merrie strained to hear approaching footsteps to indicate that the time to be away was near. She was about to shift with impatience again when she felt a soothing hand on her neck.

Luke.

Hush, Merrie. Just a while more, my little one.

Calm descended on her at once. It never ceased to amaze her how Luke always knew her moods and her quirks. Then again, Luke always knew how to communicate with all the horses, not only her. A twitch of an ear, a roll of an eye, a toss of the mane…Luke understood the meaning of them all. And he taught them to read his intentions until they moved like partners in a dance.

Or in crime, Merrie chortled inwardly, since secrecy seems to be paramount on this strange night.

No matter, for human laws and rules mattered little to the filly who was described as, most often as not, ‘unremarkable’ by the ignorant. Her coat was a uniform dark brown with no special marking anywhere. Brown eyes, brown mane, brown coat. Unremarkable indeed, until one noticed the high gloss in her coat, the sleek muscles beneath the small frame, and the fire in her eyes. Luke, under Paige’s request, had even taken a pair of shears to her mane so that it hung in subtly staggered, blunt layers. She was also in possession of a jolly and impetuous nature, quick to anger but also equally quick to laughter. Perhaps she could be a tad silly at times, but that didn’t prevent her from becoming fiercely loyal and immensely committed to her travelling companions. Gabe, she decided magnanimously, should be worthy of her friendship and trust since Paige and Blaze seemed to be devoted to the man.

‘Ouch! Hell and damnation!’

The vehement whisper of a curse broke the silence of the night. The clouds parted to reveal a sleepy half-moon, which shone down dimly on the scene before Merrie’s eyes, now alight with barely suppressed laughter. Apparently Paige had stubbed her toe against one of the tiny cherubs scattered around the grounds. As much as she loved Paige, sometimes she found her habit of bumping into things, especially at night, exasperating. It was a little suspicious at first, considering that Paige had spent her entire life (all twenty years of it) here.

‘Here’ referred to a huge monstrosity of a house and its surrounding grounds. Merrie, being a horse, had never been inside the house (or any other house) and so had no notion of its size in terms of the number of rooms it had. She loved the grounds with its lovely cool mud and fragrant grasses, and the stables with its sweet hay and cosy warmth enough not to care about the mansion and what was inside, although she had to admit that it looked pretty enough on the outside.

Gabe was used to Paige’s clumsy ways, it seemed. There was no admonishment but for a warning glance for caution. With a resigned air that somehow conveyed amusement as well, Gabe pulled Paige to his side and with an arm around her, hurriedly steered her in the direction of Luke and the horses.

It is time to run, Merrie thought joyously.