During their travels to the northern forest the golden wolf, Nour, and her friend the Arab merchant entered a vast open land circled by tall trees colored in all the shades of fall. The land was so vast one could not see the end of it with mere sight. The hills were dry, like a cold desert of golden grass. A few houses were spread across the valley, a little village, a little church, a little school where little children learned about the real world. All around them there were horses behind fenced patches of land, some white, some brown or gray and black creatures. The two friends walked towards the village in search of food and a warm bed for that crisp autumn night.
After an hour of walking they reached the main village tavern, the “Black Horse” and were offered a bed by the the old lady who owned the place. They ate a warm meal and drank a cup hot tea and as soon as the sun had sunk they realized that in the town there seemed to be no children. People walking the the streets were old, just like those working at the tavern and in the fields. It was strange that in such a small village in the middle of the prairie there were no youngsters running around in the streets before dark. The two friends were sure they had seen a school in the village and assumed it was for kids but now, thinking back, they hadn’t seen actual children around and weird thoughts began to fill their minds.
The following day Nour and the merchant woke up before the sun rose and left the tavern to check out the school of the village. It was an old white colonial building with columns on top of the front steps and marble on the flore. It was a beautiful elegant structure filled with empty rooms and chilling silence. Each part of it showed that once upon a time children went to class and left books on their desks, pens in their bags and shoes by the entrance. There was girls’ hair in the halls and writings in the back of the walls. Right outside they found a ranch where children used to ride horses and learn the life of the country. But now, outside the school, like everywhere else in town, there were no children, just a countless number of horses.
Walking out towards the tavern Nour saw a white horse with gray dots looking at her from behind a fence. Her body was that of a horse but her eyes were large and sad, like those of un-happy child. The golden wolf walked closer to the creature and once she got to touching distance the animal responded to her steps with a loud neigh. ” Heeeee…Heeee..Heeee” The wolf suddenly realized the horse was trying to talk to her, to put her thoughts into words.. human words.. “Heee..Heee..Heee”.
Nour kept listening to that sound while looking at the big sad eyes of the human-sounding horse standing a few steps from her. “Heee…heee…heeee” Could it be? Was it possible that maybe… maybe the animal was trying to say the word…free?
As soon as the thought crossed her mind the merchant called to her and she was forced to walk away, back to the tavern. Once there, the two friends ordered a cup of tea and prepared to leave the old town in the valley to reach other kingdoms of the north. While quietly sipping his tea, the merchant casually turned to the old lady who owned the tavern and asked: ” What happened to the school? We saw no children there today and no children in the streets..”
“Oh you don’t know?” The old lady replied with a bit of a grin. “This city was cursed long ago.” She added simply while drying cups with a dirty piece of fabric. “It all happened after the black horse incident…” With those words the two friends remembered the name of the tavern it-self, the black horse, and listened carefully to what the lady was about to say.
“They had stolen a horse, those children. It was joke to them, to steal a horse, bring him into the forest and tie him to a tree far from the town in the middle of winter… their parents said it was a joke, because they were just children and children always do such things. But it wasn’t, it wasn’t a joke. It was cruelty… After a couple of days the creature was found frozen to death, half eaten by wolves and other wild animals. What a shame, such an elegant horse, shiny black and tall it was. But it wasn’t just a normal horse. It belonged to someone, someone no-one should mess with if they cared for their lives. The black horse belonged to the forest witch who lives at the end of the valley. No-one has ever really seen her , nor her house, and her horse was not ever seen with her. People only realized it must have been hers when they found the carcass and saw that the creature had a seven angles star mark on his side. It used to wander around town like a stray dog, came by the tavern quite often and I always fed him apples my self. He loved apples that dear creature. Anyways, when the horse was found dead she, the witch, gave those children what they really deserved and turned them all into horses. That’s why this stupid town has got so many horses and no children. The horses are the children. But they deserve it it’s what I say, no animal should ever suffer like that and now they are suffering animals them-selves learning their lesson.”
“How is it possible the witch was never found?” Asked the merchant, still in shock.
“Ah, don’t know! She run away maybe! No-one knows what she looked like nor where she hid exactly so it must have been easy for her.” The old lady replied, seeming completely calm about it. ” Finish up your teas and leave this old town before it starts to snow. You don’t wanna be stuck here forever.”
The two friends collected their things to leave the tavern. They walked up to the front door and when they were about to open it they noticed a sign, on the door knob. It was a star, a seven angles’ star. Before the old lady noticed what they saw the merchant turned the knob and the two left the tavern as fast as they could.
They ran all the way to the edge of the valley, close to the forest. Passed the hills covered with horses and were about to enter into the darkness of the trees when Nour suddenly stopped, turned around and opened one of the gates of the horses’ fence. The wolf walked up to the cursed children closer to her and whispered, in human words,….”free”.