“And in keeping with tradition, you will make the journey alone.” The slate-colored face of Ash’s father was solemn, condescending, and stern, as it always was. But then it was – spinning?
Ash shook himself out of the nightmare and rolled to his hooves. A full moon shone over Moonstone Herd’s large sleep clearing, casting a bluish glow over the steeds sleeping in its beams. Their powers came from the moon, they depended on it, and it depended on them.
On legs still trembling from the dream, Ash made his way to the creek, careful to avoid stepping on the sleeping forms of his herd mates. Their elegant horns moved ever so slightly as they breathed, casting a shell of calmness around each steed that helped them to get a good night’s sleep.
The colt dipped his head to drink from the crystal-clear water and caught movement from the trees to his left, on the opposite bank.
“Pirucalis,” he muttered to his horn, the charm used to gauge danger. His cadet blue horn didn’t flash to signal a threat, so he finished drinking and then raised his head to look more carefully at the shape. The gorgeous form of his mother, Astra, stepped out from the trees and into the knee-deep water of the stream.
The elegant unicorn shook her black mane to rid herself of the tiredness she still felt and smiled at her son. “Sleeping okay?” she asked, knowing perfectly well that the answer would be negative.
Ash sighed, which Astra took as confirmation of her earlier guess. “You really should practice your sleeping charm,” she said. “It will help your insomnia.”
Ash sighed again. “I know,” he admitted. “But I still don’t see why I can’t go to Spark. She’ll be willing to help me.”
Astra frowned, but the expression was more one of concern than of sadness. “We’ve gone over this,” she said, her indigo horn pulsing slightly with the light of irritation. “Winged Healers are only to be bothered with serious injuries, ones that we can’t heal on our own.”
Ash pouted, then quickly smoothed his expression, not wanting to seem much younger than he was. When he spoke, however, there was still a trace of a newborn-like tantrum in his voice. “But this is serious,” he insisted. “Just because this problem could be solved if I knew how to use my horn’s magic doesn't mean it isn’t a problem. You’ve said it yourself: we need sleep. And in a way, I’m the most important steed in Moonstone Herd – as Father has pointed out so many times. Shouldn’t I be able to get sleep?”
Astra sighed, her resolve weakening as she faced her son. “Alright. Fine. But not until morning, when Spark is awake. Pegasi are strictly diurnal, remember?”
Ash nodded and smiled hugely at his mother. “Thank you!” he said. He whirled and trotted quietly out of the creek and through the sleeping herd with a lighthearted gait.
Astra watched the pale grullo form of her son trot back to his area, his coat made even more silvery by the moonlight. With yet another sigh, she turned around and made her way back to the den beneath the trees where she and her mate slept.
Ash, meanwhile, struggled with his sleeping charm for another ten minutes before giving up and deciding to fall asleep the normal way. Just before he fell asleep, he realized that it wasn’t the normal way for unicorns: at three years of age, he should be able to use the charm to help him. He fell asleep, his mind still circling the unpleasant thoughts.