This is a very long one (12 pages worth) buuuut, I'm very happy with it! :D Hope you enjoy!
The trees whispered.
The water cackled.
And the sky cracked.
Goldenoak only remembered those three sounds from his childhood. Whispering, cackling, and cracking. He thought they were from these ordinary things, such as trees, water, a storm in the sky.
But deep down, he knew there was something else there. Something else that had been stolen from him.
Ever since Goldenoak had been young, he had forgotten. Forgotten his family, where he came from. Much of Jungle Herd simply brushed it off as “not remembering foalhood,”, which sounded like a common thing. But in reality, most of the elders could even remember their first taste of milk. Pegasi weren’t the kind of creatures to forget.
Nor was Goldenoak.
And yet he had forgotten. He had forgotten how his family had perished, where they had perished. Goldenoak had forgotten if they’d even perished at all! He had forgotten why he was in Jungle Herd to begin with. None of them recognized him, and most of Jungle Herd had tightly knit families that all resembled one another. He, on the other hand, resembled none of them.
For a while, some had thought he was a child of the over-stallion, because he, too, was a buckskin, only with jade green wings compared to the leader’s pale green feathers. This caused the herd to lose faith in their over-stallion for a while, assuming he had cheated on his lead-mare.
Of course, the over-stallion cast him out, outraged by the fact that one tiny little colt had turned his entire herd against him, as well as his own family. After the over-stallion permanently damaged his hind left leg, he continued to amble along after them, begging for shelter and an adoptive dam.
Unfortunately, no one took care of him. Jungle Herd was very particular about family bloodlines. Even more particular than Desert Herd, in a strange way.
So he weaned himself early, eating the hard-to-digest grass.
By the time he was sixteen, enough damage had been done to ruin the rest of his life. He could barely speak and understand what others said. He had trouble flying, and he couldn’t even run. The most he could do was a painful, slow trot.
He was prey, prey to anything. Goldenoak had nearly died on several occasions, and had only been saved by what seemed to be mercy. Jaguars seemed to pass by him, thankfully not hungry. Plants didn’t gobble him up, even though he happened to brush them with a stray feather.
Despite all of these hardships, Goldenoak still had a goal.
Revenge. Revenge on whoever stole his family from him, or revenge on his family because they abandoned him. He was certain his memories weren’t that of his own, and he had to find out what had happened to them.
Halfway insane, he set out through the jungle, his eyes on the large volcano he didn’t know the name of. All he knew was that he had seen caves in it, and he had been drawn to them. The journey would take days; he was on the other side of the forest, staying as near to the herd as he possibly could.
Glancing behind him at the unseen herd that lay on the other side of the thick trees, he started forward. At first, he attempted to trot to help make the journey faster, but because of the pain in his hind leg and hip, that hope was squashed fairly quickly. Most of it would be aimless walking, hoping nothing would notice him.
Over and over he continued to listen to those three sounds as he walked; whispering, cackling, and cracking. At the end of the day, he fell asleep to those three sounds.
Goldenoak awoke with a start. Sweat coated his hide, and his stress-shed feathers lay in a ring around his body. His eyes were wide open, and his bones ached as if he had fallen a great height and was now hitting the floor of the jungle.
He struggled to stand up, his hind left leg stiff and difficult to move in any flexible way. He used his wings to steady himself. He quickly looked over his body, hoping not to see any bite marks or scratches for once.
But instead, he saw a web of them across his buckskin body. They even intruded down to his two hind pasterns, and spiked across his snip. His jade green feathers were pale and unhealthy.
Goldenoak glared at the scars, horrified by them. They had been there since he could remember. Not once had he questioned their existence until now.
His dream had been about the caves he was searching for. He dreamt he had gotten lost in them, and that lava had splatted down all over his back, causing weird, striped burns that were then solidified into scars.
Suddenly he didn’t think going to a large volcano was such a good idea.
He jumped out of his skin when he felt something brush his tail. Turning around as quickly as he could, his breaths heavy and fast, he saw nothing. Only a vague blackness stood out amidst the trees. He froze, anticipating a strike from the shape. Looking skyward, he prayed to the Ancestors to spare him.
The low growl of the vague blackness immediately notified Goldenoak as to what it was.
Panther, he thought urgently. He didn’t move a muscle, trying to think a way out.
He could attempt to fly, but he had to be sure he could do it before moving. Otherwise, the panther would pounce and take him down easily.
He quickly calculated the direction of the wind- he barely felt any at all amongst the trees -and how high he would have to jump to get into the air.
It seemed foolproof except for a few things; only one of his back legs could assist his jump into the air, and he had no idea how to fly, especially not through a thick canopy. The panther could also scale the trees extremely quickly, meaning he would have to clear through them faster than a skilled cat.
The panther stepped forward, and Goldenoak finally got a good look at its face. Scars ran down the muzzle, and the eyes looked middle-aged, hungry, and experienced. This panther had hunted pegasi before, and knew what Goldenoak was thinking.
Then surprise him, a voice, not his own, whispered to him from inside his head.
Taking in a deep breath, he resumed into the silence of the real world. The panther growled again and took another step forward.
If this panther had hunted pegasi before, he knew how to corner them into small numbers. He would never go near a strong herd with protective captains and under-stallions.
Moving as fast as Goldenoak could, he pinned his ears, reared halfway up, and slammed his hooves down, causing the panther to dash to the side. The panther leaped from his left, attempting to grab at his back. Flaring his wings, Goldenoak knocked him away like a bat to a baseball.
The panther landed on his feet, hissing violently. He began to circle, so Goldenoak responded by circling the panther as well, his hind left leg throbbing with the effort it had taken to rear up. He tried his best not to limp on it, but he couldn’t help it. He began ruffling his feathers to distract the panther from his limping form; if the panther got at his bad leg, it would be the end.
The panther threatened to jump forward again, so Goldenoak met that threat head on, flaring his wings and stamping his feet, dashing forward. He stretched his wings as high as the trees would allow, taking up all the space in his tiny sleeping area. He cocked his hind left leg as he glared down at the panther whose tail was twitching back and forth as it waited for an opportunity to strike at Goldenoak again.
Goldenoak had no intention of killing a panther that day, so he stamped his feet again, tossing his head and threatening. The panther began to back up, the illusion of the night and Goldenoak’s feathers making the steed look larger and fiercer. Goldenoak reared up slightly one last time, and the panther dashed away, disappearing between the foliage.
Goldenoak slumped down onto the ground, his left wing aching where the panther had attempted to cling to it earlier. It was slightly bloody, but Goldenoak wasn’t too concerned about it. He was mostly concerned with asking himself how he had done it.
How did he manage that? When and where did he learn how to fight? Did the voice in the back of his head have anything to do with it?
These questions swirled around the watery depths of his mind as he sank into a deep sleep once again.
The screech of a macaw aroused him from his slumbers. He looked up at the vibrant bird, yawning. He struggled to haul himself to his feet, and tried to shake out the wet mud he had gained from sleeping on the wet forest floor.
Water fell from tree leaf to tree leaf, a wonderful choir singing in the mucky morning.
Goldenoak began to walk again, thinking through last night’s events. His near-death experience made him wish he hadn’t lost sight of the herd when he left; he could use their presence as protection.
The forest path twisted and turned, passed from creek to creek that overflowed into the already-wet ground around it. He walked and walked. The looming shape of the volcano came closer and closer with each step. He had no idea how to enter the lava caves, and wasn’t sure they even existed.
But he had hope.
The rain began to come down faster, the leaves no longer formidable protection against the harsh spikes of water. Goldenoak longed to run, run away from the rain. But his leg prevented him from doing so.
Eventually, he came upon the volcano, currently not active. Not even a puff of smoke escaped the top of it. Jungle Herd was holding its breath, waiting for the volcano to erupt again and destroy their home. At least Goldenoak knew it wouldn’t blow him up at that moment.
His stopped as the trees broke into a line; the area ahead was dark, charred, and rocky. He cringed with every step he took. Rocks got caught in his hooves, and his hind left leg was almost rendered useless against the rocky land.
A mouth loomed ahead of him, just barely large enough for his large form to fit inside. He stepped inside, and a waft of heat nearly burned his face. He ducked behind his feathers, taking in a sharp breath. Once he had grown used to it, he uncovered his face and stared into the darkness ahead. Immediately, a feeling of dread and joy overtook him; his memories were here, somewhere.
He didn’t know what made him continue further into the caves, but he already knew he was half-mad, so it was some sort of half-mad reason.
The darkness enveloped him. He tripped over rocks, bumped into walls and ceilings, and the tunnels would grow increasingly small and increasingly large with every path he went down. He could see slightly in the dark, but this darkness was nothing like the darkness of the jungle. This was the darkness of death.
Eventually, he came to what he would call “a clearing in a forest,”. It was a large cavern with multiple tunnels in the ceiling and walls. He looked around each one, intrigued.
He took a wrong step, and assumed he would fall to meet the ground.
Instead, he fell down a hole in the floor.
Down, down, down he fell, trying to stretch out his wings in his panic. His scream echoed in his ears, and then there was silence as he hit the stone floor.
That was all he heard.
He heard the whispers of pegasi around him, above him, below him. Anywhere he looked, he heard them.
His mother was out there, in the middle. He couldn’t see her, but he knew what came next.
He wasn’t supposed to be there.
He wasn’t supposed to know what happened.
He had disobeyed. Father would’ve been angry.
Goldenoak awoke with a start, sweat coating his hide once again. He didn’t dare move; if there was one thing he knew, it was that you should never move immediately after a fall. Pain inflamed his entire body, except for one part; his hind left leg.
Oh the irony, he thought.
After he had wiggled his feathers, moved his hooves and legs, and twitched his ears, he decided it was safe to get up. Slowly, he lifted his neck and head as pain pierced through his skull and caused glimmers across his vision. Grunting, he pulled himself up on the slippery stone.
He carefully assessed himself, and then began to walk again.
What was that? A memory? A dream? How long have I been asleep? Should I even refer to it as sleep?
The overwhelming need of food choked him and twisted his insides.
Yeah, I’d definitely say I’d been asleep for a while.
The need to find a way out became very pressing, and he felt very claustrophobic. Bursting with energy, he broke off into a quick trot, ignoring the harsh, agonizing pain in his hind left leg. The walls squeezed tight until he could no longer move forward. He wrestled against the constrictive stone, ripping feather after feather, scratch after scratch. He didn’t budge. Angry, in pain, and fearful, he let out with an outraged yell as he ripped free from the grip of the walls into the big space beyond.
He fell to the floor with the ferocity of it, pain shooting through him. He thought he tried to get up, but maybe he didn’t. Everything seemed to slip away; he began to think he hadn’t fully recovered from the concussion.
The hazy darkness only got darker until it was gone completely.
He remembered how his father had cackled as he abused her, abused him.
He even remembered how all the whispering pegasi had cackled at his mother.
She was still out there, in the middle. He could hear her cries, pleading. He couldn’t understand them, but he knew his name as she cried for it.
“Goldenoak! Please, please spare him!”
He remembered the answer;
Cackling, cackling, and cackling. Not from water, but from pegasi.
Even his father. His father who should’ve been dead. His father, who was a lie.
Goldenoak slowly came to, processing once again. Processing everything from the dream he just witnessed to the dried blood on the floor.
So he had been out for a long time again.
He got up again, hunger now accompanied by a more worrying thirst.
I have to get out.
Goldenoak walked this time, slowly. He feared slipping back into unconsciousness; if he did again, he might never wake up again.
Every part of him itched with dried blood, and he longed to preen it off, but he couldn’t risk reopening wounds.
He walked and walked. He didn’t know where, but he knew he might not ever get out because there was no way to retrace his steps now. Even if he could fit through the small gap he had just injured himself from, he couldn’t fly straight up out of the hole in the ground.
He had to find another way.
So he began to use his senses.
If he saw any sort of light, or if the air became cooler, he would follow that path.
He came to another cavern, and from a relatively decent sized hole he felt a cold draft. Thrilled, he walked down it, his eyes pried open. It went straight, but began to shrink and shrink. Eventually, he saw light ahead, and raced forward, but the tunnel became too small for him to even crawl through.
No, no no-, he thought, praying to the Ancestors he would make it through.
But the hole was the size of his eye.
“No!” He cried out, breathing heavily as tears slipped from his eyes. He slammed his front hooves against the wall, trying to break it, trying anything.
He continued and continued to try and get through, but he just couldn’t. He sank down to his knees and slammed his wing against the stone.
This was the end. He had found two memories, but they weren’t enough for him to make sense of.
He stared through the hole, his eye watery as he looked at the jungle that lay on the other side.
He saw colors.
Yellows, browns, and greens.
With renewed hope he continued to bang against the stone, screaming with all his might. At first, he thought they had heard him.
But then they just flew away.
He sucked in a breath of horror and utter depression.
Goldenoak then sank into his final memory.
The loudest crack he’d ever heard silenced his mother.
All of the pegasi seemed to stop and hold their breath.
Goldenoak sprang from his hiding place, rushing forward through the crowd.
There, laying in the grass, was his mother.
Her neck was bent in an odd direction and her back looked completely broken.
“Ma!” He cried, and he tried to run to her, but a large stallion scooped him up roughly and smacked him.
“You’re not supposed to be here, you brat!”
“Ma!” He cried again, wrestling with the stallion. He stopped as he looked at the stallion looming over her.
A buckskin with pale green feathers.
The stallion looked up slowly at him, glaring.
Immediately Goldenoak knew it was his father.
His dead father, who should’ve been dead now with his dead mother.
“You! You killed Ma!” He screeched, tears streaming down his face as he wrestled against the stallion holding him.
The stallion came up to him, and continued to glare. Then he whispered gently into the colt’s ear.
“Your mother was a dead dam walking.”
Goldenoak then experienced a very painful clubbing, and then darkness.
He gently opened his eyes a crack. Crack.
This time he was sure he was going to die.
He sobbed softly, remembering his dam’s face. If only he could tell Jungle Herd who his father was, what crime he had committed.
If only he could live.
Goldenoak closed his eyes for the last time, and let himself slip into the black.
Until he heard stone crumbling beside him.
So, um, yeah! :D
Hope you enjoyed it, took me a long time, probably not going to do anything like it soon!
Although, I may or may not do a part two considering that cliffhanger xD