Tempest Tossed

Unlucky traveler—

Out of the sea they come, the stallions of Ocean, wild and eager, cleft of hoof and sharp of tooth. They have smelled the mares we staked out along the shore, heads pointed toward the island, and so they are here, answering the ancient call. We cower in our underground chambers when the roof shakes, when the mares scream, clean our useless swords and pray for daylight. No one sleeps through that night; no one could, except the dying.

In the morning when the tide recedes we tremble forth to find the shore churned to froth, the mares shaking and wildeyed, knee-deep in new saltwater springs, necks raw where the harnesses that chained them to the earth have rubbed through the hair, bellies already distended with new life. The foals that are born from this joining are strong as the tide and beautiful as the horizon, and never more than half-tamed; we will sell them inland, far inland, where the sea is a rumor and Ocean a fable for children. Let them glimpse water but once and they are gone, and it’s the lucky rider who tumbles out of the saddle before being dragged before the waves.

The mares seldom survive the birthing; those that do will not suffer again a bridle. They must not be killed, lest the waters rise through the doors of the earth and wipe clean our city. Ocean is chary of its gifts.