On Wishing for Horses

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Photo by Jamie McInall via Pexels



When Taen Janir’s beloved horse was killed, I knew it meant trouble.  I never guessed how much.

Janir tasked Mage Kei with creating a mount that could never die.  Kei was fast. Before I’d prepared a contingency plan, Kei presented his masterpiece: a steel horse.

It moved stiffly, requiring commands for each step.  Janir wanted it smarter, smoother, more alive.

I should have stopped it then.

Pleased with Kei’s next version, Janir commissioned more: one for every first-sword.

It made me miss when his mother was taen.  She listened to me, sometimes, and her crazy ideas were relatively inexpensive.

The steel horses exuded strength and intimidation, filling the mounted first-swords with borrowed pride. Accustomed to real horses’ snorts and head-shaking, their still silence unnerved me.

Even as they attacked, they made no sound but crashing metal, crushing flesh.

Kei eventually froze them–temporarily, until he could fix it.

I knew the dark magics he’d used. This could not continue.  Kei wouldn’t listen.  So I stopped him, permanently.

Now, from exile, I live on rumors.

Janir pressures his new mage to revive the horses, to harness them at any cost.

Run.  You don’t want to learn what that cost will be.



Word count: 200.  Written for this week’s Sunday Photo Fiction prompt.  Thanks to Susan for organizing, and apologies for not being able to contribute in many weeks.  Also, thanks to JS Brand for submitting the original photo, below (which was super interesting but not quite “Eneana-friendly” enough to use for my header shot).  Click on the link to read other stories inspired by JS’s photo, and to join in with one yourself!

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Photo © JS Brand



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30 thoughts on “On Wishing for Horses

    • I’m so glad that came across, as I was picturing them as quite terrifying too, even when frozen. Magic is iffy after all — and misunderstood by most — so who knows when they might just “wake up” with no warning!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I enjoyed the story Joy. The notion of steel horses made me think of “iron horses” and how alien and terrifying they must have been to Native Americans.
    Jamie’s alternative photo is pretty impressive. The grey skies provided by Scottish weather in late summer were more suited to the story I came up with, but the Kelpies look really striking against a blue background.
    By the way, where was your header photo taken please? It reminds me of some ruins in Mexico, but the setting doesn’t look quite right for that country.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for stopping by and for the nice comment, JS! I almost called them iron horses but didn’t want to evoke the real-world version. And yes, I liked the bright sky for this photo too (although that was secondary to me, compared to getting rid of the people and other modern bits).

      The header photo is from Finland, the Suomenlinna fortress. It’s actually much more recent than my Eneana technology timeline would permit, but from this angle you can’t see any of the modern elements.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you. I must look up Suomenlinna.

        I remember thinking, when we visited the Kelpies, that it would be good to be there outside the opening hours and capture some pictures without other tourists in the area (although they’re useful for giving a sense of scale). I’d still have been stuck with those pesky modern encumbrances like overhead wires. I’m not very adept with editing software, so I have to content myself with being a snapper.

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      • I set the goal from the beginning to only use header photos that would be appropriate for the Eneana world (to give a consistent feel for the blog), which means I’ve had to get at least basically proficient with photo editing. The few flash fiction challenges I participate in allow me to replace the original photo prompt with an Eneana-friendly one (I always put the original at the end of the post and give the contributor credit). It takes a little time to find another photo of something similar (e.g., an old wooden cart to replace a photo of a car), and then perhaps edit out modern bits like power lines or reflections from glass windows. Yours was easy, because I happened to find someone else’s shot of the same thing from a different angle — no fixing needed!

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    • Thanks Crispina! I had a couple ideas about what kind of blood-magic or soul-magic Kei used to make the steel horses more alive — and make them go crazy — but I didn’t want to commit to exactly how those worked quite yet, so I left it vague. Besides, vague warnings can sometimes feel even scarier!

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      • Funny, I didn’t think about this as “technology” but if you were picturing the original metal horses as being mechanically driven, that makes sense. I was picturing them as clever metal statues that were animated with magic (a variation on the classic “animate objects” spell). But that didn’t enable them to move as smoothly as a real horse, so Kei did something extra –and that’s the blood or soul magic. The problem is that I haven’t decided if there really is such a thing as soul magic in Eneana — that is, can mortals kill someone and capture their soul and harness its powers? It’s a serious can of worms, and I have to think it through more. But even if it was “just” blood magic, that’s still pretty bad, as the person donating the copious amounts of blood is almost never doing so willingly, and often dies in the process.

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  2. This is so good! Just the thought of all those metal horses clashing, lending their courage to the first-swords. Please publish a book soon so I can buy a copy and brag about how I knew you before! 🙂 You’re too good

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aw Lynn, you are too sweet, thank you! But now I’m starting to worry that my first book set in Eneana should be some epic adventure, so that the characters can see tons of these cool magical things all over the land. Problem is, all the novels I have in mind are intimate character sketches. Hmm… Well, the short stories each have more fun bits of magic; that might do. 😉

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      • I think you just have to work on what you know you can finish, what interests you enough to reach the end – novels are a marathon and if you’re writing for anything other than the love of the story, it will be a struggle to reach the end. Besides, character sketches can include magic if it’s part of that world, can’t they? I will buy it whichever way you go 🙂

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      • Thanks for the support, Lynn – it’s great to know I’ll sell at least one book! And yes, of course you’re right, that I’ll write the books that move me. And yes, they’re all fantasy stories and have magical elements to them. I do sometimes wonder though, if readers of this blog will expect to see the wide range of geography and history and special effects in every book and might be disappointed with the fairly tight focus of each of my story ideas. Ah well, I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. Guess I’ll just have to make the characters and their problems so compelling that nobody notices they aren’t going on an epic adventure. 😉

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  3. An intriguing story of dark magics and guile. I like the way the story builds up until the metal horses become too strong to handle – and the desperate last thought of the need to harness them at all cost. A great interpretation of the prompt. Well written, Joy. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the thoughtful comment, Millie! Sometimes the weirdest photos lead to the best stories,I find! I was inspired by the metal horse sculptures (I know they’re supposed to be kelpies, but we don’t have those in Eneana). And I’m fascinated by the dark magics aspect too. Reading this again, I realize how much of the story is left out of this text, so just trust me: it’s quite dark… 😉

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