True Heart

This is a little flash fiction I put together in one take upon learning that the Wheel of Time Companion would contain “The surprising reveal about long-time character Bela the pony that fans won’t expect.”

The brown mare tossed her unkempt mane and snorted, nostrils questing for the sharp scent of predators, but the slight breeze that blew down the path carried only smells of late Spring’s bounty. Of course, no hunter worth her claws would be upwind. She flicked her tail by long habit, shooing flies, but there were no flies here.

There could be, she thought. One, perhaps, for old time’s sake, though not a biter. There was a mute buzzing. The tail swished again with renewed purpose.

No sound betrayed its arrival from downwind. Instead, in her mind, she saw her hindquarters from a vantage point behind a leatherleaf she’d just passed. I’ve still got it, she thought. A bit wide through the flank, but still… With a toss of her head, she spun to face her stalker. There were more important things than admiring the view.

The wolf was a full adult,  the color of a haybale. It froze, and she felt its thought, a memory of an early snow. Confusion. Then, a riot of other images. Deer sprang into flight, rabbits dodged for their warrens, and she stood firm. Prey with a mind? This is a new thing…

She sent back, a turning wheel with seven spokes, tiny wolves scattered across its rim. All things have happened before, and will again. You do not remember.

This wolf wasn’t in the mood for philosophy. Thinking prey or not, it bared its fangs and pounced. Its teeth, though, closed on air. She was already at a gallop, nearly out of sight. It sent to her, a sky full of stars while the sun shone bright. Impossible!

That was enough discussion. She’d need all her focus to win this race. As she sped by, she imagined the undergrowth sprouting brambles, shattered flint stones, and gaping stump holes. Soon, though, she could feel the pressure of the wolf’s imagination bending the ground back to its advantage. She abandoned the traps and poured on the speed. Her hooves carried her four lengths in a bound, then ten, and soon the forest was no more than a blur. A blur, she noticed, except for the wolf keeping pace with her, bounding from the boles of the trees themselves, not even touching the ground.

Impressive, she sent.

I thought the same, the wolf replied. But I am afraid this hunt has reached its end…

Sunlight sprang all around her, and she pulled up to a halt.

For you have reached the clearing at the end of the path.

Wolves. Wolves everywhere among the grass, and nowhere to hide. Stunned by a sudden deluge of sendings, she lost precious seconds, and when she looked up, they had ringed her ‘round. This is it, then, she thought. Unbidden, thoughts came to her of when she last dreamed. Carrying Egwene in a mad dash to Salidar. Running all night, fleeing trollocs and draghkar, Rand’s touch giving her endurance she’d never known she had. The wolves, as one, cocked their heads to the side. All to the same side. She wished she could ask how they all knew to do that. The riot of thoughts resumed.

Touched by Shadowkiller!

I saw Young Bull!

Unbroken! She carried Unbroken!

As one, they all sat. Their mouths were open, fangs bared, but now tongues lolled. The wolf who had chased her stepped forward. It sent its name, lightning coursing through trees. Streak. Fear not, it sent, we have heard of you. Then, another crash of images. Silvery blood pumping, pounding. It felt like a name…

Our pack welcomes you, True Heart. Now and forever.