This was writen for Posti as part of the 2007 tsa christmas story exchangeAuthor: Devin Hallsworth
This had to be a dream, Bob thought as he chatted up this charming young woman. A few months ago you couldn't walk into a tavern without bumping into every raw recruit and draftee in town. Now the place was empty, so many young men across Virginia had been drafted that when the new year rolled around in less than a month it would just be all the older farm hands like himself and all the young girls left without anyone to woo celebrating nineteen eighteen.
Bob felt a moments pain for all the young men in the trenches over there fighting the great war but only a moment. The young beauty in front of him was too interesting for him to stay down for long.
"I'm just saying, what with magic coming back into the world you'd think we could find better uses for it than killing each other." Bob told the witch. She nodded, her eyebrows looking heavy, yet she clung to the mug in front of her like it might grow legs and escape on her.
"I don't think I could bring myself to use some of what their teaching. I told them as much and they scorned me for not doing my part for the war, but I didn't back down and its not like they could turn away my skills either." She said. Her eyes getting distant. "First thing they tried to teach me was a concoction. Emits a really foul vapor, I guess they use it like they do mustard gas except instead of killing you it fills you with a burning hatred for everyone around you."
Bob, winced. He had heard stories like that. "That sounds even worse than the artillery." He commented, waving a hand to the tavern maid for refills.
The Witch nodded and finished off the last of her drink. Normally he wouldn't have been sure how to feel about offering drinks with such a finely dressed young woman but she was a witch after all. They made their own rules and pity the fool who objected to a woman asserting herself in front of one. He remembered a story of an angry mob with torches down south that had decided they didn't want a Witch in town. Some day he was going to visit Donkey town just to see it.
"It is nice to do constructive stuff with this gift but even then the governments are holding onto all the texts that we use to learn our craft, we only use the magic that they want us too." She explained, quickly diving into her.... however many drinks that had been for her tonight. As a matter of fact he wasn't entirely sure what number he was on. "The worst thing is that even though I'm not ending peoples lives with my magic I'm still not entirely happy with what I'm doing. I have a quota of people to transform into horses but its not always easy finding people who are willing."
Bob nearly snorted his beer out his nose in mid drink. He coughed and sputtered for a few moments before looking at her askance. "What?!"
She slowly batted an eye at him, seeming a bit out of it from the beer. "Not everyone wants to be a horse. I know, it sounds ridiculous." Her voice turned bitter and she stirred a puddle of spilled beer on the table with a finger. "Who wouldn't want to be a horse. I've been around horses all my life and their beautiful, powerful creatures. They ... well..."
"They can be graceful on the run, playful when they are just born and still just as content to graze as any fat cow out there." Bob went on, grinning. "Your preaching to the choir, or to the old farm hand rather."
The Witches eye's lit up after her drunken train of thought finally pulled into the station. "Hey... I bet YOU would like to be a draft horse!" She said.
Bob blinked, a few almost forgotten thoughts springing to mind. Working a farm in the summers didn't leave him much time for flights of fantasy but in the winter... He couldn't help but admit to being jealous of his equine charges as weird as the thought was.
He thought it over for a full minute before nodding back to her. "It's easy!" She exclaimed. "Heck I could do it right now, blindfolded even and with my eyes closed." She said, somehow not sounding all that reassuring. "And the works even easier and the pay is great, It doesn't even matter how old you are because the same magic that would make you equine can make you young."
Now this caught his attention. Being a muscle bulging, virile mountain of a horse AND get paid for it? Bob just wondered where he had to sign. Though maybe he wasn't thinking this through clearly, he had been drinking quite a bit... No!
"I don't see why not." He said suddenly, slamming his mug down and grinning. "I aint getting any younger. At least not until you work your magic." She laughed at that, getting up slightly shakily to her feet.
"Lets go then. I can do it tonight and stable you with the couple youngsters I already changed today." She said, lurching a little bit before he caught her.
"You sure?" He timidly asked, remembering what had happened to the last guy he knew who questioned a witches ability.
"Of course. Unless you've got some lose ends in town to take care of. I cant stay too long. Me and the horses for my quota have got to be on a train out of town by noon tomorrow." She asked. He thought about it and shook his head.
"Nah, just an old single farm hand without even any property of my own. All I got to my name is some money saved up in the bank for the winter and a small shack by the tracks." He said, He'd never liked that damn cabin any way. All it was, was just a place to rest his tired old back when he wasn't working. If he went with her he wouldn't have to worry about that again. If she wasn't so loopy he wouldn't have any hesitation to doing this...
Oddly the transformation didn't seem to involve a brew made from eye of newt or incantations spoken out of a book as he had imagined. Instead it seemed to be just her running her hands across his body. They were in a barn near to the train station and he had just removed his clothes at her request. At first he had hesitated until he remembered that he wouldn't be wearing anything but a halter or maybe a saddle when he was a horse, also it wasn't like she was getting undressed with him.
He did think about what someone might think if they came in on this scene but if they knew what was good for them they would stay out of a witches business, especially an inebriated one...
"Bob, once I finish this you wont be able to talk with anyone but other horses. You will still be able to understand commands in English but if you have anything you think needs said to anyone you should tell me to either stop now or what message you would like passed along." She told him. He looked up from her hands and spooked at the sight of her eyes. He couldn't see the pupils of her eyes at all. It was like her eyes were rolled right back into her head, yet he had a feeling she could still see him fine.
"Fine. Yes, yes I'm fine! Don't have anyone to... no. I'm good to go." He stuttered, remembering just how different witches were supposed to be.
That seemed to be all she needed, her hands clenching around his thigh and... pulling his legs out. He watched slack jawed as she molded him in her hands like he was clay. She pulled and twisted and kneaded and slowly his shape lost what had made it human. Knee's were reversed, toes were compressed into harden hooves, muscles appeared where none had been even in his youth and through it all fur sprouted from wherever she laid hands on him.
As she moved up his body and more and more of him became equine he couldn't help but be fascinated by the process. Up until she came to his head that is...
She must have seen his anxiety as her hands began pulling a muzzle out. "Don't worry, you will keep your mind. " She said, grinning. "The courts were pretty quick to rule that destroying ones mind is equivilant to murder once they learned that it could be done." Despite this he couldn't help but wonder what it would take to bring a witch to justice if she did feel like it.
All his worries amounted to naught though. She took his hands off of his ears and didn't touch any part of his body again. He slowly blinked his eyes open, not realizing he had them clenched shut and looked down. Proud upright shoulders, leg feathering and long flowing mane. He was a draft horse alright!
Bob wanted to hug the witch and almost bowled her over before remembering that he didn't have arms to do it with anymore, instead he settled for nuzzling her hair. She smiled, patting him on the neck. "I'm glad you like it. Now if you'll excuse me I either need to head back to the tavern or to bed. Not sure which yet." She said before stumbling out of the stables.
He watched her go with a bit of worry. When she left the barn he quickly looked himself over to make sure he didn't have a spare leg or something like that.
Satisfied that she had in fact turned him into a horse without consequence despite her drunken state he pranced a bit in the barn.
"I see she found the last horse she needed." Bob stopped in mid step and looked into a stall to his left, when he still didn't see anything he looked down to see a cream colored draft horse laying on his side, looking up at him out of one eye.
"Hello." He said politely, remembering what the Witch had said about being able to talk with other horses.
"Yeah yeah.. you look to energetic to be anything but a volunteer." The cream snorted in reply, lifting his head up off the ground lazily. "Why anyone would volunteer to haul artillery guns around France around is beyond me though. Although mares is one reason I suppose. At least this way I stand a chance to get with a female. I was too ugly to even pay them as a human." With what looked like more effort than it probably was the cream rolled onto his stomach and pushed his bulk up onto his hoofs.
"Pulling artillery around... what are you getting on about?!" Bob demanded, feeling a weird urge to bite this slacker on the ear.
"For the army. Regular horses get spooked by the guns so that's why they were looking for people to turn into horses. Although they might get us doing other stuff too like hauling supplies or ammo when they don't have any guns for us to move." The cream snorted again. "I hope the roads in France aren't too damned muddy."
Bob shook his head in denial but what the cream said made sense now that he thought of it. He still didn't quite feel totally free of the effect the drink had on his thinking but he was able to piece together what had just happened.
"You mean to tell me I've just been drafted?!"