|Works by Eirik on Shifti|
|Contains depictions of extreme violence.|
Huel skillfully tapped down the last nail and let the horse go back to all fours. "There you go, Emerald," he said gently as he ran a calloused hand down the old mares side. "Amanda?" he called to the tack room, "She's all set."
The mares young owner walked out and smiled, "Thanks, Mr. Edwards." She attached the lead mine and unhooked the cross ties. "She really needed new shoes."
Huel nodded, frowning slightly at the young woman. "She did, don't let things go too long again. You could hurt her." He was being a bit more forceful than he needed, the horses shoes were fine after all, but it never hurt.
Amanda nodded, looking sufficiently cowed. "I know. I meant to do it last week. I won't miss again."
Huel just nodded again. He liked Amanda, and she did care deeply for her mare. He gave the young woman a lot of credit for rescuing the poor beast from Stacy Jakes two years before. Then, the animal was barely skin and bones. "That's good to hear." He packed up his equipment. "Anything else that I can do for you?"
She thought a second, "Actually, yeah. I heard that you bought Windy from Mrs. Milk."
"I did. Shame about George. No ones heard from him in months," he said with the hint of a smile at the corner of his lips.
Amanda looked uncomfortable at the reminder. "Yeah, I know. He was a nice old man. Anyway, I used to ride her now and then when they had her. I was wondering if could come out sometime and ride her?"
Huel thought about it, "Let me get back to you. It's nothing against you," he added quickly, "it's just that I like my privacy." He smiled, "I'll let you know."
Amanda smiled a little and nodded, "Thanks." Emerald started nipping at her shoulder, causing Amanda to laugh. "I think she's trying to tell me that it's dinnertime. I'll see you later."
Huel nodded and walked out the barn. Emerald was the last horse of the day for him, a very long day. Ever since he'd caught Remy Grant using a mallet to beat up a horse, he'd been the only farrier in the area at all.
Piling his equipment into his truck, he left the farm and headed deeper into the New England woods toward his place. He hadn't been lying when he told Amanda that he liked his privacy. He ventured to guess that fewer than a dozen living humans knew where his home was. No one was welcome on his land.
It disturbed his horses.
He pulled into the farm as the last rays of light were beginning to fade. He skipped unloading the truck for the moment and headed straight for the barn behind the house. He didn't even have the door open when he heard the friendly nickers of the horses inside. "I'm coming, I'm coming," he said with a grin.
All five horses had their heads over the doors of their stalls expectantly when he entered. He measured out the servings of grain and hay, checked that all of the animals were in good shape, then left them to eat and rest.
By then, night had fallen. He felt drained from the day, but he had to check on his other horses, his special horses.
Huel was a little surprised that his approaching steps brought no reaction from the tiny, dark barn. Usually there were angry, piercing equine cries, occasionally even soft sounds that sounded almost like a horse mimicking human sobs, but rarely dead silence. He slip open the door quietly, cautiously, and turned on the light.
He could only see three of the horses in their stalls, each glaring at him with a mixture of fear and hatred. These were the special cases, these were his life's work.
"What's the problem, guys?" he asked sweetly. He looked at the former cruel farrier, now a lovely palomino, "Grant? Care to explain?" The horse, almost comically, tried to speak, but all that came out were equine sounds. Huel just laughed, cutting off the palomino. "When you realize that you're just horses now, things will go so much…"
His voice trailed off as he looked into the only stall he couldn't see a horse in. Milk, born a man, had finally succeeded in starving his equine body to death. Huel just sighed. The man had been a stubborn human and an even more stubborn horse. He'd probably protested his innocence the loudest as Huel expertly trimmed his body so that the magic shoes could be nailed in place. Once a horse, the equine screams had carried all over the farm.
Then Grant stopped eating, and skin and bones were all that was left.
Huel shook his head. If the man had only become a proper horse, learned what he should have known as a man, he'd have had a good life. It was all that he wanted from any of the people he changed. He turned and looked at the other horses, "I'll have to feed you a little later, I'll be back in a few minutes with the tractor and I'll get his body out. I don't want any of you dead, remember. Once you've learned, I might even set you free."
After the farrier left the room, Grant shuddered, "That monster is as loony as ever."
A woman's voice sobbed from the stall, "He's never going to let us go, never."
Grant look down at his hands, the fingers brutally trimmed off by the farrier so the shoes could be nailed right to the palms. He flopped down, trying not to think of the phantom pain that he still felt in legs trimmed to make him walk on all fours. He tried not to think of the lip tattoo Huel had inexpertly given him to make him feel more horse-like.
He tried only to think of death.