The white mare ran.
She was frightened, and her light coat was covered in dust and soot.
The mare didn’t understand what happened; all she knew was that it was terrifying and confusing.
The whole day had been unsettling: the humans were all upset, and they were fighting, and she had been left in the courtyard of the castle, uncared for, and still saddled.
Her human went inside with the others, and she waited patiently, but he never came back for her.
She had been wandering in the courtyard when everything exploded. The walls crumbled, and the towers fell in a rumbling cloud of smoke, and the mare ran away, avoiding the falling debris.
She jumped a low wall and escaped the city of Nottingham, running to a nearby open field.
The scare had been so great, that she would have kept galloping away until she died, were it not for the presence of another horse.
It was a dark brown, almost black, stallion, and he was quietly grazing on the tender grass that grew along the river banks. He was alone, with no saddle, but was still wearing a harness with a crossed face piece.
The stallion was calm, but the mare could feel a deep sadness clouding him, but it wasn’t his presence or his demeanor that made her stop her crazed run: it was his smell.
The stallion smelled of him.
It was the faintest trace of a scent, but she couldn’t be wrong: her human had once ridden and touched the dark stallion.
“Have you seen him?! Where is he?!” She whinnied, rearing, “Have you seen my human?!”
The stallion lifted his head to look at her and sniffed the air, taking her smell in.
“Actually,” he said “he was my human.”
The mare had calmed down, and now both horses were resting under the shade of a tree.
“He was mine longer than he was yours,” the stallion said, moving his tail to shoo away an annoying fly.
“Maybe, but I liked him. He was gentle with me, always. Very sad, too.”
The dark horse kept quiet for a while before answering her. “It’s true. Sometimes he hurt other humans, but he was always kind to me. And I know very well his sadness. There were times when he felt overwhelmed by his life, and he came to the barn to brush my mane. He would whisper to me all the reasons for his sorrow.”
“You knew him so well… I hope someday I will be able to comfort him too.”
“I miss him so much,” acknowledged the stallion… “One day he went away, and he never came back. That woman, the one he called ‘sister’, said that I was hers now, but she wasn’t as gentle as my human.”
“I hope he will return soon.”
The stallion neighed quietly.
“He will not; I feel it in my heart. He doesn’t run on our same meadows anymore.*”
The white mare said nothing, but she began grooming the stallion with little bites on his back. After a while, he reciprocated, and the two horses stood quietly under the tree, taking comfort in each other’s company and thinking of their human.
Much was tired and hungry, but he didn’t want to stop. He felt hollow inside his soul, and he knew that if he stopped walking, he’d begin to think. And once he started remembering the old times, his heart would surely shatter in a million pieces. It was already broken, but if he kept moving, he could ignore the truth; he could delude himself into thinking that it was all a bad dream; that Robin was still alive.
He glanced at the bay horse, a few paces ahead of him, and he tried rushing forward to grab his bridle, but the horse skittered away before slowing just out of reach.
Much kept following him, determined to take him back to the outlaw camp. That was Robin’s horse, and Much wanted to take care of him, but the animal was jumpy and didn’t want to be caught.
Much wasn’t going to give up; it didn’t matter how much time he needed. After all, following an unruly horse was still better than stopping and thinking that his best friend was dead.
Suddenly, the horse broke into a gallop, jumped a fence, and ran into a field. Panting, Much tried to follow him as best as he could.
He was beginning to think that he had lost him, and that thought almost made him cry.
That horse was Robin’s; he couldn’t lose him too!
Much stumbled and fell to the ground, and he was tempted to just stay there, to curl up on the grass and cry, but he forced himself back to his feet.
“Robin wouldn’t want me to give up. He wouldn’t,” Much muttered to himself with a sense of resolve.
He looked up, and he saw it: the horse had stopped under a tree near two other horses, and they were all together, quietly grazing.
Much silently approached the horses, hoping to get close without startling them. Surprisingly, Robin’s horse didn’t try to run away, and he finally let Much take his bridle.
The outlaw gently patted the horse’s neck, then he looked at the other two horses, and his mouth fell open in surprise: the white horse was Gisborne’s mare! He recognized her because she was still wearing one of the spare bridles from the camp.
Much remembered Robin giving it to Guy when the old one broke, and he sighed: his friend was so noble that he was kind even to Gisborne, who had hurt him so much.
Much scratched the white horse between her ears and sighed again.
“Do you miss your owner too? We all have something in common; we have all lost someone we loved.”
He looked at the other horse, and he frowned: that stallion looked familiar too.
Much realized that he was Gisborne’s horse too, the one that Guy had ridden when he worked for Vaisey. He looked at the three horses, puzzled, and he wondered why they were all in the same place, then he decided that he didn’t care.
“Come with me, little ones,” he whispered “I’ll take care of you.”
He mounted Robin’s horse and took the bridles of the other two.
“He’s not our human,” the dark stallion observed.
The white mare looked at Much and remarked, “But he’s kind.”
“And he is sad,” Robin’s horse added.
The three horses were quiet for a moment, then the dark one neighed. “I will never forget my human, but this one is fine enough.”
“We need him,” the mare acknowledged.
“And he needs us,” Robin’s horse declared
They let Much lead them into the forest, in silence.
Sadness was in all of their hearts, but now they all felt a little less lonely than before.