It had always seemed like a stupid idea. Irritating, and generally ill advised. He thought that if he went along with things, used the festival to take his mind off of how stupid he looked, then perhaps his trepidations would disappear like so much smoke and he could be free to just enjoy himself. He'd wanted that to be the case. More than anything he'd wanted to just meet expectations. He couldn't. He was smoke trapped in a bag in this get up. Nothing but a swirling mire waiting for the slightest flaw in his prison so he could make an expedient but quiet escape. That was how he'd ended up back here. Alone, with nothing but the dampened chill of an early spring evening waiting for him.
Shortly after he'd gotten inside, directly after he'd used his back hoof to close the door, he'd begun to jerk and rip the ribbons from his waves of black hair. He paced, snorting in frustration that the amount of both hair and ribbons he would have to deal with vastly exceeded the amount of patience he had left for either on its own. Hair down to one's knees. Ribbons. Was he meant to be a little girl's show pony?
With a stomp and a snort the frustrated Farool reached back to his withers and undid the clasp which held the garish belt of singing, swaying faux-gold coins so that they would drape over his shoulder points and declare his every step. With mounting fury he fought the surcoat with the long tails and the tight arms -- off his shoulders. With a force that would suggest fabric might do actual damage he hurled it and his tri-corner hat to the floor and proceeded to briefly stomp all pieces. He did so, in complete darkness, with great prejudice until finally the sound of his own hard feet hammering against muffled coins and moaning floor boards was no longer enough to placate him. That was when he finally fell off his own feet, put his head in his hands and considered facts. They were his only option at this point denial having thoroughly failed him.
For some reason, whatever it may be, garishness was beyond him. He could not stand to be wrapped in fabric, draped in bangles or done up like a doll. It all felt
forced. Like a bear squeezing into a rabbit's skin it was unnatural, unflattering and an unreal expectation externally enforced. He clenched his entire body every muscle pulled towards his core until it hurt. He heard pressure building up, the sort that oft becomes tears, but over this he would not cry. Not again. Too many fights waged over what he wore. Too many discussions about how a ribbon wouldn't hurt. How a coat made him look more distinguished. Were his memories laid on the floor he need only spit and he'd be guaranteed to hit a time when he'd been cajoled with the idea that dressing up was simply required if he intended to be taken seriously as an adult by the other Farool. But now eventuality had simply become inevitability, and after all his years of fighting there were no tears to cry. He had waged well his war again satin and showiness. Pride. Not sadness.
The sound of males, braying in the distance like so many amused jacks, had grown so loud it penetrated the walls of his family home at the edge of the settlement. He imagined, as he unclasped the be-belled bracelet-chains which wrapped from ergol to cornet, that they were all congratulating each other on mating arrangements well made. All still straining to keep their deltoids and biceps as flexed as possible. He smiled, but even that quickly faded as he ran his clawed fingers through his own long black fathers. He twisted them between thumb and pointer finger, but in the end laid his ears back and turned his attention away. He could do a number of things to himself, but for his feathers his grandfather would rise from the grave to haunt him.
Finding the hunting knife was easy, but he stood staring at it for minutes. In the background of his night the beautiful, high-spirited music of Sogaurr dared him to press on in his defiance. The rousing sounds of stings and winds, bringing people together. They reminded him that is was not too late. He could find someone to be with here and they could be happy. They would not be normal, but they could be happy. He just needed to practice more
He brought the knife to the back of his neck the moment he thought of the word. Sawing through his hair proved more difficult than he'd originally anticipated. He first tried grabbing it all at once in a single fist and sawing through it, but he soon saw reason and hacked through mere isolated sections at a time. All the way up from his shoulders to the very crest of his vulpine head. He trimmed until there was no hair long enough to be wavy. Nothing long enough to even fold over. Then he hacked into his tail. Black hair. Red hair. Falling to the floor like swooning snakes. He completely severed the white tip at the end until his once luxurious fly-sweeper swung no lower than his hocks. He lifted he feet and looked skeptically at the mounds of mane he'd left puddled on his parent's floor. He considered how to clean it up best so that they needn't know. Bending, he bundled it up and tossed it into the ferns out the kitchen window. This gave him an idea and minutes later he opened the door again. Heavy hooves no longer clopped on floorboards but stepped softly on squishy spring soil. Over his shoulder hung a bindle, bound up in a long-tailed surcoat and containing all the things he was certain could be pawned to humans for basic necessities.
He gave it a moment. Let his yellow eyes wander to the radiant lights glimmering streets away. The shadows of Farool moving in dance and swaying in song tried to set hooks under his skin. The sounds of music grappled his heart, but the bells
he could hear the bangles clinking together from here and he knew, as he'd long known, that there was only contentment here. Not real happiness. Not belonging. Ears laid back and mind made up he jerked the fire hatchet from its home and took himself elsewhere. For a Farool the nearest human city was only a few hours away. He could be there by morning.
what did you say your name was, old man?"
He looked up at a fox head on a man's torso all covered in fur and mounted on the withers of a well-built war horse, and yet he knew full well he was for now only supposed to inquire as to its
his name. When the Farool had first walked up to Edward Hinckley he'd had to tilt his chin so high his helmet fell off, but now that the brute was backed to an acceptable distance where he'd at least have to make a hop before those heavy hooves could kick his head clean off Edward could see that from barrel to backside this was a beastie he wanted on his side.
"Thomas," he lied.
The Farool had heard the name shouted back and forth around the marketplace at least five different times. If there was a name to be had it seemed like Thomas was the one.
"Well, by jove. Spot of luck to get a Farool with a pronouncable name, eh old chap? Go by
The sun was hung high. Even Thomas wasn't casting much of a shadow. Around these cobblestone streets people hustled or shuffled about the respective daily errands and tasks with a sense of sobriety and purpose Tom wasn't used to. Men, dressed primarily in browns and tans, carried things. They drove carts. They carried arms. Their boots, pants and coats all ferried from street to hearth the dirt of a worker. A working
what can we help you with, Tom?"
"I'm looking for work," Tom asserted. An uncomfortable swish of his tail, but he forced his eyes from the milling populace back to the nervous smile of Edward Hinckley, "I'd like to be a guard."
Another human. Dressed the same as the first and sporting the same officious air. White helmet with goggles, black jacket to the knees, tons of buckles, high boots. They all carried the ammunition and a sabre on a belt and a blunderbuss slung around their back. Man to man they seemed to have stupider moustaches, but this one had a large badge.
"His name is Thomas," Edward answered, clicking his heels and saluting briefly, "He wants to apply for a guard's position, sir."
"A Farool?" The captain asked skeptically, looking Thomas over in quite the same way he would have any other equine, "not out for blood are you, son?"
"That's a joke, Tom," The captain replied with a smile, "The day I meet a male Farool with violence in him I'll eat my hat. What's all this about though, old boy? What makes you think you're fit for a guardsman?"
I'm good for physical labour, sir."
The captain began to wander his vision, "Well there's plenty of farm work available if you want"
"No sir," He interrupted, puffing out his chest slightly and shifting his considerable weight, "not farm work. The city. I'd like to stay in the city. Serve the people
"Is that so?" The captain considered. He brought his eyes back, sniffing at nothing particular, "As said
we don't see many male Farool come through looking for work, you know."
"I believe it, sir," Tom was doing his level best to mimic their behaviour. The way they stood. Set their shoulders. Held their heads. Curiously easy.
"We've had a
female or two apply but, this sort of thing is really more of a man's job," Tom nodded, "Now
Bucks. Forgive my ignorance but
well all the other one's I've seen are a bit
-soft- for this line of work. Not the law enforcement type. You
seem a refreshing change of pace, Thomas."
"Yes sir," Tom replied with a brief dip of his muzzle as he had seen Edward do, "Thank you, sir."
The Captain clicked his tongue briefly and gave Tom another quick once over, "I'd be willing to give you a trial period, old boy. Prove your salt, an' all."
"I would appreciate the opportunity, sir,"
"Captain," The captain correct with a slight nod and a paltry salute, "Wheliker"
"Captain Wheliker," Thomas confirmed. His brought his front hooves together, clicking in step and saluting as Hinckley had done prior. Captain Alistair Wheliker had been mid turn, but as the Farool put in his attempt at impromptu propriety the captain issued the slightest smile hidden almost completely by ridiculous facial hair.
With a slight wave of his hand he ushered Edward over, "Hickley
arm our newest recruit, won't you? We'll figure out what's to be done about his uniform at earliest opportunity
and one more thing," Hinckley had saluted and been about to scramble obediently when the captain grabbed his subordinate's shoulder and dragged him back.
"Find out what sort of shot he is, Hinckley. If he's any good
invite him out to the bush with us next weekend. With a Farool we'll hunt the bloody forest quiet."
"Good lad, Hinckley," the captain confirmed with a shoulder pat, "now go. Arm the man."