Anna lifted the horseshoe from the fire, laid it over the anvil and began hammering. The shoe had been close to the right fit to begin with, the best out of all the ones hanging for luck and for stock around the smithy. Holding up the glowing hoop, she glanced at Covrey’s new grey mare and nodded to herself. She had a good eye for these things. This shoe would be right.
Steam hissed from the bucket as she plunged the horseshoe in. Covrey’s mare looked at her accusingly.
“I know not everyone favours shoeing.” Anna took a hammer and nails from the workbench. “But your master does, and that means you’re getting this.”
The horse whinnied in alarm and bolted for the door.
“What the hell!” Anna dropped her hammer and ran after the horse, leather apron flapping against her legs.
She was halfway across the village square when she heard what had alarmed the mare. Not the threat of being shoed, but the drone of an approaching demon. It soared above the crenulations of the minister’s mansion, narrow body like an arrow in flight, stiff wings as pale as death.
Around the square, everyone was running for cover. Even the youngest children knew to hide when a demon came. Abandoning her chase, Anna turned and dashed back toward the smithy.
Dirt flew up behind her as the demon spat its bolts of death. Heart pounding, she leapt through the open front of the smithy and out of sight. The wards of her home hid her from the demon. It ceased its battle roar.
But instead of returning to the soft buzz of its flight, the demon let out a sputtering noise as it flew low over her roof. A moment later there was a crash on the common land.
Emerging cautiously from the smithy, Anna peered around the outside of her hut. The ground of the commons had been torn up, the wings and tail of the demon protruding from a mound of dirt at the far side. Most of the villagers’ pigs had scattered, though two lay dead, little more than red smears in the path of the demon’s fall.
Anna had heard that such things happened, but never seen them, and her curiosity was overwhelming. Many others were poking their heads out, looking to see what had happened. Only Anna crossed the commons, approaching the twisted white body with increasingly tentative steps.
As she got near, a hiss emerged from the hole the demon had torn in the ground. It wasn’t dead, just wounded. How badly though? Anna took a step closer.
Something glinted on the side of the demon. She peered at it. Was that a blinking red eye? Was that how demons saw so much, eyeballs attached to their bodies? They truly were abominations.
There was a sudden roar and a flash of light. A fierce wind hurled Anna from her feet. Pain stabbed through her leg.
Gripped by fear, she scrambled to her feet and dashed away across the commons. Looking back from the safety of her smithy, she saw that the demon was gone, only flames and blackened ruin in its place.
So it was true. God struck down any demon that touched the earth. She sank to her knees and prayed in gratitude for her salvation from the angry, hissing thing.
At last she looked down at her injured leg. A sliver of something protruded from her flesh, like a foot long nail. She pulled it out and wrapped the wound. Once she had rested she would go to Mother Golding for a poultice to help her heal. In the meantime she sat staring at the shard of metal. One side was bare steel, high quality beneath a smear of soot. The other side was white.
Part of the demon.
In horror she cast it into the fire, watched as it started to glow. Later, she would smelt it down and ask Mother Golding where best to bury it, to prevent the demon from haunting the village.
A whinny made her look up. Covrey stood in the entrance to the smithy, concern wrinkling his long forehead, the new grey mare beside him.
“You still alright to shoe her?” he asked. “I mean, I can come back later if…”
His words petered out.
The glow of the shard in the fire caught Anna’s eye again. How could a metal creature like that ever come to be? Was this how demons began, by hammering iron onto innocent beasts?
Lifting the horseshoe out of the bucket, Anna went to the wall. The trembling of her hand made the horseshoe rattle as she hung it with the rest
“Not everyone favours shoeing,” she said. “Your mare will be fine without.”
The inspiration for this story came from Glenatron, who said:
Lately I’ve found myself thinking about fantasy I have read in the past and thinking “what if that was sci fi” so howsabout a bit of post-technological fantasy in a world where people live in the shadow of Clarke’s maxim and fear the strange “demons” that prowl the wilderness?
That turned out to be an intriguing prompt to work from, so thanks dude.
If you have an idea for a future Flash Friday story, or something you’d like me to include, then let me know – I love to get prompts for this from other people.