By the time Bull was born, the herd had forgotten how they came to the forest.
Oh sure, some of the old timers would tell them stories of how they came from a place of human doctors giving them all the worst hurties for ‘experimentations’, whatever those were. Or some would say they use to be forced to give each other bad special-huggies, only to have their babbehs ripped away from before their mummahs even got a chance to smell them.
Whatever the story, there was one constant, that a brave stallion named Nova led his herd out of their prison and into the forest, finding this oasis of safety amongst tall trees and thick bushes. The survivors promised they would never face pain like that again and settled into their new home, Nova took charge as the herd’s first Smarty-Friend and lay down the rules by which their herd would govern themselves.
The first and most important rule was that no Fluffy was to ever venture beyond the boundaries of the tree-line, for in doing so would risk the mean humans finding the herd and subjecting them all to pain and misery once more.
Any Fluffy that crossed that line of their homeland, would never be allowed back in.
Bull and his two brothers were born during the time of Nova The Third, and while the truth of the herd’s origins had been lost to time, the fear of the unknown had not, and every day, the herd prepared themselves for whatever came their way. Nova The Third had decreed, as his father did, and his father before him did, that all stallions train for combat, with the biggest and strongest stallions becoming part of his personal guard, one of the highest honours he could bestow upon a Fluffy.
When Bull and his brothers, Boar and Rooster, came of age, they were invited to take parts in the trials to become Guard Fluffies, two tests; one of strength and one of stealth, to decide if a stallion had what it took to protect the herd. Rooster, being the smallest of the brothers, passed his stealth test easily, but struggled in the fighting ring, he was denied placement in the guard but offered the specialty post of Look-out so as to warn the herd of encroaching dangers.
Boar fared a lot better, his natural ferocity meant that he passed the strength test with ease, and he was surprisingly light on his feet during the stealth task. His placement within the Guards was well-earned. As too should’ve been Bull’s, his hulking bulk meant that the fighting ring would be no problem for him, and despite his size, his natural brown coat and black mane meant that he would be just as well-hidden as his smaller brothers. He should’ve easily made the ranks, potentially even being placed under direct command of Head Toughy Bark to replace him one day.
Which is why everyone was shocked when Bull denied the request for the trials.
Bull promised to train with the herd and defend it if called upon, but he had to desire to join the Guard Ranks, not when his beloved special-friend Snowdrop had told him that morning that they were expecting their first litter. Bull might have looked tough, but his heart was gentle, and right now all he wanted to be was a dad.
Of course that was before Bull realised that even a gentle heart can be poisoned by hatred.
It was a cool day when everything changed. The hot-times were slowly coming to an end, the leaves were turning brown, and Bull’s foals were two months old by this point, old enough to no longer need their mother’s milk, but still young enough that most of their day was filled with playtime and little else.
Bull woke that morning earlier than the rest of his family, not wanting to rouse their peaceful slumber, he took a walk in the dawn light towards a special part of the herd’s home. A patch of dirt with twigs and sticks stuck into the ground, all sticking straight up, it was the closest thing the herd had to a graveyard, and it was where the Fluffies would come to remember their fallen friends and family.
Bull carefully walked across the hallowed place and sat down in front of two sticks, both standing so close to each other that parts of them were touching. The graves of both his parents, his mother Pinecone, and his father Renyard, both had died during the last winter, Pinecone being one of the older Fluffies had ensured that everyone else ate before her, to the point of her own starvation, and Renyard had pushed himself too hard in the bitter cold, ending up frozen in the woods looking for food.
Neither Bull nor his brothers would say it out loud, but they all believed their father pushed himself harder to be reunited with their mother that much quicker in Sketti-Land.
“Hewwo mummah, hewwo daddeh. Buww hope yu twu am gud dis bwite-time. Buww babbehs am duin su gud, wittew Petaw du bestesh dancies wast dawk-time. Buww wan mummah an daddeh tu see babbehs, dey gib yu bov da biggesh heawt-happies.”
Bull jumped and turned to the voice, feeling himself relax when he saw the smiling face of his brother Boar. Where Bull was a hulking brown earthie, Boar was a dirty black unicorn with a dark green mane and a cruel glint in his eyes, not that Bull needed to be afraid of his brother, on the contrary he trusted Boar with his life. It was the lives of anyone who threatened the herd he felt sorry for. Boar was naturally gifted at fighting and never felt more at peace than when he was at war.
Bull never claimed to understand his brother, but he loved him all the same.
“Wai Boah am wakies befowe bwite-baww?”
“On doo-tee, wookin fow meanies an dummehs. Wai am Buww wakies?”
“Nu can sweepies, fink bout mummah an daddeh?”
Boar walked over and sat down beside his brother. “Boah miss dem tuu, bu dey be gun wun cowd-time an awmosh wun hot-time. Wai bwudda finkies bout dem nyo?”
“Nu knyo. Fink cos Buww am daddeh nyo, make him fink bout Fwuffies daddeh, how he nu couwd be wivout mummah. Buww neba undastan, but fink du nyo. Nu knyo wha du if aneefing happen tu Snowdwop ow babbehs.”
Boar sat in silence for a moment, letting Bull’s words wash over him. He wasn’t a father himself, one of the rules of being a Guard Fluffy was that none of them were allowed children so as not to distract them from their duty, but Bull was and he could see how much that meant to his brother.
“Nu wowwies. Anee meanie twy huwt bwudda ow famiwy, den Boah gib dem wowstesh huwties.”
Bull laughed. “Buww bewieve yu du dat. Wet’s gu bak, fink it time fow bwite-time nummies.”
With a final goodbye to their parents graves, Bull and Boar walked side by side as they returned to their herd, unaware of the small pair of eyes watching them from afar.
A young voice piped up and four little figures rushed over to Bull, his babbehs, his pride and joy, two colts and two fillies, three of them were earthies like him, one of the fillies was a Pegasus like her mother. Bull laughed at the onslaught and lay down, letting his children attack him with cuddles.
“Babbehs wakies an daddeh nu dewe. Hab biggesh scawdies.” One of his sons, a dark green colt called Bracken whined out. “Mummah su nu tu wowwy bu Bwacken stiww du.”
“Bwudda am dummeh.” His other son, a light grey colt called Storm spoke with a puffed up chest. “Stowm knyo daddeh am awwight.”
Snowdrop stepped behind her sons and placed a hoof on Storm’s back. “Stowm, say sowwy tu bwudda, he nu dummeh, he wowwy bout daddeh, dat am gud fing.”
Storm dropped his head shamefully. “Sowwy Bwacken, nu mean tu be meanie.”
“It ok bwudda, Bwacken knyo nyo dat daddeh am stwong enuff tu wook afta sewf.”
Bull’s earthie daughter, a brown filly called Chestnut turned to Boar and smiled. “Fank yu fow findin daddeh Mistah Boah.”
Boar laughed. “It am ok, yuw daddeh mite be bigga, bu Boah stiww come out of mummah fiwst, he stiww am Boah wittew bwudda. Speekin of, yu seen Woosta?”
Snowdrop nodded and pointed towards the nearby river stream that ran through the herd’s home. “He tawkies tu Toowip gain.”
Boar chuckled. “Dummeh need gu poopies ow git out of wittabox. Boah gu kick his poopie-pwace, bye Buww, bye Snowdwop, bye babbehs.”
“Bye Mistah Boah!” Three of the four babbehs all shouted out and waved, the last one, the only Pegasus of the four, and a white mare like her mother called Ammi, could only chirp goodbye to her uncle and waved her stumpy little leg at him. Bull looked down at Ammi and nuzzled her with his nose. She giggled at his soft touch.
‘Peep peep, chirp, peep.”
Bull laughed before looking up at Snowdrop and nuzzling her. “Sowwy speciaw-fwiend, Buww nu wan wakies yu an babbehs, wook su pwecious wen yu aww sweepin.”
“It ok speciaw-fwiend, Snowdwop fink yu wiv Pinecone an Wenyawd. An Snowdwop knyo dey be so pwoud of Buww bein daddeh.”
Bull laughed again. “Fank yu speciaw-fwiend, am babbehs gu dis bwite-time?”
Snowdrop nodded, looking over as her children began playing together, Chestnut and Bracken ran around while Storm carried the much smaller Ammi around on his back, chasing after them both.
“Dey gud, hab gud nummies wen wakies, eben Ammi twy some bewwy nummies afta mummah cwush dem wittew bit.”
Bull smiled, he was glad Ammi was open to trying new things. She seemed fine when she was born but she grew a lot slower than her siblings and even now still couldn’t talk properly, some of the older Fluffies said she was a ‘sensitive babbeh’, one that would never full grow up, always be in some state of infanthood. It had hurt the pair to hear but their home was safe, they could afford the time to look after her, and while it was slow-going, gentle encouragement from her parents and sibling had allowed Ammi the chance to venture away from her mother and explore their nearby surroundings.
She didn’t like to go too far, and likely would always need some form of help, but she wasn’t as much of a helpless case as the pair had been told.
“Buww gun git sum nummies, du speciaw-fwiend wan aneefing.”
Snowdrop shook her head. “Nu fank yu, jus gun watch babbehs pway.”
The pair nuzzled again before Bull went over to the nummie pile, taking one last look back at his perfect family before turning back towards his breakfast.
Bull pulled some soft leaves and a couple of berries out of the nummie pile and lay down to chew on them, it wasn’t the most exciting of meals, but it was enough for him. Having been a feral all his life, Bull never thought about skettis or kibble or anything like that, he was conceptually aware of them, but with no frame of reference he had no idea what he was missing.
As he slowly took in his breakfast, he felt someone sit down next to him, he looked over and saw Nova The Third, the current Smarty-Friend, laying down beside him.
“Smawty, am Buww inyuw way, can move if…”
The aging Fluffy shook his head and chuckled. “It ok Buww, yu stay. An namesie am Noba Thwee, teww yu dis befowe.”
“Sowwy Smawty… sowwy Noba Thwee, Buww stiww fink yu as Smawty.”
“Stiww am, nu fow wong, bu stiww am.”
Nova The Third looked across the way to where his son, Nova The Forth was training with Head Toughy Bark, he was to become the new Smarty-Friend soon, Nova The Third was getting old and wanted to step aside so his son could get the chance to lead.
“Noba Thwee hab gud wife, am happy tu see babbeh git be Smawty-Fwiend, hope hab waised him wight.”
“He gud Fwuffy.” Bull offered the old stallion. “If he hawf da stawwion him daddeh is, hewd wiww be safe.”
Nova Three laughed. “Ha, be betta if Buww was Tuffy, yu am biggesh, stwongesh Fwuffy in hewd, wai yu nu wan be Tuffy?”
“Bwudda Boah am Tuffy, he big an stwong, an he wike gibben huwties tu bad Fwuffies. Bwudda Woostah am awso Tuffy, he nu big enuff tu be wun, bu he hab heawt of Tuffy. Buww nu hab Tuffy heawt, nu wan gib huwties, wiww du if haft u, wiww pwotek hewd, bu nu wan gu wook fow huwties.”
Nova Three chuckled. “Maybe hewd need mowe Fwuffies wike yu.”
Before Bull could answer him, they were interrupted by a loud whine.
“Boah, weave Woosta awone, nu wan pway dummeh gamesie.”
“Gamesie nu am dummeh, bwudda am dummeh.”
Bull rolled his eyes. “Sowwy Noba Thwee, need gu tawkie tu bwuddas.”
Nova laughed. “Noba Thwee hab fouw bwuddas, rememba fighties aww tuu weww.”
Bull gave a respectful nod to the aging Smarty and ran off towards the noise, he found Boar and Rooster by the stream, Rooster fruitlessly trying to avoid Boar’s teasing, all while the black unicorn teased his smaller, green brother.
Rooster spotted Bull and rushed over to him. “Buww, pwease hewp, bwudda Boah am bein meanie.”
“Nu am bein meanie, Woosta bein dummeh.”
Bull sighed. “Wha am Boah duin?”
“Woosta tawkies tu Toowip, an Boah stawt bein meanie, tawkies bout wub and speciaw-fwiends an sing meanie songs.”
Bull turned to Boar. “Songs?”
Boar smirked, completely unfazed by the accusation as he began to sing. “Woosta an Tuuwip, sittin in a twee, enf, enf, enf, enf, enf, enf, enf.”
“SEE!” Rooster called out a little louder than he planned to. “Am su embawwassin.”
Boar scoffed. “Yu da wun whu am embawwessin, wai yu nu eben ask Tuuwip if she wan be speciaw-fwiend yet?”
“Cos… it am hawd. Tuuwip am bestesh fwiend, Woosta nu wan wose dat if she nu wan be speciaw-fwiends.”
Bull lay a comforting hand on his brother’s shoulder. “If she nu knyo yu wan be speciaw-fwiend, den she onwy eba see yu as weguwa fwiend, an she go wook fow udda stawwion tu be speciaw-fwiend. It am scawy, bu nu as scawy as bwudda fink. Yu jus need tawkies tu hew.”
Rooster frowned. “Ee-see fow bwudda tu say, yu nu hab dummeh bwudda makin dummeh songs. Tuuwip nu wan tawkies tu Woosta eba gain.”
Bull looked up and smiled. “Am Woosta suwe bout dat?”
Confused, Rooster looked up and felt his heart skip as he saw Tulip standing in front of him, a shy smile on her soft pink face. “Hewwo Woosta, can Tuuwip tawkies tu yu… awone.”
Rooster could only nod, not trusting his tongue to say anything for him. With a dazed look on his face, he followed Tulip down the stream, away from his brothers. Bull and Boar watched them leave both with shit-eating grins on their faces.
Boar leaned into Bull. “Boah say dey hab tummeh-babbehs befowe dawk-times?”
Bull scoffed. “Yu am siwwy. Dey hab tummeh-babbehs befowe wunch.”
Between the two brothers cackling laughter and the soft running of the stream, no-one came close to hearing a soft pair of footsteps running away from the herd.
In another part of the forest, a different herd had gathered, there were strangers in a strange land, unknown and unwelcome in these parts, but circumstances and desperation had brought them here, and there weren’t returning home empty-handed.
There was 12 of them, all stallions, all filth-ridden and encrusted with blood, some of it their own, most of it not, and every one of them was an Alicorn, a choice made by their leader to ensure only the best Fluffies was part of his herd.
The soft-footsteps grew louder, the herd prepared themselves but were relieved to see it was Jimson, one of their own. He rushed through the guards and ran straight to their leader.
“Niteshade, Jimson hab newsies, da hewd am soft, hab wots of nummies an babbeh. Hewd can take dem ee-see.”
The herd’s leader, a dark purple Alicorn with a bright yellow mane, turned around, Jimson shivered at the sight of his king, the entire left side of his face torn and burnt away by abuse the likes of which none of them could comprehend, scars littered his body, patches of skin carved away brutally, and an iron nail pierced through his front left hoof, still embedded in the limb, the still sharp point reaching out through the leathery bottom of his hoof, too painful to keep in, too agonising to take out.
This was Nightshade, their Smarty, their king.
“Gud.” He growled out, the left side of his face still paralysed from his injuries. “Weady da hewd, we move out soon.”
“Wememba, we am wingies AN pointies, best of bov fings. We am fasta, stwonga, an betta dan dem dummehs.”
“Of couwse Niteshade, Jimson git hewd weady.”
Jimson bowed to his leader and ran off to ready the armada. Nightshade took in a deep breath and smiled, he could already taste blood on the air.
Today was going to be a good day.
I’ve begun to feel burnout creeping up on me again, plus I’ve started my attempts at a first novel (would you believe me if I said it was aimed at a teenage audience) so I’ve decided rather than avoiding Fluffies altogether, I’ll do work on smaller pieces rather than focussing on connected works like Jonathan or Travis.
Apologies to anyone waiting on their continuations, but my headspace isn’t cut out right now to focus on works that big. They will return in time, but until then enjoy these unrelated works while I fool myself into thinking I can be a fucking professional for once in my life.