Gwen could barely remember the time before the other Herd arrived.
She had just been a little babbeh at the time, eyes open but not yet talking, not that it would matter if she did or not, she’d been ostracised by her family for being a monster. Her mother Mallory refused to nurse her half the time and moaned about it the other half, her three brothers; Agra, Gareth and Bors, paid no attention to her while her sister Fay wasn’t above pushing Gwen around whilst loudly proclaiming herself as ‘Bestesh Babbeh’ due to her being the mirror image of Mallory’s green fluff.
Had it not been for the fact that the Smarty leader Mord was her father, she might have been killed before she even opened her eyes. She was the first monster born to the herd since Mord’s father who had been killed in a coup by his own son, while Fluffy brains are hard-wired to hurt monsters, Mord decreed that Gwen was to live, if only so that there was an extra set of hoofs come the cold-times.
While Mord might have saved Gwen from going forever sleepies, he did nothing to save her from the constant abuse and neglect she faced. He might have been her father, but she was not his daughter.
They were a modest herd of 7 Fluffies, Mord was the leader, a black unicorn with a green mane. Mallory was his special-friend and leader of the mares, she was a dark green Pegasus with a white mane. Mord’s second in command was an earthie Toughie called Malea, his fur was a rich dark red with a purple mane, his mate was Nell, a cream coloured unicorn with a tan mane.
Two stallion brothers made up the nummie finders, Brunor and Daniel, both were unicorns – although Gwen swore she saw two scars on Brunor’s back where wings should be – and both a dark blue colour, Brunor had an orange mane while Daniel had a red one, it was often difficult to tell them apart.
Final member of the herd was Elaine, a bright yellow earthie mare with a light red mane, she didn’t have a special-friend but she was still pregnant, very early in her pregnancy but she still had tummeh-babbehs. Nobody knew who the father was but whispers in the herd were that Mord had paid her a visit. Of course nobody could confirm this and neither Mord nor Elaine gave the rumours and credence.
Still, she was barely into marehood, far too young for anyone to make her a soon-mummah, even a Smarty.
The area they lived in was an overgrown brush of trees and grass, and while there was evidence of humans – a rusted car and some glass bottles covered in so much dirt you’d assume they were always brown – the place had long been abandoned, some of the younger Fluffies had never even seen a human before.
Being so deep in the trees, the Fluffies were alone for the most part, aside from Mord, Mallory and Malea, every Fluffy that had joined the herd had done so by getting loss and being offered a place to stay. At least Gwen hoped they were offered, Mord didn’t exactly seem like giving type. The solitude meant that they were never short on food or water, the flowers and berries were plentiful, the grass nummies were tall and fresh all year round and there was a small river flowing through the middle of their territory so they always had something to drink.
It took Mord a long time to convince the Fluffies not to be scared of the water, and even longer to remind them to be cautious around it. Thankfully only one mare died trying to drink all the water to stop it flowing so it was no big loss to the herd.
But as it turned out, that stream would hold the start of the herd’s problems when Daniel spotted another herd making their way through the trees.
“SMAWTY! SMAWTY COME FAS!”
Mord sprinted down to the stream, the rest of the herd following close behind. Mallory still had most of her litter on her back with only Gwen left behind, she toddled along, wanting to see where her mother was going.
When Mord arrived the second herd had lined up along the other side of the river, there was eight of them, four stallions and four mares, in the middle of them was a brown unicorn with a cream coloured mane, he was surprisingly big for a Fluffy but he had a smile on his face.
“Hewwo nyu fwiends, am Awtha, nu wan twoubew, jus wookin fow nyu homesies.”
Arthur took the time to introduce his herd, all of them with very strange names that Gwen had never heard before. The three toughie stallions were Lancelot (A red Pegasus with yellow mane), Tristen (a green earthie with an orange mane) and Percival (a yellow Pegasus with black mane). Standing with them were their respective special friends, Gaine (A white unicorn with a lilac mane), Issy (A pink earthie with purple mane) and Fluer (An orange earthie with a white mane). And rounding out the herd, standing as close to Arthur’s side as possible, was Merlin, an elderly Alicorn with grey fluff, a white mane and a scar over his right eye, to the foals he was scary looking, but to Gwen who had never seen another ‘monster’ before, he was the most interesting Fluffy she’d ever seen.
Once Arthur had introduced his herd, Mord stared him down and snorted. “Dummeh hewd hab poopie as Smawty, poopies nu can be Smawty. Mowd am pwopa Smawty, dis Mowd wand, poopie hewd weave nyo.”
Surprisingly Arthur kept a level-head, smiling as though he’d heard this exact statement several times before. “Nu wan twoubew, dis am Mowd wand, Awtha nu wan. Hab found nestie nu faw fwom wawa, onwy wan knyo if Mowd hewd be ney-bohw.”
Mord’s nostrils flared. “DAT AM SMAWTY WAND TUU.”
Arthur looked at him puzzled. “Nyu nestie am Smawty wand? Den wai nu Fwuffies guawden it?”
“Aww Twee-pwace wand am Smawty wand. Mowd hab biggesh wand of aww Fwuffies.”
Arthur turned round to Merlin, the two Fluffies spoke in hushed whispers so nobody else could hear them, after a moment Arthur turned back to Mord.
“Awtha hewd gib pwetty fings as pay fow bein on Mowd wand.”
Merlin – from seemingly nowhere that Gwen could see – presented a small, metallic yellow circle and handed it to Mord. The circle was a little dirty but it still caught the sunlight well, there was human writing on it but no-one could read it.
While the adults were distracted by the shiny object, Gwen was sure she saw Arthur and Merlin smirk.
Mord looked up. “Poopie Fwuffies hab mowe?”
“Can git mowe, wiww gib if awwowed tu stay?”
Mord thought about it for a moment, before sneering at Arthue.
“Poopie Fwuffy hab to say dat Mowd am twue Smawty.”
Lancelot jumped forward. “Yu nyu twue Smawty, yu jus buwwy.”
Arthur stopped his Toughie from jumping the river and attacking Mord, with grace and calm he simply nodded at Mord.
“Mowd am Smawty, dis am Mowd wand. Awtha hewd am gessts, tweat Mowd wiv wespek.”
Satisfied with the ass-kissing, Mord pointed to the stream.
“Poopie hewd stay on DAT side of wawa, Smawty hewd stay on dis side wiv da gud-nummies. If poopie hewd cwoss wawa, den poppie hewd gu foweba sweepies.”
Arthur and his herd accepted the rules and made to leave back to their nest, Mord turned back first, fed up of dealing with the intruders, the rest of his herd followed quickly. All but Gwen who looked over at the Arthur as he was leaving, the brown stallion smiled sweetly at her and gave her a small wave. Gwen waves back as her little mind formed her very first word.
Mallory smacked her in the back of the head. “Dummeh munstah, wastin fiwst tawkie on poopie hewd, mummah nu wub munstah babbeh.”
“Bu mummah, babbeh wub yu. Onwy wan huggies and wub.”
Mallory sneered at her daughter. “If munstah wan huggies den she can hug poopie hewd.”
“Mummah.” Fay piped up from the nape of her mother’s neck. “Wai dummeh hewd hab poopie Smawty?”
“Mummah nu knyo bestesh babbeh. Poopie hewd jus dummehs, poopies Fwuffies nu can be Smawty’s, nu wight. Speciaw-fwiend Smawty pwotect hewd fwom dummehs.”
As it turned out, Mord never had to protect the herd, as from that point on the two groups barely interacted aside from the occasional share of the river and the pretty objects they gave Mord as payment. Whenever the herds saw each other, Mord’s Fluffies would growl and act threatening, whereas Arthur’s Fluffies would remain either ignorant or occasionally friendly depending on who it was at the time.
Gwen never talked to the other herd, but she remained courteous to them at all times, waving and smiling whenever she saw them. Annoyingly this gave Fay more ammunition to bully her with.
As the days and weeks went by, Gwen got the feeling that Mord was furious that Arthur’s herd was so well-mannered. Anytime something went wrong he tried to blame the problems on them, looking for any excuse to attack them, but while Fluffies are dumb, they do require some base evidence to outlandish claims and Mord could never provide anything. After a while he stopped trying and just accepted the pretty objects with reluctant acceptance. Things seemed to be tense, but manageable.
That is until one day, about six months after Arthur’s herd arrived, the pretty objects stopped coming.