Mae Kelvin stood out from the crowd because she had long black hair and blue eyes, and was short and slim. Meanwhile it seemed that all the other inhabitants of the small fishing village of Murpodompous were fair, tall and heavy set. As she grew up, the other children used to tease her saying that she was a monster, or an alien. They said that her mother and father were not really her parents, but had found her in the woods surrounding their village, and being good people took her in and raised her as their own.
When she ran home, crying, and confronted them about what the other children were saying. They simply came and folded their arms around her and told her not to pay attention to the cruel things that children say. But now, she was no longer a child. She was a young woman, and she could see with her own eyes that she did not belong.
Her father had died a number of years earlier in an industrial accident at the nearby factory. Almost every family in the village was affected by the accident, either loosing a loved one, or loosing their income when the factory closed. Mae and her mother made ends meet by running their seamstress business. Most of their customers brought in items that need repair and they would spend every evening sewing to have them ready for the next day. It was tiring, back breaking work, but it kept food on the table.
It was a normal day and and she was helping her mother in their shop, when a local boy, Anders came running in.
"Come and see, come and see," he said excitedly. "You should see his horse. It's amazing!" With that Anders ran out of the shop again.
Mae turned to her mother, "What do you suppose that was all about?"
"I don't know, darling. Perhaps we should have a look. Pack up here and put the closed sign in the door. I'll just get my hat."
They left the shop, and saw that they were not alone in going to investigate. It seemed that all the shopkeepers in Main street had closed up and were streaming toward the Town Square. Mae and her mother followed, to see what the fuss was about.
When they arrived at the Town Square, they were confronted with a wall of people's backs. The entire village had come out to see. As they looked around they saw their friend, and neighbour Nellie Kirwin. They squeezed through the crowd until they reached her.
"Morning Nellie. What's going on?"
"Oh, hello ladies. My son Rowland has just gone for a closer look. It seems we have a visitor. A rather fancy visitor too. He has his own horse, would you believe. "
As they were talking, there was a loud bang, like an explosion. The crowd let out a cry and move back, crushing those behind them in the crowded Town Square. In the confusion that ensued a gap appeared in the crowd, and Mae was able to see what they had all come to look at. There in all its glory was the most magnificent Hydrolic Organic Rotating System Engine (H.O.R.S.E) she had ever seen. It's chassis was bright red and it had chrome exhaust pipes coming from the back, spewing smoke over the crowd. At the steering wheel was a strange looking man who had a tattoo covering the left side of his face. Standing next to the vehicle was a tall man, He was wearing a long silver-grey coat, over an elaborately embroidered green velvet vest. At his throat he wore a crisp white cravat, pin with the most enormous emerald. His shoes were polished red leather, with pointed toes and a shining silver buckle. His left hand was resting on a walking stick with a massive carved handle. He stood there his piecing violet eyes searching the faces of the crowd. His gaze was so intense it seemed to burn through the object of his gaze.
Mae turned to point him out to her mother, but saw that she was already looking. Her face had drained of all its colour. Next thing, she shook her head, and turned to Mae. Mae had never seen her mother look so frightened. She grabbed Mae's wrist and started pulling her through the crowd, away from the Town Square. Her mother didn't let go, or stop pulling her until they were back at their shop. When they got inside, she started up the stairs to their living quarters, saying to her daughter, "Come. We have to pack quickly. We have to leave immediately."
Mae followed her mother to their one room living area and saw her mother quickly putting a loaf of bread and a chunk of cheese into a sack. She then emptied the contents of the cash tin, and put all their money in her purse.
"Mother, what's going on? What's happened? Who was that man? Do you know him? Why is he here?"
"Sorry, darling. I promise I will tell you later. But, for now you just need to trust me when I say that we need to leave, NOW!"
The next thing that Mae knew, she and her mother were walking through the forest surrounding their village. It was hard and slow going, because her mother refused to use the main road, instead forging through creating a new path for themselves. She a walking stick she had brought with her to push past the trees and shrubbery blocking their way. After they passed she would let it drop behind them, so it was impossible to tell that it had ever been disturbed in the first place.
As night set in, she found a small kind of clearing, and said to her daughter.
"We should be safe to stay here for the night. I'm sorry we can't have a fire, because we are still to close to town, and the smoke would be seen. But, we should be fine for one night."
She took out the bread and the cheese, and broke off pieces, giving some to her daughter, and keeping some for herself. She put the remainder back in the sack.
"Eat that my love. We have a lot of walking to do tomorrow, and we need our strength."
Mae dutifully began to eat, but she was already more than curious about what was happening.
"Are you going to tell me now, what is happening? Why did we have to leave?"
"I promise to tell you, my love. But not now, just trust me. Eat that, and try to get some sleep. Here, sleep on this." She took off her cloak and spread it on the ground.
Mae lay down on the cloak, like her mother asked.
"You promise that you will tell me what this is all about?"
"I promise. Now, get some sleep."
Despite the discomfort of sleeping on the ground, and despite the many questions swirling through her mind. Mae was so exhausted from their exertions through the forest, that she feel asleep almost immediately. Her mother however, did not. she sat beside her daughter, with her back resting against a tree, She kept watch over their tiny camp site. She turned her head at every sound to check no one was coming. However, determined as she was to stay alert, and remain vigilant. She too succumbed to her exhaustion and fell asleep.