Beast liked to think of himself as a white horse.
He had arrived on these two words to describe who, and what, he was, without consulting anyone more learned and both the words were varying degrees of wrong. He was not really white, but rather, dirty gray. And there were serious doubts about whether he indeed was a horse at all or not. Perhaps he was a donkey. Maybe even a mule. Being a donkey would have been definitely better than being a mule. Both, however, would have been considerably worse than being a horse. But these things had not been properly explained to Beast.
He could be certain about his name, Beast, because that is what his old master used to call him. Beast had heard orders such as “Come over here, you dumb beast!” or “Stop biting, you ugly beast!” or “If you bolt one more time and get lost, you stupid beast, I will just let you starve out there and not come looking for you! I’m warning you, you stupid beast!” innumerable times.
But the warnings did not come to any good. Because Beast had indeed bolted again. And then he had gotten lost.
But he was not starving. What he was doing was going along neigh-neighingly about his merry away, without a worry in the world. He had lush green meadows to run through and soft green grass to eat and to rest upon. He had the cooling shade of trees to hide from rains and streamlets to drink from. And he could relieve himself whenever and wherever – no longer constrained by whatever arbitrary rules his old master set.
As he pranced along the lush green meadow, he thought about all his heroes and idols and how, now, with his newly found freedom, he just needed to find the right master and they together would be off on their own great adventure as well. Sure, Beast had no wings. So he could never help his master fly atop a mountain like Pegasus had, or traverse great distances quickly like Al-Buraq or Devadutta had done. He also had only four legs and one head, so he could not have been the second coming of either Sleipnir or Uchchaihshravas.
But Beast was not bothered. There were plenty of horses with four legs and one head and no wings that had done great deeds who Beast could look up to for inspiration. He had to think no further than his two great heroes, Shadowfax and Roheryn. Of course, he preferred Shadowfax because he was the Chief of Mearas, the king of the horses, and Roheryn started off as just a steed of a lady. A king! Who had ever heard of a horse king? But that was Shadowfax! The king of Mearas!
But still, Beast had a soft corner for Roheryn. He took solace from Roheryn’s tale. It showed him how a steed was nothing without an equally heroic master. Roheryn, bred to be Arwen’s steed, was looking at a very boring life of prancing around at tea parties and having sleepovers with other steeds in some castle’s stable. It was only after Arwen gifted Roheryn to her love, Aragorn, did Roheryn’s life turn around. Beast knew he was due something similar.
He, Beast, had always been a beast of burden. Ever since he could remember. His master was a farmer and he used beast to carry around heavy loads as well as help sow the land. He had a stable to himself back in the farm where he used to be locked up. He had to be locked in because beast was a free-spirited stallion. Or a donkey. Perhaps even a mule.
Being locked-up was not his becoming. He was a dreamer after all, and patience was not his strongest virtue. During his servitude, he dreamt of the day he would finally be set free. Just like Roheryn was set free by Arwen and given to Aragorn. Or Hengroen, carrying King Arthur through his kingdom. And therefore, any chance he got, Beast bolted, throwing caution to the wind, looking for his next great adventure. His first great adventure.
But of course, he could never bolt fast enough or long enough, and master would always catch up to him and punt him between his legs to bring his adventure to a premature end and then drag him back to his stable. Then, one day, during another one of his escapades, instead of chasing after him, master egged him on, “Go on, you beast, run away! Run far far away. Don’t you ever come back!”
And so he had.
And so he had gotten lost.
And discovered freedom.
And freedom was great. But Beast knew that his true potentials could only be realized with the right master riding him. He had spent a week dividing his time between cantering or trotting or prancing about. They all bought him joy. But now he was ready to find a master. He knew about Boxer and knew he would be exploited without a good master.
Back in the stable, he had given up often. If I cannot have great adventures, he had once thought, I can still be a great-thinkers like the Houyhnhnms. But there was not much to think about in a stable. That is actually when he had started reading – after giving up on life. And only later realized that he could be one of the Houyhnhnms. And much later, that he would rather be Bucephalus, travelling the world with a new master, leaving nothing but victory and conquest and their wake.
And so, he knew, he had to get away.
And so, he had started bolting at every opportunity he got.
And as he ran away, a week ago, he told himself, “Well, this is it, Beast. You have made it. No one is going to slap your ass anymore to get you moving or punch you beneath your ears to make you stop. It’s all looking up from now on.”
New master or not, every time Beast thought about his daring escape, he could not but feel reenergized. Optimistic, about what the future held. He did a happy neigh-neigh-neigh and jumped on his hind legs for a second and started prancing through the meadow, swishing his tail around from left to right to left to right. Tossing head around from right to left to right to left. He had a gut feeling, as horses destined for greatness usually did, that his great adventure was just around the corner.
And verily, he had only just begun to prance around when he noticed a man approaching him with what else but a sword in hand.