The island was seemingly deserted as the wife and I stepped from the boat and surveyed the rolling hills. Sand and stone crunched beneath our boots as we walked across the beachhead. Hooking my hands into the straps of my backpack, I took comfort in the familiar weight. Though mostly empty now, it would soon be filled with the wonders of this new land.
Within moments of stepping onto the grassy hills, my wife and I found new forms of plants, flowers that weren’t in any of our guide books, shrubs that looked like twisted versions of those we were familiar with. How many new compounds were we about to discover?
A couple hours were spent scouring that first hill, the wealth of discovery drawing us both in with excitement. I almost missed the horse that peeked at us over the crest of the hill. At least I thought it was a horse. Nudging my wife, I pointed out our guest and we both examined the beast as best we could from our position kneeling in the grass. She saw the look in my eyes and immediately shook her head, trying to convince me out of my plan. I was not to be dissuaded though. I hadn’t spent those months working on my ability to tame wild animals just to turn aside at the first new species we’d ever found.
Ignoring the huff from behind me, I slowly rose from the grasses and walked towards the horse. The coloration of the beast was a fascinating mixture of midnight black with a bronze wire pattern that adorned the back of the beast. As I drew closer, the pattern solidified into one I knew well. It was a steambeast. Hidden on this grassy island in the middle of nowhere, one of the ancient creations stood watching me approach. Magic creations of this level hadn’t been seen in the wild in ages, so what was it doing here.
Reaching the crest of the hill, I was a mere dozen paces away from steambeast. My eyes tracked the seemless, flawless work along the flank of the creature. It was only my study of history and magic that told me this wasn’t a nature beast. The work was perfection. Slowly, I took another couple of steps closer, making sure to move slowly and keep my hands in sight. The steambeast watched me, one eye always tracking my movements, the other on the surroundings.
A tingle ran through me as I finally managed to rest a hand along the flank of the beast. It was smooth and warm to the touch, thrumming with magic and energy just beneath the surface. Here, in this moment, the true nature of the beast was most apparent. There was no breath, nary a sound from the beast, which I found odd considering it was supposed to be powered by steam, at least according to the archives.
The workmanship was exquisite, the detail sublime as I ran my hands along the main adorning the beautiful creature’s head. Even the movements, the shivering flank, the flicking ear, the lashing tail, all rendered in fine detail. Flesh rendered in metal though, no matter how finely done, would never truly feel like flesh. Still, I was in awe at the treasure I’d found.
Suppressing a quite unmanly giggle, I gave myself only a moment to consider backing away before surging forward, leaping atop the beast. Half remembered riding lessons were dredged forth as I tried to mount the beautiful creation. For a moment it turned its head, looking back at me as if weighing my soul. Then the moment passed and it turned to head towards where my wife was standing with mouth agape and wide eyes.
I just hoped there was enough room in the boat.