Wonders of the Invisible World
very still, watching Emma come, mist snorting out of its nostrils. It looked like a hunter, Ned guessed, realizing how big it was as Emma, his rangy goddess, moved closer to it.
    “It’s perfect,” Wilding whispered.
    “What?”
    “I wanted a horse just like that to put behind Boudicca.”
    “Good. You’ve found it. You paint it while Miss Slade and I go rowing.”
    “No, I need her—” He started walking again, calling, “Miss Slade!”
    She shook her head as though at a midge. The horse nuzzled her fingers; she stepped closer, running her hands along its mane. Wilding, hurrying so quickly he was nearly running, cried her name again.
    “Miss Slade!”
    She glanced at him finally, her face set and colorless. Then someone else shouted—Noakes, who never raised his voice. She gripped the thick mane, pulled herself up as she must have done countless times as a child, riding the placid farm horses bareback, with an eye-catching flash of knee above her boot before she settled her skirts.
    The horse gathered its muscles, turned, and leaped so cleanly into the mist over the lake that Ned did not hear a sound from the water, and the hatchling ducks floated serenely by, undisturbed. The silence seemed to spread over the world, through Ned’s heart; he couldn’t find a word, a sound, for what he had seen. Beside him, Wilding was as still; he didn’t breathe.
    Only Noakes made noises, dropping something with a clatter, calling incoherently and puffing as he ran out of the boathouse. He stared at the quiet water and cried again, a shocked, harsh noise. Ned moved then, trembling, stumbling, his heart trying to outrace him as he reached the boathouse.
    “Noakes—” he said, gripping the old man. “Noakes—”
    “What was—What happened?” Wilding demanded raggedly.
    “We must go out there—You take one boat, Noakes, we’ll take the other—Hurry!”
    “No time to hurry,” Noakes said, wiping his twitching face. “No place to hurry to. Never,” he added in a whisper, “saw that before in my long life. Heard about them but never thought I’d live to see one.”
    “One what?” Ned cried.
    “Kelpie,” Noakes said. He wiped at his brow, trembling, too; his cap fell on the ground. “I’m sorry, lad.”
    “Kelpie—What’s a kelpie?” Ned asked wildly.
    “What you saw. That white horse. A water sprite. No mercy in them. They lure you onto their backs with their beauty, they carry you into the water, and then—and that’s the end.”
    “What end?” Wilding asked sharply.
    The old eyes, gray as the water, gazed back at Ned with a sheen of tears over them. “In all the tales I ever heard, you drown.”
     
    Emma, after the first gasp of shock from the horse’s sudden plunge into the cold water, was holding her breath. They were going down, she realized, down and down, deeper than the shallows of the lake had any right to be. She had slid off the horse’s back, but her fingers were still locked into its mane. Water weeds trailed past her, and schools of startled fish. The horse, which was behaving like no horse she had ever met in her life, dragged her ruthlessly. It galloped in water effortlessly; she was as buffeted, roiling around its body, as she would have been on land. Sometimes, flung over its outstretched head, she glimpsed a black, wicked eye, a widened nostril, its great muscular neck snaked out, teeth bared. It shook its head now and then, trying to loosen her grip, she thought; she only clung tighter, her lungs on fire, her eyes strained open, round and staring like a fish’s, unable not to look at what could not be possible.
    If I must breathe, so must it, was her only coherent thought; she clung to that as well, ignoring all the implications of the horse’s magic. Beneath that thought lay a confused impulse, a fragment from some fairy tale or another, the only thing shaken to the surface of her mind as the monstrous horse surged into impossible depths and she twisted in the water like

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