We're the only child of a farming family, and the story kicks off when our grumpy neighbour, a dairy farmer, shows up for their regular milk delivery with his cart drawn by a magnificent stallion. It's not really an ordinary horse, of course: it's either a kelpie or the more malignant cousin of the kelpie, the each-uisge. Either way, it's a creature known for its malice towards humans, and it's now, somehow, suffering at the hands of our neighbour. What follows is a choice-based narrative concerned with our relationship with this fae beast.
It could be read as an exercise in morality. The kelpie/each-uisge is certainly wicked; it has harmed others, it feels no remorse, and it will do so again. But can you stand to see it slowly waste away under a master who, as far as I can tell, does not particularly care whether or not the creature deserves such cruel treatment?
Or you can just enjoy the ride as a fairy story or folktale, such as might have been collected by W.B. Yeats at the turn of the last century. The time period isn't specified, but the incidental details feel right, and that goes a long way towards immersion. As such, I found the story quite charming.
Comparisons must be made to The Warbler's Nest from IFComp 2010. Both stories make excellent use of Celtic folklore, weaving superstition into the fabric of a reality that might have been as recent as a hundred years ago, with an undercurrent of unease. But where The Warbler's Nest takes our modern, scientific outlook to cast its protagonist's superstition as potentially horrific, Each-Uisge makes it plain that the supernatural elements here are real. The question is reversed: it is not a matter of how folkloric beliefs stand up to modern reality, but how modern sympathies stand up to a reality where these same beliefs are real.
In reviewing The Warbler's Nest, I suggested that it might be compared to a breakfast of oatcakes and farmer's sausage and ... something that may or may not be apple juice. Each-Uisge is much the same, but this time we know for a fact that the glass does, in fact, contain apple juice. On the other hand, we also know for a fact exactly how the farmer's sausage was made, and which animal had to be slaughtered to make it.