Her unfulfilling yet quiet life is suddenly shattered when her step-mare Lilith joins the Elf Prince Rillian in overthrowing his ruling family with the help of the vicious Dragon Lords.
Wanting to bring back true magic to the Elves through Egoraven’s mixed blood, Rillian tries to take the half-unicorn princess for himself but instead Egoraven flees from the valley with her uncle Amadaeo by her side.
Now forced to face an unknown, outside world, Egoraven and Amadaeo wander the realm in search of any opportunity to return to Edinrahn and restore the Valley to its former glory.
EGORAVEN is rated PG
Edinrahn: The valley where the Unicorns and Elves live. It is an area with deep magic and any mortal who crosses its borders become trapped for eternity, much to the delight of the Elves. All mortals who know better steer clear of Edinrahn’s borders and no roads even dare come near it. Only the Unicorns have been known to venture outside of the Valley but they are not known to stay very long away.
Eihdans: Elves – Although they look like the traditional elves of lore, the Eihdans, thanks to their obsession with humans, have become basically humans themselves. They are in deep denial about it though. Generations of crossbreeding has dwindled their magic to near nothing, but enough for the Valley to keep them prisoner. Elf, elves, and derivatives are the Human words for the Eihdans.
Raikashans: Dragons – Humanoid dragons believed to be direct descendants of the First Dragon Miraon. A vicious and jealous race kept alive by the magic they possess, which is just as well since oddly enough, there are no female Raikashans. In the Human tongue they are known simply as the Dragon Lords.
Rakans: Raptors – a slave race of half-dragons that were allegedly created by the Raikashans. Fierce but not very intelligent which makes them even more dangerous as they are prone to impulsive attacks even on each other.The word Raptor is the Human word for the Rakans.
Arisyan: Unicorns – Direct descendants of Arias, the First Unicorn. They only exist along with the Elves in Edinrahn. They are both revered and feared by the outside world. Not only have unicorns come to the aid of humans in the past, they are also known to kidnap them for the insatiable appetites of the Elves. The word Unicorn is the Human word for the Arisyans.
Arias: The First Unicorn – According to legend she is the first creature created by Helo, the Sun God. She was created to protect the first humans but when the willful creatures decided to live their lives on their own terms, Arias disappeared into the celestial world but not before leaving her mark with the Arisyans.
Douban: Animal people – This is the human word for any mix human/animal being, or any animal that has human sentience, especially the ability to talk. The word is also shortened to “dob” however this usage is mostly used as a slur.
Miraon: The First Dragon – she was created by the jealous Leda, the moon queen after she saw how Helo treated his new world and new pets. Miraon wanted the sun god’s attention as well but her dark nature kept that from ever happening. Instead, she went after Arias . A great battle occurred between the dragon and the unicorn, with Arias emerging as victor. Legend has it that the magic of Edinrahn is a direct result of Miraon dying in that valley, which is why Edinrahn is so valuable to the Dragon Lords who view Edinrahn as their birthright.
Helo: The Sun God aka The Creator – worshiped by mortals, Humans especially. Although the Elves and the Unicorns know of him as being more than just an object of worship, they do not revere him.
Leda: The Moon Queen aka The Night Goddess – worshiped by mortals, Humans especially although not in equal fervor as with Helo although no one considers Helo complete without her.
My name is Daphne Lage and I am a professional cartoonist, illustrator and fantasy artist located in New York.
I have created artwork from comic book work to children’s illustration for various companies. I am mostly known for my self-published comic title TALL TAILS and numerous pieces commissioned for private collections.
I specialize in traditional media with an emphasis on pen and ink illustration with digital coloring but I have also worked in color pencils, markers, and watercolor.
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EGORAVEN: Heir of the First Unicorn
Desmond searched the house making the last preparations for his trip. Travelling to the Upper Kingdom was a long journey and he didn’t want to find out midway that he had forgotten something important. His stomach quivered with a combination of nervousness and excitement. After all the hard work, all the studying, it was all paying off. Desmond was on his way to advance his training, taking his magic to a level he thought he would never reach.
Gunther was fussing over him like a mother hen, following his every move, double-checking his belongings, fretting over his clothing. Desmond couldn’t help but find the situation humorous. He had never seen his teacher display anything beyond mild amusement. Even then it would quickly disappear in favor of a harsher emotion. Today he showed a rare side to him. It was a proud moment for the old wizard whose apprentice would be leaving for a prestigious and powerful kingdom, adding to his own reputation as well. They would be holding a grand ceremony to welcome him in. Wild horses could not keep Gunther from being there.
They both walked outside still surprised by the luxurious carriage that waited for them. A coachman was busy settling in their luggage inside a compartment on its roof, while another was double checking the horses’ harness.
“I still can’t believe this is happening,” Desmond said to his teacher who chuckled in reply.
“Don’t be,” Gunther answered. “I told you from the very beginning that you have what it takes. It’s only going to get better from here. You just needed the right motivation.”
A twinge of melancholy rose in Desmond’s chest as he watched Gunther give the coachman one more bag. Gunther couldn’t even fathom what Desmond had to go through to get that motivation, or realize what a price it had entailed.
“Well, are you just going to stand there? It’s time to go!” Gunther’s waving snapped Desmond out of his thoughts. Satisfied they had gotten everything, the young man turned, locking the door to the cottage. It would be a long while before he saw this place again, if at all.
Desmond grabbed the carriage door. Pausing, he looking in the direction past his house towards the river. Hannah had stopped coming around after their last meeting. Several attempts at finding her yielded no clues as to the unicorn’s whereabouts. With him leaving it would be impossible to see her one last time. The realization made him let out a heavy sigh.
“You take care of her and her baby Alaric,” Desmond spoke under his breath so no one would hear. “And you take care of yourself Hannah. I hope you’re okay.”
Climbing into the carriage with his excited teacher, Desmond looked out the window, mixed emotions welling inside. With a sudden lurch, the carriage moved forward. He watched the cottage that had been his home for the past several years disappear as they started their journey to new lives of their own.
It was time to stop thinking about unicorns.
The leaves began to turn a blazing red and gold, welcoming the autumn season. The wind sharpened its bite yet it would still be a while before any winter snow would be seen.
Desmond’s studies had been coming along quite well, his proficiency in magic impressing even his stubborn teacher Gunther. It wouldn’t be long before the he would send his young apprentice away to study under an actual court wizard. Though for now there was still plenty of obligations to keep Desmond quite settled where he was.
As he looked for something amid his vast collection, Gunther stood back, watching Desmond reading with close attention a passage from the old book of spells. Instead of struggling with the first half, Desmond was clear near the end, frustration not even an issue any longer. There was a different air about him. He looked more confident about his studies. The young naïve boy was far outgrown with no more impatient struggles. In an ironic end, Desmond didn’t seem impressed now that he was able to call his magic up whenever he needed. Now it was a matter of learning to control it better.
He didn’t run off as much as he used to either, preferring to stay within the confines of the cluttered house doing his chores without complaint unlike in the past. There were some days though Desmond would go off for hours then come back, not saying a word to his teacher. The wizard shook his head noting with sadness that the changed attitude was very much related to the disappearance of the young girl across the river.
Today was one of those days.
After much studying, Desmond decided to take his walk. He took a cloak from the rack by the door, leaving through his usual route. He traced his way through the forest, colorful dry leaves crumbling under his feet. As he neared the river, he came across the now empty cottage that used to be Hannah’s home. Distraught with the loss of her youngest, Hannah’s mother decided to leave the area and move in with one of her older daughters. Which one it was Desmond couldn’t remember but it didn’t matter either way to him.
He stood staring at the cottage. The wear of the elements without the benefit of maintenance began to show. Desmond let out a deep sigh, clutching the collar of his cloak. He began to move on when movement inside attracted his attention.
Following the path he could not remove from his mind no matter how hard he tried, he reached the small house. Entering, he took care as to not startle whatever was inside. The dusty wood floor creaked with his every step. At the far end, he could see the shape of a white horse – a unicorn.
The unicorn was small compared to the black stallion he had grown familiar with. She moved with an unnatural grace except with certain awkwardness as if she wasn’t used to her slender legs supporting her frame. With silent steps, she looked around the abandoned home careful to avoid the scattered pieces of broken furniture that littered the place.
“I didn’t expect to find you here, Hannah,” Desmond said to the unicorn.
She did not look at him right away instead continuing her studying of the house. “Sometimes I find myself forgetting,” she said, her voice soft. “I know it wasn’t that long ago that I lived here but for some reason, details escape me like I’m waking from a dream.” She turned to the young man, bewilderment in her eyes. “Sometimes I even forget what I looked like before.”
“I remember well,” Desmond replied as he touched her velvet forehead by the base of the spiral horn. “A beautiful maiden with fire-red hair blessed by the sun. I would have given everything to be with her.”
“You flatter me.” The unicorn gave out a laugh sounding more like delicate whinny. Desmond smiled. She was still just as he remembered.
He caressed her head noticing the horn did not glow. It was no different than a ram’s horn or a deer’s antlers. Even though she was born of magic, there was no magic in her.
“So how is life with your king?” he asked. “Is it everything you had hoped?”
Hannah smirked, glancing away. “I guess that is my curse,” she said. “You have given me my one wish, yet I find myself not contented.”
“It can’t be that bad. Doesn’t Alaric love you as much as you love him?”
“Alaric.” Her features softened at the mention of the black unicorn’s name, a shy smile appearing. “He is wonderful and he takes care of me. However it is much harder…” She nuzzled Desmond. “I feel so alone sometimes. He is the only one that talks to me. All of the other unicorns treat me as if I had remained human, violating whatever sanctity they had. I seem to do better with the elves because I’m some kind of novelty to them.”
Desmond hugged her neck, trying to comfort the unicorn as best as he could.
They stayed in the house reliving memories that Hannah was having a hard time grasping. She would remember for a while then it would abandon her like autumn leaves on the wind. Desmond hid his apprehension behind a polite smile.
Was her human half fading in favor of her unicorn half? He thought. With no magic of her own, I’m afraid what that means.
He tried not to dwell on the little things , the way she forgot certain words or a sudden twitch of the head that was not deliberate. Something was wrong yet he knew that his magic was not powerful enough to fix it. The magic that appeared on the night of the transformation was a powerful fluke. From what Desmond could see, it was not powerful enough.
When it started to get dark, Hannah accompanied him home making sure to not come close enough to risk Gunther seeing her. She was missing her human self however she loved Alaric too much to leave. Desmond refused to think about it. Just as the initial choice was hers, so must the rest. She had to live with the consequences of those choices. As much as he was worried, he could not help her any longer.
As the season passed, the white unicorn with the fire-red mane came around less and less. Desmond would look for her sometimes. After a while he’d return to his work, his heart a little heavier. If she was turning into a full unicorn she might forget her entire human existence. But a unicorn without magic was just a horse with a horn. She would just be another animal in the forest and he doubted Alaric could do anything for her then.
Hannah would end up alone and what was worse was that she wouldn’t even know it.
Snow blanketed the forest with a cover of virgin white, encasing slumbering trees in ice. The sunlight glittered on the smooth surfaces, everything sparking like crystal. Desmond chopped away at wood for the fireplace, his feet disappearing in the crunching powder. As he collected the blocks of wood, a familiar sight greeted him.
“Hannah,” Desmond spoke, his breath visible on the cold air. Hannah didn’t answer instead greeting him with a timid smile. Her coat was a brilliant white. She would disappear into her wintry backdrop if it hadn’t been for the fiery mane making her stand out. “I’m so glad you came back,” Desmond continued, putting down his axe to walk towards her. “I haven’t seen you in such a while.” He hugged her neck, pleasantly surprised by the visit.
Hannah nuzzled him in return. Desmond raised his head, looking at her, unable to hide the trouble waving through him. “I’m surprised you came so close here. Aren’t you afraid that Gunther will see you?” Desmond prayed for her to speak.
“And what will he do?” the unicorn answered with gentle mocking. “I hardly think he would consider me much of a threat to anyone.”
Desmond smiled in a feeble attempt to ignore her peculiar speech. “Maybe he’ll think you came to steal me away.”
Hannah let out a laugh. “You know I wouldn’t do that to you. I couldn’t if I wanted to anyway. ” She paused. “I’m not like the other unicorns, you know.”
Desmond’s heart sank, reinforced by the way each word came out as if she were forcing them. “I’m sorry about your magic. I wasn’t sure if you realized you didn’t have any,” he answered. “I wish I could give you something.”
The unicorn nuzzled him again. “You’ve done more for me than anyone should ask for. I do not blame you.”
“Have you asked Alaric to heal you?”
“Make me a real unicorn?” Hannah replied. Desmond lowered his head. “He cannot make me real just as you couldn’t. Magic doesn’t work that way.”
They spoke for a little bit talking about whatever minor goings on that was happening to them. Hannah’s memory had deteriorated, speech being a hardship for her. Her twitching had also become more noticeable, her head bobbing up and down slightly without stopping.
Desmond attempted to lighten the mood. “Hey, you know I was accepted to join a court wizard in the Upper Kingdom for my final studies. Seems like word of my talent is spreading.”
“I’m so happy for you, Desmond,” Hannah replied. “I always knew being a wizard was so important to you. You deserve your success. You’ve certainly earned it.”
“Make all that gardening worth the effort, that’s for sure.” Desmond’s smile faded to a weak grin, as he could not avoid Hannah’s sad eyes. He reached out and placed his hand on her muzzle. “Hannah, what’s wrong?” He nuzzled her forehead, feeling her warmth against his face. “You know you can always talk to me, right? I’m always here for you.”
Hannah stood silent in the snow; her long winter coat doing little to hide the fact that she had grown stocky since they last saw each other.
“You’re what?” Desmond stuttered, not believing his ears. “I didn’t think that was possible.”
“Well, it seems I’m close enough to do at least that,” Hannah answered, looking away. “Alaric is of course the father, if that’s your next question.”
Desmond grimaced sheepishly.
Hannah continued, the pain in her whole being hard to overlook. “It’s the last straw for most of the unicorns in the Valley. One of them, Lilith can’t fathom the thought of the herd being ruled by a questionable heir. She’s trying to gain support to drive me out.”
“That can’t be possible,” Desmond replied remembering the solemn vow he made to the black unicorn. “You have Alaric on your side. He won’t let them do that to you.” Or would he? Desmond finished without speaking. He didn’t want to upset Hannah more than she already was by implying that Alaric would turn on her.
“No, Alaric would not allow them to,” she said. ” I just don’t know what can happen any more than he can. He can placate everyone for now.”
“I never realized being a unicorn would be so complicated,” Desmond answered. Hannah wrapped her head and neck around Desmond, doing the closest thing to embracing him as she could.
“I miss you so much,” Hannah spoke under her breath. “What I would give to turn back what happened. I am so sorry.”
It was the first time he ever heard her talk about him instead of Alaric causing Desmond to frown at her words. Whatever spell was holding her to the unicorn was fraying leaving her in an uncertain situation. Hannah could never return to her human form but she couldn’t live her life out as a full unicorn either.
And now her being pregnant was bringing up even more questions. Was the spell he used powerful enough to change her so that she had unicorn offspring or would the herd be passed down to a human ruler? No one had ever heard of anything like this happening before. But no one had ever turned a girl into a unicorn either.
Desmond stood holding her.
I knew all along how much I loved you and I let it all slip away. None of this would have happened if I told you from the beginning how I felt. I should have never been so afraid.
“I’m sorry too,” he sadly whispered as it began to snow.
Nightfall came with a still eerie air, a starless clear sky capping the quiet wood. Anticipation hung thick like a dense fog, a soft rustling the only sound. Hannah dressed in a long white nightgown, appeared out of the darkness. “Desmond, are you here?”
The apprentice came into sight clutching a large, worn book to his chest. “I’m right here,” he answered.
The young couple joined in the center of the meadow, away from the river and their homes. There needed to be assurance that regardless of what happened, no one would disturb them.
Even in her simplest clothing, Desmond was overcome by Hannah’s beauty. He wanted so much to take her into his arms and whisk her away from this place, away from any magic and unicorns.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” he asked, more for his own sake.
“More than anything in this world.” There was no doubt in her voice.
The book was lowered onto the ground, each page being flipped through with great care. “I want you to know that I’m not sure if the spell will work or what it will do to you if it does.”
“It is a risk I am willing to take.”
“I’m not sure if I am,” Desmond answered as he struggled with the fear and apprehension each moment brought him. He closed the book, undetermined to find the page he needed. The young woman took his hand into her own. He did not gain any comfort from it.
Her small hands were warm in his palms as he gave them a gentle squeeze. Raising his head, his eyes caught hers. A chill tingled down his spine as her sparkling eyes betrayed an emptiness that was not of this world. Tears formed along his bottom eyelids, a hard swallow his single defense against allowing them to fall.
“I just want to see you happy. Despite what I want to believe I can’t force you to decide anything. It’s your will alone.” Desmond found difficulty in finishing his thoughts. “I would have preferred a different ending to this.”
He raised himself from his kneeling position, a nervous pause broken by his clearing his throat. “I want to tell you that…” Desmond leaned closer, her faint breath warm against his skin. “I love you. I always have and I always will. I never thought I would envy a unicorn for the sole reason of being able to tell you that.”
She smiled. “I know.”
Desmond leaned forward, his gentle lips meeting hers with a soft touch. As they pulled apart, backing away from each other without a word, Hannah averted her eyes. She raised her fingertips to her lips, pressing as if giving a faint wipe. Desmond felt his chest lock at the small gesture, fighting the urge to break down. Even in that small kiss, her thoughts were never of him.
The spell she was under was complete. Hannah had no intention of returning to the world that used to be her home. Desmond knew what had to be done.
The booked creaked open again; the delicate parchment made a sliding sound. “Ah, here it is.” He took a deep breath, clearing his mind of all thoughts. An unusual calm overcame him as he looked over the page, focusing on the girl before him.
“Now close your eyes and hold your hands open. You must concentrate and not fight whatever you may feel. Understand?”
Hannah nodded, following his instructions. “I trust you, Desmond,” she whispered.
Reaching down, he unclipped the pouch belted to his hip. “Good,” he replied. “I need you to trust me. I need you to trust me more than you’ve ever trusted anyone as if your life depended on it.”
“Yes, I do.”
Desmond reached into the leather bag, pulling out a coil of thin rope. Hannah stood as he told her with her eyes closed, hands raised, unaware that he had stepped closer. He tightened his lips, focusing on his task.
Hannah’s smile faded as she realized Desmond’s long pause. “Is everything all right?” she asked without opening her eyes.
Her question forced the sorcerer’s apprentice to make his move. “Everything’s fine,” he said as he took her hands into his own. “Everything is going to be fine.” The noose slipped around her wrists.
The tightening rope snapped Hannah from her trance, her eyes widening in confusion and fear. “What are you doing?”
Desmond wrapped more of the rope around her wrists as fast as he could.
“I’m helping you just like I said,” he answered, his voice heavy with apology yet not pausing in his task.
“No! What are you doing to me? Let go!” Hannah snapped her hands unable to avoid the last knot from being tied.
“Stop it, Hannah.” Desmond concentrated in ignoring her reaction. “I am helping you. You don’t understand.”
Hannah pushed herself away, struggling at the bonds at her wrists. “You’re the one that doesn’t understand,” she cried. “You don’t want me seeing Alaric because he loves me! I thought I could trust you!”
“Alaric doesn’t love you!” Desmond shouted back as he tried to grab her. “He’s a unicorn! He’s going to take you to the elves and I am not going to let him do that to you!”
“Get away from me! You don’t know anything!” Her frantic flailing sent her off balance, sending her to the ground with a painful thud.
Desmond gritted his teeth as he watched the panicked girl cry and squirm, her white gown now covered in damp soil. He pulled another coil of rope from his pouch. Hannah grunted, dragging herself trying to keep away from him. She stopped face down in the grass, sobbing.
“How can you do this to me?” Hannah’s breathing was heavy from her struggle.
Desmond kneeled, placing his arms around her. She refused to look at him.
“Listen to me. You are under some kind of powerful spell. You may not know it but everyone who loves you knows it to be true. You are enchanted.”
Hannah did not answer instead continuing to let out loud, shallow moans.
“I tied your hands so that you would not harm yourself. If you continue to struggle I will have to bind your feet as well.” Desmond cringed at his necessary words. “You need to get well. You can’t do that alone. I can’t help you alone either. If anyone can help me break this spell Gunther can.”
He placed a hand on her cheek, turning her head so that their eyes met. “You have to trust me, Hannah. I won’t hurt you. You know I won’t. Just having to do what I’m doing now is killing me.” He leaned his face closer to hers, watching fresh tears stream down as her eyes recognized his words. “I want you back. No unicorn could love you as much as I do.”
Hannah looked away, closing her eyes until they became painful, tight slits. She squirmed freeing her still bound hands from the pinned position between their bodies. With shaking fingers she caressed Desmond’s face.
“This is not who I am” She gulped hard, trying to control the extremes of emotions rampaging through her. Her eyes flashed with a moment of clarity
Desmond buried his face in her neck, trying to control his own passion. For the first time he was able to break through the magic, making her see what was indeed happening. But the battle was not over yet. He looked back at her. “I’m going to pick you up, okay?” he said. “I still need to get you back then we can break this spell for good.”
Hannah smiled, nodding.
Desmond wiped his damp face on his sleeve. “Let’s get out of here,” he said as he helped her to sit up.
The brush rustled, the violent movement catching Desmond’s attention for a moment. A sharp pain seared through his side, enveloping his mind in a bright light. He felt himself move against a great force, Hannah’s scream echoing like a distant howl. Loud crashing exploded in his ears as his back crashed against the trunk of a tree. Desmond struggled to breathe as he fell to the ground, the impact filling his mouth full of dirt.
“I told you to leave well enough alone,” the voice boomed.
Desmond coughed out the blood-tinted mud, struggling to raise his head. Cloudy, disoriented eyes revealed Hannah staggering to her feet, the black unicorn towering over her in a protective posture.
“Did he hurt you?” Alaric asked with sincere concern. “Why are your hands tied?”
Hannah stared at Desmond still face down in the earth. She looked up at the unicorn, confused and torn between the two suitors. “I’m alright. He was just trying to help.”
The unicorn’s head jerked, his face full of suspicion. “Help?” he snorted. “I question that immensely.” He turned back to the girl. “It is time for me to leave this place. Will you come with me?”
Hannah gasped at the question.
“Leave her alone!” the voice behind them yelled. “Hannah, don’t answer that! If you answer I can’t break the spell no matter how much help I have!”
“You know what answer lies in your heart,” Alaric continued. “If you come with me I promise I will take care of you. The elves will fight my decision but I will not let them take you.”
Hannah started to tremble as she covered her mouth with her still bound hands.
Desmond rose to his feet, finding it hard to stay that way. Everything spun as the pain in his side throbbed through him. Clutching at the wound did little to control it. “I said leave her alone,” he yelled again his voice growing hoarse. “She is not leaving with you not now, not ever.”
Alaric snorted hard, stomping an ivory hoof. “You are much more arrogant than I mistook you for. Not only do you want to make her decision, you purport to know my will as well. Do you believe you can reverse what has already been chosen?”
“With my life,” Desmond answered.
The black unicorn lowered his head, pawing the ground with violent intention as he lashed his raven tail. “Then so be it.”
The stallion rose high on his hind legs, crying out a shrill neigh. His muscles trembled as he crashed to the earth, bolting forward with tremendous energy. Desmond jumped out of the way, just missing the lethal tip of the unicorn’s horn as it tried to find its mark.
Alaric dug his hooves spinning, his long legs thrashing out this time with more success. The boy hurled away from the stallion’s forelegs, one hoof striking his shoulder. In pain and anger Desmond dug his hand into the dirt. Grabbing a stone he swung, hitting hard against Alaric’s muzzle. It dug into the sensitive flesh creating a deep gash, sending blood splashing. The unicorn refused to let the hit go unpunished. Desmond felt another hoof strike his already bruised side, causing him to lose his balance and return to the ground.
The unicorn stood menacingly over the fallen, groaning apprentice. In the commotion, Hannah was able to loosen her bonds, the rope still dangling from her left wrist. She watched in horror to what was unfolding. Desmond rolled onto his back, a movement that was at once greeted by a hoof placed on his sore chest. He looked up at the massive body. Alaric stared down, controlling his weight on the hoof allowing just enough to allow the sharp cloven points to dig into the boy’s skin.
“Choose, Hannah,” Alaric called with impatience, still pinning Desmond to the ground “Come with me or stay with your fallen admirer.”
Desmond gritted his teeth, letting out a loud moan. Wrapping his fingers around the unicorn’s fetlock he tried in vain to push the hoof off of him. “Don’t go with him,” he grunted, the only words he managed to get out.
Hannah started crying shaking her head in disbelief. Her attempts at speaking were greeted with silence. Alaric sighed, releasing the boy beneath him. Desmond let out a choking gasp, unable to control the desperate coughing.
The unicorn’s features transformed into dark calm as he walked over to the sobbing flustered girl. “I am so sorry,” Alaric said as he placed his warm muzzle against Hannah. She reached up tracing the almost healed gash marring his face. “Come with me. You are much too precious for this mortal world. And much too precious for me to leave behind.”
The girl leaned over, kissing the unicorn on the forehead.
“I can’t. I can’t choose,” she whispered. “I just can’t.”
Alaric arched his powerful neck, his eyes revealing a hint of sadness. “I understand.” he answered, stepping away from her. “On the same token you must understand the decision I must make now. And as we all must do, we must live with the consequences of our decisions. Or lack of them.”
She saw the fire light in the unicorn’s eyes, panic bursting through her. “No!” she screamed as Alaric exploded in a frenzy of motion.
Desmond couldn’t move in his haze. The unicorn reared up aiming the ivory horn towards him, the massive body hurtling his way like an arrow. A streak of white crossed his eyes as Desmond felt himself shoved back onto the ground, a weight falling on top of him. Stars swirled in his eyes from the impact, his stunned eyes locking on Hannah before him.
“Desmond,” she gasped as everything went still.
At first he didn’t realize what had happened. Hannah continued staring at him, her enchanted eyes full of shock.
“Hannah?” he whispered as a trickle of blood made a thin trail from the corner of her mouth. Sinking into his arms she let out a little whimper, the back of her white gown seeped in red.
Alaric backed away, the fire that blinded him replaced with disbelief. The ivory horn that once glowed with pale light was tainted with the dark streaks of blood.
“What have you done?” Desmond spoke, the realization of what happened dawning on him. He turned Hannah onto her back, laying her on the ground. She stared upwards but looked at nothing, her breathing a whisper. Desmond placed his shaking hands on her, unsure as to what to do next. Crimson stains smeared the gown, bringing attention to blood staining Desmond’s hands. He stared up at the startled unicorn.
“What have you done?” he repeated, this time louder.
The unicorn twitched, his front legs pacing. “I… I didn’t mean… I didn’t expect her to…”As the words stuttered out, Alaric kneeled beside Desmond who refused to let her go.
“You have to heal her,” Desmond ordered, unable to control his own tears. “You’re a unicorn, you have healing power. So do it!”
Alaric turned away, ashamed. “I cannot.”
Desmond became enraged, rising to his feet ignoring his own pain. “What do you mean you cannot?” he screamed. “You did this! Undo it! I will kill you if you don’t!”
Alaric nuzzled the near lifeless body, cowering at the demand.
“A unicorn’s healing magic is in their horn but if they strike, fouling it, the magic will not heal whom the blood belongs.” His large blue eyes filled with grief. He lowered his head, burying his muzzle in Hannah’s red hair. As her fading scent filled his senses, he began to weep.
Desmond was taken aback by the mourning creature, never thinking he would see one show what he believed was an exclusive human emotion.
“No. She’s not dead yet. There has to be something we can do.” He searched his mind, trying to remain calm. “There’s no time to bring her back to the house. She’ll be too far gone, if not dead already.” He closed his eyes, shaking his head. “The book,” he blurted, his head snapping up. Desmond scurried around looking for Gunther’s worn spell book, the unicorn watching him with curiosity. Finding it, he went over to Hannah, pushing Alaric away.
“When you promised Hannah you would take care of her, was it real?”
Alaric’s ears pointed forward. “What do you mean by that?”
“Your promise. Was it real?” he asked with more determination. “Or was it another one of your lies to get her to go with you?”
“I did not lie to her,” Alaric protested, offended. “I meant every word.”
Desmond opened the book. “Good. Because I’m going to give you what you want.”
The black unicorn stood. “What are you talking about?”
The young sorcerer did not raise his head, finding the page he needed. “You are going to keep your promise to Hannah. In turn you are going to keep your promise to me. If you harm her or betray her in any way I will spend the rest of my days hunting down your kind until I rid this world of every last one of you.”
“You have my word,” the unicorn nodded, knowing that the boy spoke with furious sincerity. ‘But what are you going to do?”
Desmond leaned over Hannah, brushing her hair with his fingers. “Giving her what she wants,” he replied. “I’m not stupid. I know about your idea of a ‘choice’. If Hannah stays with me, the magic will kill her. If she goes with you she becomes just another elf plaything until they grow tired of her. But if I turn her into a unicorn… ”
Alaric snapped up. “What? That’s insane,” he answered. “You do not have the control to cast such a powerful spell. You’ll end up destroying her!”
“And she’ll be no better off than she is now.” Desmond snarled.
Kneeling beside her, Desmond propped the book before him, outstretching his arms and closing his eyes. Placing his hands on her, he started chanting his spell. The unicorn stepped away allowing the sorcerer to work unencumbered. The words poured without effort into his mind and onto his tongue, the book no longer needing to be there.
Desmond felt an overwhelming and indescribable feeling surround him, his ears pounding with the sound of blood rushing through his veins. His eyes were shut so tight they began to make a bright, painful inside light, the magic not letting him go until he was finished with his task.
His hopelessness vanished, his sorrow disappeared and something inside him burst forth with tremendous energy, causing him to cry out. The words escaped him like a violent, rushing wind swirling about him. Then a great thunderclap crashed through his very being and sent him hurtling back to the hard earth.
Desmond awoke realizing he was not at home in his own bed, finding himself lying on the grass. His entire body was damp from sweat. Half opening his eyes he tried to move. Just the thought of doing so made his entire body ache with sharp pain. Shutting his eyes he tried to return to the dream he awoke from.
It was the most peculiar dream. I was a wizard, calling on a tempest to give birth to a unicorn. I was struck by lightning but I didn’t feel a thing.
He listened to the near silence around him. Crickets called to each other as a cool breeze caressed his face. A low steady breathing came from nearby, the sound a prominent echo in his ears. As his senses came to him, Desmond tried to wake himself up. Disoriented, he raised his head, his eyes struggling to focus on something ahead of him.
It was some kind of animal lying in the grass as if in a trance. It was large yet somewhat fragile at the same time. Heavy breaths flared through its nostrils as if caught up in a dream of its own.
A horse. It looks like a horse.
Desmond forced himself up but his body fought any attempt to do so. He looked at the white horse again, its fiery red mane cascading onto the grass.
Suddenly it all starting coming back in flashes as he looked on shocked at the scene before him.
At the white horse with the red mane.
And a delicate spiral horn right above her emerald eyes.
The next few days were disconcerting at best. Not only did Gunther notice the blue handkerchief gone, Desmond found that no matter how hard he tried, he could not repeat the spell to prove to his teacher what had happened.
“Would it help if I wore a dress?” Gunther replied to the embarrassment of his student. Desmond agonized over his sudden loss as he in vain worked to duplicate the results from the other night.
Gunther tried to distract the boy as much as he could, concerned over the obsessive behavior towards the one spell. Desmond was determined to show his mentor what he showed Hannah, fueled by the fact he had been unable to see her since that night.
Each time he went to visit her, she was either unavailable or just not there at all. Her mother was also worried at the sudden distraction her youngest daughter was experiencing.
At first she thought Hannah was running off with Desmond, something she didn’t mind. In fact she encouraged it. Her happiness would fade though as Desmond appeared at her door, looking for Hannah hours after she had gone. She couldn’t help thinking the worst. The forest hid as many dangers as it did beautiful things.
“Did she mention anything?” Desmond asked, hiding his suspicions. “I’m worried maybe I had done something to offend her.”
Hannah’s mother shook her head, confused and saddened. “She has mentioned nothing about anything. It worries me. Every day it is the same. Hannah rushes to do her chores, dresses up in her finest then disappear into the forest for hours.”
An awkward moment passed between them both mother and apprentice not ready to reveal their fears to each other.
“I’m sure it’s nothing to worry about,” Desmond replied, hating his having to lie. “You know how girls can get. Caught up in flights of fancy.” He tried to offer a smile.
“Maybe you’re right,” she answered, her voice revealing the knowledge Desmond was striving to hide.
As they bid each other farewell, Desmond couldn’t help thinking about when last he saw her. Maybe this is all an exaggeration, he thought. Maybe she didn’t think the spell presentation was as romantic as I thought it would be. Maybe she didn’t say anything because she didn’t want to offend me.
“Or maybe it is the black unicorn,” he spoke aloud with growing resentment. He felt a mixture of emotions well up inside. “Why did it take a glorified horse to make me realize I cared so much for her?” His anger made his words slide out like a growl. “I always knew. I was too afraid tell her. Now the minute she starts talking about unicorns all of a sudden I have to go into competition with one.”
It wasn’t the unicorn that bothered him as much as why the unicorn was showing any interest in Hannah at all. He had to talk to Gunther. If anyone would know what to do he would, he hoped.
As he walked through the thicket, humming began to echo nearby. Recognizing the voice, Desmond followed sound’s direction. He entered an intimate clearing brimming with colorful wildflowers in bloom. In the center, sitting on the ground was Hannah. She was oblivious to his presence. Continuing her humming, she picked the flowers, piling them up in a small basket.
“Hey there,” Desmond started, letting out a sigh of relief. “I haven’t seen you in a while.”
Hannah turned her head to him, still distracted by her work. “Hi there yourself. I’m surprised to see you here.”
“As am I of you.”
He went over to her, peeking at the basket where she was placing the flowers. “I wasn’t expecting to see you here. I was just coming back from your house. Your mother’s pretty worried.”
“Oh, I’ll be heading home later. I just want to finish my garland for Alaric.”
Desmond cringed at the sound of the unicorn’s name.
“He is so beautiful. I wish you could see him. I can’t wait to meet with him again.” She looked ahead, sighing as if caught in a dream.
“Don’t you think it’s odd for you to be visiting a unicorn so much?” His worry for her grew as he watched the disturbing production before him. “I mean, you have no idea what magical creatures are ever up to. It’s common knowledge what unicorns are known for doing.”
Hannah jumped up, her face wrinkled with rage. Flowers in her lap tumbled to the ground in an ungraceful heap.
“How dare you speak that way! Alaric is kind and gentle! He would never hurt me. He has already told me that he wasn’t going to take me to the elves.”
“I was just worried,” Desmond replied, his voice cracking. He was taken aback by her fiery reaction, something he had never seen in her before. “It’s the elves not the unicorns who are the problem, you know, with them unable to breed without humans and such.” He hoped the backpedaling would win him back onto her good side
“That has nothing to do with it,” she snapped. “You’re jealous that I’m spending more time with Alaric than with you.”
“What?” Desmond blushed at her accusation, letting out a nervous laugh. “How can I be jealous of a unicorn?”
“What else could it be?” Without looking at him, Hannah went over to her basket, grabbing it. Flowers clinging to the edge made their escape to the soft ground. “You’ve been trying to discourage me from seeing Alaric ever since I told you about him.”
The apprentice was still dumfounded by the backlash. “Of course I don’t want you to see him. I’m sure if anyone else knew they would not want you to see him either.”
Hannah’s eyes widened in shock. “You wouldn’t dare tell anyone about Alaric would you? Tell me you won’t!”
“He’s a unicorn, Hannah. A creature of magic. If you’re under some kind of spell I have no choice.”
“I am not under a spell!” Her voice rose to a shrill screech. “Alaric told me I couldn’t be enchanted if I didn’t want to be.”
Desmond shook his head, not believing he was arguing with her. “That’s ridiculous. I’ve never heard of anything like that. Magic doesn’t work that way.”
The girl’s green eyes narrowed, her words hissing. “What would you know about magic, Desmond. Just because you can impress me with a child’s trick doesn’t make you a wizard. You can’t control your magic because you choose not to. I choose not to be under any spell!”
All the yelling could not have prepared Desmond for such a pointed attack, from Hannah most of all. He choked, feeling the wind knocked out of him.
“When you decide to abandon your childish jealousies, you know where to find me.” With a huff, she disappeared into the brush.
” I don’t know where to find you. That’s the problem!” he shouted to a now empty space, his voice trailing. “And I am not jealous.”
Hannah never once had raised her voice much less attacked him in such a personal manner until the unicorn came around. The beast was not interested in her out of the kindness of his heart.
“There has to be a way to distract her enough from Alaric to break whatever spell on her. There must be.” As the garden he worked so hard to tend came into view, an idea began brewing in his mind. “A unicorn, eh?”
The old mare trotted down the well-worn path, Gunther slouched in the cart, mentally organizing his new acquisitions. They turned onto a narrow trail cutting into the woods. Leaves crunched underneath as they made their way on the overgrown trail heading home. As they got closer, a pounding echoed from the garden area, Gunther becoming curious. He couldn’t remember anything being broken.
Tying the mare to a post by the door, the old wizard headed towards the back. Desmond was busy chopping away at some wood, measuring each fragment. An organized pile lay beside him, pieces cut different lengths.
“What are you up to, boy?” Gunther asked, trying to figure out the pattern the blocks appeared to be making.
“Nothing yet.” Desmond wiped his brow. “Just experimenting.”
“Well, Tessa’s out front. I’d be appreciative if you go tend to her.”
Desmond put down his axe with the obedience he always showed his teacher. Gunther looked at the wood again, perplexed as Desmond headed to take care of the mare and the cart.
Tessa stood still as Desmond unhooked her harness. He led her to her stall, which was nothing more than a converted shed surrounded by a fence. It created a nice little paddock for her to run in if she ever felt inclined to do so. He brushed her off then filled her bucket with fresh water, giving her alfalfa and oats to eat. Taking his hand, Desmond traced her pale brown back, still thinking about his project. Running his fingers through her coarse, silver mane, he gave her a goodbye pat on her thick neck, leaving the stall.
He returned to see Gunther putting away the supplies. A loaf of fresh bread was on the table, its inviting smell causing a rumbling in his stomach. Knowing that Gunther hadn’t eaten yet, Desmond began to set the table for himself and his teacher. Fruit, mild cheese, fresh bread and wine made a combination the wizard couldn’t resist for long.
“I noticed all of the books out,” Gunther said as they sat and ate. “They’re all turned to pages about unicorns.”
“I just wanted to learn more about them,” Desmond replied.
“And the wood out back,” Gunther continued, “they’re arranged in a most peculiar pattern, like you’re going to carve something big.”
“Like I said, it’s just a project.”
“About unicorns, I take it?”
Desmond sat in silence, unsure whether he should say anything more. Gunther looked down, chewing his food. “It’s about that girl by the river, isn’t it?”
“Yes.” Desmond realized he couldn’t keep this hidden. “Remember when I told you about seeing a black unicorn? I found out that I wasn’t the only one who saw him.”
“Hannah has fallen for the unicorn,” Gunther blurted emotionless. “I guess it was inevitable.”
“I was hoping it wasn’t.” Desmond sounded forlorn. “I thought it was just a girl thing. They always wish they could see a unicorn and Hannah did.”
“Of course it ended up different than expected.” Gunther wiped his mouth, coughing a bit. “I never understood why people think there’s something magical about magical creatures. They’re no different than any other animal in these forests. Do you think that because we can cast spells that we’re any better off? It makes our lives harder because people start treating us like gods.”
“Or servants,” Desmond added, reigning in the snide inflection.
“Humph, just like servants,” Gunther continued. “But unicorns? You have virginal girls lining up from here to the ends of the earth waiting to see one. They don’t understanding what unicorns indeed do.”
“Well, the ones that live with elves, that is.”
“True. I have heard of wild unicorns not in association with anyone. However that’s not what we’re talking about here are we?”
Desmond nodded. “Hannah told me this unicorn was from some valley where a kingdom of elves also take residence.”
“Edinrahn.” Gunther answered. “That unicorn has come quite a way for his prize. Those elves are the worst of all of them. Yes, I can see why you’re preoccupied. Let’s hope she doesn’t take too much of the beast’s fancy.”
Desmond paused in an attempt to suppress the pain he felt. “It’s too late. I think she’s enchanted,” he half-whispered.
“Oh my,” Gunther put a hand to his mouth. “Now I see what this is all about.”
“It started a couple of days ago. At first we didn’t think anything of it. It was like our little secret. I didn’t think it would do anything since Hannah didn’t seem affected.”
Desmond agreed, despondent. “She told me she would see him. She seemed okay. I didn’t want to make an issue of it. Let her have her fun. It’s not every day anyone sees a unicorn.”
“There’s a reason for that. Then you noticed her change.”
Desmond found it more and more difficult. “Hannah started becoming obsessed with him. I’d go see her and either she wasn’t around or all she would talk about is the unicorn.”
“Does her mother know?” Gunther began to search his mind for anything he could think of to help.
“She knows that there is bad magic about but doesn’t know what’s causing it. I haven’t had the heart to tell her the whole story.”
“Not that it would have helped any,” Gunther replied. “Once a unicorn sets its spell, it cannot be broken. I’m sorry, but there is nothing I can tell you to make you feel better.”
“There has to be something.” Desmond leaned forward, accenting his protest. “The unicorn told her that she can choose to be enchanted so there must be a way for her to unchoose.”
“Choose to be enchanted? Gunther let out a laugh soaked with cynicism. “Without a doubt it would say that. If she were a sorceress then maybe its words would hold some truth.”
“The more she says she’s not enchanted the more I know she is.”
Gunther leaned forward, locking his eyes with his student. They were filled with stern seriousness. “There is nothing you can do for her, Desmond. Hannah has been chosen. A unicorn’s magic is too strong to break except by her own will. And that we both know is near impossible. Although I do find it strange that she hasn’t been taken yet, it will be a matter of time. You will do best not to interfere. Let her go. If you try to force her to stay, the strength of the magic’s hold will kill her.”
Desmond leaned back in his chair. “I’ve read that in your books. When a maiden is used to lure unicorns to be slaughtered, her heart fills with so much guilt and grief, she wastes away.”
“That’s why the practice isn’t used or encouraged anymore. The realm values its maidens more than its want for unicorn horns.”
“If a maiden’s will alone can end an enchantment, then I’m going to have to convince Hannah to do just that,” Desmond muttered as he finished eating.
Gunther felt disheartened. It pained him to realize that his student would have to learn this hard lesson on his own.
Desmond worked non-stop. He continued to put forth the effort to visit Hannah just to find the unicorn monopolized more of her time. His heart would break when her mother would answer their door. It was clear she knew all too well what was going on, realizing there was nothing anyone could do. Yet as his creation began to take shape, Desmond grew hopeful that maybe he would be able to change that.
Gunther figured it would be best to let the situation run to its sad conclusion. Once in a while he would call his busy student for some small errands. For the most part though he left him alone until his inquisitiveness could not allow him to do so anymore.
Gunther headed to the shed not knowing what to expect from his determined apprentice. Desmond was standing by the open doorway, sweaty and covered in wood shavings. As Gunther entered, shards of sunlight broke in between the wood panels of the flimsy shack. In the very back was the beginning of a wooden unicorn.
It was a life-size carving, still crude, its head beginning to show fine details. The spiral horn was lying on the table, finished. It would be attached when the rest of the head and body reached a certain level of completion. It was an impressive effort. Gunther couldn’t help but marvel at the attention that was being given to it. As he studied the shape further, something began to bother him. On closer examination he began to understand, not liking one bit of it.
“Well, you are without doubt making a wooden unicorn.”
“That’s what it is,” replied Desmond as he shook shavings out of his hair.
Gunther stared at the carved out interior. “Tell me it is going to stay hollow so that it’s light enough to carry.”
“Please, Gunther. Don’t judge me.” He looked away, unable to look at his teacher without feeling uneasy. “If Hannah is allowing herself to be courted by a unicorn, then I have no choice but to compete any way I can.”
“I can’t believe you are indeed thinking of cramming yourself into that thing. I have to admit, it’s the first time you’ve ever left me altogether speechless.” Gunther couldn’t decide if he felt pity for his apprentice or disgusted.
“I’d do anything for her. You don’t have to understand. A unicorn stole my maiden’s love before I could even begin to tell her how I feel. If I have to do the ridiculous to prove to her that I love her, then I will.”
“I cannot condone any part of it,” Gunther said in a low voice. “Go back to your carving but you can be sure you will get no help from me.” He turned and walked out of the shed, stopping only to look right into Desmond’s eyes. “When you decide to be a serious student then we may talk, not otherwise. This situation is getting way out of hand.”
Desmond felt hurt at the words yet knew he had to continue. He worked for several more hours. As he stepped back to look at how the piece was coming out, he realized he wasn’t as convinced that the idea would work as he was before. Maybe his teacher was right. Maybe his idea of rolling around in a wood unicorn was too ridiculous to even bother with. He began to blush at the whole stupidity of it.
“Maybe if I just took a part of it to her,” Desmond began speaking out loud. “Maybe if Hannah saw how much effort I was putting into winning her, she’ll snap out of whatever spellbind the unicorn has her under. ”
With a confirming nod, he sawed off the near completed head from the still raw formed body and attached the horn to it. Carving in a few more details, the wood unicorn head was ready. If he had more time he would have created a display base for it. If things didn’t work out as a wizard at least he had his more modest carpentry skills to work with.
He took a tattered blanket, wrapping the head as best he could. The long spiral horn stuck out of a hole in the fabric making the element of surprise arguable. It would just have to do. He went back inside the main house to clean himself off to make him more presentable. Hugging the wood unicorn to his chest, he took care with his walking as to not by chance trip, breaking his gift or worse, impaling himself on it.
His mind flooded with images of what he thought would happen when he presented the gift to Hannah. He envisioned her accepting and wanting to be his just as much as he wanted to be hers. He was so wrapped up in thought he almost didn’t see the large black figure in front of him. Almost missing bumping into it, he stopped startled in his tracks.
The black unicorn blocked his path, his powerful frame seeming to envelop the surrounding forest. All Desmond could focus on was the deep blue eyes and the ivory horn.
“Alaric,” he whispered, clutching the wood head closer. The unicorn seemed larger, more imposing than the first time Desmond had seen him. Alaric’s stern eyes gazed at him. Desmond felt himself shrink before the magnificent animal, lowering his eyes in embarrassment.
How could he have been so arrogant as to think he could deceive Hannah into loving him by use of a crude effigy? Alaric’s beauty and the magic entangled in it were too much for Desmond to bear. Tears welled up in his eyes and he blinked hard to control them. The unicorn’s magic was indeed powerful.
“You will not succeed in your quest, you know that don’t you,” the unicorn spoke. “The magic has done what it will. The girl is no longer of this place. You have a good heart though. I am sorry that you must have it broken this way.” Alaric’s voice held an apologetic resonance at what his task was causing, although he was not remorseful.
Desmond stood speechless.
Alaric stepped forward closer to the boy, sniffing about him. Desmond felt himself hold his breath. The unicorn looked up into his eyes, a small smile crossing his muzzle. “Now I understand,” Alaric replied, nodding.
“Understand what?” Desmond’s voice cracked with nervousness.
The unicorn pressed his muzzle against Desmond’s arm, giving him a slight, almost playful push. “If it is any consolation, it was you who was my original goal. You were so willing to follow me. Something was keeping the magic from taking you.”
Desmond’s eyes flashed with realization. “Those feelings. That sensation. That was your magic?”
“No,” Alaric answered. “Those feelings were your magic. I should have known you were a sorcerer.”
“I’m not a sorcerer.” Desmond felt both uneasy and excited at the same time.
“You will be. Your magic is very powerful. It is just not ready yet. However it is active enough to protect you. A creature of magic cannot overcome another creature of magic.” Alaric turned his head away, watching Desmond through the corner of his eye. “A shame in fact. You would have been a quite a prize.”
Desmond felt his face heat up. “A prize?” The words fell out of the boy’s mouth.
The unicorn’s intentions were made clear. They were nothing but trinkets to him, both himself, Hannah, and whomever else Alaric would have come across that caught his fancy. Sheep to be gathered for elven masters for whatever they wanted humans for.
“Why did you have to take her?” Desmond asked, his voice a whisper but the growing anger clear. “Why?”
“The decision was just as much hers.”
Alaric’s indifference enraged him “Don’t try to fool yourself with your own lies. The only decision was the one you made! You were here for one purpose and that was to get someone! It didn’t matter who you took but in the end it was Hannah! Your magic keeps her bound to you! You tricked her into spending enough time, opening enough to you so that your magic could take root.” Desmond began to tremble. His fingers dug into the fabric-covered wood. “You think flattering me is going to get me to forget all this? Let her go? Don’t think I know nothing of you or your kind, horse!” He didn’t feel so overwhelmed anymore.
The unicorn flinched at his words. “You know less than you think. It is unwise to bring forth such a challenge.” Alaric stepped forward. “Don’t think that your hidden talent is enough to keep me from taking you as well. The minute I do you will forget about the girl, thinking instead of your new masters,”
“Then do it.” He snarled, calling his bluff. “Show me how powerful you are. Take me right now. Break Hannah’s spell. You said you can so prove me wrong.”
Alaric snorted, pounding a sharp hoof into the grass. The boy was not intimidated by the display. The unicorn closed his eyes. “I am not asking you to understand any of this. In the end, you are human, bound by different rules. The magic has done its will. Even I cannot undo that no matter how much I want to. And because of that, I too may lose her. You are not alone here with a broken heart.”
He lowered his head, pointing the lethal horn at his rival. “You do best by listening to your teacher. Let this run the way it is meant to. I cannot keep her away from her final call much longer for the elves expect their bounty. I am honor bound by it. You cannot change her destiny any more than you can change yours or mine.”
“I can change what I will to,” Desmond answered challenging. “And what I will changes everything.”
Without another word Alaric spun, jumping passed him.
Desmond did not turn to watch the unicorn leave. Instead, when all turned quiet, he raised the blanket-covered gift over his head. With a loud growl he brought it down with all his might. The thin wood shattered against an exposed tree root, the horn shattering into pieces. He pressed his palms hard against his eyes trying to keep the welling anger controlled as he gathered his thoughts.
“I refuse to compete with that thing,” Desmond growled. “I refuse to let him take Hannah because he wants to and everyone says I should let him.” He looked at his hands, balling them into tight fists. “I may not be a sorcerer but I am a man. I’m going to do whatever it takes to keep a horse from taking away the woman I love!”
Desmond continued in the direction of Hannah’s house, his purpose changed. He was not going to try to win her love with pathetic shows of gifts. He was going to break that spell any way he knew how. The consequences he would have to worry about later.
Hannah was found in a small meadow by the river, face down in the grass. She had been weeping for quite a while, not noticing Desmond sitting quiet beside her. She looked up at him, her face dirty from tears, and her eyes red and puffy.
“Desmond? The most horrible thing has happened.” Hannah sat up, falling into his arms. Desmond buried his face in her fiery-red hair. He couldn’t bear to see her hurting so much.
“Alaric didn’t intend on bringing me to the elves,” she started with her tale. “That was his original purpose however something happened. Instead of taking me away, he just kept on returning, staying here. I felt so at peace with him, like nothing else mattered in this world.”
As she sobbed Desmond listened, remembering the unicorn’s words.
Hannah continued. “He told me he wanted to stay with me, protect me from the elves. He could not survive outside the Valley though. He said something about a connection he couldn’t break. I don’t know.” She wiped her face with her hands. “Alaric said he could no longer see me. He had to return to the Valley.” She paused, crying aloud. ” He told me he loved me.”
No matter how much anger he harbored the tears flowed down Desmond’s cheeks. That a unicorn would have more courage to tell her that he loved her was impossible for him to bear.
“I feel as if I am going to die,” Hannah sobbed.
Wiping his own tears away, Desmond took a deep breath and lifted Hannah’s head to look into her emerald green eyes. “Please don’t weep, my unicorn princess,” he whispered. “I’m not surprised by what you have told me. No living creature could resist you – god, man, or unicorn.”
A wild, frantic look overcame her. She clutched his collar with near violence, the fabric pinching his throat. “Don’t flatter me, Desmond! This is tearing me to pieces! I love Alaric and the thought of never seeing him again…” she looked away, “I’m going to kill myself!”
She gasped by how hard Desmond grabbed her, holding her so close, she could hear his heart racing like a jackrabbit chased by foxes.
“No, Hannah, don’t. Please don’t ever say that. I’ll do anything to help you. Anything.”
“You must help me.” She sobbed again. “Please, Desmond. I can trust no one save you.”
The apprentice nodded his head. “I will. I will help you.” He hesitated. “I know what to do.”
“How?” Hannah looked at him with disbelief.
“I’ve thought of a way.”
The girl did not succeed in escaping the notice of her older sisters as she scurried out of the house. Hannah had awoken, despite her lack of sleep, with the intention of finishing her chores early. She was still embarrassed to have been discovered sleeping on the windowsill by her mother who escorted the unconscious girl back to bed. At least she was glad to have gotten some rest. Now she faced a new pair of spies as her sisters giggled at their sibling’s antics. Hannah was dressed in her best clothes as she braided wildflowers in her hair.
“And where is our princess heading off today?” Jenny’s voice rang with gentle mocking.
“Why, to meet her prince of course,” Marion answered with an equal sting.
Hannah tried to ignore their teasing as she kissed her mother goodbye. “I’ll try not to be long,” she said as she ran out the door. All three women smiled as they watched her race towards the river.
“Do you think she’s finally caught the attention of Gunther’s apprentice?” Mother asked her remaining daughters as her youngest disappeared from view.
“She had his heart since they first met,” Jenny replied, fanning herself for effect. They giggled at the display, wishing the maiden well.
Hannah knew she had arrived too soon but having to wait for the unicorn was not bothering her at all. She took care in seating herself in the same spot Alaric had met her before, spreading out her dress around her for dramatic effect. She dusted herself off for good measure, redoing questionable braids. Hannah wanted to look her best for the black unicorn, if he came.
As she postured a moment of dread set in. What if the unicorn didn’t come? She had worked so hard to see him. What if someone found her before the unicorn came, or worse, while he was with her? As long as there were unicorns, people were always after their magical horns. The last thing Hannah wanted to do was to put the magnificent creature in any danger.
Calming herself as best as she could, Hannah closed her eyes, folding her hands in her lap. She posed herself as she thought any maiden in legend would do to capture a unicorn, though capture was not what she intended. She concentrated on the gentle rushing of the river, feeling the breeze rustle the flowers in her hair. The sun was warm on her face as an overwhelming serenity filled her heart.
“You look beautiful,” a voice spoke.
Hannah opened her eyes, snapping herself from her reverie. Alaric walked to her with graceful ivory steps, looking at her with his deep blue eyes. She couldn’t find any words to greet him with, instead flashing a bright smile.
Alaric kneeled next to her, placing his head in her hands. Hannah leaned against him, her delicate fingers brushing through the silk mane. Wrapping her arms around his powerful neck, a tense breath made her catch herself.
“I’m… I’m sorry…”
Feeling awkward, Hannah pulled away, gathering up her gown. The unicorn looked at her with unblinking eyes.
“Have I offended you?” Alaric asked as the girl shifted her weight with nervous energy.
Hannah shook her head, unsure what to do next. “You far from offend me,” she replied. “In fact, I know many a girl who would give so much to be where I am now.”
“If you did not wish to be with me, you did not have to make your promise.”
Hannah felt herself blush with intense embarrassment. “I didn’t break my promise. I am here just as I said. It’s just that…” Her voice trailed as she struggled to find the words that wouldn’t upset the unicorn. “Forgive me for saying, but as much as I want to, being here goes against everything my family taught me.”
Alaric continued watching her. No anger or confusion crossed his face. In fact the lack of emotional response made Hannah uncomfortable.
“Tell me, ” the unicorn answered. “What is it that you have been told?”
She felt herself blush more. “I don’t want to offend you. I should be going.”
The unicorn turned away, watching the river. Despite her protest, Hannah could not get herself to leave.
“Do you fear me?”
Hannah thought about the question. “I know I should,” she answered with honesty. “Unicorns steal away people for the pleasures of the elves that care for you, enchanting them so that they may never return to the mortal world.”
The unicorn turned back to her. “But do you fear me?”
“No, I don’t. I have also heard that unicorns are kind, peaceful creatures who are done more harm by man than the other way around. I have no reason to believe you are not one of those unicorns.”
She saw Alaric smile and couldn’t help but smile back.
“So if you do not fear me then why do you stand ready to run? Do you believe in your heart that I intend you no harm?”
The girl nodded.
Alaric continued. “I enjoy the company of humans but I of course must choose my company with great care. Would it give you comfort to know that I cannot enchant you without your permission?”
“What do you mean by that?” Hannah asked. “I thought that magic can take anyone.”
“No, if it was that easy, you would have been mine without question,” the unicorn answered. “But there you are ready to leave me. If you wish, you may go back to where you came. Be sure though that I will not be here when you return.” He turned away from her.
Hannah stood frozen questioning as to what course she should take. In her mind her mother’s voice echoed with warnings. On the other here was a unicorn, the most magical of animals just wanting to spend time with her. The thought of walking out on him seemed beyond any measure of rudeness. Not being able to ever see the unicorn again created a dull pain in her heart.
“No, I must leave,” Hannah answered rather unconvincingly. “I cannot stay here.” Picking up her dropped hem, she gave the black unicorn a hesitant second glance. “I must go home.”
Each step she took was heavy and unsure. The further she walked the more she wondered whether it was the right idea to refuse a lonesome unicorn a little cordial company. She stopped, passing a nervous hand on her throat.
“Alaric? Please, don’t leave.” She puffed as she ran back where the unicorn had stayed.
“You say I cannot be enchanted without my permission, right?”
Alaric nodded. “Nothing will happen unless you decide you want it to happen.”
There was a pause as the girl processed his words with caution, trying to balance wisdom with want. Hannah walked over, lowering herself next to him. “Well, I don’t mind staying with you then,” she replied.
The unicorn smiled again. “I am very happy you’ve given me that. Put your arm around me. It gives me great comfort.”
Hannah did as the unicorn told. She snuggled closer, feeling the warm effervesce of magic radiating from him. The sensation was calming. She buried her face in his long mane, breathing in deep his fragrant scent. They sat in silence, watching the river water pass over smooth stones sparkling like diamonds in the sun.
Desmond followed the neat path to the cottage as he had many times before, except this time with excited nervousness in his steps. Hannah’s mother was a midwife, growing many odd exotic plants not found in town. There was no trading to be done today, as Gunther had done many times however his mission was no less important.
As he neared the house he could see Hanna’s mother enjoying the day sitting out front with her two daughters. Jenny and Marion were both married to well-to-do merchants and were spending the week visiting their reserved mother and youngest sister. They drank lemonade while they fanned themselves, laughing away to the latest gossip. As the young apprentice came into close enough view the talking stopped. The three of them gave wide smiles as all eyes turned on him.
“Uhm, hello,” he said as he offered a polite bow.
“Why, hello there Desmond,” Hannah’s mother answered. “Quite a surprise to find you here.”
“Indeed,” Jenny added, fanning herself. Marion settled for another sip of her lemonade.
Desmond rubbed the back of his neck with a nervous hand. “I was hoping to find Hannah here, but I guess she’s not. I didn’t see her do chores.”
“She did them early,” Marion said. “And left as soon as she finished.”
“Indeed again,” Jenny replied. “In fact, she dressed up in her best clothing, even brushing out that tangled nest of hair of hers.”
Hannah’s mother began to realize the situation wasn’t as they had assumed. “We thought she was with you.”
Jenny and Marion glanced at each other.
“No, she’s not,” Desmond replied, fidgeting with embarrassment. “Uh, this was kind of a surprise. She wasn’t expecting me.” He began to walk away.
“Wait… I can say with confidence that I saw her head down the river. If you go, I am sure you can catch up with her.” Hannah’s mother pointed in the general area behind the house.
“True,” Marion added. “It’s not like there’s anyone else around here she’s going to meet up with. And Town is much too far to go by foot. She may be waiting for you and you don’t know it.”
“Surprises for everyone!” Jenny exclaimed, waving her fan in the air in an attempt to literally wave away the rising awkward feelings.
Desmond smiled, thanking the ladies for their words of encouragement. Taking quick steps, he went towards to the other side of the river he until recently would shout to. The three women followed his moves, knowing he was trying to avoid their gazes. As he disappeared around the corner of the cottage, they burst into giggles again, though this time Hannah’s mother sported a little more concern on her face.
This is not going to turn out like we’re hoping, she thought, hiding her growing apprehension.. Turning back to her chattering daughters she joined in their informal conversation, content for now to see how events unfold before making her uneasiness known.
“What did they mean that she couldn’t be with someone else?” Desmond contemplated as he walked alongside the river. “Is there someone else to worry about? I don’t remember anyone else living around here.” Paranoia began to settle in his already racing mind. “Marion is right. Town is too far to go by foot. They don’t even have the means for Hannah to go all the time even if there was someone.” He tried not to think too hard about what they were implying. He felt his heart grow heavy, his stomach queasy with every assumption.
A figure siting alone on the grass came into view releasing a small sigh of relief from him. Desmond was used to seeing her in drab work clothes, which consisted of a coarse wool shirt and brown skirt. Along with the flowers in her braided short hair, she wore an intricate embroidered dress made of red velvet and gold thread. Not the sort of dress a girl should be wearing to lounge in damp pasture. He had never seen her as beautiful as she was at that moment and couldn’t help but stare.
Hannah sat entranced by something in her fingers, not noticing Desmond until he at last called her attention.
“Hello,” he shyly started. “I was told you’d be here.”
Hannah looked up, startled by the sudden talking. “Oh, hello,” she answered, distracted by what looked to be a lock of black hair.
He took a seat next to her, leaning over to see what she had. “What do you have there?” he asked.
Her small hand closed on the lock, almost hesitant to show him. “It’s a gift.”
He looked away for a moment, unsure what to make of it. “It looks like a lock of hair to me. What kind of gift is that?”
“Remember when you asked me if I noticed the unicorn by the river?”
“And you said you didn’t see it.”
“Well I didn’t see it then.” Hannah continued with uncertainty in her voice. “I’m not sure why. I can’t believe I missed Alaric that first time.”
“Alaric?” He found himself having trouble with the name. “Who’s that?”
“The black unicorn you saw,” Hannah answered with slight disbelief in her voice. “After I had finished my chores that day I went and took a stroll. It was in this spot that he revealed himself to me.”
Gunther’s ominous words echoed in the young man’s mind.
“He told me his name was Alaric and that he wanted me to meet him again. Can you believe it?” Hannah’s face beamed with dreamy excitement, causing anxiety in her companion.
“What else did he tell you?” Desmond asked, watching how her fingers caressed the silky lock of black hair.
At first she hesitated to share her experience with Desmond. But he wasn’t the type to harm anything much less a unicorn plus she had such an urge to tell someone.
“Alaric is the leader of a herd of unicorns living in a far away valley with a kingdom of elves. The unicorns help the elves cross over, whatever that means in exchange for their protection.”
“Crossing over is what an elf does when they decide they have spent enough time in this world.” Desmond searched his memory for other facts. “They can do it themselves but it requires a lot of magic, leaving them very weak on the other side. Unicorns can cross over without much thought, or at least that’s what I heard. It’s natural that elves would make such a pact with them.”
“I didn’t know you knew so much about elves.” She nudged him playfully.
“I do have to study once in a while,” he answered back. “What do you think I do all day? Gather vegetables?”
“And firewood, and herbs, and frogs, and whatever else that crazy teacher of yours needs.”
Desmond laughed. “It seems that way most of the time.” He looked again at the lock of hair, reaching for it. “So what is that you’re holding anyway?”
“Alaric gave it to me.” Hannah allowed him to take the lock from her. “I was braiding his mane when he said for me to take something to remember him by, and it just slipped into my hand.”
Desmond studied the unicorn’s mane. Braided halfway, it shone with its own brilliance, swaying in the smallest breeze like water, feeling soft like fine silk. He gave it back to Hannah.
“It must be exciting to see a unicorn up close like you did.”
Her eyes lit up. “It was amazing. You can feel their magic flowing through them. If I didn’t know any better, I think have gotten some magic for myself.”
“Then maybe I should hug you and borrow some. I seem to need all the help I can get.”
They both giggled at the thought, ending with an awkward pause.
“Alaric wants me to meet him again.”
Desmond felt a chill at her words.
She noticed the change in his demeanor. “You don’t think that’s a good idea, don’t you?”
Desmond rubbed the back of his neck, a habit that was cropping up more often than he’d like. “I don’t want to ruin your moment but I’m afraid what it means a unicorn requests audience with a maiden.”
The worse part was that it was with his maiden.
Hannah eyed the lock of hair again. “I’m not sure what to make of all this. I know all the stories too. I shouldn’t have met him this second time but I really don’t feel he’s out to hurt me.”
“I’m not saying he’s going to hurt you,” Desmond answered. “I’m sure that’s not his intention at all. You have to remember that it’s not for himself that he wants you.”
“He said he wouldn’t.” Her voice trailed.
The young couple sat in silence, watching the blue sky melt into an orange-red blaze. Just by looking at her, Desmond knew Hannah’s thoughts were of the unicorn.
“Here, I want to show you something before we have to head home.” Desmond reached into his shirt and pulled out a piece of blue cloth. “I’ve been practicing this for the last couple of days and I think I got it.”
Hannah turned to him, intrigued by his words. “What are you going to do with a blue handkerchief?”
“Hope that Gunther doesn’t notice it’s missing,” Desmond replied. “His collection may look haphazard, but he knows where everything is when he needs it. By the way, this is his good handkerchief.”
“As opposed to a bad one?”
“No, silly. This one he keeps on him when he has to make important house calls. It’s part of his official wardrobe. It’s silk.”
Desmond thought for a moment. The handkerchief although made of silk did not compare to the lock’s softness. He couldn’t even compare the hair to silk any longer.
“So, are you going to show me something or just show off stolen property?”
“It’s not stolen.” Desmond smirked at her comment. “I’m just borrowing it for this occasion.”
“Okay, okay. Now get on with it.” She waved an eager hand. “The suspense is killing me.”
Desmond adjusted himself so that he was facing Hannah, clearing his throat for effect. “Observe an ordinary handkerchief,” he announced.
“Not used in ordinary fashion I hope.” Hannah giggled, not missing the chance to taunt him.
“Hey! I am a grand wizard! I wouldn’t use a dirty handkerchief!”
“One out of two isn’t bad considering this is the first time you’ve ever attempted to show me any of your spells.”
Desmond waved the handkerchief in an exaggerated motion, thrilled in the fact that he had her complete attention. “Okay, I’m not a grand wizard, but I’m working on it, so if you don’t mind.”
“Not at all.”
Snapping the handkerchief in the air again, Desmond crumpled the fabric into his fist. Closing his eyes he began to envision the words on the page he had been trying so hard to commit to memory. At the same time, he was offering a little prayer of getting the spell right now that Hannah was watching. He took a deep breath, waved his hand over his fist and began his work.
Hannah leaned closer, trying to understand the words he was mumbling. Looking at his fist, she contemplated what was it she was supposed to be looking for, or what was even supposed to happen. As she was about speak, the kerchief squirmed, wriggling its way out of Desmond’s hand. As it inched out, it snaked up waving and weaving to the imaginary music of a charmer’s pipes.
“The handkerchief isn’t crawling, it’s growing like a plant!” She gasped, enthralled.
Desmond continued with his spell trying not to get caught up in the girl’s reaction.
Hannah laughed again. “I can’t believe you can concentrate at all while this is happening!” The plant continued to inch upwards, its leaves sprouting, until a bud began to form and unfold. Hannah’s green eyes widened in wonder as the bud revealed a blue rose.
Desmond stopped chanting and opened his tired eyes. Casting spells took a lot out of him and this time was no exception. Opening his hand, he presented the rose to a still shocked Hannah.
“For the unicorn princess.”
“I can’t believe it! You turned the kerchief into a rose!”
For someone who had spent an afternoon with a unicorn, she was still impressed by such a modest display of magic. She took the rose, studying it with care, almost forgetting the lock of hair she had been holding the whole time
. “I’ve never seen anyone do magic this close before,” she said, pride filling Desmond’s face.
“I’ve never had a spell work that well before,” he replied, just as amazed with his own accomplishment as she was. “It’s a transforming spell Gunther has been trying to teach me for a while. I can transform things into anything I want.”
Hannah closed her eyes, placing the blue bud to her nose inhaling its scent. She pulled the rose away, a bewildered look across her face.
Hannah held the rose for him to look at. “The rose isn’t real.”
“What? Of course it is. That’s how the spell is supposed to work.” Desmond sputtered in disbelief.
“Supposed to maybe,” Hannah replied. “But look. The stem and the thorns are real but the bud is made out of the handkerchief.”
He took the rose out of her hand and examined it himself.
“Feel it. It’s silk. It doesn’t even have a flower scent,” she explained.
“Oh…” Desmond became even more amazed by the unintentional results. As he continued studying the flower they both began to stand, knowing that it was time to go home soon. “At least it’ll never die,” he said handing the rose back to Hannah as she brushed off her dress.
“I’ll cherish it always then.”
The sky darkened, the orange hue melting away. “It’s getting late and you should be getting home before your mother begins to worry. Would you mind if I accompanied you home?”
The maiden curtsied before him. “I would be honored to be accompanied by the grand wizard Desmond.”
“And I would be honored to join the unicorn princess.”
Hannah reached out and hooked her arm into Desmond’s. They walked savoring the moment.
“You know, maybe it is good luck to be visited by a unicorn,” Desmond said, trying to dismiss his apprehension.. “Perhaps you did receive some of it’s magic.”
“I doubt it but it is a nice thought.”
“Don’t they also say that unicorns appear to virgins?”
“Do you think this one was making an exception?”
The remark earned him a swift smack on the shoulder.
“Hey! Just kidding!”
“You’d better be, silly boy!”
The stars began to peek as they reached the cottage on the outskirts of the forest. The couple faced each other for the last time that night. Desmond stood waiting for Hannah to go into her house. He suppressed a nervous shiver.
“I enjoyed your spell, even if it didn’t turn out the way you wanted.”
“Thank you, Hannah. I am glad you liked it.”
They looked at each other for a second.
“Well, I’d better be getting inside. It is dark now.”
“Oh yes, of course…”
Hannah turned, reaching for the metal handle of her door.
“Yes, Desmond?” She glanced over her shoulder.
“Uhm, I…” Desmond fidgeted as he tried to gather up the courage to speak his last words to her. Hannah turned, facing him, waiting. All he could do was stare into her green eyes.
“I wish you a good night Hannah,” he replied, unable to control the apologetic smile crossing his face.
Hannah’s lips pulled into a small grin. “Good night, Desmond, and thank you again.”
Desmond stood there in the dark, Hannah opening the door as quiet as she could, disappearing into the candlelit house. After he was sure she was safe inside, he slapped his forehead, cursing his hesitation. “I’m such an idiot,” he scolded himself as he started to make his way back home.
He walked his familiar trail, smiling at the realization that even though he missed an opportunity to tell Hannah feelings, he at least was able to be the center of her attention for a little while, unicorn or no unicorn.
Her dreams were bothersome at best. All the tossing and turning couldn’t get Hannah into a comfortable position to sleep. Lying on her back with her eyes wide open, she stared at the ceiling. Concentrating through the darkness she listened to the mice running through the straw above her.
The black unicorn monopolized every thought she created. “Alaric.” She repeated the word softly until it developed a rhythm like rain on stone. That was his name. Hannah wanted so much to tell her mother and her sisters what she saw, to share what she experienced. It was a dangerous idea though, more to the unicorn than to her. She fought the notion. This was her secret. It had to remain one.
Alaric asked to meet her again. There wasn’t even a debate as to whether she should. Everything else was changeable, but refuse an invitation from a unicorn? It was an impossible thought. Despite all the stories, there was no reason to believe that this unicorn intended any harm. If he meant to kidnap her he would have done so already.
Hannah pulled her blanket over her in spite of the warm night. A silver shaft of moonlight flooded the small room. Her two visiting older sisters slept on the opposite end of the room, oblivious to the inner conflicts their sibling was suffering. She envied the way they slumbered, cherishing at the same time her unique experience.
Giving up on ever attaining any restful sleep, she sat up looking past the window into the hushed woodland beyond. All sorts of shadows danced in the calm spring breeze. Hannah narrowed her eyes, shifted her head trying to make out specific shapes. She stepped out from under her covers and tiptoed to the window. Leaning out on the windowsill, she stared out into the night.
A sparkle against the silhouettes made the girl’s heart jump. Hannah braced herself to keep from letting out a cry of surprise and risk waking her sisters. Leaning further out the window to get a better look, Alaric’s form appeared in the nearby wood, his ivory horn the source of the faint light.
“Tomorrow,” she spoke into the darkness, fighting the urge to jump out and join him at that moment. “I will meet you like I promised.”
The great stallion stood in the moonlight then melted back into the darkness. Hannah rested her head in her hand and could do nothing more than stare, enchanted by the fact that such a magical creature would cast his eyes on her.
“Tomorrow,” she repeated until her eyelids became heavier with each slow wink. She leaned on the windowsill as she drifted into sleep, a slight smile across her lips.
Desmond wiped the sweat from his brow, leaving a dark streak of mud on his forehead. Lettuce, carrots, celery, and other food plants overflowed from the pushcart sitting at the edge of the garden.
As his student did the digging, Gunther would fill a basket to bring some of the bounty into the house. It had been a good season. The plants came out more plentiful than usual, the surplus allowing them to sell off the remainder of what they couldn’t store. There was only so much space and the extra money didn’t hurt either.
“Ah, the exciting life of a wizard,” Desmond said half-joking. Hot, tired, and covered in dirt he looked forward to using it as an excuse to go to the river to see Hannah. “Just make sure to wash first,” he reminded himself, knowing that maidens were without fail not attracted to filthy apprentices.
Attracted. Yes, he was attracted to Hannah. Very much so in fact. However he never told her how he felt. He would visit her and she didn’t hide the fact she enjoyed his company. After agonizing, Desmond decided that today he was going to visit her face to face and maybe, just maybe muster enough courage…
“Have you been studying the Transformation spell as I asked?” His teacher’s voice broke the trance. Desmond looked up to see Gunther filling his basket with the last of the vegetables. “You’ve been very distracted this past while much to my displeasure.”
“You think you’re disappointed.” Desmond tossed the hand shovel aside. “I don’t know why I even bother. I have yet to master any real spells since I started.”
“Floating objects is not a real spell? You seem to use it every chance you can.”
“Oh, that’s trivial stuff.” Desmond rubbed at the ground in soil from his clothing to no avail. “I feel like I’m training for a side show. All my other friends are mastering fire spells and illusions. I can almost make dishes float.”
Gunther wrapped a sympathetic hand around Desmond’s disillusioned shoulder. “Never compare things that can’t be compared. You have great magic within you. Maybe you can’t see it now but you will soon enough. Your friends are your friends but they are just that. They are not you. Their skills may look impressive but in the long run it’s the deeper magic that is worth working for.”
The old wizard thought a bit, a mischievous smile crossing his face. “Maybe what your magic needs is a different incentive.”
Desmond blinked, not understanding.
“Look, I was not always as old as I am now despite what you may want to believe. I know to where young men’s minds wander. I was no different. What you need to do is refocus yourself. If you cannot convince your magic to come out to serve a king then maybe it will to win a girl’s heart.”
Desmond’s looked away from his teacher feeling self-conscious. He didn’t know how to react to him speaking on such a personal level.
“Do you think so?”
“Maybe it will be enough to get the magic flowing a bit. You won’t find out unless you try and visit her on a regular basis for a change instead of acting like fools screaming across rivers.”
“But what about all the work?”
“There will always be work but true love is a little bit harder to come by.”
The young man’s chest swelled with new found energy soon followed by a hard smack.
“Just don’t make it the only thing you do,” Gunther added with a less joking yet not too serious tone. “Love may be hard to come by but it’s the hard work that keeps food in your belly and gold in your pockets.”
Desmond laughed to himself as he watched his teacher walk back into the house. “You’re not as crazy as I sometimes think you are,” he muttered to himself.
Putting away his tools he began to ready himself for the biggest challenge he ever had to face – courting Hannah.