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.