“Unicorns Walk Among Us” is an original story crafted as part of the series, “Tales of the Big Bad Wolf.” This story is also available as a separate epub from http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/44997 . Conceptual artwork is also available at http://talesofthebigbadwolf.com/artwork-unicorns/ .
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An account of the hunter E. Wildwood, Year 300
as compiled in
"The Collected Tales of the Big Bad Wolf," circa 1325
It is human nature to fear death. But there are those who fear it more than others, doing anything they can to avoid it. We seek out strange items that supposedly maintain our youthful appearance, we buy soldiers to protect us against those who might kill us, and we look for the mystical things that grant us immortality.
It should not be a surprise to most of you that the quest for immortality often is the pursuit of the wealthy. After all, there is no hope of everlasting life for the regular man who can not afford either these magic elixirs of youth or a hired army to secure these mystical items for them.
In a way, I fall into the latter category – a hired man in the service of a King who, having obtained great power too easily, lived in constant fear of losing it and becoming nothing. His wife was no better, a foolish vain creature, who spent too much time in front of the mirror admiring herself. They both wasted their vast resources to pursue youthful immortality.
And so, we hunters were made to do unthinkable and illogical things in the name of the King.
It continued as such for years.
That is, until, the unicorns came.
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Lily was a girl without a last name.
She had no village either, to anyone’s knowledge.
When we found her, she was a slip of a girl, with long yellow hair that fell to her waist and the saddest blue eyes that I had ever seen, and a scar on her forehead that marred what would have otherwise been a beautiful face.
We discovered her, chained up with some other women who had been locked away in a dark part of the King’s castle. There was no valid reason for them to be there, other than they had been born pleasant to look at and, therefore, posed a vague threat to the Queen’s claim to beauty.
What became of these girls is something I’m not proud to admit to after all these years. These were not hardened criminals, just young women of various means. The sickly ones died in prison. The healthier ones did not often fare better. Often these women were taken deep into the woods to serve either as bait or protection against the dark things that the court magicians said could only be appeased with a human sacrifice.
Why this girl caught our attention, however, was because of her pale features. Here in the East, we are a dark lot and we don’t see fair folks all that much. The magicians said that the way to catch a unicorn was to use a young girl. The reasons for catching one was to take its horn and use it to make a potion for immortality.
Each of us sent down here picked one girl to take along with us to the far Western part of the kingdom, where there had been rumors of the fabled creature running about. If the stories were true, a young maiden was the only way to approach the creature. As it would be a long journey, we had to take several girls who looked as if they might be the sort of creature that could entice the animal to come to her.
Why I selected her, I didn’t know at the time, other than I found her mysteriously pretty. Later I realized that it might have been the hand of fate guiding that choice.
In total, we took five girls with us. To be suitable for this quest, they had to be reasonably healthy and young. We took them away from the castle quietly before tending to them. It would not have done to clean them up under the Queen’s jealous nose.
We handed them over to a capable innskeeper’s wife, who tackled months of grime and dirt, and who soothed the frightened girls’ feelings. Branwen stayed with them for-- of the hunters commissioned to hunt the rare unicorn-- she was the only woman and could watch over them without risking accusations regarding their chastity. It was she who made a point to learn all their names and share that information with each of the escorting hunters.