26. Flying Lessons

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Dear readers—disappoint your unicorn at your own peril.

Do you even need to ask why?

You do?

I will tell you then ...

While riding on the back of a unicorn, you may think you're at the helm, instructing the animal (via rein manipulation and body language) about the altitude, flight path, and landing, but if your unicorn is ticked off at you, she is entirely within her rights (according to unicorn tradition) to put you in mortal danger.

It didn't take long for Ashley to figure this out.

Though Louisa and Ashley had a joyful reunion atop the witch's snow-covered fortress, after the pleasantries, the unicorn had an earful of complaints to set before her mistress. Apparently, hanging out in the Forbidden Forest, while fun at first—teasing the blackberry brambles and honing her landing technique on the roof of the cannibal witch's gingerbread house—turned out to be tedious beyond words.

How many times can a unicorn trample a gingerbread roof before it crumbles?

Answer for those who care to know: three.

"Hey, watch it," Ashley begged Louisa for the umpteenth time as her frost-bitten toes smacked against a treetop. "Ouch! Louisa, is this necessary? I said I was sorry. Repeatedly."

"Is what necessary?" Louisa neighed, lurching left.

Ashley slid partially off the saddle, clutched the reins, and screamed. "Punishing my feet by flying so low," she neighed once her heart had slowed to a thousand beats a minute, and she could take in enough air to speak.

Louisa responded by soaring into the clouds in an almost vertical trajectory leaving Ashley's stomach far below. She squeezed her knees against Louisa's flanks and, abandoning the reins, gripped the pommel.

The ascent persisted. Icicles crystallized on the princess's eyebrows; her head swam from the lack of oxygen. Her thighs ached, threatening to give out. Black spots prickled in her vision. She'd welcome unconsciousness. But just before she slipped under, Louisa dropped a few hundred feet.

Oxygen flooded back into Ashley's lungs. The spots disappeared. She managed a scream. "Louisa, you could've killed me."

"I was only doing what you wanted."


"You said I was punishing your feet because I was flying too low."

"Have you ever heard of a happy medium?"

"You mean a fortuneteller who won the lottery?"

"Not that kind of medium."

"Ashley? Ashley?" Layyin's muted cry came from beneath the clouds.

"Up here," she yelled back.

"What? I can't hear ..." Layyin's voice was so soft, Ashley could barely hear as well.

"Louisa, enough."

"If you're not careful, I'll drop you off on that the deserted island where I dumped your horrible stepfamily," Louisa said.

"Wait, you were the one that flew them to their exile?"

"Yeah, me and Louis. One of our best trips."

"Wow," Ashley said. "I think I'd like never to see my stepfamily again. Can we please join the others?"

"Of course," Louisa neighed, spreading her wings, they plummeted, wind whipping against Ashley's face, hair flapping behind. Ashley screamed again. "What? You said go lower," Louisa snarked.

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