The Fairy Queen and Elven King continued their dance of glares. Her face was beautiful even in its austereness, like an exquisitely carved greek statue. The Elven King matched her stare for stare, unblinking in his sternness.
Ivy went to stand by her husband. Jane, looking once hesitantly at Euthalia, stepped up beside them.
“And we are complete,” Ivy whispered in the silence. Time itself seemed to drag its feet as the monarchs stood locked in battle.
“Not quite –“ Darrick said.
“Oh, we are,” Ivy said with a knowing smile. “She comes.”
A glimmer of a frown crossed Darrick’s face. “You brought Mary here? How?”
Ivy shook her head. “See the imps at the edges of the crowd? If they’re here, it means Mary has left home. I wonder…”
“Those imps! They’re the ones who dragged me into all of this!”
“They asked me to follow them here on some mission for a witch!”
Ivy laughed aloud. Everyone turned to look, even the King and Queen.
“Oh, Mother. How your rule of law fails!”
“This is not a matter for laughter, Iliana. Are you quite mad? Has being with this – this half-elf made you crazy?”
“Darrick has broken no law, Mother. The imps, those blessed rascals, invited him into the Old Kingdom.”
“It is settled then,” Alexei the centaur announced. “No law has been broken. This court is adjourned.” As one, the centaurs turned to leave.
The centaurs stopped. Charon turned in the direction of the voice. A stately white horse with a single horn in the middle of its head trotted up to him, bearing Mary on his back.
“Why are you here?” Charon asked, casting a worried glance at Alexei. He could hear Euthalia laughing behind him.
“The unicorn called me. My –“
“Mother! Father!” Mary slid off the unicorn, running to her parents.
“How did you come? And why?” Ivy asked as Darrick hugged her close.
“I heard your voice on the wind. You were calling to me. So – so I thought I’d go back to the place where I saw Charon last night. But I couldn’t. The trees wouldn’t let me,” she gave Euthalia a baleful look. “I tried to walk around the trees – I walked for so long, and the winds were getting so strong I was afraid I would be blown away. That was when the unicorn appeared. He told me to get on his back and he’d bring me in – oh, he’s gone!”
“Wait, Mary. You didn’t tell me anything about Charon this morning.”
“Oh! Oh dear,” she blushed. “I wasn’t supposed to, well, I promised not to tell.” She stole a look at Charon who was frowning at her. Alexei beckoned him angrily.
“And who is this, Iliana?” the Fairy Queen asked.
“This is my second born,” Ivy replied. The little family drew together in the midst of the fairy creatures.
“So. You were the second intruder,” the Queen said. There was a slight trace of rancour in her voice. “And I suppose I have no recourse against your intrusion either, seeing as you are… of my blood.”
“The question I have is who was calling for you in my voice?” Ivy said, looking at Mary thoughtfully.
Back to the theme list.
The unicorn is a legendary animal that has been described since antiquity as a beast with a large, pointed, spiraling horn projecting from its forehead. The unicorn was depicted in ancient seals of the Indus Valley Civilization and was mentioned by the ancient Greeksin accounts of natural history by various writers, including Ctesias, Strabo, Pliny the Younger, and Aelian. The Bible also describes an animal, the re'em, which some translations have rendered with the word unicorn.
In European folklore, the unicorn is often depicted as a white horselike or goatlike animal with a long horn and cloven hooves (sometimes a goat's beard). In the Middle Ages and Renaissance, it was commonly described as an extremely wild woodlandcreature, a symbol of purity and grace, which could only be captured by a virgin. In the encyclopedias its horn was said to have the power to render poisoned water potable and to heal sickness. In medieval and Renaissance times, the horn of the narwhal was sometimes sold as unicorn horn.
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