Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Stolen Unicorn

The dragon’s roar shook the earth. Mylan’s hooves thundered in its direction. His horn was low, aimed directly at the brute’s midsection.

The great lizard rose on its haunches and launched upward into hovering flight. The warmth from its wings singed the grass into dry yellow curls. Mylan tore past at breakneck speed and snorted with rage. He turned quickly, kicking up small chunks of mud in his haste, and began speeding back the other way. When he reached the spot where the beast had been, he halted, looking upward, and neighed fiercely as if he were plainly saying, “Come down here!”

The scaly beast hovered a minute, considering. Its wicked head turned sideways, its red eyes blinking and sweeping the landscape side to side. Suddenly its glazed goggles caught the glare of something hidden in the bushes, something that sparkled.

Mylan’s colt.

A sly smirk stretched the corners of Berty’s mouth.

“You thought you could hide him from me?” he purred.

“You’re a coward to fight colts and not grown unicorns!” shouted Mylan with all his might.

“Yes, yes, I’m a coward,” cooed Berty. “And I’m taking him with me. Feel free to stop me.”

The dragon very gently scooped the glittering colt into its jaws and flew off over the mountains and out of sight into the sunset, leaving the bereft Mylan staring at the ground in silence.

Something rustled. I came out of the bushes and held up my acquisition: one dragon’s egg.

“How did you get it?” said Mylan.

“I’m sure I couldn’t explain it,” I replied. “Suffice it to say I have talents unbeknown to many. Will Berty consider a trade?”

“How would I get word to him that we have it? Will he notice it’s missing in his glee over kidnapping a unicorn’s foal?”

“I know exactly how to get word to him. I know two or three gossips who can never keep their mouths shut about anything. I will tell them I have it, and tell them not to tell anybody. That will get the message out into the open, and sooner or later Berty will catch wind of it.”

“A good plan,” said Mylan, chewing the air. (He often did this, and as he explained, it is a great stress reliever to all creatures equine.)

Three weeks later the ground shook with an enormous thumping on the door of my dugout.

I opened it to see a very large dragon hovering outside.

“Ho hum,” I yawned. “Another dragon.”

“It’s Berty,” he hissed, “and I want my egg.”

“I don’t have it,” I replied.

“Don’t mess with me,” he hissed.

“I don’t have an egg,” I repeated. “I have a dragon.”

“Give me him,” he growled.

“Return our colt,” I spat.

“You would not be wise to make a dragon angry,” he glowered.

I waved my hand, and instantly he began sneezing uncontrollably. Tears boiled out of his half closed eyes, and he zoomed away toward the mountains.

Three days later a gentle knock sounded on my door. A quiet and lessoned dragon offered a bundle of roses in its miserable clenched fist with a “sorry” note attached.

“What do you want?” I said flatly.

“May I please have my dragon back?” he cooed.

“May I please have our unicorn back?” I shot back.

“I ate him,” he confessed.

I tried to keep my poker face flatlined and without showing any feeling, although the pit of my stomach wrenched at this.

“I don’t believe you,” I said. “Prove it.”

He pulled one silver horn from beneath his wings and laid it on the ground.

“Fine,” I said,. “You’ve proved your point. And you don’t get your dragon back.”

Forward three years.

The young dragon, raised by me, housebroken, mannerly, and trained to flame upon command, was a grand and spectacular addition to our stable, because, unlike all my unicorns and horses, he could fly.

Berty stayed away. Mylan’s grief made him less fit for service, and I often gave him small jobs just to make him feel useful, while sparing him from anything involving stress.

This day I was hauling firewood (for a mundane job must be done regardless) with the help of three from my stable: a draft horse, a pony, and a younger unicorn named Dane. Every once in a while Dane would stop and sharpen his horn on a log, which annoyed the draft horse, although the pony was frisky and did not mind the sound.

The sun shone and the clouds were merry white crystals that occasional made a rainbow colored circle.  My spirits were high and my work was coming along well.

As I expected when things are going so well, I looked up and saw the thing I least liked on the edge of the forest. Berty.

Anger boiled in my gut and I leaped between him and my equine with one hand raised, ready to sicken him.

“Hold your fire,” he ordered.

“Strange statement, coming from you,” I retorted.

“Very funny,” he said. “I have something you might want.”

From behind him stepped a beautiful bluish white unicorn, with a diamond tipped horn and a silver chain around its neck bearing the emblem of a skull.

I frowned.

“It’s Mylan’s colt,” he explained. “I raised him as my own. I have come to my senses, and want to trade.”

“What of the horn you showed me?” I said.

“Taken from my hoard of silver, gold, and jewels. I don’t know where I got it, but it’s been in the collection. From some unicorn that bit the dust ages ago.”

The young animal blinked innocently and padded quietly up to my draft horse, touching noses.

“Now. Now, where is my dragon?”

I must admit I had grown attached to the dragon I’d raised, since I thought I was making the best of a bad situation. Although glad to have Mylan’s colt back, I did not want to give him up.

“I’ll bring him to you tomorrow,” I said. “Meet me here at ten in the morning.”

Under the circumstances I cut my wood hauling trip short and got everybody home. Mylan was ecstatic, but the young unicorn was without emotion. It calmly informed us its name was Fireball, and asked us for something to eat.

“Help yourself to the hay in the large shed out back,” I said, allowing the other animals to show him the way. I had to talk to Lamech right away.

He was sleeping in a circle with his head on his tail. Tiny smoke lines curled from his nostrils. Happy sighs escaped him as he dreamed.

“Lamech,” I said. “Get up.”

He raised his head, smiled sleepily, and waved in recognition.

“Lamech,” I said, finding it difficult to force the words out of my tightened throat. “Your father wants to meet you. Tomorrow.”

He turned his head sideways like a big green scaly dog, and considered what I’d said. Then he shook his head contentedly.

“Uh uh.”

“Lamech,” I repeated. “I understand your reluctance, but he really wants to meet you, and he brought my unicorn back.”

“I grown up now,” he replied. “I make my own choice. Not meet him.”

“Lamech, will you please listen? Maybe you can tell him that yourself. Tell him you don’t want to live on the other side of the mountains.”

Our conversation was interrupted by a loud scream outside. I ran, with the now awakened dragon close behind me.

“It’s coming from the hay barn,” I said. I leaped onto his back and he floated into a graceful glide. He landed abruptly and I tumbled off into a pile of spilled hay.

Fireball was leveling kicks at anyone who came near him. It was feeding time, and all the equine knew they were free to come and go and get all the hay they pleased. One large quarter horse was dripping blood from her nose.

“What is going on here?” I said.

“You told me I could eat here,” said Fireball. “These others were trying to take my food. It’s mine! Get away from it!”

“It’s for everyone,” I said. “Not just for you. Yes, for you, but for everyone also. We all share. We never run out of food because we all work to contribute to the supply.”

Mylan rushed up to the angry Fireball. “Never!” he neighed. “Never need to hurt to obtain goods here.”

“What do you know, old nag? You weren’t even able to keep me from being kidnapped, were you?” Fireball stamped the ground in disgust and headed toward the sleeping quarters.

“He is more dragon than I am,” Lamech said quietly in my ear.

I was afraid Lamech was right.

My fears were soon confirmed. I didn’t get any sleep all night. When the new unicorn wasn’t causing fights or breaking things he was badmouthing others, including me.

Morning came, and I accompanied Lamech to the edge of the woods.

Berty appeared with a big flash of wing and smoke, sailing in circles as if showing off, and landing between us. He snaked his neck around and sniffed at the young dragon, who was snaking his own neck and sniffing at Berty.

“It looks as if they’ve fed you,” said the older lizard. “You look well.”

“Yes, I am well, and I want to stay with my friends,” Lamech replied.

“They can’t stop me from taking you,” Berty laughed.

“But I can,” replied Lamech.

Mylan came up close behind us, prodding Fireball along with his horn.

“Take him. He’s your son, though and through,” he said regretfully.

“I don’t want him!” wailed Berty. “He’s just as miserably uncooperative as I am!”

“Nevertheless you will take him and leave us alone,” I said, gesturing my hand to remind him what I could do.

“Make me sick if you must, but I will not have anything to do with that--that--”

The dragon flew away swiftly without bothering to finish, far and fast out of reach of my abilities.

Reluctantly we all went home, glad of Lamech’s still being with us, and sorrowful that I had to keep a unicorn I didn’t like. It wasn’t that I couldn’t try to mend his ways, but rather that he did not want to be mended, that made me wish he would have gone back where he came from.