Short Story: The Unicorn

[ Just a warning, this story does hint at sensitive topics like depression and suicide. Please be advised.. and if you ever feel like you are struggling with depression and mental illness… you aren’t alone. Even if it sometimes feels that way. Never feel ashamed to seek help or someone to talk to. ]

Everyone knew that unicorns were supposed to be beautiful, graceful creatures. Myth and legend spoke of incredibly fragile looking alabaster steeds with a glorious golden horn adorning their flawless carved faces. Creatures so pure and elegant that they would only show themselves to the purest of virgins.

This beast before her was fuming clouds of white smoke from large nostrils. It’s horn was wide and thick, curving down towards her in a dangerous point, and the beasts frame was far from fragile or elegant. It was thick, large, muscled and intimidating. It’s bold fierce head resembled that of some sort of primitive oxen which dwarfed her vision. It’s eyes were huge and piercing, split goat-like pupils peering down into her with an uncanny intelligence. It must have towered over her a good few feet. It’s large massive head drooped to eye her closely.

It breathed heavy. It’s large cloven hoofs cracked the earth with it’s weight.

It was far from what she expected. Then again, a unicorn that would appear to her would have to break expectations. She was far from the purest of virgins.

“I don’t understand.” the words tumbled out of her mouth weakly.

“You called for help, and I came. What is there to understand?” It’s voice was deep and rumbling. It reminded her of distant thunder that echoed deep in a storm.

She dared to look away from the massive creature to instead look at her pale palms. They seemed so tiny in comparison. Her pale skin, flushed slightly with nervousness did nothing to hide the white lines tracked back and forth in the skin along her wrists. She rubbed them instinctively, trying to cover the shame.

Had she called it here? Yes, perhaps. In the way one silently cries for help.

“I don’t understand.” She said again, only more feeble this time. “I don’t even know where I am.”

It breathed a loud huff of breath as a response. The fog curled around her and tingled against her skin.

“You are in the Dark place.”

She looked back up to the creature only to notice it hadn’t moved it’s eyes from her. Those large piercing eyes which blinked slow and deliberate. What colour were they? Black, brown… grey? It was hard to tell. Maybe it was all three. “What are you?”

“Is it not obvious?”

“You aren’t like any unicorn I’ve ever heard about.”

“Yet you know what I am. Is that not enough?”

She pondered this, as she glanced around the shadowy place she found herself in. How long had she been here, pondering her own existence? It felt like forever. It almost felt like she couldn’t remember a time she wasn’t here. Trapped in this place. Locked in her own misery.

“Are you here to punish me?”

“No.”

“Why? It makes sense now. I understand why you’d be here like that if it was to punish me. You are just mocking me, aren’t you? Making fun of my little childish dreams… Of course I wouldn’t get rescued by something pure and innocent! Of course there would be nothing pretty and perfect for me… I’m a failure! I’ve always been a failure!” The tide came to a crest and it all began to flood over. “This is all just what I deserve, I’m useless and ugly and I deserve to be locked away here! You’ve come to make me feel ever worse about myself, is that it?! That’s it, isn’t it? Isn’t it!”

There was a tremendous rumbling then which sounded as if the whole world would cave in. The unicorn had lifted itself up and slammed it’s front feet down in front of her and the crushing weight made the whole world shudder for a moment. It’s massive head breathed a plume of smoke as if it’s entire insides had been ignited coal.

It shook her into a trembled silence as it’s huge head peered down at her with it’s curved sharp horn seemed to cut through the smoked breath like a knife.

“Silence!” It bellowed.

She waited for the inevitable attack, the crushing pain, the piercing horror of it…

“Child, you called for help and I came.” It’s thunder was stern, but softened.

She cast her eyes at it’s large cloven feet, almost the size of dinner plates. They looked large and heavy enough to crush her head with barely a thought. They seemed to be cracking and crumbling the ground around them just from their sheer gravity. She knew it was glaring at her, staring at her intently but she refused to look up into it’s judging eyes.

Nothing seemed to make sense. For years nothing in her life had made sense. Now she was facing down a giant beast that was most likely there to crush her into a pulp and she could barely wrap her mind around how she got to this point.

And then it came back to her with a sick sense of clarity. She had tried to end it all. The scars on her wrists? It wasn’t the first time. It wasn’t the last.

Or maybe it was.

Being lost here? The Dark Place? It all made sense now. She’d actually managed to do it. She’d killed herself and this must be her own type of twisted hell. No rest for the wicked? It must be true.

Just as the panic started to flood and overwhelm her she felt a strange feeling of the beasts chin very carefully resting on her back, somewhere between her shoulders. She tensed and waited but it neither tried to crush her or manoeuvred it’s large head to stab her with it’s horn.

“Yes child. Your illness overwhelmed you. It is an illness of the heart, and a sickness in the mind – but it is not a stain upon your soul. Many have fought such things as you have. Many have found themselves a patron of this Dark Place. Some choose to never leave.”

She saw those large hoofs lift as the beast moved back a step. The very earth still trembled in it’s wake.

“So there is no hope then. This is it. I’ve lost.” She raised her tear stained eyes to peer at the unicorn as it lowered it’s large nose to near inches away from her. “It’s all over?”

It chuckled softly, the breath from it’s large nostrils was once again a plume of white fog which encircled around them in a hazing mist. “Nothing ever ends. It is not over. You can still return. I am here to help you, if you choose to leave this Dark place. You wonder why I come to you, this creature you did not expect?”

She merely nodded as she carefully reached out and dared to touch it’s huge cheek with a shaky hand.

“You are a warrior. You fight a war that is unkind and unfair. You will fall and you will rise, and it will not be pleasant or pretty. You called out to the universe with the dreams of a child, but that child has grown up long ago.”

It leaned into her hand with a careful strength and it’s large eye seemed to look into her very core.

“Perhaps you expected a unicorn like your childhood fairytale? But no Child, I have not come to wash it all away. I have not come to turn back time or make you what you are not. I can not heal you like that. I can not simply will it all away. No creature can. I can help you return however. I can help you leave this place.”

“Then what? What good does any of this do if you can’t heal me? Even if I could go back there… I’d still have to fight all the time! I’d still have depression, I’d still be fighting with my own head…”

“Some healing only happens with ugly scars. Some battles must continue to be fought.”

Out of pure desperation she risked it. Against all common sense she leaned forward and wrapped her arms as far around the large beasts neck as she could and sobbed into it’s thick rough hide.

She thought she felt it rest it’s neck against her but she didn’t care. She sobbed until her body ached. She sobbed until the shame, guilt, pain, and fear leaked out of her in rambled words about how unfair it was and how much it all hurt. Her mind raced faster then her shuddering lips could keep up.

And all along the beast stood and listened as if the tangled rant made perfect sense.

Finally when her frantic release seemed to dry against him and her quickened breaths returned to some semblance of normal he spoke again.

“The Dark place feeds from your most negative emotions. It lures you into believing you are powerless and broken beyond repair. It makes you feel as if nothing you are can save you. It is the shadow in the mirror. It is your darkest reflection made real. It works so well because it fools you into thinking that it is bigger then you are.

I can’t simply take you from it. I’ve not come to heal you. I’ve come to help you heal yourself. I can’t fight your battles for you, but with you. You do not need something tiny and fragile to save you… you never have. You merely need someone to help you see that you are strong enough to save yourself. Come. Let us walk this battle together..”

All around her the dark place started to crack. The ground beneath her started to tremble. No longer was it due to the gravity of the massive presence of the unicorn in front of her – but her own gravity. It shuddered at her self realization.

“We all fight our own battles, sometimes we simply need to remind ourselves why we keep fighting. Sometimes we need a beast of war to heal our battered souls. I can’t promise you it will be easy – but I can promise you’ll never be alone.”

 

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Veilreach: Chapter Twenty

Kelle, Krill and Tusk all sat together in a makeshift camp as the Kingswood forest kept them out of sight. The Marshland goats were sleeping while tied to the black lightning carriage that had steamrolled through the woods to this point. Luckily all manner of tree, branch, stone and obstacle had been avoided and no damage was done (other then Krill’s shattered confidence in Kelle’s driving abilities.)

“Are you certain this is edible?” Krill poked a finger at the slightly charred lump on a stick Tusk had handed her.

“It’s good for you.”

“That wasn’t exactly an answer.”

“Well look at it this way,” he stuffed a fatty lump into his mouth and spoke between chewing. “It won’t kill you.”

“Good point I guess.” After squinting to examine it closer she decided that she wasn’t certain if the char marks were actually eyes or not. Instead she took a breathe, closed her eyes and bit into the fleshy lump before ripping it from the wooden stick and chewing as quickly as she could.

“You can be such a child…” Tusk chuckled and slurped down some manner of drink from one of Kelle’s tin cups. His slurp echoed among the crackling fire, the hoots of local night birds, and the distant chittering of insects.

It was peaceful in a way. The warm fire pushed away the cold dark of the forest canopy and the thick forest kept them feeling almost safely tucked away. Even the occasional snore from the sleeping goats made them feel more like a camping vacation then three adventurers on a possibly fatal endeavour.

Tusk sighed almost contented. He couldn’t remember the last time his old yellow eyes had seen the night stars peeking through trees like this. All the aches and pains seemed to be earned tonight, but in a good way.

So many nights locked up in his little den of solitude. He glanced over to the unusually quiet Kelle to notice her eyes up-cast looking at those same distant and fleeting stars. He grinned, as best he could. Perhaps she was thinking the same thing? Did she remember the taste of adventure?

The utter peace and calm of the moment was shattered rather loudly as Krill spit and gagged, cussing and throwing the stick into the fire and hopping up from the log she had previously been perched on.

“What in the blazing fires of…”

“It moved!” Krill was using both hands now to try and brush the remnants of the fleshy bits from her tongue. Whatever else she was saying was obscured with garbled bits of “Ugh! Disgusting! Eww!”

“Oh relax! It probably just had a few larval sacks inside of it… oh come on now will you just stop it?”

Krill became really still, held a finger up to stop him talking, and turned slightly green. She turned without another word and jogged a few paces into the woods and began wretching loudly.

Kelle’s cheeks were flushed with amusement as she took the break to sit with her old green friend. “She’s fun to have around.” she grinned, motioning a thumb towards where Krill was up-heaving. “So who normally cooks back home if she can’t stand a little campfire gormet?”

Tusk poked at the two extra sticks still hanging above the fire. The large sticky lumps crackled at the edges. After adjusting his glasses a little he saw a bit of movement. Oops, apparently hers had come off the fire a little early. He shrugged – it was worth the show.

“As a kid I used to love these things. Not to mention they are a natural pain reliever, they produce a sticky fluid that numbs the pain receptors.” he smirked. “The pregnant ones are harder to find… technically she got really lucky. Some markets pay a lot for them.”

Another loud sound of Krill getting sick argued on the value of ‘luck’ in this case.

“As for who cooks? Well, to be honest we haven’t spent a lot of time playing house lately. She disappears for weeks at a time getting into all sorts of mischief. Hell bent on this stupid quest of hers to find out what she is.” he was quieter now.

“Don’t worry, I heard her head off towards the stream. Probably going to try and drown the taste out of her mouth.” she chuckled. “I suppose I should be glad for my mostly liquid diet.”

“Honestly, they taste pretty good in my opinion.” he said before ripping another piece off from of the sticks and shoving it between his tusks.

If he were asked to describe the taste, it would probably be closest to crab mixed with lettuce that was left out in the sun just a touch too long. The more he thought about describing it, the more disgusting it really seemed to taste.

He shrugged and decided not to think about it too much and instead changed the subject.

“So we should make it through the woods by mid-day, as long as we take the elven trade root… and then off towards the Western Watch, and then on to the Skeye temple. It’s going to be risky. We have to hope the college is keeping this close to their chests and haven’t already warned the Watch tower to be looking for us… and then their is the business with the Temple…”

“I know, your friend certainly knows how to get into some interesting messes. Is it strange that I find it kind of exhilarating though? I love what I do Tusky, don’t get me wrong… but I miss this. I haven’t had this much action in quite some time.”

“It’s reckless. It will probably get us all killed. I don’t think she realizes that just yet.” He rubbed his old hands and examined his gangly knarled knuckles in the light of the fire. They looked like knobbly wrinkled sticks.

“I remember when you were much younger and your mind drifted to risky ideas and somewhat fantastical plans. When you were young and green and had veins filled with spite. You aren’t so different from her…”

“I didn’t say I was.” Tusk chuckled after swallowing. “Why do you think I’d drag myself out on this stupid errand? I could be warm and happy and buried under four lovely knitted blankets with a warm glass of butter rum and a saucy book in my hands in my home, which I love. I love my home…” he let out a sigh that whistled past his tusks and sounded as if he deflated a little. “I get it though. She won’t stop until she gets some sort of answer. There was a time I was just as reckless. A time when I was ready to do battle with the world rather then just wait to die.”

“And what happened to that reckless green wonder of mine?”

Tusk smiled and pulled his robes around his small squat body a bit closer, to chase away the chill of night that seemed bold enough to come closer to the fire. “Oh I don’t know. I think I have a little reckless still in me. Obviously, so do you.”

Kelle grinned and pulled an old blanket towards her and used it to drape around both of their shoulders as they curled into each other to watch the sparks crackle up the fire’s smoke.

“Life is reckless. Anything else is just a long and boring death. The length I can manage… but the boredom is torture.”

 

Character Sketch: Kelle from “Veilreach”

Sometimes it helps to sketch out some characters to get a good sense of their physical nature and just to amuse myself with their personalities. Since I still have a lot of writing to do to take Veilreach where I’d like it to be when I end the tale – I wanted to take a bit of time and sketch out a few of the main players.

This is Kelle. The feisty, sultry vampire alchemist. She’s actually based off a real friend of  mine who is a fun, quick-witted, curvy and saucy candle maker and alchemist all on her own. ( She is also the owner of a black cat which is lovingly named Dumbass… 😉 )

KELLE

Note: Searching for Labels.

You are more than a label. You are not an orientation, a spirituality, or a collection of descriptors. You may choose to define yourself by these things… but they are not what you are.

Society places so much stigma on what we need to be, and how we choose to define ourselves that it can get very difficult to understand the distinction between who you really are – and how you explain aspects of your personality.

I am asexual, but I am not just asexual. Nor am I like everyone else who defines themselves as asexual. My asexuality just is. The label just helps explain the general concept of one small piece of myself. Just as someone being straight or gay is one piece of the entire puzzle.

The same thing can be said for any aspect of my life. I’m an artist, I’m pagan, I’m a self proclaimed geek… but these things aren’t all I am. They certainly don’t tell the whole story.

I see so many people out there who seem to get lost in trying to find themselves. They seem to be looking for the missing labels that will all of a sudden make themselves whole, complete, and understood. They struggle so hard to find these magical descriptors that will suddenly explain to the world who they are, and they can’t understand why none of it ever seems to work.

Maybe they wonder if it’s them who are broken somehow. I know I’ve wondered it about myself over the years.

Part of me wonders why our youth tends to grow up so obsessed about how the world sees them. Without they words to describe themselves, how will they ever know who they are?

What I’ve learned about myself however is that labels and titles, and descriptions are just that. Simple words used to relay a general idea.

People are beautifully complex, complicated, and messy. We are never solely one thing and rarely do we ever fully fit into one box.

We grow constantly and change unexpectedly. We learn, adapt and evolve. And that is brilliant.

In the end what I’ve learned is the only way to truly find out who you are is to experience yourself. And along the way perhaps you’ll find the right group of people to experience that with you.  

Veilreach: Chapter Nineteen

[Just a warning that this story is rated Mature, namely due to some colourful language, violence, and occasional insults being flung. Also, I bloody adore Cook. Heh.]

The Dean Prime Marthis, who had so smugly followed his brilliant auspicious lead was now cowering behind a shocked and frustrated Maude. He had intended to grab Roden of course, since he was the biggest and most intimidating of the bunch – but unfortunately got her instead.

How chivalrous..” Tanis snickered.

Meanwhile the huge black creature was still snarling in the doorway, his tattered green bow-tie hidden among the sharp teeth and piercing pink eyes. The huge beast pretty much took up most of the doorway and just as the Dean was about to get his senses in order enough to blast him, he was startled again by a small portly head which suddenly popped up and shoved the creatures one leg to the side so he could get a good look at the intruders.

What is all this racket?! Shut up you dumb beastie!” The small man with the rather grotesque face and large booming and thick-accented voice shoved the creature back a bit more, and clunked a large wooden ladle against it’s kneecap to make a point.

A dwarf!” Dean gasped, catching his breath as the small portly man seemed to somehow hold a command over the much larger beast. “I didn’t know your kind lived this close to the Ports! Thank heavens you can keep that pet under control!”

I ain’t a dwarf!”

Pardon?”

By now Maude has finally found her voice and unceremoniously shoved herself away from the large cowardly Dean. “What is that thing?” she pointed a shaky finger at the large beast who was now far less puffed up and growly, and far more pouting and glaring.

Du’Mas.”

Look here, she was simply asking a question you pint sized dwarf!” Tanis snapped back defensively, his fingertips crackled with energies just in case some spellwork was necessary.

I ain’t a bloody dwarf!”

Things were quickly getting out of hand.

Oh for powers sakes! Where is Kelle? We come here on official duties!” The Dean now fully shoved Maude out of his way to almost press his shiny Dean’s badge into the small man’s line of sight (however low it was). Luckily Tanis managed to keep her from face-planting, and allowed whatever spell he started to dissipate with a harmless fizzle.

Mistress Kelle. And for yer information she aint here! You missed her. Aint ‘spected to be back for quite some time.” Cook grinned a crooked partial grin. “Your highness is outta luck it seems. Sorry.”

Marthis narrowed his eyes and glanced at the two. Sure, he was a coward and he certainly didn’t want to tangle with tall, black and bitey but he also hated looking like a fool. Luckily he had a few things going for him that his rattled little brain had sorted out. One, a dwarf was pretty darned robust and clever – but other then metalworking and general strength they were pretty useless for magick. Secondly, he had a lot more people on his side of the fence – so to speak.

I was told to ask about a small and very dangerous trinket. It I found out Kelle has it in her possession and refuses to give it back to me… I will act to incarcerate her in the cruelest of prisons! Now I want to know where she is at this very moment!”

Well I don’t rightly know. I mean she left by carriage a while ago and sometimes the roads are quite busy, so you’d have to factor in the traffic… I suppose if they hit the right conditions with no real rocks in the way to tarnish the wheels…”

There was a loud crackling zap of electricity and the smell of burnt fur as Du’Mas was shoved back a good few feet from the doorframe and wailed in shock and pain. Everyone stopped and glared at the Dean who still had the remnants of a fire spell edging on his open hand.

Oh, I am done playing games with you, you fucking annoying imp!”

There was suddenly a huge shove of wind that knocked them all back on their asses in the dirt a few feet from the door. The Cook, his plump red face fuming with anger and his wooden ladle held aloft like a makeshift wand pointed at the Dean. “For the last bloody time you annoying idiot! I ain’t a fucking dwarf or a damned imp! I’m a very pissed off midget who happens to have picked up a few tricks from my Mistress! You want to see what else this wooden spoon can do you son of a bitch?!”

With that the door promptly slammed shut and was locked. Repeatedly.

Why I never!” The Dean snarled.

You… fucking idiot…” Roden was up on his feet quickly, already checking to make sure Tanis and Maude were fine.

Maude had apparently less luck this time and had actually managed to scrape her cheek somehow in the process of this last fall. It would leave a bruise but didn’t seem to bother her too much. Still, the sight of the girls injury made the older Roden even more annoyed at the entire situation.

Indeed, he will pay for that insult! I should go straight to the local guard and get them to ransack the place! That abomination of a woman has only ever caused problems.” Already he was dusting himself off and trying to appear like his virtue of authority hadn’t been shattered a hundred times by now.

I’m talking about you! You attacked that creature for no reason!”

Excuse me? Boy? You are a student in MY school. I am your superior!” Marthis snarled, puffing himself up and adjusting his robes. “Do not forget that you are here under MY orders!”

Roden was used to orders, he was after all once a member of the Crestfall Guards. He was well aware of ranks and falling in line to those above your command. But never in his entire military did he need to take orders from idiots that seemed to get dumber and more desperate by the day.

He grit his teeth, breathed deep. Calmed the rage building in his spine and let out a low deep glutteral sigh. “I’m sorry. I understand it isn’t my place. I just think there may be a better way to go about this.”

Marthis seemed sated enough and gave a smug nod. It was obvious his ego enjoyed the thought of this big bad guard having to apologize to him. Plus he seriously didn’t want to get into an altercation with him anyway – Roden likely had more muscles in one arm then the Dean had in his entire body.

Yes well, I’ll let it go this time. Might I remind you though, our mission is of the utmost importance! The EDR we are looking for is extremely deadly, it could cause a massive amount of death and maiming! We need to find it immediately.” Perhaps a bit overboard, but the sentiment was true. After all, if they didn’t find it soon his very job was at stake.

It was very obvious now that he’d been led astray by his desire for a quick end to this whole ordeal. Now it felt like he was quickly losing control of this political train-wreck he had somehow ended up in. When did being in charge get so damned complicated?

Look, she isn’t there. But obviously he had said she took a carriage and we passed the caravans of a bunch of other merchants earlier. We saw them back the other way, most likely heading to the big markets of the Mill District. She’s one of the star merchants every year at the big open market during the festival. It’s real early for the festival, but maybe they are planning something bigger this year and need more time to setup?” Maude added as they all headed back towards the cart.

Makes sense.” Roden quickly agreed. “Although it’s quite a ways back now…”

Marthis sighed loudly as he considered the options and opened one of the back windows on the cart. After rooting around he retrieved a bottle. “This is all so troublesome. I suppose you are right though, most likely she would keep such a valuable piece on her person and not with those lot. Fine, I suppose we are going to have to get creative in order to salvage this mess.”

He cracked open the bottle of Nebula wine. After guzzling a few solid gulps of the harsh liquid down he throat he nodded and stared at his little grouping while the dusty cogs in his head turned.

We are going to need to make up some time… Roden, it’s time for you to make up for your outburst earlier. Looks like you are going to go on a reconnaissance mission.”