Contributed by Larissa Peltier
Karice crept into the stable. She peeked past the stalls to where her mother had tied up the pony. The pony neighed, frightened by the thick chains that fastened down its slim legs.
Beija walked briskly out of the stable. Karice ducked behind a stall while her mother passed and stayed there, her six year old body small enough to curl into a little ball. She waited silently. Her mother returned with a bowl full of one of her floral smelling brews. Karice dared not look, but she could hear.
The pony protested with a snort, but the brew was forced down its throat. The chains clinked as it pulled against them. Then the pony squealed, loudly. Karice jumped at the sound, but she remained where she was, her heart pounding hard. Karice heard the rustling of her mother’s skirts. The rustling stopped, and once again Beija strode out of the stable.
Karice got up on her knees and peeked over the doorway of the stall she hid in. Karice took in her breath sharply, amazed at what she saw. Instead of a pony, there was a beautiful horse shackled - a horse with an ivory horn twisting out of its forehead. Its coat gleamed white and an aura of light surrounded the creature.
Karice stood up. She stepped to the horse, unable to resist a closer look. The horse breathed hard and the whites of its eyes showed, but it didn’t squeal as it did with her mother. Karice put out her hand and touched its velvety nose. The horse calmed at her touch and Karice smiled.
Beija stormed into the cottage.
“Damn that beast,” she muttered. It had shied away from her like she was fire. What good was it to her if she couldn’t get close to it?
She yanked a volume from her collection of Memories. The old books were the knowledge from generations of scholars that were written down to be passed on to those who sought greater understanding. They were incredibly valuable and luckily for Beija, few people knew it so she was able to gather many in her possession.
She flipped through the pages of her volume of The Memory of Enchanted Creatures. “Equines,” she read. “Pegasus, the winged mount of the Age of the Sphinx. The beast could traverse a fathom within a day by riding the high winds of the sky.”
No, that wasn’t what she created. Beija flipped the page. “Unicorn, the virgin’s slave. A single horn on the head that by touch alone can impart healing to the sick, injured and forlorn. The beast is only recognizable by women and can only be approached by the pure of heart.” Beija pursed her lips; she certainly was no virgin and as for her heart, well that was debatable. But the horn, Beija’s eyebrows lifted. Then she turned around and headed back to the stable, hefting up an axe on a chopping block outside the cottage door as she passed.
“It’s only the horn I need,” she said to herself.
Karice was overjoyed. Her father had brought a pony home for her and her mother had enchanted it into a beautiful horse. She couldn’t wait to ride it, and thought of the wild flowers in the meadow braided into her horse’s tail. The horse snorted into her hand and licked her hair. Karice looked down. It must be hungry. She looked at the chains that clasped around the horse’s hooves. They looked out of place on such a fine animal. And the grass was green outside.
Karice knelt down and unclasped the locks. Then her mother strode in.
“Karice! What are you doing?” Beija snapped.
The young girl turned around startled, too frightened to speak. Then the unicorn squealed and ran past Beija, out of the stable doors. Beija dropped the axe in her hand and glared at her daughter.
The unicorn escaped, but Karice did not.