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2017 February 24, Friday
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F
Faith in Unicorns
by S. J. Reisner
First published online on 2005 May 04.
Editor’s Foreword
As far as Iím concerned, there just arenít enough unicorn stories in the world. That, and flying horses. Deer live in a park near my home, but itís rare to actually see one. Whoís to say there arenít a few unicorns around as well?
SFFH: Article

The full moon caressed the black sky with shimmering silver light. Aramon stretched out upon the grassy knoll staring upward, at the stars. Tiny pinpoints of light–millions of them–filled the clear skies. A warm breeze caressed his bare chest.

“What are you thinking?” Jenna came up from behind him, her blue skirts softly swirling around her bare feet and ankles.

Aramon lifted himself up, and leaned on one elbow. Her mere presence warmed him. How lucky he felt to have the love of a woman as wonderful as Jenna. He smiled up at her, remembering how they met on this very hill only a year before. “I was just thinking how connected everything is. How anything is possible.”

She shifted her skirts and sat beside him, hugging her knees to her chest. In the silver light, he watched the moonlight caress her smooth skin. How beautiful she was. With a soft sigh, she smiled and tipped her head back, looking up at the brilliant night sky above them. “It is beautiful.”

“It is endless.” He reached out and took her small, thin hand into his, caressing the back of it. “We should marry at night. Here.”

A soft giggle escaped her delicate lips. “How would the priestess see to read from the holy texts?”

“We need no holy texts. Just the stars and the moon…” He felt her recoil slightly, knowing she feared retribution from the Gods. “The night sky is the temple of the Gods, Jenna. They look down on us, always watching over us. They know the love between us.”

Her face softened. “You and your astronomy. I only wish you would not say such things. Our life together will be cursed.”

Aramon pressed his eyes closed, wishing her childish superstitions would somehow vanish. He knew they would not. Jenna grew up within the temple. Her entire life was based on faith. He, however, as an astronomer and mathematician, evaluated everything with logic. His view of the gods differed greatly from those views taught by the temple. He sometimes wondered if that difference alone would keep them apart.

“What do you think of now?”

“That if the Gods were angry they would have shown that anger by now. They are not as unforgiving as you may think.”

“But Priestess Lorna says…”

He lifted a finger to her lips, silencing her. “You cannot believe everything Priestess Lorna tells you. She only fills your mind with such nonsense because she is angry you are marrying me instead of giving your life to serve in her temple.”

Jenna’s lips contorted into a pout. “That is untrue. What about the unicorns of the Gods’ Holy Warriors? She did not lie about them. I have seen them. They drink by the river beneath my window every night!”

“Unicorns? Prophecies, and magical items. None of these things exist.” Realizing she was now angry with him, he tried to reason with her. “The staff of Alda was nothing more than an elaborate back scratching device. Complete with rune symbols of the ancients.” He could not hide the smile covering his lips. That same staff sat within the temple even now, enshrined in a niche in the main hall, covered by clear glass. Shaking his head, he sat up and crossed his legs in front of him.

“That’s not true!” she said in a hurt voice. “I have seen the unicorns! And the staff of Alda really is a magical artifact.”

“Come now, Jenna. Even the Sorcerer Garath, an authority on such things, says there are no such creatures as unicorns. He personally insists that the Staff of Alda holds no magical properties.”

“Maybe he does not believe in those things. But he still believes in prophecy.”

He chuckled, amused by her matter-of-fact argument based on nothing more than faith. “He uses the guise of prophecy to give warriors a sense that the things they do are guided by a higher power. It gives them purpose and hope. It makes them want to work harder. Nothing more.”

She lifted a wary eyebrow and ran her long, thin fingers through her thick blond curls. “Then you must see the unicorns for yourself. Then you would believe.”

He shrugged then narrowed his eyes. “I suppose I would. But only if I could ride one.”

Even in the darkness, he saw her roll her eyes. “Only the Holy Warriors of the Gods can ride the unicorns.”

“Perhaps I am one and I do not know it. It could be prophecy. At what time do the unicorns arrive at the stream for their nightly drink?”

She turned to him, startled. “Around midnight, of course,” she said, as if he should have known.
He stood. With an outstretched arm, he helped her to her feet. “Then we shall go to the stream and wait for them.”

They soon found themselves hidden amongst the trees lining the stream, watching the area Jenna was sure the unicorns would come to.

Aramon looked skyward for the height of the moon. Midnight was almost upon them. “What color are they?”

“The unicorns?”

“Yes. Are they white? Blue, perhaps?”

Jenna gave him a coy smile. “No. They’re black.”

He nodded, amused. “Of course they are.”

“White unicorns are mere myths. The gods created only black unicorns.”

“Why is that?” He found himself getting irritated, but each time he looked at her a deep feeling of love overwhelmed him.

She crossed her arms over her chest for warmth against the oncoming breeze. It was cooler here, near the water. After some thought, she finally answered. “Warriors need darkness in order to remain clandestine.”

“Of course they do.” He watched, in silence, as midnight came and went. Still, no unicorns emerged.

Finally, Jenna yawned.

“It does not look as though they will be showing themselves tonight.”

“They are probably just late.”

“Perhaps they were delayed after a long battle somewhere?”

“You do not have to believe if you choose not to. But I do.” Sighing deeply, she turned from him and started toward the temple. “Are you coming?”

Aramon shook his dark head of hair in defeat. “I must get home, and you should sleep. I will see you tomorrow.”

She turned back to him. “I still love you, even if you don’t believe.”

That same warm feeling crept over him again. “As I love you. Always.”

He stood there and watched until she disappeared into the temple. As he turned to leave, he heard a horse snort, and felt warm breath on the back of his neck. He whirled around. Before him stood two black horses. Upon each horse's brow, a single horn jutted skyward.

A woman’s voice sang out from behind them. “Perhaps you are a warrior of the gods.” Stepping between the unicorns and into full view, Priestess Lorna emerged with a frown upon her lips. Her stark white hair stood out against the black robes she wore.

“Oh. I see. This is trickery.” With one hand, Aramon reached out and tugged at the nearest unicorn’s horn. The unicorn pulled away and took two steps backward. “What type of alchemical adhesive did you use?”

She laughed and shook her head. After smoothing imaginary wrinkles from her black robes, she folded her hands in front of her. “It is no trick. Myself, and the other Gods, knew you would not be an easy warrior to catch, Lord Aramon. You would have wasted your life away staring at the stars. This was necessary. Now, you must choose one.” She motioned toward the unicorns.

He looked over each animal with a furrowed brow. Both unicorns, black as coal, stood over seventeen hands, with strong legs and graceful form. “You did this so you could have Jenna. Didn’t you? You bring your horses here every night so she will see them from her window. All so she will see me as a heathen and remain here, imprisoned as a priestess in your temple. I cannot believe you would stoop to such a lowly deception, Priestess Lorna.”

Lorna said nothing. Instead, she pulled the cowl of her robes up over her head and stepped back.

“This is trickery, and I shall prove it.” He stepped up to one of the mares and, after a few failed attempts, finally hoisted himself onto her tall back. “This is a horse like any other, though I must admit I do not know how you prepared or affixed their horns.”

Lorna pulled something from her robes then, and handed it to him.

He took it, realizing immediately that he held the staff of Alda in his hands. A wide grin, laden with sarcasm, covered his face. “And what am I to do with this?”

“You tell me,” she said, her tone softening. She pulled down the cowl hood of her robe then. Before him stood Jenna, with an equally wide smile adorning her lips. “You are the authority on back scratchers.”

His smile faded into shock just as the Staff of Alda began glowing a brilliant golden light that consumed him. When it finally dissipated, he looked down on himself. Before, he stood clad in nothing more than breeches. Now, he and the unicorn beneath him found themselves adorned in black and silver battle garb.

“Now go. The unicorn will take you to where you must be.”

“But what about you, Jenna?”

“I will always be with you. I will always love you.”

Jenna’s words lifted to his ears, haunting, like the night songs of owls. Suddenly, for the first time, he knew faith. The warm feeling flooded his body. But this time, it did not slowly fade. Instead, it stayed with him as he and the black unicorn, armed with the Staff of Alda, journeyed onward into the moonlit night beneath a sky full of stars.

S. J. Reisner is the author of Left Horse Black, the first in a series of fantasy novels about the survival of four warring sorcerer factions, due out in July 2005 from ArcheBooks. Her short fiction has appeared in The Rose & Thorn, Sorcerous Magazine, and at Alexandria Digital Literature.

Blog Website
Unicorn illustration by Dan C. Rinnert.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No part of this story may be reproduced or transmitted, in any form or any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any informational storage or retrieval system without express written permission from the author.
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