The Eternal Song, Part Sixteen: Unicorn

As Riadne descended the mountain, the bare rock beneath her sandals gave way to hard-packed earth dotted with small shrubs and thin, dry tufts of grass. The afternoon sun had been warm enough, at the summer solstice, to keep her comfortable on the heights without her usual cloak and boots. Still above the horizon, the sun blazed directly into Riadne’s face.

With her head down and her eyes half-closed against the glare, Riadne heard the animal approaching before she saw it. The hoofbeats had an easy familiarity to her—a goat, larger than those her father had kept. She had heard the hunters’ tales of wild goats on the mountain, although she had never before come across one.

The animal’s pure white coat shone so brightly against the backdrop of sun and sky that it might have stepped straight out of the heavens. Riadne chided herself for being silly; it was only a goat, after all, with the usual four legs and curving horns. She squinted to see the animal’s head more clearly as it came closer, still framed by the setting sun. No, instead of having two horns in the center of its forehead, it had only one thick spiraling horn…

An image flashed into Riadne’s mind from one of the ancient urns, the very first of them. The Dawn-god had appeared in just this form to her ancestors—as a unicorn, stepping to earth out of the rising sun. The People had been a wandering tribe in those days, traveling in small ships from far northern lands. They had taken their encounter with the unicorn as a sign that they were meant to build a village on this island and that they would be safe here. What could it mean that the unicorn had returned, coming from the west this time, when the village was lost and there was no safety?

She could not ask the unicorn, at least not in spoken words; and in the old stories, the gods rarely spoke when they took animal form. Rather, those who recognized their divine nature simply walked with them. And so Riadne stepped forward, holding out her scarred right hand with the palm up, much as she would have done when feeding one of her father’s goats an apricot or a fig as a special treat. Her pockets were empty today; but in any case, she suspected it would have been disrespectful to try to feed a god like an ordinary beast.

The unicorn lowered his gleaming horn toward Riadne and snorted once as he sniffed her hand, sounding just like a goat. His breath felt warm on her fingers. Then he turned away, leaving the path to Riadne as he bounded away through a thicket of small flowering bushes. Within moments he was gone, leaving no tracks on the hard dry earth—nothing to show that he had ever been there.

Riadne blinked. There was something, caught on one of the bushes, almost invisible among the little white flowers. She reached down and, with infinite care, dislodged from the thorns one long hair from the unicorn’s tail. Closing her hand tightly around this precious gift, she resumed her journey down the mountain.

Continue to Part Seventeen

Part Fifteen: Ebb Tide.
Part Fourteen: Light.
Part Thirteen: Pilgrim.
Part Twelve: Priestess.
Part Eleven: Scout.
Part Ten: Lost.
Part Nine: Mountain.
Part Eight: Forest.
Part Seven: Shards and Dust.
Part Six: Warning.
Part Five: Gifts.
Part Four: Midsummer.
Part Three: Hunters or Hunted.
Part Two: Rehearsal.
Part One: Beauty.

on 08/10/11 in Art/Play/Myth, featured | 1 Comment | Read More

Comments (1)


  1. Stephanie says:

    An interesting turn!

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