Thursday, August 13, 2015

Unicorns are Jerks!

For the last writing contest I entered, I wrote this story than parsed it down to 400 words (397 to be exact).  Now that the contest is over, I thought I'd post the original version.

You may notice that the title has changed.  That's because I've had an idea for a sequel that will use the former title more appropriately, methinks.  Anyway, on to the story...

By Spencer Stoner

Silver Lake rested in a small out shoot of mountains on the northern end of the continent. Not exactly in the area of the normal haunts for Ophelia, Collen and Hero.

That was, of course, the point. Ophelia wanted to go someplace no one would know her so that she could just relax and not worry about being ambushed by old enemies from her mercenary contracts or worse, former lovers. Collen heard her plan to travel up to the lake and took the opportunity to tag along.

The woman figured that the one-handed knight had planned something big for his girlfriend, Hero, and wanted to make an event out of it. And he did, just not in the way he thought and now Ophelia was paying the consequences.

She and Hero were sitting next to each other on a couple of wooden reclining chairs right on the shore of the lake. Ophelia was dressed in two pieces of cloth that just fit the definition of a bathing suit here at the resort. The bard wore a crimson one piece swimsuit over her lithe frame.

Ophelia struggled to relax, resting her arm in front of her pale blue eyes to try and block out distractions (like the smaller woman) as she soaked in the last rays of the sun before it sank past the treeline on the far side of the lake.

Hero wasn't making it easy. She kept letting out long, soft sighs as she strummed on her lute.
Ophelia gave up on trying to ignore the girl but didn't uncover her eyes. “If you play your melancholy version of Pop Goes the Weasel again, I'll shoot you myself.” She threatened.

“I can't help it. I thought Collen was going to ask... you know. But he then ran off.” The bard whimpered. “And the birds tweeting over there keep putting it in my head.”

Ophelia dropped her arm and turned to look at the flock of birds that had taken up residence on the rope stretched across the resort's welcoming gate. The one that “popped” in their avian version of Hero's song sounded more like a foghorn to the mercenary. The rest seemed to have picked up the more cheerful rhythm to the music and kept trilling it in several different keys.

Ophelia let out a sigh of her own. “Fine. I was going to avoid this myself this but I think I know the very thing that will cheer you up. The Unicorn Greet.”
Hero arched an eyebrow. “What's that?”

“It's the big summer tourist trap here.” Ophelia superficially explained. “You'll love it.”

“I don't think...” Hero sulked.

Ophelia responded by grabbing Hero's hand and dragging her across the resort's various walkways over to a stage where a dozen girls were already gathered. The men who escorted them stood off to the side in the sand, only a couple of them wearing shirts with their shorts of various lengths, while an audience was gathering to watch the proceedings.

Ophelia bent down, the violet tattoos on her back glowing slightly, to register her and Hero's names to the mousy woman who was writing down the list of participants in the Unicorn Greet. Then she and the bard took up their places at the end of the line on the stage.

The owner of the resort, a regal looking woman with flowing silver hair, stepped onto the stage in front of the young women and greeted the audience. Pointing up at the rapidly fading light in the sky, she explained how the event worked.

“When the moon starts its ascent on summer nights like tonight, a unicorn of most majestic bearing comes into the camp and approaches the girls here on stage.” She motioned to the line behind her with a broad wave of her arm. “Those who are pure will be met with the kindest greeting as the unicorn eats the carrot each holds and, as has grown to be a tradition here in Silver Lake, they may just get a marriage proposal immediately after.”

Ophelia frowned. “Pure” was just a euphemism for virginity and she noticed the men didn't have to go through a similar test. Plus, she knew that she lost that prerequisite for meeting this magic horse long ago but if the unicorn reacted to Ophelia the way she expected it would, she hoped Hero would be amused long enough to at least forget to whine for a short while afterward.

When the silver haired lady mentioned the carrots, a valet rushed up to each woman and provided them with said vegetable. Ophelia noticed that the carrot she was handed was quite a bit larger than the one Hero nervously gripped in her two hands and gave the valet a playful wink.

A hush fell over the audience as the spotter beyond the gates signaled that the unicorn was approaching. Each woman, admittedly Ophelia with them, started doing last minute actions to try and make themselves as comely as possible.

Some ran their fingers through their hair to corral any stray strands or try to give it a little volume. Others straightened up their swimsuits, which just happened to be one piece styles like the one Hero was wearing, trying to cover as much of themselves up to appear as innocent as possible without looking like they were trying to do exactly that.

Ophelia herself brushed the two braids that draped down either side of her face behind her ears and, unlike the others, worked to make the two pieces of her swim wear even more revealing. Hero couldn't help fidgeting, one of her hands unconsciously sliding up to run her fingertips over the pink scar that ran across her neck.

Any residual whispering in the audience immediately fell silent as the equine came through the gates. Its white coat seemed to sparkle in the moon light like an undisturbed field of snow while the unicorn's mane and tail seemed to hold every color of the rainbow. It was a mare, which wasn't surprising but the size of the creature was. It was easily larger than even the thoroughbred stallions the resort held in their stables.

With mystical grace that belied its size, the unicorn weaved through the onlookers and made its way to the stage. Once its cloven hooves touched the wood planks, it trotted to the girl on the far end of the line.

It playfully nibbled on the carrot in the girl's hand, even nuzzling the young woman. She giggled happily and practically pranced off the stage, embracing her smiling boyfriend. The next two were greeted by the animal in the same manner. They also ran to their equally elated beaus.

The unicorn, though, turned away from the third girl. She tried to entice it with the carrot but the beast clomped away, heading for the next young woman. As the rejected woman slumped off stage, the man who came with her stomped off.

Five more virgins and four more women who were only saying they were left the stage one by one. Each of the “pure” girls ran into the arms of waiting lovers-to-be. Of the four spurned by the unicorn, three suddenly found themselves single again while one laughed about the encounter with her lover.

Then it was Ophelia's turn. The beast trotted up to the mercenary and several in the audience were already expressing their doubts about her “purity” in a very vocal way. As for Ophelia herself, she was surprised the unicorn got as close as it did.

The equine sniffed at the carrot then let out a loud snort, as if it had encountered something that aggravated its allergies. The reaction elicited a series of chuckles from the assembled crowd.
Surprisingly, it tried again. This time the unicorn acted as if it was dizzy, as if just being near the mercenary was going to make it faint. As the audience laughed, Ophelia was surprised an animal could be so dramatic.

When she glanced over at Hero, though, the hopeful smirk that had been pulling at the mercenary's lips faded away. Not only was the bard not amused but she seemed insulted on Ophelia's behalf.
Ophelia shrugged back, trying to silently tell Hero that it was expected and not meant to be taken seriously. She wasn't sure if the smaller woman got the message but Hero's nervousness came back when the unicorn finished its performance and started toward her.

Unsure of what to do, Hero held out the vegetable to the animal. It sniffed at the offered carrot, then the woman's hand. The creature reacted in a way that could only be described as disgusted. It wasn't the comical carrying on like with Ophelia. The unicorn dropped any pretense of its archetypical grace and leaped off the stage.

The audience clamored around in confusion, trying to avoid the animal. It was a reaction that even the owner had never seen before. Hero looked up at the much taller Ophelia, tears welling up in her big brown eyes.

“You and Collen haven't ever...?” Ophelia tried her best to be subtle by using a hand gesture to imply “intimate relations” to try and keep from making Hero even more upset.

“What? No, we haven't...” The bard sniffled. “I mean, I was thinking about it tonight if he had asked to... you know.”

The unicorn struggled to make its way through the crowd. The mere humans surrounding the mystical creature just couldn't get out of its way even as it avoided stomping on clumsy mortals.

“Do you think it's because of...?” Hero motioned to the scar across her neck, alluding to the unpleasantness that created it.

“That wasn't in the rule book.” Ophelia growled, her pale blue eyes glaring back at the unicorn. “By its own standards it should have been happy to lick your boots clean.”

“I guess it didn't read the same book.” Hero said.

“There's a difference between judging purity and being a pure,” Ophelia had to pause a moment before continuing, “ninnyhammer.”

Hero blinked, forgetting to be worried for a moment. “Ninnyhammer?”

Ophelia harumphed much like, “Havarti said I shouldn't curse in front of you. If it will make you feel better, I was going to call it a pure cun--”

“That's okay, I don't need to know!” Hero held up her hands to stop the other woman.

Ophelia sighed, resting her hands on her hips. “There's a difference between being impure and having impure things happen to you, Hero. You taught me that. Remember? When we met I wanted you dead for just being attacked by that monster. I thought that made you one, too.”

The magic horse finally freed itself form the crowd and charged for the gate. As it neared the birds suddenly loosed a barrage of droppings. The unicorn, now covered with spots of brown, green and dull white whinnied in horror as it fled into the wood. Hero couldn't help laughing, with Ophelia joining in moments later.

“Yeah, that's right!” The mercenary called after the beast. “No one gets out of this life unscathed you, er, milquetoast!”

The audience dispersed much faster than was usual. Some gave Hero and Ophelia confused looks while others looked at the women like they were made of reeking garbage. Both the mercenary and the bard didn't even notice.

But Hero stopped laughing as she turned back to Ophelia. “You weren't wrong. About me being a monster, I mean. After I was attacked I did become-” She let out quiet growl while pantomiming claws with her hands.

“That's what happened to you, Hero. Not what you are. You're probably the sweetest, kindest person I know.” Ophelia folded her arms across her chest. “And if you tell anyone I said that I'll not only deny it but I'll have to kill you on principle.”

“O... kay.” Hero had no idea where to go or what to do from here.

“Besides, if you're so bad, what's he doing back here?” The taller woman pointed to the edge of the stage.

The blonde figure of Collen stepped up onto the deserted platform. He was winded, as if he'd been running for awhile, and his shorts were covered with sap and mud but he smiled wide when he finally stood next to the bard.

“I had a dickens of a time finding you.” Collen chuckled. “I'm sorry I ran off like that, I had to chase down a thieving magpie.”

The knight held up his closed hand to show he was successful in his hunt. Hero's eyebrows bunched up as she wondered what he could be holding.

Ophelia had a good idea of what was going to happen but now she had no idea where to go or what to do with herself. So she stood off to the side and kept her mouth shut.

“I had something I wanted to ask you.” The knight said.

Hero was easily shorter than Collen but she was suddenly towering above the blonde man. Then she realized that she hadn't grown nor was she floating. He had just dropped down onto one knee...


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