Wednesday, 23 June 2010

The Lion and the Unicorn

I wasn't sure whether to post this story or not, but my class liked it so I thought I'd see if anyone else did. It's a fantasy-type story, which I've never tried before. My homework was to write a story based on three stimuli: I chose unicorns, the history of the barber-surgeons and traditional Chinese medicine. Why not? I was allowed to choose anything, so spread my net widely.

The Lion and the Unicorn

The unicorn dropped the half-eaten human leg from its mouth and sniffed the air, its razor sharp hooves digging at the ground anxiously. He knew there was someone around. All his hunting senses were tingling and the trees were trying to tell him something.

It had been a long day for the unicorn. He had been woken early by a band of men who prized his horn, his teeth, his hooves. All were much called upon by armourers and blacksmiths. But they were more prized by the unicorn. He fought to the death for them, slicing the throats of any that came within hooving distance, biting holes in those that came near the teeth and impaling from a distance with his horn, the lance that should never miss. It was mounted between his eyes.

But those men were now all dead and there was a new threat in the forest.

Leo hid behind the tree and remembering the story of Perseus and Medusa, he pushed his reflective shield out from behind the his cover, using it as a mirror to better make out where the unicorn was. He was downwind of the beast, which helped. At least the creature's flaring nostrils would not pick up the scent of him. His scent was quite pungent after a near miss earlier on in the battle. He had followed the trappers, hoping to use their distraction to kill the unicorn on his own, but their fight had been brief at best. Several flailing flurries of limbs, a pink mist on the air and a unicorn who now stood next to a pile of bodies chewing on a severed leg and letting the blood drip from his mouth.

Leo cursed the stories he'd been told about unicorns. So pure, you needed a virgin to tempt them. Hah! Noble creatures on the side of good, the side of Aslan. Yeah, right. Shy, reclusive creatures that lived in pleasing harmony with nature. The truth was somewhat different: they weren't even vegetarians. They were actually predatory and territorial beasts, with sharp hooves, vicious teeth and a six-foot spike mounted on top of their heads that could pierce any armour or shield currently available. Leo sat as still as he could and considered his options.

But he couldn't do it for long. The wind had changed, and the unicorn now sniffed his soiled presence on the air and calculated his position. It charged, head down, rounded the tree and came to attack him from the flank.

Leo just reacted in time, reaching up for the next branch, pulling himself up and out of the range of the unicorn's horn, which stuck into the trunk of the tree and vibrated, shaking the beast's head.

Leo dropped onto its back, and stabbed his dagger into the side of its throat, pulling it round in an arc from beneath its left ear until it reached its right. Vivid silver-green blood gushed from the wound, spurting from every part of the cut, The unicorn slumped to its knees while Leo got a flask and held it to the overflowing fountain of fluid, filling it up. There was good money in the sale of unicorn blood to men of a certain age.

Leo took out his harvesting axe and hacked away at the feet of the creature, taking good care to wrap the razored hooves in bark before putting them away in his bag. The head he hacked off below the jawline: the teeth were valuable for sure, but would need a blacksmith to extract them. He didn't have the tools or the forge here, but the teeth would become part of a barber-surgeon's kit, mounted on a silver handle in a sawdust-floored saloon and drawing whatever blood is left after the battles took their toll. And the horn itself would be his: a lance that could never be broken, a lance that would match the Spear of Destiny for the shadow it cast over history.

It was when he was walking back to his horse, tied around a tree in the nearby clearing, that the female unicorn saw him and charged, head lowered, hooves pounding the ground, soundless above his laboured breathing as he carried the dead weight of the unicorn's head back to civilisation.

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