Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Suggestion Box, Vol. 3: "One Thousand Words" List #26

Suggested by: Rachel Lindeken

The List: 
-Eunice Korngold
-the land of fairies and unicorns
-the fourth year of the war against the dwarves and the werewolves
-an enchanted mirror (enchanted by the fairies) that changes any unicorns that look into it into humans and then back again...

The Result:
"The Tides of Battle"

There wasn't much time. I could tell by the way my guide both slowed down and sped up; he slowed because he kept looking over his shoulder, expecting the enemy to spring within sight of us at any moment; he sped faster, with the hope that he could prevent such a thing from happening.
Finally, we came to a thicket large enough to conceal us both, and we paused for breath. I could feel my lungs heaving against my sides as we both panted.
"Well, Wandryn," he chuckled, speaking in tones too low for anyone but me to hear, "after four years, it was bound to happen. You don't think She'd just hand you over to Him? No," he shook his head and stroked my neck. "She has always looked out for you."
"She" was Queen Eunice, ruler of the Fae. "He" was Korngold, the repugnant dwarf chieftain who had declared a war of conquest over Phantasia four years ago, and we had been hard pressed to repel him ever since. Fairies and unicorns had always lived at peace, and now fought as allies to defend the realm, but Korngold had somehow secured the cooperation of werewolves, the shape-shifting creatures who could masquerade as innocent Fae till they were deeply entrenched, and then their forms would change and they would wreak havoc in our midst till someone managed to finally take the beast down.
I tossed my head to get the long, stringy locks of hair out of my eyes.  My guardian patted me on the shoulder. "Don't you worry, my lady; as long as I live to defend you, they'll never get That." He pointed to it.
"That" was a magnificent gem called a "gyth", a large gem with powerful magical properties only accessible by the Fae, set in gold and suspended from an intricate chain hanging around my neck. It was the single most powerful object in Phantasia, and it had been the duty of all my ancestors to carry it, before that duty fell to me, just barely before the start of the war. It's significance added the weight of the entire country to the chain around my neck. I didn't want to carry it anymore, I never wanted it in the first place—but no one else could assume such an important destiny. I twisted my head to look at it. Of course I couldn't make it out very well, what with the chain being so short it rested right up against my throat, but my companion understood. He placed gentle fingers under my chin to tilt my face toward him.
"Listen to me, Wandryn—you will succeed, and you will survive. You aren't the most important being in Phantasia by sheer luck or some unfortunate accident. Queen Eunice looked over all her subjects and chose you." He chuckled as I nudged him not too gently to let him know what I thought of his high-and-lofty hogwash. I let my head sag so that he could reach the spot at the base of my horn, and he rubbed it just the way I liked it.
"Who knows? It could have been a Fae, like me," he sighed, and his lips twisted into a little kind of smirk. "Instead of a unicorn."
I knew he meant well by it, but it still stung a little. I shied away from his rubbing and tapped the ground with my hoof.
"Not that there is anything wrong with that!" He assured me. I heard him take in a breath to say more, but just then, I caught the sounds of our pursuers approaching the thicket. Instinctively, I drew back and tried to make my body as small as possible.
"Hoi, you lot!" The raspy voice of the dwarf rang out over the snarls of the werewolves. "Sniff 'em out! You have the unicorn's scent, so it should be easy to find! Korngold wants the Heart! We get it away from the unicorn, and not even the long-lost Princess can stop us!"

There wasn't much time; there wasn't any time at all. We would be found for sure.
My guide crouched over his pack and pulled something out of it. It glinted slightly, and reflected the branches around us.
I leaned closer over his shoulder. A mirror? What good would that do?
He looked up at me with a serious face.
"Wandryn, there is something I need to tell you," he murmured softly. "You have not always been a unicorn. Your true form is here," he pointed to the mirror.
I shook my head, threatening to give us away; now he tells me? As far as I knew, I had lived my whole life as a unicorn; how in the world did he expect me to believe I had somehow been enchanted into it? What else could I be if not a unicorn?
He stood in front of me now, holding the mirror before me. I saw my face.
"You are Fae; more than that, you are the Queen's own sister, Darnwyn—you are the princess who can change the tide of battle."
These things he said, they were impossible! I wanted to back away—no, I wanted to run, but to do so would expose me to vicious werewolves.
He stood firm. "This mirror was enchanted to keep your true form and give you that of a unicorn. The spell is one that any unicorn could use to become human, storing the traded form for a time, and changing back again; but only you can actually regain your Fae form, and only from this one mirror. All you need to do is look into it, and see yourself as your truly are!"
A howl broke the quiet around us.
He thrust the mirror toward me. "Look into the mirror!"

I forced myself to focus on the bright surface. Staring into the eyes of my reflection, I felt a strange pulling sensation. When it stopped, I gasped. There really was a Fae in there! I stared at the pale skin and the thick, golden hair. Rosy lips, a small, round nose, and blue eyes stared back at me. There were even two pale hands holding the mirror.
My guardian drew back, dropping his hands by his side. The rosy lips parted, and I heard a gasp as I realized that the hands on the mirror were my own. I looked up at him as the hands released the mirror. The gyth—the Heart of Phantasia—had vanished from around the pale neck, replaced by a simple violet-colored posy adorning my dress.
He clapped his hand over my face as I opened my mouth to scream. I was small enough that he could wrap us both in his mottled cloak.
A twig snapped just outside the thicket.

"What is it?" The dwarf asked.
A werewolf sniffed again. "The unicorn," it grunted. "I lost the scent."
"Impossible!" the leader roared. "They can't have left the forest. Keep searching! A creature as large as a unicorn cannot be so easy to hide!"
We huddled in the bushes, my guardian and I, as the monsters circled around us. 
"Darnwyn." I felt him tense against me, and we locked eyes. He spoke one word.