Stories on the edge of familiarity

On Unicorns (from chapter 8)

Since no-one would see her in the forest, Adren had taken the opportunity to coax the unicorn to come with her. Its emotions had been a little fuzzy, both with sleep and the intrusion of its madness, but that only meant that it had stayed very close to her out of slight paranoia. She did not mind, though, and had walked with her arm over its shoulders, enjoying the nearness with a creature that she cared about.

There had been periods of slight drizzle as they walked, and the unicorn would keep on shaking its mane during the nice bits, which ended up with Adren getting splattered. Since the unicorn had not felt mischievous at this, and so had not done it as a prank, Adren had decided to turn it into one and shook her own head. The unicorn had jumped back in surprise, but when it felt her amusement, it had waited until the next pause between drizzles and returned the water.

Adren smiled, thinking of how such a simple thing had helped to ease the unicorn’s unnecessary fear. When she had first realized that there was something wrong with the unicorn, before she had gone out to search for a cure, she had tried things like this. Interacting with it, helping it to feel safe, trying to help its mind return to normal by encouraging it with healthy emotions and activities. While some of this would help the unicorn temporarily, nothing had stuck for the long-term, not really. The only improvements Adren could make were to learn how to make it happy or calm when acting on its other emotions would cause harm, whether to itself or her, directly or indirectly. This really only amounted to emotional manipulation, since she could not teach it to do such things for itself, and it pained her that she had to do it. No matter how necessary it was, she would still always be reminded every time of how much the unicorn suffered without even understanding that it was suffering.

Sometimes, when things became difficult, she wondered if she should just let it live the way it had been living. If it was truly unaware that it could have a better life, then should she just let it be? All Adren would have to do was travel far enough away so that she could not feel its emotions, and leave it to its own devices. If someone did not know that they were in pain, was it right to let them keep their unhealing wound?

Put that way, she could see clearly that leaving the unicorn to its madness would be wrong. If she could see the wound, and knew it was a wound, and knew what it should look like instead, then it was her duty to do all that she could to nurse it back to health. At first, Adren had not had all this knowledge, only a vague idea that the unicorn was not well, so she had done all she could to find out what unicorns were supposed to be like, what they were supposed to be capable of, and how they were supposed to act.

Unicorns were intelligent, for one, and supremely wise. They always erred on the side of peace in a conflict, but they would fight with ferocity to protect what they valued if violence ended up being their only choice. Their ability to heal any sickness and purify any substance of toxin was greatly coveted among humans, and prized among the magical beings that lived near unicorns. Only dragons had as much raw, living magic as they; and only dragons were their match in battle.

But, beyond that, unicorns were eloquent in their communication. While they could not speak, they understood speech and were always able to make themselves understood, generally with the help of magic. Even humans, corrupt though they were, recognized the value of a unicorn’s words and listened carefully to their wisdom.

For Adren, unicorns represented strength and stability. She did not mind if her unicorn ended up being a little flighty when sane, but she knew that she would be able to trust it to do what was right. It still held echoes of its true nature, the desire to protect Adren when she was in danger, traces of its healing magic, and that had always made her certain that its insanity could be cured. If all the madness had done was cover up its beauty, then nothing in the world could convince Adren that her search was in vain.

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