Chapter 7 – Looking In All Directions
Imi spiralled up through the trees until she cleared the tops of most of them and could see for miles in all directions. At the edge of the wood directly below, the humans were still chasing the unicorn who appeared to be teasing them. To the east, she could see Lord Silvermoon’s castle and the rich pastures towards the river where his fine horses grazed, and to the west she could just glimpse the sun flashing on the silver sea. Northwards she looked then towards the snow-capped Mountains of Morn and found the Warlock driving the farm horses at full gallop towards the foothills. She set off after him.
The farm horses were doing their best to emulate their winged hero, and while ‘flying like Pegasus’ was clearly beyond them, they were making fair progress. It was barely mid-morning when the Warlock’s party reached the snow line and began to ascend the steeper paths into the chill mountains. Spring came later at this height and the horses found it more difficult to maintain their speed in the wet snow so the Warlock slowed them to a walk. Icicles dripped from stony cliffs into mountain streams and soft bombs of melting snow slid off sagging fir branches as they passed. Imi provided herself with a hooded mantle of snow-coloured fluff and pulled it tightly round her as she caught up with the fleeing Warlock at last.
Flying high enough to avoid his attention she peered into the cart and saw exactly what the young bees had seen – the elf was lying in the back of the cart, only his narrow face showing, and pale as death. It seemed illogical to Imi that the Warlock would carry a corpse all the way into the mountains and so, very carefully, making herself as small as she possibly could, she dropped down behind the Warlock into the furs and rugs and burrowed under the top layer. There she discovered two things, first and most important, that the elf still lived and breathed, and second, that he was lying on some lumpy old books that smelled of dust.
Taking the utmost care to make no sound to attract attention, she snuggled in beside him and hid under his fur cover.
Back in the west meadow the unicorn was enjoying his freedom. Stretching his strong muscles, Dawnstorm galloped headlong for the woods, then swerved and ran along the edge of the trees, turning again to approach Lady Silvermoon and her grooms from behind. The Lady reined in her chestnut mare to allow him to pass them and go round again. At the end of his third circuit, he trotted up to her, breathing heavily and, almost imperceptibly, inclined his head.
“You are so beautiful,” she told him.
- As are you, came the response.
Lady Silvermoon blushed. “Come closer, my prince.”
The unicorn did so, and they regarded each other with mutual respect.
The Lady spoke silently so that the grooms should not hear.
- You are free. Run. We will not pursue you.
- I am your husband’s property.
- You cannot be anyone’s property! You must be free.
- To go where I wish?
- To serve whom I wish?
- Of course.
- I choose to serve you.
- There is nothing more to be said.
Dawnstorm tossed his soft mane and backed away, leaving Lady Silvermoon speechless.
In the west, a sea trader was tying up at the docks. A knight led his charger down the gangplank and on to terra firma. He was on a quest. He did not need to say so. All the sailors and dock workers looked at each other and rolled their eyes. There was something about knights on quests, they had a certain look about them, po-faced, almost pious. They seemed not to notice worldly discomfort, and this particular one had certainly suffered worldly discomfort, since he had been sea-sick from the moment he had set foot on board the ship until the moment it docked. Now as he walked the war horse down the harbour, its iron-shod hooves clacking on the stones, he was telling himself firmly that the harbour was not going up and down, up and down, up and – he dashed to the edge of the pier and threw up again. The war horse looked on impassively, wondering if it had been cursed as a foal.
Copyright Hilary Robinson 16.3.2010
Imi sets off to follow the Warlock and his apprentice, Dawnstorm refuses a generous offer and the final character in the Tale arrives.
All of this Tale is covered by copyright and is not in the Public Domain.