ious mortal lady should not scruple to spread her cloak upon in any part of it and lay down

to sleep, neither her clothes nor her nose at risk. In Fairy Land the beasts' thirst is never quenched by any commonplace well or stream, but with the same sweet nectar that their lordly masters quaff themselves. Too, Unicorns are fed with herbs and succulent greenery that their fairy mistresses lovingly nurture within the concentric circles of beguiling magic gardens where flowers are said to sing like birds and fruit-heavy trees breathe out contented sighs on the scented breeze. So, though he may be only a kept beast, fairy-husbandry is easy on the species which is known as the Unicorn. How did the Noble Folk come to hold such animals? We might well ask. Halbok never makes clear whether Unicorns serve as mounts for the fairy knights or as graceful palfreys for their dames, or both. But no man visits Faery. How did the Unicorn appear on earth? Has the mystery creature lived in the world of Man since time immemorial? Possibly so, but many a folklorist has argued that the Noble Folk were godlings in Paradise until the King of Heaven expelled whole tribes of them for disobedience, casting them far away from ethereal bliss into our material world of trouble, care, and hardship. Did the Unicorns fall, also, as the fairies' loyal servants? Or, did the Noble Folk find the amazing beasts grazing upon the earth's sweet-flowing breast and take them into to Fairy Land in such numbers that our mortal woods and vale were regrettably depleted? Halbok prefers the former theory. He argues that the Unicorns that we see are inevitably strays from Fairy Land. More on this point: "As one horse is gentle and another is balky, as one dog is faithful and heedful and another is angry and roving, so it is with the Unicorns. Will not a Unicorn who bolts from his master sometimes find his way into the dwellings of Man? Shall not a sickly or ill-tempered beast prove unworthy of a great lord's stable and so be turned out to wander where he will? Most frequently, Unicorns are sighted near known and yet-unknown mystic spots – standing stones of vast antiquity, haunted ruins, cursed forests, and fountains of magical repute. Do such localities serve at times as gateways from one world to another? Indeed, many are the stories of men who have lost themselves near magic spots and are seen no more, or else return with fogged rec ollections – if they are not rendered entirely mad and raving. Halbok believes that not all Unicorns are alike and guesses that the clever breeders who serve the Noble Folk variate Unicorn bloodlines in the interest of color, variety of horn, size of body, and fleetness of foot. If Unicorns exist – a proposition which is not yet entirely proven – how may one their kind be captured? All knowledgeable chasseurs agree that Unicorn-hunting is perilous work. The Unicorn's horn is a deadly spear and its owner tends to be fiery and aggressive whenever cornered. There is little likelihood that the animal will be run down like a common stage either, for nothing which moves across the land is swifter. Indeed, hunters allege that the Unicorn possesses some uncanny means to dash with unvarying speed over daunting obstructions and broken ground. Once the Unicorn has laid claim to a forest or hill, huntsmen report, certain beasts invariably abandon the habitat and their absence tells the hunter that a Unicorn may be near. The wild aurochs, elk, and other pasturing quadrupeds for example, will steer clear of a Unicorn's range, even though the lion, the snow tiger, and other carnivores seem to prowl such territory, probably because their diet of meat does not deplete the Unicorn's own grazing. Yet, why should predators remain in the haunt of a Unicorn after so much of their natural prey has fled? As far as the literature goes, none of these clawed killers has been known to bring down a Unicorn. As to why, we cannot say with conviction. Possibly the one-horned phenomenon is too swift for them, and too formidable an opponent if brought to bay. Even though Nature's best hunters seem to ignore the fairy creatures, men crave their capture. In fact, it is not humans but Elves who are reputedly the most dogged Unicorn-seekers. Their alchemists believe that the magic horn is proof against all sorts of evil magic and poisons. Assassin's wine, stirred with a fragment of the horn, is rendered harmless. Likewise, eating utensils cut from the horn baffle the most cunning poisoner. Monarchs living under the constant threat of usurpers or foreign rivals periodically offer rewards to any hunter who brings them, in whole or in part, the coveted unicorn horn. But so cunning and elusive is this much-sought-after beast that no knowledge-

Breis the Unicorn
The Minarian unicorn is but rarely seen, and most persons relegate him to the category shred by the presumably-mythical Howling Man or Vanishing Cat. Nonetheless, many trustworthy people have sworn that the Unicorn is as real as Minaria's dragons and ogres. And so it may be. The Unicorn is called many things by different nations, but it is always called after the single most identifying characteristic it possesses – its long fluted horn. Usually pale in color and resembling a slender pony in its forward parts, the Unicorn's rear legs are willowy, while its tufted tail looks more like a lion's than any equine's. The Unicorn hardly needs any detailed description, its image being a favorite for tapestries, rugs, and comforters – or, indeed, any work crafted to please the eye or excite the imagination. The popular Unicorn of current heraldry most often sports a snowy-white horn, but a multi-color horn, white, black, and red, seems to have enjoyed currency during antiquity. The change of color may be due just to a passing artistic style, though mythographer Larcaris Alard has proposed that a red-tipped horn is the mark of the female of the species. Naturalists, with their penchant for cheese-paring classifications, identify, or at least pretend to identify, sundry species called by the general term "Unicorn." The Unicornis desterus is sighted most often in southern Shucassam, the Withering, and Blasted Heath, while the Unicornis silvanis haunts the lonely evergreen stands of Neuth, Immer, Muetar, Pon, and the adjacent wastelands. The Unicornis australis, on the other hand, is relegated to Girion. Other writers simplify the matter by maintaining that the races of Unicorn number only two, the Unicornis minari and the Unicornis gironi, that is, a Unicorn race for Minaria and one for its southern neighbor. When all is said, we must admit that few catalogers specify as to what exactly is the difference between these northern and southern cousins and those that do seem to stand on the shaky ground of spec ulation. One may find trappers aplenty who are wont to display Unicorn horns and hides, but many of these trophies have been exposed as horse-hide hoaxes; none we know of have been definitely authenticated. Beyond dubious examples of physical evidence, there are people who make ado about spotting "Unicorn hoofprints." Most naturalists, though, remain unimpressed with all so-called physical proof. An encyclopedist addressing the legend of the Unicorn must inevitably fall back upon the poetry that legend and hearsay provides. Happily, this body of literature is rich in lore and is constantly being added to. In his small book, The Unicorn, His Origin and Ways, Halbok of Tilwith postulates a theory of his own – that Unicorns are both of this world and not of it. The Unicorn is actually the mount of the Goligo Favre, that air-and-vegetation fairy race which secrets itself in invisible manors, and, yea, even populate towns which remain elusive to the half-blind eye of Man. Because our subject is Unicorns we shall not take time to argue whether the Noble Folk are themselves real. If Halbok's book has any glaring weakness, it is in his way of invoking one unproven group to argue for the existence of another. Halbok maintains that the Goligo Favre keep stables for their mounts, the Unicorns, and these are so maintained so fresh and clean that the most fastid-

1

able hunter will waste time with any of the ordinary methods of the chase. Instead, various techniques have been developed to bring the Unicorn to grief. For example, Unicorn hunters oftentimes stand before the trunk of the soundest and stoutest oak in the vicinity and incite whatever Unicorns they see with wav ing hats and raucous insults. When the incensed fairy-beast charges, its head low and its deadly horn leveled, the chasseur leaps aside at the last possible instant, allowing the Unicorn to bury his weapon deep into the hard wood -- and this, hopefully, will entrap it long enough for the butchering stroke of a heavy blade to end the beast's struggles. Admittedly, more huntsmen are reported killed than Unicorns captured in areas where this risky maneuver is tried. Rather than hazard their own lives, the wisest chasseurs take a virgin maid with them into the Unicorn range to lure the creatures in close. It is believed that the maidenly-pure remind the Unicorn of their own much-missed fairy mistresses. Thus it is that the one-horned ones are lured toward such girls in anticipation of sweet feedings and gentle stroking. Some say that the virgin may so beguile the creature that it allows her to hold its head unmoving while hunters saw off the horn. But there are darker legends, also. If the girl proves not to be a maiden but a lusty wench, her presence does not pacify the Unicorn, but will instead incite it to furious anger. To flaunt a wanton before a Unicorn is no less dangerous than flapping a red cape before the eyes of a bull. Once, the story goes, the royal concubine Effini of Elfland unexpectedly came upon a Unicorn in the woods near the Haven and was pursued by it until the horned one fortuitously gave up and drew off. We may doubt the veracity of this story, since no Elfin woman could ever hope to outrun a determined Unicorn. Possibly the Unicorn does not seek to kill an unchaste woman, but finds her scent heady and intoxicating. The beast's resultant behavior would consequently represent a sort of drunken loutishness – or a cantankerousness which desires to frighten but not to destroy. Sometimes a poet may be moved to whimsy on the subject of the mystic hunt for the unicorn, and a song like this results:

But when the sunlight reddens We suppose he will not come. Alas, I am no maiden, And what unicorn is dumb?

Very few Unicorns stand out in the literature as individuals, but one is famous above all. The creature that bards celebrate as the "king of the Unicorns," is the miraculous beast called `Breis' by the Muetarans and by other names elsewhere. This renowned Unicorn seems to be remarkable not only for his strength and swiftness, but also for his courage, even recklessness, in approaching virgin maids. Yet no hunter has as yet successfully lain in wait for Breis using a maiden lure. Thus we may surmise this particular Unicorn's craftiness is a match for his boldness. Halbok says, on the basis of sketchy material, that Breis was once the warmount of the King of Faerie-Land, from whom he was separated during one of the hidden battles that the Noble Folk wage against their age-old rivals, the TaBotann – as we call the dark fairies of the stones and underground. For some unknown reason, Breis has never found his way home to Fairy Land after the battle, or else his master has not successfully sought him out. Possibly a magical creature himself, Breis can reputedly smell magic at great distances. This story may illustrate this trait: In some parts of Muetar maidens believe that she who is to be next wed can see her future husband's face in a certain mirror-stone, a relic from a forgotten time which lies half-buried in a forest glade. A wheelwright's daughter once stole away from her parent's house in the light of the full moon and accompanied four other adventurous girls to gaze upon the mirror-stone. Of all of them, only the wheelwright's daughter saw any reflection other than her own. She beheld a youth of blond hair and noble feature dressed in garments betokening a prince or a great lord's son. Her friends did not believe what she described with such excitement and awe and predictably teased her all the way home. But the wheelwright's daughter knew what she had seen and brooded upon it. Imagine her bafflement, knowing that princes didn't marry the dowerless daughters of poor craftsmen. In the days following, therefore, her melancholy oft took her back to the mirror-stone, where the strange youth's image returned again and again to torment her gaze. Who was he? she wondered. Where was he? How could a high one like him ever find the likes of her? Pondering these matters one day, the girl was startled to see a great white beast staring at her from between two close-growing holly trees. At first she took the eavesdropper for a horse, but the horn upon its head and the snowy beard that depended from its chin told her that her first guess must be wrong. It was, of course, the famous Breis. Suddenly the Unicorn stirred and approached the mirror-stone, pausing warily to sniff it. The girl noticed then that the youth's image had reappeared. Was it possible that this Unicorn could see it also? If so, she thought, he must be a very magical creature. Suddenly Breis bent his legs in a way that informed the wheelwright's daughter that she ought to climb upon his back. Charmed by the docility of the remarkable creature and thrilled at the thought of being seen riding a Unicorn through the middle of her village, the girl did not long hesitate before climbing upon the fairy animal's silky back. Instantly she was borne away, but not in the direction of the village. Instead, the trees and hills and plains passed by them in a blur and almost before the girl had enough presence of mind to become frightened, the Unicorn paused before an alabaster palace that stood in the midst of a linden forest. The wheelwright's daughter had never seen so many trees of this type in one place, but she recalled how an old herb woman had occasionally spoken of the plant's power, of the way its bough was oftentimes hung over cottage doors to protect the family within, and how its leaves and flowers were used in the casting of love spells. Many a boy whom the girl knew carried in his pocket a small

The Unicorn Hunt
My father stood beside me And he blew his hunting horn, For we had gone a-seeking The wondrous unicorn. Oh, that animal is stealthy, He knows how much he's worth; His magic spear is prizèd O'er all the charms on earth. The unicorn is crafty, God made him very shy; One raucous sound or motion And he'll take fright and fly. No man alive may snare him, He's too nimble for a dart. But soft, a maiden's graces Entraps his beating heart. So we idle in the meadow Where bird-songs grace the trees And violets waft their perfume In the soothing Tae Day breeze. I love these springtide woodlands In the twilight of the morn, Love the flora, love the fauna Where we hunt the unicorn. The bushes gleam with blossoms, And peach trees bloom in white Where we picnic 'neath a chestnut 'Gainst a sky that's azure-bright.

2

carving of linden wood for good luck. So, as if in a dream, the village maid felt in some way enchanted by the copse and protected by its overhanging boughs. Sliding down from Breis' back, the girl warily entered the enchanted castle, wherein she saw chairs, tables, and benches all hung with cloth of gold. She discovered much more to wonder at, but her attention soon drifted toward a perceived shuffle of footsteps nearing the door behind her. Then there came into the hall a young prince dressed in gold – and his face was the very one reflected in the mirror-stone! "Do not be afraid," said the one, "I will not harm you, but you alone can rescue me." "I? From what?" she asked. "From an evil enchantment," he replied, demurring just then from revealing more. "You must pass three nights in the great hall of this castle," he told her, "but you must let no fear enter your heart. When my enemies are doing their worse to torment you, you must bear it bravely and make not a sound. After the third night I shall be freed. Take courage, lovely one, for our opponents are not permitted to destroy a life while within these castle walls. Should they dare to, they must forfeit the lives of their entire tribe." "I'm only a wheelwright's daughter," she told the prince in dismay. "Are wheelwright's daughters less brave than other ladies where you come from?" he gently teased. "No, I suppose they are not," the perplexed girl replied. "That is good," the prince now smiled. "But the hour grows late and I must not be seen here when my enemies come." He departed as suddenly he had arrived and the girl, despite grave misgivings, resolved to keep the appointed vigil all alone. The vaulting chamber felt lonely, but everything remained quiet until midnight, at which time a great cacophony heralded the arrival of what turned out to be a host of little demons -- possibly a small variety of the Ta-Botann. These poured from the hollow of the hall chimney, from the chinks in the stone walls, and from the several doors all about. But though the wheelwright's daughter could hardly contain her impulse to run in terror, the creatures acted as though they could not see her. Instead they commenced to dance – but they danced clumsily and kept falling over one another's feet. "This is not right!" declared one of them at last. "We are being watched! Someone is here who does not belong!" "It cannot be the prince," said another. "He is still under our spell and we have frightened all the others from the castle." The demons started picking up handfuls of ash from the fireplace and casting it about the room. Some of it settled upon the wheelwright's daughter. "There she is! There she is!" cried the little demons in unison. Hidden no longer, the frightened girl was set upon by the entire host. They pinched, punched, beat, and tormented her in every way their customs allowed, but she let no sound escape her lips, nor would she flee. Toward morning the monsters vanished and the girl lay on the cold floor alone, so exhausted that she could barely turn over on her side. But as the dawn broke the prince entered the hall carrying a basin and a dab. With these he washed the maiden's bruised body all over. Some benevolent magic lurking in the bowl took away her pain and weariness. "You did well last night, fair lady, but it will be even worse for you tonight, and it must be worst of all the evening following, when the enemy will have become so angry that they will be tempted to slay you." The village girl was dismayed to hear this dire pronouncement, but she passed the ensuing day in the castle, utterly charmed by the grateful prince. Nonetheless, she regularly went out to perform her conscientious duty to her

faithful mount, for Breis still waited amid the copse. Sometimes, as the day progressed, the maid must have wondered whether she should not climb upon the Unicorn's back and speed home, thus sparing herself another terrible ordeal. But her courage won out when she thought about the troubles of the woebegone prince. All too soon, just as the prince had warned, the second night arrived and it was indeed proved to be much worse than the first. And, surviving it, she discovered that the third night was the worst of all. The hundred angry bogies must have wished to tear her into pieces, for only the warning of the wisest of them stayed their evil excitement: "Do not slay her, brothers, or we are all doomed!" Through it all, the girl kept her jaws tightly clamped. At last the demons disappeared for the final time and the prince came back with the water and dab to remove all her gashes and wounds. "Rise, Princess," he bade, and when she stood up the whole castle was released from the demons' enchantment. Servants thronged back into the hall as if they had never been gone and these brightly-dressed minions swiftly arranged a long table for some mighty banquet. When all was ready, the prince and the village girl sat down side-by-side with the lords and ladies of the court, eating, drinking, and conversing. That very evening the couple's wedding was solemnized with great rejoicing by all. In the morning the wheelwright's daughter, now mistress of a fairy castle, went outside to once more feed and groom her faithful mount, but learned that Breis was not to be found. Did he believe his task to be done, or had he been only a fickle friend? More likely, it is the proof of a wise companion when he knows he is only in the way and should be gone. Moreover, there is many another village maiden who might benefit from his acquaintance more than the wheelwright's daughter who had already attained as much happiness as one life can cope with.

3