|Editor's Note: We strongly recommend that you read Unicorn Club, the story to which this one is a sequel, before you read this tale.|
by Andy Hollis
©2001 Andy Hollis -- all rights reserved
I slammed the kitchen door behind me, dropped the bag of groceries on the counter with another bang and gave my mother my best glare. "What part of 'no' don't you understand?" I half shouted.
"Now, Kimberly, there is no reason for you to behave this way," she said grabbing the bag before it fell over.
"You asked another creep of a boy to take me out?"
"Justin is a nice boy, the least you could do is go out one time? It's just a play date, after all, at your age."
"Get real, Mom. What planet are you on? Not a single boy that you've tried to set me up with believes that stuff about 'play' dates. They feel that you've given them permission to try and paw at me all afternoon. I'm not doing it, and I've told you and told you I wasn't doing it. How can I make you understand, mother, that I may be female, but I'm not a girl?"
"Of course you're a girl, sweetheart," she said but I shrugged off her attempted hug. "And a very pretty girl at that."
"No," I said and walked over to stare at the mirror on the kitchen door, a diet motivational aid. She was right -- even I could see that. Kimberly Trent was a pretty girl. I had shoulder length brunette hair, worn with a barrette, gorgeous brown eyes and a face that would launch a hundred ships at least. The only problem with this picture was that I had been born a boy, named Brian.
Turning away from the mirror, I dropped to all fours and took my true shape as a unicorn foal. As a filly, I stood as tall as a two month old horse. I was small enough to be comfortable in the small kitchen, although I did have to watch out for the horn.
"I'm a unicorn, Mom. It's a type of horse with a bloody great horn sticking out of it's forehead. There are two extremely handsome stallions that are ready to fight to the death over me when the time is right, and I don't -- do you hear me? I will not date outside my own species."
"But, Kim, it's for you."
"Oh, right, you want me to..." With a sudden thought, I did something I had been dying to do for the last two months. I changed back into my first self, a twelve year old boy. "There," I said, reaching under my t-shirt to unfasten the bra. "Now, Mom, are you going to set me up with girls?" I pulled off the shirt, pulled off the bra, and dropped it into the trash can.
"Kimberly!" she took her turn at shouting. "What do you think you're doing? Change back this instant!"
""No way, Mom. You didn't answer my question. Now that I'm a boy again, are you going to set me up with girls?"
"Of course not, you're much too young for dating," she said quickly.
"If I'm too young to date girls, how come Kim isn't too young to date boys?"
"You don't understand, Kim -- Brian, whoever you are now." She walked over and sat down at the kitchen table.
I grabbed a soda from the fridge, and pulled back the ring. "You want one?"
After a gulp of cola, I sat down across from her. "Okay, Mom. What don't I understand?"
"How can you stand being a boy again?"
"Because it's what I've known my whole life. I know how much you want me to be a girl, and I've tried and tried, but I hate dressing up in skirts and those fancy shoes you keep buying me, and I won't do it anymore."
"But that's just the point, sweetheart. You look so good dressed up, but I've never once seen you trying to do better. You refuse to wear make-up, and I admit you don't need anything but a hint of color, and you won't let me pierce your ears."
"I've told you the reasons for that," I cut in.
"I know, but I thought if I could just get you interested in a boy it might bring out your feminine side."
I shook my head. "Not going to happen, Mom. I'm not interested in boys -- human boys at least. You will get grand-foals soon enough, but until then..."
"You don't have to talk like that, Brian. You aren't an animal."
"Yes, I am. I'm proud to be a unicorn, and I wouldn't give it up for anything. But, when I'm human, I am either going to be a boy, or if I go back to being Kimberly I will be a tomboy, understood? It's still summer time, and I'm going to wear shorts and sneakers not skirts and sandals."
"No. I can't have that, Kim," Mom said, and I could tell she meant business.
"Then it's settled. I changed all those pretty -- frilly things you bought me back into boy's clothes so you don't have to worry about buying me new stuff. At least now, when school starts, I don't have to worry about changing my records."
"Kimberly, I want you to change back into a girl, this instant."
"Not a chance. I tried it your way, I didn't like it and it just doesn't work. I was born a boy, and there is no power in the world that can make me change back. I don't have to be human, if it comes to that, and I don't have to live in this house."
"Go to your room, young man. I just wish your father was still around. I won't have you talking like that to me."
"Fine, I won't, but you still don't get it. I'm going out." This time, I stormed through the kitchen door to the back yard.
That, I thought, was the straw that broke this unicorn's back. I cut a small hole in the fabric of space-time and stepped through to the other side. As always, I landed at my favorite spot, a large lake fed by a huge waterfall from the river above. I stripped out of my clothes, dove into the lake and swam for the other side. Once there, I changed to unicorn and climbed out of the water underneath the fall itself. The water did sting my hide, but gave it a great scrubbing and this was the one thing that could get me relaxed and calm me down again.
Mom knew me well enough that she wouldn't worry that I would cut out on her for real. I threatened a lot, but that was it. But she was just so irritating... The worst thing I could do now was to back down on being Brian again. I did need to let her know that I would stand up for myself, and I wasn't going to take any more of those creeps trying to maul me.
I looked up as I sensed a large group of humans passing close enough to the lake to be an issue if they came looking for water. I had no problem with the satyrs, nymphs or even the occasional leprechaun I had met here, but I didn't want the humans to find me, at least in unicorn shape. I changed back to human myself and made a quick dash across the lake for my clothes. At least I had chosen something gender neutral that morning so it wouldn't be an issue, and I wouldn't have to use magic to change, especially if there were any wizards in the group.
Just as I pulled my t-shirt over my head, I heard a gruff voice behind me. "Well, now, what do we have here?"
That was impossible. No one could have snuck up on me like that. I spun around to face a giant. He had to be seven or eight feet tall, and had a face to match. One eye looked half-closed by some weapon, and he did wear a long scar down the other cheek. He towered over me.
"Pretty one, aren't you? Lord Kalandros will pay through the nose for you."
"Who are you?" I demanded. It must have sounded lame, because he laughed. "The name's Creel. I'm an authorized slave catcher for Lord Kalandros, your new owner, boy. Let's have a better look at you," he said and reached out a hand the size of a ham at me.
"Don't touch me," I warned him, backing up. "I'm not responsible for what happens if you do."
Creel grabbed me with both hands, lifted me off my feet and screamed as my defenses kicked in. Panicked, I changed back to unicorn, and kicked with my forelegs. I struggled until he dropped me again to stare first at his burnt hands. The hands quickly turned black and shriveled into hooves. He looked down at me, with his mouth open.
I shrugged back into human form. "Only a jackass would touch a unicorn like that, you jerk." He couldn't see my horn now, but he could see the spark of golden light that formed about a foot from my forehead to complete the spell. "It won't be long until you look the part. Tell me about this Lord you work for."
"Stop this. I didn't know what you was. No one told me there was a unicorn in these woods, honest."
"Oh, man," I said and snapped my fingers. "I forgot to print up the flyers." I watched as the man's arm grew longer. He bent over and rested his hooves on the ground. "Tell me about Lord Kal -- whatever you said his name was."
"Kalandros. He owns most of the kingdom, and slaving's his biggest business. That's why he has so many authorized slave catchers. And I'm the best -- always have been."
"If it's that big a business do you have anyone left in this country that isn't a slave?"
He shook his head as his muzzle grew in, velvet with fur. "We go through once a year. We get a lot of strangers -- anyone unlucky enough to be out when I go through. You would have been the prize that made this trip worthwhile."
"Suppose I sell you back to this Lord Kalandros. I hope he treats his animals better than his slaves." The new donkey shook his head and started to bolt. "Calm down," I said. He had no choice but to obey. I called up a rope and bridle, placed it around the donkey's head and tied him fast to a tree. Picking through Creel's clothes, I found a couple of heavy bags filled with gold coins. "I guess not -- too bad, so sad. But I need to do something with you, can't just let you wander around out here. There's lions and tigers and bears in these woods as well as unicorns, oh my."
"You're a thief as well?" he asked me as I packed away his gold. "What use would a unicorn have for gold?"
"Unlike you, I can turn to human when I need to, so I do have more use for it than you, Creel. You will remain a donkey for the rest of your life. That's just the way it works, so don't get yourself in a lather about how it's my fault. I warned you, and I didn't have to do that. Just get used to the idea that you're the one that's going to be bought and sold from now on. So, how do I get to be an authorized slave-catcher catcher?"
"If you weren't a unicorn I would have kicked you to death by now."
"And I love you too. I think I'll call you Sunflower," I said as I led the donkey away from the lake toward the rest of the humans.
"You would do that to me after this? At least, call me by my right name. I beg you."
"Sure. Okay, but don't blame me for that either. Let's find out how much a good donkey is worth around here."
A long caravan stood waiting in the middle of a dirt road that cut through the woods. I had never noticed the road before, but I had no reason to wander away from the lake, either. Four of the carts bore cages, overfilled with humans of all ages. The stench from the cages made me double over and throw up in the bushes long before we reached the first cart.
Four more carts appeared to have supplies, and the guards, about six of them, sat on the ground playing cards while their horses rested, upwind of the cages.
All four of the cages looked so filled that no one had the room to lay down at night. Nor did any of the captives have any choice about sanitation or cleanliness. The people at the edges of the cage could get some of it outside, but those in the middle had no choice but to use the straw that lined the bottom of the cages.
As I passed the first cart, the two horses that pulled it stiffened and dipped their heads. Nothing like giving away the game, I thought at them, but the second set did the same. The guards up front didn't notice, but the slaves in the pen had. Some of them even reached out hands through the bars to me.
"Help us, Lord, help us."
The horses also looked to me. "Help us, Unicorn."
I put my finger to my lips, quickly, and waved in a flood of healing energy that touched the horses, cleaning and tending their hundreds of cuts and sores, then did the same for the humans. Nothing could dampen the smell, but I did change all the straw for fresh. I turned my back, and led the donkey forward, and somehow, all of the smallest kids vanished from the pens, sent home with a gold coin from Creel's supply as compensation. The slaves quickly filled in the empty spaces, but kept silent.
The guards didn't move from their game as I walked up to them. One of them called out, "Hey, your Lordship, we've got company."
A moment later, a young man, with long, dark brown and carefully coiffed locks, poked his head out of the first supply cart. He pulled the rest of his bulk out after that. He looked to be about eighteen, and wore rich, dark red satin clothing with bright streaks of gold and silver thread catching the sunlight. It was all I could do not to laugh at him.
"And you might be?" he demanded.
"I am Brian, the son of Lord Trent. I'm heading for the market to sell my donkey. And you are?"
"I am Clark, nephew and heir to Lord Kalandros. Good looking animal."
"Sure is, and one of the best. His name is Creel..." I said before everyone from soldier to the youngest remaining slave broke out laughing. I swear if the donkey could blush he would have been red.
"Good name for the beast, lad. We too, have a donkey named Creel in our party, who is very late getting back," Clark commented. "If you care to ride with us, we will help you with the animal."
"Thanks," I said. "My father had a message for your uncle..." I paused and stared at Clark. I tied Creel to the back of the cart, and accepted Clark's hand up to the front of the cart. Not only was Clark a virgin, but she was a female as well. Most of the bulk was swaddling to make him seem more muscular. "Nice disguise," I whispered to her.
Her face blanched. She glanced around, but none of the guards was paying us any attention. "How did you know?"
"I have my ways. I've had to pretend to be a girl before, so I have some idea what you're going through. It's not easy."
"Guards," Clark called out. "Creel can just as well catch up. We had better get back on the road."
"Whatever you say, your Lordship," the man said with so much disdain in his voice I wondered if he had guessed as well.
Drivers, roused from their naps, took their places on the rest of the carts while Clark settled in to drive ours. The guards spread out on the road ahead of us, with no one bringing up the rear. I wasn't about to ask, but I sent the rest of the kids home leaving those over sixteen in the cages. Once again, the slaves were quick to fill in the spaces, but all of them could breathe a little easier.
Creel noticed the sudden loss of numbers, and I heard him braying his protests.
Clark peered around to the back of the cart. "Certainly sounds like our Creel, too. What's the matter with the beast?"
I gave the donkey a firm glance. "Who knows?" I swear I could see the little daggers flying towards me from Creel's eyes. With everyone's attention on the donkey, I sent half the females home. This time, Creel didn't fuss.
We rode towards civilization for the rest of the afternoon, making good time -- I hoped. I wasn't worried about getting home late. Time ran, as the old stories said, differently between the two worlds. We made camp as twilight settled in.
Clark made all the men help, and I joined in too, yet it was still a struggle as they took "His Lordship's" personal tent from the cart and set it up. The pavilion looked big enough to hold everyone, including the slaves, but she made it clear that I was the only one that would share it with her. She ignored the sound of the men laughing.
"Better watch your backside tonight, laddie," a couple of the soldiers told me as we finished setting up camp. The designated cook had a fire going, and several pots of something pasty and gray bubbling for the slaves. On a separate fire, a large pot filled with stew simmered for the rest of us.
"That's strange," one of the guards said. "I could swear that we had more slaves in the pens than those. Didn't Creel bring in a bunch of kids, too?"
The others shrugged and looked at the pens. "And more women than that," another commented. "Who's been watching the carts, anyways?"
"Check with Creel when he gets back," another said. "They couldn't have gotten out. And where would they go out in these woods?"
The men relaxed and I watched the relief on Clark's face. "Nasty business," she muttered. "My uncle would kill us if we came in empty handed, but all Creel brought in were kids, women and old men."
I took a bowl of stew and half a loaf of bread. "What happens to them?"
"Uncle sells them wherever he can. The best of the lot he usually keeps for himself," Clark said with a shudder.
"My father doesn't do this at home. How many slave catchers does your uncle have?"
Clark laughed. "To listen to Creel, he's the only one, but actually there are five. Any more and we'd run out of people to tend the land."
Sometime during the night the rest of the slaves vanished from the pens. In the morning, the guards found the cages broken into pieces. Creel's supply of gold was almost gone as well, but then I didn't need it.
"Must've been a raid," the men decided and explained to Clark. "Probably Jargan wanting the slaves himself. If Creel were here this wouldn't have happened, but without him..." he trailed off in a shrug.
"He will have a lot to answer for, when and if he does return," Clark retorted. "At least they left us the horses and, of course, the better Creel."
"Are you still going to the market?" I asked.
"Where else can we go?" Clark answered. "Without Creel we have no hope of getting those slaves back. The King's Laws are very strict on that. Only an authorized slave catcher may catch a slave."
"You know," I said. "It makes a lot more sense to hire the people you need than to buy them."
"Yes, it does, but you don't know my uncle."
"But I want to meet him," I said. "I promised my father to sell my donkey to him and to no other." Creel brayed and shook his head, and Clark laughed.
"Your Creel certainly has more sense than ours."
That afternoon, Lord Kalandros examined the carts and the broken pens. Fat and flab covered the man from his cheeks to his toes, and his little piggy eyes darted from face to face constantly. He raised his right hand, covered with rings, and pointed at Clark.
"A raid, my Lord. Creel vanished somewhere in the woods yesterday and without him we couldn't hold the others off. We think this is the work of Jargan but we aren't sure of that."
I looked around the city, surprised by the wide streets and large houses every where. The shops looked clean and inviting, and I could smell meats cooking in the Inn across the street from us. Kids ran back and forth along the streets laughing and playing.
From my seat on the cart, I could look up a broad avenue to Lord Kalandros' castle, a huge thing built of dark gray and black stone, the looked over the city and the surrounding countryside.
Clark had been right. Lord Kalandros had been waiting for us when the carts pulled into the city and he did blow his lid when he saw the pens empty and broken.
"Who is this?" he asked, finally calming enough to point at me.
"Brian, the son of Lord Trent, Uncle. His father sent him to your market with that donkey."
"My father is well," I said quickly, "and he sends his regards, my Lord. I think you met him last year at court?"
"Yes, yes, I remember. That donkey will bring a fair price, I think..." he said looking over the pens. "But not nearly the price that you will bring. Guards, take that boy to the holding pens for the sale tomorrow. At least we will see some profit for this trip."
"Uncle," Clark protested. "He's a nobleman's son. You can't be serious."
"Would you care to join him in the pens, boy?" His glare silenced Clark. "Then be quiet."
"My father will not tolerate this," I said, standing up in the cart.
"A minor lordling with little influence in court. Take him now."
I jumped down, and stared at the guards. "Don't worry, guys. I won't fuss, but you, Lord Kalandros, you'd better listen up. I can break you and throw you out on the street and all this will be -- um -- gone with the wind."
"Bluster all you want. Take the donkey to the stables, and the boy to the pen. Now."
The guards led me to the castle and below to the slave holding pens. At least I wouldn't be alone. There were hundreds of people in the pens with me. The men shocked me when they put me in a private and clean cell. I guess it was from my "noble" birth -- or they just didn't want to risk having the prize slave get hurt.
About two minutes after the guards had left the area, I heard a voice from somewhere in the cell.
"As I live and breathe. Brian, my lad, what are you doing in this Light-forsaken hole?"
I spun around, then stared at the tiny person that appeared in the bars of my cell door. "Tim? What are you doing here?"
"Trying to understand why you're here, my lad."
"Long story. I was at my favorite waterfall and some creep named Creel tried to put the snatch on me, and you know what happens when someone who isn't pure touches me. I couldn't just let a donkey wander around those woods to be eaten by lions or something, so I sold him to Lord Kalandros who threw me in here."
"You turned Creel, the slave catcher into a donkey?"
"Yes," I said with a long sigh. "Weren't you paying attention? I said that I was at my favorite waterfall..."
"I got that part, laddie me buck. Lord Kalandros is a powerful man. So why aren't you back at your waterfall?"
"Think he's more powerful than me?"
The leprechaun shook his head. "I don't like the sound of that, lad. Your power isn't something that you should throw around. I can see getting rid of vermin like Creel, but you can't save the world."
"This may not save the world either, but getting rid of this Kalandros guy couldn't hurt. I know not to overuse my power, but sometimes it's necessary. I want to stop the slave trade here and I am going to do it. Do you know where he keeps his vaults?"
"Oh, aye lad, that I do. But only a fool would try for that... Or a thick headed unicorn. What do you need all that gold for anyway?"
"To give out to all these slaves for their trouble. I told Kalandros I'd break him if he tried to make me a slave and I'm going to do just that." I opened the door of the cell. "You coming with me?"
"I'd better," he said.
I walked along the damp passages where Tim directed, since I didn't think he'd pass on a chance for gold. "Tim?"
"Why can't I save the world? This world needs saving, too. I mean back home I can't do much except take care of my area, but as soon as I get one part cleaned up and start to work on another people just mess the first part up again. The other unicorns are great, but kind of standoffish, you know? All they care about it is their areas, and they never want to do things as a group or anything. I know, I've asked. We could get together and really do something for our world, but no... They won't. So why not this world?"
"Because people are thick headed, like you -- stubborn, like you -- and they don't know what's best for them. It's not your job to tell them, either. They need to blunder and fuss and make their own way. Now as I see it, laddie, you do have a lot of power. You can do almost anything you please, and heaven help the rest of us, but power, see, is addictive. Once you start using it, you can't stop. Sure enough, Lord Kalandros is a nasty piece of work, but where does it stop if you take him out? Lord Belgarion is just as nasty, although he doesn't sell slaves, instead taxing his people into poverty. Would you take him out because it's the right thing to do?"
I laughed. "I see your point. Power corrupts and all that, and what's to stop me from turning Lord So and So into a tree because he jaywalked? But I want to do something. I can't at home. Maybe I could make a difference here, even if I don't save the whole world."
"Well, now, laddie, that is something. But now you have me to guide you along the straight and narrow so it will work."
"Thanks, Tim, you don't know how much that means to me," I said. I meant it too -- more or less.
A guard snapped to attention in front of us. "Who goes there?"
"We're going to the vaults. Would you mind leading the way and opening the door when we get there?"
The guard stared at me, puzzled. Then, a smile spread across his face as he eyes glazed over. "Of course not, lad. This way."
"Now that, I have to admit, is a very useful talent," Tim commented.
"We're going to the vaults," the guard announced to the others as we walked out of the slave pens into the castle proper. I used a touch of power to make us inconspicuous as we walked. The rest of the castle staff took it for granted that we had genuine business there.
Down two flights of steps, into the depths of the earth, the guard led us to the massive doors that blocked the treasure room. With a quick command to the officer on duty, the doors were opened and the men stepped aside to let me enter the room.
"Jesus, Joseph and Mary," Tim said and whistled as we took our first look at the tonnage of gold Lord Kalandros had accumulated from the slave trade. In room after room, we counted thousands of piles of gold coins and ingots that were taller than me.
"No wonder he didn't think I could break him," I said. With a word, the gold vanished down to the last bit of dust.
"And just where did you send all that boodle?"
"Someplace safe. Don't worry, you can have as much as you want," I said feeling generous. "Within reason," I added. I felt generous, not foolhardy.
We walked out of the room. "Are there any more vaults like this?"
The first guard shook his head. "Why would his Lordship need more? That much wealth dazzles the mind, doesn't it, boy?"
"I'll say." I questioned the other guards. Satisfied that we had taken everything there was to take, I asked the first guard to take us back to the slave pens.
"Get up. Get up," a guard yelled and banged the door to my cell open. "His Lordship wants to see you."
"Huh?" I asked and rubbed my eyes. "Before breakfast? Is he crazy?"
The man half shoved, half dragged me out of the cell to the main holding pen. "And what do you know about that?" he asked and pointed to the huge hole in the wall that had let hundreds of slaves walk out of the castle. The fact that each slave had a considerable amount of gold from the vaults when they left had not been discovered -- yet.
"Looks like you've got a bad problem with mice, or maybe termites," I said with a shrug. "Definitely mice," I added as a swarm of rodents crawled through the opening from the outside.
The guard slammed the door closed. "Now what do we do?"
"I'd get a lot of cheese," I said. "You know, before they go for the door and the rest of the walls."
"What's going on here?" asked another guard. "It's almost time for the auction."
"The slaves are all gone, except this one. There's a million mice in there that ate holes right through the wall. Don't know if the slaves ran away or got eaten."
The new guard went for the door in spite of our warnings and opened it. The rush of mice from the other side knocked him off his feet and to the floor. Seconds later the mice covered him and ran on in a mad rush upstairs. A couple of the mice glanced at me.
"We do good, unicorn?"
"You're doing great, guys," I thought back at them. "Head for the kitchen now."
The guard screamed as he tried to brush the creatures off without getting bitten.
"That's odd," I commented and looked through the doorway. "Where are the rats?"
"Here, unicorn, here," came a slightly deeper voice as a swarm of rats followed the mice out of the room. The guard on the floor fainted from the new threat. Following the mice up the stairs, the rats bowled over two more guards and Lord Kalandros, who were on the way down.
"My Lord," the first guard shouted and ran to help the man. "The slaves have escaped and rats and mice have torn a huge hole in the outside wall."
We heard, but ignored, the screams that were drifting down the stairs. "Hey, Lord Kalander," I called out. "Don't you have any exterminators around here?" The man glared at me as he trod the rest of the way down.
The second guard got to his feet. "The vermin are attacking the whole castle, my Lord."
A deep bell rang out from underneath us. The gongs were loud enough to make the floor shake and vibrate from the noise. Sure enough, a couple of minutes later three guards came running through but skidded to a stop at the sight of the fat man.
"My Lord," one said, panting. "My Lord. The vaults are empty. The guards on duty say that no one went near the door, but we found a huge tunnel cut into the wall from the surface."
"My Lord," another man yelled and joined us. "The damage is getting worse. Holes are being cut through the outside walls at every turn. We must get everyone out of the building at once, before it falls.
"You, boy," Lord Kalandros growled and pointed at me. "You threatened to break me. What do you know about this?"
"Me? I was locked up in a cell last night. What could I know about this?"
The castle shuddered as huge sections of the lower walls fell. Lord Kalandros looked around. "Upstairs, now. Get everyone out. You. Tie up that boy and bring him with us."
"No need," I said. "I'm so out of here." The guard didn't wait for another command.
With the fat man leading the way, we pushed up and out of the castle along with a steady stream of people, slaves and rodents. I turned to watch the building crumble. I knew it wouldn't fall until everyone was out, but they didn't know that.
"Uncle, what happened?" Clark asked as she joined our group.
"We seem to be under attack from mice and rats, and that slave boy of yours. Very impressive, but if you think that this will ruin me, you are mistaken. This is only a small part of my wealth."
I gave him my best 'so what?' look. I used a touch of power to urge him on.
"I have many castles like this -- and gold, boy -- more gold than you could ever dream about. I have holdings in Tunistra, Glengarion..." He counted off a long list on his fingers.
"Is that all?" I asked him.
"Is that all? You would never be able to strike all of my holdings. I will survive this, but..." He stared at me as I shook my head.
"Sorry about your luck Clyde, but you'll find that all of them are gone, too."
"That's impossible. No one could have done that, no matter how much power he or she might have," he claimed.
I shrugged and pointed at the castle as the last of the people and rodents left it. The building fell in on itself and tumbled into so much dust. "Told you I would break you, but would you listen? All that gold of yours is going to buy back the freedom of all those people you've enslaved over the years and to compensate them for the time they've lost from their lives. The families of those that didn't make it will also get compensated. What's left over I'm going to send to Clark here and pay off my friend, Tim, who's making all the arrangements."
I glared at him, then managed a smile. "I'm sure in a few years you can start rebuilding your empire, but I'll be there to take it all away from you again. Next time, don't mess with people that have real power."
The man shriveled as the enormity of what I had done sunk in. He turned ashen gray, but I wasn't buying it for a second. When he jumped at me, I was ready.
"Don't touch me. I'm not responsible for what happens."
Lord Kalandros made another grab for me, I dodged out of the way but his right hand connected with my chest for a second and he screamed, pulling his arm back. He hadn't made enough contact to get the full dose as Creel had, but his right hand and arm did turn into a donkey's foreleg and hoof.
He looked at his new limb, then at me and I saw his thoughts wheeling behind his eyes. "Unicorn. Grab him," he ordered, but his men weren't paying attention.
"Only a real jackass would touch a unicorn like that, and you're going to carry that as a reminder the rest of your miserable life. I'm out of here."
In front of the entire population of the city, I changed back to my self, and let my horn glow in the sunlight. A second later, I stood under my waterfall and let myself breathe.
"Kimberly?" Mom called out as I walked in the back door.
"No, it's me," I answered back, and I saw the disappointment on her face as she entered the kitchen. "Told you I was staying like this."
"I'm sorry, Brian, really sorry." She put her arms around me and hugged. "I love you, no matter who you are or what you are. I'm glad you're home."
"So am I. I had a great time, Mom. I overthrew this dictator, stole like a billion dollars in gold and gave it all away, and almost got sold into slavery. That other world is really a fun place to visit."
She looked at me, then sighed. "Okay, don't tell me what you did. Hungry?" She made me a couple of sandwiches. I sat down to eat and she brought over a cup of tea to sit with me.
"Brian, I know got way too pushy with you as a girl, and I want to apologize. I was so intent on getting you to be more feminine I ignored everything else, especially what I was doing to you and what those boys were doing."
I washed down the mouthful of liverwurst with milk and nodded. "Thanks, Mom. I know. The weirdest part of this whole thing is that it doesn't matter that much to me if I'm a boy or girl. I mean before this happened I cared a lot, but now I'm always going to be a female on the inside and that doesn't matter to a unicorn except in mating season. I can accept that, but if I turned back into Kimberly, would you still make me dress up every day?"
Mom opened her mouth -- and then closed it. "I know you can make me tell you the truth but I will anyway. I would. I can't help it. Kimberly is far too pretty a girl to be a tomboy. You have a face and now a figure that demands to be dressed up. I promise I will never ask another boy to take you out, you can count on that, but if you turn back to Kimberly I would expect you in skirts and blouses."
I shook my head. "I'll think about it, but I don't like them."
"Fair enough," she said, and this time I thought she meant it.
Two days later, I ran in from patrolling my area to find a young man, in his late teens, waiting for me in the living room. I took one look at him, and thought about slipping off and turning into Kimberly right then and there.
"Good day, my dear," he said quietly. He stood up and bowed.
"And to you," I said, shocked to see another unicorn -- in human form, no less. I had never met the colt, but I was delighted to do so now. "Have you taken a human name?"
"No, and I do not intend to," he said, letting me sense his particular scent and thought patterns that served as his unicorn name. I returned the favor.
"The High Council has sent me to bring you to answer the complaint against you."
"What complaint?" I asked.
"I don't know the details, but you need to come with me."
"Okay." I left a note for Mom. When I was ready, we both changed shapes to travel to the other world. I followed the colt to a huge, open air auditorium. Various people, unicorns and humans waited for us.
"Please take your human form," the elder human told me. "You are the boy known as Brian of Trent?"
"Yes, sir," I said looking around the place. "What's going on?"
"You have been charged with irresponsible and illegal use of power, by Lord Kalandros. How do you plead?"
"Not guilty," I said as two guards ushered Kalandros in between them
"My safety is guaranteed from this creature?" he demanded of the elder.
"Before the High Council, it is. For the record, please state the nature of your complain against this child to the council so that the child will also understand what is being charged. Brian of Trent, you will remain quiet and not contradict anything that is said at this point. You will have a chance to answer later."
"This child was brought to me as a slave, and by law had no rights to use his powers against me or the rest of my property. I demand the return of my property -- all of it. But, in lieu of that, I will accept his horn as payment. In the last few weeks, I have feared for my life from all the former slaves that are hunting me. My worthless nephew has all but taken control of my estates and I have nothing."
The elder looked at me. "He's lying, your honor. I wasn't a slave when I came to him. I have witnesses that will tell you that..." In a flash of white light, Clark appeared beside me. "I told him that if he tried to make me a slave I would break him and I'm a unicorn of my word. Clark here is Lord Kalandros' -- niece," I said deciding to tell the truth no matter what. "Sorry girlfriend, but was I a slave when you brought me to that city?"
"She is a female," the unicorn beside the elder confirmed.
"Why the disguise?" the elder asked.
"I've been dressing as a boy my entire life, sir, because my uncle demanded it. The King's Laws are strict on what a female can and can't inherit, and he wanted to make sure his entire fortune stayed in the family.
"Brian came with us to see Lord Kalandros as an equal and not a slave. I protested as hard as I could about the way my uncle treated him."
"What say you now?" the elder asked Lord Kalandros.
"The truth now," the unicorn added.
"Whether or not he was a slave when I found him doesn't matter. I made him a slave and I stand by my complaint."
I stared at Lord Kalandros for a moment, then gave him a wide grin. "Are you, then, an authorized slave catcher?"
"No, of course not. I am Lord Kalandros, boy, and not some menial..."
The elder said, "The King's Laws are strict on that point. You had no right or authority to make the boy a slave."
"Well, Creel, the slave catcher caught him."
"Did not. He was much too busy turning into a donkey to catch me properly. I warned him about that too, like your hoof there, but people never seem to listen to me."
The elder sighed. "The boy told you that he would break you if you made him a slave illegally -- and he did. I see no grounds for your complaint, Kalandros. Dismissed."
Lord Kalandros started to protest, then shut his mouth. He glared at me for a second, but left the auditorium with his head hanging.
Clark grabbed me into a long hug. "Come back with me, Brian, the entire world is ready to honor you for what you did."
I looked around for the colt that had brought me there. He stood waiting for me at the back of the enclosure. I changed to Kimberly, hoping I looked pretty enough and that he liked my dress. "Some other time. I -- uh -- have some business I need to take care of here. I'll check up on you in a week or so. Good luck, Clark!"
The colt walked up to me, and took my hand.
"Come on, tall, brilliant and handsome," I grabbed his arm and hugged it. "You have just got to meet my mother."