The Tale of the Knight
and the Unicorn
©2004 Equus -- all rights reserved
King Arthur rose from his chair and the large hall fell silent. "I propose a toast to the newest knight of Camelot, Sir James Emory! His brave deeds helped to save this Kingdom from ruin. May he be accepted into our brotherhood and praised for his valor." Then looking directly at James, who had been sitting very near the King at the feast held to celebrate the victory, and his deeds, the king proclaimed, "Sir James, you are truly worthy of a seat in the hall of the knights of Camelot."
Arthur's words could not help but remind James of the reason for his presence here...
One of Britain's minor kinglets, Osecur by name, did not deign to recognize Arthur's rightful authority, and naught but force of arms would convince him otherwise. For three grim days the battle had raged. Many lay dead on both sides, not a few of them being among the doughtiest warriors Camelot had known. Trying desperately to rally his fellow soldiers during this darkest hour, James had spurred his horse on, charging at the leader of the enemy. This nameless foe swung his sword high, but James ducked and cleaved the general's head from neck in one brawny blow. So great was the force of the knight's attack that his sword broke in two. Osecur's minions saw this, and as their leader's body fell from his horse and crashed heavily upon the ground, they turned and fled, hoping to save their own lives. The men of Camelot took heart and would have pressed on to exterminate the retreating forces, but Sir James had stopped them, saying, "We are warriors, not rat-catchers! Let the cowards leave. Having abandoned their general, they are dishonored and disgraced for life. Quarrel with them no more, for this battle is done!" Had it not been for Sir James' quick thinking, who can say how badly the gathered troops might have stained their eternal honor?
...however, the time of battle was past. Here and now, the knights ate and drank their fill at the huge feast celebrating the victory of Camelot and the induction of a new knight to the Order of the Table Round. The feast ended with the stirring verses of a good-hearted martial ballad. Afterward, King Arthur approached his newest vassal.
"Sir James, I bid you welcome," Arthur declared formally. "From this moment forward, you may stay in the castle. The Lady Luthiana will conduct you to your quarters."
"Thank you, Sire. Who is Luthiana?" Sir James inquired curiously.
The knight's question was answered by a voice most soothing, almost enchanting, from behind him: "I am she, Sir James, and it is my honor and pleasure to serve you."
Sir James turned around and found himself staring into deep blue eyes. Their beauty was magnified by the candlelight reflected off them and it seemed as if he was looking at a field of stars in each of her eyes. The enchantment of her voice was matched, if not exceeded, by that of the vision he saw before him now.
She bowed and beckoned to him. "Pray come with me, good sir knight, and I will show you to your room."
Sir James followed Luthiana out the tall doors of the main hall and down a long passageway. In the bright light from the numerous torches that lined the main passage, he watched her in front of him. Her long golden hair flowed as she moved, shifting from side to side. She did not walk as lesser women do; rather, she glided with a measure of beauty and grace that could rival even Queen Guinevere herself. She almost radiated a glow around her of gleaming brilliance and beauty. They passed the central garden, now dark under the night sky. All too soon for the knight's liking, she stopped at an arched wooden door and reached for the handle -- but James' hand was already upon it. He smiled at her and pulled it open, thinking to himself that it wasn't proper for a woman to be opening doors for him, as he was more than capable of doing that himself.
Luthiana returned his smile. "Thank you, kind sir knight." They walked inside, she first and he following. A single small candle stood burning in the darkened room. She took this taper, and with it she lit numerous other candles to provide illumination. Turning back to him she explained, "This room is yours as long as you maintain your allegiance to King Arthur. He takes good care of his knights; you will be no exception. You are free to roam the castle as long as you like." Then, speaking softly, she added, "Good evening to you." With that, she glided out quietly.
As he looked around, a cool breeze fell over his face from the narrow windows that overlooked the garden. There was a large wooden armoire against one of the stone walls. Across from that, there stood a somewhat simple 4-post bed with fresh linens. He grinned happily, reveling in his newfound glory. He would serve King Arthur well, for from the looks of the room, he highly valued his knights. Pulling open the armoire, he was astonished to find a set of fine robes, skillfully sewn, the red lion of Camelot embroidered elegantly on the back of each along with two sleeping robes.
Shedding his clothing, he slipped on one of the sleeping robes and lay down on the bed. Pulling the sheets over himself, he drifted into a deep and peaceful sleep.
He awoke the next day refreshed, the sunlight streaming in the windows. He shed his sleeping clothes and put on one of the fine robes. There was a knock at his door.
"Come in," James announced.
The heavy door opened and an imposing man walked in. "Good day, Sir James! My name is Gamgee. I am the head blacksmith hereabouts. You are to be fitted for your armor, and your horse for his barding. Come with me at once."
James nodded and followed Gamgee out the door. They passed the garden again and traveled to a new part of the castle. The sunlight flowed in through the windows, making all the passages in the castle bright. They traveled near the stables, which were in the open area between the inner and outer walls. Across from the stables was a large round building, with a chimney billowing smoke. It was the blacksmith's forge. The sound of clanging could be heard as they drew nearer.
Two grooms emerged from the stables with a horse. Not just any horse, but James' own -- a noble black stallion, standing tall and proud. Storm was his name, and he was as spirited and powerful as his namesake. James' father had given Storm to James when both were very young. The grooms led Storm over to James, who stroked his neck. The wound Storm had received in battle on his hindquarters was healing well.
Gamgee beckoned to him. "Let us proceed, sir. Boys, take the horse to the paddock on the other side of the shop. We will deal with the barding later." With that, he opened the door and motioned for James to come inside.
It was hot inside the shop. The furnaces that heated the metal dominated most of the back of the shop. There were a few people working at tables, pounding away on pieces of red-hot metal to shape them.
"These are my apprentices," said Gamgee. "None finer to be found in all of Camelot!"
"So you are going to build an entire suit of armor for me?" asked James.
"Indeed we are," Gamgee replied. "We will also craft you a new sword, seeing as yours broke against that fellow's hard bones during the last battle."
"I thank you. How may I be of your service?" asked James.
"Allow us to take your measurements, the better to ensure a good fit, and then leave us to our task. If you will hold your arms out to your side, Sir James, we will begin."
Some two hours later, the measuring was done. After he was satisfied with the numbers he'd gathered from the knight, Gamgee walked out to the small paddock where Storm was grazing quietly. James thought to himself how deceiving that image of Storm was. The horse was gentle to friend and those that treated him well; but to those who would raise sword against him or his rider, he was a fierce beast indeed. Gamgee measured the horse as thoroughly as he had the steed's rider. Finally he was finished, and the smith and knight returned to the forge while stable boys led Storm back to his stall.
"When will my armor be ready?" James asked.
"A week's time," the blacksmith said. "I doubt you would enjoy the results if we finished any faster!"
Knowing that high-quality work was not to be hurried, James was content. "Very well. Is there anything else I might assist with, Gamgee?"
"No, I have what I need. Good day to you, Sir."
James thanked Gamgee and pushed the heavy door open, he was surprised at how quiet it was outside. He had gotten so used to the din of clanging metal that it had not fazed him much at all whilst he was inside the shop. For many hours he walked the main part of the castle, through long halls decorated with elegant and vibrant tapestries. Then James made his way back to his room. He passed the garden on the way back, full of exotic plants brought back from distant lands by knights whose quests had taken them far indeed. He admired the greenery for a moment and then returned to his quarters.
Closing the door, something caught his ear. It was a soothing sound. He could hear the familiar voice flowing in from the windows. There, framed in the window, he saw Luthiana. She was singing by herself in the garden. She was so very beautiful. James felt himself drawn to her. For a long time he sat, mesmerized, by the window, admiring her charms and her sweet voice. Some time later, a candlestick, falling as he shifted a little to get a better look, awoke him from his love-struck dream.
The week passed quickly. Every day James would walk about the castle, getting to know everyone. He trained with Arthur's knights and learned of their travels and quests. On the seventh day one of Gamgee's apprentices came to James, informing him that his armor was finished. James made his way down to the blacksmith's forge. Gamgee stood waiting for James in the door. "Good day, Sir James! I have your armor ready, as well as your sword. Come in so that you might try it on."
James did as he was asked, stepping into the foundry behind Gamgee. The smith picked up a sheathed sword from a table full of various pieces of armor that James could only guess belonged to him. "My sword?" James inquired.
"Yes," Gamgee said as he gripped the sheath, putting the pommel of the sword on James' chest. "Draw it."
James took the handle with his right hand, drawing the blade fully forth. It was remarkably light, well balanced. He took a step back and swung the sword to left and right. The light of the forge's fire reflected off the shimmering silver blade. "Amazing..."
"I thought you would like it. I pounded it to the point of perfection myself. Now, let's get you in your armor..."
Over the next half an hour Gamgee and one of his apprentices helped James into his armor, which was heavy but restricted the knight's movements far less than one might have expected. With the sound of shifting metal, James ran his hand down his metal chest piece and reached for his sword, which was sheathed at his belt. He placed his hand on the pommel and turned to walk outside."When will my horse's armor be ready?"
"This very day! Two of my apprentices are putting it on your steed as we speak," Gamgee answered as he followed the knight outside.
James stepped outside heavily, his armor clanking. Moments later a young boy led Storm out of the stable. His head was covered in a tough leather armor, as was his chest.
"Most impressive, Gamgee! Now, would you help me out of this armor?"
"If you insist, but it is probably best if you walk back with it on. That's the only way you'll be able to get it back in one trip and it's likewise a good way to get a feel for your true range of movement and speed."
"Thank you Gamgee. I am grateful for your kindness. This armor is incredible."
The smith smiled at Sir James' praise. "At your service, Sir. I am here to serve all the knights."
James walked back into the main castle. The metallic sounds of his armor echoed through the halls. Armored knights being a commonplace sight here, no passers-by gave him a second look as he walked heavily down the corridors. The armor was heavy, but balanced so well that bearing the weight was no trouble at all. Reaching his quarters, he took his time shedding his armor, piece by piece. When he had pulled on his robes, he sat down on the bed to ponder all that had happened to him in the last two weeks, but he was drawn to the window again by the familiar, soothing voice of Luthiana. An attraction burned in him, a longing he did not wish to deny any further. He quickly opened the door and ran down to the garden. Seeing James, Luthiana fell silent and looked up at him with her deep blue eyes.
"Well met, Sir James! Is there anything I might do for you?"
"Lady Luthiana, for a week I have watched you while you sang in the garden. Your voice is enchanting, as is your beauty. I feel drawn to you. Will you not be the lady of a noble knight?"
"And that knight would be you?" she asked with a mysterious smile. "That sentiment is both sweet and humble, Sir James. There are many warriors here who would not hesitate to boast of their prowess and their many virtues, and it pleases me that you are not of that number. Therefore, I ask of you only one favor: Bring me the purity of a unicorn. Then I will be your lady."
James got down on one knee. "I will, my lady. Fear not, for I will bring you the purity you ask for. There is no maiden more worthy to receive such a gift." So saying, he kissed her hand.
In his quarters later that evening, Sir James pondered Luthiana's request out loud to himself.
"The purity of a unicorn? Since when is 'purity' a thing that can be carried about like a block of wood? Well, what can I bring to her from a unicorn that is pure? A lock of its mane, perhaps? No... wait. Its horn, I will bring her back a unicorn's horn!"
It was truly a quest fit for a Knight of the Table Round. Indeed, merely finding such a beast was a task many would deem impossible! Fortunately, there was a forest described in certain legends that Sir James had known of old, a huge array of trees many miles to the south of Camelot. Although few travelers had been there, not a man visited that wood but he saw tracks, and at least one had seen the beast which left those tracks!
Three days later, Sir James set forth on his steed Storm, charged with a noble task. He would bring back the horn of a unicorn for his lady, and they would be together forever after. Sir James rode hard toward the legendary forest, his sole thought and purpose being to seek out one of the mythical beasts. For twenty days and twenty nights he rode out of the lands inhabited by men, and into the wilderness, until he came at last to the beginnings of the forest. Soon after Sir James entered the wood, he found that the trees grew with unnatural abundance, their thick canopy blocking out most of the sunlight. Something spooked James' horse. Whinnying, Storm reared up fearfully, throwing the knight to the ground, and galloped off. James whistled, but Storm was oblivious to the signal he'd been trained to obey.
James had no chance of recapturing his horse. With his heavy armor on, it took him some time to get up. The horse had run off with the food and other supplies. James was stranded, alone in this huge, unexplored forest.
For three days, he had searched as stealthily as he could for signs of the quarry he sought. When he found cloven hoof-prints near a small spring, James thought he might be in luck. Hiding behind some thick bushes, he waited, and waited. And he was just about to give up when, lo and behold! a unicorn drew near to drink. James was stunned by the creature's beauty. Its horn and hooves were purest gold, and its mane, tail, and coat were a flawless white. It reached its head down to sip some water from the spring, then raised it, as if curious. Seeing this, Sir James realized that this might be his only chance.
The unicorn turned its head just as James leapt from the bush. Spooked, the beast reared up, spinning around to flee, but James would not be denied his prize. Swinging his sword forcefully along a broad arc he struck the unicorn savagely on the hindquarters, but the beast was too swift; the blow was a glancing one, which left but a minor wound. Falling to all fours then, the unicorn turned to face his armored foe with a look of rage in his eyes. James held his sword out boldly, prepared to strike. The unicorn charged, but with a mighty leap Sir James managed to avoid the deadly horn. Unfortunately, the knight had not evaded all four of the beast's hooves, and there was a deep, dangerous dent in the armor protecting his lower legs.
Turning around quickly, the nimble unicorn came back, seeking to slay the savage attacker. Just as James' foe came upon him, he grasped the hilt of his sword firmly, gathered himself and drove the sword deep into the beast's barrel. The unicorn issued forth a cry most unlike that of any horse. James pulled the sword out roughly and stepped back as the unicorn stood, swooning. He held his weapon low and stepped to the side. James swung his sword toward the unicorn's long neck, but the beast moved swiftly, so that rather than impacting his neck, the sword struck his golden horn, which he then thrust forward. James' armor did nothing to impede the horn's deadly motion, and the gleaming golden point smoothly penetrated his body, sliding directly through his heart and coming out his back. Utterly shocked, James looked down. He felt no pain, and no blood poured forth. The unicorn closed its eyes, grunting, evidently in tremendous pain, and then slumped to the ground, its motion pulling its horn out roughly.
An odd feeling came over James; it was like an overwhelming warmth. He watched as his armor started to deteriorate, crumbling into dust. The same fate befell everything under the armor, and he was soon left standing there in the middle of the forest naked. The warmth got stronger then started to subside. An itching feeling traveled up his legs. Looking down, to his horror, he watched thick white fur, just like that of the unicorn as it sprouted up his legs, making its way toward his waist and then past that. Within seconds, he was covered completely in white, save for a patch of blood red fur, about the size of his fist, right at his heart where the unicorn had stabbed him. In addition, long white flowing strands of the white hair sprouted from his palms and the bottoms of his feet. He was in shock, too horrified to react to this utterly impossible situation. He just looked at himself with awe. There was a sharp poking sensation at the base of his spine. Turning around he saw the beginnings of a snake-like tail. Long flowing hair sprouted out of the tip of it. Meanwhile, his ears crept up to the top of his head, becoming independently mobile. Unconsciously, he twitched one of them. His hands started to ball up into fists and harden. As they hardened they gained a dull golden luster and separated into two separate halves. His feet started to lengthen, leaving him perched precariously on what felt like the tips of his toes. He fell to the ground heavily as his feet extended even further, ankles and wrists becoming hocks. As if this was some catalyst, the changes accelerated. His neck filled out and expanded, leaving a somewhat odd scene. Lying on his side, he was a white unicorn with a human head attached. That soon changed as James felt pressure build in his skull and his nose pushed out slowly, dragging the rest of his face with it. His nostrils widened and his nose eventually grew so much that his eyes began to drift, shifting his field of vision. He was able to see the end of a spike growing out of the center of his expanding forehead. He recognized it as a unicorn horn almost immediately. The spiral pattern and dull gold color were unique. The pressure soon relented and for a moment, he thought it was over. He was roughly the size of a foal, oddly proportioned. Then the same feeling that he had felt in his head came over his entire body. His body began to expand, growing quickly from a foal to about 5 feet tall.
James lay there, heaving for breath as the unicorn -- still bleeding profusely from the open wound -- struggled to its hooves. The unicorn looked down at the now transformed James. It was not a look of disdain or hate. Strangely, the unicorn looked him over with soft eyes and a calm demeanor. Quite unexpectedly, a voice filled James' mind.
By your sword am I undone, Sir James Emory! Therefore I curse you to forever walk the Earth in this form. But since yours was an act born of love, not cruelty, I offer you one chance to evade your doom. If, by this day a month henceforth, you have proven your valor and nobility, you will be rewarded with your humanity again. Be thankful for my kindness. Many would not be as forgiving as I.
James attempted to reply, but the only sounds he could make were a series of whinnies and nickers. Nevertheless, his victim understood him.
You are indeed a unicorn, Sir James, but if you wish to wield our great powers you must first earn them. You have... Here the great beast paused for a moment, breathing hard. You have this one chance to redeem yourself. Use it well.
The unicorn stumbled, but managed to regain himself briefly. He looked back at his blood stained barrel. Finally, weakened from the loss of blood, the creature slumped to the ground. His labored breathing slowed, and ultimately stopped. He started to fade, becoming transparent. Just then an eerie gust of wind swept through the forest, breaking up the horse-shaped mist and carrying it swiftly away.
James awoke, groaning, to something jabbing him on his stomach behind his forelegs. Suddenly there was a searing pain right in the middle of his sternum and his eyes shot open. The pain came from the area with the red colored hair. Looking up, he beheld another unicorn, this one smaller than the other one and grayish in color, like he himself was.
Get up. You are foolish to fall asleep here; the smell of humans is strong. We must go quickly.
James did so, wincing slightly, the pain was fading slowly from his chest. He shook his head and turned to the unicorn.
Thank you, I appreciate it.
Most welcome, my friend. My name is Taurnil, and you might be?
I am James.
Taurnil looked on, confused. 'James'? That is a strange name for a unicorn.
That is as may be, but I am not exactly a unicorn.
Oh? Taurnil questioned.
Yes, I was human up until yesterday.
Taurnil looked at James strangely. Human? Impossible!
James would have sighed if he had known how. Nay, it is all too possible. I am a knight, I do not lie.
Hearing those words, Taurnil was sure that this 'James' was mad, or perhaps he had fallen victim to some dark spell. But ensorcelled or not, 'James' was still a unicorn, so Taurnil decided to take him to the High Council. They would know what to do. For now, he would humor 'James'.
Very well, James, you are a human. Come along then, I will take you and show you my people.
Taurnil used his horn to inscribe an invisible rectangle into the very atmosphere itself, and a shimmering portal appeared, tall and wide enough for a unicorn to walk through.
Where does that lead?
Back to our home. Although we unicorns can live in your realm, we spend much of our time on a different plane of existence. Come quickly.
James followed Taurnil through the portal. They emerged on its other end in a forest that looked strikingly identical to the forest he had just stepped out of.
So it is true -- you are human. And you are responsible for the death of Golradir.
James stood, staring into the deep black eyes of a unicorn whose merest presence commanded respect: This was Amras, the leader of the High Council, who had just read his thoughts, his very soul.
James' mind raced. What could he say? He looked on, and took a deep heaving breath that filled his lungs.
I am. Though I did not mean any harm, I was charged with a quest whose completion required the death of a unicorn -- or so I believed. Had I but known then what I know now, perhaps I could have charted a different course for myself. I am sorry for my ignorance, and whatever the High Council's judgment may be, I will accept it as my due.
Amras and the other two unicorns looked at James stone-faced. The silence endured, resonating through the great hall. James guessed they were consulting each other privately. Finally, Amras broke this silence.
Your act cannot go unpunished. However, your remorse and repentance are genuine, we perceive. Accordingly, we offer you a chance at redemption. A dragon has been terrorizing our people. If you fight him and survive this ordeal, we will let you live free.
James nodded and lowered his head to show he understood the Council's sentence.
The guards walked in and escorted James to a small room within the hall. He could have resisted, but to what end? Even if he did manage to escape, he would still be a four-legged beast in a world not his own. As well, he recognized that fighting the dragon might be his only chance to be human again. 'Good,' he thought to himself, 'I'll either regain my human body, or die trying.'
Sometime later Ithrahel -- one of the two other unicorns of the High Council -- came in. He described where this dragon's lair was and told of his savagery against the unicorns. It seemed that this wyrm was jealous of the unicorns and their powers, so he took it upon himself to terrorize them.
I understand, James replied. When am I to leave and how am I to get there?
Tomorrow I will take you close to the dragon's lair. I know a secret way you can approach it so you may have a chance.
Ithrahel and James started their trek early the next morning. By early evening they rested. James thought that they had to have traveled at least 50 miles. The High Council's representative was surprisingly thoughtful and kind to James the whole day, and even let him stand guard during the night. On the second day, Ithrahel held them to a much slower, stealthier pace, and they covered perhaps 5 miles. A small, discreet path cut lightly into the ever-increasing slope of the mountain the dragon inhibited.
This road will lead you to the entrance of his lair. He is probably sleeping. That's generally what dragons do when they aren't out terrorizing people.
Thank you, Ithrahel. I will defeat this foe in the name of Golradir. God will help me through this, and I will succeed.
With that, Ithrahel turned and galloped away.
James began the long road up the mountain. The path climbed high, out of the forest and into the thin air. Finally James came to a steep-walled ravine with a large cave-mouth at the end of it. Courageously, he walked on, into the opening of the cave.
The sound of clinking metal could be heard from one of the far off chambers of this massive cave. The dragon, who had smelled James before he had even reached the mouth of the cave, had dropped a handful of coins that he was counting and making his way swiftly up to the main chamber. He emerged menacingly, startling James with his amazing size. James' ears barely reached the dragon's knees.
The dragon regarded James for a moment then laughed heartily. It was a laugh so loud that it nearly shook James off his hooves. "So, the unicorns send another of their exiled criminals to try and slay me! Might as well run now, give yourself a fighting chance."
James stood resolutely. I run from no one. You will terrorize unicorns no more.
The dragon went on, in a sarcastic pretense at awe, "Oh my dear unicorn, you wish upon yourself an extra painful death! All your predecessors have run, and I have had the great pleasure of hunting them down and tearing them apart. But if you refuse to play my game, then I shall see that you burn to death in the fires of my belly, rather than a quick, cleanly death by my claws. Still, I am not completely unkind. I'll give you one more chance to run and be spared this more horrible fate."
No. I will not. God will give me the strength to defeat you.
"Very well. Have it your way, you silly horse, and remember that I offered you mercy." Fast as lightning, the dragon snapped James up in his maw before he even had a chance to run away -- not that he would have in any case. Knowing that innumerable true unicorns had previously fallen to the dragon, James had conceived a desperate plan of attack which, he hoped, the wyrm would have no defense against!
Inside the dragon's mouth, it was every bit as wet and sticky as the most dismal of swamps. James struggled to stand, but every time he found stable footing, the dragon's tongue shifted. Finally, he was pitched headlong into the dark hole at the back of the dragon's mouth. Now James truly fought! The dragon's outermost scales might be impervious to such destruction as a unicorn might dispense, but was the same true of the wyrm's gullet? James swung his horn, and kicked with his hooves, blindly attempting to inflict damage as he descended the dragon's throat. Suddenly, his head snapped back heavily as his horn pierced the wyrm's flesh! Ignorant of draconic anatomy, James could not have known how lucky he was, for his horn had well and truly skewered one of the dragon's fire glands. Instantly a fluid inferno, bright and caustic, spewed forth from this wound, and the dragon began to convulse and cough in hopeless attempts to expel the irritant. James felt himself heaved upward with each cough, assisting his own efforts to exit the dragon's jaws. Soon he was indeed on the ground, startled and stunned and smoldering from the wyrm's fiery secretions. Although his foe's fangs and fire-stuff had left him singed and sorely wounded, the unicorn did not pause. Stumbling, clumsily, James got out of reach of the dragon's wildly flailing claws and tail, to say nothing of gallon-sized drops of dragonflame, as quickly as he was able.
It was not James' intent to flee the fight; rather, he wanted to see how badly he had hurt his enemy, the better to build his tactics for the next round. But there would be no more fighting, for James' horn and hooves had done far more damage than he knew. Before he had gone three steps, the second of the wyrm's fire-glands had opened, which created a massive explosion that blew the dragon's head apart. Blood splattered everywhere, covering James and most of the cave. The dragon's headless body fell to the ground with a resounding crash.
James got up slowly and trotted out of the cave as quickly as he could. He had just reached the end of the ravine, and was turning the corner onto the narrow path when he met a very surreal sight. It was a translucent unicorn, a very familiar one -- it was the spirit of Golradir!
Sir James Emory, you have saved my people. This has clearly shown your nobility and valor. Your humanity is restored.
James was momentarily dazed, but when he snapped out of it, he realized that he was still befurred and horned, and still stood on four legs.
But I'm still a uni...
It was too late; the ghost was already fading away.
Wait! You said I would be human again!
Panicking, James galloped down the mountain pass. Why is this happening to me? All I did was what I was told! I want to be human again! he thought. James ran, descending the mountain very quickly. By the bottom, he was at, or rather beyond, his wits' end. Unbeknownst to him, however, he had truly proven his worthiness, hence all the magical powers of a unicorn were now his to command. In obedience to the desire which now possessed his very soul, James' power flashed around him, and his human form was quickly returned to him.
The unicorn is neither stupid nor lacking in intuition. Therefore, it was not long before James had tested his abilities, shifting back and forth between his two bodies, finally remaining a unicorn. He could even control what he was wearing when he became human. But, he had a deed to finish. The quest to win his lady had never been far from his thoughts, but events since attacking the unicorn had dictated that he focus on other matters; now, however, he could accomplish his true goal. He had to go back to Camelot. Luthiana would be pleased. He was certainly bringing back the purity of a unicorn, not quite the way he had expected to, but he was bringing it to her nonetheless.
He tried to open a portal to his own world, using the same technique he had seen Taurnil use, and envisioned the fields surrounding Camelot.
Stepping through, he found himself very near Camelot. Knowing that a unicorn would be an unnecessary distraction for the castle's servitors, James resumed his more ordinary human form, clothing himself in fine robes. Wasting no time, for he would have much later to greet his fellow knights, he ran to the garden, in hopes that she might be there. Not surprisingly, she was. Her melodious voice filled the air.
James walked to Luthiana slowly and quietly. When she saw him, she stopped singing, evidently shocked.
"Sir James, you're alive? How? Your horse returned to the castle some days ago without you! But you are here now. My heart is lifted from the abysmal haze that has enveloped it since Storm's rider-less return."
"My lady, I have brought you the purity you requested. Do not be alarmed, please."
"Alarmed?" As Luthiana asked that, James quickly regained his horn, hooves, and tail, once again becoming a true unicorn.
I was given this body as a curse, my lady, but it has since become a gift.
Luthiana was curiously unsurprised. Reaching up she ran her hand against his neck.
"You have lifted more curses than you knew, Sir Knight, for you have proven yourself worthy of me. Now, James, there is something I would show you."
She stood up and closed her eyes. Slowly her body started to shift. James watched awestruck. Soon, there were two unicorns standing in the garden. James could not believe his eyes.
This must be a dream!
No, Sir Knight, you are not dreaming. This is quite real. I, too, am a unicorn, and my real name is Luthien Magi.
Years ago I fought an evil and powerful sorcerer. I dealt him a mortal wound, but he did not die quickly enough to stop him from laying a curse which banished me to this land and trapped me in human form. The curse could only be lifted if a man proved his true undying love to me. You have done that and broken the curse. I was a queen to my people and my return will be a celebrated one, they have awaited it for a very long time. Will you come back with me and be my mate?
Wishing to express their emotions in ways beyond what any equine body would allow, they shifted back to human form. "My Lady, I cannot leave. I have pledged my allegiance to King Arthur. I cannot forfeit that bond."
"But don't you love me?"
"I do! I love you with my entire heart and soul -- but my loyalty must be with my King. Will you not stay and be my wife? We can remain in Camelot. There is much to do here, and we could use our power for the benefit of Arthur's subjects. Come with me to the King, I must inform him of my return. The question is, do you love me enough to stay?"
Luthien felt torn between desires. She longed for her title, her people; but James' question had cut deep, and her love for him was so complete. She knew loneliness would haunt her days forever if she left him. Soon, she had made up her mind: "I will stay with you here, my love. Let us bring Arthur the good news!"
With that they embarked swiftly to the King's chamber. The doors were always open to signify the openness of King Arthur's rule. He beckoned to James the instant he saw him. Luthien was at his side.
"Sir James, you are alive. Everyone here feared your death, but here you are. How is this possible?"
"My liege, I could explain it to you, but you would not believe it unless you saw it. Fear not!"
So saying, the knight's form flowed like running water, and in a twinkling, a majestic unicorn stood before the King. Arthur stared in awe the handsome creature who had taken the place of his newest knight, Sir James Emory. His coat was bright white, and his mane and tail flowed majestically.
James proceeded to tell his remarkable tale to his liege. King Arthur inquired about Luthiana's presence. James would have gladly explained, but she spoke first: "My lord, I too have a secret. I was unable to tell you this because I was under a curse, but Sir James' valiant act has lifted it from me."
The King watched on with greater wonder as a second unicorn appeared in his court. He felt as though he recognized this strangely familiar beast.
"I believe I have seen you before, have I not?"
Indeed you have, Arthur Pendragon. We met once, a very long time ago, and Queen Luthien Magi was then my name and title. I fled here when I was cursed and banished from my world by an evil sorcerer. You must forgive me. I wished to tell you who I was, but I could not, the curse prevented me. I wish to stay with Sir James Emory. With your permission, I would bide here at Camelot.
King Arthur smiled broadly. "Of course you can stay, Luthien Magi. You are welcome in my lands for as long as you care to remain! I am grateful for your willingness to stay. It is truly a gift from God himself to have not one, but two majestic unicorns in my court."
Thank you, your majesty. James and I will serve you faithfully. Right now, however, I must beg your leave, for I have not stretched these legs in many years. I will return soon. James I ask you to come with me.
King Arthur nodded and stood up. "Allow me to accompany you to the gates. There will most certainly be fervor throughout the castle when people see two unicorns walking its corridors." He walked with James and Luthien down to the gates of the castle. Indeed there was a great interest from other people who saw them. Some gasped, some stood in awe. It was not every day that one saw even a single unicorn, but to see a mated pair was most wondrous indeed! King Arthur bid them a short farewell at the gates.
The setting sun filled the sky with a beautiful reddish-orange as two unicorns galloped swiftly from the castle of Camelot, out over rolling fields and hills. In the years to come, such a sight would be seen often, as the two trotted forth on matters of States, on quests of valor, and on matters far more personal. And if anyone wishes to know more, they need only travel to where Camelot once stood, for the tales of the two unicorns are remembered by those who live there, even to this very day.