Chapter Five: Mystic Ruby and a New Beginning

I jerked awake. A rustle in the woods…there it was again! Jolted out of my half-sleep, I stood up cautiously, trying to pinpoint the exact location—or at least the general direction—from where it had come. I heard it again, and glanced around in surprise. It seemed to come from above me, but…

A chittering in my left ear brought me back to reality. I whirled around, and was brought face-to-face with the Monquirrel, who was hanging upside-down from a low tree branch and looking quite happy with himself. "And what are you doing back here, hm?" I asked it. "Are you following me?"

He leapt (how he managed it I have no idea—he was upside-down) onto my shoulder, then proceeded to tangle himself in my hair, shrieking when he couldn't get out. "You silly thing!" I scolded him, trying to stifle my laughter. "Hold still!" I grabbed him with my right hand and untangled him with my left, ripping out several chunks of hair in the process.

"There!" I said when he was finally free, looking him in the eye. "Now don't do that again!" He looked past me and chittered, bounding off my hand into the night. I turned around, and saw my first companion step from the trees.

"Finder!" I exclaimed in shock.

His coat was matted with blood, his mane a tangled mess. He walked towards me haltingly, as if he had hurt his leg. Diana, he greeted me, once he was close enough to lay his horn on my shoulder. It is good to see you.

What happened? I asked in concern. You're hurt.

I was attacked on my return journey. It's not serious, I just need to rest.

Return journey from where?

Here. He lowered his horn, and I felt something small and cold land in my outstretched hand. Peering closely at it, I discovered that it was an intricately carved silver ring, with a rather large red gemstone set in it.

Thank you, this is beautiful! But…what is it for?

It is my carbuncle.

I stared at him—and his horn--in shock. Why did you have it set in a ring? I thought they were the source of your horn's powers…

No, he said with a laugh. It…well, its purposes are difficult to explain. Did you not notice that very few unicorns are born with them? It is a rarity, nothing more. However, when you wear this ring, we can communicate without touching.

I thought back, and saw that he was right—I had noticed very few unicorns with the gemstone. I slipped the ring on and walked a few feet away. So this works all the time?

Correct. I'm not sure if there is a limit on how far apart we can be, but I suppose we'll find out, won't we?

Whomever did you go to that could do this?

M'Gama. As the Geomancer, she knows much of nature. I was hoping she could help.

The Geomancer?

Yes.

I have much to learn, I said ruefully. But according to the Queen, I'll have plenty of time. Were you spoken to about that?

No, but I heard.

You were the unicorn I spotted!

You saw me? He sounded surprised. You notice things. I was doing my best not to be seen…we shall have fun together, Diana. Just then, his legs buckled, and he sank down into the grass.

I'm all right, truly, he said when I hurriedly knelt beside him in concern. I'll be fine after I rest.

What happened, Finder? I asked.

There are some who dislike intrusion. I mistakenly wandered into a gryphon's territory, and suffice it to say he was not exactly pleased. With that last thought, he slept.

I sat back, thinking. Gryphons? Ones who would attack a unicorn? Man, what have I gotten myself into?

IIIIIIII

Diana…Diana, wake up!

I jerked awake…again…and found Finder standing over me. "I'm up, I'm up," I said, forgetting to tell him in thoughts. "What's the rush?"

We must leave soon. I have dawdled too long as it is, he told me. I detected a note of urgency in his voice.

Placing my hand on his shoulder, I was startled to find that he was quivering. All right, I'm coming, I said. What's wrong?

Nothing, I am just anxious to leave.

Why?

I dislike spending too much time in one place, unless there is a good reason.

There is a good reason…my sleep.

I apologize. It has been long since I've met a human, I forget that you need more sleep than us, he said contritely.

I laughed. It's okay, I think I'm ready now. Where are we going?

Someplace new.

"Rarer still than true Unicorns' horn is the mystic ruby, also called a carbuncle, rumored to be found at the horn's base. Some authorities have held the jewel to be the source of the horn's powers. However, as it has not been found consistently in all unicorns, it is possible that the 'ruby' is some kind of distillation of the concentrated essence of the horn. It may, perhaps, occur in only wise unicorns and be caused by a crystallization of blood. Albertus Magnus…believed the 'male carbuncle' to be the king of gems, able to dispel poison, guard from plague and banish sadness, evil thoughts, and nightmares…a good stone would shine so brightly of its own accord as to be visible through clothing."
From Nigel Suckling's The Book of the Unicorn

A/N: I adapted the legend of the carbuncle to suit my purposes in the story; the above is merely a reference for those of you who had no idea what a carbuncle was. Getting off-topic a little, I would highly recommend The Book of the Unicorn to anyone who is interested in learning about unicorns. Back to the story: I know I spend too much time in conversations; hopefully that will change as the story progresses. So thanks for reading, now go review!