Chapter 4: Onto Cheri's

Much later after leaving the cottage area, Unico and his friends gaped in awe of the spectacular tower in front of them. "You live here, Ahmed?" asked Katy. "Yes, Katy. Within my home is the history of the entire world below us," said Ahmed pointing downwards.

Unico and Beezle looked over the side of Star Runner at the world below them. "Suffering Satan! I never imagined our reunion with you, Unico would turn into such an adventure," said Beezle. "Yes. Although I do wish that we didn't have to reunite under such treacherous conditions," said Unico. "Don't worry about it. It was quite fun fighting off those puppet things," said Beezle.

"So what are we to do now, Ahmed? I don't think it's safe to return to the cottage," said Granny. "This is what we'll have to do, madam. You'll have to stay at my tower. I can't guarantee anything. But I'm pretty sure that neither the Cloak of Darkness or its puppets can reach you there. Katy and Beezle will go with Unico and I on this quest," replied Ahmed.

"Oh no, Ahmed. I can't leave Granny all by herself. She's too old," said Katy. Ahmed smiled. "You needn't worry about that, Katy. She will be well attended to by my servants," said the keeper. "Yeah. This boat isn't the only enchanted thing he's got," said Star Runner.

The boat pulled up to a small extension of land around the tower. A pair of doors sat at the base of the tower. The doorway was lined in gold. Two marble statues of armed men were on either side of them

"Open!" commanded Ahmed. The doors opened in his response. Ahmed then raised his hands and clapped them. The marble statues suddenly started to move and lurched toward the boat. "Do not be afraid. They are my servants," assured Ahmed while looking at the stunned expressions on the rest of their faces. The two statues stopped in front of them and bowed their heads.

"I will be leaving again soon, my servants so here are my orders. You will see to it that this woman is taken care of and treated well," said the wizard as he inched his head toward Katy's Granny. The two statues nodded their heads. One of them held out his hand toward the old woman who looked hesitant. "There is no need to worry, madam. My servants, which are all enchanted statues, are the most reliable creatures you can find," said the wizard.

"Well, if you say so," said Granny as she took the extended hand of the statue. The statue helped the old woman out of the boat and onto the floating ground. "All of you be careful now. The world seems to be a dangerous place now," cautioned the old woman. "Don't worry, Granny. We'll be safe. We've got Unico and Ahmed to protect us," said Katy. "Hey! Don't forget about me!" yelled Beezle. "I wish all of you well and hope that you'll succeed," said Granny.

"Okay, Star Runner. Here's the location of the next place we have to go," said Ahmed as once again transferred information to his boat with his staff. "Hang on, everyone! We're off once again," said Star Runner as he pulled away from the tower and headed back down to Earth. The passengers aboard waved goodbye to Granny who waved back along with the statue servants.

"Will she be okay, Ahmed?" asked Katy. "My servants will make sure she's treated well. Trust me, Katy. She'll be completely safe," said Ahmed.

"So where are we going now?" asked Unico. "We're going to pick up your other friend, Unico," said Ahmed. "You mean.Cheri?" asked Unico with a smile. "Cheri? Who's Cheri?" asked Beezle. "She's another friend of mine. I met her after I left you and Katy, Beezle. You'll both like her. She was very kind to me," replied Unico. "Is she another animal you transformed, Unico?" asked Katy. "No, Katy. She was human to begin with. I never saw her after she and her family were released from the puppet transformation," said Unico. Then he realized something.

"Ahmed, you said that those puppets were servants of the Cloak of Darkness. But the magic to transform living beings to living puppets was only known by Lord Kuruku. He couldn't have come back, could he?" asked Unico. "I really don't know, Unico. The last time I recorded something about Kuruku was that he reverted back to being a normal marionette and Cheri found him. I can only assume Cheri's now taking care of him so that history will not repeat itself," said the wizard.

"I'm sorry to interrupt, Ahmed. But all this talk of puppets is confusing," said Katy. "It's okay, Katy. The puppets' attack forced us to flee without leaving me time to explain. But when we reach our destination, I'll explain everything once we meet up with Cheri," said Ahmed.

"Tell us, Ahmed. What makes us so special that Unico needs us and this girl Cheri?" asked Beezle. "When Unico was born, I received a prophecy that Unico was destined to do something important. I believe that task is to save the world from the Cloak of Darkness. But in order for him to succeed, he needs the ones who truly love him the most to help him. I believe that those beings are Katy, Cheri and you, Beezle. The three of you are the only ones Unico has transformed into the form of a mighty winged unicorn for," said Ahmed.

"Well, if we're that important to this quest, then you can count on me, Unico," said Beezle. "And me as well. You saved me from the baron. Now it's time for me to help you," said Katy. "Thank you both. I only hope Cheri will be as willing to help me," said Unico. "If she's truly your friend, she will, Unico," said Ahmed as Star Runner pressed onward to their next destination.

After quite an amount of traveling, Star Runner arrived in the skies above a quaint little village near a dense wood. Rain was falling so the boat had lifted up a canopy on the deck to protect Unico and his friends. Underneath, the travelers huddled together. They were a little frightened. But they knew they were safe.

"How's Star Runner going to know where to drop us off in this storm?" asked Unico. "I gave him the exact location of the house where Cheri and her family lives. We'll be there soon," said Ahmed. "I hope so. This storm's making me seasick and we're not even on the sea!" yelled Beezle who was looking a little green.

Shortly, Star Runner came to a stop and lifted up the canopy. "Everybody under here," said Ahmed as he spread his cloak over the rest of them to cover them from the rain. "Thank you, Ahmed," said Katy.

"There's Cheri's house!" yelled Unico pointing with his hoof. Everybody looked in the direction Unico was pointing. Atop a hill sat a little house. Smoke was rising from the chimney and small bits of light could be seen through the closed window shutters.

"It's just how I remember it. I hope Cheri's brother has given up magic," said Unico. "He has. Trust me," said Ahmed. "Can we just get out of this rain?" asked Beezle.

They all got out of Star Runner while Ahmed kept his cloak over them. "Go find some shelter, Star Runner. I'll call for you when it's time to leave," said Ahmed. "Yeah. And make sure you find someplace dry. The last thing we want is for you to be filled with water," said Beezle. The boat left with a humph as the travelers started to walk up the path.

As soon as they got to the door of the house, Ahmed gently rapped the door with his staff. A male voice called from within, "Who is it?" "We are travelers, seeking shelter from the storm," said Ahmed. A female voice said, "Cheri, let them in." "Okay, mother," said a younger female voice.

The door opened and in the doorway, stood a young girl in a pink dress with long blonde hair. She smiled when she saw Ahmed and Katy. "Welcome, travelers. How can we help you?" asked the girl. Ahmed didn't respond. Instead he smiled and nodded his head downwards toward Unico and Beezle.

The girl looked down and she gasped in surprise when she saw the little unicorn that had left her so long ago. "Hi, Cheri," said Unico. "Unico!" exclaimed Cheri as she picked up the unicorn and hugged him. "You've come back! Everyday, I'd hope I'd see you again. I missed you so much," said Cheri. "I really missed you too, Cheri. And now that I'm back, I want you to meet my other friends," said Unico turning to the others.

"Cheri, this is Beezle, Katy and Ahmed. I met Beezle and Katy before I met you and I only met Ahmed recently. But we've all become friends," said Unico. "Well, the vote's not exactly in from the devil yet on him," said Beezle pointing to Ahmed. "It's a pleasure to meet all of you. Any friends of Unico are friends of mine. But don't stand out in the rain. Come in," said Cheri. "Thank you, Cheri," said Katy as they all followed the little girl in. Cheri still carried Unico in her arms.

Unico looked around at the interior of Cheri's house. It looked exactly the same the night Cheri brought him here for the first time. Cheri's father, a big burly man with a beard was at a table smoking a pipe. Cheri's mother, a sweet woman in a green dress and white apron was washing dishes. The only difference was the presence of another person.

Sitting by the fire was a tall young man with blonde hair. He was dressed in a white shirt and dark blue pants. His attention seemed to be devoted to a small basket. Unico barely recognized him but he knew who he was. He was Cheri's brother Toby. And from the looks of him, Ahmed was right about him giving up magic.

"Mother! Father! Toby! Look who's come back," said Cheri holding up Unico for her family to see. "Oh my! The little creature has come back," said her mother. "His name is Unico," said Cheri. "I'm glad he's come back. We never got to thank him properly for saving us from Kuruku," said Toby. "No need to thank me, Toby. It's just what I felt I had to do," said Unico.

Cheri's parents and her brother gasped. "He talks?" asked Cheri and Toby's father. "Of course he talks. What did you expect unicorns to do, whinny?" asked Ahmed. "He's a unicorn? I thought they only existed in fairy tales," said Toby. "Nope. You've got a genuine unicorn here in your house," said Beezle.

"Who are you people anyway?" asked Cheri and Toby's father standing up. "No need for alarm, sir. We mean no harm. Allow me to make introductions. I am Ahmed and this girl is Katy and this rather annoying creature is Beezle," responded Ahmed. "They're friends of Unico and they've brought him back," said Cheri.

"I can see that, Cheri. But the question is why?" asked Cheri and Toby's father. "If you will just allow me to explain, all will be made clear," said Ahmed. "Please, dear. They've obviously come a long way. So let's sit down and allow them to get dry from the rain while he explains," said Cheri and Toby's mother. "Thank you for your kindness, ma'am," said Katy.

"All right. But I am getting a little suspicious with all the strange things going on. First that lion creature shows up this morning. And now a whole bunch of strangers have arrived," said Cheri and Toby's father. "Lion creature? What do you mean?" asked Ahmed. "Come see," said Toby motioning with his finger to come to the basket he was sitting near. Unico leapt out of Cheri's arms and walked over to the basket with Ahmed following him. Unico gazed into the basket and gasped.

Lying in the basket was a sleeping creature about the same size as he was. It looked sort of like a humanoid lion. It had tan fur and a bushy mane of black hair. It had a long tail with a small ball of black hair on its tip. Its arms and body were covered in bandages.

"The Baby Sphinx! What happened to her?" asked Unico. "I don't know, Unico. Since you left, she visited me often. But early this morning, she showed up at our door. She looked severely hurt and she passed out before she could tell us what happened," said Cheri. "I can heal her. You go hear what Ahmed has to say," said Unico as he began to lick the Baby Sphinx's wounds.

"Listen up everyone. The wizard's got something to say," announced Beezle who was standing on the table. "What the devil are you?" asked Cheri and Toby's father. "Exactly, sir. I am a devil. But I'm a good devil," said Beezle. "Beezle, get off of there," said Katy as she grabbed Beezle by the tail. Ahmed stood at the end of the table with everyone gathered around except for Unico who continued to heal the Baby Sphinx. The wizard began to tell his long tale.

Much time passed until Ahmed finished his tale. Everyone around the table who had not heard the story before looked stunned. "So there's this big cloud that's tainting the world with evil?" asked Cheri and Toby's father. "It's not really a cloud. It looks like one. But the gods call it the Cloak of Darkness," said Ahmed.

"I can't believe it that something else is using Kuruku's magic," said Toby. "Toby, did Kuruku ever have any other apprentices besides you?" asked Cheri. "No, I was his only one. At least as far as I know," replied Toby. "Cheri, do you still have Kuruku's puppet body?" asked Ahmed. "Yes. I will go fetch it for you," said Cheri as she headed upstairs.

"That's quite a tale, Ahmed. But what does it have to do with our daughter?" asked Cheri and Toby's mother. "In order for Unico to accomplish this task my prophecy had foretold, he needs the ones who love him the most. And Cheri is one of them. Along with Katy and Beezle, Unico needs all three of them. For what reason, I cannot be certain. But I'm sure the answer will reveal itself in due time. Therefore, Cheri needs to come with us," said Ahmed.

"Well, the answer is no. I'm not going to send my daughter into danger," said Cheri and Toby's father standing up. "Dear, please. Let's think this through. If the unicorn needs Cheri's help, then maybe we should consider it," said Cheri and Toby's mother. "Yeah. Didn't you hear the wizard? We need her," said Beezle leaping up onto the table and looking the father right in the eyes. "I don't think she'll be in too much danger. We've already been attacked by a horde of puppets and Unico, Ahmed and Beezle fought them off successfully," said Katy.

"Father, I think we owe it to Unico to help him. He saved us from Kuruku's evil spell. And if it would make you feel better, with Ahmed's permission, I'd like to accompany them as well," said Toby. "Toby!" exclaimed his father. "I still know some of Kuruku's magic. I can defend Cheri from almost anything we might come upon," said Toby. "Please sir. The fate of the world hangs in the balance. I can promise that I'll bring your children back to you safely when everything's all over," said Ahmed.

Cheri and Toby's father collapsed back into his chair and took a puff of his pipe. "I need to think about this," he said. "You better make the right decision or you're going to meet one very ferocious devil," said Beezle. "Don't you threaten me!" yelled Cheri and Toby's father.

"I've got it!" called Cheri's voice. Everyone turned toward the stairs and saw the little girl descending down them. Clutched in her hands was a small wooden puppet with no strings. Its head was shaped like an upside- down cone with no point. Its body was cut into two halves that were held together by a small cylindrical piece in the middle. It had empty eyes, a small protruding nose and a chinned mouth. Its long arms and legs were jointed.

"Bring him over here, Cheri," said Ahmed. Cheri walked over to the table and laid the puppet on its back. She then went over to Unico who was continuing to tend to the Baby Sphinx.

Beezle looked at the puppet on the table. "So this is Kuruku? He's just a hunk of wood," he said. "Hard to believe this hunk of wood tried to turn all living things into puppets, isn't it? I'd like to examine him a bit," said Ahmed picking up the puppet and looking at it in close examination.

"Hey everybody! She's awakening!" yelled Unico. Everyone except Ahmed rushed over to where Unico and Cheri were watching over the Baby Sphinx.

The little creature rose from the basket and rubbed her head. "Oh my. What happened? Where am I?" she asked. Then she saw Unico. "Oh it's you, bonehead. I was wondering where you went after I got changed back. Where have you been?" she asked.

"Hey! Don't call Unico names!" yelled Beezle. "Speak for yourself, Beezle. You called Unico all sorts of names," said Katy.

"What happened to you, Baby Sphinx?" asked Cheri. "Well, it's hard to begin. I guess it all started when intruders appeared in my desert. My mom was out visiting friends again so I was all alone. Funny thing about those intruders is that they looked like those strange puppet things that Kuruku guy was changing people into. The only difference is that they looked a lot eviler with claws, horns and spikes. I tried to fight back. But there were far too many of them. And then it got worse. Over the horizon, I saw a large black cloud that looked like a cloak. And underneath it was a large army of puppets. I fled to try and make it to here since Cheri was the only person I could think of. I ran through the Valley of the Demons and on either side, the puppets attacked. The last I saw before passing out was the door of this cottage," said the Baby Sphinx.

"You're lucky to be alive, Baby Sphinx. In fact, if Unico hadn't healed you, you might not have survived the night," said Cheri. "Thanks for helping me, bone.I mean, Unico," said the Baby Sphinx. "It's okay. We couldn't have defeated Kuruku without your help. You led us to the Trojan Horse," said Unico. "Yes. And Unico couldn't have understood about Kuruku in order to stop him," said Toby.

"Okay, everyone. I've completed my analysis of Kuruku," said Ahmed. "And what have you found?" asked Cheri and Toby's father. "He's just an ordinary puppet. So it's safe to say that he hasn't been sneaking off to be the source behind the Cloak of Darkness," said Ahmed. "And from what the Baby Sphinx has told us, it seems that the Cloak isn't far from here," said Unico. "What are we going to do?" asked Cheri.

"I still have some questions," said Ahmed. "For who?" asked Katy. "For Kuruku!" exclaimed the wizard as he pointed his staff at the puppet. The tips of the staff and the puppet glowed with yellow light. The wooden figure levitated in the air for a moment. Then the glow ceased and the puppet dropped onto the table.

To everybody's amazement, the puppet's fingers began to wiggle. Slowly, the puppet began to sit up. "What have you done? You've brought Kuruku back to life! Are you mad?" asked Toby angrily. "I happen to know exactly what I'm doing," said Ahmed.

The puppet rubbed its head and began to speak in the familiar voice of Lord Kuruku. "What's going on? I'm alive. How is this possible? As far as I know, I couldn't live without my hatred of humans. And yet, here I am, moving and talking of my own accord," said Kuruku. Looking around at the group of people in front of him, he soon gazed upon Unico.

"You? The little creature who removed all my hatred? I'm very confused. All my life I've felt nothing but hate. But now that it's gone, I don't know what to feel," said Kuruku.

"Hasn't this little blonde been taking good care of you, Wood Head?" asked Beezle. "She has. Even though my life ceased with my hatred, my mind remained active within this puppet body. After my castle was destroyed and all the hate within me removed, the sister of Toby found me. Despite all I had done to her and her family, she took me in and cared for me. I never knew such feelings," said Kuruku.

"It's something I felt I had to do, Kuruku. After learning your story from the Trojan Horse, I felt pity for you since you had lived a horrible life before you started collecting living puppets. I took you in so that even though you were no longer alive, you would see that humans are good," said Cheri.

"Yes. That's true. I now realize it. Thank you, Cheri," said Kuruku. "See Kuruku? You really have changed," said Unico. "And thank you, little creature," said Kuruku. "My name is Unico, Kuruku," said the unicorn. "Sorry. I mean thank you, Unico," said the puppet.

"Now that we've gotten that settled, I have some questions for you, Kuruku. Did you have any other apprentices besides Toby?" asked Ahmed. "No. Toby was my only apprentice. I never took another," responded the puppet. "Are you sure you're telling us the whole truth? You'd better be or you're firewood," threatened Beezle. "Yeah. Better think about it a little more unless you want to be heaved into the fireplace," said the Baby Sphinx. "Stop it, you two! The last thing this puppet needs to hear is threats to stoke his hatred," said Toby.

"I'm telling the truth. I never taught anyone else my magic. Why do you ask me?" asked Kuruku. "Because something else is using your living puppet spell: a horrible creature known as the Cloak of Darkness. As it spreads over the world, all living beings that fall under it are transformed into living puppets. And they're not like the puppets you made, Kuruku. They look eviler and are built for fighting instead of just being part of a wall," said Unico. "What? How is that possible? No one else knew my puppet spell," said Kuruku.

"Well, even though we don't know who's behind the Cloak of Darkness, one thing remains certain: we must set out on our journey as soon as possible. Unico, Beezle, Katy, let's go," said Ahmed as he headed to the door with his three companions.

Before Ahmed opened the door, Unico turned back to Cheri and her family. The Baby Sphinx stood by her and Kuruku remained on the table. "Cheri, are you coming with us?" asked Unico.

"Please Mother and Father. Unico needs me. He saved us all and now I want to help him. Ahmed said I'm important," said Cheri. "Father, the world's in danger. If we don't help Unico, we'll possibly fall victim to the puppet spell of the Cloak of Darkness as well. I'll go along and watch after her," said Toby.

Their father sighed and puffed his pipe again. He looked at his wife and then at his children. Finally, he said, "All right. But I want this wizard's word that you'll be safe." "Trust me, sir. You have a wizard's vow that your children will be safe from harm," said Ahmed. "We'll all look after them," said Unico. "Okay. Cheri, Toby, go with them," said their mother. Cheri and Toby smiled and walked off to join Unico and the rest.

"Hey! Don't think that you're leaving me behind! I'm coming too!" yelled the Baby Sphinx running up to them and leaping on Cheri's head. "Are you sure you want to come with us, Baby Sphinx? It might be dangerous," said Cheri. "Of course! It'll be fun," said the Baby Sphinx.

"If you don't mind, I'd like to come as well. I for one would like to find out who's using my old powers and put a stop to it. Those powers caused too much pain and now I'm sorry for ever developing them. So count me in as well," said Kuruku as he climbed off the table and walked on his lanky legs toward the group.

"Well, it seems we've got quite a traveling party, Unico," said Katy. "Yes. And quite an unusual one," said Unico.

"Well, we better be on our way. Come on, you two. Let's go," said Ahmed to Cheri and Toby's parents. "Huh? What are you talking about?" asked Cheri and Toby's father. "You don't think I would leave family of our companions where the Cloak of Darkness could get them, would you? I have a place where you can stay for the time being. It'll be safe and out of reach of its evil grasp. I think being turned into puppets once in your life was enough," said Ahmed. "Yeah. Come with us. We'll take you to Ahmed's tower where you'll be well cared for. Besides, my Granny could use some company," said Katy.

"All right. Let's go to this tower. How far is it, wizard?" asked Cheri and Toby's father. "Oh not far. Just about a million miles above the Earth. But we'll be there in no time thanks to my enchanted boat," said Ahmed.

Cheri and Toby's parents looked confused. But they headed for the door with the rest. "Sounds like the storm's over. Let's get going," said Beezle as Ahmed opened the door. But just as the wizard opened the door, they all stopped in their tracks. For they saw something. Something they didn't wish to see at all.