Heir to the Ring

A Star Wars/Unicorn Ring Crossover

DISCLAIMER: "Star Wars" and everything accompanying it belongs to George Lucas. "The Unicorn Ring" and everything accompanying it belongs to the late Mary Brown and her next-of-kin. Ash and the Shadow belong to me, as they're my own creations.

"The Unicorn Ring" is a trilogy of books by the aforementioned Mary Brown – "The Unlikely Ones," "Pigs Don't Fly," and "Master of Many Treasures." These are incredible fantasy novels that I highly recommend for anyone who likes epic fantasy with gutsy, fully realized heroines that are far more than just the sum of their parts. And even if you don't like epic fantasy, read "The Unicorn Ring" books anyhow. If you can get your hands on the entire collection – which is available in one book titled "Here There Be Dragonnes," which is how I came across them – so much the better.

There is one more book in the series – "Dragonne's Eg" – but I have been unable to find it, so consider this my twisted idea of a sequel to "Master of Many Treasures."

This is probably the most unusual story I've ever concocted, and it makes no sense even to me. But despite its peculiar pedigree, it begs to be written, so… here it is.

Prologue

Isn't it amazing what we accept as unadulterated truth and what we dismiss as total fantasy? One would naturally think that, just as our eyes discern not just complete darkness and overwhelming light but all variances in between, our minds would be equally capable of grasping all shades of gray as well as pure white and pitch black. But it never works that way, does it? People in general prefer to lump almost everything they encounter (individuals, organizations, actions, intentions, ideas, etc.) into two groups – good and evil, right and wrong, salvation and damnation.

The same applies to stories – they are either truth or lies. No happy medium. No third alternate. And too many stories are unfairly dumped into the waste bin of falsehood without receiving the attention they deserve.

When many people dismiss a tale as a mere fable or myth, they do not even stop to consider that there may be a grain of truth embedded in it. All stories grow larger with each telling, as if they draw nourishment and grow every time they are repeated. And all lies, if you penetrate the richly embroidered falsehoods surrounding them, have some sort of truth, however small, at their hearts.

Don't believe me? Just listen to your local gossip. Ever notice how a polite greeting exchanged between neighbors metamorphoses into a full-blown affair? Nothing has changed between the neighbors – it is the incident itself that has grown, taken on a life of its own. And all because someone slips in a falsehood when they relate the tale. It matters not whether the teller was acting out of malice or was well-meaning but had a faulty memory – the story is still altered.

It makes one wonder if all the mythic heroes didn't really exist somewhere as simple everyday men and women, or if those marvelous stories of the creation of worlds by omnipotent deities started out as mere recountings of a child creating toy villages in the mud outside his parents' home.

The story that follows is no different from any other so-called tall tale. Told and retold, recorded and re-recorded so many times that no one is sure if it is one tale or many similar ones, it has grown to gargantuan proportions through repeated tellings and is shrouded in the cobwebs of uncertain facts and outright fabrications.

The bare facts, the bones all these stories and variants share, are thus:

Over four decades ago, a portion of Corusant – not the most glamorous or metropolitan district, but neither was it a slum – was seized by a freak windstorm. How freakish a storm could never be agreed upon. Some tales painted it as the most brutal onslaught the elements had ever unleashed upon the planet; others portrayed it as merely a stiff gale that only seemed stronger than normal because Corusant rarely suffered severe windstorms. The more apocalyptic versions of the story told of skycars tumbling from the sky like dying birds, buildings shuddering under the assault, spires and towers shattering and raining metallic destruction upon the lower levels. A few of the more fantastic accounts even tell of bizarre phenomena, of wind-beasts that took form through airborne dust and terrorized the populace, of voices that spoke and prophesied within the wail and moan of the wind, of children torn loose from their parents' frantic grips only to be set gently down, unharmed, hundreds of kilometers away.

But all tales agree that, hours into the storm, two robed and hooded forms (one clad in black, the other swathed in gleaming silver) were to be seen boarding a small shuttle, accompanied by two others – a black-clad servant carrying a bundle, and a strange multi-colored creature that might have been a pet.

The wind continued to ravage the sector for three days. Then, on the fourth day, the shuttle returned, and the black-cowled being and his servant – now carrying nothing – disembarked. The silver-robed being and the rainbow beast had vanished and would never be seen again.

Then, and only then, did the storm abate, leaving the citizens of Corusant to pick up the pieces and wonder at what had happened.

The identities of these beings, as well as the purpose of their actions, have been lost to those same winds. Who were they? Jedi? Crime lords? Business partners? Lovers? Did one murder the other? Was the first accompanying the second back to his homeworld? Why did the extraordinary storm occur in the first place? Did it have anything to do with this mysterious pair?

Anyone else might simply dismiss the entire tale as the invention of a fantasy novelist. But of late, this story intrigued me, and I wondered about the truth that must lie beneath it.

For sometime during those four days of chaos, on a distant sphere of rock orbiting dual stars, I was born.