Author's Note: Guess who's back? grin I haven't been on this site in ages, I know. I'm surprised if anyone even remembers me. ;) Anyway, here's a new story I'm writing, and very excited about, as well. It's definitely a lot shorter than any ones I've attempted in the past, and will probably only be about nine chapters, or so. Also, it takes place before the books occur.
Speaking of the books, I apologize in advance if there's anything wrong in my story - I haven't read them in quite a while, and I don't even have my copies anymore. If there is anything the matter, give me a shout, and I'll be happy to fix it. :)
Oh, oh, oh! For anyone who wants to look, I'll post a link as to what Thyss looks like if there are any requests.

Disclaimer: I do not own Unicorns of Balinor; that belongs to the author. I do, however, own my characters (that is, Thyss, Asphodel, Rheis, Thetis and anymore that aren't canon to the books).

The morning was warm, and a stirring breeze carried with it the fragrance of spring. It was not more than a whisper, and danced softly in the long grass, rustling the dewdrops that glittered faintly in the ethereal predawn light.

All the world glowed with gray beauty, like a ghostly fog that tipped each detail in silver radiance and held it suspended during the time of morning when nothing moves, and not a sound is made. Even the sky was still held in transition; along the western brow of the horizon, stars still flushed with pale light. To the east, a fallow gold glow was just beginning to outline the very edge of the earth.

Asphodel stood silent, his eyes facing the easternmost fringes of the world, watching with peaceful anticipation as the morning gathered. He fancied, sometimes, that the Mother was indeed galloping around the earth, with the mists of dawn dancing in her trail. How many times had he been told, in his childhood, of the Dawn Mare? Too many times to count …

He still imagined he could see her, collecting the shadows of night in her crest and the stars in her eyes. The great moon, long since set, gathered in her breast to be cradled against the beating of her heart. The rhythmic cadence of her hooves was silent as she danced along the girdle of the earth; and in her stride, everything came alive again. To him, she would've been the most beautiful creature alive, if, perhaps, she did exist at all.

Like the sky on this morning, he thought, admiring the colors of the heavens. It was dark still, with the hue of umber-tinged gray. The brilliance that slowly gathered beyond the shadows of the horizon was pale, almost white, but touched with the softest gold. The stars still blushed as they faded away in the west, and Asphodel turned to watch the last traces of night surrender to the dawn.

He looked out again to the east, as the sun rose. A breeze flirted through the black strands of his mane, and he sighed, breathing in deeply the sweet scent it carried. Pausing for a moment, he looked down into the heart of the valley, studying the sleeping shadows curled warm in the long grass. Their figures were all soft, silvery gray in the predawn light, tipped with gold along their crests.

He turned and trotted soundlessly up the rise. The grasses rustled in his wake, and the dimly glittering dewdrops scattered, touching his ankles with their cool dampness. Lowering his head, he arched his neck as he came to the Imperial River. The waters were still, and it looked as though they did not even move as the surface reflected the colors of the sky.

The willow trees that grew along the riverbank bowed gently in morning breeze, the silvery, papery bark smooth and nearly glowing. The long, weeping branches reached down to the water to brush their fingers along the mirror surface, disturbing the stillness with faint ripples. The muted hues of the purple leaves seemed soft, and when the whispering zephyr rose slightly, one or two dry husks would drift down to land on the river and float along the bank. Asphodel watched as one spiraled down to the water, and he smiled as he studied the river in the early morning. It was quiet and still, with leaves, twigs and white spring blossoms wandering along its course, slowly and aimlessly.

The stallion picked his way along the bank, moving among the shade of the willows. The sun had risen enough that the shadows beneath the trees was faintly dappled with golden light, and the water glimmered delicately. As he moved, and the wind breathed again, petals and leaves drifted down from the trees and some tangled in his mane. He did not bother to shake them loose, and rather enjoyed the sweet fragrance that they brought, clouding around him as he breathed deeply. The small, white flowers and pale violet leaves brought light to his black mane, which sparkled with traces of gold along his neck, just faintly during morning and twilight, like stars in the night sky.

Asphodel came to the overhang of rock that formed a perfect, small cave. The great stones leaned against a strong, old willow tree, and created a wall and roof. He entered the shadowy doorway into the retreat, and picked his way over the amethyst stones. They were smooth and polished from so many hooves making their way over them and wearing them down, but they still gleamed just as strongly as they must have when they had been fresh and sharp.

At the edge of the amethyst stones, cradled in a perfectly circular bed of sand and rock, lay the clear, still waters of the Watching Pool. As Asphodel lowered his head and peered deeply into it, he could see the very bottom of the deep pool; it looked far shallower than it was. The smooth, cool sand that lay at the bottom shimmered gold, with shards of pale purple glinting faintly. Along the great banks in the deep waters, the stones of amethyst were still sharp and flashed along the edges. Thick, green vines wound up through the stones beneath the surface of the pool, lacing over the rock and blooming with strange flowers that flourished under the water. They looked like white lilies; fresh, cool and pristine.

Asphodel lowered his head, until his muzzle nearly brushed the water. He sighed, and his breath frosted the Watching Pool, lacing over it like ice, though it was not cold. He waited for a vision to appear in the waters, but only faint traces of dreams danced across the glassy surface. Today, like most other days, would not be a day for great visions to appear.

Instead, the dark stallion shifted his weight, and relaxed. He hummed to himself and shivered to loosen his muscles, grinning softly as the leaves and petals in his mane shook loose and fluttered down to the water, the frost on the pool disappearing at the touch.

Tilting his head, Asphodel peered down into the water again, but all he could perceive in the pool was his own reflection. He was tipped everywhere with black – his mane and tail of soft, feather-light strands was as black, and his face was dark with it. All along his neck and shoulders and back, the deep blackness extended, fading over the sides of his body into deep umber.

In the Watching Pool, the tender areas of his body glowed copper brown; his throat beneath his chin, his flank and beneath his forelegs. He snorted, believing it only a trick of the waters, making him look more beautiful than he was. Far more beautiful.

He dashed the water with his horn, rippling its surface. When his reflection returned, it no longer held the ethereal glow and he was pleased to see himself again, with his obsidian horn, shinning wet with the water, which dripped down over the amber stone at its base. A trickle of the water dripped down his forehead, over his nose and off his muzzle. It left a wet trail down the long white snip that trailed up from his lip to the middle of his forehead, stopping shy of his horn.

He sighed again; he was nothing special to behold. His forehead was long and straight, and he held the profile of his dam, whose face was elegant and noble and pleasing; yet, on him, it was plain and ordinary. His build was thick, too, like his mother's. But she was graceful, sensuous and lush; and he, merely heavy-boned.

Asphodel grimaced and looked away. Mystics were supposed to be beautiful and regal to look at, and he seemed none of those. He recalled Rheis, when he had stood by her side as she taught him the dreaming magic, and remembered how lovely and beautiful she had been then. And the Mare of the Mountain, too, though it had been long since he had seen her last, had been noble and dignified to behold.

Shaking himself out again, for his legs had begun to cramp from standing so still, he hummed. His voice was deep and mellow, and it came from low in his chest. He sang liltingly, and it echoed faintly off the walls of the grotto.

Closing his eyes, he welcomed the dreams that danced through his mind's eye. Rheis had taught him the dreaming magic, the sight that came with being the Dreamspeaker, as she had told him. He did not call for any dream or image to come to him, and so they all flitted along the edges of his vision. Pleasant reveries and fanciful daydreams took him far away from standing over the Watching Pool. He was parted from himself; he had seen Rheis in such a state, often. She would hum from low in her throat – how beautiful her voice was – and close her eyes. Her mind was hung in the suspension of such dreams, and she was far away from her body. She did such when she needed her peace, or when she stood over the Watching Pool when it gave her no visions, and she wished to daydream.

Asphodel stood, smiling and singing to himself. His ears flicked as he heard, in the distance, the Ceremony to Greet the Sun. The voices of all the unicorns was light and lifted his heart, and he opened his eyes to return to himself so he could peer out from the retreat and see the Celestial Valley in its magical beauty. He looked out from the shade, and saw the sun fully risen up from the horizon, warming the cool sky with warm gold. It was fully daybreak now, and everything had come to life again. The Morning Mare had finished her run, he supposed, as he stepped out into the sunlight.

It warmed him as soon as he left the shade. He breathed deeply the scent of morning, and cocked his head to listen to the birds nested in the willows, piping out their chorus in favor of the new dawn. Below the trees, the Imperial River rushed along, now, alive with its gushing and bubbling. It seemed as though it would nearly burst its banks with the strong, lively waters; but it was always flooded high in the spring.

The dark stallion skimmed the valley with his copper golden eyes and could not help but smile contentedly. Unicorns were spread through the heart of the vale, grazing on the fragrant, lush grass. Asphodel, too, lowered his head and picked at the green, and snatched a few mouthfuls despite having no hunger. He meandered again to the willows along the river and strolled aimlessly down the bank, his path winding and wandering with no real purpose other than to enjoy the sun-dappled shade and the sound of the river, swelled to the seams of its bank.

Again, Asphodel began to croon liltingly to himself.

"Sing a song for me."

His heart jumped as he heard the voice, and he turned to see his friend trot to catch up with him, jogging abreast with him. She smiled and flicked her forelock back out of her brilliant, brilliant eyes in such a carefree, happy manner that Asphodel's own spirits were lifted by the sight. He heart swelled with joy, and he grinned back, too shy to continue his humming; he did not consider himself a singer.

"Come, sing a song for me." She teased him, and nudged his shoulder with her own, making him stumble. At this, she laughed. Her own voice was airy and light.

"Nay, Thyss."

"Aye," she replied forcefully. "You have a lovely voice, my friend. I would very much like to hear you sing, instead of such dull mumbling all the bleeding day." She pricked her ears, and Asphodel blushed at the praise, though he did not believe it. She flattered him because he was her friend, and not out of genuine love for his singing voice, he was sure. Yet, he liked it nonetheless, and his chest fluttered when he heard her commend him in such a manner. Even if it was false.

Thyss trotted a few paces ahead, her legs flashing as she took quick, short steps. Her heels seemed not even to touch the ground as she moved forward with such fleet grace. He admired her as she pranced through the shade. She looked so light and untroubled.

Her coat was blood red; so incredibly vivid and bright, and shone golden in the light. She was dark around the points, tipped umber-tinged black at her muzzle and legs, and the skin around her eyes, too, was dark. Her mane and tail were of this color, and her hooves and horn, too. And all across her neck, shoulders and quarters, white markings glowed like white-hot embers in the fire. She fancied herself to be akin to this; the living essence of fire.

Asphodel grinned as he thought of the mare's flight of fancy. And yet, it suited her so well. She was the fire in appearance, and in her heart, as well. So reckless and carefree and spirited.

He continued to trail behind her, lazily, watching her dance ahead of him, flickering like the flame.