Author: Digimon Empress Yaten (de yaten)
Notes: Part of my set of stories for Valentine's Day. I've always been looking for an excuse to write TLU fic, and Valentine's Day was as good as any. Not really romantic, but has to do with love.
Disclaimer: I don't own The Last Unicorn, its characters, this is all non-profit and just for fun.
It was another February, with abundant snow but hardly any of the chill of winter, and it was, as the whispers in the forest echoed, "another strange human day." The snow in the forest, of course, was perfect and white and always fell evenly – it always did, in a unicorn's forest. And this forest, being the home of no less than five unicorns, was always perfect in season and its animals were the happiest in the world.
The unicorns knew nothing about the day, other than the humans seemed to walk in pairs more often, and touch more, and kiss more - which they said, mumbling against fresh brooks, was a bit excessive. But again, they perceived every human behavior as unusual and excessive. They didn't know.
But she knew.
They only saw gaudy gifts, rich chocolates, wrapped in boxes and ribbons and bows, they saw the smiles and blushed cheeks, but they could not understand the love. They felt many things, but never love. They concluded it must be akin to the elderly pity they felt for their companions in the forest , the all-too-knowing smile at the animals who depended on them for protection.
She had tried to explain it to them, once. And only once.
"It is unlike the chill of fear, such as when the bull was there," she explained, watching their black eyes for something other than patient amusement and a brief remembrance of the terrible red beast that hunted them down. "And it is nothing like indignity, the heat and impatience at being mistaken for a common horse." They nodded at this, and she wondered if they had a similar experience or they simply remembered the story she told them, of a dull man who had called her a mare once upon a time.
Her tail twitched. How best to continue? They were kind enough to stay with her ("She has been alone for so long," they whispered) but she doubted they would ever understand.
"It is... both warm and cool." They exchanged confused looks. "It is the feeling of the wind striking you at full force, but at the same time, the complete calm of a still night." One of them began to drink out of the spring. Silly Unicorn - Amalthea, she insisted - and her human stories. "It is… joy. Love is very joyful."
"But what is love, sister?"
She stopped, again. She couldn't explain it. Not to them. It was unusual for a unicorn to even recognize that someone else cared for you enough to put their feelings - their heart, really - in the palm of your hand, to do with what you will. It was impossible for a unicorn, except for she alone, to return both hearts bound together, raw and helpless with their first love.
"Never mind," she said then, turning from the rest. "I haven't the time to explain it today. Good day, my sisters." They were silent as she left and they assumed that love was just another human thing she picked up, a primitive habit, an excessive emotion they wanted nothing to do with.
She continued walking through the forest until she had come dangerously close to the edge. When she looked between the trees, she could see the expansive city of metal and lights and horns that lay beyond the forest cliff. It was full of people. Full of people and noise and it was altogether different from the world she used to know.
It was too dangerous to go out now - for once she agreed with the rest - because the people had changed. Unicorns were more of a legend than they had been in Schmendrick's time - they were children's fairy tales, or the product of a Narwhal's horn, a goat, and something the humans called "glue." She heard stories from a passing-by bird that many of their sisters were found dead in foreign lands, slaughtered for meat or product or simple sport. And some, the bird said, fluttering blue wings in anger, had simply run out of forests to live in and had to fend in the world of people. The image of the strange metal beast hitting one of her sisters remained bright in her mind, although she had not been there to witness it.
It is why so many of the lived in one forest, now. It was a strange existence that required getting used to. They had always lived alone, before they were driven into the sea, and afterwards they had all gone their separate ways for many years. But people changed, as they often did, and there were fewer and fewer places for them to live in peace. Even their magic had begun to shift with the times. The forests could no longer remain in an eternal spring, and snow drifted into their sleeping caves to give them shivers and wish for fire. The winters looked perfect, and the forests remained beautiful, but coldness was not something a unicorn was used to.
So many things had changed.
The call had come from outside the forest, and she was quick to conceal herself in the trees. Her curiosity - another human thing she picked up - bade her to stay and see who, or what, was coming.
Between the trees she saw two humans - a girl and a boy - making their way up to the cliff just outside the forest.
"No, seriously, wait--" The girl was being tugged along by the boy, who was grinning and carrying something underneath his arm. A basket or some sort of bag.
"I promise this will be totally worth it. Trust me."
The girl sighed and relented, but edged her way as far from the forest as possible. The boy opened the bag he was carrying, and laid down a simple blanket on the soft cliff grass. They sat together, but the girl was still visibly bothered.
"What's the matter?" The boy asked, playfully putting an arm around here.
"I don't like it here," she said after a pause. "The forest creeps me out."
They both turned towards the forest, and the unicorn wondered if she would be seen. If they saw her, they gave no indication of it.
"People say it's haunted by White Ladies. You know, sort of like banshees? If they catch you near the forest at night, they'll pluck out your eyes and make you their servant until you die."
The boy snorted. "You don't really believe in that crap, do you?"
The girl turned away and almost got up to leave.
"Look, I didn't mean--" He was cut off by his companions arm jutting towards the skyline.
"Oh, look!" She smiled, and sat, and both stayed silent as the sun crept its way downwards.
They were watching the sunset together, and the unicorn thought only of the two instances when she and Lir had done the same. The first time, Lir asked if the sunset was beautiful, and she had told him no, because all she saw was the grotesque ins-and-outs of her sisters with the waves. The second time, much later, he had asked the same question. She didn't respond but let him hold her, and she thought of nothing but his arms around her and her arms tightening around him.
As she watched the young pair before her watch the sun set behind the grey new city, she wanted to smile. Indeed, much had changed since she was innocent and wise and empty, but love - love had stayed the same.