It was a cold winter afternoon in the north of Valinor when Erestor found himself cornered before the fire by the bored elflings of the valley

Title: The Last Unicorn Herd

Author: amber

Beta: Oli
Rating: G
Characters: Erestor, Elrond, Maglor, Maedhros, OM/F elflings
Disclaimer: All main characters belong to Tolkien; I am just borrowing them.
Timeline: Fourth Age Story about something that happened in the First Age.
Summary: Erestor tells a story one wintry afternoon about the last unicorn herd.

It was a cold winter afternoon in the north of Valinor when Erestor found himself cornered before the fire by the bored elflings of the valley. It was wet and dreary and lessons were over for the day. He had retired to the hall to listen to music but found the minstrels gone and had settled before the fire to think about the spring planting instead. The elflings knew what a good story teller he was and decided to take advantage of the situation.

"Erestor, we are bored, tell us a story," Elladan's youngest daughter begged him.

"Tell us one we haven't heard before," Elrohir's eldest son said quietly.

Looking around at the growing group of elflings, Erestor realized he was caught but didn't really mind.

"A story you haven't heard before," he said thinking.

"Tell us about the unicorns," came the quiet request from a beautiful golden headed elfling of about four, named Mellonwen. He still could not believe that this quiet little one was from Glorfindel's loins, but she had managed to wrap him around her finger with as much ease as her father had. Oh yes, she would be a heart breaker when older and he would enjoy watching Glorfindel terrorize all the prospective ellon. Knowing he could deny her nothing, he thought a minute.

"Have you ever heard the story of how the unicorns came to Valinor in the first place?" he asked the group. When all had shaken their heads he directed them to sit and get comfortable.

"Many yen ago when Arda was first made, the Vala populated it with many different animals while waiting for the coming of the firstborn. Most roamed freely both here and in Middle-earth but some few chose to remain in one land or the other. Among this latter group were the unicorns. They roamed in large groups across the dense grasslands of Middle-earth. They were an impressive sight to see and the Vala enjoyed watching them frolic and play beside the Mearas.

Then Melkor moved into the lands. He could not stand the purity and light of the unicorns and hunted them almost to extinction. When the Children of Ilúvator were born, they marveled at the unicorn's beauty and tried to protect them, but it was to no avail. Even when the Noldor returned to Middle-earth and distracted Morgoth, it did not help for roving bands of bad men and orcs sought out the unicorn for the magic they falsely believed lay in its horn. Finally there was only one small herd of unicorn left and they ran north into the lands of the sons of Fëanor for protection. They somehow knew that Kinslayers they may have been, but the Feanorians would never hunt them.

Then one day twenty years after the attack on Sirion, a large hunting party of Feanorians, including Maedhros and Maglor, with a young Elrond and his brother Elros, stumbled across a group of bad men who were trapping and killing the last herd of unicorn. Only ten remained alive and one of those was seriously injured and lying on the ground with her mate standing over her trying to protect her. In angered shock at the slaughter, the Feanorians killed all of the men and sent another party to find and dispatch anyone left in the men's camp. Then they gathered the slaughtered unicorns so that they could give them a proper burial. The ten remaining unicorns stayed close to the downed mare, refusing to leave her side.

Now young Elrond had already shown impressive abilities as a healer of both elves and animals. The mare's painful cries pained him and he decided to do something about them. Gathering his healing supplies from his mares back, he cautiously walked closer to the unicorns. Seeing the intruder coming near their injured friend, the other unicorn encircled Elrond kicking and biting at him.

"Elrond," Elros screamed when Elrond went down from a kick in the leg as another one tried to bite his arm.

Now Elros's scream had caught everyone attention and they saw Elrond encircled by the unicorns. Maglor tried to rescue him but was held away by the biting and kicking unicorns. They all watched as the large unicorn standing beside the downed mare entered the circle and headed for Elrond. They all thought he was going to be attacked again but were surprised when the large stallion walked right up to Elrond and sniffed him.

"Well," remarked Maedhros as he turned to face Elros. "We know now who has really been sneaking around with the girls of the traveling human encampment."

"Why would Maedhros say that?" one of the older ellon in the back of the group asked.

"Oh, you see little ones, unicorns only allow someone who is pure and untouched, a virgin, to come close enough to touch them," Erestor explained as some of the ladies passed out refreshments among the elflings and others who had gathered to hear the story. Then he continued.

"Seeing that the large stallion was not going to attack him, Elrond slowly rose and walked to the downed mare. After examining her wounds, he was clearly upset and did not know what to do.

"How badly is she injured, Elrond?" called Maglor.

"The wound is too deep," he told them. Then looking even more upset he explained. "I cannot help her, but.."

"But what child," Maedhros asked gently.

"She is pregnant," he answered.

"Elrond, listen to me," Maglor pleaded. "Think about when you helped birth your mare's colt this spring, and how her stomach felt just before she gave birth. Can you tell if she is near term?" Maglor asked. They all watched tensely as Elrond ran his hands over the unicorn's stomach, then placed his hand over the center and closed his eyes.

"She is near term," he called. He then realized what he would have to do to save the two foals she carried. He looked at the other unicorns. "None of other unicorns are nursing. Will they not starve?"

Maglor and Maedhros looked at each other, then at Elrond's mare. She had agreed to come on this hunting trip with him even though her own colt was still nursing a little.

"Is she producing enough?" Maglor asked his brother.

"It will have to be. I will ask her if she will consent to this," his older brother said as he watched Elrond talk with the downed mare.

Elrond's mare waited while her tack was taken off before walking up to her friend and nudging him. Elrond realized he would loose his mount if the foals were to survive, for his mare would have to go with the unicorns.

"But what about the mare's foal?" Mellonwen asked.

"Well, he was old enough to be weaned by then. Plus there were other mares in the stables that would help him," Erestor told her.

"OK," came the short reply which brought smiles and laughter to the faces of the gathering crowd of adults who had gathered to hear the story.

"Now, you must remember that Elrond was almost an elfling himself, barely 25 at the time. And he was also untrained as a healer even though he possessed the true gift of a fallanor. He new what he was going to have to do would kill the dying unicorn and could harm or kill the foals, so he was very afraid. In an effort to show support for what Elrond was going to have to do, Maedhros wrapped his own extremely sharp knife in cloth and tossed it to Elrond. When Elrond unwrapped the knife, the other unicorn became upset and agitated. Elrond knew he had to calm them quickly for the mare was starting to fade and his time was limited. Reaching out to the large stallion, Elrond told him what was wrong and what he would have to do to save the foals. He also told the stallion that his own mare would stay with them to nurse the foals until weaned.

Upset, the large unicorn stamped and ran around in circles until the mare gave a weary, painful call. Coming back to nuzzle her, he calmed and then called to the other unicorns to communicate what was going to happen. Elrond readied the mare as best he could before putting her into the best sleeping trance he could manage as Maglor had taught him. Then he proceeded to cut the two foals from their mother's belly. There was a loud bellow from the large stallion when the mare died, but soon he was beside his little ones urging them to accept the mare's milk.

Elrond had exhausted himself trying to ease the mare's way and bring forth the foals but knew that he could not leave matters as they were. Standing on shaky legs, he quickly checked the foals over before moving to talk with the large stallion.

"It is to dangerous for you to stay in this land," he told the Unicorn, "take your herd and my mare and head across the cold expanse. Feed yourselves well because once you reach the ice fields there will be little to eat, go swiftly but watch for thin and shifting ice, once you have crossed it you will find a land that is free from danger and you can live and increase your herd in peace."

Then Elrond told his mare to go with the unicorn herd and said his goodbye promising to take care of her little colt. Only after the little herd had left the clearing did he collapse in exhaustion. The Feanorians saw to the mare's funeral as Elros cleaned up his brother, and then they returned to their camp."

"What happened to the little foals?" Mellonwen asked.

"Did the entire herd make it across the ice?" Elrohir's son asked.

"The entire herd made it across the ice complete with the little foals and Elrond's mare. They were met at the edge by Oromë and Nahar who let them know they were all welcome and would be looked after. Then they were given free reign to roam wherever they would," Erestor said as he wrapped up the story.

"Do the unicorns ever come here?" Elladan's daughter asked.

"They came once shortly after Elrond came to live in the valley," Erestor answered. "Every once in a while they will come close by to see the one who ensured the unicorn's survival."

"Come everybody, it is meal time," Celebrían called as she led the elflings to clean their hands and faces before going to the dining hall.

"I didn't realize you knew that story," Elrond said as he revealed himself sitting in a darkened window.

"I heard it from Maglor one night at the end of the War of Wrath. I convinced him to tell me the story in exchange for my promise to see you safely to Gil-Galad's encampment," came the quiet answer.

"So, what other stories did he tell you?" Elrond asked as they headed into dinner.

"You will just have to wait and see won't you Peredhel." came the teasing reply.