When Light Touches Dark
A Unicorns of Balinor FanFiction
By: BlackVelvett Revolver
It was the only way, the only path and option left to her, at least that what she tried to convince herself. How could it be that her life had turned into complete disaster? She didn't know and at the moment she didn't care—Ildrianna was fleeing for her life. Never before in Balinoran history had a member of the royal family been escorted by seven Celestial unicorns; a member of each band galloping fast, breathing hard, and foaming about their mouths from exertion.
Ildrianna clutched at Ocean's twisted mane, weaving her trembling fingers within the fine hairs so that she could hold on with all her might to the mount stretching and straining beneath her. She ducked her head closer to the stallion's powerful neck, smelling the pungent scent of sweat and dirt; however, it was over shadowed by whirling pine and evergreen, mint and jasmine. Even when in the gravest of danger, under the direst of circumstances Dria could not deny the calming scent of the heavenly creatures around her.
Each color had a unique characteristic scent that marked them. Running flat out ahead of the diamond formation was a long legged honey colored unicorn who smelled of heather. As a lead mare she was swift of foot and agile, able to spin and change directions in a heartbeat. She lived up to her name of Rapid. She seemed the least affected of the entourage; her stride never wavered nor slowed, only kept the pace set.
Flanking the golden mare were two other unicorns, a Red and a Green. However the Red, whose scent was spicy, was not a true crimson but more of an aged wine color and the Green, who smelled of fresh earth after a rainstorm, was more mossy and pale. Each was muscular and strongly built, lean yet powerful.
At Dria's sides were a Violet, who smelled of lavender, and Orange, who smelled of vanilla and saffron. Strong and heavyset they were to protect the flanks. In the rear was a Blue and Indigo, who smelled of jasmine and rain, they were like phantoms in the night, their hides blending with the cool air and broke up the vivid colors of the small band. They had the most work for they wove amongst the trees, broadening the path and confusing the trail.
Ildrianna glanced backwards and found that they were no longer there. The forest sped past her in a blur of dull greens and flurries of white. She breathed out, her breath a puff of mist in the chilling night air. A tree limb suddenly grazed the side of her face, viciously reminding her to keep close to her mount.
My lady, you must be more careful of your scent, otherwise they will find us. Her steed admonished for her sudden lack of concentration. Need your situation be reminded? His voice was harsh as it resounded through her mind.
"No!" Dria all but shouted at her mount. "I was merely seeing if the Blues were alright." She found herself sobbing, an action she deemed rather undignified. The princess was deeply hurt that Ocean would slap her with the reality of the situation when she knew it so clearly. She didn't need to be reminded.
Ocean shook his head and flattened his ears, truly sorry about his abrasive tone against his rider; but he could never apologize for it. It wasn't in his nature. Instead he focused on the forest around him and let his senses stretch out. It was the ability for each Celestial unicorn under their hue to be able to communicate telepathically to their color band herd mates. Ocean was a member of the Indigo band; his own color much darker compared to his other herd mate. Hues close to other bands could also communicate telepathically to their sister colors, though not as well as with their own.
He searched behind him with his mind, allowing the jewel at the base of his horn to glow dimly in the night.
Almost immediately he felt the presence of his Celestial herd mates as they answered his call. Both were well, off weaving more difficult paths for their pursuers, scouting while they did so. They did not believe they were being followed at the moment. The violet stud in front of Ocean also answered, adding that he did not feel the ominous aura of pursuit.
All is well, my lady, they merely disappeared to make the trail more difficult to follow. He told Ildrianna.
Dria rubbed her fingers into Ocean's neck, knowing that the stallion was making amends for his outburst. "I do not want any more to die for me."
No one will die this night, my queen, I can promise you that. Ocean reassured her with his thoughts.
Dria recoiled. Her mother was not even cold in her grave yet and she was already replaced! How could this be, Dria felt she was no queen. "Don't call me that!"
You must take up the mantle of your birthright, my lady; you are a princess no longer. You are queen. The indigo stallion let loose a mighty cry at his bold declaration and suddenly plunged ahead in a burst of speed, his powerful frame and long stride easily carrying him closer to the amber mare in the lead. His physical display forced his companions to keep pace and the chorus of driving hooves crescendoed into a frenzy of pounding drums.
"What if I don't want to be queen!" Ildrianna cried, shaking her head and clutching her legs tighter around Ocean's barrel, holding on for dear life. One thing she had learned from her companion was that his power could not be overlooked. Heavily muscled, tall, with an impressive trim silhouette, Ocean was the alpha of the Indigo band, a prince in his own right. His stature dwarfed the Royal unicorns of the stables and intimidated the lesser unicorns of the countryside. Even the Wild Ones were humbled under his presence.
Knowing that, with such an impressive creature under her hands, Ildrianna felt ashamed to be his rider. It was not that she felt shame because of him but because of herself.
When a member of the royal family reached a certain age they visited the Celestial Valley and there they were partnered with their very own unicorn for life. The entire band would be represented; however, only a select few were allowed to stand before the family to be judged, weighed, and measured. But it was the humans who were judged. If the mortal was indeed of poor quality then a lesser unicorn would present itself. If the mortal was worthy then an appropriate unicorn would step forward.
Never before had a member of the Celestial royal band been asked to be sent down to the mortal world below, it was simply unheard of. But Ocean was compelled, sensing that his rider was near.
Many, from the mortal and heavenly plain, expected great things from the pair, especially from Ildrianna. A great weight settled upon her shoulders on that day; when she looked into Ocean's great eyes she felt a doom and a blessing upon her. Never before had she felt such dualities within herself. Before her was her other half and she felt unworthy to be Ocean's rider. She was not brave, she was not heroic, and she was surely not courageous. In the face of disaster she fled the winter castle.
Dria hung her head in grief and humiliation. Because of her cowardice she would never see her mother or father alive again. She did not know what became of her younger sister and brother; for all she knew they were as lifeless as her parents.
There was no hope.
If this is what it meant to be queen then she didn't want any part of the title, not the fortune or the power, if it meant giving up her entire family. Tears streamed down her eyes as she continued to sob into Ocean's neck, twisting her fingers this way and that within his azure mane. The Vurinada could have her throne, have her kingdom; Balinor was lost as far as Ildrianna was concerned. The warhorse beneath her was convinced otherwise, as well as the other ethereal creatures about her. They were risking their lives to make sure she was kept alive. To them, she was Balinor.
Keep alert, something this way comes! Came the whispered rasp of the Blue from the distance, her voice tickled across her mind and echoed within the minds of the other cooler hues. The Orange relayed the message to Rapid, the golden mare, who suddenly banked hard to her right, her hind quarters gathering and launching her off into another direction. The rest were sore to follow her exact movement; none were as agile as she. She snorted and pumped her limbs harder than ever with her ears pinned back to her skull as she let her head down a bit to lengthen her stride.
She made sure all her companions ran with their heads held high to keep their strides relatively the same. And if need be they could let their heads go in a burst of speed. It was easier to gallop in such a way.
Where do they come from? She breathed; her voice all silk and smooth. Dria's mind flooded with amber fields of hay and heather, clouded with the aroma of sugared spices.
They are behind us, closing in from the southwest. Sighed an answer, the Indigo suddenly appearing in between Ocean and the Orange. Her voice was dark and sultry; the scent of jasmine and pine was laden heavily in the air between them. Her stride easily matched that of her herd mates'.
They will not overtake us for many miles, however it is inevitable. We can no longer travel at night. Something wicked breathes here. The Blue materialized in front of Ocean and easily slid between the Red and the Green, catching up with the lead mare with little effort. His mouth gaped open as he struggled to breathe, gulping air as his sides heaved, flanks dripped with sweat.
What do you mean? Questioned the gold, suddenly altering course, the band was quicker to follow suit.
While I was away I drifted behind, keeping south, weaving in and out of animal trails. Then I was surrounded by impenetrable shadows. They rose and engulfed me, it was a sickening magic that covered by eyes and nostrils, making me blind and breathless. Only by the light of the moon were they dispelled as I entered a meadow; it was then that I saw them. The Blue explained, changing his leading leg to follow the serpentine that the mare was maneuvering.
What did you see, brother? Asked the Violet; intent on the story. Were the rumors true?
"Shadow unicorns." He breathed aloud so all could hear.
Ocean snorted furiously, if he had not had the connection he had with his herd mate then he would never have believed his own ears. The rumors spoke truth, and what's worse, they really could move through shadow, or so it seemed.
You must be mistaken! The Red shouted, stumbling over a rough patch of terrain at hearing the news. Shadow unicorns are a myth, the Father and Mother would never create such terrible creatures.
I speak only truth. The Blue replied, still winded from his report.
Then we are only days ahead of them? We don't have much time. How long until we are there, Rapid? Asked the indigo mare; her stride becoming pitched and erratic. She was exhausted with the journey.
We've still a good few days left, we need all the ground we can muster this night and the morrow. It will take some time to get the portal open. The mare replied, changing gears yet again and switching directions. The blues needed to stay scarce for the moment so it was up to Rapid to keep the trail difficult to follow. Sudden changes in directions could swiftly confuse the failing tracker, not noticing until they were good and lost. That was what Rapid hoped for. It was what they needed. Otherwise it would take a miracle to get to the portal and open it in time to send her majesty safely to the Other Side.
"We must hurry!" The golden mare screamed harshly into the freezing night air. She spun wildly about to catch the flank of shadow that lay exposed to her. The answering screech was ear splitting and the swarming shadow dispersed around its victim.
The rest of the Celestial unicorns weren't fairing much better. Late on the last night, the last leg of the journey to the portal, the enemy surprised everyone in an ambush. Ocean suspected that they were catching wind of their scheme and were making their way to the Gap. It was mere myth to the mortals below; however, to have elite runners of the Celestial Herd personally escorting the last living member of Balinor was damning. The myth seemed to carry some substance.
Shadow unicorns! The rumors didn't exaggerate. Their powers of the night were the stuff of nightmares. Able to rise from any inky darkness, they could raid from any point they wished along the journey and did not need to waste the effort of running to get there. Any shadow was part of their network. Not only that they could disappear into shadow, blending seamlessly into the night, along with their riders.
The band was running for their lives, already a Green had fallen just miles back, using his own body to protect Ildrianna from a two prong attack on her life. The viciously sharpened points of Shadow unicorn horns impaled the Green. Dria would never forget the terrible wailing shriek as the Green collapsed to the snow covered forest floor, blood smattering the pristine white. The scene was horrific as the riders of the black unicorns drew their swords and plunged them into the dying Green's sides as it writhed on its back.
Dria wanted to vomit as the riders fought over who would get the beast's horn as the prize and who would get the jewel. They squabbled and quarreled and were left behind as the other Celestial unicorns fled the scene. Nothing could be done for their fallen comrade who died gloriously doing his duty. The other unicorns huddled closer to Dria and Ocean, never allowing much space to come between them.
"They're coming!" The Blue shouted as they simultaneously jumped over a fallen tree in their path.
Behind them sprouted the fiends of the devil himself as six Shadow unicorns emerged from total darkness. Legs flailing, eyes wide and bright, mouth agape in an awful war cry, they plunged forward in hot pursuit of their quarry. Their riders were dressed in light armor, naked swords held at the ready to swipe at their enemies. They rode their mounts bareback; no heavy saddle or armor to weigh their steeds down. The only tack they wore was bridles, shining wickedly in the weak moonlight—the clouds conspired to hide the full moon's radiance. They wore capes of ash, heavy and laden with wool to keep out the biting cold. Winter was in full force in the upper mountains. Though dressed for winter the attire served a dual purpose: protected passage between the worlds of reality and shadow.
As the steeds passed into darkness, their entire essence dissolved into nothingness and the world around them went black and cold. Nothing existed between these worlds because it was the space between two realms, which was the highway they marched through.
"They're behind us!" Ildrianna shouted; eyes bright as she spurred Ocean onward. She wished she were anywhere but there. She wished she were in her castle home before the hearth with her mother where she patiently would watch over her and her siblings while reading. Her father would be arguing with the court ministers. Her sister would be trying to learn to sew but lacked the patience to keep at it. Her brother would be wrestling with the royal dogs. If only that dream was reality.
We're almost there. Streamer, River, escort Ocean to the gap and begin the opening process. The rest shall fight off the pursuers. Rapid ordered, turning on her heels and facing the oncoming threat. The Red, Orange, and Violet turned as well and lined up next to the mare, heads lowered, hooves pawing at the snowy earth.
The Blue and the two Indigos raced forward, knowing where the portal was; just beyond the copse of trees within the craggy rock. A powerful swell of deep magic permeated the air as they grew closer to their goal.
Rapid allowed her companions to catch their breaths as they prepared to face their foes.
Whatever happens we must buy enough time to get the portal open and make sure the queen gets there safely. We must distract them. Rapid spoke softly but with much authority. Her sides were caked with grime and sweat, heaving just as much as her herd mates'. But she refused to give in to fatigue; it would defile Numinor's good faith in her. She would never fail him.
They come. Whispered the Orange; arching his neck and snorting.
Just as the words left the creature's mouth six black unicorns appeared from the darkness. Coats gleamed, not a speck of dirt or sweat cleaving to their hides. They appeared to have little fatigue from the long journey.
They drew up in one line, heads tossing wildly as their riders forced them to a sudden halt. They whinnied and neighed at the restraint, prancing impatiently upon the tips of their hooves.
"Ah, you finally turn to fight, you silly heavenly brutes!" A rider called out mockingly, keeping his seat as he fought for control of his mount. The animal beneath him continued to pace and lunge about the little clearing, pawing the ice packed earth with iron hooves while tossing its head.
Rapid became the picture of ease and grace as she looked upon the lot before her. Her eyes became haughty and menacing as her ears tipped backward and her teeth were flashing.
"And here I have been waiting, what took you so long?" Rapid bit out. There could be no telepathic communication between the forces of light and darkness.
The rider merely smiled and searched within his coat and pulled out a long, perfectly spiraled object. Rapid wanted to strike then and there for the insult he presented her. Poor Treeland, he didn't deserve such a terrible fate. But the object here was to buy time; her inability to control her temper would become their doom.
"Well we couldn't decide what to do with your fallen friend. After much deliberation we decided that since you are a creature of heavenly light we set the corpse on fire. In your honor." The rider laughed, a sound that echoed harshly around the surrounding forest. He threw the bloodied horn on the ground and allowed his black steed to stomp on it, shattering the precious remnant.
"Blasphemous!" The Red trumpeted.
"Yes, you truly are. All of you." The rider spoke, pulling back his hood and revealing his face.
"Prince of Darkness, we finally meet." Rapid spoke; nearly growling out her displeasure. If she only knew that the dark prince was after them, then maybe she would have been a bit more careful, maybe she wouldn't have asked for such a small escort.
"Valorna, I never suspected that you were leading this futile escape attempt. Numinor must be so proud, or be so very stupid. His lust for power must have blinded him to let his only sister come all the way down from heaven only to die a mortal's death." The dark prince said as he inched his mount forward.
Rapid jerked at her proper name, how did he know?
"He sent me to stop you. You may have killed the royal king and queen but already there is a new queen."
"Ah, you mean the little princess. Where is she, exactly? I've never known a royal of Balinor to run away from a fight." The dark prince lifted his long sword and smiled wickedly.
"Out of your reach, little lord." The golden mare responded mockingly.
"Into the fabled chasm between worlds? I have to say I can't let that happen, father would be displeased." The prince's words were like acid, grating to hear.
"I do not care what displeases your father, you cannot have her." Rapid lowered her head and watched every movement of the prince. "Vurinadan scum. If you want her you must go through me, Daughter of the Sun."
"And me," The Violet declared.
"And me!" The Red and Orange exclaimed together.
The prince nodded and smiled, signaling the others to ready their weapons. "Very well." And with that he allowed his steed to vault forward into the melee.
It's here, my lady. Allow us some time to ready the portal.
The two blue hues stepped closer to the crevice in the rock façade before them and bathed in the welling deep magic that emitted from it. Almost immediately it offered relief from their strain; a healing affect taking over. The moon peeked behind the cloud cover to illuminate the magical area. Snow could not survive here, the ground was warm and vibrantly green with lush grass and wild flowers. It was spring eternal in this place; a beacon of hope in the dark depths of winter.
"Such a place really exists," Whispered Dria as she dismounted Ocean.
I thought we would never need to use such a place, only the Old Mare possessed the knowledge to open the portal. It was she who called to send you here until it was safe. Ocean's deep timber voice resonated with renewed strength as he too drew closer to the fissure.
"What is on the other side?" She asked, a bit of fear laced within the question.
Another world much like our own but different. They say there is not much magic there, that the people no longer believe as they once had. Ocean recited all he knew of the place; which, he thought in distaste, was precious little. As he stepped closer to his rider, he puffed into her frazzled hair to reassure her. He would never tell her that he too held some trepidation on crossing over to the Other Side.
"Once we are there, they won't be able to call us back." Dria mourned dejectedly.
Once we are there we shall regroup and ride forth and return on our own terms. Ocean pawed the ground.
"What will happen to the others? Once we've gone through, what will they do?"
They will seal the portal and flee and return to the Valley. Their quest will have been completed.
My lord and lady, the portal begins to open, prepare thyself! The Blue informed the pair.
Before them the rock began to shimmer, heave, and actually move as if it were a thing come to life. The crevice began to gape wider and sizzle with heat lightning as the deep magic began to do its wonders. Snow began to recede from around the perimeter of the site; new spring grass grew in its wake. Delicate stems of wild flowers slithered from the damp soil to burst open in bloom. Dria couldn't help herself, she felt all the wonder of magic all around her and for a moment she forgot who and where she was, her duty, and why they were in such a place.
Climb on my back—Ocean's voice was cut short as a piercing scream emitted from his throat.
Ildrianna never thought he could make such a sound.
Pandemonium suddenly erupted around them as three Celestial unicorns bounded into the clearing, hides dripping in blood and gore. Following in hot pursuit were four Shadow unicorns, one without a rider. Battle cries pealed like thunder as the battle spilled into the glen.
Ildrianna ran to her unicorn to try to settle him but he was past all anger. A black fletched arrow sprouted from his haunch. The mere audacity of the archer was enough to send the proud creature over the edge in blackened fury!
"How dare thee!" He shouted, turning about to join the battle. Head lowered, he plunged his deadly spear point in the side of an unsuspecting black unicorn. The dark creature reared in surprise, knocking his rider from his seat as Ocean tore his horn from the unicorn's side in a violent twist. Blood spurted from the wound as the animal fell backwards; losing its footing while crushing his rider. In one swift motion Ocean was upon it, rearing back on his powerful hindquarters he sent his iron hooves into the black unicorn's exposed barrel. The creature squealed in pain but nothing could deter the rage directed upon it.
When kicking wasn't enough for the incensed Indigo, he arched his neck, preparing to spear the battered belly of his fallen foe.
"No mercy!" He thundered, finishing the deed.
"Ocean, no!" Dria screamed, not believing the horrors she was seeing with her own eyes. The overgrown giant of a unicorn had never been so violent. She ran over to the stallion, trying to stop the madness but it was only then that she discovered her grave error.
"There you are, little princess." A cold voice washed over the back of her neck, making the fine hairs stand on end. A brutal shiver wrenched down her spine at the sinister sound, never before had she heard such a velvet voice laced so intimately with murder.
She turned her head and saw the source of that contradictory sound. Above her, sitting so elegantly on his black charger, was the Prince of Darkness himself. Dressed in simple clothes with a cloak draped over his shoulder that flapped in the wind, he held a sword in his hand in such a way that made her realize his aptitude with the weapon. His steed looked ready to explode into action at any moment, ready to comply at his master's slightest command. A Shadow unicorn, she noticed that his was much more impressive that the others.
The prince's complexion was pale, marbleized into perfection with haunting eyes that pierced into the depths of her very soul. In that gaze she felt exposed and naked yet at the same time she could not deny his chilling beauty. Was it because she knew she was to die that her mind was focused on such trivial things? She did not know; she only knew that she was the mouse caught in the eyes of the most deadly of vipers.
Before she could open her mouth, the prince raised his sword and hacked at the young woman. The young girl screamed in agony and collapsed to the ground, clutching her side. The prince laughed at her efforts to crawl away, he began scaring her senseless as he allowed his mount to stomp around her.
Ocean whirled about when he heard his rider's cry of pain and he nearly died of shame for allowing the situation to slip. If anything enraged the stallion more it was that his charge was unhappy or hurt. After finishing off the black unicorn beneath him, he ran to his lady's side, buffering away the prince and his mount.
"Step away from her!" He roared.
"Watch yourself, Indigo! I shall not be denied." The prince backed his mount away and raised his sword, swinging at the Celestial unicorn.
"You will be disappointed." Ocean turned and bucked, driving away the prince while protecting his lady.
"Ocean, I'm sorry." Dria whispered as she pulled herself into a ball, the pain was agonizing!
The portal has opened!
Ocean sunk to his knees and prodded Ildrianna who began laboring rigorously to mount his back in order to make their escape.
The prince wheeled around, made to attack the vulnerable pair, and raised his sword— only to be knocked backward as a Violet unicorn smashed into his charger's side. He toppled to the ground in a heap and was nearly trampled as his mount and the Violet began to battle each other. The prince growled in anger, retrieved his bow and clutch of arrows from the ground and knocked one, ready to let it fly.
"You will not escape." He whispered, vowing he would not face the wrath of his father. He released the arrow, which aimed true, hitting his target square in the chest.
Ocean heaved as pain blossomed in his breast as he strained to regain his feet. He hacked in more pain as another piercing pain hit his shoulder.
"Ocean, you must hurry!" Rapid screamed, battling away two fallen riders who were waving swords at her.
The Indigo heaved, aiming his body to the yawning portal before him, aware that it was beginning to close. Yes, he had to hurry to save his queen, his rider, his partner. He began lunging forward, using all his strength and speed to leave the battlefield behind.
"Stop them!" The dark prince screamed; notching another arrow and letting it fly. "They mustn't reach the Gap!" He retrieved another arrow, that last one just missed the damned Celestial.
One of the riders heard his prince; he was closer to the portal. Abandoning his comrade to fight against the golden mare alone he raised his sword over his head and hurled it after the fleeing Indigo and royal.
The unicorn launched himself from the ground, hurling his body into the magical schism between worlds, his lady holding on for dear life upon his back. From the corner of his eye he saw the glint of metal coming. Stars erupted in his vision as the sword slashed open his neck, more pain accompanied it as another arrow found its target but all attempts to stop the pair from leaving this world failed as they both disappeared into the Gap. Ocean curled his head as he felt he lost something so very important during the journey.
The prince roared in frustration at having lost his quarry. "Father will not be pleased…" He whispered, turning to face the remaining Celestial unicorns. Collecting a few more gems and horns might appease the old man.
The Gap closed with a deafening cracking sound, alerting the Celestial unicorns that their task was complete. "Away!" Shouted Rapid; dispersing the group. The Indigo and Blue bolted from the scene, disappearing into the thicket of the forest. The Violet trailed after them. The Red remained by the golden mare's side, battle wounds weeping.
"It appears you've failed, Son of Darkness." Rapid declared; backing away from the shadow unicorns. "My regards to your father,"
"I will have your head on a stake for the entire world to see!" The prince promised, picking up his sword.
"No more heavenly blood will be spilled this day." The Red spoke aloud.
The black unicorns and riders advanced slowly, ready to leap at their lord's command.
Rapid backed away but suddenly jerked her head up to the horizon above, a smile lighting her features. "The sun rises." With that she took off, the Red following at her side.
"After her!" The prince vaulted onto his charger, ramming his heels into its flanks. It answered with a burst of speed. He was merely steps behind them but the golden mare let loose a clarion call that was as clear as crystal, tossing her head high, with her golden mane fluttering behind her. The Red followed her example and let out a powerful triumphant appeal to the forest, jumping into the air with pure joy. A ray of powerful sunlight filtered through the trees with the strengthening sunrise and the two unicorns ran toward it.
Realizing what they were doing, the prince spurred his mount faster but it was too late. The two beasts raced towards the light and disappeared in a shimmer as if they never were. The black unicorn ran through the same lance of light yet nothing happened. The prince wheeled the creature about and shouted in fury at having been thwarted twice.
No, his father wouldn't be pleased…
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