Disclaimer: The Last Unicorn and all of the characters who appear here ore are mentioned are the original creations of Peter S. Beagle or whomever owns his estate now; they are not mine. Written for ova lexa's request in the Yuletide 2008 Challenge as a Stocking Stuffer.
Magic was in his blood, a part of who he was and had always been. For as long as he could remember his life had revolved around magic and those who practiced it as both an art and as a means of earning their bread and coin.
Schmendrick had been born into a clan of traveling gypsies and no matter how much on old veteran of the roads that he had become, one thing h Schmendrick never really got over was the sheer adrenaline rush that swept over his entire body every time a spell went exactly the way he intended it to. His his clan often stopped in villages and towns and performed for an appreciative audience; those definitely added up to among his happiest and fondest recollections.
Life was hard on the road for a band of gypsies; and even from a very young age he had become aware that their presence was not universally welcomed everywhere they went. Seeing life as it came in all of its various forms Schmendrick soon realized that he could never have imagined life any different than the one he had, despite the hardships and recriminations hurled at them by townspeople whom had never known anything different from their own surroundings. In a back corner of his mind Schemendrick almost but not quite, felt sorry for them. He had had far too many other things to fret over.
On the small and scrawny side growing up Schmendrick often found himself either pointedly excluded from the games of the bigger and stronger boys and girls; or teased for his pronounced nose and awkward gait; or more importantly, when the magic did not go exactly as planned.
'And that,' Schmendrick thought with a heavy sigh and a shake of his head, 'had been the hardest thing of all to bear; as if somehow what I wanted and what the magic wanted were at odds with each other.'
He had learned his craft and the art of magic under the tutelage of the best and while he could no longer remember the parents who had been taken from him due to contracting a lingering fever to which they had eventually succumbed.
Years later Schmendrick still remembered their patience, their kindness and their encouragement. They had told him time after time that despite all the odds stacked against him; the ridicule and the frustration that one day he would be the one to fulfill the potential and the promise of greatness locked somewhere deep inside of him. Schmendrick lived for that day, spending most but not all of his time practicing and refining his craft.
The magic helped him, but it could also be a hindrance; and there were dark and light sides to it, but those instances when he learned he had pushed to a back dark corner of his mind and did his best to forget about those.
After his parents were taken by the spring fever Schmendrick stayed with the gypsy band before he came of age and set off to make his own way in the world taking odd jobs here and there, some legit some not so much.
He got by as best he could. Magic certainly helped in that regard, but most of the time he had to get by on his wits and talents.
If among those varied talents included a knack for 'borrowing' items that did not belong to him what of it? A night spent in a lock-up wouldn't hurt him and in fact was sometimes preferable to bedding down out of doors in the middle of a pouring rain. At other times he would find employment of a sort in the roadside inns as a cook or server and would stay on for a a season or two before his restless nature again would get the better of him and he would move on.
He was doing just that when he met Molly, and life as he knew it would never be the same.
Accustomed to being a loner and to fending for himself at first he had been reluctant to trust and risk further loss, to open himself up to a stranger.
However, when he had at last made the decision to do so, a part of his nature, the part that craved recognition, renown and admiration for his magical talents; he wanted to impress this girl. 'And that,' he reflected as he sat down a large outcropping and took off his boots, 'had been easier said than done.'
Molly was a woman of a stern and direct mind, hardly what anyone would call classically beautiful, but she had a distinct charm and earthy liveliness about her that he found instantly attractive.
He remembered how Molly had looked up from washing the last of the flour from her hands and was brushing the last of the flaky white powder from her apron when she chanced to glance up and met his own watery blue eyes with her brown ones.
His first instinct had been to look away, but in that moment, he squelched the instinct and held the eye contact, and for her part she did too. There was much said in that exchange of glances. ⌠You gonna stare all night, or are you coming along?" she finally asked, breaking the silence at last.
Despite his first instinct not to trust, to not reach out; as they traveled in each others' company, learned more about each other; even argued with each other; giving as good as he got a fair amount of the time or so he thought.
He realized with a start that almost brought to him a standstill in the middle of the deserted road. "I like you."
"Well," Molly replied, "That's fine. It certainly is an excellent thing for companions of the road to like each other."
She shook her head over the foibles of young men and wizards in particular. While she had been alternately amazed and irritated by her new found friend and companion's attempts to dazzle her with his magical talents at the same time she found herself actually growing quite fond of him, trusting him with more of herself and her life.
"I am an idiot," Schmendrick muttered under his breath at the same moment that he realized just how moronic it would sound out here in the middle of nowhere with a creature of legend depending for its very survival on the two humans who accompanied it on its quest.
"Well," Molly replied. "On that subject, you will get no argument from me. However, despite your more irritating habits, you do manage to say the right thing from time to time. And as much as it pains me to say this, I like you, too."
She smiled and that expression it lit up her eyes.
"Thanks, I think," Schmendrick replied and then returned her smile with one his own in response.