Disclaimer: Peter S

Disclaimer: Peter S. Beagle wrote the illustrious novel The Last Unicorn and I am just borrowing his characters for a non-profitable use. Also, thanks to Shadowcat whose story inspired this.

The unicorn lived in the lilac wood. She had been gone from it for so long. She hardly recognized it. The leaves left from last autumn crunched under her cloven hooves as she surveyed her territory. Her forest did not look as beautiful as she remembered. As she passed her trees, small blossoms and leaves sprouted from the twig tips. She wandered slowly to the pool where her questioning of life began. She had pondered here over what she heard the hunters mutter. The water was muddy and shadowy now. She dipped her horn into the murky water and after awhile it brightened and cleared. Her reflection caught her attention. She stared at her magical beauty, twisting her head left and right. However, no matter from what angle she looked, the unicorn longed and mourned for the pale, silver-maned woman who used to gaze back at her.

She trotted away from the crystalline pool. She looked for something to do, something to keep her mind busy. There was nothing though. She stood vigil on the grassy knoll. The minutes crawled over her soft fur. The wind whispering through her wisps of mane haunted her with his love song. She galloped down the hill and crashed through her forest, trying to escape the memories. She dashed between the trees with panicked grace. She ran for an hour and then collapsed by her pond. She again glanced at her image. The pearly horn now looked clumsy jutting out of her forehead, her face too long, her ears too big. She turned from the pool and buried her head in her snow-white side. She heaved a sigh and slept. She tried to ignore the tears sliding down her cheeks.

She woke the next morning from nightmares of flame-engulfed bulls, harpies, and humans. She rose easily to her feet and looked around. It took her awhile to realize where she was. She shook off the morning stiffness. She stepped over to the pool and drank from the cool waters. But there was that face again staring up at her. She reared and whinnied. This was driving her mad. She sprang into a gallop. She ran until she reached the road leading out of her wood. On the hard dirt, she stopped. She would go find Schmendrick. He could change her back or maybe transform Lír. She glimpsed over her shoulder at the wood she had finally returned to. She did not want to leave it again, but she knew that her mortal mind would never let her stay. She sighed sadly and cantered away.

"'Ay you 'ear the news?"

"What ya talkin' boot?"

"The new king's is gettin married."

"Y'mean, King Lír."

"Aye."

"To 'oo?"

"That princess from France or what not."

"Oo, 'er. Well, 'ere's to the king an' 'is new bride."

"Aye. Cheers!"

The unicorn's lilac eyes grew wide. That can't be. Not her Lír. She galloped off her mind in a haze. Her madness echoed through her whinny. The drinking men turned and watched the departing mare.

" 'Ay, somebody's goin' to be sore that they lost that one. She's a beaut."

Lír walked along the beach below his new castle. He often did this. And he was always thinking of her. Hopefully, his marriage would push her out of his mind. This could not be healthy, yearning after an immortal being that no one could have. If he were not careful, he would end up like Haggard. He had to be different.

He watched the waves roll onto the beach. The foam always reminded him of her white coat. He would always remember. If he had been alive at the time, he would have been able to distinguish her from all the others. Sometimes he could see her frail body standing on the beach in front of him or on the cliff where he last saw her. He glanced up at that cliff. His breath caught in his throat when he saw a shimmer of white flicker up on the place she had stood. It couldn't be. His eyes searched the cliff but saw nothing more. He sighed and turned to walk further down the beach.

He stopped. There she was in front of him. Her body looked thinner and her ribs were slightly visible through her soft coat. Her fur was matted and encrusted with dirt, her mane tangled and burr-filled. Her head hung low and her eyes looked tired. She appeared old, but a light radiated from her still. In his eyes she was still the most beautiful sight ever. He reached out to hug her neck, but stopped himself.

"What are you doing here?" he asked.

"Is it true?" she asked tentatively.

"Is what true?"

"That you are to wed?"

His breath caught in his throat again. "Yes."

"I would have come back, as soon as I found Schmendrick, I would have come back."

"And then what my lady?"

"We could live happily ever after."

"I am truly sorry my lady, but I could not wait for an eternity for thy love or to deny thy of thy life."

"I can't live like this, Lír! My soul is slowly dying even though my body will survive forever."

"I am sorry." Lír looked down at his feet. "I love you with all my heart. I would do anything for you. But I know that I can't have you. If I kept you for my own, I would be no worse than my father."

"But my people are in the world thanks to you. What harm would one less unicorn do? Or one more?"

"True magician or not, I doubt Schmendrick could fulfill thy wish, my lady."

"Is there no way that I could change your mind?"

"No, my lady."

They both heard a gasp. They turned and saw a young lady with her hand over her mouth.

"My lord," she whispered, "where did you ever find a unicorn in this day and age?"

Lír looked from the pale maiden to the unicorn. The once Lady Amalphea could tell from his eyes that this was his bride. She walked slowly over to the girl. The woman's eyes grew larger with each step the gorgeous creature took towards her. The unicorn stood a foot away from her and touched her horn to the where the maiden's heart was. With one thrust, Lír could be hers forever. She looked at her beloved's bride. There was purity and innocence in her eyes. The unicorn couldn't do it. She closed her eyes and took a step back. The girl reached out slowly to the tortured unicorn. She touched her velvet nose and then stroked her slender neck. The girl embraced her neck and combed her fingers through her silky mane. The lady cried and whispered over and over, "Thank you." The unicorn arched her neck, hugging the woman back. Tears sprung in the unicorn's eyes as the girl released her. She glanced at her eternal love. "I give you my blessing." She nuzzled the bride to be. "I'll always remember." She reared high and spun toward the water. She waded into the surf. She galloped along the shore with her horn in the water. As she ran, the waves turned a clear shade of teal. Her tears mixed with the ocean spray. When her blessing was done, she galloped up the cliff and headed home again, hoping she could be content.