Or, The Very Gullible Unicorn - For The Whatever Contest
Univerre listened as Lieutenant Lightfoot read him the latest updates from the front lines. "We've lost another dozen - four stallions and eight mares - including the last five sapphire horns in our ranks. All sacrificed to the sea now. That puts our losses at sixteen hundred eighty-one. The riverfront is our strongest line - we've turned fourteen hundred sixty-two of them into pygmy deer."
"Have we any word back from the Centaurions?" Univerre feared the Centaur’s elite warriors were his last hope of ending this war.
"They have a crisis of their own at the moment, sir. Something about cleaning up after Dionysus' last harvest celebration - they had a bad batch or something. Sounds like it got ugly."
“I’m so glad they took over cleaning up after him.” The unicorn leader paced in a circle, pausing a moment here and there to swish his tail or sharpen his horn on the stone wall. "But, how are we to rescue Equestromeo and the others without the Centaurion's help?"
Lightfoot suggested, "Perhaps it's time to call a summit with the merfolk."
"Ha! As if those fish-brains will stand to listen to reason. If they could, this would have ended before it began."
"Twenty moons gone, and my son still cannot be wed, because we don't know if the bride is under her own control, or that of whomever possesses her pearls now." Aquanden knew the original thief, Equestromeo, no longer had them. "Or, if they've switched places with Merella already, for that matter. The queen of the Blue Tail folk is getting ready to turn against us if we don't end this war and restore her daughter's powers. I can't imagine a unicorn would want to control or trade places with her. So, why would he steal them in the first place?" After too long a pause, he demanded a response. "Well?”
His most trusted captain, Dolph Finnius spoke, "Forgive me sire, but that question might've been better asked before you turned him into a narwhal, methinks."
"You, think? I didn't hear you thinking anything before I turned him, did I?"
"Well, no, Your Tidalness," Finnius replied. “Though, there really wasn’t much time.”
"Never mind that, what’s done is done. The question is, now what?"
After a brief moment of thought, Finnius responded, “We could turn him back, and ask him?”
“We would have to know where he is to do that, wouldn’t we,” Queen Marina replied. “As I recall, he escaped your watch before he could be penned in the shipwreck yard.”
“Yes, majesty,” Finnius acknowledged.
“Then, I suggest you find him. Quickly,” she commanded.
Equestromeo never was a fan of swimming, he preferred dry ground. He’d always loved watching the water though, especially at sunset, or under a full moon. Which, he now realized, is exactly how he wound up here, a unicorn trapped in a narwhal’s black and white mottled skin.
One night, months ago, under a full moon, he was at the beach, watching the silver crested waves crash onto the glowing white sands. He fell into a hypnotic state, lulled into tranquility - then, he heard her voice.
A mermaid sat upon the rocky shore, singing the most beautiful melody he’d ever heard, not more than twenty feet away. “How did I not see her there before?” he wondered to himself.
Her long, sea-green hair clung to her body, sparkling with ocean-spray gems. Slowly, he walked toward her.
Her song, a sweet, lilting tune held notes of longing. Equestromeo fell in love with her before he’d even heard her name.
She smiled as he approached, batting long, feather-like eyelashes at him. “I’m Merella,” she introduced herself, though he couldn’t know then it wasn’t her real name. “I’ve been waiting for you, Equestromeo.”
Dumbfounded, Equestromeo didn’t know what to say to the mesmerizing beauty. He feared if he spoke, she would dive into the sea, never to meet him again.
She beckoned him closer, and ran her fingers through his mane. “There is a way for you and I to be together,” she whispered in his ear. “All we need is hidden just over there-” she pointed toward the sea caves at the other end of the beach. “When the king tides come with the next full moon, you’ll be able to access the caves, and get my pearls.”
Equestromeo knew each mermaid and merman possessed giant pearls - seeded by their mothers and grown until they’re born - which are the source of their powers. They are hidden and protected by aquatic guards below the surface, but can, on rare occurrences, such as the lowest tides of the year, be reached by land.
It was common knowledge the merfolk use their pearls for many purposes, including the ability to transform into any other creature in the sea, or on land. In the hands of an enemy, though, they can be used to control the mermaid, or even to take her form permanently.
Every night for the next month, the creature posing as Merella came to the shores to meet Equestromeo, singing her enchanting songs, reeling him in with her spells.
At last, the night of the lowest low tide arrived, and Equestromeo began to get cold hooves. He wanted nothing more than to spend eternity with Merella, but he feared leaving his life on land behind.
Ultimately, the beautiful mermaid’s allure outweighed any doubts, and on that night, he charged into the sea caves, navigating the tunnels by the light of his horn. “Guide me to Merella’s pearls,” he wished for the light to show his path, and it did, shining only along the path he was to take. It would remain lit until he returned.
He found the right chamber, with a large clamshell, half-closed, resting in the center. With his horn, Equestromeo lifted the shell open to reveal the five blue pearls, each as large as an apple.
One by one, he gently picked them up with his teeth, and placed them in the shark skin pouch Merella had fastened to his side. Then, he ran back the way he came, barely beating the tide which would have trapped him inside for months.
He galloped along the beach, until he reached the rocks where Merella was waiting for him. She unbuckled the pouch, and peered inside. “Now, my love, you must hurry home and wait while I prepare the right spell. Meet me here tomorrow night.”
“Yes, of course, fair Merella.” Equestromeo left. Once she was certain he was gone, she turned into her natural form, a siren, revealing her true identity - she was Serzabel all along.
She stretched her wings in preparation for flight. "Now that I have Merella's pearls, I'll be able to take her form permanently, and have Aquadonis for myself. "
The next night Equestromeo arrived at the rocks, to meet Merella. But, instead of the beguiling mermaid he thought he planned to run away with, he was met by Aquanden, Aquadonis, and several other mermen, all demanding to know where the pearls were.
The sea king and several of his men stepped onto the shore, on legs, such was his power to do so. They backed the unicorn up against the sea leaving him nowhere to run, except the water.
"I gave them to their owner, Merella,” he nervously tried to explain. “She told me they were being kept from her, that she needed them to be free. "
Aquanden looked to Aquadonis and asked, “Is this possible?”
Aquadonis shook his head, “My bride-to-be hasn't left the palace in weeks. Not since she was attacked by the siren.”
“Tell us where they are,” Aquanden demanded once more.
“I promise, I gave them to Merella last night.”
“Enough. Until you decide to tell me the truth, you'll be spending some time under water.” Aquanden changed Equestromeo into a narwhal.
Finnius shackled his horn, now reduced to a tooth sticking out of his head, and dove with him deep beneath the surface.
Once she had the pearls, Serzabel had flown to the island she called home with her sisters. The harpies were there, waiting to collect the pearls so they could prepare the spell to transform Serzabel into Merella, condemning the mermaid princess to the life of a siren.
The sirens and the harpies reached an agreement allowing the latter to keep three of the pearls as payment. They would use them to steal the unicorn's horns, and then use the horns as weapons against their mortal enemies, the fae.
"Well done, Serzabel,” Helinor croaked. “We now have everything necessary to complete the spell, permanently transforming you into Merella, so you may spend your eternity with Aquadonis. We’ll need some time to prepare the spell, and of course it must be done under the right moon. As long as we have the pearls, Aquadonis and Merella cannot be wed, so, we'll have all the time we need."
“Hopefully the merfolk don’t turn all of the unicorns into narwhals before the time comes. We need their horns as unicorns.”
“Oh, but sister, once Serzabel permanently takes Merella’s place, she'll be able to use the mermaid's magic and turn the narwhals back into unicorns.”
“Hmmm, now as I think about it, the narwhals would actually be easier to catch in a net. Then we can transform them and steal their horns all at once rather than having to chase them down individually as unicorns.”
"Your Tidalness, um, we, uh, have another problem," a reluctant merman announced. “Prince Aquadonis is nowhere to be found. The guards said that they saw him swimming off with Merella this afternoon. But, Merella's still locked away in her quarters."
"You’re certain she’s still, well, herself? She hasn't switched places yet? "
“Yes, I checked myself. She said Aquadonis stopped visiting three days ago - until then he hadn't missed a single day. "
Aquanden's worst fears were coming true. "We must find him - now!"
“And what of the narwhal, er, unicorn?
“Send the belugas to find him. They’re much better suited to finding him in the Arctic waters that we are. We must find Aquadonis, before the sirens have him too far under their spell for us to bring him back.”
"Merella, my angelfish, don't you think we should turn back? If we don't, we won't make it back to the palace before dark water.”
“We're almost there, my love, just a little farther, I promise. It'll be worth it, you just have to see this place. It's amazing.”
She led him into a tunnel far at the base of the siren’s isle, and up through narrow passages they swam, until they emerged in a pool at the center of the island. Serzabel used her magic to close the entrance with a boulder so Aquadonis would be trapped inside.
Then, she emerged from the water, landing on shore in her natural form.
Taken aback, Aquadonis exclaimed, “Siren! What have you done with my bride?”
Serzabel said, “She’s right here, my love.”
“You're not Merella.”
“Not yet.” She smiled, showing her sharp pointed rows of teeth. “But, by sunset tomorrow I'll have her form, she'll have mine, and you won't remember this conversation or be capable of telling the difference. So, your bride is right here.”
“But, how? What dark magic is this?”
“Harpy magic, of course.”
“Harpies? They don't do anything unless it ends in their own gain. Why would they do this for you?”
“For the pearls, you silly, silly merman. I'll only need to keep two of them after the transformation. They'll keep and use the other three for themselves.”
“But what on Earth for?”
“To enchant the unicorns and steal their horns, of course. Unicorn horn dust is the only known substance that can combat fairy dust. They believe they even have a spell which will turn the unicorn horn dust into an agent capable of dissolving the faeries themselves.”
“If someone took Merella’s form, harpy magic must be involved,” Aquanden declared. “Only they could be behind such trickery.”
“But, sire, what do they gain from all of this?”
“Neither do I know, or care,” Aquanden retorted. “We must find my son and get him back here before….”
“Before what, sire?”
“Before someone uses those pearls to take Merella’s form permanently.”
Merella entered the chamber, under guard, and announced, “I know who's behind this.”
They all turned to the petite princess, clearing room for her to approach the king. “Your Tidalness, before the war began, Aquadonis and I were on an excursion to collect shells for wedding ornaments. We surfaced on the sands of an island we thought was uninhabited, but soon I felt as though we were being watched. As we were about to leave, a siren swooped in on us. She clawed up my hair and shoulders but my prince fought her off and got us safely away.” She sighed. “There was something in her eyes though. Anger, yes. But, there was something more. I believe she’s the one trying to take my place. It's possible that she saw Aquadonis and decided to take him for herself.”
“If you’re right Merella, then it’s all the more important that we get to Aquadonis before it's too late. Let the unicorns charge into the sea, we’ll no longer defend against them. Try to get word to their leader Univerre, and let him know we must meet. Now that we know who's behind all of this, perhaps we can work together to put an end to the harpies plot.”
Queen Marina asked, “Merella, do you think that you would be able to find your way back to the same island?”
“I, well - I suppose I might. Yes, yes, I think I can,” Merella, initially a little unsure, realized she could find that island, and she would have to in order to save her love.
“I'm sure they will have it heavily guarded now, we'll have to send protection with you,” Aquanden decided. To Finnius, he said, “Send a crane with word to the unicorns, if possible, or a pelican if not. This is too sensitive a matter to trust to a seagull, they're far too unreliable. Make sure they tell him we’re working to return Equestromeo to them, but, we may need their assistance in defeating the harpies. Tell them what we suspect about the harpies plot.”
“Yes, sir. I’ll send word right away.”
Univerre twitched his tail and scratched at the ground with his hooves as the white crane delivered the sea king's message. "The harpies have been behind all of this from the beginning? They've manipulated the sirens into manipulating Equestromeo, and have now kidnapped the prince of the Turquoise Tail folk? All of this time we've wasted fighting each other, when really it was our natural enemies working against us all along.” He told the crane, “Tell the merfolk we are with them - we will cease our conflict now and return their people to the sea. And, we will join them to help in any way we can to get the pearls back to their rightful owner.”
The crane nodded, and repeated the sea king's promise. “Your people will be returned to you as soon as we can find them and bring them to your shores . We can't change them back into unicorns while they're in the Arctic Ocean as they would drown and freeze. Aquanden himself wishes to meet with you at the rocks on the shore this evening to plan our next move.”
“We will be there.”
The belugas returned with the narwhal they sought just as Aquanden was getting ready to leave and meet with Univerre. Though, as a narwhal, he was unable to speak, Aquanden was able to communicate with him telepathically. He let him know they would be returning him to shore and restoring his natural form once they arrived and met with his uncle. “I should have given you the chance to speak sooner and I am sorry. But, now it looks like we all need to work together to save our people, and our dear friends, the fae.”
Univerre called upon a hummingbird, “Go to Faedra, tell her we need to meet, but her people need to stand guard. The harpies have been plotting against us and I'm afraid that they may strike the fae, as well, soon.”
The unicorn and his court headed to the shore, while many of the other unicorns were sent out to round up the pygmy deer who were really merfolk transformed. As they arrived at the shore, one by one, Univerre sent them to the water and changed them back to merfolk.
Soon after, one by one, unicorns began emerging from the sea, some riding in on waves, others swimming to the river mouth to climb out of calmer water.
When sixteen hundred eighty unicorns stood on the beach, Aquanden emerged from the water with Oceania, Marina, and Finnius, all on legs. The king turned and Equestromeo rose out of the water, horn first, stepping up onto the rocky shore.
"Uncle," he exclaimed. "I'm so sorry for all of this - well, whatever is going on here. I'm not really sure."
"We'll deal with all of that later, nephew," Univerre assured him. "Right now I need to know if you know anything else that could help."
The young stallion shook his mane. "You've already told me more than I knew."
"Now we need to get the pearls and Aquadonis before it's too late."
Equestromeo turned to Aquanden, "Please, Your Tidalness, do you have the power to give me wings?"
"I've never tried that before. But, I suppose I might."
"Then, I think I have a way to get Aquadonis and the pearls back at the same time."
The harpies and the sirens gathered around a cauldron with a thick greenish blackish bubbling sludge. “We must keep stirring until it glows,” the harpy said. “Then we’ll know it's time to begin.” She opened the pouch with the pearls and lined them up in the sand around the cauldron.
Equestromeo and three other stallions flew in, swooping down upon them, kicking sand in the cauldron and sending the harpies and sirens fleeing for cover.
Amid the commotion, Merella and Aquadonis - freed from his trance by his true love - both on legs, scrambled through the sand to collect the pearls The unicorns blasted at the harpies and sirens with bolts from their horns warning them they best retreat. Once they had sufficient distance between them, Equestromeo turned to Merella, and she nodded. Two unicorns landed for Merella and Aquadonis to climb up and fly out of there with them.
The sky darkened as the unicorns retreated with their merfolk friends. Aquadonis looked up and saw thousands of fairies flying in formation, headed straight for the harpies and sirens. Hundreds swooped down and dumped their pouches of dust into the cauldron while others sprinkled theirs around the whole island.
As the unicorns and merfolk flew away, they heard a loud boom and turned their heads to look to see a giant pink cloud envelop the island.
Merella said, “Well, I suppose that should hold them for a while.”
As they approached the meeting place on shore, Aquadonis and Merella both jumped from the backs of the unicorns, splashing into the water. As the unicorns landed on the shore, Aquadonis and Merella swam up to join them.
Univerre and Aquanden both felt foolish for having let their war get as far as it did. In the end, they were both grateful they didn’t fight for blood.
With all creatures of both sides restored to their normal magical selves, and ultimately no true harm having come to any of them, they realized how much of a blessing and gift the ending to their conflict was, and vowed forever more, they would indeed communicate with each other before jumping to conclusions.
“After all, that is what sets us apart from the humans isn't it?” said Equestromeo. “Our ability to solve our conflicts with logic and communication as opposed to violence?”