by Bob'n Around
How a legend turned fantasy into fact.
|3652 Word count entry into February’s "The Whatever Contest" Prompt: The Unicorns and Mermaids are on the verge of war or war has already broken out. Spin tales of what happened to bring this about, how the war is going, or who wins and why/how. This is inspired by Lilli ☕, the mermaid lover, Robert Edward Baker, the unicorn lover, and Alisha P. , the one smart enough to remain neutral.
Written for "The Whatever Contest." "The Whatever Contest"
Time immemorial. What humans thought of legends and fantasies of bygone eras still thrived. Magic ruled this wonder place, disguising a remote earthly realm where a shifting shoreline became the border between known and unknown worlds.
It was not always so. The unicorn appeared in early Mesopotamian artworks, and it also was referred to in the ancient myths of India and China. Those who drank from its horn were thought to be protected from stomach trouble, epilepsy, and poison. This and other mythical creatures favored by what mankind mistakenly thought of as gods and semi-gods, played supernaturally with men’s minds and superstitions.
Mermaids became a favorite of ancient sea goers as the gods played tricks upon each other, bored with the continual bickering, sly rivalries for worshipful affection wrought forth by earth’s first civilizations and religions.
One of the earliest mermaid legends appeared in Syria around 1000 BC when the goddess Atargatis dove into a lake to take the form of a fish. As the gods there would not allow her to give up her great beauty, only her bottom half became a fish, and she kept her top half in human form.
In Greece, the Sirens were dangerous creatures, who lured nearby sailors with their enchanting music and singing voices to shipwreck on the rocky coast of their island. Threatened by encroaching trade and warships, mermaids fought back, trying to reclaim their receding peaceful natural habitat.
As happens with fact turned legend, often told tales replaced real events. Stories of mermaids grew in number, reverence and fancy over thousands of years as they spanned cultures across the world - from coastal settlements in Ireland to the landlocked Karoo desert in South Africa.
In the end, these magical creatures cloaked themselves with mankind’s eventual disbelief. No longer did sailors search the distant seas for signs of their appearance. Only this harbinger of fate hid a volcanic island whose shore is covered in deep watery mist where the two kingdoms of Unicorns and Mermaids flourish.
You wouldn't think a Unicorn would become enthralled with a Mermaid. Some say its beginning occurred when Prince Jack heard Princess Mary's siren call while sunning offshore on an island rock. If so, it was an innocent song filled with love for the pristine day and unspoiled landscape around her. The restless air carried her music tantalizingly close to Prince Jack's flicking ears only to flirt away into silence, then back again.
The fragrant wind of his island paradise mixed with her salty breeze carried the soothing calm of her voice to him alone. It was a rare moment when the prince was allowed privacy to roam along his sandy shore. The Unicorn court was troubled. The king was ill from age.
Any moment Prince Jack would be summoned back to fulfill his fate as new ruler over his island home. Father and son did not get along so well. Prince Jack's mother had been the calm loving weather between their storms. The son's never ending curiosity about the world outside his domain evoked anger and fear from the king. He was too ingrained in the relentless march of mankind's ageless hunt to turn Unicorns into legends without lives or places to roam free.
Prince Jack looked up from his thoughts, when the guard’s horns blew, indicating the threat of planes passing overhead was past. Birds, once again, fluttered and settled in place. The mist shrouded island melted back into its emerald isle form. “Father will be proud of me, mixing magic with kingly art. I can’t wait to tell him about my feat.”
Unicorns had adapted, as all creatures who survive and thrive must. Their horns, indeed, were magical things, in tune with and acting upon whatever they touched. Vibrations awoke and fashioned molecules into new formations, fashioned by a well trained Unicorn's mere thoughts. This freak of nature made up for Unicorns having no hands to shape or work things.
The horse looking creatures used this means to communicate between themselves and all other beasts on land or sea, whenever they so desired. The wind carried vibrations turned into speech were an added one of God's blessings for tongues that could not speak.
The song of the siren mermaid fading in and out of the wind, was replaced by trumpet calls of the king's retinue beseeching Prince Jack's courtly presence. "Coming." His nimble feet splashed waves back off the shore, ripples slowly spread and reached Princess Mary, tickling her fins. It was time for her to be off back to her underwater coral kingdom.
She too, was on the cusp of mighty change. The population of her kind had become so great it had to expand. The great lake on the island had been scouted out by its river ending on the shore. The kingdoms of Unicorns and Mermaids did not take kindly to each other's demands.
“Something smells fishy,” Princess Mary stopped combing her long mane of hair. The rock she sat upon gave a good view of the kingdom of the Unicorns. They were a horny breed, forever kicking their heels up, horsing around and playing jokes, teasing, mermaid emissaries wishing audience with the Unicorn king.
Unicorns wanted free claim to water their expanding herds. Plans had been made to dam up the lake the Mermaids had invaded. Skirmishes between the two races became pronounced.
"How is he?" Prince Jack pawed uneasily, snorting his displeasure at the sight of so many hanger on's getting in his way. He pushed on through to the king's chamber. A single pool of light shown over his father's white mane and head.
"Is that you, Jack?"
"I am here. How bad is it?"
"My court physician's magic has done all his magical horn can. All the training of the ages has been brought to bear. I am not long for this world. I will soon leave it in your hands." There was a troubled tone to the message sent to Prince Jack's listening ears. "I'm wondering if you are up to the task. I do not want civil war. Nephew Thomas is ready to take up the mantle if you refuse it. We must decide while I am still alive."
From out of the darkened silence surrounding the king's resting place, plodded a fine white stallion. Thomas made knee and bowed his head. "At your service, your majesty. I am yours to command, but be it known the herds are restless. Your son is known not to seek the throne. He prefers communing with nature. There are many who question his ability to wage a successful war against the siren's beguiling our own to make pacts, give up our precious waters and surrender to their will."
The king nodded sadly. He was aware of the threat. "The mermaids think they know better than us, mean to rule us and make us carriers of their burdens across our own lands, dig canals with our own feet to gain access to the land of our birth."
He rose slowly on his haunches, stared from Thomas to his Jack, his son. "We have had our differences. They threaten to crack our kingdom in two. Tell me you will make Thomas the commanding general with discretionary power to conquer this foreign power while you rule in peace among our own."
Jack knelt before the king, his father, "If that be your wish. I prefer healing. I will do what I can."
Thomas gave a disdainful snort. "So be it. As long as you mind your ways. Stir up trouble and nothing will reign me in." With that, he turned his back upon father and son.
Within a week the king lay in state, a monument to his race on how well he had governed during his long years of service. The funeral pyre was lit near the shore, where the salty winds could blow his spirit free. Sparks of fiery embers shot skyward like tiny missiles landing hissing as bombs littering the surface of Princess Mary's under water enclave.
Schools of frightened fish darted down to the reaches below. "They are using a new weapon trying to destroy our food supply," one of the mermaid guards announced, fresh from the heights where she had been guarding above.
Princess Mary read the scared faces of her kin young and old, frightened and angry, waiting for her to carry the message to their king. "Father?"
"I have heard. They go too far. If it is full out war they want, they shall have the losing end." The mermaid king, too, was advanced in age. Worry had worn his fine features into wrinkles and sorrow bore its weight down upon his shoulders. "I have trained you as well as I could. Given you more responsibility than your young years should have need to possess."
"What do you want me to do, father?" Princess Mary was afraid she knew the answer she had been groomed for. With all the power in her being, she wished to flee the responsibility of waging full out war with its devestation befouling land, sea and those who depended upon such for survival.
"You cannot stop it. It has already begun. I pray you may find a way to make it end in our favor, child." The king groaned, spread his arms, took Mary within them, rocking her to his troubled heart.
"Poseidon calls me to him. It is near time for me to swim to his deepest domain and surrender myself to his eternal care. I have prepared the court. I will do what I can from the other side to prompt Poseidon to assist us. The Unicorns think to rule over us, make us servants bringing them provender from the sea to swell their overpopulation until it stinks upon the streams and rivers, carrying poison oval into our very homes."
The King's will was complete. The ceremony of his leaving commenced without delay. It was bitter short and sweet ending in his solitary exit towards the cold depths of darkness shrouding Poseidon's realm where it was rumored the god dwelt. Princess Mary was crowned, given the royal scepter and urged to seek revenge for the Unicorn corruption of the mermaid realm.
"We cannot reveal ourselves. Wait until dark. Do your best to cleanse our habitat from falling debris." That thought, carried out, would give Princess Mary time to plan what to do next. The Unicorns were aware of the major weapon of the siren song used against them. It was becoming less and less effective as a means of aggression or defense.
Dark came thankfully with solid clouds and rain. Fish were sent out to test the waters, scout the surface and come back with reports as to the lay of the shoreline. The use of Mermaid hands enabled with tools had tunneled under the Unicorn armed camp shelters in water filled chambers ready to be blown sky high.
"We have to move fast. Their ever growing strength in numbers and the way they are polluting where the waters where they rest are beginning to make our forces sick." Beth, chief counselor to Mary's father gave her personal report.
"It is as bad or worse than when mankind treated us so. We are caught between two evil fates. The new ruler has been seen patroling his military along the lake shore. I am sure he is marshaling his forces ready for a major push to drive us out. One good landslide and our navy will be split in two, half inside the lake, the other side out." The urgency in Beth's voice rang with controlled fury.
She was used to getting her way with the old king. Mary's hesitation was nearly unbearable. Untold, Beth had already sent orders for the charges to be set at her command in the underground caverns. The Unicorns would be crushed and Mary forced to accept the result. Her eyes flickered with scorn shrouded behind her thick eyelashes.
"I see you want to check things out. Come, I'll take you on tour of the battle line drawn." Perhaps the new ruler would be buried along with her fear of the coming battle turning island and see into a wasteland neither force could live within.
"All right." Princess Mary had learned a few well taught political tricks of her own. Keeping those who had broken faith in the past close beside her was better than letting them wander into uncharted waters on their own. "You say, Prince Jack is touring our border for weakness? How close does he come to the shore?"
"He and that deadly mastermind counselor of his called Thomas, band together bickering and neighing this and that unlikely solution to getting directly at us." Beth laughed at their unease. "It is all that holds them back from staring an avalanche of rocks and soil damning up the river of our new homes." Beth made ready, donning armor, pike and military backpack filled with newer weapons of invention. She looked forward to trying them out upon what would be left of the alien forces moving against her.
If all went well, she would become ruler overnight, laying claim to the entire lake and river systems leading into it. The Unicorns would have to surrender and be made slaves to her will or die of thirst. That could be arranged for those who resisted her command. "Come. There is no time to be lost. You can call your counselors to come follow you later."
Princess Mary knew something was up that lay barely hidden beneath Beth's words. If she was to deal with this emergency she would have to make decisions as opportunity came along. Instead of following the counselor, she swam ahead, leading the way. "Come one. Come all. Spread the word. We are meeting at the opening to the lake."
"Fool. That's where they want us. They'll detect the very waves we make. If you are the head of such a venture, you'll be buried beneath the rubble of their newly made dam." Beth could not believe how stupid her new mistress was. Having her dead as a martyr and loss of the lake would turn her plans into nothing but a waste of time.
It would give their enemy time to advance and fortify their cause. Ships would be sent out against the mermaids. Nets would be caste to catch them and the schools of fish that were the mermaids main meal supply. Beth raced, her fins arching up and down to weave her speed into higher gear. "Wait. You put you and our kingdom at risk."
Princess Mary bobbed her head up out of the water, shook spray from her long hair and climbed up on her favorite rock offering her a commanding view. "Tell me what you have done, Beth. I saw your shifty eyed sisters shock at seeing me near black cave entrances under the shore."
"There. See? Prince Jack and his counselor Thomas. Staring right at us. Duck your head or we'll both be lost along with our advantage."
The horns of the unicorn guard surrounding Prince Jack and Thomas began to sound a warning. Waves of approaching Mermaids began to flood a rising tsunami and cascade the foaming angry water higher as it raced towards the shore.
The magic horns of the Unicorn army began to vibrate a wall towering equally high to meet and clash in an impossible embrace. The wave broke and fled, bobbing mermaids fighting to stay afloat along its path. The wall shivered, trembled and fell into formless sand.
"Now," sang Beth, signaling her secret agents to blow the caverns. None were there to obey. They'd been swept out to sea.
"Release the avalanche," commanded counselor Thomas, whirling and dancing in exultant excitement. The weight of the falling sand had made that option to weighty to be let go. The mass of rock groaned and settled into place.
Left to their own devices, Princess Mary and Prince Jack made their way towards each other, stared into each other's eyes, where the same feelings of anger and fear mixed and reflected remorse. "Bring your best to battle with ours. We'll settle this here and now. It is the only way to keep nature with us instead of against us." Princess Mary sang out her siren song.
"Or neither kingdom will survive its onslaught. we'll be as worse off as the human world which surrounds us in its deadly filth, poisoned environment mass extinction, and climate change." Prince Jack echoed back, his horn raised high above his head.
He nudged Thomas forward to meet the challenge. Princess Mary did the same with Beth. The two already enraged at losing their carefully charted fate leading to ultimate power, met at the newly washed shore's edge.
Unicorn horns sounded like roiling thunder. Mermaid siren song flashed and met it like strikes of lightening. The two able warriors were equally matched. Both groups gathered to surround the fighters in a circle.
Thomas made the first move, dancing his hooves thrashing foam into the water as Beth flung herself blindly upon the Unicorn's back. Her fin back for precarious balance. She wrapped her hands into the mane and sunk her teeth into one of Thomas' ears.
"Hold on. Grab his horn. Tear it off," sang Beth's assemblage of followers.
"Shake her off." Thomas was encouraged by some of his band. Other's shouted, "Carry her up onto solid rock and stomp her," others demanded with equal blood lust.
Instead a strange sight met their combined gaze.
Worn out by their wrestling, jumping, wild force of intertwining twists and turns, the two paused. Thomas' breath heaved in and out, done in. Beth's teeth felt ready to fall out from being clenched so tight. Her arms were made of rubber.
"Is it a tie, or do you wish to continue, between you and me?" asked Princess Mary.
"No need. Come. Rest on my back and we'll figure out how to make some sort of peace." Prince Jack knelt as he would to no other than one equal to his kingly status. With a flip that sent her skyward, Princess Mary settled as firmly as she could in place.
It was a fine thing for Prince Jack to have hands willing to help him with personal asides he'd never felt before. Grooming and combing as they rode together shortly became and addiction he did not want to do without. On her part, Princess Mary found roaming on four solid feed placed galloping under her in the wind, offered an equal experience not to be denied.
"Where did Thomas and Beth disappear off to?" she wondered aloud. A siren song of bliss and well being greeted their ears from a near hill top.
"Come on. The tie is broken. Unicorn and Mermaid are both the winner. Join forces and obey our mutual command." With little urging, the two groups joined, a few nervously at first, followed by a rush not to be left out.
In a hidden part of the world by choice, Mermaid and Unicorn have married their fortunes together, each the better for it, now best friends.
There is talk and wonder at how to broach their existence with the outer world being destroyed by man. Perhaps the shock of their legend being made reality will be enough to shake sense into humans.
Both populations of Mermaids and Unicorns settled within normal boundaries as each became captivated by interest in the music, cuisine, culture and scientific revolution offered by differing non-threatening points of view.
It became apparent that their lives were still under threat of destruction. It came from the encroaching suicidal actions from the world beyond
Mermaids sent out their scouts beyond the boundaries of their island paradise. Unicorns made ready with the magic enabled by their talented horns. They could no longer wait for the cries of help from a vanishing world.
Signs of Mermaids cleaning the oceans of the world were announced and taken apart between unbelievers. Strange mist shrouded ships manned by horned Unicorns and Mermaids rescuing the last of threatened flora and fauna were sighted by sailors usually unwilling to share what they'd seen.
A new kind of warfare emerged into competition during the changing balance of power. Mermaid and Unicorn experts were adopted at great expense by military complexes and international conglomerates building ever more creative solutions stimulated by overwhelming crises in impossible time limits.
"We've been summoned by powerful leaders in their United Nations. China, Russia and the United States are arguing with each other about what to do with the Arctic freezing back up, the ozone layer healing itself, and migrations back to the lands they called home." Prince Jack nudged Princess Mary with his nose. "I didn't think it would be this easy. Our grass roots effort is being welcomed by locals everywhere we go."
"Shelter, food, clean water and a little magic made real are turning the tide." Princess Mary sang softly. The old ways were crumbling.
A new legend was growing about Mermaids and Unicorns across land and sea. The tales about Mermaids as guardians of life required less vigilance as they and equal stories of Unicorn magic were spread abroad.
The fascination of meeting a real life fantasy made real was the necessary wedge of incredulity turned into fact that offered a changed perspective conquering and bringing life to a dying world.