Something Wicked This Way Comes

Friday, February 13, 2015

FREE FICTION FRIDAYS #14 THE FOREST LORD

Welcome to the 14th installment of my fantasy The Forest Lord. I hope you enjoy it!

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The Forest Lord #14; by Tucker McCallahan:

The first shadow unicorns were the product of an unholy union between a unicorn and the infernal nightmare who corrupted him.

According to the legends, a nightmare who had grown weary of her entrapment in hell sought out the perfect creature to despoil. She found a proud unicorn who had as his requirement for retaining purity the task of guarding a small wood. Since she wasn’t able to leave her hellish imprisonment, the nightmare visited the unicorn in his dreams, masquerading as a black unicorn. She flattered the unicorn, appealing to his sense of vanity and his tremendous ego. When he was smitten by the beautiful ebony-haired unicorn, she told him of a vast, unclaimed forest, desperately in need of a guardian.

Night after night, the nightmare appeared to the unicorn, preying on his sense of self-importance. She assured the unicorn that the denizens of the forest would not only be obedient and respectful should he come to serve as their Forest Lord, they would be thankful as well. After all, any inhabitant of the grand forest would be lucky to have such a magnificent creature as their lord. The nightmare took advantage of the unicorn’s loneliness, a secret which the proud beast had kept hidden from the world. She promised him both her gratitude and her heart if the unicorn would leave his wood and take charge of the forest she offered.

Wooed by the nightmare’s promises and blind to her deception, the unicorn forsook his sacred duty. He abandoned his wood to journey to the vast forest he had seen so many times in his dreams. As he removed the final protective glyph from his borders, a wrenching sensation shook him right down to his hooves. No longer pure, his aura now bore a tarnish.

Though deep down he knew what had happened, the unicorn shook it off. He was convinced of the rightness of his choice and continued to justify it as he journeyed. His wood would survive just fine without him. The forest he traveled to needed his protection. More importantly, he went to join his female. She occupied his every waking thought and his dreams as well. He would gladly suffer a smudge on his soul if it meant he might finally have a mate, foals, and a family.

When he reached the forest, though, all was not as his beloved portrayed. The forest was indeed vast; it was far too large for one unicorn to guard. Its need for protection was far more desperate than had been portrayed. Factions of various monsters had divided the land up into territories. Their violent wars left huge swaths of the forest destroyed. Parts of the forest were nothing more than bloody, churned up, smoking ruins. The forest inhabitants who hadn’t been killed were conscripted into serving in whoever’s army was in their backyard.

Worst of all, the ebony-haired unicorn was nowhere in sight.

The unicorn fell into fitful sleep and thankfully, his beloved appeared in his dreams. The Goblyn King had discovered her call for help, she claimed, and his fear of the unicorn was so great that he captured her and even now held her in the center of the forest in his dark and evil lair.

The unicorn despaired. Alone, he couldn’t possibly reach his beloved and set her free.

For days he stalked the edges of the great forest, despondent, until in mad desperation, he hit upon a solution.

He would forge an alliance with the giant spiders. They were the sworn enemies of the goblyns, and for a small amount of territory they would aid him. A small voice inside his mind rebelled at this notion, screaming at him. We make no alliances with monsters! They are your sworn enemies! But the dream vision of his beloved in the clutches of filthy goblyns was more than he could bear, and the unicorn ignored that voice, ruthlessly shoving it to the furthest reaches of his mind.

Worried that one alliance wouldn’t be sufficient to defeat the goblyns, the unicorn and the Queen of the giant spiders agreed they would need another. To ensure he could free his beloved, the unicorn sought out and secured the gnarigs. Giant two-legged rodents covered in long peppery red hair, the gnarigs had human intelligence, were as physically dexterous as woodland elves, and had the hearty constitutions of dwarves. Their weaknesses lay in their need to move and work as a pack, their extreme sensitivity to light, and their tendency to become easily distracted. Nonetheless, the giant spiders and gnarigs had been allies before and firmly believed in the tried and true saying, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

As the pact for the dual alliance became final, the unicorn was once again assailed by horrific, wrenching spasms that wracked his entire body. The tarnish that began as a smudge on his soul spread to encompass more than half of its surface area.

The unicorn could not run from the effect its actions had upon it.

Despite that, the unicorn remained determined to rescue his beloved. With an army of giant spiders and gnarigs flowing behind him, the unicorn plunged into the forest and set off for the Goblyn King’s Lair.  When at last the war broke out and the unicorn dealt death with its long, sharp, spiral horn for the very first time in thousands of years, the tarnishing became total.

The nightmare claimed the unicorn’s soul for all eternity, just as she’d planned.

The nightmare trapped the unicorn in bondage, and used him to escape from the infernal pits. Their mating was not the blessing the unicorn had hoped for but a devastating tragedy, an unholy union between two creatures who were never meant to produce offspring.

According to the legend, from that very first mating, the first shadow unicorn twins were born. They destroyed their infernal mother, devouring her as they were born. Once they consumed her flesh, their link to the infernal plane was secured and their reign of gloom and terror began.

Nobody knows what happened to the unicorn. He might’ve perished from the nightmare’s betrayal and subsequent grief over the loss of his purity. More likely he is still wandering the vast forest, hopelessly seeking some way to redeem his progeny as the ghost of his beloved wails on the forest winds and stabs her fiery horn through his cold, cold heart.

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The group arrived at the Orespen Bridge, with the Professor’s story still fresh in their minds. A massive structural marvel of both engineering and magic, the Orespen Bridge allowed the Great Eastern Road to pass from the western Adintana Forest to the eastern Adintana Forest while spanning the Mazu River. None of them spoke as they set up camp. Each was lost in thought, images of the Professor’s words swirling through their minds. This foe was unlike any other they had ever faced.

According to the Professor, because Orespen Bridge marked the precise center of the plane it was a convergence point for all sorts of magical, spiritual, and mystical energies. The shadow unicorn wouldn’t be able to use its teleportation ability to ambush them here for the same reason that their group hadn’t been able to teleport directly to the Bridge from the Professor’s Mountain. They wouldn’t be caught unaware.

As night fell and a thick mist rolled up off the Mazu River obscuring sight in every direction, every member of the group including T’Riss wondered just how much of the Professor’s legend was true… and whether being ready for an attack would be enough to keep them all alive.

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Thanks so much for reading! Comments are, as always, craved and appreciated. 




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Be Well ~ Tux



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