FanFic - Other
"Dreams of Unicorns"
Part 5
by Cotti
Disclaimer: You know the drill for disclaimers etc...
Category: Other
Rating: PG-13
Michael found himself in a wood, light filtered green through the canopy of leaves, and the air was warm.

Voices carried up the pathway to him, and he ducked behind a tree so as not to be noticed.

"Did you see me? Were you watching, did - did you see what I made?" it sounded like Alex, but Michael didn't think it was.

"Yes. It was true magic," Michael heart lifted at the sound of Maria's voice, but he did not move, afraid of frightening or angering her.

"Yeah. It's gone now, but I-I had it. It had me, but it's gone. I-I couldn't hold it," the man with Alex's voice appeared, he was tall and gangly, but was obviously not Alex Whitman. He walked with one of the most beautiful creatures he could imagine, a fair unicorn, white as the virgin snow, her mane tumbling around her like silver rain.

A woman stepped from the trees across the road, "Leaving us so early, magician?" she asked in Isabel's voice. The unicorn dashed into the foliage, and Michael caught a glimpse of Isabel and Alex standing with her there.

The woman who spoke with Isabel's voice gasped, stumbling forwards.

"No," she whispered, her hand covering her mouth, "can it truly be?" she stepped forward to better look at the marvelous creature. "Where have you been? Where have you been?" she was shouting now, tears shining in her eyes, "damn you, where have you been?!"

"Don't you talk to her that way!" the tall man with Alex's voice shouted stepping between the unicorn and the woman.

"I'm here now," the unicorn said, moving past the tall man.

"Oh?" the woman said tiredly, "and where were you twenty years ago, ten years ago?" she demanded stumbling forward and falling to her knees. "Where were you when I was new?" she continued, tears falling from her eyes, "when I was one of those innocent, young maidens you always come to?" she curled up upon herself and began to sob, before raising her head and glaring at the unicorn. "How dare you, how dare you come to me now, when I am this?"

The unicorn moved forward, nuzzling the woman gently.

"Can you really see her? Do you really know what she is?" the tall man asked, skeptically.

"If you had been waiting to see a unicorn as long as I have..." the woman said quietly, getting to her feet.

"She's the last unicorn in the world," he said solemnly, and Michael felt something ache within him, and somehow he knew that Maria was feeling what he had felt all his life: truly and completely alone.

"It would be the last unicorn in the world that came to Molly Grue," she laughed sadly and sniffed. "It's all right," she murmured, stroking the unicorn's muzzle, "I forgive you…"

"Well, it's time for us to go now," the tall man said, and the woman straightened herself.

"I'm ready," she said firmly.

"What?" the man asked, confused, "you can't come with us! We're on a quest!"

"Can't I?" the woman asked, her hands on her hips, "ask her."

"Never! I, Schmendrick the Magician, forbid it!" he said with a flourish, and more than one peal of laughter rang out through the stillness of the wood. "And be wary of wousing a wizard's wrath - rousing a rizard's - rou - Be wary of making a-a magician angry! If I chose I could turn you into a frog!"

Isabel tumbled from the bushes, laughing heavily, and Alex followed, laughing equally as hard.

Michael moved over to them quickly, still chuckling.

"I should laugh myself sick," the woman said lightly, "have sense, man. What were you going to do with the last unicorn in the world - keep her in a cage?"

Michael extended a silent arm to Isabel, who looked up at him in surprise, but took his hand and pulled herself up.

"Oh, you don't even know where we're going!" Schmendrick said in exasperation.

"Do you think it matters to me?" the woman laughed.

"We are journeying to King Haggard's country to find the Red Bull!" the magician shouted, throwing up his arms.

"Well you're going the wrong way!" the woman said, and she turned to lead them the other way.

Michael, Isabel and Alex followed closely.

"Why do they have your voices?" Michael asked, looking at Isabel.

"They represent who we could be in this story, who we would be if the roles were reversed."

Michael nodded, before realization struck him. "If the roles were reversed?"

Alex nodded, having heard the argument between the two before everything had begun to spiral downwards.

"Yes, this is what you said, the last thing she heard from you. Everything comes down to you in this Michael, everything always comes back to you."

Michael nodded, feeling that ache within him grow. They walked on for what seemed like days, none of the intruders speaking, they only listened to the friendly banter between the magician and Molly Grue.

On the eve of the third night of the second week they crested a large rise, and saw in the misty dusk a bony, jagged castle.

"Haggard's fortress. We'll be there tomorrow if we walk all night," the magician said quietly, and the unicorn seemed to shudder.

"Where does Haggard keep the Red Bull?" she asked as they descended the rise.

"I have heard that he roams at night and lies up by day in a great cavern beneath the castle - but we'll know soon enough," he said, and Michael looked at Alex, the voice was identical, but there wasn't the lightness that his voice held.

If Alex had spoken, Michael would have realized, the lightness he associated with his travelling companion was not only a distant memory.

The party of travelers settled in a clearing for the night, a fire blazed in the center of it. Molly was curled within Schmendrick's cloak, and Isabel sat with her in the roots of a large tree, watching her counterpart sleep.

Alex watched at the magician lay back on the hard earth to stare up at the stars. He eventually joined the man, unnoticed, and they both eventually fell into sleep.

Michael sat off with the unicorn, watching the perfect creature as she slept, his vigil was undisturbed by reflection, or thought, or conversation. The unicorn stirred, halfway through the night, and looked up at the stars, and her thoughts rang through Michael's head, terrifying him.

'Are there truly others like me?' Maria's voice rang clear, and it was the same thought he had often fallen asleep with. 'Or am I wandering on in vain?' she sighed audibly and lay back down.

The fire had spluttered and nearly gone out when a rich light struck the sky and lit it on fire.

He jumped to his feet at the same moment the unicorn did.

Molly Grue and Isabel were awake in a flash as the unicorn's whinny broke the night's stillness.

Molly bounded over to the sleeping man, "Schmendrick, the light!"

The magician rose to see the Red Bull hurtling towards the unicorn, who reared and took off, running from the flaming beast.

Michael was shoved aside by Alex, just before the Bull would have slammed into him.

The chase peaked, but the bull didn't slow, or lose ground.

"Do something!" Molly cried, and Isabel looked at Alex and Michael pleadingly, as if asking them the same thing.

"He's driving her! He can't want to kill her or-or he would have done it by now!" the magician cried, shielding Molly from the Bull's heat as it passed.

"He's driving her the way he drove the others - to the castle, to King Haggard!"

"Please! Please do something!" Molly cried, clutching at the magician tightly.

"What can I do? Do you think the Red Bull likes card tricks?" he demanded, looking at the unicorn, the bull was gaining on her, and he frowned. "If I could I'd change her into some other creature, some beast too humble for the Bull to be concerned with. But that would take a real magician, with real magic - and I can't pretend any more," he hung his head, ashamed, and resigned himself to watching as the unicorn was pressed towards the castle.

"But you do," she said, looking into his eyes. "You have magic. Maybe you can't find it, but it's there," she struggled to prove it to him, "you called Robin Hood, and there is no Robin Hood. You have all the power you need, if you dare to look for it!"

The magician looked at her strangely for a moment, before he saw the unicorn slow, and give into the Bull's demands.

"Please!" Molly sobbed, falling to her knees. "It's not fair!"

Schmendrick locked eyes with the unicorn and shouted, "run! Run, now! Run!"

The unicorn only looked at him sadly, her head tilted to the side. Schmendrick ran at the Bull, trying to distract it, but was tossed aside like a rag doll.

"Schmendrick!" Molly cried, running to him.

The magician stood, his eyes firmly shut.

"Magic, do as you will…" it was a mantra, and as it grew louder, stronger, the winds picked up and a faint mist surrounded the unicorn. She reared on her hind legs, and slowly, tortuously, they all saw her change shape. Her slender muzzle was pulled back, leaving a beautiful, human face, her forelegs gradually shifted shape to that of long, slender arms. The hind legs doing the same, her hooves shifting to feet, and extending up into long legs. He mane remained the same, white and shining, and falling all around her like a waterfall. And her flesh was as pure and white as virgin snow.

But she was no horse, no unicorn, she was human, and in the place of her horn stood a pale, red star on her forehead.

Molly rushed to the girl, and the Bull moved off, baffled at the loss of his prize. She cradled the girl in her arms, looking over at the magician.

"What have you done?" she asked, her voice full of terror and sorrow. "What have you done?!"

"What do you mean, what have I done?" he demanded, and the intruders moved slowly over to the huddled group. "Only saved her from the Red Bull by magic, that's all I've done! By magic! By my own true magic!" the magician was obviously thrilled, and placed his hands on his hips. "Doubtless you are wondering how I plan to return her to her proper shape. Wonder not. The power will come to me whenever I need it. And one day, one day it will come to me when I call! You were right! You were right," he smiled down at her, at the girl, but his proud face fell.

"I didn't know you meant to turn her into a human girl!" Molly shouted at him, holding the girl close to her.

"The Red Bull came for a unicorn, so she had to become something else. The magic chose the shape, not I. I am a bearer! I am a dwelling! I am a messenger!" he flailed his arms about wildly in emphasis.

"You are an idiot!" she shouted back at him, "do you hear me? You've lost her!" the magician's joy shattered as she continued. "You've trapped her inside a human body! She'll go mad!"

The girl stirred, and sat up.

"I can change her back. Don't worry about it. I-I can change her back," he said apologetically, and Isabel felt tears begin to stream down her face.

The girl tried to walk, but stumble to her hands and knees.

"What have you done to me?" she asked incredulously.

Molly began to sob, "oh, no. Oh, please, no!"

The magician looked at the girl and felt his heart break, "you see, I couldn't think of anything else I could do to save you," he murmured, trying to condone his actions.

"What have you done to me?" the girl wailed, and with Maria's voice she tore through Michael with a searing blade. "I'm a unicorn!" she sobbed, curling up upon herself. "I'm a unicorn!"

Molly grabbed her shoulders and eased the cloak she still wore around the girl. "Don't! Don't, you'll hurt yourself!" she murmured holding her tightly.

Michael knelt beside the girl and touched her gently, stroking her hair as she sobbed.

"Be still!" the magician said sharply. "The magic knew what it was doing. In this shape alone you have some hope of reaching King Haggard and finding out what has become of the other unicorns," he tried to calm her, tried to reason.

The girl stood, looking at her fingers, her hands, "I wish you had let the Red Bull take me," she cried, her voice broken and terrible. "I wish you had left me to the harpy!" she shook her head, her voice rising to a high, desperate tone. "I can feel this body dying all around me!"

The magician stepped back, truly sorry for his actions. "But - but it's only for a little while, I promise you! Soon you'll have your true shape again, forever!"

"Why not now? Schmendrick, you can't let her stay like this, you can't possibly!" Molly said standing to face him defiantly.

"Why not? Unless you think you could defeat the Bull if you met him again," he replied, shooting the last to the girl.

"No," the girl whispered, and shook her head. "But I am afraid of this human body," she murmured, looking up at the stars in the sky. "More than I was of the Red Bull," she looked back to the magician, "afraid…"

Michael and Isabel looked at each other, and they both felt the sorrow Maria felt, alone and in a strange place. Isabel offered her hand, but Michael ignored it, lowering himself to his knees.

"Why?" he murmured, looking at the stars, "why?" He lowered his head to his hands and ran his fingers through his hair. "Why are you doing this to yourself?" he said softly, "why won't you wake up?" his voice broke, "I need you," he whispered, not daring to say her name, "I need you…"

Two sentinels looked down from one of the high battlements of Haggard's castle.

"A man, and two women, coming here?" the first asked, and the voice was old and slow, tired of the world.

"The young girl - she looks so strange. She has a newness to her," the second said, mystified, and obviously in awe.

The girl, the magician, and Molly approached the gates and the sentinels crossed their spears, barring the way.

The first was the one to speak, "State your names," he said in his gruff voice.

Michael noticed it held light traces of Hank's voice, when he was lucid at least.

"I am Schmendrick, the Magician. This is Molly Grue, my helper, and this, this is - this is... the Lady Amalthea," Michael's eyes went immediately to the girl's. His mind cried out that that was not her name, that it wasn't who she was, but he remained silent. "We seek audience with King Haggard."

"State your business with King Haggard," the first sentinel said stonily.

"I will, but to King Haggard himself," the magician said, and they were led through the doors and up stair after winding stair.

The floors shook, and Molly stumbled into Schmendrick, while Amalthea fell, unheeded, into the second sentinel. She gasped as the strength of the tremor, and the young man (for that's what the second sentinel was) spoke for the first time.

"No, no, it's all right, don't be afraid," he said, and Michael froze, placing a hand on the cold stone to prevent himself from falling. "It's just the Bull."

Isabel looked at Michael, to check that he hadn't spoken, to be sure that it wasn't some form of twisted joke.

The look on his face told her that the second sentinel had in fact spoken with Michael's voice.

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