A Bittersweet Reunion: Part I

(Hey guys! I’ll be posting a bio for Diana sometime soon hopefully, but until then here’s an intro for both her and Micah’s characters. I hope you enjoy, I’ll post Part II as soon as it’s finished)

How long had it been since she had last seen him? The wise stallion with her heartstrings tied tightly to the horn upon his head?

They were thoughts Diana had far too frequently. She did not count the days, but she was well aware too many had gone by. There was not a part of him that had escaped her memory, however. Of this, she was certain. Unicorns did not call each other by these words; these verbal inadequacies that only scratched the surfaces of sound. They called each other by experiences. From one’s horn, you called to your siblings.Your parents. Your mate. You called them in thoughts, colors, scents, and to a subtle extent, tastes. All of them were unique. Her mother had bore the strong smell of sandalwood with a distant memory of the largest field of daffodils one could imagine. Her father was an embodiment of strength, and one could taste earth when they thought of and to him.

Her future mate had the best, Diana thought. In him, she had always experienced a warm white wisdom, combined with the texture of smooth pebbles, with the faintest hint of rose. The combination was one she had never felt before and had not felt since. Though, any time she smelled roses, her thoughts returned to him. Their calm conversations beside the lake they often frequented. His promises to keep her and the rest of their group safe. His further promises to be hers, once she was of age. He (wisdom, smooth, roses) had known she was captivated by him. Diana’s feelings were not instantly returned, but over time she had felt his demeanor change towards her.

While the rest of her group had long given up on him, she had left them behind. The very gesture was the epitome of selfishness, and she knew this. Her parents were the leaders. The alphas, as wolves would call it. Perhaps, not entirely accurate as often ruling couples were not on equal ground, but that was not so in groups of unicorns. They had told her to choose someone else. That the one she desired was lost to them. To attempt a search and retrieval was suicide for their people, but she could not. Diana wouldn’t even try. No matter how many days, weeks, months, years, decades, or centuries it took, she continued her search. Luckily, she received aid from unexpected places. Though none could point her in the correct direction, creatures she had been warned about offered what they could. Most surprisingly, a human, a witch, had given her this form. This bipedal disguise she used to walk among them. The witch in the outskirts of the woods had been so kind.

“Young unicorn-“ She spoke in a gentle voice as she opened one of her many old tomes to a transmogrification spell. “-Keep an open heart, but do not let those who seek to manipulate you have their way. You must be cautious in this human world you wish to traverse. Keep those beautiful eyes open, and remember that we do terrible things when we are hurt.” The woman smiled reassuringly as she gathered her ingredients, carefully moving them to specific places on her table. “It may be difficult for you to comprehend the lengths of which some will go for the most trivial of purposes, but rest assured the simplicity does not make it any less serious.”

As the lovely woman began to make symbols from salt, she laughed briefly. “You will need a human name. I believe you told me you were like a princess to your people, yes? Well, allow me to bestow you with the name Diana.”

And as long as she was in that human body, that was who she was. Diana. Soon, Diana discovered just how strange and fascinating humanity was. Their social interactions were so skewed, and the way they treated one another varied so heavily. There was nothing like this with her people. Everything was as expected, with trace amounts of unpredictability only from outside forces.

She enjoyed that factor: the unpredictability. Though it had landed her in some problematic situations, Diana had also met gentle, caring people who wanted nothing more than to offer her aid, like the witch of the forest. She could feel their emotions, much like with one of her own. It made her searching a little bit easier, knowing who to speak to and who to avoid, though she could not fathom why some of the gentler souls also laughed when she asked if they had seen a unicorn recently.

Many seemed to think the horn atop her head was some kind of artificial ornament, and more than once she’d been told how ‘cute’ it was or she was, and asked her where mommy and daddy were. There were mixed reactions when she told them she had left her parents in search of her long lost future mate, though the general consensus was something to the effect of ‘Aren’t you too young to be thinking about that?’. Of course, this was followed up with the explanation that unicorns were effectively immortal and impervious to the effects of time, so her youthful appearance did in no way denote her age (which was an odd concept to her in the first place, as humanity seemed so heavily weighed on this idea). She could have very well been the great, great, great grandmother of the older humans she spoke to, after all.

Diana could feel the disbelief from them, and it was suffocating at times, but she supposed that was just one of those human things she wouldn’t understand. They were creatures who refused the idea that the world may not always be as they saw it. Even if the truth, blaring and obvious, sat just beneath their noses.

Almost a century after her search began, Diana came upon an odd town suspended in time. It was by chance, actually. An old, bearded vagabond had mentioned the strange location to her as a caution. The area should be avoided, he said. Travelers tend to disappear from the location after a short time inside the borders. Still, she would leave no stone unturned. Perhaps the strange powers of this area had sucked her beloved in and refused to let him go.

The moment she entered, Diana could sense something amiss. The townspeople looked at her with bewilderment, whispering and ducking back inside their dilapidated dwellings the moment she made eye contact. The unicorn could sense a disquiet in their hearts, and she could not fathom why her presence would generate this feeling. She tried to smile and wave; tried to introduce herself and explain her purpose for entering their quiet town, but barely two words left her mouth before the frightful humans began their hasty retreat.

Less than a hour passed in this manner. Before the old clock tower could chime 3pm, Diana saw men in formal attire out patrolling. Their long sleeved, navy uniforms were embellished with gold filaments, and were easily the fanciest things she had seen since she entered. That was, until they got closer. Upon the breast of their jackets, just over the heart, there was an embroidery of a crest. She had seen royal emblems before and knew roughly what they were supposed to signify, but this one struck a chord within her. The border of the crest was shield-like, and within the shield was an angry stallion with one long horn protruding from his head.

She was ready to wave a hand for their attention but once she lifted her head enough to notice their expressions, Diana realized they were coming towards her with purpose. One of the two, a red headed fellow, reached into his inner pocket and pulled out some sort of circular golden device that flipped open, much like a compass. The closer they approached to her, the brighter an eerie yellow glow shone from the strange contraption. Something was wrong. The tension in the air was palpable and just as the unicorn was about to turn on her heels, the other man, darker toned with a shaved head, grabbed her arm and held it tightly. “By order of his lordship, you will hereby be detained until his highness sees fit your release.” The fairer-skinned one announced.

“Unhand me! I have done no man ill and do not deserve such treatment!” Diana squeaked and attempted to pull from her captor’s grasp. Alas, her human form was not fit for such a task, but that did not mean she was helpless. The silvery horn atop her head began to glow brightly. Both guards shouted, and more uniformed men (some armed with various weapons) poured out from the alleys and behind dwellings.

Perhaps, she thought, a blinding flash would temporarily disable them long enough to make a retreat. Yet, an idea hit her. If this was the fate that had befallen her beloved, or at least something similar to this, she would not know until she ended up wherever they intended to take her.

There was no choice, really. The light from her horn waned until it shone no more. Additional guards placed hands on her. One snapped a chained collar around her neck. Another cuffed her tiny wrists. They were heavy. So heavy. She could escape though. Diana had to keep telling herself she could escape once she found what she needed to. As long as there was a way in, there was a way out. Naivety had always been one of her most prominent features.

The journey to the castle in the middle of town was only made more burdensome by the chains. She had told the guards that it was unnecessary; she would cooperate if it meant an audience with this sire they spoke of. Once they had her well and thoroughly trapped, however, all of them refused to speak to her. It was as if they were in some sort of trance. Like, their consciousness no longer belonged to them. They were soldier ants, following the path of the others as it was all they knew how to do. Upon closer inspection of the castles exterior, she noted it was about as ill-kept as the surrounding buildings. Vines and moss grew unchallenged on and between the large stones, though no part of the structure had yet crumbled.

The large, sun bleached red doors at the front of the structure opened slowly, as if sensing their proximity. Not once did their pace slow as they proceeded forward. In fact, there was very little variance in their movements at all. If there were, it was something minute and could very well be related back to the difference of size between the men. The thought unnerved Diana, which only increased as they entered, and the doors shut like clockwork behind them. It seemed the doors were managed by a guard on either side, though how she was aware of their approach was a mystery to her. There were no holes or windows on the hinged giants; nothing mechanical that would alert them to approaching comrades.

She did not have long to ponder, for her pause was ended with a sharp, merciless jerk to the chain around her neck. Diana yelped, but said nothing in regards to her rough treatment. She had a feeling her cries would fall on deaf ears.

The interior of the castle was just as dated as the outside. No efforts had been made to update the Victorian appearance. Old, dusty silks were festooned over yellowed wallpaper with gold fleur-de-lis as the focal point. In fact, it seemed anywhere one’s head turned featured gold. Surprising that a castle in the midst of such poverty would show signs of riches like this, at least that’s what Diana thought.

The small unicorn was not allowed the luxury of more thought over these matters, however. Soon enough she was being directed to a narrow staircase, where each soldier had to fall into single file. She was stuck in the middle with three men ahead of her and three behind. Even if she could’ve pushed those in front for a domino effect, the captors at her back had her where they wanted her. With the weight of the collar bearing down on her small neck, and the shackles on her wrists causing pain to her shoulders, she did her best to keep up.

It felt like a century had passed by the time they reached the basement. Besides the physical discomfort which blossomed into pain, an overwhelming feeling of distress began to fill her with each step they took. It was residual, and she knew that whatever had originally felt this emotion was no longer kept here, but the feeling had been so strong that it lingered. She began to realize it had not been one single creature to experience this, but a myriad. A cacophony of pain. Of suffering. Misery. Sick and lingering. Powerful and pungent, even as frayed as it was. The sensation surrounded her. It threatened to overwhelm her.

“Please.” She finally decided to speak up, frantically trying to make eye contact with one of the soldiers. “Do not keep me here. I will not run! I promise!” As she spoke, they continued towards one of the walls, where her chains were clasped to iron studs secured between bricks. One for her wrist shackles. One for her neck. Indents and claw marks were on nearly every brick surrounding. Old, coagulated blood in different shades of red plastered the floor like macabre, abstract art.

Not one of the soldiers looked to her. Not one listened to her plea. “His lordship will see you on the morrow.” The fair-haired man announced before once again, all marched single-file back up the stairs. Diana screamed and cried for them to come back, as she was certain others had done before her.

It had been a mistake to come here, she now thought. It was obvious the one she sought was not here. Tentatively, she held up her left arm to her face and slipped the tip of her horn into one of the chain links. She tried to think hot to melt it, cold to brittle it, and finally just repeated ‘break’ in her mind like some kind of mantra, yet nothing happened. She could not even create a light in this cold, dark place. But, why? Why was her magic inhibited so? Did these humans somehow understand her power? Was it this place? Or, maybe…

Diana hesitantly touched the collar around her neck, delicate fingers tracing the shape. There were runes carved into it. Perhaps it was not the only factor, but she was certain this abhorrent thing was the main cause of her struggle. What would they do with her now? By the feel of this place, they had no intentions of releasing her. Who was this ‘lordship’ they continuously referred to, and what were they doing to their prisoners in this dungeon?

Her questions spiraled into a maelstrom of despair before she even noticed the approaching storm of tears. Little droplets of silver, opaque like mercury in its purest form, fell into the large crevices of stone. Diana crumpled to the dirty floor and curled into herself. For the first time since her adventure began, she thought of her parents, her friends, and all the unicorns she had met in her comparably short time. The thought that she may never see any of them again seized her, and before she could stop it, memories of her beloved flooded in.

Wisdom. Smooth. Rose.

The thought gave way to something different. Something fresh. A memory, but not hers.

It was a memory of the basement. She had not thought it possible for buildings to hold memories like sentient beings, but she could feel it. Malignant. Malevolent. Ill. A large, white stallion chained in much the same way as she was. Torment. Torture. Starvation. Pain. Loneliness. Anger. Hatred. Murderous intent. And then-

She screamed. She screamed so loud the echo flung back to her caused the unicorn momentary deafness. He had been here. He had been here!

He had been here, and terrible things had befallen him. Diana did not know what that last bit of searing pain meant but… All she could surmise was the worst; he had died suffering and alone.

Was this the answer she wanted? Was it worth it to know now? Had it not been better when she was convinced he was alive and well somewhere? “I’m so sorry.” She whispered. “I’m so sorry I wasn’t here for you.” Even if she had died too, they would’ve died together, and it seemed by human standards at least, there was none more romantic. A fantastical Romeo and Juliet; star-crossed lovers together only at the ends of their lives.

She supposed… Her current situation wasn’t entirely different.

Diana wept. She cried until a pool of silvery shimmer surrounded her on the floor. She cried until she could cry no more, and on that dirty floor she fell into the only escape left for her.

To Be Continued…

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