The Search for the Unicorns Chapter Three

This is the third chapter in the story, if you have not read the first chapter please do so before continuing: Chapter 2 – The Wendleases

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Here is the Third chapter:

Chapter 3

LOTHBOSC

Several days later they came to a forest. They had seen it for several days. First from hilltops as a dark line on the horizon. then as a long irregular dark patch which lay across their path, and finally as a forest. Dark, green, and faintly ominous.

At last they stood on a long slope which led down to the first low bushes and beyond them, to the trees. “Now,” said Wissagebreht, “we have a choice to make. Our destination is beyond the wood, and we must either go through it or around it.”

The King spoke. “From the way you say that, it is obvious that to go through the wood is not so simple as it sounds.”

“Not at all. This is Lothbosc, the Wood of Ill Omen. There are rumoured to be various creatures in it which bear little love for men. It is also known that Dark Elves live here, Elves who hate men. It is even said that the wood itself has become imbued with evil, that it knows and detests the tread of men.”

“So we ought to go around?”

“That is to be decided. To go around will certainly mean a delay in our journey, and we will have to decide just how much of a delay we can afford.”

“From all you say, it is not a place for people to enter lightly.”

“No, it is not.”

“And yet, to go around is to lose precious time. I think we should go on through.”

The Chamberlain broke in at this point. “Wizard, it is clear that you know more of this wood than any of us. Why do you not decide, and then tell us what you have decided?”

Wissagebreht smiled. “Perhaps it is because I fear the accusations which would be levelled if I led you into difficulties. There are dangers in the wood, to be sure, but we must not waste time. I hope that if we travel carefully enough, we can pass through unseen and unnoticed by the worst of the dangers.”

“How long to go through?” asked Lungand.

“A day and a night and part of the next day.”

Lungand rubbed his chin. “And all this time, evil things will be seeking us out?”

Wissagebreht shrugged. “Perhaps, perhaps not.”

“Have you gone through this wood yourself?”

“I have been in it a time or two.”

“And did you have any difficulties yourself?”

“None that I could not overcome, clearly, since I am here with you now.”

Lungand did not smile at the humour. “Let us go, then, as quickly as possible. If it must be done, it would be best to do it with all speed.”

Wissagebreht bowed slightly. “if we are all in agreement, then?”

At first the wood seemed a wood like any other. There were tall trees. And where the trees let the light through, an underbrush of varying degrees of thickness grew. There were paths as well on which there were animal tracks which were made by natural animals. Birds twittering and chirping in the branches which lined the paths.

Carla clutched her sling. With constant practice over the last days, she had achieved a reasonable standard of accuracy. Though she was not as consistent as she would have liked.

As they went deeper the forest grew darker. Less light was able to penetrate to the forest floor, and this in turn meant that less and less underbrush grew. Gradually, there seemed to be fewer and fewer birds in the trees. While on the paths, mixed with tracks of ordinary animals such as squirrels and bears, there were tracks which were unrecognizable.

A feeling grew on them, seeming to grow out of the forest all around. A feeling that they did not belong there. That there was something watching their movements. Something which did not approve of them. Unconsciously, they moved closer together as they walked. It was as though to draw strength from each other to fight off the antipathy of the forest.

The threatening quiet of the forest began to bother Carla. She walked quietly behind Wissagebreht until she could no longer stand it. Finally she burst out, “The forest hates us! It would kill us if it could!”

Wissagebreht turned and spoke soothingly to her. “Yes, I feel it too, and so do the others. The forest cannot harm us by itself. That is for the creatures that inhabit it. Because of that, we must go quietly when we go.”

Carla quieted herself. When they started again, she concentrated on watching the Wizard’s back. There was a little flaw in the cloth of his garment just above the right hip. By staring at that, she could avoid allowing the feeling of the forest to bother her so badly.

Night came early. while it was high in the sky the sun could penetrate occasionally to the forest floor. The sun had declined toward the horizon. However, its rays no longer reached the travellers, and shortly the trail became harder and harder to follow.

Wissagebreht finally turned to the others. “I wish we could go on, but the light fails too fast. We must camp for the night.”

As they made their preparations, Wissagebreht cautioned them against going far from the group. He also insisted on gathering as much firewood as could be found. “Tonight,” he said, “we will want to keep a fire burning at all times. It will not protect us against everything, but it will protect us against some things.”

Carla shuddered. she had never known Wissagebreht to express his fear so openly before. What kinds of things could be in this wood that would make him so careful?

Bruderic saw her concern and came over to where she was gathering firewood. As he picked up some sticks, he said, “You worry too much.”

“I worry? what concerns me is the way he worries.” She pointed her chin toward the Wizard, who was busy with the preparations for supper. “I have never seen him so worried, and when he is afraid, I become terrified.”

Bruderic nodded. “You have lived with him a long while, then?”

“Since I was a babe.”

“How did that come about?” Bruderic let his curiosity overwhelm his good manners.

Carla shrugged. “All I know is that I was left on his doorstep in a basket, and he has raised me since. I have asked him occasionally if he knew who my parents were, but he always manages to change the subject.”

“That would be hard, to not know who your parents were, nor why they would choose to leave you alone at the door of a wizard’s hut.”

“Oh, sometimes it isn’t so bad. I use my imagination to pretend that my mother was a great lady who had to leave me for some reason. And that eventually, she will find me and bring me back to her castle.”

A thought struck her. “You have no parents either, do you?” 

Oh, but I know who they were. my father became King when the old King died. Some people claim that he killed the King, but that is a lie, for the King died after a fall from his horse. My father merely made himself Regent for the Queen, and fought the Barons who would have overthrown her.”

“I see.” Carla was quiet. She knew enough about the stories and suspicions which had surrounded Bruderic’s father. She was sure that speaking of those things at all would upset the young man.

Bruderic picked up a dry stick and struck it suddenly against a tree root so that it snapped in two. “They tell so many stories about the evil things that my father did! My uncle says that many of the stories are told out of envy and many out of ignorance. But even he cannot always tell me that they are false. He tells me that I must be the King, that I must rule the land and not allow anyone to say that I have no right.

“But I hear people talk when they don’t know I’m listening. So many of them hate me for my father’s sake, and for my uncle’s sake. I often wish that the Queen’s child would come back and prove his identity and take this burden from me!”

Carla didn’t know what to say, so she looked away and picked up another stick.

“Maybe,” she said tentatively, “maybe when you grow up you could give up being King, go do something else?”

Bruderic laughed, a bitter little laugh. “I said as much to him one day after I had had to watch justice being done on a group of people who had been saying that I was not the rightful King. When we were alone, I told him that when I grew up I would give up the throne and be King no longer, if this was what it meant.

“He looked at me and said, ‘Bruderic, if it distressed you to see those men die today, think what it would mean if you give up the throne. I can name you five men now. Indeed, you could name them yourself if you thought of it. Those who would immediately try to set themselves up in your place. It would mean war and battle with hundreds or thousands being killed, rather than three or four. And it is only by being King, by showing that you will allow no one to challenge your rule, that you prevent that.'”

He was quiet again for a while, then he spoke. “So here I am, a King that few of my subjects like, and I dare not think of giving it up for fear of what that would mean my people. It is not a position I enjoy.”

Carla didn’t know what to say to that. Fortunately, she was spared the necessity of saying anything by Wissagebreht’s calling them to come in with the wood.

A little later Carla had a chance to talk to Wissagebreht alone. “Did you know that the King doesn’t like being King? Everybody hates him, and they tell all kinds of wicked stories about his father.”

The Wizard nodded. “His father was a strong-minded man who saw his chance to become King and took it. As for the Queen, she was in his care, she and her maid. And the ‘care’ was little more than comfortable imprisonment. One day it was announced that the Queen, while ill with plague, had died after giving birth to a child. The child died soon after. Shortly after that, the Regent began to call himself King.

“It was irony indeed when he himself died in a fall from a horse when Bruderic was only a babe. His brother Lungand, fearing what would happen to the Kingdom, declared himself Regent in his nephew’s name. I suppose he thought it better to have a King of doubtful legitimacy than have all the powerful men of the Kingdom fighting for the crown.”

“But what of the Queen, Wissagebreht? What really happened to her and her child? Could they not come forward sometime and demand the throne?”

“Here, go cut up these carrots into the pan there; we will have a stew for our supper.”

As she moved off to do his bidding, Carla realized that this was the same sort of thing he had always done when she had asked about her parents. This was clearly something else he did not wish her to know, but why?

But Wissagebreht began to tell them all a long tale out of the Elven Kingdoms, and soon she had forgotten her questions. The thought came back to her, however, just before she went to bed. So she went to the Wizard and spoke to him quietly, “Wissagebreht, who am I? You have never told me; you have always changed the subject. But I know that you know. If you did not, you would have told me at least that. Now I want to know who my parents were.”

Wissagebreht looked at her, frowning a little. The frown suddenly disappeared to be replaced by a smile. “At this time and this place you would insist on knowing who you are? Carla, there were many reasons why I never told you before, and there are reasons why I would not tell you now. However, if you will agree to wait, I will promise to tell you when this quest is over and we are safe home.

“I promise you, there is a good reason why I would prefer not to tell you now. With that in mind, can you agree to wait?”

Carla looked at him. For a moment she wanted to be stubborn, to insist that he tell her now. But she knew that he always had good reasons for what he did. A little reluctantly, she nodded her head.

Each of them took a turn that night sitting up beside the fire and keeping it burning. Wissagebreht gave them a stern injunction before bedtime. “The fire must be kept burning. But be careful about using up all the wood. If the wood is used up before the night is over, we may find ourselves in trouble. It will not be wise for anyone to go searching for wood in the darkness.”

Wissagebreht took the first watch, and woke Bruderic for the next watch. Bruderic woke Carla, and Carla in her turn woke Lungand. Nothing bothered them in the night. Even so, Carla had the feeling that there were things out there beyond the light of the fire. Things that feared the fire only a little more than they hated the presence of the four travellers. Once or twice she thought she caught the gleam of eyes in the darkness. But the gleam disappeared so quickly that she could not be sure that she had really seen it.

After she had woken the Chamberlain, Carla snuggled back down into her bed to sleep. It seemed only a moment later that she was woken up by something. She came up out of sleep with the feeling that she had had a terrible nightmare. A nightmare she could not remember.

She sat up and looked around. The others were awake too, and looking around as well. Had they had nightmares too? A moment later the Chamberlain pointed off at something approaching through the woods. At first Carla could make out nothing but a sort of moving glow, then the shape was clearer.

It was coming along the trail that they had followed, and it seemed to be shaped like a man. It had two arms and two legs, and in its right hand it clutched a double-headed axe. Its face had two large eyes, a large grinning mouth, and a short stubby nose. it wore no clothing, and its flesh was red and glowing as an ember from the fire. From its back, shoulders, and trunk protruded long, sharp quills. It suddenly saw them and began to hurry forward. A feeling of dread and despair seemed to leap out from it to touch all the travellers.

Wissagebreht came to his feet and raised his staff. “A Spiny Demon!” he muttered, “A Bhalgon!”

“Can we fight it?” asked Bruderic.

Wissagebreht turned a tight little smile on him. “Will we have any choice but to fight it? No, Bruderic, I think this is for me. The rest of you stand well back, for all you could accomplish is to harm yourselves and hinder me.”

Bruderic moved back, but he took his sword from the sheath and watched.

The Wizard took a stance between the Bhalgon and the rest of the party and waited. The demon rushed toward him, slowing as he saw that Wissagebreht was not going to move. “Turn back, Child of the Flames! There is no prey for you here!”

The feeling of dread abated for a moment.

The demon stopped a moment, stared at Wissagebreht then leaped against him. Swinging the axe up as he leapt and and bringing it down as he landed. The axe clashed against the wizard’s staff. As the demon readied its next blow the wizard took advantage of the opening to strike at the demon’s chest. Again and again the demon slashed at the wizard with its axe. But Wissagebreht parried the blows each time, and returned the strokes with his staff. He seemed too light to strike effectively, but with each blow of his staff the demon shuddered.

Suddenly the staff and the axe were dropped and the two were struggling hand to hand. Bruderic stepped forward and began to raise his sword. But the Chamberlain laid a hand on his shoulder, restraining him. The feeling of dread came over them all now. A despair which weakened the knees and threatened to cast them to the ground. Then Wissagebreht moved. One moment he was holding the demon back and the next he was standing erect, holding the demon above his head. With hardly a pause he threw the demon down.

The ground shook, flames leaped up, and Wissagebreht staggered back. There was a hole in the ground, and fire still came from it along with horrible shrieking noises. The Wizard, his face pale and strained, said to the others, “Quickly, gather up what we can and let us leave this place! This battle will have awakened most of the forest, and I think we can no longer hope for our passage to go unmarked.”

They frantically tossed their belongings into their bags. Then hurriedly packed the pony. Finally, they were on their way. Carla had expected them to start out at a run judging by what Wissagebreht had said. But instead they started out at a walk. They had been going for only a few minutes before their pace began to pick up although it never came near to a run.

Carla watched the Wizard go along in front of her. was a little worried for he did not seem to be walking She properly. From time to time he seemed to stagger a little, and she knew that he was dreadfully tired. That battle with the demon, short though it was, must have required more strength than it seemed.

On they hurried. Between the large tree trunks. Through the still-dark forest. Eyes and ears alert for any sign that they had been noticed by anything hostile. The belated rays of dawn came through the trees as they hurried on, and at moment Wissagebreht held up a hand. “We have to move quickly, but we will move the quicker for a bit of food in bellies, even if it be only a crust of bread.”

As they got out the bread and the water-bottles, Carla surreptitiously eyed the wizard. He showed little sign of weariness, though there was a tightness around his mouth and eyes. “We may not dare to stop again for some time, so carry your bottles ready. Don’t drink heavily. Just a sip here and there. Are we ready to move?”

No one answered. Though Carla did consider for a moment suggesting that they should have a longer rest. But before she even opened her mouth to speak, she recalled the demon rushing through the forest toward them. She also thought of other such things out and hunting them. She said nothing.

They were striding through the trees again. Carla was almost gasping for breath as she strove to keep up. Something black flickered overhead. Wissagebreht cast a quick eye up to see what it could be, and seeing a black bird swooping down toward them he said, “Ah! it will not be long now before they are on the track!”

Puffing himself, Lungand asked, “The bird was some sort of scout or messenger? Perhaps we ought to kill it?”

The Wizard shrugged, then called back over his shoulder. “That would serve little purpose. If it did not come back, they would know that there was something to hunt and would be coming for us in any case.”

More light was coming through the trees now. Carla tried to convince herself that they were coming into the less hostile parts of the forest. There was little sign of that, however. Except perhaps, for a little snore underbrush, and she knew it was little more than an impression born out of a wish.

On the travellers went. Suddenly, the silence was broken by the sound of a drum pounding. It seemed to be coming faintly, from somewhere far behind them. Carla caught the faint gasp from Wissagebreht “Well, they are aware of us now, and they will be pursuing. And I fear that they can move faster than we.”

“Do we make ready to fight, then?” enquired Bruderic.

“Not yet. We need to get as near to the edge of the forest before we turn at bay. It is even possible that we can get out of the forest before they overtake us. And if we do, then most of the pursuers will not dare to follow.”

A little later they stopped for a short rest. They sat against tree-trunks, took a few sips of water and rinsing out their mouths, then they got up and went again. Occasionally, far off behind them they could hear the drums sounding again. The hush of the forest was broken. There seemed to be voices all around them. Voices which spoke just a little too faintly to be distinguished. But voices which were telling the pursuers where their prey was.

“Fortunately,” gasped the Wizard, “none of them seem to be in front of us.”

“But you fought the demon and won,” said Bruderic. “Why should you fear anything else in the wood?”

“Because I have used up much of my strength fighting the demon, and I have no idea how useful I would be in any fight now. And because other things in this forest may attack in other ways. And because you should take my word it that we would be better to flee the forest as quickly as possible.”

They had little breath for talking, then, but must save all their energy for walking. At last they came to the point where Carla could be certain that the forest was thinning out. There was more underbrush now. The sun shone more and more frequently through the overspreading leaves and branches. Casting patches of gold on the ground.

But even as she was taking heart from this, the drums sounded behind them. They were closer now, and there was an ominous note to them. She was tired now. So tired that she was sure that she would fall by the trail soon to be taken by whoever or whatever pursued them.

She could see the Wizard in front of her nearly staggering with weariness. She wondered if he would drop before she did. Bruderic came up beside her. “Give me your arm, Carla. Lean on me a little.”

She looked at him, then snorted as she saw the weariness in his own white and strained face. “Lean on you?” she gasped. “Then we’d both fall down! I’ll manage by myself.”

They took another short rest a little later. Again, it was only a short pause for a sip of water, then they were marching again.

Now the forest was less dark and forbidding, but Carla had no idea how much further they had to go. She briefly thought of asking Wissagebreht. But she took one look at him. He was practically staggering with weariness. So she decided not to bother him with questions right now. The drums sounded behind them again. They were closer now. She wondered whether they would get out of the forest before the pursuers caught them.

Even as they went, Carla remembered the Wizard’s warning about how some things in the forest might dare to come outside. Would the pursuers dare to come out, and if they did, how far would the little band have to go in order to be safe?

“Come on!” shouted Wisssagebreht, calling somehow on the little strength he had left, as he broke into a run. The rest followed him, running at first with a stagger. Then as they found their balance and their final strength, with more assurance. They were not running swiftly, but they were running.

Light streamed down into the forest now. The tallest of the trees were not very tall, and the brush was thicker beside the trail. Carla was not sure, but she thought she heard behind them the tread of many feet. Suddenly, they were out of the trees and into the brush surrounding the forest proper. But still the Wizard ran. The drums sounded behind them. Sounded nearly at their very heels, and Carla almost jumped forward.

The Wizard pulled off the trail, motioning the others to go on by. Carla went by, heard him snarl at Bruderic, “Go on, you young fool! You could only get in my way!”

The brush was thin and sparse now, and even Carla could see over and beyond most of it. She kept on down the trail until it passed over a small hill. Going up the hill required all the strength she still possessed. When she reached the top she stumbled and fell. She pushed herself to hands and knees. But the pack on her back seemed to weigh a ton. Even the fear of what came behind them could not give her the necessary strength to gain her feet.

Bruderic leaned down to take her arm and help her up, but her weight was too much for him and he also fell. He rolled over and sat up then stayed there, staring. “Look!” he cried. “The Wizard!”

Carla, still on her hands and knees, managed to turn a little and look back the way they had come. Lungand was pounding along the trail now. But beyond him Wissagebreht stood, his hands raised. His right still held the staff, and he was speaking words in some strange language. They could still not see who or what was pursuing. Save for an occasional dark patch flitting among the trees on the trail beyond the Wizard.

A wind suddenly began to blow from the Wizard into the forest. First in small fitful gusts, then a stronger and steadier breeze, then a rushing wind. The trees and bushes whirled and whipped in the wind. Dust, leaves, and twigs rose from the path and from the forest floor and blew towards the pursuers. Then it was a gale blowing full force, and one or two small trees were uprooted and flung back into the wood. It was no longer possible to see any sign of the pursuers.

The wind ceased as suddenly as it had begun. The forest grew still again, and Wissagebreht stood for a moment, then crumpled to the ground.

Lungand stood over Bruderic and Carla. His own chest heaving. Then he said, “We ought to move a little further from here before we stop.”

Carla struggled slowly to get to her feet. “We have to get Wissagebreht.”

The Chamberlain looked down at her In anger. “We have no time to waste! He has driven them away for a time, but who knows for how long?”

She shook her head stubbornly. “I will not leave him behind.”

Bruderic spoke. “She is right, Lungand. We cannot leave without him.”

Lungand said nothing further, but it was plain he disapproved. They went down to where the Wizard lay, and Carla went down on one knee beside him. He still breathed, but his eyes were closed and he was dreadfully pale.

She looked up at the others. “We should get a little further from here before we stop.”

With Carla and Bruderic on one side and Lungand on the other, they moved Wissagebreht along the trail. They went over the hillock and a little ways further on, then they had to stop. They may have forced their own weary bodies a little further. But they could not have done so supporting the Wizard.

For a little while they lay there panting. Thinking of nothing but the possibility of falling asleep. Sleeping the rest of the day and the night as well. Carla slowly forced herself to sit up, looking at Wissagebreht. He was still breathing, still dreadfully pale, and he did not look well. she tried to remember any of the things he had taught her, but all she could think of was that he needed food.

How to feed him, though, in his present state? Probably the best thing would be a bit of broth. Come to think of it, the whole lot of them could do with something a little more than the crusts of bread they had gnawed on while they fled the forest.

She looked around. Bruderic was lying on his back, his eyes closed. The Chamberlain, though he was trying hard to stay awake and watchful, was slumping wearily forward. “Bruderic!” she called.

His eyes opened and he looked at her without comprehension.

“Bruderic, make a fire! Just a small one, for some cooking. We have to get some food for Wissagebreht, and the rest of us could stand to eat a little as well.”

He stared at her, his eyelids beginning to droop. She reached over and gave him a push. “Come on, wake up! Just make a little fire, then you can sleep all you want!”

He grimaced, gave her a nasty look, but got up and began to get out his fire making apparatus. She turned to her pack and began to get out the things she would need.

Mainly by force she prevented herself from falling asleep. Sorting out her cooking equipment, she soon had a good little broth bubbling in the pan. Lungand by now had slumped sidewise and was snoring gently on the ground. While Bruderic sat watching her carefully. Wissagebreht continued to lie pale and still.

She filled a cup of broth, then looked at the King. “Get yourself a cup, and have a bit,she said, “You might want some bread with it.”

He tore off a piece of bread and took his cup, but Carla was already approaching the Wizard. She lifted his head and held the cup to his lips. and coaxing, he swallowed weakly. After a little urging She set his head back down on her lap and took a sip of broth herself

She eventually managed to get most of a cup of broth into Wissagebreht, though he never fully woke up. There was one final sip left in the cup, but try as she might she could not get him to take it. He had gone so deeply asleep that no amount of talking, shaking, prodding or poking could bring him out of it. She finally shrugged and laid his head down, covering him with a blanket, and got some broth for herself.

She sat beside him, drinking the broth and watching him. She didn’t know when she fell asleep. Though there was a point when she began feeling cold and started to wake herself up to do something about it. But, before she could, the cold went away and she dreamt that someone had put a blanket over her.

When she woke it was morning. Wissagebreht was lying there beside her. He was sound asleep but looking much healthier. Lungand was sitting up in his blankets a little ways away. Bruderic was still asleep, but was beginning to stir a bit.

She sat up, and at that movement Bruderic opened his eyes. “Morning again?”

Lungand chuckled a little. “Yes, morning again. And I think it would be best if we see about a little food. The Wizard looks as though he will have recovered somewhat. And if that is so, he will probably want to continue on our journey.”

As they set about restarting the fire and getting out the food, Wissagebreht woke. “Ah, then we did indeed survive? Good, good.”

He rolled out of his blankets and got to his feet, a little stiffly. “We have been here the whole night, then?”

“Yes,” answered the chamberlain. “Everyone was a little too tired to go further.”

The Wizard frowned. “I would have preferred to have seen you go on a little further from the Wood before camping. but since no harm came of it, so much the better. Now what of food?”

After they had eaten, Lungand asked Wissagebreht, “Well, how much further do we have to go?”

The wizard shrugged. “Not much further, hopefully. Tomorrow, the day after, we should be coming upon them. At that time we will have to be careful so as not to frighten them away.”

“Are they really so easily frightened, then?” asked Bruderic.

“Very much so. They might see a man, and even allow him to approach them. But the least little movement which seems too sudden or too threatening will send them fleeing.”

They talked a little over their breakfast, then they were on their way again. The pack-pony, fortunately, had not strayed far from where they had all collapsed for the night. Carla noticed that Wissagebreht seemed a little stiff for the first little while. But rapidly, he seemed to recover.

Wissabreht did not, however, keep up the sort of pace he had set previously. In the middle of the morning they took a lengthy rest, then at noon they had an even longer one. Once again in the middle of the afternoon he insisted on stopping for a while. He finally called a halt to the travelling early in the evening.

He went to bed early that night and was up late in the morning, but by midday he seemed to have fully recovered. At their lunch break Lungand asked him, “Do we expect the unicorns to be in a single place, or do we only know that they are somewhere out here?”

Wissagebreht grinned. “I fear it is the latter. We have not done all the walking we will have to do just yet.”

Lungand’s face began to look a little more serious.

“So we wander around out here,” he grumbled, “looking for unicorns who may or may not be within ten miles of us. And meanwhile, back in the kingdom, are at least half a dozen men ready and willing to attempt to unseat the King if it seems at all possible.”

Wissagebreht smiled slightly. “I did not promise that it would be easy, Lungand. I only promised that there would be a possible solution to the problem in which the land finds itself.”

“So we trade the possibility of famine and starvation for the possibility of civil war?”

Wissagebreht shrugged. “The possibility of famine is real. It is waiting for us if we cannot deal with the problem of the unicorns. The problem of the civil war is quite another. And it depends entirely on whether any particular baron or barons feel they have the strength to reach out and seize the crown. Let us deal with what is real right now, and leave the possible problems for the future.”

Lungand subsided, muttering.

All that day, remembering the Wizard’s suggestion of when and where they might find the unicorns, they walked and watched carefully. They saw grasshoppers hopping in the grass causing it to ripple like a pebble in an ocean of green. They saw butterflies flittering around and landing on nearby bushes or grass. Occasionally an eagle would soar high above them in the vast blue sky. But there were no signs of unicorns that day. They camped that evening beside a spring. The spring fed a small pond which was surrounded by a large stand of willows. The pond then spilled out in a brook which went meandering off across the plain.

Wissagebreht looked around at the spring and its environs and said, “Well, I think that this would be as good a place as any to set up a camp. This will be our base, and from here we will go out and about to see if we can find any unicorns. If we make our camp a little ways from the water, say on that hillside there, why we may find that a unicorn or two will come to us unsought.”


That was Chapter three. Please let me know what you think by emailing me at [email protected]

Or if you want to wait, I can email you a pdf of the complete beta in a month or so once the chapters have been released.

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