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Spirit Of The Unicorn
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Stories about Unicorns have existed since ancient Greek times.
Some say they were true stories, handed down from generation to generation but most people think they are just a myth.
This story is about a boy named Lemar who lived many, many years ago with his family in the village of Grundle.
Lemar would sit around the fire at night listening to the stories about a unicorn that had been seen several times in the 'Forest of Dreams'.
The villagers named it that because they were sure the mythical unicorn only appeared in peoples dreams.
It was at least a five day walk to the forest but no one had been there for a long, long time. It was now forbidden to go there at all because the last villagers to do so disappeared, never to be heard from again.
Lemar had seen drawings of the unicorn and it looked so regal with its spiralled horn and long mane. What started out as curiosity now became a strong urge to see for himself if the unicorn really existed or was just as his father insisted, a myth after all.
The men from the village were going on a hunting trip which would keep them away for several days and Lemar decided this would be the best time to sneak away without anyone noticing.
To his mother, he said he was going with the hunting party but to his father, he said he would stay with his mother and sisters.
He enjoyed the first few days of trekking but it didn't take him long to realise that he hadn't brought enough food and water to last for five days and he never even thought about the return journey.
On the third day he saw the outline of the forest and his hopes lifted.
By the time he reached the forest his mouth and throat were so dry he could hardly swallow. He was too tired to even look for food and curled up under a tree and fell into a deep sleep.
In the early hours of the morning he woke up cold, wet and shivering. The night mist had soaked his clothes and he was covered in a fine spider's web.
Lemar trudged through the forest looking for water but there was none to be found.
In the distance he saw a steep hill and decided to climb higher in the hope he would find a small pool amongst the rocks.
By the time he reached the top he no longer had the shade of the trees, although the sun had dried his clothes it also made his thirst even worse.
He closed his eyes to shut out the strong sunlight and trod on some loose stones and tumbled down the side of the hill only to land in a pool of mud.
The soft squidgy landing saved him from being hurt but 'why, oh why couldn't there have been just a little water left' he asked himself.
It took the last of his strength to crawl out of the deep mud and lay there thinking about the other villagers that had never returned.
Maybe they too died of thirst and hunger.
Lemar was ready to give up and go to sleep forever when he heard the sound of snorting, his eyes flew open thinking it might be a wild animal but he held his breath in wonder.
There before him was the most beautiful creature he had ever seen, it was pure white, with a long mane that nearly touched the ground and a spiralled horn on it's forehead.
'Was it real?' he asked himself or was he imagining it because he was so weak. Slowly he let out his breath and tried to sit up.
The unicorn stamped the ground with his hoof again and again, he gave a snort and then trotted back into the forest.
The hole made from the unicorns hoof slowly started to fill with water, clear wonderful water. Lemar drank greedily and then filled his water skin.
He managed to wash off the worst of the mud but now his thirst had been quenched, he realised how very hungry he was.
He set traps the way his father had taught him but every time he went back to check on them they were broken as though crushed under a horses hoof.
It didn't take Lemar long to realise that the unicorn didn't want him killing any creatures of the forest.
He picked some leaves from a tree but they tasted bitter and he spat them out.
"I know you're out there watching me," he shouted. "I promise I won't harm any creatures while I'm here."
Slowly the unicorn emerged from the trees and dipped his head as though he understood.
Standing on his hind legs he brought his front legs down on the trunk of a tree and several hard round shells fell to the ground.
He turned and slipped back into the forest.
Lemar picked up the strange looking fruit and cracked it open on a rock.
Inside was a bright orange fruit which he hoped wasn't poisonous.
He had never tasted anything like it in his life, it was so sweet and juicy.
He saved some for later but after such an adventure he found his eyes becoming heavier and heavier.
His last thoughts were that the unicorn had saved his life.
Early the next morning Lemar heard the sound of voices.
At first he was excited because he thought his father had come looking for him but it didn't take him long to realise that they were hunters searching the forest for the unicorn.
Keeping well back, he followed them and watched as they set their traps.
As soon as they moved on he broke and scattered the pieces so they couldn't use them again.
The game of cat and mouse went on for most of the day until the hunters decided to camp for the night.
Lemar climbed up high into a tree fairly near where the hunters had made their camp. They lit a fire and soon the smell of food wafted up to him and his tummy started to rumble.
He hadn't eaten any real food for over a week except the hard shelled fruit the unicorn had shown him.
Even that was denied him now, as he couldn't crack open the shells without the hunters hearing him.
He was just about to snuggle down for the night when the last of the group stomped into camp and threw the broken traps down in front of the others with disgust.
Although he couldn't hear the words, it was obvious that he was in a rage.
Lemar realised that he wouldn't get away with doing that again the next day and fell asleep trying to think of what else he could do to stop them trapping the unicorn.
As boy and hunters slept the rest of the forest came alive.
The only reason no one had ever managed to capture the unicorn was because the rest of the creatures did everything they could to protect him.
To have a unicorn living amongst them was magical. No creature ever went hungry or thirsty, in fact the only danger they ever knew was when man came into their forest.
Lemar awoke to find the hunters had packed up their camp and gone.
It took him most of the morning to track them down but this time he knew they would be looking out for whoever had destroyed their traps.
He heard a rustle in a big clump of bushes nearby but so did the hunters.
Suddenly a beautiful stag appeared with a fine pair of antlers.
The hunters gave chase but the stag weaved in and out of the trees with speed and grace. Deeper and deeper into the darkest part of the forest the stag led them until they came to a clearing.
The hunters thought they had the stag trapped but as they approached they found themselves sinking down into a muddy bottomless pit.
Lemar arrived just as they disappeared forever.
The last thing the hunters ever saw was the magnificent white unicorn standing proud on a hill nearby.
Early the next morning Lemar filled his water skins and packed plenty of the hard shelled fruit. It was time to return home.
The story he gave to his family was that he had tried to catch up with his father and the hunting party but had gotten lost.
He never told anyone about the 'Forest of Dreams' or the unicorn but he now knew why people entering the forest disappeared, never to be heard of again.
A Short Story by Sheila Helliwell
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