Unicorn Witch, p.1Derek White
Copywrite © 2004 by Derek White
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced without prior permission from the author, his agent Melanie Newton, or any member of the Official Unicorn Witch Book FaceBook Page Team, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review.
Cover Artwork © 2012 Meagan O’Day Phillips and Melanie Newton
All characters in this book are entirely imaginary and any resemblance to persons living or dead or actual events is purely coincidental.
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This work is dedicated to the memory of my best friend and father-in-law, Fred Witt (now sadly deceased) and to everyone else who has seen a picture of a unicorn and wished that they existed.
Well they do! - - On Refuge.
The advice given to me by Anne McCaffrey is gratefully acknowledged.
I also thank my daughter Melanie and son Matt for listening and making suggestions when problems faced by the hero and heroine needed solving.
1351 (By Refuge Calendar)
The eighteen year old girl riding slowly down Midwitch main street would have attracted the attention of every red-blooded male and the admiration or envy of quite a few of her own gender even if she hadn't been riding a white unicorn. The young man studying her most closely though just wanted to be sure of her identity before he shouted, "Tyana!
He was on foot and ran from the sidewalk to meet her as she turned to see who'd called.
"It is you, Tyana, isn't it? And that must be Karim you're riding, I'm sure I haven't got that wrong!"
"Yes, I'm Tyana, but who?....."
She lost her puzzled look, dropped from Karim's back and threw herself into his arms as she shouted, "Darren!" She then continued more quietly, "It must be eight years at least since I last saw you!" 'And how you've changed', she thought, 'You still have red curly hair, but the spindly youth I knew has grown into a six feet tall man who'd turn the head of any unattached girl in Camelot.' She continued, "I'm just about to eat. Why not join me and we can catch up on old times."
Darren was happy to, so shortly with Karim outside munching her way through the contents of a feed bag filled with oats, the one-time school friends were at a table for two in what anyone from Earth might recognise as a Middle Ages tavern. They would have thought it odd though that no money changed hands. Tyana and Darren just asked the owner for their food and as if by magic it appeared on their table.
Darren broke the silence with, "Now, tell me what you're doing here in Midwitch. You looked as though you were carrying all the cares of the world when I saw you! Can I help?"
Tyana smiled, but there was no humour in it. "I am! Well, almost! You see I've been given a job by Merlin and.."
"You don't mean The Merlin? The World President?"
"Yes. I've known him all my life you know, so when he wanted a messenger I was an obvious choice. Don't forget he often rides Belle, Karim's dame.
"Anyway, he's been working for ten years on why people suddenly lose their powers, and he's decided that I should help him. He sent me to Argentcourt and then here to learn how the people are coping with the losses like yours. In particular I was to learn if any of them realise it's likely to happen again in about a month.
"Hardly anyone would speak with me in Argentcourt, even though I rode Karim, and frankly, until I met you I hadn't had a smile from anyone here even though I'd known some of them for years!"
"Merlin's wasting his time, and yours too!" Darren snapped.
"There is no cure! Do you think I haven't tried to find one?
"I've been to every healer in the ten towns and none can sense anything wrong. Drop it, and save yourself a lot of heartache!"
Tyana laid a hand on her friend's, noticed the wedding ring and tried to distract him.
"Tell me about yourself, ... and your wife?"
The anger faded from his face as he smiled and replied, "I'm married to the most beautiful girl on Refuge and we've just had a son.
"If you're heading back to Camelot, visit Mum and Dad's ranch. Crystal and I are taking him to see his grandparents in a couple of days.
"Anyway, stop changing the subject. I want you to give it up and tell Merlin where to put his job, President or no."
"We will visit you. I'd love to meet her!
"However, I can't give up! Apparently there's a prophecy in the records at Abinger that suggests I can help. So don't let's fall out over it, in fact, I'd like you to tell me again what it was like finding yourself unable to do even simple magic, if don't mind. I was only eight at the time. Of course I remember that terrible morning, but what happened before? Please, Darren. Merlin thinks it important. He wanted me to find you and ask if I could."
Darren looked at her as though about to refuse, then relaxed and commented, "Even at eight when I was ten, I could never refuse a request from you! May the Old Ones be kind to whoever you marry! Is there anyone yet?"
Tyana shook her head and waited for him to continue, determined not to be side-tracked. He shrugged and started.
"It was the day after my tenth birthday. We'd had a talk by Merlin himself, if you remember, on what to say if we found a lost looking stranger who we thought might be from Earth.
"I went swimming with a few friends in the river in Camelot that evening, then went to bed early with the worst headache I can ever remember. Next morning when I was getting ready for school I 'called' for my books as usual and the first two came to my hand, but the third just dropped to the floor.
"Ever since then ... Nothing!
"Not much help for you there, is there?"
The strain of remembering, and thinking about it had taken their toll and there were tears in Darren's eyes which he tried to hide.
"I'm sorry, Tyana. I've got to go. Good luck! Do come to see us at the ranch!" and he rushed out.
Tyana decided to spend the evening in the inn, but learned no more. Everyone was wary of any stranger, so she made sure Karim was comfortable in the stable and retired early, only to spend what seemed most of the night dreaming about the past.
Her mind went back ten years to the first recorded case, fresh in her memory after talking to Darren, and she drifted into a fitful sleep.
She felt her father's anger when he left the house to find her and Darren, their neighbours' son, still in the paddock instead of at school.
"What do you mean, you can't do magic any more? What sort of excuse for being late is that? There's no way your teachers are going to believe that you two, who hope to become the world's youngest ever Bronzes can't manage a simple task like collecting your school books and getting there on time."
It took a demonstration to convince him that Darren was unable to make even one page of a notebook move by will alone, and from that moment on he was just a normal ten year old human child, such as they learned about at school in 'Earth History,' but never really believed existed.
For a time his education continued in the same classroom but then, when more became like him, a special school was started in Midwitch and he moved to stay with an uncle.
Until that day they'd been working together honing the skills needed for Bronze. Although she was almost two years younger than Darren they were well matched and either of them could handle any four of their other classmates single-handed.
Darren was so brave. Through his tears he insisted that she went ahead and did her best. "Show
She woke with a start, but could find no reason for it except the vivid dream that had seemed real. Of course at that time nobody had known that his condition was permanent, or that there would soon be dozens like him. Tyana could even remember the look of joy on his face as he watched her qualify. 'What a day that was,' she thought as she drifted back to sleep, and straight into the dream again.
She felt so nervous when she saw how many people were there watching her. Not only the members of the Council and her family, but it seemed to her that the whole population of Camelot had come to see the youngest ever Bronze witch. Taking a deep breath and following an old superstition of crossing her fingers she began the routine she'd been rehearsing for weeks.
She conjured a bouquet of roses to her own hand and then caused it to float gracefully across the hall to Shaena, the newly appointed Head of Council, who was dressed in a simple white robe that emphasised her natural beauty. Her white sash of office was draped over her left shoulder and had a white leather pad upon which was perched Hawka, her peregrine falcon.
Tyana had demonstrated two of the five Bronze tests at once.
A signal fire had already been set in a brazier. A glance and a thought lit it. She now caused a small cloud to form just above the brazier, then made very localised rain to extinguish it. A goblet filled with water from a nearby stream was given to her, and only seconds later passed around the Council for tasting. Had she had long enough? Initially she wondered, when the first to taste it pulled a face, but all was well, he just didn't like a dry white wine. From the reaction of the others she knew she had made it, and she would be allowed to be annexed with Karim.
The usually sombre atmosphere at a qualifying meeting was shattered as Karim came on to the stage, and what seemed like hundreds of conversations started at once. Only Tyana's parents and close friends had been expecting the pure white unicorn filly with golden mane and tail, piercing blue eyes, and horn and hooves of what appeared to be solid gold that now stood next to her. Nobody thought that a unicorn would willingly agree to be a familiar and the members of the Council, with one exception, had not been warned in advance and were as surprised as the audience.
"Is this your idea of a joke, Tyana?" asked Shaena.
"No, Ma'am, Karim has agreed to become my familiar, and I promise before you all that I will give up my life before I will allow harm to befall her. We have the permission of her father, the herd stallion."
"Please be patient for a moment, everyone."
Shaena then took on the serene expression which all present recognised as indicating telepathic communication with a unicorn. Neither Shaena or Karim would ever repeat the conversation later, but, "As you say, she has agreed and has Zoltan's consent.
"These two I now join, so let all heed,
In future cut one and both shall bleed."
As the ancient spell took hold Tyana found that she could look through Karim's eyes, feel the movement of her tail, and most amazing of all, hear in the background the thoughts of all present. She realised the love Karim felt for her and felt unworthy. Previously communing with Karim had been like having a conversation without speaking as Karim did all the work, but now when Karim spoke it was inside her head. There were literally two brains sharing two bodies. Neither would ever be lonely or without a friend again.
Merlin glanced at the gavel in front of him and the sound of it banging twice called the meeting to order. He then turned to the lady on his right, representing Drogheda.
"Michaela, as one of those with a horse as familiar, will you please ask her to confirm that there are no late arrivals?"
"No, Merlin, all who are coming are here. As there's no agenda, I assume we're to discuss only one thing?"
"You're quite right. The one and only item is the consideration of the losses of magic powers which are still occurring.
"Karilla from Newport has asked to speak first."
Karilla's familiar, as one might expect from a town of fisherfolk was a gull, Penn, but she seemed content even though hundreds of miles from her home. She removed her head from beneath her wing long enough to encourage Karilla with eye contact and returned to her rest position.
"Four months ago my nephew Simon visited and I asked him to help unload one of our boats. After the first few items he realised he'd lost the ability we all take for granted, and I found him sobbing, and whispering, 'Why me? Why me?'"
Her voice was reduced to a whisper itself and she had to take a drink and dab her eyes. Michaela put an arm around her and continued, "Even though her husband Rix was one of the first victims she couldn't give him an answer. Last month, Simon killed himself."
Michaela allowed a pause before she went on, "Simon never got over it, and became the fifth of Newport's teenagers to die rather than be a burden on their families, for no matter what anyone says to them, that's how they see themselves.
"I tell all of you this to stress how serious the problem is. We've lost three in my town as well! I've been making my own enquiries and can tell you that every six months, somewhere on Refuge several people, mostly teenagers, lose their magic powers. Assuming the pattern continues the next victims will be in Camelot, Midwitch, and Argentcourt."
Karilla resumed, "Thank you, Michaela!
"I know that I'm the youngest member here and this is my maiden speech, but I demand to know is - - - "What is being done about it?"
"Thank you, Karilla. I'm very sorry to have to say that I've heard many similar tales of lives ruined or lost," said Merlin. "What I want to know is Who? How? and Why? Has anyone any suggestions?"
Apart from a few whispers there was silence, so Merlin continued, "I have, myself, been working on these questions for ten years now, full time for the last six. All that I can say for certain is that there has not been a single case of Bronze or higher being affected."
The discussion that followed went on for over two hours, but no one could add more information to what Merlin and Karilla had said, except to give more examples, and to talk of the increasing difficulty in avoiding panic when their own town's turn came.
The last to speak was Shaena, head of Camelot council.
"I suggest a fresh approach and propose that Merlin be asked to appoint one or more young Whites to work full time to try to answer his questions - Who? How? and Why?"
It was quickly agreed that this should be done, and that as Camelot had only a month before the next expected losses, Shaena and her council should give Merlin any assistance he wanted.
The next morning the full Camelot Council met with Francoise to represent Argentcourt, and Anghared, Midwitch. Shaena had the chair and called on Merlin to explain what he had in mind.
"I simply believe," Merlin began, "that this problem will not be solved by any one of us. We're little wiser now than we were ten years ago when it all started. Perhaps a younger person working full time will make more progress.
"I anticipated yesterday's decision and last week I sent Tyana Counter to visit Argentcourt and Midwitch to speak with the people in the towns and judge how worried they are. She's due to report here at two thirty this afternoon and I ask that you listen to what she has to say before judging my choice."
"But she's only a Gold!"
The speaker was Mattra, a recent arrival in Camelot but as a White, automatically allowed in to Council meetings.
"I've followed her development as if she were my own daughter," said Shaena. "The youngest Bronze in history at eight, Silver at ten, Gold on her thirteenth birthday, and still with the only unicorn familiar on the world. Does anyone here really believe that she couldn't qualify White whenever she chooses?
"In fact she'll have to since she's accepted this assignment. I don't want her to have to prove herself wherever she goes!
"I've already called for volunteers to be tested tomorrow as next week's session is a busy one. If we start at ten in the morning, there should be a good selection of Golds for her to challenge by mid-day."
"Council will meet again at two this afternoon."
With that Shaena brought the meeting to a close.
Unicorn Witch by Derek White / Fantasy / Mystery & Detective have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes