The thirteenth unicorn, p.1
THE THIRTEENTH UNICORN
Book One in the Ben Alderman Series
A Children's Fantasy
W. D. NEWMAN
Copyright © 2011 W. D. Newman
All rights reserved.
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Zorn, 27 B.E. (Before Evacuation)
Camelot, 1231 A.E. (After Evacuation)
1 School is Out
2 Alderman's Farm
3 Grandma's Secret
4 The Confrontation
5 Wednesday Morning Flea Market
6 Joey and Jenny
7 Ben Spills the Beans
8 Spying on Grandma
9 The Fairy Glen
12 Hob, Gob, and Nob
13 Going for Help
14 A Bear in the Night
15 Laying a Trap
17 The Keeper
21 Mountain Rest
23 Stone Dog
24 Raining Fire
25 Ding Dong
26 Battle at the River
27 The Hive
32 A Joyous Reunion
About the Author
A Note to the Reader
ZORN 27 B. E. (BEFORE EVACUATION)
The small cottage seemed to crouch beneath the oak trees that stood about it like tired old sentries with their great shaggy limbs hanging protectively about the sides. Inside, a pathway wound from the front door through piles of books, scrolls, boxes, and crates to a large table tucked away in the corner. A mischievous breeze entered the front window and danced merrily around the room, teasing the scrolls and dusty old tomes before leaping out the back window and speeding across the meadow. In another corner of the room embers from last night’s fire had ceased to glow, but still radiated heat into the small open area before the hearth. Here, the air shimmered then solidified, forming a one dimensional black hole six feet high and suspended a few inches above the floor. An old man stepped out of the dark hole into the room and the gaping maw silently snapped shut behind him.
Dressed in tattered rags and stooped with the weight of years upon his shoulders the old man, clutching an armful of moldy parchments to his chest, moved through the clutter in the cottage with a spryness that belied his age. His gray hair stuck out in all directions and his beard, which would have been white except for the tobacco stains around his mouth, bristled like an angry hedge hog. When he reached the table, he hastily swept it clean with one arm and spread the parchments out before him. He absently mumbled some unintelligible word and a small white orb appeared over his head, illuminating the parchment like a miniature sun. With dirty fingers he traced over the runes, his lips moving silently as he translated their meaning. Suddenly he stopped, his finger poised over one of the designs with numbers and formulas scrawled all around it.
“That’s it!” he cried, stabbing his finger down upon the strange design. “That’s it!”
Scooping the parchments up into his arms the old man hurried back through the maze on the cottage floor. As he neared the small open area by the hearth, he spoke another strange word under his breath and the black hole re-opened before him, tall and wide, visible only from the front and rear and yet thin as a single sheet of paper if viewed from either side. Without missing a step, he strode through the front of the hole into the darkness and vanished. The hole started to wink out and then paused. The old man’s wiry arm shot out from the rear of the hole and snatched a gnarled wooden staff from beside the fireplace and disappeared back into the darkness. The hole snapped shut and another merry breeze jumped through the front window and raced around the room seeking his brother. Finding the cottage empty, the mischievous wind shot up the chimney to shake the leaves and wake the old trees from their napping in the afternoon sun.
Now the black hole opened up onto a small plain situated high above the capital city of Zorn, among the barren windswept peaks of the Ironstone Mountains. These black holes were entrances to tunnels that traversed through space and time. The wizards of Zorn could create these tunnels, or pathways as they called them, at will and used them often to travel to and fro about their world. Once again the old man stepped out of the black hole, this time onto the lifeless plain where a cold wind threatened to rip the parchments from his arms. Powerless to stop the wind the old man crouched to the ground and placed a large rock on top of the parchments to keep them from taking flight. The wind howled in protest and the old man’s tattered robe flapped violently against his bony frame. Defiantly he planted his staff into the ground and, with a voice that even the shrieking wind could not overpower, he began to chant.
A rumble, almost imperceptible, began to emanate from deep below the plain and then the ground beneath the old mans weathered boots began to shake, slowly at first, but quickly building into a crescendo that forced him to grasp his staff with both hands and lean heavily upon it to keep from falling. When he could hold himself steady no longer he raised his staff and struck the ground and cried out with a loud voice, “CEASE!”
The shaking immediately stopped and time paused. Even the wind momentarily ceased it's howling, as if waiting breathlessly to see what the old man would do next. Once more he began to chant, this time in a whisper, and before him a green sprout sprung forth from the ground and began to grow. In just a few seconds it had gone from a tender green sprout to a tall willowy sapling. The old man began rapping his staff upon the ground, beating a cadence to the rhythm of his chant and the tree began to grow even faster. Tall and thick in girth became the bole; yet the limbs, though thickened, remained short. The tree blossomed and then leafed. The leaves turned crimson and then fell. The seasons blurred by and with each passing season the tree aged with fewer blossoms each spring cycle and fewer leaves each summer. Finally the seasons halted and the tree, bare of leaves and twisted with age, cracked asunder with a tremendous pop. As if this were the cue for which they were waiting, the winds rolled off the mountains like an avalanche and caught the old man unawares, sending him sprawling to the ground. He struggled to his feet and, leaning into the wind, slowly made his way to the tree.
The crack in the tree’s bole had not destroyed the tree, but had created an opening large enough to walk through in the very center of the tree. The old man, peering through this opening, could see the plain stretching out behind the tree and the steep granite sides of the mountains rising up sharply along the edge. Stooping down, he scooped up a rock and tossed it through the opening. As soon as the rock exited the hole on the other side, it vanished. Excitedly, the old man tucked his staff under his arm, took a deep breath, and marched through the crack in the center of the tree.
After centuries spent scouring the high mountain plain bare of vegetation, the wind took offense for this lone intruder and beat upon the tree with all its might. The tree stood fast against this assault, immovable and now hard and rigid as the mountains of granite from which the wind was born. Unable to shake the tree, the winds searched for an easier target; the old man. But, he was nowhere to be found.
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