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In Black Jade Woods
A tale of a tail is an unusual one, but then again, a unicorn tail is where this story begins . . .
Cloud Shadow dashed ahead blithely, a dark grey blur below the black jade trees as he followed the clear scent trail of blood. “Slow down, my Shadow,” his Aama (mother) called after him. However, he didn’t seem to change his pace any slower. Iter sighed, gliding gracefully after him. “I should have named him North Wind,” she muttered.
Shadow’s nose urged him on, leading by the thread of a scent. It led him on and on and . . . “Ooph!” Shadow stumbled over a huge tree, or so he thought. The scent, he found, was emitting from it. He receded and realized it was a unicorn corpse, terribly mutilated.
Shadow’s tongue rolled out and began to hop around in pure mirth. “I found it, Aama, I found it!” he shouted, like a young child, eager to please.
Iter, who finally caught up, timidly approached the body, nudging it with her nose. Her shiny coat bristled. “Let’s report this to Selene.”
Cloud Shadow nestled at Selene’s feet, watching the tiny earthen fire, while Iter reported.
The wood witch sighed. “It must be the red witch’s doing,” she decided. “She has been trying to get a unicorn for quite some time . . . my poor creature . . .”
Shadow bolted up and started bouncing up and down, like a rubber ball. “You want me to get her Master?!? I’ll get her for you! When I do, I’ll rip her, shred her; I’ll bring her corpse back to you! I’ll…”
Selene laid a hand on his forehead, calming Shadow down enough to make him stop ranting and jumping. His eyes, however, still danced from the thought of a chase.
“There is of no need for that, my sweet,” she told him. “However, someone must retrieve the unicorn tail. The red witch has need for it. But we can’t let her have it.”
Shadow cocked his head. “Why?”
Selene sadly smiled. “She once wanted my forest, the woods we live in. But since she couldn’t take it from me,” she explained, “Scarlet wants to make a source of eternal fire, one which can burn right through my protection spell on my forest.”
Shadow perked up. “I’ll get the unicorn tail!” he declared. And with that, he dashed out of the tiny log cottage.
“Be careful!” his Aama shouted.
“Come right back. And stay in the woods!” Selene warned. “Don’t go near the road because . . .” Her voice drowned out in the rustling of the wind through the trees and slight crunching of twigs underfoot.
Shadow glided through the forest like a spirit carried by the churning air of nature’s breath; he could have went on forever, oblivious of everything but the rich, invigorating scent of unicorn blood and the gusting wind rippling through his black grey fur. After a moment too quickly passed, he was before the unicorn once again.
He bit at the tail and staggered, surprised the mouthful of hair slid off the rump of the unicorn as easily as water trickling through a stream. Continuing to ponder this predicament, Cloud Shadow caught sight of a trail. It looked pearly white and smooth, like clouds that were smoothed out and solidified. It almost looked heavenly as he walked up to it. “What was it about roads did Selene and Aama warn me about again?” he wondered to himself.
“It’s a beautiful path, isn’t it?”
Shadow yelped, the unicorn dropped from his mouth. He saw a little girl with curly brown hair standing behind him. Her eyes were so big and wide and donned a red hooded cape. But what really stood out was the huge woven basket this tiny girl carried. “A human,” he thought.
“Yes, i-it is,” Shadow stammered, his tongue trying out human’s speech.
“My mother sent me to Grandma’s house,” the little girl said, seemingly to herself. “I need to bring her food and wine.” She looked at Shadow with intense, dark ebony eyes. “She has been rather sick lately,” she said sadly, suddenly casting her eyes to the ground. “And it’s been lonely traveling all by myself . . .” her voice trailed off.
“She looks so sad,” he thought, glancing at the unicorn tail at his feet. “But I need to deliver this to master…” He looked up toward the girl, who was also staring at the unicorn tail, somewhat hungrily. He blinked and that starving gaze was replaced with wide innocence and awe. “You’re imagining things again,” he scolded himself. “I’ll come with you,” he decided, talking aloud mainly so he can’t back out of it.
The little girl beamed. “You will?” She clapped her hands, balancing the enormous basket by its handle on her tiny arm. “Then we’d have to hurry,” she told him gesturing to the shiny marble road.
Cloud Shadow picked up the unicorn tail in his mouth and stepped onto the trail. As the hairs from his tail passed over from the forest threshold and onto the stone path, an electric jolt flew through his body. He sunk into unconsciousness before he hit the ground.
A pair of claws snatched up the ball of hair as it fell. The little girl vanished; in her place was a tall figure having a similar red cloak and stone cold eyes, carrying an identical basket. The falcon dropped the bundle of unicorn hair in her open hand. “Looks like we now have a way through the wood witch’s barrier, Ari,” Scarlet murmured to her pet, perched on her wrist. And off they went to their fortress to finish the already waiting potion, leaving the wolf (who was just barely of age) for dead.