"I hear thunder," Unicorn said as he stopped to listen to the rumbling roar.
Quaraun stopped to listen too. They had trekked across the dry savannah for days. It was nothing but dead dry grass for miles in any direction. Random umbrella trees sprouted up here and there. Outside of the flocks of birds which once in a while flew up out of the grass, they had seen or heard nothing for days. It was like walking across a desert made grass instead of sand.
Quaraun pricked his long ears to listen to the sounds. The thundering sound was steady and it grew louder, and closer.
"That's not thunder," Quaraun said as he tried to determine the direction the sound was coming from. It seemed to come from all around them.
"What is it then?"
"I don't know. Hooves, I think?"
"Like herd o’ Unicorns, eh?"
"Yes. I suppose."
“There is no more herds of Unicorns,” Unicorn said sadly.
“Perhaps it is horses.”
"That be fucking shit load ton o horses."
"Yes. I think we should run."
"Run? How I supposed to run? I can'na run. I can'na sees. Ya knows I is almost blind. I can'na even sees me hand in front o me face no more. I can barely keep up to follow ya..."
Quaraun didn't wait to listen to the Phooka's protest, he just grabbed Unicorn by the arm and ran towards the nearest tree, dragging the startled Faerie behind him. Moments later Quaraun and Unicorn were both up in the tree and not a moment too soon as a massive herd of wild beasts of burden came tumbling over the hill and filling the land around them.
"What is dey?" Unicorn asked.
"Katopas. Millions of them. It must be a migrating herd. I've never seen so many. The herd has to be at least a mile wide. They're like locusts. There won't be a blade of grass left once they've made their way through. It's a plague of bloody katopas."
Quaraun and Unicorn watched the herd as it went by. The large shaggy brown beasts sauntered slowly through the fields, grazing on the tall green grass as they went, others galloping on ahead.
"What is Katopa?" Unicorn asked Quaraun.
"It's like a cow only bigger and not domesticated. Almost as fast as a slow moving gazelle."
"Dey horns is huge."
"Where did dey comes from?"
"Migrated from Zantania, probably. That's not far from here. I hear the grass lands are burning over there. Quite out of control. The animals are probably running ahead of the fire."
"Dair be so many of them."
"Yes, it's quite large herd. I suspect we are seeing multiple herds, banded together. Which would indicate the fires have spread are bigger then I had last heard. And unfortunately, we're gonna have to go through them."
"How comes that, eh?"
"Because we are headed for the home of Massimara on Mount Yenka, in Baironi which borders the great plains of Zantania and there are no roads around it."
"Can ya eats 'em?"
"Katopas. Can ya eats them?"
"I wouldn't know. I'm an Elf. I don't eat meat."
“Yi ate ya father.”
“That was different.”
"Yis a Elf of strange morals, ya know that does ya not, eh? Ya will no kill an animal to eat and survive, but ya tinks nothing of killing man and cutting his heart out or ripping his head off for some silly black arts ritual. Ties up ya lover. Puts him on a alter. Cut hims heart out..."
"Unicorn, I said I was sorry. I don't know what else to do, to prove how sorry I am. I should not have done that to you. I truly am sorry. I wish I could go back and not do it. Will you ever trust me again?"
"Ya tried to cut me heart out. It's going to take a while for me to trust ya agains."
"I know. I'm sorry. I’m so very sorry."
"Ya does not have have to keep saying yis sorry. I know yis, I would no be wid ya right now if I did'na. I do believe yis sorry and will na try to kill me agains. Except yis insane and I is na sure I can turn me back on ya yif ye have another one of yar psycho crazy out of yar head experiences agains."
"Yes, I think you can eat Katopas," Quaraun answered Unicorn's question, hoping to get the Phooka off the topic of Fire Mountain. "They are like cows and Humans and Dwarves eat cows. And of course, you're a Phooka, you will eat anything..."
"Except a Dwarf, terrible tasting beasts, Dwarves is."
"Except a Dwarf. You won't eat Dwarves..."
"Or Orcs or trolls."
"Or Orcs or trolls. So I don't see why you wouldn't also eat a Katopa."
"I does not really like cows. Not much flavour. Not like Wood Elves. Or Moon Elves. Such a delicate flavour. Nothing tastes like Elf blood. It's been so long since I has eaten an Elf."
"World seems to be running short of Elves these days."
"Yis an Elf."
"And you're not eating me."
"I does not want to eat ya. I want to bite ya and drink yar blood."
"Unicorn. I'm the only one around who can protect you. I'm the only one on the entire planet, who even wants to protect. Pretty much everyone wants you dead. And you can't see to fight. And I can't protect you, if I'm passed out because you drained me of my blood."
"Oh pooh. Yis the best tasting thing for miles."
Unicorn sighed. He knew Quaraun spoke the truth. It was hard for the old Phooka to hunt for game now that his eyesight was so dim. He couldn't actually see the herd of Katopas. He had heard them coming, thought is was thunder, and would have been trampled by them had his companion not suddenly grabbed him and climbed up into the only tree for many acres.
The one single solitary tree hung like a twisted green umbrella in the middle of a vast plain which stretched to the horizon for miles in either direction. The Phooka had gotten a close up look at a Katopa just as it was about to lazily stampede over him. He could tell their vast number by the thundering hooves kicking up the dust as they passed through.
Unicorn was an old Faerie, ancient beyond remembering. He had stopped counting the years at least 500 years ago and he had counted as many years before deciding keeping track of his age was a pointless endeavour. He had long ago forgotten his real name and his people called him Unicorn because he was a shape shifting trickster illusionist Faerie and when not in his mostly humanoid form, he galloped around in the form of a black fire breathing Unicorn. His true form was a tiny black pony who's fur had long ago turned grey. A Phooka was a flesh eating water horse, a relative to the Kelpie, kin to a Unicorn and often mistaken for a Unicorn.
Quaraun and Unicorn were the exact opposites in so many ways, in both appearance and lifestyle. The Phooka, in his current form, was as black as the Elf was white. Unicorn dressed in wild tattered black garb, wrapped in black furs, his frizzy hair matted into a mess of unbrushed dreadlocks stuck full of twigs, while Quaraun wore elaborate robes of heavily embroidered pink silks. Unicorn looked fierce, wild, crazed, and dangerous. Quaraun looked calm, polite, aristocratic and elegant.
Most people, upon meeting the duo shrunk in fear from the wild haired Phooka with his fearsome piranha like fangs and huge razor sharp black eagle-taloned claws. And yet most people felt safe in the presence of the calm, friendly looking albino wizard, with smooth silken white hair, and icy silvery pale light blue eyes.
But to fear the Phooka and trust the Elf would have been foolish folly, for the Phooka was more or less harmless. Usually. He talked a good show and could be very fierce and menacing if he wanted to be, but it was often a bluff, as Unicorn was a peaceful creature who only killed for food. Usually. There were times, when he reverted back to his current true form, that of a Lich horse, and froze everyone around him in a Lich-crazed fury, for buried deep in Unicorn’s soul, was the Lich that Quaraun was struggling to keep under control: The Elf Eater of Pepper Valley, leader of the Lich Lord’s and all that remained of Quaraun’s former lover, BoomFuzzy.
As long as the Lich was dormant, Unicorn was harmless. As long as Quaraun was near by to keep the spell he’d cast in check, Unicorn's memories of his past were kept suppressed and Unicorn had no knowledge he was a Lich and thus Unicorn was harmless.
The serial killing Moon Elf on the other hand, with his calm quiet demeanour, held locked away in his boiling seething soul an evil darkness forever growing darker with each new life he took. Quaraun was a Necromancer and murderer and he had killed many.
The two had been lovers, inseparable partners, bonded mates. But the Phooka was a trickster Faerie, prone to endless jokes and teasing and the Elf a sensitive and damaged creature, tripping on the edge of his breaking point and one day, the bickering between them had gotten out of hand, and the Elf's short temper over the Faerie's endless pranks, reached a boiling point that resulted in Quaraun tying his Fae lover to an altar and nearly sacrificing him to an evil deity.
Quaraun had critically wounded the Phooka, slicing his throat and attempting to cut out his heart. Unicorn almost died and was many weeks recovering. It was difficult to kill a Lich, but Unicorn was between regenerations and living not in his indestructible Lich body, but rather in his weak physical body. While the Lich body could not be destroyed, the physical body could be, if one knew the proper ritual to separate the Lich from it's body, and Quaraun did know how to do such and thing.
Unicorn now lived in fear of Quaraun, not remembering that he was a Lich, but knowing that Quaraun had tried to sacrifice him. Poor Unicorn, without his memories of Lichdom, did not know why it was that Quaraun had tied him to the altar and slit his throat.
Quaraun, truly was sorry that he had let his temper get the better of him and regretted how close he'd come to murdering his beloved friend. Everyone told him, that he was insane, and after what had happened on Fire Mountain, Quaraun was starting to believe it. He felt like he was fast losing control of his mind and the things his mind made him do.
The Phooka had fled and the two remained separate for many months. The Faerie lived in mortal terror that the Elf would hunt him down and kill him. Quaraun did hunt him down, to beg Unicorn's forgiveness. Unicorn had been deathly ill, and Quaraun had saved his life. The two had begun to travel together again, but the damage was done. The Phooka now feared the Elf and the closeness between them was gone.
BeaLuna's harsh words throughout this trip, had made it hard on both Quaraun and Unicorn. Both longed for the other, but both were hurting and needed time to heal. BeaLuna had seen the couple and the wedge that was between them, and took advantage of their pain, to try to make that pain worse and hopefully drive them farther apart. It had done the opposite however. BeaLuna's harsh words had softened the hearts of both lovers and brought them closer together. And while Unicorn still feared the Elf, Quaraun was now realizing that he loved Unicorn even more then he had loved BoomFuzzy.
"I miss being with you."
"I know ya do. I not ready to let ya that close to me agains yet."
"Unicorn, I'm so sorry."
"I know. But I does not trust ya and what ya want, takes a great deal of trust on my part. I'll's sleep wid ya and fuck ya, but I will na bond wid ya agains. A Phooka will only do that wid a bonded mate. Someone they can trust wid their life. I is me most vulnerable then. It takes all of me energy from me. Weakens me. I can'na maintain an illusion then. Ya see me then as I really am. It puts me completely at yar mercy. So close to ya, at a time when I can'na escape and me guard is down, and it'd take nothing for ya to kill me then. I trusted ya before. I had no trouble letting me guard down, letting ya see what I truly am, putting me life at yar mercy. I trusted ya then, that is why I did it. I trusted ya and ya tried to kill me. I does not trust ya now. I can'na give ya want ya what, not without that trust."
"Will you ever trust me again?"
"I does no know."
"What do I have to do?"
"I does not know. Quite a lot I suspect. Ya do be insane Quaraun. Ya can'na control that Thullid in ya head. Ya lose ya temper, ya let it take control and ya start killing people around ya and I does no tinks ya knows ya does it.”
“I don't want to hurt any body.”
“I knows ya does'na. Quaraun the Elf would never hurt a soul. He be too weak, to timid, too scared of his own shadow. But Quaraun the Elf is losing the battle for control of his body, and Quaraun the Thullid is taking over. Quaraun the Elf is not dead yet, he be still fighting to live, but he fighting a losing battle. I wish there were a way to remove that parasite from you head, but it can'na be done without killing ya, and leaving it in there, ya best friends are forced to watch helplessly as ya die, but ya body lives on controlled by an alien beast, which none of us will be able to bring ourselves to kill, because it lives in ya body, and we love ya too much to hurt ya.”
“You love me, but you do not trust me.”
“I can'na. Ya slit my throat. Ya gutted my belly. Quaraun, ya nearly killed me dead. I is ya precious BoomFuzzy and ya tried to kill me.”
“I'm sorry. I don't know what happened to me.”
“I know ya does'na. That be the problem. Ya body has been taken over by a Thullid. Ya be a Thullid spawnling. Un now yis starting to act like one. Un ya tried to kill BeaLuna. Ya love BeaLuna.”
"What does it take to gain back your trust?"
“I'd've to believe that it was safe for to let me guard down in yar presence. I'd've to believe I could trust ya not to kill me. I need to know that ya will not kill me while I is vulnerable and weak. I does not feel safe wid ya any more."
"You are always vulnerable and weak now."
"I know." The Phooka began crying. "I used to be so strong. When I was young, ya never would have been able to overpower me. No one could. I had the strength of armies. Un now look at me. I can'na even escape from ya. I is so old. I want to be young agains. I has lost me strength and I can'na see. Un me hearing is going now. Me world is going dark and soon it will be silent as well. Un me whole life I has been alone. Rejected by every one. Hurt by so many people. Betrayed. Unwanted. Unloved. Un then I found ya. Un I thought I could trust ya. Un then ya turned on me too. Ya tried to kill me. Now I is alone agains, wid no one I can trust."
"You're not alone, Unicorn."
"I feel alone."
Quaraun turned away from the Phooka and stared out over the Katopas again. His heart was breaking more with each passing day. He wished more then anything that he could undo the damage he had done to their relationship. Once upon a time Quaraun and Unicorn had been lovers. Deep. Close. The bond between them was great, but now it was broken. They were lovers still, on some level, but the former closeness between them was gone. A bitter gap of mistrust hung between them now. Quaraun had tried to murder Unicorn, an act he now deeply regretted and would have done anything to erase. Unicorn had fled and it had not been easy for Quaraun to track him down.
Unicorn was only travelling with Quaraun now, because he had been close to death when Quaraun had found him. After Fire Mountain, Unicorn had sunk into a deep depression and stopped eating. He'd been several weeks without food when Quaraun found him. Quaraun had nursed him back to health, but he never fully recovered and remained desperately weakened and still fearful of the Thullid infested Elf.
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