The Elf and the Unicorn

Esca had been desperately counting down the days for her apprenticeship and now that it was finally happening, it didn’t disappoint. Her aunt, Saerine, had been coaching her, however nothing can prepare an Elf from living in one realm into another, especially one with powerful magick. Here, Esca was to learn the ways in the Otherworld, how others behave and react and how an Elf should help or avoid them. The Elf Elders chose the best mentor for each Elf and as her father was one of the Sages of the clan, she was appointed Illuxa, The Great Enchantress of the Weald. She would watch and study her day and night for a year, as Illuxa made her potions and created spells; good ones of course to help others and to protect Nature and Humanity.

“Magick should always be used with a pure and good heart and it will never fail you,” Iluxa told her.

She was fortunate her aunt was a chaperone as it was overwhelming; a far cry from school where they finished early, then listened to stories from the Elders and went foraging in the forest and swimming in the Lake before supper. Each day she was up early, learning to talk to the animals and to collect plants for the healing potions. There was always much to do, sorting out bottles, measuring quantities of the ingredients and also learning about the power of Nature. She accompanied Iluxa into town, to distribute the potions to the Wise Women and Men and also to learn of any happenings in the nearby towns. The birds were fine and fast oracles, bringing news as soon as it happened, but Illuxa’s role was also Keeper of the Peace and watched over the townsfolk; it was her job to protect them and that meant understanding them. It was exciting going to market, seeing so many activities, different looking people, animals she’d never seen before and watching the fairies and pixies causing mischief. A cautionary look from Illuxa was enough to stop them, even though some of their tricks were harmless.

Each evening Iluxa would tell the Elves a legendary tale; Saerine had heard most of them already, but enjoyed hearing them again with Illuxa’s soft and calming tones. In the days to come, they would remain etched in Esca’s mind and she would one day pass onto her children. Each tale made Esca dream more about the people and places in faraway lands.

“I can see them in my dreams,” she told Iluxa.

“In our dreams we can communicate with each other and see into others minds,” Iluxa replied.

Esca had used Elfin telepathy before, but to see into someone’s thoughts and share a dream was not something everyone could do. Each night Illuxa spoke to Esca in her dreams, as her apprentice she needed to know and trust her before she shared her magick. The potions were just the surface and any apothecarist could do the same, minus the care and attention that went into each potion with a special dose of healing essence and a blessing.

Gradually Esca and Iluxa would talk in their dreams together, it seemed like a dream and the next morning Esca would talk about her dreams and found out she’d actually been talking to Iluxa and had been to the places in her dreams.

“In our dreams we enter another dimension and realm and can communicate with anyone else who is there,” Iluxa explained.

As a child, Esca hated going to bed early, now she happily went to sleep early so that she could dream. She never expected to be able to travel in her dreams or to learn so much in her sleep. Iluxa would show her other realms and introduce her to what she thought were mythical creatures; a gryphon, phoenix, unicorn, dragons and some leprechauns. Suddenly all the tales she’d heard of were brought to life.

She made friends with all the animals nearby and talked to them everyday, accompanying her on her daily trip to collect plants from the forest. Besides that, she loved playing with the squirrels and rabbits and all the birds, even those those looked a little scary. There were falcons and eagles in the castle grounds that were used as messengers that would scour the grounds for danger or intruders. She learned not to be afraid of them and even flew on an eagle named Tadhg, who showed her the grounds from the air, that’s when Esca first found out she could fly when she fell off Tadhg and was able to land with just a couple of bruises.

“I see Tadhg has taken you for a flying lesson!” Iluxa said with a smile. “Perhaps we should have a flying lesson each morning?”

Esca had heard of flying Elves, but had never met one that could and didn’t think she would be one of them. Iluxa explained that only gifted Elves have the power to fly, it wasn’t something you could learn; it was hereditary and was always kept a secret.

“I sensed you have the power, but it was one you had to discover yourself,” Iluxa explained.

“Does Saerine, fly as well?” she asked

“No, and you cannot tell her nor anyone else. Your children may be gifted with the ability, but flying Elves are rare and there are some who…may not have your best interests at heart,” Iluxa warned as he voice tailed off, not wishing to alarm her new charge.

Esca blushed, she hadn’t even had a boyfriend yet; she’d only a few dates with some school chums and not thought about children! As she gained experience, Esca was allowed to experiment with her own portions and practice some of the spells in the Book of Shadows. Illuxa dictated addendums and created new spells, which Esca dutifully updated in the magickal book.

Suddenly, a Wise Woman in a nearby town had broken her foot and required an assistant. Iluxa suggested Saerine, and asked if she would be willing to help. It was a privilege to be selected to help and immediately was dispatched to her new commission. This was the job for Elves to help out in times such as these. Without her aunt for company, Esca spent more time in the forest talking to the animals. They would tell her stories of lands faraway, while she picked berries, herbs and plants in the forest. Now Esca had so much freedom, she often forgot the time. She’d wandered deep into the forest one day and her forest friends had already returned to their own homes. Looking around, the sky was getting darker and there were no birds flying or perched in the trees for her to ask the way home. It was as if the forest decided to have an early nap, the silence was only broken by the wind gentling rustling past a few of the larger leaves. She had to admit she was a little lost and there was no sound of the river or the trickle of any nearby streams. This would be an ideal time to practice flying alone as she aimed high into the branches so she could see from them. Suddenly, she lost her balance and control; it was dark and she couldn’t see where she was headed as she began to fall. A bright white wing appeared underneath her that was soft to the touch, which broke her fall.

“Hello, you look as if you might need a lift. I’m Elyria.”

Catching her breath, she stared at the marvelous sight of a flying Unicorn. Of course she’d heard about them in tales as a child and saw one when she was journeying in her dreams; that was the closest she’d got to seeing one, but never expected to see one let alone ride on one.

“Esca… my name is Esca. It got dark faster than I thought it would and got lost in the forest and I’ve just started to learn to fly,” she babbled. “I’m sorry to have troubled you.”

“I haven’t seen a flying Elf in quite a while. Did you try the flying spell?” Elyria asked.

Esca was tired but equally excited to be riding on a Unicorn. Legend has it no one ever rides on a Unicorn unless they offer. Esca shook her head and said she only knew a few spells; how to move things and to make them invisible so far.

“I’ll return you to Iluxa’s castle,” Elyria said.

“How did you…” Esca began, then smiled and relaxed, absorbing the beauty of the sky and the clouds.

Unicorns are the most magickal creatures and of course Elyria would know where she lived. Esca lay on the soft white wing and gazed at the stars that had begun to come out. It was truly beautiful and couldn’t believe she was flying on a Unicorn. She wanted to tell someone, but first there was no one really to tell and then she knew she’d have to keep it a secret. It wasn’t a good thing to go around telling others that you’d ridden on a Unicorn and that you were friends with one. Others take advantage of such things and that was one of the first lessons Esca learned in this realm; others don’t always use power for good. She had seen at at the market one day and was shielded by Iluxa and Saerine as she watched how magick had been used to deceive people and harm them.

“This is how magick should never be used,” Iluxa warned.

They landed elegantly in the grounds where Iluxa waited for them.

“Thank you,”Esca whispered. “Will I ever see you again?”

“I only let friends ride with me and I like to see my friends whenever I can,

Elyria replied. “Think of me and I will be there.”

Esca kissed her and hugged her. A Unicorn as a friend; how lucky she was.

Iluxa and Elyria greeted each other and within a whisper, Elyria had already gone.

“I’m sorry I got lost…” Esca began to say.

Illuxa gave her gentle look and smile to say, she was glad she was safe. This was the hard part of mentoring, allowing her charges to fall and find their own strengths.

“Magick, which includes flying takes up our energy, so we have to look after it and choose to use it wisely,” she told her. “Few get to meet a Unicorn let alone ride on one.”

Esca smiled, “Have you met Elyria before,” she asked.

“Elyria and I have had some interesting adventures together. She is one of the Star Unicorns, ones that can cross boundaries of time and space in any realm. Perhaps I’ll ask her to teach you some of the magick across the realms, but you need more practice first.”

That night Esca couldn’t wait to go to sleep and dream of Elyria.

“Do I really have a Unicorn as a friend?” she thought.

“Well, if I have a flying Elf friend called Esca then you do!” was the reply and at that moment she found she herself on the mane of Elyria, flying through a starlit sky, sailing past a bright full moon.

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