Twitter and many other parts of the world are awash in comments and observations about National Unicorn Day. Since so much of it seems frivolous, here is an excerpt from my novel, A Lost Gospel, where unicorns are as real as the fingers on your hand.
“You want us to think like the unicorn?” Ogma was irritated, and spoke with deliberation. “The ways of the beasts are even beyond the girl. At her best, I believe she just follows.”
“There are times, Ogma, when the worth is not in the accomplishment, but in the attempt.”
“I’ll be a better man by trying to think like the beast?”
“You can’t help but be a better man, Ogma.”
“Well. That’s spoken like a Head Druid.” Although Cowin could not see his actions – perhaps because Cowin was unable to see him – Ogma held out his hand and rubbed his fingers together. “Here, beastie, beastie. Uncle Ogma has a wee treat for you.”
“Is that what you think a unicorn thinks?”
“But if you come up to Uncle Cowin,” Ogma’s voice now had a sing-song tone. “Just jab him in the arse with that big horn, for he doesn’t have anything for you at all.”
“A least I promise nothing.” The Head Druid had finally deduced what Ogma was doing. “But what will be the reaction of those very sharp teeth when your hand is found to be empty?”
“What?” Ogma hesitated.
“Does the unicorn possess your sense of humour?” Cowin did not try to suppress a chuckle. “Or will your empty hand be empty even of fingers?”
Ogma momentarily considered the question, then quickly raised his hand. He was about to make an obscene gesture, but instead turned in the direction of a distant noise. He could feel by the brush of Cowin’s cloak that the Head Druid did the same.
“We’re being approached without hesitation.” Ogma whispered the words.”By more than one, if the sounds don’t play tricks.”
“That isn’t possible in this fog.” As the oncoming noise shifted, Cowin turned slightly. “I don’t suppose you have a knife under your cloak?”
“No, Head Druid.” Ogma stared into the dark. “Like most, I rarely carry arms while on the Island.”
“The times are changing.” Cowin looked at the vague shape of his companion. “Keep no more than a few strides distant.”
“We’re not prepared for a fucking invasion.” Ogma got into a crouch and flanked the Head Druid.
“Maybe they won’t see us.” Cowin leaned toward the approaching noise.
“I think that’s a false hope.” Ogma moved into his fighting position, bracing for an attack. “They’re aiming right in our direction.”
“The fog will give some protection.” The Head Druid also crouched into a combat stance. “Let as many as possible go past, then jump the ones at the rear. If they’re armed, we might wrestle a weapon from them.”
“Or a body to use as a shield.” Ogma wrapped his cloak around his arm to help deflect a thrusting sword.
“Nothing fancy.” Cowin dug his heels into the earth. “We have to go on this voyage – nothing is more important. If we’re overwhelmed, we must try to escape.”
The fog seemed to muffle noises which were close, yet make distant sounds crack like a whip beside their ears. This aided to the druids’ confusion, and they couldn’t tell who was approaching, or from where. It was Ogma who spoke first, using an oath which held traces of fear around the words.
“Something’s brushing against me.”
“What do you – ”
“Curse Manannan’s damn fog – it’s at my legs.” There were sounds of commotion, and then of a body rolling on the earth. “Fucking sword of death.” Ogma’s voice was high.
“Where are you?” Cowin stared uselessly through the fog.
“By the gods of hell. Get it away from me.”
“Ogma.” Cowin moved toward his voice. “I can’t even – ”
“It’s the beast.” Ogma shouted. “The damned beast.”
“The unicorn.” Ogma was sputtering in anger. “It’s pulling my clothes with its teeth, and that horn has come inches from – ” Ogma’s voice moved. “Oh, for fuck’s sake.”
“Ogma.” The Head Druid was both concerned and relieved. “Don’t struggle – it’s not going to hurt you.”
“You don’t think being frightened can’t hurt you?” Ogma’s voice was sharp, but the rage was ebbing from it. “I’m stopping, you bag of shit. I’m sitting on my arse and not lifting a hand, so get your head away from me.” There was a pause, filled only by the heavy breathing of the unicorn. “This damn thing is bigger than you’d think, Head Druid.”
“Do you still have all your fingers?” Laughter surrounded Cowin’s words. “Or does the unicorn look upon you with a smile?”
“This was its game?”
“Be thankful.” Cowin walked toward the other man’s voice. “You found out the unicorn has a sense of humour.” He reached his hand to help Ogma to his feet.
“The beast does not go after your fingers,” complained Ogma.
“I don’t tease him.” Cowin rubbed the animal’s neck. “Nor do I speak of him in such a rough manner.”
“You think it understands me?”
“Not the words – but the intent.” Cowin felt the unicorn become tense under his hand. “The girl approaches.”