choices

Authors Note: This story is long and will take a bit of time to read. It’s closer to short novelette than short story. Enjoy!



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The morning dawned misty and quiet, the birds hushed and the wind stilled in the presence of magic itself. She walked deliberately and slowly from her thicket in the depths of the wood, moving down the time traveled path toward the mirror like surface of the deep black lake at the center of the wood. Her passage made barely a sound and her tracks were non existent with the light deftness of her steps. She paused at the edge of the dark water and waited, the silence was deafening as the time drew near.



She slid to her knees at the waters edge and bowed her head as the first rays of the sun streaked across the black water. The twisted spire of her horn dipped into the water and began to send ripples across the flat surface. Light spread from the tip of her horn and flashed outward beyond the lake’s surface and into the forest to usher in a new season of growth and prosperity. The unicorn got back to her feet and looked out over the forest and surrounding mountains, another year past.



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Sir Gavin de Mocrief never believed the stories that these woods were overrun with demons and spirits but he still felt uneasy when riding through them. His men at arms flanked his desterier following in a column two deep, enough men to fight off a sizable force but the unease remained. Gavin was tired; the long ride back from spending months in service to the king had left him achy and disgruntled. Before long they would need to stop and rest for awhile, trap some game to eat and rest the horses. They wouldn’t reach the castle before dark fall.



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The squall of crows alerted the animals of the forest to the intrusion of men in their sanctuary. The unicorn lifted her elegant head and turned her ears to the south pass where the procession of men passed through her forest. She snorted and lashed her long lion-like tail against her flank; men were never a good thing.



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Gavin called a halt in a small meadow that broke the expanse of forest for a few hundred yards. The horses were hobbled and unbridled to allow them to eat; saddles were left on in case a rapid exit was needed. The men set about making a small make shift camp, spreading out to eat and rest for a few hours before they would begin the last leg of their journey.



“My Lord Gavin.” A young squire approached quickly. “Shall we set out to seek game for the fire?”



“No Lucas, I believe I could use a bit of a diversion for awhile, I will see what game I can bring down.” Gavin smiled and picked up his crossbow and quiver of bolts.



Gavin walked slowly into the quiet forest, listening for the sound of birds and the chatter of squirrels and other small animals. Nothing. The entire forest was as silent as a tomb aside from the soft crunching of his footsteps. Gavin felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end and a slow creeping chill run through his body as he stalked deeper into the woods.



He had walked for several miles and seen neither hide nor hair of a single animal. Not one fox, rabbit, squirrel, songbird, or deer had crossed his path. He had seen many tracks and spore from different animals, but not one live animal had crossed his vision. Gavin’s feeling of unease was growing rapidly as he stalked through the scrub bushes. He paused along a game trail and settled down into a stand of thick bushes, rubbing mossy mud over his skin to help mask his scent he settled down to wait.



Time could be very subjective of a thing but Gavin knew it had been at least two hours and not a single animal had crossed his field of vision. He looked down over the game trail and down the slope of the hill to the creek running below. Not even fish seemed to be in the bubbling stream, it was as though every animal within miles had taken to ground at the sight of them. Gavin was puzzling over this when he heard the snap of a branch and the sound of hoof beats. He knocked a bolt into the crossbow and waited silently.



The young deer was nervously moving down the game trail. Its hide was still sprinkled with the fading white spots that had helped him hide as a fawn in the dappling light of the forest. The young stag had the beginnings of velveteen covered antlers atop his head and the big brown eyes of innocence all deer retained. Gavin waited for the deer to move into a shot, following his progression with the crossbow. The deer was just steps away from being in the perfect firing position.



A high pitched scream broke the silence and the stag bolted back into the woods, double timing it as he flew over the hill and out of sight. Gavin cursed violently and jerked his head toward the source of the sound. The crossbow fell to the ground forgotten.



Grace personified the unicorn was a vision out of a fairy tale. Long legged and gracefully built the mare stood watching him, her long gold horn lowered and her ears pinned in a purely equine show of anger. The long lion-like tail cut through the air behind her like a whip as she watched him. Her hide was an ethereal dappled gray, reminiscent yet more beautiful than any horse he had ever seen. The unicorn snorted and pawed the turf with a cloven hoof; her eyes never left Gavin’s. Gavin stepped back from the forgotten crossbow. The unicorn snorted a final time and pirouetted and vaulted into the forest, disappearing down the game trail.



Gavin picked up his crossbow and returned to camp. He ordered his men to saddle up and move on, they would not spend any longer in her forest.



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Castle Ravens’ Keep was an ancient pile. Gavin grimaced at the sight of it, even set against the darkening sky with the fires burning low the disrepair and crumbling of the castle was easy to see. Gavin loved and hated his ancestral home, his father had never bothered to care for the home that would be passed down to Gavin, but then again his father had never cared for anything but himself. Lord Russell de Moncrief was long since departed from this world and sometimes Gavin only wished it had been sooner. His mother still lived in the castle, if one could call her existence living at this point, she was so far into her own dementia that she rarely recognized or remembered Gavin. Russell had broken her spirit and finally her mind, Lady Guinevere de Moncrief was only a shadow of the proud woman she had once been. Gavin rode through the crumbling gates of his home and dismounted to see to his horse.



There was no real greeting at the lord’s return, Gavin had no expected there to be. The great hall was dark and cold, the rushes that covered the floor of the hall were several weeks old and very dirty if the smell was any indication. Gavin sighed and turned left heading up the crumbling staircase into the east wing of the castle. His footsteps rang hollow on the dirty stone floor and he turned and entered his chamber, the last one at the end of the hall. Gavin stripped off his leather over tunic and dropped it as he entered the threadbare chamber.



Gavin looked over the chamber. It had been over five years since he had last been home and everything was still exactly where he had left it the night he answered the king’s summons. The bed covers had not been changed since that night, the coverlet still tossed back across the bed as he had leapt up from sleep to answer the call to arms. He would see to having the linens cleaned and the chamber aired tomorrow. Tonight just being home made the bed the most appealing in the world.



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The unicorn stood on the edge of an outcropping of rocks high atop her mountain home. The breeze was cool and scented with growing things as she gazed down across the forests. In the distance the castle sat in darkness, a decaying monument to the men who had intruded into the quiet valley that had long since been a wilderness refuge. The castle’s inhabitants rarely ventured into her forest, they hunted and gathered in the forest on the other side of the river instead. That forest had long ago lost its guardian and was no longer protected by the magic that had kept the men at bay.



The unicorn remembered her sister. Golden in the sun, her sister had been a beautiful creature and a powerful adversary. Her sister’s death at the hands of the first lord of the castle had been a blow. After her sister’s death the men pillaged the forest for wood, killed the biggest and best trees, hunted the animals of the forest, and gathered food that the surviving animals needed to make it through the winter. The forest across the river was a shadow of its former self, struggling by the day to remain standing.



The unicorn looked to the full moon high in the sky. It was not long before the gathering of the unicorns would begin and the breeding season would be initiated. Each year fewer unicorns arrived in the meadow, fewer still successfully brought forth new unicorns into the world. The unicorn sighed softly. She was the last of her family left alive, Alorna of the Graymoon. She hoped that this year she would be able to breed and bring forth a new generation to protect the forest.



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Gavin got up early after a long night of troubled dreams. His mind kept circulating back to the animal in the woods. He strolled down the east wing and turned to walk down the west wing to the quarters his parents had once kept together. To the left of their room was a painting his great grandfather had had commissioned, and it was this painting Gavin sought out this morning. He paused before the painting and studied it in silence, it had always fascinated him as a boy and now it was even more intriguing.



The painting displayed a golden palomino unicorn piked against a huge oak tree with hunting hounds around her feet. The unicorn was impaled by the lance his great grandfather had used to end her life and was displayed in a macabre pose. Her flesh was torn by the dogs and blood was freely flowing from her body while his great grandfather was depicted as the conquering lord atop his war horse in shining glory.



Gavin had long wondered about this painting as it had supposedly depicted a real event that had occurred when the castle was being built, the wood from the great oak tree made up the front doors of the castle and were the only thing in the castle that never seemed to age or decay. The place where the unicorn had died was a short gallop down the riverbank at the edge of the mighty river. The ground there was barren and supported not even scrub grass to this day. It was said that all of his great grandfathers dogs had fallen ill and died within months of the great hunt and his great grandfather had even been struck with a horrible fever he never quite recovered from.



Gavin looked at the golden unicorn in the painting and pictured the ethereal dappled gray unicorn he had seen the day before. He never thought they really existed and he wondered if it was a sign of bad things to come.



“Gavin my dear.” Gavin started and turned to face his mother. “Still so fascinated by grandfather’s painting. Such a pity that the beauty had to die. But you my dear boy should be downstairs with your tutor, surely you have lessons to finish for the day?”





Gavin smiled kindly at his mother. “Of course mother, I will go to my studies right away. Where is Cecilia?”



“She went to fetch breakfast I believe, such a nice girl.” Guinevere wandered back toward her room.



Gavin looked in and made sure she was settled before heading downstairs. She did that sometimes, remembered bits and pieces and still believed Gavin to be a boy of ten. He stopped a maid and instructed her to see to his mother.



The great hall was filled with his men, rested and relieved to be home most of them had already begun to eat breakfast. Gavin smiled as he saw children and wives scattered about the hall, glad to have their men back as well.



“Good morning Lord Gavin!” Marcus his head of the guard cried cheerfully while eating eggs with one hand and bouncing an eight year old girl on his knee. “Did you sleep well my lord?”



“Decently enough.” Gavin smiled. “I see Sonia has grown much since our absence.”



The little girl blushed and giggled before sliding off her father’s knee and dashing over for a quick hug around Gavin’s leg. She smiled up at him with her huge blue eyes then darted out the front door to play in the courtyard.



“Indeed my lord. She has her mother’s eyes and her father’s spirit, mores the pity to that end. She will drive some poor young man to his knees if she doesn’t end up trying to join the guard herself.” Marcus rolled his eyes.



“I somehow doubt the uniform would suit her.” Gavin chuckled. “I know we have been home merely hours Marcus, but I believe that we need to get the men together and see to repairs of the castle. It has gone far too long without cleaning and repairing. I intend to see to its repair first and foremost before any more urgent summons arrives in the night.”



Marcus nodded. “Just what I was thinking my lord. It’d be best to start with stonework and move in, the cleaning can be worked on by the maids and women while we work on the masonry and check to see what carpentry is needed.”



Gavin talked with Marcus over breakfast, discussing the details of repair work and hiring in some labor from a village down the river. They dispatched two riders to go to two villages within a days ride and recruit workers and began to organize the castle staff to cleaning.



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By midday the great hall had been swept clean of dirty rushes, scrubbed to gleaming and the stones recovered with home woven rugs fetched from storage. While not elegant the rugs would cover the stones and be easier to clean and maintain than the rushes. He had the various inhabitants of their town and the castle itself help to scrub the walls of the great hall, clean the two huge fireplaces, polish the furniture and the candelabras, beat out the tapestries and air out the room in general. Gavin had also sent scullery maids to his chamber to see to the changing of the bed linens.



He worked all day with Marcus hauling stone and mixing mortar. The various cracks and collapses in the castles walls would require weeks to mend so they too had started with the great hall and intended to work outward from that central point. There was the East and West wings to check over and repair and also the servants’ quarters and kitchens behind the great hall. The mill and blacksmith’s shop also needed repairs as well as various out buildings and villagers houses. The walls surrounding the castle and out buildings needed to be completely rebuilt in some places and shorn up in many other spots. Gavin knew that even with extra help from two neighboring villages that it would take months to complete all the work the castle required.



By the time the men retired for the evening and gathered in the great hall for dinner the entire hall was a changed place. Freshly cleaned and aired it no longer held the oppressive air of decay and age. The wood gleamed at a high polish, the stones were scrubbed to their own original luster, and the candelabras and weaponry that hung in the hall were all polished to a high gleam. The tapestries had been replaced on the walls, their vivid colors more easily seen without the years of dust coating them. Gavin smiled as he ate his dinner, satisfied with the hard days work.



His chamber was warm and cherry that evening as well. Gavin noted the bed linens had been changed but also that the room had been scrubbed and the tapestries and draperies cleaned as well. The room had been aired and a warm fire set in the hearth casting its glow over the room to banish the darkness and the cold.



Gavin sat on the edge of the bed and looked over the room. The large chamber had been his since he had moved out of the nursery, the size of it had been the one thing he’d always loved about this room. But it seemed almost too large and too empty tonight.





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The weeks had past quickly. Alorna cantered through the forest with elation in her heart. Tonight she would meet a stallion who would sire a foal of her own, a new chapter in her long life, a new beginning. She neighed happily as she dashed from the trees and trotted to the center of the meadow. She looked around herself and snorted quietly, none of the others had yet arrived for the gathering. Alorna grazed as she waited, lifting her head to search the valley as the minutes ticked by into hours.



Alorna felt a deep feeling of dread and fear growing in her as the hour grew late and still no other unicorns had arrived in the meadow. Surely she had not come on the wrong evening. Soon, soon they would arrive, it was just more difficult to travel unnoticed now that the men had become so many in the world. As the witching hour ended Alorna was thoroughly distraught, she whinnied and listened for a reply on the wind, pacing the meadow in frustration. Finally a lone figure broke from the forest and ambled slowly toward her.



The unicorn coming into the meadow was very old, its back was swayed and its legs bowed, the horn on its head was dull and chipped, its head was down and it moved with a slow precision. The unicorn Alorna realized was also a mare. Alorna trotted over to the old mare and gently nuzzled her side.



“Greeting my sister.” Alorna greeted the old one.



“Greetings Alorna of the Graymoon.” The old mare raised her head, her eyes were milky white and unseeing. “Josana of the Silverlake greets you.”



Alorna bowed to the formal introduction and stood alongside the old mare. “It would seem we are the only ones to come this year Josana, though you should not have made the journey at your age.”



Josana chuckled. “Alorna my dear, I had to come to set you down your path before I pass on from this world. Alorna, there are no others left to come. The world of man has spread to fast and the unicorns have fallen under that expansion. They are all gone Alorna, all but you and I.”



“Surely not Josana.” Alorna jerked as though slapped. “There can’t be but two unicorns left in the world, who protects the forests and heals the earth if only we remain?”



‘The earth grows old and tired Alorna. The scars humans put upon her remain unhealed and the animals die in the wake of the humans advance. We are the last and I am afraid I will not be here much longer myself. Alorna I came to speak with you. As my vision has retreated from me, the second site of our clan has replaced it. And I have had a vision of you my dear.”



“Of me?” Alorna looked at the old mares’ unseeing eyes.



“Yes, of you. Alorna of the Graymoon the path you must walk will not be an easy one, it is one fraught with pain and despair, a path that will be too painful to walk at times so you must crawl, you must survive to bear a new generation and teach them what they must know.” Josana turned to Alorna. “Alorna you must perform the right of Sealing. You must venture into the world Sealed and return to the forest only when you carry within you a new generation. You will bear that new generation here in the forest and raise them to be the beginning of the return of unicorns in this world. Alorna of the Graymoon do you understand what I tell you?”



“Yes Josana I understand, and I will comply to save our race.” Alorna lowered her head as she felt the hot sting of tears fill her eyes.



“Thank you Alorna, I know your sacrifice is great but I can pass on in peace for knowing you will save our kind from disappearing forever.”

The old mare’s legs buckled where she stood and she hit the ground dead. Alorna stepped away quickly and watched as Josana’s body decayed and turned to a puddle of magic which seeped back into the earth leaving no trace.



“Be at peace, Josana.”



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Gavin hiked into the forest one brutally hot afternoon several weeks later intent on resting in a shaded place near the lake in the hills. He had often traveled to the lake against his parents’ wishes and decided that the solitude of the forest and the coolness of the lake would do him good. The woods on this side of the river were cursed as far as the villagers were concerned and they avoided them at all cost. Even the rode they had used when returning from service to the king was not often used as it required one to travel through the forest.



Gavin reached the deep blue lake shortly after noon. He set down the basket of food he had brought and settled to eat a bit before his swim. The lake was like a big black mirror when it was dark out, even in the full sun today it appeared to be a deep navy blue and it always stayed flat as a well polished piece of stone. Barely a ripple ever disturbed the surface of this lake. Gavin looked out over the flat surface and felt a quiet peace settle over him.



After he finished eating Gavin stood and stripped down leaving his clothes in a pile under the shade tree with the basket. He waded into the cold water a distance then dove under the flat surface to swim out into the center of the lake. He made a few laps in the water then turned on his back and floated in the chill water, staring up into the blue sky as he let his thoughts wander.



It was his training as a warrior that alerted him to someone walking on the bank he had just left. He could hear the crushing of the vegetation behind him and remained still as he waited to see if whoever it was hailed him. The silence descended again and no hail was called, whoever it was was watching him from the shade tree. Gavin held back and oath and slowly righted himself in the water and turned to look.



He froze where he was and stared. The dappled gray hide of the unicorn blended her in well under the shade tree but he could see her. She was sniffing his basket of food and then moved on to nose through his clothing left under the tree on the bank. Gavin remained still as he watched her, the mare’s long legs moved slowly and gracefully as she walked around the place he had eaten his lunch and inspected his things. The lion like tail twitched just like that of a curious cat when excited or intrigued by a new object. The mare did not appear to have realized he was in the lake.



Gavin moved very slowly in the water, keeping his eyes on the beast as he moved toward shore. He could not recall ever seeing an animal as beautiful as this creature and he could not understand how his great grandfather had ever managed to kill one of her kind. He was about twenty feet from the shore now and he felt the bottom finally under his feet, he began to walk through the water slowly. He had reached about ten feet from the shore and another six feet from the unicorn when she finally turned and looked at him.



He was standing naked in the water, the water only up to mid thigh where he was so close to shore. Alorna looked at this man who had entered her forest not once but twice and invaded her privacy and comfort. His body was corded in muscle and devoid of fat, he had broad shoulders and a tapered waist, powerful thighs and strong arms. His muscle was bronzed from hours in the sun and his skin was covered in scars from battles fought. She scented the air and caught his musky human scent, thick with vitality and devoid of fear. Her eyes wandered downward and she inspected the sex that hung between his legs, while it was not up to the standards of a unicorn stallion she supposed from the proportion of it to his body that he was a well endowed human.



Gavin watched the unicorn appraise him and wondered what would happen next. He got his answer when he saw the mare snort and her eye whites roll in an equine show of fear or anger. The pitching back of her ears told him anger was the emotion of choice as she reared and charged at him with the look of murder in her eyes. Gavin leapt to the side to avoid being crushed under the charging equine, he pitched over and regained his feet in the water as quickly as possible.



The unicorn was thrashing in the water barely two feet from where he had stood. The mare’s hooves thrashed the surface wildly and her horn slashed through the water, she reared repeatedly slashing down into the water the look of murder never leaving her eyes. After several minutes she stopped and backed out of the water slowly. Blood ran down her shoulder and her ears were still pitched back. On the surface of the lake a huge serpent floated, its skull crushed and its body slashed to ribbons, blood spread through the water of the lake and the body began to sink into the depths. The unicorn had just saved his life. Gavin looked at the mare in shock.



Alorna stumbled as she pulled herself out of the lake. Stupid stupid move! She scolded herself mentally. The venom of the water serpent was coursing through her veins and she could feel the lethargy tugging at her senses. This was not good. She staggered several feet before she collapsed.



Gavin rushed out of the water and knelt beside the fallen unicorn. Her breathing was hard and her eyes were open but she was glassy eyed and shaking. He slowly reached out and parted the wet blood streaked fur of her shoulder to see the puncture wounds she bore. The water serpents were quite deadly, it was said they were descended from dragons and that their venom could kill a man in a heartbeat. Gavin looked at the unicorn on the ground in front of him, could she survive the bite?



“Shit.” Gavin dashed over to his clothes and yanked on his pants. He pulled the knife he’d used to cut cheese earlier out of the basket and went back to the mare. She was shaking and her eyes were rolling white, her skin was soaked in sweat and she thrashed as she attempted to stand.



“Whoa, whoa.” Gavin soothed with his voice and laid his hands on her neck. “Easy girl, you’ll do yourself more damage. I don’t intend to hurt you, you save my life, I owe you.”



Alorna tried to shake off the fog in her brain, the human was speaking to her she thought. He had a knife she realized and thrashed anew. His hands were strong and gentle as he put pressure on her and talked in soothing tones. She stilled and looked at him, unsure of his plans. The serpents bite wouldn’t kill her, but if she laid out here unprotected until she recovered something would. Alorna watched as the man strode off to the trees and disappeared for several moments. He came back chewing something in his mouth. Oh great a snack break! She rolled her eyes and felt her brain slip into foggier depths.



Gavin knelt beside the unicorn and took the knife out. He held her nose away from him as he cut the skin and flesh around the punctures. The unicorn screamed and jerked as she tried to stand and Gavin had to hold her down with all his force until she settled again. Her eyes were clearer and angry as she looked at him and tried to gouge him with her horn. He held her head carefully to avoid the sharp pointed horn and dabbed the blood away from the opened wounds. Gavin spit the wad of plant chewings into his hand and spit a few more times into the grass for good measure. He split the material into two wads and pressed it into the opened puncture wounds, filling the cuts in her skin he’d made.



Alorna felt the sting and burn of the chewed plants on her shoulder and whickered hoarsely. Slowly the pain faded and she felt numbness set in and coolness spread from there. She turned her head and sniffed the mixture scenting several medicinal herbs that she would eat for a case of plant poisoning, swelling of the joints or flesh, and a few others she didn’t recognize immediately. Medicinal all of them, he was helping her. The human sat beside her, crossing his legs as he watched cautiously to make sure she wouldn’t try to gore him again.



Alorna sighed softly and looked at the human, not all evil perhaps after all. She felt lethargy and unconsciousness tugging at her brain. Alorna laid her head across the man’s lap and fell into darkness.



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Nightfall came. Gavin stroked the soft neck of the beautiful unicorn who slept in his lap. She had been unconscious for hours and he was not sure when or if the great animal would get up again. The serpent would have killed him for sure and yet this elusive animal who had avoided humans for years had risked its life to save his. Gavin wondered what could have possessed the unicorn to save a human; humans were not kind to her kind or many others. Unicorns were prized for their horns and many a king had ordered the hunting down of these animals to have those precious horns harvested. His own great grandfather had slain a unicorn across the river from here to secure favors from the king. This mare had an air of sadness about her; perhaps she was alone in this forest.



Alorna felt her neck being stroked as she struggled back to the conscious world. Her eyes opened slowly and not without protest and she looked up to see that human sitting over her. She still had her head across his lap and he was there, still clothed in only his breeches and still guarding her. Alorna raised her head slowly and turned her face to his, at eye level with him for once. He looked glad and relieved.



“I’m glad you are ok. It would have been very unfortunate for you to die for my sake.” He smiled at her.



Alorna snorted and gathered her legs under her, she stood and shook herself thoroughly feeling the chewed plants fall from her shoulder. She turned her head and brushed the wound with her horn, a golden glow covered the skin and it healing the open wounds to two thin parallel scars.



“Amazing.” Gavin whispered.



The poison had run its course and her body had beaten it back. Any other animal would be dead right now; it was only Alorna’s magic that had saved her. She faced the human once more. She snorted and turned leaping into a gallop as she dashed off across the meadow and back into the forest.



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Gavin made it back to the castle an hour later. He told them all he had fallen asleep under a shade tree and just awoken. The evening meal was routine and the progress on the renovation and repair of the castle was discussed at length. There were several more large projects, including building a new outer gate to the castle walls which would require a great deal of hard wood. Gavin decided to put that off for awhile in favor of working on more masonry, thatching, and less intensive carpentry around the castle and the town.



Gavin laid awake for many hours that night thinking about the unicorn. Why had she risked her life to save his? He had been an intruder in her forest and had been bathing in her lake and yet she had put her life on the line to prevent his death. Gavin stared at the ceiling for hours before he finally succumbed to sleep.



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The moon hung full and ripe in the sky. Alorna walked through the forest alone. Her thoughts were scattered and uncertain and her mood was dour. It had been a week since she had saved the life of the human but she still did not understand the compulsion that had driven her to do it. She fought with herself even as she walked through the forest to the very edge of the road of men. She looked up and down the road seeking her destination out. She saw the aged oak tree at the bend of the road and made her way to its base.



“Grandfather Oak.” She called to the tree. “Alorna of the Graymoon seeks your counsel and your help.”



“Speak Alorna of the Graymoon.” The oak rustled in the wind.



“Oh Grandfather Oak, I ask your help in performing the Sealing ceremony this night. I am the last of my kind in this world and I must go forth to procreate among those not of my kind. I ask your help to Seal me and keep me safe until I return.”



“You ask much young one. The pain of Sealing is great and the vows it entails last even beyond death.”



“I know Grandfather Oak. I offer to take the pain that would be yours and to return as quickly as I can to remove those vows.”



“I will consent Alorna of the Graymoon. I will perform the Sealing ceremony with you.”



“Thank you Grandfather Oak.” Alorna whispered.



Alorna retreated a hundred yards from the oak tree. She stood and waited until she was ready to finish the task she had begun. Alorna reared onto her hind legs and leapt straight into a gallop, she stretched herself for speed and aimed her horn directly at the trunk of the oak tree. With a deafening thwack her horn sunk into the tree, burying itself to the hilt within the wood of the tree. Alorna felt dizzy and sick as she stood on shaking legs for the ceremony to begin.



What is wood is bone and what is bone is wood. I swear to thee to keep you safe, upon thy death I shall protect you still, upon my own my soul to Seal. With this pact we become as one, interlocked for the good of both. I swear to protect thee and to hold thee and I swear to unseal thee when the time has come.



The oak’s whispered words caressed Alorna and she felt her head grow light, sticky resin goo flowed from the wound in the tree and wrapped around the base of her horn. Slowly the resin sank in between horn and skull and with a sharp snap the horn broke free. Alorna fell to the ground as she felt her skin closing on her head and the bead of resin solidify into a small oblong amber gem embedded in her skin. She watched as her horn disappeared within the tree and the hole was sealed with the same resin, healing to show no wound. Alorna felt ill, like she had been punched in the stomach as she took the pain from the tree to keep her vow.



“You are Sealed Alorna of the Graymoon. I wish you luck.” The oak returned to slumber.



Alorna looked at the oak for a moment then slowly looked down at her body. Long fingers, pale skin, two legs in the place of four, she looked at her human form and felt very ill. Alorna past into unconsciousness as a huge wave of pain ripped through her as the oak finished sealing her horn and the pain of it was past onto her body.



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“No one knows her my Lord.”



“Well she can’t have just appeared out of thin air Marcus.”



“George said she was lying in the middle of the road south, just around the bend in the road next to the old oak tree. She didn’t have a mark on her or a scrap of clothing and there were no horse or human tracks around her body.”



“Impossible. Someone has to know who she is. She looks like a noble.”




Alorna wanted to scream at the whispers to be quiet. The inside of her skull felt like it was being pounded on by a blacksmith’s mallet and she just wanted quiet. She groaned and lifted a hand to her throbbing forehead alerting the humans that she was conscious again.



“She’s awake.” The one called Marcus spoke.



Alorna slowly opened her eyes and surveyed the room she was in. The light was flickering and orange from a fire in the hearth. The bed was a huge for posted canopy style with several layers of soft coverlets tucked around her chin. The two men were looking at her quietly and a chambermaid was sitting beside the bed with a basin of water and a cloth. Alorna shoved herself up to a sitting position which tossed the covers off her upper body.



Both men did an about face as she sat up and refused to look at her. She tilted her head in puzzlement and finally realized they were embarrassed by her for some reason. The chambermaid grabbed a shawl and wrapped it around her upper body and pulled the covers up as well. They seemed to have a problem with her state of undress Alorna realized. How strange these humans were.



“Milady, lay back and rest you’ve had a rough time.” The chambermaid smiled and laid the cool wet cloth over Alorna’s forehead.



The men had turned back around to face her although she noticed that the one called Marcus seemed to be an unusual shade of red. She looked to the other man and recognized Gavin immediately. This was the human who had twice invaded her forest. He was eve more striking viewed through human eyes and she was more able to discern the shade of his eyes and the color of his skin. How strange a human, so kind to her when she was injured as a mare and now sheltering her as a human.



“What is your name miss?” Gavin looked at the woman in the bed.



Alorna rubbed her skull slowly and struggled to pull the human words forward, she knew their language but was not as familiar with it and its lack of body posturing and signaling. It’d be impossible to use these small ears for anything from her language for sure. She formed her words slowly and deliberately as she got used to her human vocal cords.



“My name is Alorna.” She started at the musical lilt to her own voice and puzzled over the soft feminine charm in it.



“Alorna, my name is Gavin de Mocrief. I am the Lord of this castle and this land and I would like to know how you came to be lying in the road. Did anyone from the castle or neighboring villages harm you?”



“I’m sorry.” Alorna shook her head. “I don’t remember.”



“It’s ok dear.” The maid smiled and then turned to Gavin. “I think milord that the young lady has been through quite enough for one evening. It’d be best if you both leave her to rest.”



“Of course, forgive me May.” Gavin bowed and departed the room.



Alorna watched May easily turn out the lord of the castle and wondered at the woman’s sway over the other human. She smiled as May returned to the bed and removed the cloth from Alorna’s forehead.



“Now my dear its best you get some rest. In the morning I will bring you some breakfast and a bath. Don’t mind Lord Gavin, he’s a good man and he wants to be sure that if anyone has harmed you on his land he can set it right.” May smiled kindly at Alorna. “Sleep well dear.”



Alorna stared at the door for several minutes before she plucked the shawl off her shoulders and slipped out of the bed. She walked to the window and looked out over the small village and the farmland beyond it. She had never come this close to the castle and had rarely taken an interest in the workings of humans before now. She wondered if perhaps not all humans were bad after all.



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Gavin stood on the battlements fuming silently as he stared out at the road that weaved south along the border of the cursed wood. How anyone could have tossed a helpless woman out on the road on his land was beyond him. It angered him that someone had abused the woman and that she seemed to have no memory of who had left her to die on the road. There had been no travelers along the road for weeks and if it hadn’t been for him sending one of his men to the village to the south yesterday the man would not have discovered the woman lying in the road. He sighed and raked his fingers through his hair.



Alorna was a strange puzzle. She seemed to be quite innocent though she had to be in her twentieth year at least, she was certainly well developed. Gavin closed his eyes and brought back the image of her exquisite breasts in painfully sharp detail. They were round and full set in perfect pale skin and crowned with dusky nipples that begged for a man’s attention. Her wide brown eyes had the same innocent beauty of a frightened animal, perhaps a doe of the forest itself, and her face was an unblemished perfection that artists would have wept to see. The strange amber gem that seemed to be affixed to her smooth forehead only added mystery to her beauty. But her most enchanting feature was her hair by far, long falling to her hips at least it was pure silver beginning with dark roots and streaking to a pure almost white at the ends. Instead of making her look prematurely old her hair made her look even more timeless and youthful somehow, a true study in perfection.

Gavin rubbed his eyes as he tried to rid the vision from his mind. She was a guest in his home and he had far too much work to do to be distracted by a pretty face. Gavin turned his eyes toward the mountains within the forest and wondered if the unicorn ran tonight.



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Alorna quickly discovered that humans were quite chatty creatures. Throughout her breakfast, bath, and dressing the two maids that were there to assist her talked non stop. They talked about the weather, the castle and its inhabitants, the Lord de Moncrief, the men at arms, the blacksmith and his sons, and anything that flitted through their minds. Alorna learned more about the humans of the castle in twenty minutes then she might have in days of asking questions. She discovered that there were several eligible and handsome men among the garrison and more in the village. Surely one of them would suit her needs.



Alorna walked slowly down the long corridor of the East wing of the castle heading for the great hall. She stopped to examine each tapestry and appreciate every piece of armor and sculpture as she made her way to the great hall. The halls itself smelled of clean stones, polished wood and metal, and fresh mortar. She descended the stairs slowly taking in the picture before her. Lord Gavin and his men were seated at a long oak table on the far side of the hall and a fire burned in the hearth behind them. The stairs ended before the main doors to the outer keep and she paused half way down them to take everything in.



Gavin lifted his head from the letter his man at arms had delivered the night before and caught sight of the woman standing on the stairs. She was clothed in a simple blue dress with a bit of embroidery running down the bodice but she may as well have been in a royal court dress. Her hair was set off by the dark color of the wool and her slim tall frame was accented by the cut of the gown. The breasts he had glimpsed the night before filled out the bodice making it snug over their ample size and allowing the slight plunge in the neckline to reveal the tops of those swells. All conversation had died off as the men noticed the vision on the stairs as well.



“Good morning Lady Alorna.” Marcus stood and bowed gallantly. “Please do join us.”



“Of course Sir Marcus.” Alorna smiled and finished descending the stairs to cross to the table. Nathanial, another man at arms held a chair out for her as she approached. She took the chair gracefully and laid her hands demurely in her lap.



“Good morning Lady Alorna, I trust you slept well?” Gavin inquired as he returned his focus to the letter.



“Quite well Milord.” She smiled and accepted a cup of watered wine from May who had also brought a plate of breakfast.



“Did you happen to recall any of the events that brought you to be lying in the road outside of the forest?”



“I’m sorry, no.” Alorna looked at the plate in front of her and nibbled at the items she believed she recognized.



“Please let me know if you recall anything.” Gavin stood slowly and waved to Marcus and the men. “We need to get to the last of the stones in the west section of the castle wall today men. Please excuse us Lady Alorna.”



Alorna watched them leave the hall and picked through the remainder of her breakfast. She needed to begin searching through the available men and pick one to sire her foal quickly. She had no desire to remain here for longer than necessary.



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Gavin wiped sweat from his brow as he finished setting another stone in place on the mortar mix spread on the stone below it. The wall was nearly finished now, possibly one more day of lying stones and it would be complete save the new wooden gate that was needed. He smiled pleased with the work and the change the castle had undergone since his return home. He looked out over the grounds and the complete change in them, stones and mortar replaced, windows washed, grounds cleaned and trimmed, wall and outbuildings restore. Gavin started as he saw Alorna leaning against one of the hay sheds speaking with one of the blacksmith’s sons. The boy was leaning over Alorna and whispering against her ear in a very intimate fashion.



Gavin’s grip tightened on his spade and he felt a rush of anger at the sight. He climbed down from his perch on the wall and stalked toward the hay shed with purposeful strides.



“Perhaps we could go for a walk down by the river Lady Alorna?”



“I hardly think that would be appropriate Nicholas.” Gavin barked as he stopped behind the young man. “I’m sure you wouldn’t want to risk Lady Alorna’s reputation in such a fashion without the supervision of a chaperon.”



Nicholas’s ears turned red and he muttered his apologies and took off toward the blacksmiths’ shop. Gavin looked down at the Lady Alorna who seemed to have become slightly crest fallen at the boy’s departure.



“Forgive me Lady Alorna but you should be more careful among the men, perhaps have May or one of the other ladies travel with if you wish to walk the grounds.” Gavin suggested.



“Why?” Alorna cocked her head and gave him a puzzled look. “I believe I’m capable of making decisions regarding my reputation and my safety without an escort.”



Gavin looked shocked at her frank speech. “My Lady I only think of your reputation. Whenever we find your family and return you to them you will have your future to think of and I’m sure an advantageous marriage and children are included in that future.”



Alorna snorted in an unladylike manner. “No family will come for me and the only one who has a say in my future is myself. I will choose what suits me best and no man or woman will make my decisions for me.” She glared at him daring him to contradict her.





“I would be more careful if I were you Alorna. Too many women are ruined by the thoughtless actions of others and you should guard against that happening to you.”



Gavin turned and walked away without a backward glance.



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Deep black clouds rolled in along the valley the next day and began to build as the day wore on. As the sun fell into the west lightening began to slash angrily through the sky as thunder roared overhead. The downpour began shortly after nightfall, the rain coming down in sheets as the lightening split the heavens and lit up the valley bright as day for moments at a time. Gavin stared out his window overlooking the battlements and watched the rain pour down, the turmoil outside failing to sooth the turmoil inside him.



The Lady Alorna had been wandering through the castle and the village and was frequently in the company of the admiring male populace of the area. She charmed them all and was rarely without the company of at least one adoring man. Gavin took a sip of his wine and rolled it over his tongue trying to sort out his feelings on the subject. Alorna was under his protection and was his responsibility, it was up to him to ensure no harm came to her while she lived in these walls yet she seemed to be unaware or uncaring to the nature of the beast she courted when she fraternized with the men. Any number of the young men of the village and his own men at arms were enamored with her in one fashion or another. He wondered if the woman was truly unaware of her effect on men.



Gavin groaned and set his forehead against the cool glass of the window. She had quite an effect and she haunted his dreams leaving him aroused and aching for release night after night. The woman was an aphrodisiac on two legs. He looked out the window and tossed out a string of curses. An aphrodisiac that was standing on the battlements in the driving rain. Gavin turned and stormed out of his chamber.



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Alorna lifted her head to the sky and let the rain cascade down her face and hair; she pirouetted on the battlements and threw her hands out behind her as she let the rain soak her through and through. Her gown stuck to her like a second skin and her hair was plastered to her neck and face as she watched the lightening streak the sky and the rain drench the earth.



“What in all that is holy are you doing out here!” The thunderous roar of Lord Gavin’s voice drowned out even the storm overhead.



Alorna looked over her shoulder at him as he strode down the walkway toward her. She smiled and turned in place raising her arms to the sky as the rain came down. Even his foul mood wouldn’t dampen her love of the storm.



“It washes everything clean Lord Gavin. Nothing is more beautiful than a storm.” Alorna leaned back and closed her eyes as the rain fell on her face and down the bodice of her gown.



Gavin felt his groin pull tight at the sight of the soaking wet woman standing in the rain. Ever curve of her body was discernable through the damp wool gown, ever inch of her was as exposed as if she had been naked. Gavin closed his eyes and snatched the woman up, tossing her over his shoulder and turning to stride back into the castle. He ignored every scream and protest as he walked back in through the great hall and up the stairs to her chamber, calling May as he went.



He dumped Alorna on her bed just as May bustled in and gasped in shock. The soaking wet woman glared daggers at him from the bed as he turned to leave.



“May, please see to it that she changes into dry clothing and remains close to the fire so she doesn’t take a chill. Keep her inside as well.” Gavin left the chamber without another word.



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In the morning Gavin saddled his horse to look at the damaged from the storm the night before and assess the trees surrounding the castle. Lighting strikes often provided the castle with felled trees to use for lumber and for carpentry so after a storm was the best time to go searching for wood. Gavin and Marcus galloped out to check the meadows and forest and arrange for the hauling of any wood they located.



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Alorna yawned as she descended into the great hall. The hall was a buzz with people and everyone was crowding around the oak table chattering back and forth. She puzzled at this and began to walk toward the commotion. Gavin and Marcus were standing on the far side of the table talking quietly and looking at something on the table. Alorna walked toward the table and slowly slipped forward until she could see the object of such fascination.



Alorna’s scream was more horrible than that of a dying animal. She hit the floor seconds later.



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Gavin sat next to Alorna’s bed with May and waited for Alorna to come around. Her fainting spell had horrified the entire castle and her blood curdling scream had set everyone on edge. Gavin looked at her pale face and wondered what was wrong with her. She was whimpering softly and twitching anxiously. Gavin stood and looked at May.



“I’ll be in my library, send for me if she awakens.”



“Yes milord.” May nodded.



Gavin strode down the east wing away from Alorna’s chamber, he turned into the library that connected to his own chamber and closed the door behind him. After Alorna’s fainting spell he had removed the object to this room to keep it out of the public eye. He looked down at it sitting on his polished desk.



The stone itself was about four and a half feet long perfect golden amber and frozen within the stone was a unicorn’s horn. No; not just a unicorn’s horn, his unicorn’s horn. He sighed and sat down in his chair. He recognized every inch of the golden spire; he had sat and admired it for hours only a few months ago as the unicorn slept in his lap. Every inch of the horn was familiar to him and it wounded him deeply to see it lying on his desk. When the lightening had split the old oak tree it had exposed the huge amber jewel within the tree, a jewel that sealed a unicorn’s horn inside the old tree. If Gavin had not recognized the horn he would have believed it had been inside the old tree for many years.



He rubbed his eyes and poured himself a large glass of whiskey, tossing it down to feel the burn creep down his throat and into his stomach. He drank to the life the unicorn had lost for no unicorn could live without its horn.



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Alorna awoke with a start and surged up in the bed. May was sleeping in the chair next to her bed and the room was cool as the fire had burned down to the coals. Her horn was in the hands of humans. Alorna stumbled out of the bed and dashed down to the great hall. The tree had been hit by lightening last night but she hadn’t felt the pain of its death, the old oak used its last bit of life to seal her horn permanently and save it, protecting it against the men of the world. She looked around franticly but her horn was not in the great hall.



She dashed back upstairs and looked down the hall. A flickering light was leaking out into the hall from the second to last door in the hall, perhaps her horn was there. She dashed down the hallway and yanked the door open flinging herself inside. She saw her horn on the desk in the room and pulled the door shut behind her. She walked slowly toward the desk and reached out to touch the amber stone. It was cold to her touch and silky smooth, dead as stone always was.



“Leave it alone!” Gavin’s voice roared from the settee against the wall.



Alorna leapt and turned to face him. She eyed him laying on the settee a mostly empty bottle in one hand and a strange glassy eyed expression on his face. He glared at her as thought she had committed some terrible sin for touching the amber stone holding her horn. Alorna looked at the golden spire encased in amber and felt a wave of grief run through her.



“Nothing for you to be ssad over.” Gavin slurred his words badly as he indicated the stone with a flick of the bottle. “S’not like you knew her.”



Alorna glared at Gavin. “You have no heart.” She spat the words at him.



Gavin crossed the space between them in three large strides and backed Alorna against the desk. He pinned her there placing his hands down on the desk on either side of her body and lowered his face to hers.



“If I didn’t have a heart I wouldn’t care that sshe’s dead.” He whispered harshly. “But it’s not my heart that needs soothing tonight.”



Alorna gasped as Gavin crushed her against him and covered her mouth with his. Her blood heated and coursed through her veins sending a dizzying feeling of euphoria through her brain. Her mouth opened easily under the probing over Gavin’s tongue and he took her invitation readily tasting her mouth. The whiskey lent a heady burn to the taste of his mouth and Alorna moaned despite herself, she felt her knees growing weak as she leaned into his body to steady herself.



Gavin’s fingers untied the laces of her bodice and slipped the gown down her shoulders to free her breasts. He cupped one in his hand and stroked the soft skin feeling the lush weight of it in his palm as he circled her nipple with the pad of his thumb. Gavin dragged his mouth from hers and trailed kisses and gently bits down her neck and along her shoulder blade. He paused and ran a finger over two small thin scars that marred the flesh of her shoulder wondering how a lady would come by such scars. He dropped to the peaked nipple of her breast and suckled it into his mouth, laving it with his tongue and raking it lightly with his teeth.



Alorna moaned loudly and arched her back pushing her hips against Gavin’s groin as she felt her body respond to his in a primal way. She dropped her hands and cupped the heavy weight of his erection through his trousers, enjoying the sudden intake of breath he took and the deep rumbling groan in his throat as she stroked his erection. Her body hummed with the desire to mate and she felt herself growing more aggressive and demanding by the moment. She tore his shirt down the back and rand her hands down the strong planes of his back and over the swell of his ass. She pulled the tattered shirt off him and dropped it on the floor.



Gavin took her mouth roughly, pushing her back away from the desk until he backed her into the stone wall of the library. He tugged down on her gown until it slid to the floor leaving her as naked as the day she was brought to the castle. She was a feast for the eyes and Gavin looked his fill, eyes wandering over every lean inch of muscle and every soft lush curve that made up her seductive body. He felt his cock swell painfully and reached down to release it from his pants, freeing it from the confines of the fabric. Alorna whimpered and scratched his back; she rubbed her body against him, the soft hollow of her stomach sliding against the sleek hardness of his cock.



Gavin grasped her ass and lifted her onto him, pushing her back against the wall as he slid between her thighs. Alorna wrapped her legs around his waist and Ran her fingers through his silky hair as she kissed him, slipping her tongue into his mouth and retreating to allow him into hers. He held her pinned against the wall and slowly stroked her with the head of his cock, rubbing it up and down her slit dragging it over her clit on each pass. He listened to her whimper and moan as she shivered and tensed with each slow pass he made over her clit, the drops of his precum slickening her already moist folds even more as he toyed with her. Alorna groaned and finally reached down and wrapped her hand around the thick length of him, she stroked with her hand tightening it around him to provoke a gasp of pleasure from him.



Gavin growled and thrust his cock into her body, his thrust hard and demanding tearing into her without ceremony. Alorna gasped at the twinge of sharp pain and tightened her legs around him she panted and wriggled until the tight feeling slackened and she grew accustomed to the size of him inside her. She heard Gavin curse violently for a moment then he bucked against her again, thrusting up into her tight hole again. She arched herself into him and bucked against his thrusting, feeling the friction sending waves of pleasure through her lower body. Alorna gasped and bit his neck as she shivered violently as he made another hard thrust inside of her. Gavin took one of her nipples into his mouth and sucked and nipped at it as he rocked back and forth inside of her.



Alorna let her hands wander down his back and grip the cheeks of his ass, feeling the flexing muscles as he moved inside of her, she pushed off from the wall to meet his strong thrusts in return. His mouth covered hers again and he thrust his tongue in and out of her mouth in time to the rhythm he set with his cock moving inside of her. Alorna whimpered, holding him against her as she moved with him, feeling ever muscle inside of her body rolling and tightening around him, begging for the release to come. She pushed against him and rocked herself faster into his engorged shaft, angling her body to bring the wonderful friction to a more pleasurable level. Gavin’s back was slick with sweat and her fingers slid of her hard muscles easily as she wandered down between her thighs with her hands. She reached between them and wrapped her fingers around his shaft, squeezing as he moved in and out of her, stroking her fingers over his slick hard length and running her palms over his balls on each in stroke.



Gavin felt himself grow tight and aching with the need to spill himself inside her body. The damn woman was a witch; she was driving him to a pleasurable madness with her hands and the tight slick heat of her body. He could feel her muscles tightening to an almost painful level around him as she grew closer to release, and felt his cock swell under the increasing tightness and her hands playing with him. He pulled her hands out from in between them and pinned them over her head with his hands as he thrust wildly into her, abandoning all attempts at control and restraint and letting the beast inside him rule. Alorna cried out and began to orgasm, her body spasmed hard and the jerking quivering of her muscles was his undoing. Gavin thrust into her hard and felt himself spill inside her, a wave of warm heat flowing in her as she flowed around him.

Gavin’s knees slowly buckled and they slid to the floor, he lay back on the carpet and she covered him like a blanket their bodies still joined at the hip. God he was the worst kind of hypocrite, to bark like an angry dog every time one of his men got near her and now to have taken her virginity against a brick wall in his library. He stroked her soft hair as he felt his heart begin to slow back down and his breathing return to normal. She was sprawled atop him in a picture of pure feminine satisfaction and fulfillment. Her beautiful brown eyes were half closed in a sleepy sexy way that made her even more beguiling and intriguing.



Gavin slowly shifted her and stood, lifting her in his arms and carrying her into his chamber. He laid her down and crawled in with her pulling the coverlet up around them. She yawned and rested her head on his chest, sliding her body up against his with her leg draped over his as she curled up to sleep. He looked down at her, her eyes closed and her breathing slowing as she slipped into sleep. What the hell had he done.



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Gavin awoke to the sound of feminine giggling. He silted his eyes open just enough to see from under his lashes and groaned inwardly. Two chambermaids stoked a fire in the hearth between fits of giggling and whispering. Gavin closed his eyes again and cursed himself mentally, before breakfast every servant in the castle would know Lady Alorna was sharing his bed. He heard the maids depart and opened his eyes to look down at the woman sleeping next to him. She was still tucked against his side with her cheek on his chest and her hair fanned out over her back. He sighed and closed his eyes to sleep awhile longer.



Alorna heard Gavin’s sigh just as she had heard the maids giggling and whispering as they set a fire in the hearth. She remained still feigning sleep as Gavin drifted back to sleep next to her. She stretched very slowly and slipped out of his arms once he had returned to sleep. Alorna looked at him sleeping in his bed before she opened the door to the library and stepped inside. She walked over to the desk and ran her fingers over the long amber stone her horn was sealed within. Her fingers touched the amber gem imbedded in her forehead and she sighed wondering what next. She was unsure if human bodies were similar to those of unicorns and didn’t know if she would have caught last night or if it took several breedings to insure pregnancy.



She stooped over and gathered her discarded clothing, slipping the dress back onto her body as she thought about her options. If she went back now she would only have to return if she had not caught and that was not something she wanted. In all honesty she had not intended to breed with Gavin though she wasn’t sure why exactly she had dismissed him as a possibility. She wondered if it was possible to still pick another of the men at the castle or in the village assuming she hadn’t already caught. Of course since she didn’t know how to tell if she had caught or not that left her in the odd position of not knowing the father of the foal should she seek another male. Alorna grumbled and rubbed her eyes, for now she would wait and see if she could tell anything before deciding where to go from here. Perhaps she could ask May how a human female knew if she was pregnant or not.



Alorna walked back to her chamber and found it empty. She wondered when May had left the room but decided it didn’t really matter right now. She stripped off the gown and slipped into her cold bed. Pulling up the coverlet she stared up at the ceiling until she fell back into sleep.



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Breakfast was an interesting affair for Gavin. His men at arms had been with him for years and they all knew that he rarely took women to his bed in his time in the service of the king and had not done so until now since leaving the king’s castle. There were many a speculative look thrown his way as they tried to feel out the situation and determine his mood that morning. Gavin avoided most of their gazes and brooded quietly over his breakfast noting that Alorna was absent from the table this morning just as she had been absent from his bed when he had awoken.



“Sleep well?” Marcus smiled coyly at Gavin.



“Don’t start.” Gavin rolled his eyes and picked up an apple.



“Not starting anything Gavin, just curious. It’s not really like you to do rash things.” Marcus looked at his friend speculatively.



“I was rather drunk truth be told.” Gavin muttered to the table and rubbed his temple where a savage headache still pounded.



Marcus truly looked shocked at that comment. “Well I certainly hope you had your wits about you enough to not do anything the Lady didn’t approve of.”



“I have never been that drunk, Marcus.” Gavin scowled darkly.



Gavin had had enough; he stood and left the hall. He sought out the stables and had his favorite stallion saddled for a long ride. He only looked up at the castle once but didn’t see anyone in the windows of the east wing. Gavin swung up into the saddle and spurred his horse into a gallop out of the castle gate. The horse was energetic and feisty, the perfect challenge for Gavin’s mood.



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Alorna sat in the garden letting the sun warm her body. She watched a butterfly moving from flower to flower feeding on their sweet nectar as it moved along. The pale pink gown she wore blended in with the dainty wild roses that came in a variety of pink shades and grew in wild abandon throughout the garden. She turned and shaded her eyes when the shadow fell along the ground next to her.



“Such a pretty girl.” Guinevere de Moncrief smiled at Alorna. “Are you one of the maid’s daughters?”



“No, I’m just visiting the castle Lady…” Alorna trailed off as she had never been introduced to this woman.



“My name is Guinevere, I’m Gavin’s mother.” She smiled brightly and sat down next to Alorna. “My husband is away at court and I haven’t had any visitors in awhile. Gavin’s tutor tells me he is doing well in his studies but I rarely get to see him during the day.”



Alorna looked at the beautiful woman sitting in the sun with the expression of a child, a deeply scarred woman who hovered on the brink of madness and had suffered much in her life. Alorna felt deeply sorry for Guinevere, realizing that the woman’s mind had been broken somewhere in life.



“That must be difficult for you milady.” Alorna watched the butterfly leave the garden. “Perhaps your son’s tutor will allow him to spend a bit of time each day with you.”



“Oh his father wouldn’t approve of that, might make the boy weak.” Guinevere nodded as though she believed her statement.



Alorna smiled and sat with the Lady Guinevere for most of the afternoon.



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Alorna waited until the castle fell silent, giving everyone time to fall asleep while she paced her room to stay awake. She’d chatted animatedly during dinner with Marcus and Nathaniel as well as several other members of Gavin’s men at arms. Gavin was quiet and withdrawn and had barely looked at her all evening. Alorna shrugged it off and had continued her evaluation of the men of the castle. As she stood with her cheek against the wood of the door she realized that the best candidate for breeding was the one she had already slept with once.



She tugged open her door slowly and looked up and down the hall making sure there was no one still in the corridor. Closing the door behind her she walked down the hall and let herself into Gavin’s library. The room was dark and cold but the door that connected the library to his bedroom was open letting the faint light of the dying fire spill through the entryway. Alorna tip toed to the doorway and peered into the darkened room.



Gavin was sprawled on his back atop the bed fully naked and deep in sleep. One arm was flung over his eyes and the other was stretched under the pillow beneath his head. His clothing lay in a heap on the floor and a now empty bottle of whiskey sat on the table next to the bed. Alorna walked slowly into the room and stood over the bed to gaze over every inch of his skin in the fading firelight. His body was covered in a warrior’s scars, marked by the battles he had fought and trained to the lean graceful perfection of a predator by the years of strife. She smiled as she admitted he was as fine as any stallion she had ever lusted over in her youth.



Alorna lifted her dress over her head and dropped it on the floor next to Gavin’s clothes then crawled slowly onto the bed. She knelt next to his body looking over him slowly, watching his chest rise and fall with each breath. Alorna trailed the tips of her fingers down his chest and through the hair that curled around the root of his thick shaft, she watched as his cock stirred even as he slept. She stroked the soft skin of his cock and wrapped her hand around it, feeling it starting to harden in her hand. Alorna stroked him slowly, watching as he grew in size and hardened with each stoke of her hand.



She smiled taking away her hand to watch his cock twitch as it pointed upward hard and ready to be used. She looked up at Gavin and found him still deep in sleep, his face in relaxed repose even as his cock stood at attention. Alorna looked down at his cock and wondered what his skin tasted like there, it felt like perfect hard and silky smooth at the same time and she found herself wondering if he tasted as appealing. She grinned as she decided there was no better time to discover the answer to that question.



Alorna held him in her hand and carefully kissed the end of his cock. She paused and then lightly licked the head of him. Gavin moaned in his sleep and his cock jerked against her tongue. She smiled and ran her tongue slowly down the underside of his cock and over the tops of his balls, watching him swell and grow. The salty taste of his skin was intriguingly pleasant and she watched him respond even while sleeping to her tongue and lips. Alorna placed her lips over the top of his cock and slid her mouth down his shaft, sliding him back into her mouth until she could feel him press against the back of her throat. She closed her eyes and sucked on him gently and began to move up and down his length as he had moved when inside her body.



Gavin came awake suddenly and in some of the most intense pleasure he had ever felt in his life, his eyes snapped open and spotted Alorna with his cock in her mouth. “Holy God in Heaven.” Gavin cursed even as his hips jerked to pump his shaft back into the suction of her mouth. Her tongue twisted around him inside her mouth and squeezed him as she moved up and down on his length; he felt her roll that thick muscle around him as she sucked and feared that every conscious thought he’d ever had had fled his brain for good. Gavin fisted a hand in her hair as he moaned in ecstasy. Alorna could only squeak when Gavin grabbed her by the arms and tossed her under his body, pushing her into the bed as he moved between her thighs.



“You are going to be the death of me woman.” Gavin muttered through clenched teeth and drove himself into her body hard and fast.



Alorna arched under him, letting his slicked shaft in to the hilt. He kissed her hard with a savage desire that took her breath from her lungs as she clung to him. His back curved as he started to move in and out of her body, pushing her back into the bed with each strong thrust and muffling her moans and gasps in his hungry kisses. Alorna was knocked off center when Gavin rolled them over and placed her on top of him. She looked down at him from where she was straddled across his hips, her body impaled on his cock to a new level of fullness.



Gavin grinned and bucked under her, listening to her cry of surprise and passion as the new position brought a new delicious friction to their mated bodies. Alorna rocked her hips and was instantly rewarded with a blissful feeling of tight fullness as his shaft slid in and out of her. She was in complete control from this vantage and the heady sense of power that came with that knowledge was nearly as delightful as the feeling of him inside her body. Gavin covered her breasts with his hands and stroked her hardened nipples causing her muscles to tighten with pleasure.



Alorna moaned and thrust down against him using her weight to push him down into the bed and take ever last inch of him inside her. His fingers plucked her nipples and she jerked and bucked reflexively at the spikes of pleasure they caused. His hands traveled down her sleek body and cupped her ass as he encouraged her to ride him with the wild abandon she longed for. Alorna ceded her control on her impulses and bucked and writhed on top of him as though possessed. She screamed when Gavin slid a finger between her folds and rubbed her clit as she moved atop him, feeling her body building to a new level of unbearable tension.



Gavin used his hand to force her to rock faster back and forth on his cock while he flicked his finger over her clit in the same erotic rhythm. He could feel her muscles tightening to an unbearable level and could feel the hot wetness of her aroused body sliding along his shaft. When she came apart on top of him it felt like time might stop for good, her convulsions were so strong Gavin couldn’t hold himself back from his own orgasm. He held her hips as he felt himself unload inside her body even as she came apart in his grasp, her body jerking with the waves of pleasure her climax was releasing. The hot wash of her release coated him as he filled her with his seed.



Alorna collapsed on his chest panting heavily with her body still quivering from the inside out. She could hardly think let alone form a conscious word or sentence at the moment, her body felt like lead and she was limp and unable to move. Gavin ran his fingers through her hair as he began to slow his own breathing and come back down to earth as well. The woman was pure madness and he was totally fine with going there. He closed his eyes and wrapped his arms around her middle holding her atop him.



“Am I to take it that I can expect you to sneak into my bedroom on a regular basis Lady Alorna?” Gavin smiled down at her upturned face.



“I think that would be safe to assume, Lord Gavin.” Alorna licked her lips.



“Gavin,” He looked at her. “Just Gavin, I think we’re beyond formalities.”



“I believe so Gavin.” She laid her cheek against his chest.



Gavin slid Alorna off of his body and under the coverlet where he joined her to sleep. He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her back against him, falling asleep spooned with her lush curves. To hell with the gossip.



————————————————



Alorna knelt beside the weeping willow tree on the edge of the riverbank and looked at the gaping wound in the side of the tree that would never heal. The bark was blackened and torn raw from the trunk of the tree and the ground at the base of the trunk was barren and fetid smelling. Such was the price paid for the death of a unicorn. Alorna touched the tree where her sister’s body had been impaled and looked at the barren earth where the unicorn’s blood had pooled. Her sister’s death had left its curse on this land.



The proof of the unicorn Aurora’s curse was all around in this land. The fields of the castle farms yielded steadily less food for its inhabitants as the nutrients left the soil, the people of the land themselves had fewer children who survived, the castle fell into disrepair easily aging faster than it should, and then there was Gavin de Moncrief’s family itself.



Gavin’s great grandfather who had slain Aurora of Autumn Sun had never recovered from the unicorn hunt. Like this tree, the earth beneath it, and the dogs who were used in the hunt; the unicorn’s blood had poisoned them all. Aurora’s vengeance was swift, killing the tree’s bark and the vegetation beneath it instantly as well as killing off the entire pack of hunting dogs within a fortnight. But her vengeance on the de Moncrief family was slower. Gavin’s great grandfather had fallen ill less than a month after the hunt and had slowly wasted away until his death a year later. Before dying he sired one son, Gavin’s grandfather. Gavin’s great grandmother fell ill and died not long after her only child was born. Gavin’s grandfather had been thrown from his horse and broken his neck while his wife was only two months pregnant. Gavin’s grandmother died in childbirth. Russell de Moncrief, Gavin’s illustrious father, had been sickly as a child but was a fine young man; he had gone into service with the king and had an arranged marriage with Gavin’s mother. Russell had gone to war many times and had the kings’ favor until he was badly wounded and forced to return to Castle Ravens’ Keep.



Russell de Moncrief had slipped steadily into madness through those years. He had grown bitter and abusive and nearly killed his wife while she was five months pregnant. After Gavin’s birth, Russell had taken no interest in the boy or his wife. He was cruel and vindictive, lashing out at his son and wife and inflicting pain whenever possible. Shortly after Gavin’s sixteenth birthday Russell de Moncrief jumped from the tower window ending his bitter life. Guinevere sank into madness and was hardly even aware of life anymore. All of this was caused by Aurora’s blood curse inflicted on Gavin’s great grandfather and passed on through the bloodline.



Alorna sighed and thought of her beautiful sister and how sweet she had been. Aurora’s death had been difficult but the vengeance she wreaked on the inhabitants of the castle was equally difficult. Alorna wondered how long Gavin would avoid a fateful end to his life. She stared out across the river to her own forest and wondered if she would ever be so vindictive as to curse the land with her death. Many hunted unicorns had done just that and plunged entire estates into ruin.



Alorna was walking back to the castle when the blacksmith’s son Nicholas came into view. She smiled warmly at the youth who was showing ever sign of becoming a large powerful man like his father and equally skilled in his craft.



“Good day Lady Alorna.” Nicholas smiled.



“Good day Nicholas, taking a break from the smithy?” Alorna inquired politely.



“For a bit at least, I needed to stretch my legs, would you care to walk with me a bit?”



“I’d be delighted.” Alorna fell into step with Nicholas.



————————————————



Gavin groaned as he began sorting through another ledger trying to make sense of the decline over the years of the crops and income of his home. He understood that all the latest farming advances had been made and yet still the land yielded less and less each year. He rubbed the bridge of his nose and walked to the window to throw it open and let some air into the stuffy study. Gavin’s mood became instantly black and murderous when he saw Alorna walking below with Nicholas. Gavin turned and stormed from his study.



————————————————



Alorna could tell from the moment she saw Gavin exiting the castle that he was in a very bad mood. She puzzled over it as she discussed horses with Nicholas. Gavin was walking straight toward her and he didn’t appear to be getting in any better of a mood.





“Lady Alorna, Nicholas.” Gavin bit off their names in short near barks as he reached them. “I trust you are both enjoying yourselves?”



“Quite Milord.” Alorna smiled. “We were discussing the breeding of the horses here at the castle.”



“Endlessly thought provoking I’m sure.” Gavin grasped Alorna’s elbow. “Excuse us Nicholas, I need to speak with Lady Alorna for a moment.”



Alorna looked helplessly over her shoulder at a startled and frightened looking Nicholas as Gavin hauled her along by her arm. When he finally released her inside the great hall, Alorna rounded on him angrily.

“You are behaving like a troll!” She shouted.



“Perhaps I should have left you in the more amusing company of Nicholas than? I’m sure your discussion of breeding was endlessly intriguing.” Gavin spat at her.



“Actually it was Lord Gavin de Moncrief; entirely more interesting than standing here fighting with you when you’re acting like a complete brute!”



“Maybe I should haul you into the alcove and show you just what a brute I can be.” Gavin growled.



Alorna heard the sharp crack of her hand meeting his face, the sound echoing in the hall. She turned on her heel even before he could recover from the slap and she stormed off to her chamber leaving Gavin standing in the great hall rubbing his cheek.



————————————————



Gavin sighed and rolled over again in bed. She wasn’t going to come and he really didn’t blame her. He had acted like a total savage and he couldn’t pin down why he had picked a fight with her. He struggled with the warring emotions in his brain until he finally pinned down an answer. Jealousy. He had been jealous of the time she spent with another man, even as innocent as that time had been. Jealousy was an entirely new feeling for Gavin, he had never been jealous of another person in his life.



Gavin stood and paced the chamber for several long minutes before stalking into his library to get another bottle of whiskey. He fished a new bottle out of the cabinet and paused at the unicorn horn encased in amber. He wondered how the mare had died and hoped that he had not been the cause of it. He stroked the soft stone then picked it up and carried it into the bedroom with him. Gavin placed the stone on the table on the wall opposite the end of the bed and admired it while he drank himself to sleep.



————————————————



Alorna stood and stared at the painting of Aurora dying. She didn’t cry although she felt the tears stinging the back of her eyes. The depiction of her sister’s death carried with it the pain Aurora had felt as her life had ended. Alorna was deeply saddened to find the painting within the walls of the castle.



“Horribly sad isn’t it?” Guinevere’s voice came from behind Alorna. “Such a horrible end for such a gorgeous creature. I’ve always hated that painting and I wish Russell had let me burn it.”



“I suppose it was important to Lord Russell.” Alorna whispered.



“Nothing was important to Lord Russell.” Guinevere smiled sadly. “He kept this painting because it was favorable for his position with the king; the king still sanctions the hunting of unicorns although none have been seen in years.”



“Perhaps they are all dead.” Alorna turned to leave.



“I really hope not, I’d like to apologize to them for what Gavin’s great grandfather did. I think it would help.” Alorna looked at the sad woman staring at the painting of the dying unicorn and said nothing; she walked back toward her room with a thousand thoughts running through her head. Unicorns were not supposed to feel such pity and empathy for humans, they were not of the forest and they were not friends to the unicorns. Why then did Alorna feel like her heart was being squeezed when she listened to Guinevere speak of the death of the golden unicorn? Alorna was so deep in her thoughts that she ran smack into the hard wall that was Gavin’s chest.



“Oomph.” She grunted and braced herself to keep from falling.



“Deep in thought my lady?” Gavin helped to steady her.



“Yes actually, sorry to bump into you.” Alorna muttered.



Gavin smiled and cupped her chin in his hand rubbing his thumb along her jaw line. He could feel her soften under his touch and could almost smell her growing aroused from their contact. Alorna jerked her face out of his hand and brushed past him, walking to her chamber and closing the door behind her. Gavin muttered a string of curses and stalked out of the castle.



————————————————



It had been three days since Alorna had slapped Gavin. Alorna had slept in her own chamber every night since that day and refused to be alone with Gavin under any circumstances. The maids whispered about the lover’s quarrel and the men placed bets on how long it would last. Gavin’s mood continued to get darker and fouler as each day dragged by leading most of his men to pray that the Lady Alorna would return to his bed to improve his temper. The battle lines had been clearly drawn through the castle and everyone who knew what was good for them avoided the east wing.



Alorna was stretched out over the top of her bed, the covers pushed off and the window open to admit the cool night air. The evening was sweltering; the heat of the day failing to retreat with the setting of the sun and the light breeze did little to stir the air. The fires had been allowed to die out throughout the castle and most of the windows were opened to whatever breeze they could catch but it was still oppressively hot.



Alorna lay on her stomach with her arms wrapped around one of her pillows, her backside was illuminated by the moonlight streaming through the window and her hair had been plaited into a braid to keep it off her skin. She was snatched out of bed, blindfolded and her hands bound so fast she could barely shake off the sleep before she felt herself being tossed over someone’s shoulder and carried from her room.



“Let me GO!” She screamed and pounded on the person’s back thrashing and trying to kick. “Put me down! Untie me right now! Let me go you bastard! Filthy bastard. HELP!”



Alorna thrashed and screamed as she was being carried down the hallway. She called for May and anyone else she could think of not believing they would allow her to be taken without a fight. She heard a door slam shut and suddenly found herself on her feet for a brief moment before the rope around her wrists pulled tight lifting her to her tip toes and preventing her from removing the blindfold. She struggled and kicked yanking at her hands but was unable to get loose nor was she able to stand fully, the rope holding her to where only her toes made contact with the ground and her thrashing only wrenched her arms.



She felt strong large hands run down her naked sides and pull her body back against a naked, purely male form. The scraped of an unshaved chin against her shoulder and along her neck set her heart pounding like a race horses’ that had run a mile. The tug of teeth on her earlobe caused her to gasp and sway on her toes while his hands held her hips pressing her bottom against a throbbing erection.



“Forgive me.” Gavin’s voice purred against her ear lobe as he licked where he had nipped her.



Alorna moaned, the fight draining from her body almost completely as his hands slid up her chest and over her breasts. He kissed her neck and along her shoulder as he caressed her breasts with his hands, his cock pressed against her ass resting along the crack. She twisted her hands in the bonds that held her and begged him to untie her but he ignored her soft pleas and trailed his lips along her shoulders as he brought one of his hands down to the juncture of her thighs and rubbed the heel of his hand in a slow circular motion over her lips where her clit was hidden. The exquisite torture of being touched and unable to touch in return was driving her to madness.



Gavin stepped away from her and admired the site she made. Her body was stretched tall, her breasts held high by the pull of her restrained arms, her legs stretched sexily as she tried to retain her stance on her toes, and her spine curved to a delicious angle. She looked every inch of an ancient sacrifice awaiting the pleasure or pain of her captors. She struggled her hips shifting as she tried to work her hands free from her bonds, a site that was infinitely erotic.



Gavin walked around to stand in front of Alorna and kissed her hard pushing his tongue into her mouth as he wrapped his arms around her and supported her weight to take it off her bound wrists for a moment. His erection pressed against her belly, smearing her soft skin with a pearly trail of his precum. She was panting when he released her mouth and lowered his mouth down to her exposed throat trailing a line of bites and kisses to her collarbone.



Gavin knelt before Alorna and lifted her off her feet with his hands under her bottom. He pushed her thighs apart forcing her to trust him to hold her up as he kissed his way inside of her thigh. His lips passed over her sex and he slipped his tongue between the lips and ran his tongue over her clit in a slow dragging motion. Her gasping whimper along with the jerk of her hips was a heady enticement and Gavin flicked her with his tongue again, sliding it down and over the entrance to her body as well. He used his thumbs to spread her lips while keeping his hands supporting her weight and gently sucked her clit into his mouth. Alorna cried out her head falling back as she pressed forward into his mouth, the suction of his lips sending tremors along her spine.



Gavin nipped ever so lightly at her swollen clit and slid his tongue inside her body curling it to drag along her inner walls. Her begging whimpers and desperate pleas for him to untie her only provoked Gavin to draw out the slow torture with his mouth; he blew cool air over her moist skin and watched her jerk. Moisture was running out of her body and down the length of her slit, it tasted tangy and just a bit sweet like exotic fruit, Gavin licked it from her lips and slid his tongue into her again tasting the temptation that she was. His mouth drew her to the edge of reason, Alorna was crying from the sheer torturous pleasure of it, her body ached in a way she never felt possible. The abstinence from his bed had made the return to it even sweeter and her body that much more greedy for the release he promised her.



Gavin felt the moment she orgasmed and felt the hot flow of her release against his tongue, tasting it for several moments before he stood up and held her trembling against him. Gavin picked up his knife from the dresser and cut the rope binding Alorna’s hands. He turned her and bent her over the end of the bed, spreading her legs to a wide stance. Gavin slid inside her from behind, groaning as her hot slick hole sheathed him to the hilt. He rocked himself in and out of her body watching her grab fistfuls of the coverlet on the bed. He reached around and stroked her clit as he moved inside her, feeling the orgasm sensitive nub throb against his fingers as he brought her back toward climax.



Gavin thrust hard and fast against her ass, feeling his balls slap against her as he moved inside her. Her muscles tightened and he felt his testicles swell. He came inside of her with a primal cry letting her slip over the edge into another orgasm and milk the cum from his twitching cock. He stood there softening slowly inside her for several moments before pulling himself out and picking Alorna up to take her to bed with him. He laid her down next to him in the bed and pulled the loops of rope off her wrists and removed the blindfold from her eyes.



Her brown eyes were sleepily assailed and she smiled at him. Gavin kissed her slowly and tenderly before he drifted off to sleep.



————————————————



The mood in the castle greatly improved from that evening on and the next couple of weeks slipped by in a blissful haze for Alorna. She spent her days riding, walking in the garden, spending time with Guinevere, and talking with May and the other maids. Every morning before dawn Alorna would slip out of Gavin’s bed and back into her own. Several hours later May would arrive with a basin of water and help her dress for the day.



May bustled in humming and tossed open the curtains for the morning, pouring the bucket of water she had brought up into the basin for Alorna to wash her face with. Alorna groaned as the light hit her and woke her up, she felt bad, very bad. She slowly sat up and moved to the edge of the bed feeling a wave of pain hit her abdomen. She panicked and wondered if humans got colic like unicorns and horses did. She started to open her mouth to ask May when she grasped the empty bucket and felt her body purge everything she had eaten the night before from her system. Surely she was dying she thought as another wave of bile hit the bucket.



Alorna was dimly aware of May rubbing her on the back and holding her hair out of her face as she finished emptying the contents of her stomach. When Alorna had finished with the bucket May handed her a damp rag to wipe her mouth with and sighed. May clucked softly and shook her head.



“It was bound to happen eventually.” May watched Alorna curl up in the bed looking pale.



“What was?” Alorna whispered through her raw throat.



May sighed and sat on the edge of the bed, stroking the lady’s hair out of her face. “Lady Alorna, a woman cannot lay with a man without consequences. You’ve been sharing a bed with Lord Gavin for over a month, it was only a matter of time before you got with child.”



Alorna blinked slowly and looked up at May. “A child?” She felt her heart constrict painfully. “I’m pregnant?”



“Yes milady, I’d be willing to bet that you have been for a couple of weeks.” May smiled at the girl and picked up the bucket to dump it outside.



Alorna placed her hands over her stomach and smiled. Finally she could go home! She frowned slightly and wondered why she didn’t feel happier about it.



————————————————



May burst into Gavin’s chamber at an ungodly hour looking like an angry dragon. Gavin cracked an eye and surveyed the situation wondering who had angered her to this level.



“You ought to be ashamed of yourself.” May hissed at him.



Gavin sat up and blinked. “Me? What on earth could I have done this early in the day?” Gavin scratched his head in bleary puzzlement.



“You got that poor girl pregnant!” May nearly screamed at him. “If you don’t have the decency to marry the girl then you should have at least taken precautions you idiot!” May turned and stormed out of his room slamming the door.



Gavin blinked. He rubbed his head again. Alorna was pregnant? A purely masculine wave of pleasure swept over Gavin. Alorna was pregnant with his child, Alorna was his. The entire day took on a much brighter outlook as Gavin got up to dress and find Alorna and make her his for good.



————————————————



Alorna made one last trip to the weeping willow tree. She knelt beside the old tree and pulled the dagger out of her pocket.



“Aurora my sister,” Alorna whispered. “I beseech you to release your hold on this land and her people. Leave them at peace and grant your sister this boon.”



Alorna cut her palm and squeezed her blood out onto the ground, watching it pool on the barren earth and sit for a moment before it began to sink into the soil.



“What have you done?” Gavin’s shout rang out only a moment before he snatched her up off the ground and took the dagger from her hand.



Alorna was confused at the fury on his face and Gavin was too angry to speak as he picked her up off her feet and dragged her onto his horse in front of him. He rode hard back to the castle and slid off the saddle dragging Alorna with him, holding her in his arms as he stormed up to her chamber screaming for May the entire way.



“May bring water, salve, and some bandages to Alorna’s room immediately!” He thundered.



Gavin set her gently on her bed and moments later was using the water May had brought to clean the cut in her palm, slathering it in salve and wrapping it in a bandage. May gave Gavin a murderous look and left quickly.



“Alorna,” Gavin looked pleadingly at her. “You know I will take care of you, you don’t need to bring harm to yourself because of this. I won’t leave you alone.”



Alorna looked genuinely confused. “Harm myself? I wasn’t harming myself; I was just making a pact with an old friend.” She looked at Gavin. “Why on earth would I hurt myself?”



“I was afraid you were trying to kill yourself.” Gavin whispered hoarsely. “You and the child.”



Alorna gasped in shock. “Never! I would never harm myself or the child I’ve conceived. I’ve never been happier than I am right now.”



Gavin pulled her into his arms and held her. Alorna felt like her heart was going to break. It was going to hurt like hell to leave him, he might never understand. She held him tight and prayed that in time he would forgive her.



————————————————



Gavin was lying in the bed with Alorna pleasantly satiated and beginning to drift toward sleep. Alorna was sitting next to him running her fingers through his hair. She seemed on edge but she had made love to him with a passion he had never experienced even from her before. Perhaps the knowledge of the coming child had brought down the last of the walls she had erected around herself. Alorna looked down at Gavin and sighed. She moved to the edge of the bed and got out. Gavin watched her sleepily unconcerned with her actions.



Alorna looked at her horn sitting on the table wrapped in amber. She looked back at Gavin and sighed. “Gavin, someday I hope you will forgive me.”



Gavin blinked and sat up preparing to ask her what she meant.



Alorna turned to the amber wrapped horn and closed her eyes. “Grandfather Oak, I call in thy troth, release thy sleeping captive and restore that which thou has guarded.” Alorna knelt before the desk and watched the amber glow and turn to liquid; she pressed the gem on her forehead to the softened amber and felt the horn and bone reconnect.



Gavin shielded his eyes and stared wide eyed as the beautiful woman he had known as Alorna spoke enchantment and pressed her forehead into the amber stone. Light filled the bedroom and suddenly Alorna was gone. The dappled gray unicorn stood where Alorna had once knelt, her horn freed from the amber stone and connected to her forehead.



Alorna flicked her ears forward and lashed her tail for a moment before she reared onto her hind legs and splintered the door to Gavin’s chamber. She looked back at him once and cantered down the east hall nimbly picking her way down the stairs into the great hall. She could hear Gavin screaming her name and running down the hall after her. Moments later men at arms surrounded the top of the stairwell to the west corridor, May stood in the doorway that led down to the kitchen, and Gavin stood at the top of the east corridor hallway. Alorna heard the gasps and whispers, saw the wonder on the faces of men who had never seen a unicorn and women who believed they did not exist.



“Alorna.” Gavin’s voice broke. “Don’t go.”



Alorna looked at Gavin and snorted. She pawed the stone floor with a cloven hoof and shook her long mane in the negative. Alorna lowered her head and flipped the bar holding the doors closed, watching them swing slowly inward.



“Alorna, please.” Gavin was at the bottom of the stairs only steps away from her.



She turned her equine eyes upon him and closed the distance between them. She blew lightly against his neck and rubbed her cheek against his bare arm. She looked at him for a long moment then turned and walked out the doors. In the courtyard Alorna reared a final time, crying out to the moon above before leaping into a gallop that took her down the road to the castle and into the hills of her forest again. The wind whistled by but didn’t manage to block out the anguished cry from the castle.



————————————————



The winter had been very hard that year. Lord Gavin rarely left his chamber anymore. His descent into melancholy had effective every member of the staff. May had cried for weeks after the unicorn they had know as Alorna had left. The spring had come early and the fields were unusually ripe, bearing a new fuller load of crops. May had told Gavin that the weeping willow tree had healed and the barren ground beneath it had sprouted flowers of all colors. Alorna had restored the land before she left; it made sense to him now. The death of one unicorn had been appeased by the blood pact of another.

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