Talaira galloped through the forest. She weaved in between clustered trees, her horn cutting through the bush in front of her. She leaped over a fallen log only leaving a couple strands of hair from her fetlocks behind. When she landed in on dry leaves, her cloven hooves never made a sound. Tal looked over her shoulder. A grey unicorn was galloping behind her. Tail whipping around the trees branches. “Are you really that slow Bell?”Tal taunted the grey mare.
The two unicorns kept running through the forest. They lost and won the lead of their race many times, but when they reached the stream they both stopped breathless, to drink.
“Race...over?” Bell huffed.
“Ok,” Tal was thankful for the question, she herself was exhausted.
The two mares kept on drinking, both concentrated on consuming as much water as possible. Bell was the first to speak, “Back to the meadow now?” She looked at the unicorn beside her; she was a dark brown with creamy mane and tail, she had a creamy blaze on her head and a long ivory horn planted at the base of her forelock. The filly did not answer “Tal?” Bell questioned again.
Talaira stared at the water as if it was a threat, “Don’t move,” she muttered from the corner of her mouth, still staring in the water, with wide eyes.
“Come on Tal, what is it?” Bell looked at Tal’s worried face.
“I said don’t move,” Talaira’s voice was alarming but still quiet. She looked up slowly turning her head behind her. Some thing moved in the trees. There was another movement in the tree beside it. A foreign language whispered in between the two canopies.
Both unicorns whipped their ears backwards to the sound. Tal heard a string pull back, the bending of wood. A moment later, a rock pointed arrow whizzed in between the young unicorns.
“Humans! Let’s go back to the meadow.” Tal cried.
The fillies trotted towards the trees that grew in the bogey river bank, entering the stream, Bell would have a smaller chance of being seen in the mist and Tal was almost invisible in the river trees. None of their tracks would be seen in the water.
Travelling was quiet. Neither of them spoke till they reached the end of the stream, which had grown into a river. A large waterfall roared ahead of them. Colours of green, blue and purple fell down inside its wet vale, falling into the foam bottom. Flowers dappled the moss covered rocks at its base.
The two unicorns disappeared into the water fall, coming through on the other side, which appeared to be solid rock from the river. Instead of a wall, Tal and Bell met a cave entrance with a soft yellow glow. There where familiar carvings on the wall, carved from what looked like a very sharp and finely pointed object. Water tricked down the walls of the cave, darkening the engravings on the surface.
The mares kept on trotting through the cave, it became bigger and lighter, moss was also starting to grow on the walls. After a while, flowers dotted the stone path, making it sticky and easy to run on.
Tal and Bell started to canter down the last of the grippy path, passing under an arc in the cave. A herd of unicorns grazed peacefully on sweet grass and purple flowers. Large mountains surrounded the meadow, making it almost impossible to enter any other way. In the mountains, mouths of caves opened up to the green meadow.
A golden unicorn with silvery mane galloped out of one of the larger caves. She stopped only a pace in front of Bell and Tal, “A hunter has been spotted on the far side of the river; I was so worried he got you two.” Shai looked thankfully into the fillies eyes. Looking at Bell, she started to speak, “Your father will be furious.”
“I know,” Bell said looking to the sky, it was now twilight, “We where out late.”
“And so will yours,” Shai looked at her daughter Tal. Das was the Princes shoulder friend. He is a worrier, as well as one of younger members of the council. The council was made up of elder unicorn, with no more spirit to be a protector, “The prince has made it law since the beginning of spring that all colts and fillies will not be permitted to leave the meadow’s entrance.”
“What?!” Tal protested the old law, pretending not to know about it, “But Bell and I go out all the time.”
“Its only till the hunters leave.”
“Then how come we are never banned when the pards start hunting? Or when the white elephants migrate across the plains in the winter?” Tal protested.
“You are banned when the white elephants migrate,” Shai said wisely, “The pards are bad sighted but good trackers. They only hunt in the summer for their young.”
Tal thought about the great winged pards, and their patterned bodies. The white elephants, she had to admit, where fearsome. They had no desire to eat the unicorns, but they have forever been an ancient enemy for whatever reason.
When Bell’s sire came to gather her, Tal and Shai started home. Their cave sat beside the Prince’s, almost directly across the waterfall from which the fillies entered.
Tal tried not to think about what her father would say or do to her. The far side of the stream has been banned for a month before she and Bell ventured off. And Das would do as he normally did, nip her on the flank and haul her by the withers to the back of their cave and sit her down for a talk. Then he would leave her for the rest of the night.
Shai called out for Das at the mouth of their den. Tal’s piebald father trotted out to meet them. He gave Shai an affectionate nip on the shoulder then turned to his daughter, “What where you thinking?!” he boomed, “You knew that leaving the meadow was banned and yet you left!”
Here it comes, thought Tal. Das nipped her on the flank, but did not drag her by the withers; instead, he herded her to the back of the cave for a talk. He pushed her on her neck with his bearded chin so she fell to her knees and lay down. “Why did you leave?”
“Bell and I wanted to race in the forest.”
“You took Bell too!”
“And what did you find?” Das questioned about what they saw.
“Two hunters.” Tal reported in a whisper.
“TWO hunters! How close did he get to you?”
“Close enough to fire a stick with a pointed end.”
“And did he?”
Tal did not answer immediately, “Yes, he missed though, and did not follow us, we escaped through the bogey trees in when they where misty. Bell and I hid very well.” Talaira tried to cover up her bad actions with the news of her escape.
“At least you didn’t run into the open,” Das muttered. “Stay here till morning!” He ordered.
It seemed to Tal, that ordering her around was the only thing he could do. He was so good at it. No wonder he was a protector. Tal wondered how she would ever get into the circle. Get the braid in her mane with a griffon feather if she preformed heroic actions. Das was so reluctant to let her join. She asked once, and she would never ask again, after he screamed his answer and made her sleep outside in the shadow of the mountain for a night. Even so, she had to prove her worthiness. If she ever was worthy enough to become a protector. She new she wasn’t, her mind was made up to leave.
Later, when everyone was asleep but the posted guard, Tal rose from her bed and walked silently out of the cave. She then galloped through the meadow into the tunnel out of the valley. Her hooves thundered on the stone. Galloping on the path was forbidden in less there was an emergency. This was close enough to an emergency, Tal thought.
The waterfall roared ahead of her, she leaped through the watery wall into the river. Talaira galloped into the night, water splashing on her fetlocks, droplets got caught on her small beard.
She continued noisily in the river, when it shrunk to a stream, she slowed to a trot, then a walk, sliding back into the bogey trees.
Tal felt exhausted now. Her legs trembled and her knees started to buckle with cold. “At least I’malone”, she tried to relax herself.
The water stirred in front of her, a massive green head with two large horns on both sides poked out of the water. The creature had a forked tongue that slithered out of its mouth, in between two large, pale, fangs. Its beady yellow eyes look into hers, “Sssssiii. Are you ssssure dear? Sssssiii” It asked her in a slithery voice.