PDF | annotations and reading comprehension on Peter S. Beagle's The Last Unicorn, with Japanese translation. The Last Unicorn. By Peter S. Beagle. New York: ROC, Concept Vocabulary Analysis. Organizational Patterns. The book is organized into fourteen. Read The Last Unicorn PDF Free. Adapted for the first time from the novel by Peter S. Beagle, The Last Unicorn is a tale for any age about the.
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THE LAST UNICORN by Peter S. Beagle Flyleaf: _A Fine and Private Place_, Peater Beagle's first book, was written before he was twenty. "A most unusual. Y F T ra n sf o A B B Y Y.c bu to re he C lic k he k lic C w. om w w w w rm y ABB PD re to Y Peter S. Beagle - The Last Unicorn. THE LAST UNICORN by . True to tradition, The Last Unicorn is the story of a quest, the search by the unicorn — immortal, infinitely beautiful — for her lost fellows. Early on, she is joined by.
There was no head to it, and no tail -- nothing but a wave of tarnished darkness rolling from one end of the cage to the other, leaving no room for anything but its own thunderous breathing. But I spared you the finding of it, and you should be grateful for that. It was very simple, and almost colorless. She sidestepped his first lunge as lightly as though the wind of it had blown her out of his reach. This is illusion -- and somehow raised a head heavy with death to stare deep into the dark of the last cage and see, not Old Age, but Mommy Fortuna herself, stretching and snickering and clambering to the ground with her old eerie ease. I forgive you.
I'll turn you into a bad poet with dreams. I'll set all your toenails growing inward. You mess with me.
The unicorn did not see. She was out at the farthest cage, where the manticore growled and whimpered and lay flat. She touched the point of her horn to the lock, and was gone to the dragon's cage without looking back. One after another, she set them all free -- the satyr, Cerberus, the Midgard Serpent.
Their enchantments vanished as they felt their freedom, and they leaped and lumbered and slithered away into the night, once more a lion, an ape, a snake, a crocodile, a joyous dog.
None of them thanked the unicorn, and she did not watch them go. Only the spider paid no mind when the unicorn called softly to her through the open door. Arachne was busy with a web which looked to her as though the Milky Way had begun to fall like snow. The unicorn whispered, "Weaver, freedom is better, freedom is better," but the spider fled unhearing up and down her iron loom. She never stopped for a moment, even when the unicorn cried, "It's really very attractive, Arachne, but it's not art.
Then the wind began. The spiderweb blew across the unicorn's eyes and disappeared. The harpy had begun to beat her wings, calling her power in, as a crouching wave draws sand and water roaring down the beach.
A bloodshot moon burst out of the clouds, and the unicorn saw her -swollen gold, her streaming hair kindling, the cold, slow wings shaking the cage. The harpy was laughing. In the shadow of the unicorn's cage, Rukh and Schmendrick were on their knees.
The magician was clutching the heavy ring of keys, and Rukh was rubbing his head and blinking. Their faces were blind with terror as they stared at the rising harpy, and they leaned together in the wind. It blew them against one another, and their bones rang. The unicorn began to walk toward the harpy's cage.
Schmendrick the Magician, tiny and pale, kept opening and closing his mouth at her, and she knew what he was shrieking, though she could not hear him.
Run, you fool, while she's still a prisoner! She will kill you if you set her free! For an instant the icy wings hung silent in the air, like clouds, and the harpy's old yellow eyes sank into the unicorn's heart and drew her close. The door did not swing open, and the iron bars did not thaw into starlight. But the harpy lifted her wings, and the four sides of the cage fell slowly away and down, like the petals of some great flower waking at night. And out of the wreckage the harpy bloomed, terrible and free, screaming, her hair swinging like a sword.
The moon withered and fled. The unicorn heard herself cry out, not in terror but in wonder, "Oh, you are like me! The harpy struck once, missed, and swung away, her wings clanging and her breath warm and stinking.
She burned overhead, and the unicorn saw herself reflected on the harpy's bronze breast and felt the monster shining from her own body. So they circled one another like a double star, and under the shrunken sky there was nothing real but the two of them. The harpy laughed with delight, and her eyes turned the color of honey. The unicorn knew that she was going to strike again. The harpy folded her wings and fell like a star -- not at the unicorn, but beyond her, passing so close that a single feather drew blood from the unicorn's shoulder; bright claws reaching for the heart of Mommy Fortuna, who was stretching out her own sharp hands as though to welcome the harpy home.
I held you! The harpy crouched on her body, hiding it from sight, and the bronze wings turned red. The unicorn turned away. Close by, she heard a child's voice telling her that she must run, she must run. It was the magician. His eyes were huge and empty, and his face -- always too young -- was collapsing into childhood as the unicorn looked at him.
But the unicorn said again, "Come with me," and together they walked away from the Midnight Carnival. The moon was gone, but to the magician's eyes the unicorn was the moon, cold and white and very old, lighting his way to safety, or to madness.
He followed her, never once looking back, even when he heard the desperate scrambling and skidding of heavy feet, the boom of bronze wings, and Rukh's interrupted scream. It attracts their attention. Sing a song, say a poem, do your tricks, but walk slowly and she may not follow.
Walk very slowly, magician. The magician crept as close to the unicorn's light as he dared, for beyond it moved hungry shadows, the shadows of the sounds that the harpy made as she destroyed the little there was to destroy of the Midnight Carnival. But another sound followed them long after these had faded, followed them into morning on a strange road -- the tiny, dry sound of a spider weeping.
IV Like a newborn child, the magician wept for a long time before he could speak. The unicorn said nothing, and Schmendrick raised his head and stared at her in a strange way. A gray morning rain was beginning to fall, and she shone through it like a dolphin. The unicorn waited, feeling the days of her life falling around her with the rain. They are wild and sea-white, like me. There were supposed to be a few unicorns left when I was a boy, but I knew only one man who had ever seen one.
They are surely gone, lady, all but you. When you walk, you make an echo where they used to be. So I am going wherever they are to learn whatever they know. Can you tell me where Haggard is king?
He bent it into the proper shape in time, but it was an iron smile. He rose to his feet, pale and smiling. Some say that the land was green and soft once, before Haggard came, but he touched it and it withered. There is a saying among farmers, when they look on a field lost to fire or locusts or the wind: The story has it that the last time King Haggard laughed --" The unicorn stamped her foot. Schmendrick said, "As for the Red Bull, I know less than I have heard, for I have heard too many tales and each argues with another.
The Bull is real, the Bull is a ghost, the Bull is Haggard himself when the sun goes down. The Bull was in the land before Haggard, or it came with him, or it came to him. It protects him from raids and revolutions, and saves him the expense of arming his men. It keeps him a prisoner in his own castle. It is the devil, to whom Haggard has sold his soul.
It is the thing he sold his soul to possess. The Bull belongs to Haggard. Haggard belongs to the Bull. In her mind the butterfly piped again, "They passed down all the roads long ago, and the Red Bull ran close behind them and covered their footprints.
What would you have of me before I leave you? The magician said, "I might be useful. I know the way into Haggard's country, and the languages of the lands between here and there. Remember the tale of the great wizard Nikos. Once, in the woods, he beheld a unicorn sleeping with his head in the lap of a giggling virgin, while three hunters advanced with drawn bows to slay him for his horn.
Nikos had only a moment to act. With a word and a wave, he changed the unicorn into a handsome young man, who woke, and seeing the astonished bowmen gaping there, charged upon them and killed them all.
His sword was of a twisted, tapering design, and he trampled the bodies when the men were dead. He said she was only an aimless child, angry at her family, and that all she really needed was a good man. Which he was, then and always, for even Nikos could never give him back his first form.
He died old and respected -- of a surfeit of violets, some say -- he never could get enough violets. There were no children. I would sooner find that the Red Bull had killed them all. Take me with you, for laughs, for luck, for the unknown. Take me with you. The unicorn looked away, searching through a fog of kings for one king, and through a snowy glitter of castles and palaces for one built on the shoulders of a bull. Many things seem determined to happen to me for the first time, and your company will surely not be the strangest of them, nor the last.
So you may come with me if you like, though I wish you had asked me for some other reward. That is how it will be to travel with a mortal, all the time. I cannot turn you into a true magician. Don't worry about it. A blue jay swooped low over them on that first day of their journey, said, "Well, I'll be a squab under glass," and flapped straight home to tell his wife about it. She was sitting on the nest, singing to their children in a dreary drone.
Lullaby, lullaby, swindles and schemes, Flying's not near as much fun as it seems. I know what you've seen in your life, and what you haven't. I wonder if they were heading for Haggard's country. She was one woman who knew what to do with a slight moral edge. The unicorn and the magician walked through the spring, over soft Cat Mountain and down into a violet valley where apple trees grew. Beyond the valley were low hills, as fat and docile as sheep, lowering their heads to sniff at the unicorn in wonder as she moved among them.
After these came the slower heights of summer, and the baked plains where the air hung shiny as candy. Together she and Schmendrick forded rivers, scrambled up and down brambly banks and bluffs, and wandered in woods that reminded the unicorn of her home, though they could never resemble it, having known time.
So has my forest, now, she thought, but she told herself that it did not matter, that all would be as before when she returned. At night, while Schmendrick slept the sleep of a hungry, footsore magician, the unicorn crouched awake waiting to see the vast form of the Red Bull come charging out of the moon.
At times she caught what she was sure was his smell -- a dark, sly reek easing through the night, reaching out to find her. Then she would spring to her feet with a cold cry of readiness, only to find two or three deer gazing at her from a respectful distance.
Deer love and envy unicorns. Once, a buck in his second summer, prodded forward by his giggling friends, came quite close to her and mumbled without meeting her eyes, "You are very beautiful. You are just as beautiful as our mothers said. The other deer snickered and whispered, "Go on, go on. The unicorn lay down again. Now and then in their journey they came to a village, and there Schmendrick would introduce himself as a wandering wizard, offering, as he cried in the streets, "to sing for my supper, to bother you just a little bit, to trouble your sleep ever so slightly, and pass on.
He never actually attempted any greater magic than making dolls talk and turning soap into sweets, and even this trifling sorcery sometimes slipped from his hands. But the children liked him, and their parents were kindly with supper, and the summer evenings were lithe and soft.
Ages after, the unicorn still remembered the strange, chocolate stable smell, and Schmendrick's shadow dancing on walls and doors and chimneys in the leaping light. In the mornings they went on their way, Schmendrick's pockets full of bread and cheese and oranges, and the unicorn pacing beside him: His tricks were forgotten before he was out of sight, but his white mare troubled the nights of many a villager, and there were women who woke weeping from dreams of her. One evening, they stopped in a plump, comfortable town where even the beggars had double chins and the mice waddled.
Schmendrick was immediately asked to dinner with the Mayor and several of the rounder Councilmen; and the unicorn, unrecognized as always, was turned loose in a pasture where the grass grew sweet as milk. Dinner was served out of doors, at a table in the square, for the night was warm and the Mayor was pleased to show off his guest. It was an excellent dinner.
During the meal Schmendrick told stories of his life as an errant enchanter, filling it with kings and dragons and noble ladies.
He was not lying, merely organizing events more sensibly, and so his tales had a taste of truth even to the canny Councilmen. Not only they, but all manner of folk passing in the street leaned forward to understand the nature of the spell that opened all locks, if properly applied.
And there was not a one but lost a breath at sight of the marks on the magician's fingers. The Mayor made a shooing noise at her, but Schmendrick lit a cigar and smiled at her through the smoke.
He looked around the circle of dozing, rumbling Councilmen and winked widely at the girl. The Mayor was not offended. I sometimes think that a little fear, a little hunger, might be good for us -- sharpen our souls, so to speak. That's why we always welcome strangers with tales to tell and songs to sing. They broaden our outlook. One of the Councilmen suddenly remarked, "My word, look at the pasture! No animal made a noise. Even the pigs and geese were as silent as ghosts.
A crow called once, far away, and his cry drifted through the sunset like a single cinder. They have an air of awe, as though they were doing her some sort of reverence. He thumped his glass on the table and told the smiling Mayor, "She is a rarer creature than you dare to dream.
She is a myth, a memory, a wiIl-o'-the-wish. If you remembered, if you hungered --" His voice was lost in a gust of hoofbeats and the clamor of children.
A dozen horsemen, dressed in autumn rags, came galloping into the square, howling and laughing, scattering the townsfolk like marbles. They formed a line and clattered around the square, knocking over whatever came in their way and shrieking incomprehensible brags and challenges to no one in particular.
One rider rose up in his saddle, bent his bow, and shot the weathercock off the church spire; another snatched up Schmendrick's hat, jammed it on his own head, and rode on roaring. Some swung screaming children to their saddlebows, and others contented themselves with wineskins and sandwiches. Their eyes gleamed madly in their shaggy faces, and their laughter was like drums.
The round Mayor stood fast until he caught the eye of the raiders' leader. Then he raised one eyebrow; the man snapped his fingers, and immediately the horses were still and the ragged men as silent as the village animals before the unicorn.
They put the children gently on the ground, and gave back most of the wineskins. The leader of the horsemen dismounted and walked slowly toward the table where the Councilmen and their guest had dined.
He was a huge man, nearly seven feet tall, and at every step he rang and jangled because of the rings and bells and bracelets that were sewn to his patched jerkin. Well, well, to it, eh? You're a woeful lot of freebooters, you are. You can't squeeze blood out of turnip, you know.
He scowled savagely and shook his fist at the giant outlaw. Be off now, and tell it to your tattered captain. Away, villains! My hat. He rode forward until he was hardly a beard's thickness from the waiting Schmendrick. Turn ma nose green, fill ma saddlebags with snow, disappear ma beard. Show me some magic, or show me your heels. On your head be it. Instantly, his black hat snatched itself from the fingers of the man who held it and floated slowly through the darkening air, silent as an owl.
Two women fainted, and the Mayor sat down. The outlaws cried out in children's voices. Down the length of the square sailed the black hat, as far as a horse trough where it dipped low and scooped itself full of water. Then, almost invisible in the shadows, it came drifting back, apparently aiming straight for the unwashed head of Jack Jingly. He covered himself with his hands, muttering, "Na, na, call it off," and even his own men snickered in anticipation.
Schmendrick smiled triumphantly and snapped his fingers to hasten the hat. But as it neared the outlaw leader the hat's flight began to curve, gradually at first, and then much more sharply as it bent toward the Councilmen's table. The Mayor had just time to lunge to his feet before the hat settled itself comfortably on his head. Schmendrick ducked in time, but a couple of the closer Councilmen were slightly splattered. In the roar of laughter -- varyingly voluntary -- that went up, Jack Jingly leaned from his horse and swept up Schmendrick the Magician, who was trying to dry the spluttering Mayor with the tablecloth.
Their snorts and belches and guffaws lingered in the square long after the sound of hooves had died away. Men came running to ask the Mayor if they should pursue to rescue the magician, but he shook his wet head, saying, "I hardly think it will be necessary.
If our guest is the man he claims to be, he should be able to take care of himself quite well. And if he isn't -- why then, an imposter taking advantage of our hospitality has no claim on us for assistance. No, no, never mind about him. She was trotting back and forth before the fence, making no sound. The Mayor said softly, "I think it might be well to take good care of our departed friend's mount, since he evidently prized her so highly.
But the men had not yet reached the pasture gate when the white mare jumped the fence and was gone into the night like a falling star. The two men stood where they were for a time, not heeding the Mayor's commands to come back; and neither ever said, even to the other, why he stared after the magician's mare so long. But now and then after that, they laughed with wonder in the middle of very serious events, and so came to be considered frivolous sorts.
V All that Schmendrick remembered later of his wild ride with the outlaws was the wind, the saddle's edge, and the laughter of the jingling giant. He was too busy brooding over the ending of his hat trick to notice much else. Too much english, he suggested to himself. But he shook his head, which was difficult in his position. The magic knows what it wants to do, he thought, bouncing as the horse dashed across a creek.
But I never know what it knows. Not at the right time, anyway. I'd write it a letter, if I knew where it lived. Brush and branches raked his face, and owls hooted in his ears. The horses had slowed to a trot, then to a walk. A high, trembling voice called out, "Halt and give the password! He scratched his head with a sound like sawing, raised his voice, and answered, "A short life and a merry one, here in the sweet greenwood; jolly comrades united, to victory plighted --" "Liberty," the thin voice corrected.
To liberty plighted. Comrades united -- na, na, I said that. A short life and a merry one, jolly comrades -- na, that's not it. An arrow squealed out of the dark, sliced a wedge from his ear, nicked the horse of the man riding behind him, and skittered away like a bat. The outlaws scattered to the safety of the trees, and Jack Jingly yelled with rage, "Damn your eyes, I gave the password ten times over!
Let me only get my hands on 'ee --" "We changed the password while you were gone, Jack," came the voice of the sentry. You just call like a giraffe. The captain thought of it himself. The captain might as well have us call like a fish or a butterfly. That way, nobody can forget the password, even you. Isn't the captain clever? You have to give the call three times. Two long and one short. Two long and one short, right. Voices murmured somewhere ahead, sullen as robbed bees.
As they drew nearer Schmendrick thought he could make out a woman's tone among them. Then his cheek felt firelight, and he looked up.
They had halted in a small clearing where another ten or twelve men sat around a campfire, fretting and grumbling.
The air smelled of burned beans. A freckled, red-haired man, dressed in somewhat richer rags than the rest, strode forward to greet them.
He began to tell the story of the Mayor and the hat, but he had hardly reached the roaring descent upon the town when he was interrupted by a thin thorn of a woman who came pushing through the ring of men to shrill, "I'll not have it, Cully, the soup's no thicker than sweat as it is! I don't like the look of him. Slit his wizard. He slid off Jack Jingly's horse and stood before the outlaw captain. He who hunts me for my head shall find a fearful foe, but he who seeks me as a friend may find me friend enow.
How do you come here, sir? Though your leman doubts it," he added nodding at the thin woman. She spat on the ground. Captain Cully grinned and laid his arm warily along the woman's sharp shoulders.
I am generous and easy; to the point of extravagance, perhaps -- an open hand to all fugitives from tyranny, that's my motto. It is only natural that Molly should become suspicious, pinched, dour, prematurely old, even a touch tyrannical. The bright balloon needs the knot at one end, eh, Molly?
But she's a good heart, a good heart. How do they speak of me in your country? What have you heard of dashing Captain Cully and his band of freemen? Have a taco. I know the tale of how you and Jack Jingly cracked one another's crowns with quarterstaves and became blood brothers thereby; and how you saved your Molly from marriage to the rich old man her father had chosen for her. They live only for revenge -- mark you, magician -- and one day Haggard will pay such a reckoning --" A score of shaggy shadows hissed assent, but Molly Grue's laughter fell like hail, rattling and stinging.
His castle rots and totters more each day, and his men are too old to stand up in armor, but he'll rule forever, for all Captain Cully dares. If I hear that fable once more, I'll go and down old Haggard myself, and know you for a --" "Enough!
Around the fire, greasy hands twiddled dagger hilts and longbows seemed to string themselves, but Schmendrick spoke up then, seeking to salvage Cully's sinking vanity. He hated family scenes. Willie Gentle! Where is the lad? I've not heard it since Tuesday last. What ails ye, that ye sigh so deep? Is it for the loss of your lady fair? Or are ye but scabbit in your greep?
If I do rescue your lady fair, What service will ye render me? But she wore an emerald at her throat, Which my three brothers also took. He was bouncing eagerly on his toes, hugging himself. He rocked and hummed and parried three swords with his forearm for the remaining seventeen stanzas of the song, rapturously oblivious to Molly's mockery and the restlessness of his men.
The ballad ended at last, and Schmendrick applauded loudly and earnestly, complimenting Willie Gentle on his right-hand technique. He would have expounded further, but Cully interrupted him, saying, "Good, Willie, good boy, now play the others. There are thirty-one, to be exact, though none are in the Child collection just at present --" His eyes widened suddenly, and he grasped the magician's shoulders.
Child himself, now would you? Sing the other songs, Willie lad. You'll need the practice one day, when you're field-recorded. A hoarse voice bawled from a safe shadow, "Na, Willie, sing us a true song. Sing us one about Robin Hood. His face suddenly seemed as pale and weary as a used lemon drop. Even if you did write them all yourself. Child," Schmendrick said. They get everything wrong. No offense, captain, but we're really not very merry, when all's said --" "I'm merry twenty-four hours a day, Dick Fancy," Cully said coldly.
We don't rob the fat, greedy Mayor on the highway; we pay him tribute every month to leave us alone. We never carry off proud bishops and keep them prisoner in the wood, feasting and entertaining them, because Molly hasn't any good dishes, and besides, we just wouldn't be very stimulating company for a bishop.
When we go to the fair in disguise, we never win at the archery or at singlestick. We do get some nice compliments on our disguises, but no more than that.
A knight at vigil -- everyone was doing vigils that year. Once you had your man, you let all your accomplishments go. You don't sew or sing any more, you haven't illuminated a manuscript in years -- and what happened to that viola da gamba I got you?
We don't, Cully, we turn them in for the reward, and those songs are just embarrassing, that's all, and there's the truth of it. You wrote them a letter, which you didn't sign --" Cully drew back his arm, and blades blinked among the men as though someone had blown on a heap of coals.
At this point Schmendrick stepped forward again, smiling urgently. I can neither sing nor play, but I have my own accomplishments, and you may not have seen their like. The only real reluctance was shown by Captain Cully himself, who protested sadly, "Yes, but the songs. Child must hear the songs. They sprawled and squatted in the shadows, watching with sprung grins as Schmendrick began to run through the old flummeries with which he had entertained the country folk at the Midnight Carnival.
It was paltry magic, but he thought it diverting enough for such a crew as Cully's. But he had judged them too easily. They applauded his rings and scarves, his ears full of goldfish and aces, with a proper politeness but without wonder. Offering no true magic, he drew no magic back from them; and when a spell failed -- as when, promising to turn a duck into a duke for them to rob, he produced a handful of duke cherries -- he was clapped just as kindly and vacantly as though he had succeeded.
They were a perfect audience. Cully smiled impatiently, and Jack Jingly dozed, but it startled the magician to see the disappointment in Molly Grue's restless eyes. Sudden anger made him laugh. He dropped seven spinning balls that had been glowing brighter and brighter as he juggled them on a good evening, he could make them catch fire , let go all his hated skills, and closed his eyes. His heart filled and tautened like a sail, and something moved more surely in his body than he ever had.
It spoke with his voice, commanding. Weak with power, he sank to his knees and waited to be Schmendrick again. I wonder what I did. I did something. He opened his eyes. Most of the outlaws were chuckling and tapping their temples, glad of the chance to mock him.
Captain Cully had risen, anxious to pronounce that part of the entertainment ended. Then Molly Grue cried out in a soft, shaking voice, and all turned to see what she saw. A man came walking into the clearing. He was dressed in green, but for a brown jerkin and a slanting brown cap with a woodcock's feather in it. He was very tall, too tall for a living man: Taking no notice at all of the still, shabby forms by the fire, he strode through the light and vanished, with no sound of breath or footfall.
After him came others, one at a time or two together, some conversing, many laughing, but none making any sound. All carried longbows and all wore green, save one who came clad in scarlet to his shoes, and another gowned in a friar's brown habit, his feet in sandals and his enormous belly contained by a rope belt.
One played a lute and sang silently as he walked. Effortlessly proud, graceful as giraffes even the tallest among them, a kind-eyed Blunderbore , the bowmen moved across the clearing.
Last, hand in hand, came a man and a woman. Their faces were as beautiful as though they had never known fear. The woman's heavy hair shone with a secret, like a cloud that hides the moon.
John Henry is another. Men have to have heroes, but no man can ever be as big as the need, and so a legend grows around a grain of truth, like a pearl. Not that it isn't a remarkable trick, of course. All the figures but the last two had passed into the darkness when he rushed after them, calling hoarsely, "Robin, Robin, Mr. Hood sir, wait for me! Come back! Over their voices, Gaptain Cully screamed, "Fools, fools and children! It was a lie, like all magic! There is no such person as Robin Hood!
Only Molly Grue stopped and looked back. Her face was burning white. Robin and Marian are real, and we are the legend! Schmendrick hardly noticed when they sprang on him and seized his arms; nor did he flinch when Cully pricked his ribs with a dagger, hissing, "That was a dangerous diversion, Mr.
Child, and rude as well. You could have said you didn't want to hear the songs. Far away, he heard Jack Jingly growl, "He's na Child, Cully, nor is he any journeyman wizard, neither. I know him now. Hold your hand, captain -- he's no good to us dead. He seemed such a pleasant fellow. He plays the gormless innocent, but he's the devil for deception. The way he gave out to be this Child cove, just to get you off your guard. I may have seemed to be, but I'm very deceptive myself. Ah, but he gave himself away that time, and now he'll bide with us though his father send the Red Bull to free him.
Schmendrick giggled gently all through the operation, and made matters easier by hugging the tree as fondly as a new bride. Happen we'll all be gentlemen of leisure in a month's time. They'll be back, for they'm not the sort to trade something for nothing, and no more am I.
Robin Hood might have stayed for us if we were. Good night to ye, captain. The fire faded, and Cully turned in circles, sighing as each ember went out. Finally he sat down on a stump and addressed the captive magician. But whoever you are, you know very well that Robin Hood is the fable and I am the reality. No ballads will accumulate around my name unless I write them myself; no children will read of my adventures in their schoolbooks and play at being me after school.
And when the professors prowl through the old tales, and scholars sift the old songs to learn if Robin Hood ever truly lived, they will never, never find my name, not till they crack the world for the grain of its heart.
But you know, and therefore I am going to sing you the songs of Captain Cully. He was a good, gay rascal who stole from the rich and gave to the poor. In their gratitude, the people made up these simple verses about him. He paused often to comment on the varying rhythm patterns, the assonantal rhymes, and the modal melodies. VI Captain Cully fell asleep thirteen stanzas into the nineteenth song, and Schmendrick -- who had stopped laughing somewhat sooner -- promptly set about trying to free himself.
He strained against his bonds with all his strength, but they held fast. Jack Jingly had wrapped him in enough rope to rig a small schooner, and tied knots the size of skulls. A word, a wish, and this tree must be an acorn on a branch again, this rope be green in a marsh.
He felt like an abandoned chrysalis. Captain Cully roused at his voice, and sang the fourteenth stanza. Schmendrick attempted a few simple spells for escaping, but he could not use his hands, and he had no more heart for tricks. What happened instead was that the tree fell in love with him and began to murmur fondly of the joy to be found in the eternal embrace of a red oak.
I will keep the color of your eyes when no other in the world remembers your name. There is no immortality but a tree's love.
Since childhood. Marriage by contract, no choice in the matter. Our story is never to be. We will perish together, and all trees shall treasure our tragedy!
The ropes were growing steadily tighter around him, and the night was beginning to turn red and yellow. He tried to explain to the oak that love was generous precisely because it could never be immortal, and then he tried to yell for Captain Cully; but he could only make a small, creaking sound, like a tree.
Then the ropes went slack as he lunged against them, and he fell to the ground on his back, wriggling for air. The unicorn stood over him, dark as blood in his darkened vision.
She touched him with her horn. When he could rise she turned away, and the magician followed her, wary of the oak, though it was once again as still as any tree that had never loved.
The sky was still black, but it was a watery darkness through which Schmendrick could see the violet dawn swimming. Hard silver clouds were melting as the sky grew warm; shadows dulled, sounds lost their shape, and shapes had not yet decided what they were going to be that day.
Even the wind wondered about itself. I couldn't hold it. Close by, a familiar voice said, "Leaving us so early, magician? The men will be sorry they missed you. Dress and ditty hair tattered alike, bare feet bleeding and beslimed, she gave him a bat's grin. She neither moved nor spoke, but her tawny eyes were suddenly big with tears. For a long moment she did not move; then each fist seized a handful of her hem, and she warped her knees into a kind of trembling crouch.
Her ankles were crossed and her eyes were lowered, but for all that it took Schmendrick another moment to realize that Molly Grue was curtsying. He burst out laughing, and Molly sprang up, red from hairline to throat-hollow. When she tried to get by, the magician stood in her way. You don't curtsy, either.
Molly laughed with her lips flat. Where were you twenty years ago, ten years ago? The unicorn made no reply, and Schmendrick said, "She is the last. She is the last unicorn in the world. Molly said, "It's all right. I forgive you. Unicorns are for young girls.
She dried her grimy tears on the white mane. The sky was jade-gray now, and the trees that had been drawn on the dark a moment ago were real trees again, hissing in the dawn wind.
Schmendrick said coldly, looking at the unicorn, "We must go. I'm ready. We are on a quest. He had never been able to discipline his nose. Molly's own face closed like a castle against him, trundling out the guns and slings and caldrons of boiling lead. The unicorn made a soft, wondering sound, like a cat calling her kittens. Molly laughed aloud, and made it back. She doesn't need me either, heaven knows, but she'll take me too.
Ask her. Schmendrick knew the unicorn's answer by the sinking in his heart. He meant to be wise, but then his envy and emptiness hurt him, and he heard himself cry out sadly, "Never! I forbid it -- I, Schmendrick the Magician! If I chose to turn you into a frog --" "I should laugh myself sick," said Molly Grue pleasantly. He did not look directly at the unicorn, but stole small sights of her as stealthily as though he could be made to put them back.
White and secret, morning-horned, she regarded him with piercing gentleness, but he could not touch her. He said to the thin woman, "You don't even know where we are bound.
She made the cat sound once more. The sun was rising as she led them back the way they had come, past Cully, still slumped asleep on his stump, across the clearing, and away.
The men were returning: Once they had to crouch among thorns while two of Cully's weary rogues limped by, wondering bitterly whether the vision of Robin Hood had been real or not. Not I, my friend. The universe lies to our senses, and they lie to us, and how can we ourselves be anything but liars? For myself, I trust neither message nor messenger; neither what I am told, nor what I see. There may be truth somewhere, but it never gets down to me.
Why not save yourself the trouble, if you know better? Their seven servants had set up a scarlet canopy beneath a tree, and the royal young couple ate a box lunch to the accompaniment of lutes and theorbos.
They hardly spoke a word to one another until they had finished the meal, and then the princess sighed and said, "Well, I suppose I'd best get the silly business over with. The princess made a sign to two of the servants, who began to play an older music on their lutes.
Then she took a few steps on the grass, held up a bridle bright as butter, and called, "Here, unicorn, here! Here, my pretty, here to me! No one dares to cherish What I choose to crave. Never have I hungered, That I did not have. And I would run away And beg from door to door, Just to see your shadow Once, and never more. I'm going home. It was just a formality. Now we can be married. The princess's voice was a little sad and defiant as she said, "If there really were such things as unicorns, one would have come to me.
I called as sweetly as anyone could, and I had the golden bridle. And of course I am pure and untouched.
You don't satisfy my father, but then neither do I. That would take a unicorn. When they and their retinue were gone, the unicorn came out of the wood, followed by Molly and the magician, and took up her journey again.
A long time later, wandering in another country where there were no streams and nothing green, Molly asked her why she had not gone to the princess's song. Schmendrick drew near to listen to the answer, though he stayed on his side of the unicorn.
He never walked on Molly's side. The unicorn said, "That king's daughter would never have run away to see my shadow. If I had shown myself, and she had known me, she would have been more frightened than if she had seen a dragon, for no one makes promises to a dragon.
I remember that once it never mattered to me whether or not princesses meant what they sang. I went to them all and laid my head in their laps, and a few of them rode on my back, though most were afraid. But I have no time for them now, princesses or kitchenmaids. I have no time. You never see anything just once. I wish you could be a princess for a little while, or a flower, or a duck. Something that can't wait.
We must, who have none. We can love but what we lose -What is gone is gone. It was the first he had spoken to her since the dawn when she joined the journey. Molly shook her head. I've known it a long time. Under the dirt and indifference, she appeared only thirty-seven or thirty-eight years old -- no older than Schmendrick, surely, despite the magician's birthdayless face. Her rough hair bloomed, her skin quickened, and her voice was nearly as gentle to all things as it was when she spoke to the unicorn.
The eyes would never be joyous, any more than they could ever turn green or blue, but they too had wakened in the earth. She walked eagerly into King Haggard's realm on bare, blistered feet, and she sang often. And far away on the other side of the unicorn, Schmendrick the Magician stalked in silence. His black cloak was sprouting holes, coming undone, and so was he. The rain that renewed Molly did not fall on him, and he seemed ever more parched and deserted, like the land itself. The unicorn could not heal him.
A touch of her horn could have brought him back from death, but over despair she had no power, nor over magic that had come and gone. So they journeyed together, following the fleeing darkness into a wind that tasted like nails. The rind of the country cracked, and the flesh of it peeled back into gullies and ravines or shriveled into scabby hills. The sky was so high and pale that it disappeared during the day, and the unicorn sometimes thought that the three of them must look as blind and helpless as slugs in the sunlight, with their log or their dank rock tumbled away.
But she was a unicorn still, with a unicorn's way of growing more beautiful in evil times and places. Even the breath of the toads that grumbled in the ditches and dead trees stopped when they saw her. Toads would have been more hospitable than the sullen folk of Haggard's country. Their villages lay bald as bones between knifelike hills where nothing grew, and they themselves had hearts unmistakably as sour as boiled beer. Their children stoned strangers into town, and their dogs chased them out again.
Several of the dogs never returned, for Schmendrick had developed a quick hand and a taste for mongrel. This infuriated the townsmen as no mere theft would have done. They gave nothing away, and they knew that their enemies were those who did. The unicorn was weary of human beings.
Watching her companions as they slept, seeing the shadows of their dreams scurry over their faces, she would feel herself bending under the heaviness of knowing their names. Then she would run until morning to ease the ache: Often then, between the rush of one breath and the reach of another, it came to her that Schmendrick and Molly were long dead, and King Haggard as well, and the Red Bull met and mastered -- so long ago that the grandchildren of the stars that had seen it all happen were withering now, turning to coal -- and that she was still the only unicorn left in the world.
Then, one owl-less autumn evening, they rounded a ridge and saw the castle. It crept into the sky from the far side of a long, deep valley -- thin and twisted, bristling with thorny turrets, dark and jagged as a giant's grin. Molly laughed outright, but the unicorn shivered, for to her the crooked towers seemed to be groping toward her through the dusk. Beyond the castle, the sea glimmered like iron.
A witch built it for him, they say, but he wouldn't pay her for her work, so she put a curse on the castle. She swore that one day it would sink into the sea with Haggard, when his greed caused the sea to overflow. Then she gave a fearful shriek, the way they do, and vanished in a sulphurous puff. Haggard moved in right away. He said no tyrant's castle was complete without a curse.
Anyway, I hope the witch has something interesting to do while she waits for that curse to come home. The sea is greater than anyone's greed. A wet, slow smell found the unicorn. We'll know soon enough, but that's not our problem now.
Molly made no answer, but she touched the unicorn with a hand as cold as a cloud. She often put her hands on the unicorn when she was sad, or tired, or afraid. It has a wicked name, though none I ever met could say exactly why. No one goes into Hagsgate, and nothing comes out of it but tales to make children behave -- monsters, werebeasts, witch covens, demons in broad daylight, and the like.
But there is something evil in Hagsgate, I think. Mommy Fortuna would never go there, and once she said that even Haggard was not safe while Hagsgate stood. There is something there. But she answered him quite calmly, with her hands at her sides. But what's to be done with you?
It was too dark to see men moving on the walls, but across the valley she could hear the soft boom of armor and the clatter of pikes on stone. Sentinels had met, and marched away again. The smell of the Red Bull sported all around the unicorn as she started down the thin, brambly path that led to Hagsgate.
VII The town of Hagsgate was shaped like a footprint: And indeed, where the other towns of King Haggard's realm seemed to scratch like sparrows at the mean land, Hagsgate was well and deeply dug in.
Its streets were smoothly paved, its gardens glowed, and its proud houses might have grown up out of the earth, like trees. Lights shone in every window, and the three travelers could hear voices, and dogs barking, and dishes being scrubbed until they squeaked. They halted by a high hedge, wondering. She brushed foolishly at her hopeless rags and tatters. Schmendrick rubbed the back of his neck wearily. She had never minded being alone, never seeing another unicorn, because she had always known that there were others like her in the world, and a unicorn needs no more than that for company.
I'd be gone too. Nothing can happen to them that does not happen to me. She moved along the dark paths of her forest, swift and shining, passing through sudden clearings unbearably brilliant with grass or soft with shadow, aware of everything around her, from the weeds that brushed her ankles to insect-quick flickers of blue and silver as the wind lifted the leaves.
I know how to live here, I know how everything smells, and tastes, and is. What could I ever search for in the world, except this again? What if they are hiding and waiting for me? From that first moment of doubt, there was no peace for her; from the time she first imagined leaving her forest, she could not stand in one place without wanting to be somewhere else. She trotted up and down beside her pool, restless and unhappy. Unicorns are not meant to make choices.
She said no, and yes, and no again, day and night, and for the first time she began to feel the minutes crawling over her like worms. Because men have seen no unicorns for a while does not mean they have all vanished. Even if it were true, I would not go.
I live here. The animals who move in the dark, the owls and the foxes and the deer, raised their heads as she passed by, but she would not look at them. I must go quickly, she thought, and come back as soon as I can.
Maybe I won't have to go very far. But whether I find the others or not, I will come back very soon, as soon as I can. Under the moon, the road that ran from the edge of her forest gleamed like water, but when she stepped out onto it, away from the trees, she felt how hard it was, and how long. She almost turned back then; but instead she took a deep breath of the woods air that still drifted to her, and held it in her mouth like a flower, as long as she could.
The long road hurried to nowhere and had no end. It ran through villages and small towns, flat country and mountains, stony barrens and meadows springing out of stones, but it belonged to none of these, and it never rested anywhere. It rushed the unicorn along, tugging at her feet like the tide, fretting at her, never letting her be quiet and listen to the air, as she was used to do.
Her eyes were always full of dust, and her mane was stiff and heavy with dirt. Time had always passed her by in her forest, but now it was she who passed through time as she traveled.
The colors of the trees changed, and the animals along the way grew heavy coats and lost them again; the clouds crept or hurried before the changing winds, and were pink and gold in the sun or livid with storm. Wherever she went, she searched for her people, but she found no trace of them, and in all the tongues she heard spoken along the road there was not even a word for them any more.
Early one morning, about to turn off the road to sleep, she saw a man hoeing in his garden. Knowing that she should hide, she stood still instead and watched him work, until he straightened and saw her. He was fat, and his cheeks jumped with every step he took.
She sidestepped his first lunge as lightly as though the wind of it had blown her out of his reach. And even so I was never once captured. Is that what you take me for? Is that what you see? He leaned on the fence and wiped his face. A white mare with her mane full of burrs. There's a real horse! I was on a ship with an Ayrab horse once. Even so, there were a few men who gave chase, but always to a wandering white mare; never in the gay and reverent manner proper to the pursuit of a unicorn.
They came with ropes and nets and baits of sugar lumps, and they whistled and called her Bess and Nellie. Sometimes she would slow down enough to let their horses catch her scent, and then watch as the beasts reared and wheeled and ran away with their terrified riders.
The horses always knew her. But not to see them at all, to look at them and see something else -- what do they look like to one another, then? What do trees look like to them, or houses, or real horses, or their own children?
Yet she went on along the hard road, although each day she wished a little more that she had never left her forest. Then one afternoon the butterfly wobbled out of a breeze and lit on the tip of her horn.
He was velvet all over, dark and dusty, with golden spots on his wings, and he was as thin as a flower petal. Dancing along her horn, he saluted her with his curling feelers.
How do you do? Blow, wind, and crack your cheeks. I warm my hands before the fire of life and get four-way relief. You're my everything, you are my sunshine, you are old and gray and full of sleep, you're my pickle-face, consumptive Mary Jane. I would break my body to pieces to call you once by your name.
You don't get no medal. Buckle down, Winsocki, go and catch a falling star. Clay lies still, but blood's a rover, so I should be called kill-devil all the parish over. She sighed and plodded on, both amused and disappointed. It serves you right, she told herself. You know better than to expect a butterfly to know your name. All they know are songs and poetry, and anything else they hear. They mean well, but they can't keep things straight. And why should they? They die so soon. The butterfly swaggered before her eyes, singing, "One, two, three o'lairy," as he whirled; chanting, "Not, I'll not, carrion comfort, look down that lonesome road.
For, oh, what damned minutes tells he o'er who dotes, yet doubts. Hasten, Mirth, and bring with thee a host of furious fancies whereof I am commander, which will be on sale for three days only at bargain summer prices.
I love you, I love you, oh, the horror, the horror, and aroint thee, witch, aroint thee, indeed and truly you've chosen a bad place to be lame in, willow, willow, willow.
He traveled with her for the rest of the waning day, but when the sun went down and the sky was full of rosy fish, he flew off her horn and hovered in the air before her. Against the clouds she could see that his velvet wings were ribbed with delicate black veins.