The Unicorn

by Vic Miller

There was a mystic beast remote
alone, equine-- a unicorn
that roamed the forests dim alone
and grew upon its brow a single horn.
Upon which spear the golden sunlight shone
when with its rays it pierced the early morn
and warmed the silent woods, dissolving mist
that gathered in the sylvan moss at dawn
and over mirrored streams meandering along
in serpentine directions slowly on.

Whiter than winter ermine was his coat.
This unicorn was savage, fierce and strong-
untamed, unvanquished, pure of soul
and swift as silver dew
that flies from insubstantial air
to gather and uncannily appear
in beads upon the petals of a rose
when morning air is cold
in autumn and the dying leaves
are burnished red and gold.

Colored like the moonbeams which he rode
he flew in darkness and in light
to scourge the woods of evil and of wolves
and with his twisted, tapered horn impaled his foes.
His coat was sleek.
It shivered stardust when
he shook his platinum mane,
and so at night
it caused a spectacle indeed,
the sight of unicorn
in lightning flashing aura-
this wild unmounted steed
against the blackest night and driving rain.

By a simple touching with his horn
or dipping it, this unicorn
could purify the most polluted water or
the potent poisons brewed for sovereigns
when wicked subjects sought
to dethrone a sire.
It made pristine the waters of his lair
and streams envenomed by the adder's tooth
by simple presence of his purity and truth.

Because it could disarm
contagion, keeping him from harm
who drank from any cup composed of alicorn,
his tapered spear was coveted of kings
and sought by those who yearned a king's reward
that went to serf or swain
or huntsman who could bring
the chalice of the braided magic horn
once severed from the captured unicorn.

One would-be profiteer,
a woodsman, living with his maiden daughter near
the forest where the unicorn
was wont to roam the shadows, made a modest home, a cottage.
The woodsman knew
wild unicorns were tamed by virgin love.
And thus he bade his daughter enter in
a clearing in the creature's wood,
while he, the woodsman, stood behind an oak
to witness and devise a way
to overcome the unicorn.
There they stayed from morning until dusk.

His name was Yan; the daughter was Jehnane
who from her cottage window oft had seen
the luminescent beast
in lightning's flash before the driving rain
that lashed the tops of trees
and swept the heathered plain.
And once, Jehnane while drawing water
from a forest pool, beheld the unicorn's reflection.
White it was, and proud and stately bent
to touch the surface with its spear
thus shattering the image mirrored there
but when she raised her eyes, the creature disappeared.

But now, in the clearing on her knees, Jehnane
was witness to the unicorn again. It came
and paused to paw the ground
and send his eerie, haunting sounds
like tinkling chimes on lilting breezes.

It saw the maiden and his wild eyes rolled.
The creature raised his head and snorted
vapor from his flared, red-tinted nose
pawed the mossy ground, enraged and hostile
to the fair intruder. Then he ventured nearer.
Young Jehnane at first was filled with fear
of this approaching, savage beast
whose heart did quicken for her pretty sake.
He leapt and left a rainbow sparkling in his wake;
reared and pawed the air with silver cloven hooves,
then came to her in manner that the water moves.

Though wary of most traps and snares
the unicorn was unaware of danger from the tender subtle trap
that lay within the white-clad maiden's lap.
Nor did it see the noose the woodsman tied
and fastened to a tree and laid in grass
close by his daughter's side.
It breathed sweet breath and warm upon Jehnane
until she stroked
his silver mane and softly wept in her deceit
and its taut muscles calmed
until it almost slept
and helpless to resist her charm
it knelt,
and she with trembling fingers felt
its silken beard and closed her childish hand
about its pearly horn.

It eyed her heaving breasts
and there amid her tender sighs
it laid its single horn to rest
upon the maiden's thighs.
Meanwhile the woodsman hiding near gazed on,
armed with hidden ax.
The girl became more anxious then
to catch her unicorn.
She slipped her father's noose around the horn.
Soon, so soon, she'd have her unicorn.
She longed to weave with ribbons all its mane
and braid its forelock and its tail
to pet and tame and name him. He
would answer to her lisping call,
and she would ride the wind
upon his smoothly muscled back.
The woodsman crept upon the unicorn
and raised his heavy ax,
and struck the unicorn a striking blow
that splintered horn and bloodied flaxen mane
and made the noose fall to the ground.
The woodsman raised his ax and struck again,
this time upon the neck where opened there
an eye-shaped wound that wept bright ruby tears
upon the creature's coat, like berries in the snow
and splattered crimson on the cheeks and dress
of she who would have tamed the unicorn.
"No!" cried Jehnane, "I would not have him harmed!"

The creature staggered to his feet.
Unbalanced, weak without his horn,
he stumbled once into a cedar tree
then vanished in the wall
of thistles, ferns, and thorns
and was not seen again.
Although the woodsman tracked
the footprints of the dainty cloven hooves
they were obscured beneath
the tracks of stalking wolves,
who sensed the creature's power gone.

At his return the woodsman found the
captured horn was turned to dust,
dissolved, and no amount of water cleansed
the stains from her white dress
until Jehnane contrived to sprinkle them
with powdered alicorn.
Soon as they were pure again
she cast her virgin vestments out,
and dressed in dun and carried darkened water,
and kept her father's house
without romantic vision, quite forlorn,
except in sleep--when came to her in misty dreams
visions of her unicorn.

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