“The Pale Rose”
In deep, the story goes, where sunlight’s kiss
Is rarely felt and shadows forever fall
On pools of liquid silence, there exists,
Beyond the edges of belief, a small
And secret place where silver dreams recall
Another age, and unicorns. Asleep
The maid, too pure in her desire, the thrall
Of lover’s manly sin, is heard to weep;
She’s borne by tears into the forest keep
To make a relic of the fabled prize
That once she wore. Nearby the hunters creep
But here upon her knee her virtue lies
in worship, safe until the story’s close
when blood’s first passion slays the pale rose.
“They say that there are mountains in the interior regions of India which are inaccessible to men and therefore full of wild beasts. Among these is the unicorn, which they call the ‘cartazon’. This animal is as large as a full-grown horse, and it has a mane, tawny hair, feet like those of the elephant, and the tail of a goat. It is exceedingly swift of foot. Between its brows there stands a single black horn, not smooth but with certain natural rings, and tapering to a very sharp point.
“Of all animals, this one has the most dissonant voice. With beasts of other species that approach it the cartazon is gentle, but it fights with those of its own kind, and not only the the males fight naturally among themselves but they contend even against the females and push the contest to the death.
“The animal has great strength of body, and it is armed besides with an unconquerable horn. It seeks out the most deserted places and wanders there alone.”
3rd Century, C.E.
“He grew smaller in the distance, a moon, a star, a speck of pure white light that vanished all at once in the dense shade of the trees.”
~ Margaret Greaves
There might have been a moon. If there was, it was hidden from me by the clouds, a thick blanket that covered the sky just as the fog covered the ground.
I heard no sound as I waited alone, not even the snapping of a twig as she stepped into the clearing. She didn’t see me right away, and I watched her as she looked about. Her feet were bare, and she shivered with the cold. She wrapped her arms about herself and stepped closer.
She was not what most people would call beautiful; her face was a little too round, her arms and legs a little too long, her hair too brown and thin. Nevertheless, I loved her, for when she smiled her eyes would shine like jewels, and her heart was more beautiful and pure than any I had ever touched before.
I called to her softly. As she came to me, I could sense that she was troubled and felt the tears on her face when she embraced me.
What is wrong, sweet one?
“You have to leave. Quickly.”
Leave? Have I done something wrong, something that has upset you? Why must I leave?
“No! You’ve done nothing. It’s me. They’re coming. They’re coming and it’s my fault!”
Who is coming? Why must I leave you?
“I…told them. About you. They didn’t believe me at first, but then…they’re coming now.” She paused. I could hear the pain in her voice. “They’ll hurt you!”
Yes. Of course. They were coming. If I waited too long, it would be too late. I had to leave.
Will you come with me?
A noise in the woods, far off yet coming closer. The sound of many people, with weapons.
Will you come?
“I can’t. You must go.”
I turned to go. I had no choice, but I paused for a moment.
I am. I love you.
I touched my horn to her forehead, then turned and ran. My hooves carried me swiftly into the forest. I looked back only once.
I will return. I will come back for you.
The sky has cleared now. Only a few clouds remain as the sun rises in the east. He is gone. He promised to come back, but I know he will not. The hunters returned long ago, but they carried home no trophy of their midnight chase.
So I wait for him. Alone.
But he will not come.
P.S. If you’re still reading, the story is not representative of anything I would write now, except perhaps in some general thematic ways. I was only 17 or 18 when I wrote that for a school competition, and I’m still pissed it only won an honorable mention.