The Caverns of Kildun Aalda--Chapter Nine--Unicorn's Blood
Bard watched George with interest as he sat down on the ground sketching on the parchment. In the three days they had been traveling, he noticed a curious pattern of the thief,
First George would count each step he made. As he reached a certain number, he would reach down and pick up a pebble. Whenever they stopped to rest, he would count his pebbles and make notes or drawings on the parchment. Sometimes he ran off and returned to make a quick note in the book. Finally, curiosity overcame Bard. He approached George,
"I am just wondering what you are doing."
"When we were in town," I tried to find a map of the forest. Unfortunately, none were made. So I am making a map. I normally walk one hundred meters in seventy-five paces. So, I have a basic idea how far we have traveled."
"That is interesting."
"I mark down on the map any key terrain features, such as paths, hills, valleys, streams and creeks. Sometimes I make notes in my book such as how difficult a path is to walk on."
"How will this help us get the mission accomplished?"
"The only map we have is the map you saw. It just shows the diagram of the caverns and the area surrounding it. By me drawing a more detailed map, we will know that we are not walking in circles. Plus if we get lost, we can use the map to get back on track."
"This is very detailed," Bard said, looking at the map. "Maybe you do not need to be a thief with this talent."
George grinned, "I learned my mapping skills in the Thieving Guild. You never know when you are going to need the floor plans of a castle."
They were on the move again. Johanna and Balon were in the front, Bard and Britt in the middle, with George and Eileena in the rear.
"George, adjust your pace count," the dwarf yelled back. "We are in hilly terrain."
"Got it," the thief yelled.
"Why does he have to adjust it?" Bard asked.
"When it is hilly like this, he has to take more paces to go the same distance. For example, he may take one hundred paces instead of seventy-five."
"Do you think we are going in the right direction?"
"If only I was sure," Britt admitted. "I have to say the terrain is right for the caverns. Yet, if we do not find any signs within the next couple of days, we probably should just turn around and head back to Antares." The dwarf sighed, "I just hate giving up."
"Then do not do it. I am willing to keep going. I think the others also do. However, we are running low on standard rations. We might want to do some hunting so we do not start using the Iron Preserves, even I can hunt. I have enough rope to set up snare."
"Thank you, Bard. I needed the encouragement. He told Johanna, "Once we get over the hill, we are halting."
"Do you, see anything son!" Britt yelled up into in the tree.
"Nothing, Just other trees!" yelled a voice far above their heads.
"Better come down before you fall."
There was a quick scrambling as George climbed down the tree. "I think if we go further north, we may have better luck. It seems the tops of the trees were rising; it is like we are in the bottom of a bowl. Either the trees are getting taller or we are approaching another hill."
"Eileena how is the food situation?"
"We still have enough standard rations for at least three days."
"We will walk for three more hours then set up camp. I want to start hunting for food, to make the standard rations last. I am glad you thought about bringing your bows and arrows."
"Did you hear that," Eileena suddenly asked, turning her head around.
“Hear what?" asked Johanna.
"I hear it again," she said as she keenly listened with her pointed ears. "This way," she said and headed quickly up the hill.
A short distance away they stopped. A pathetic creature was sitting against the trunk of the tree. It sounded like it was crying. They cautiously approached it and realized that it was an old man, a very old man.
Eileena approached him and asked, "Can we help you."
The old man stopped crying and looked at them. "Sylvan is grateful that these people are caring."
They looked around but did not see anyone else.
"Who is sylvan?" Johanna asked.
"Why Sylvan is the poor old fool sitting in front of you! Sylvan has been wandering this forest for years. He has been cursed."
"How old is Sylvan," Balon asked.
"Sylvan is five hundred years old."
The old man stood up. His body was nothing more than a skeleton of loose skin. "Are you lost?" he asked. "Sylvan knows this forest. Sylvan has been from one end to another a countless number of times."
“We are looking for…”
“Can we trust him?” George whispered to the dwarf.
“I think we can,” Britt whispered back. “We are looking for the caverns of Kildun Aalda.”
“Sylvan knows exactly where that is! Sylvan was there when Stephan and Joban built their fortress. Sylvan wanted to help but they did not want an old man annoying them. Sylvan even entered the caverns, hoping the monsters would kill him. However, the monsters ignored Sylvan”
The old man sat down again. "Listen to Sylvan’s story. If you help Sylvan, Sylvan will tell you how to get to the caverns."
Sylvan walked down the overgrown dirt path in the forest. Stopping to rest, he uncorked his flask and drank his water. It was hot and growing more so as the morning turned into afternoon.
He sat down within the shade of the trees, checking his bow and arrows and seeing that they were still in good condition. Well, they should be; he had tested them a few times since he bought them. However, he never used them. He only had one purpose for them.
His boots were another story. There were holes worn in them, with his toes starting to show through. He should have purchased another pair before he started on his quest.
He checked his sack, making sure he had enough food. He was good for a few more days. If he didn't find a town with a marketplace-or at least a house where the owner was willing to sell him some food-he would have to use the arrows to hunt for food. However, he did not want to use them for this purpose. He was on a quest and he needed the arrows for this.
Sylvan reached down into the bottom of his sack. It was still there, safely wrapped up in a cloth-the silver cup. If this got lost-or was stolen-he would not be able to complete the quest.
Sylvan's quest was for unicorn's blood. It could not be from just any unicorn; it must be from a black unicorn. Once he had slain the unicorn, he must pour the blood into the silver cup and drink from the cup.
Sylvan realized that finding a black unicorn would be difficult-they were rare, with only a few seen in the forest. The thought of drinking the blood made him slightly shudder. However, the rewards were great.
Eternal life was what he wanted.
"I love living," Sylvan told a cleric in town a short time ago.
"I do not want to die. I have so many things I want to do. I wish I could live forever."
"Unicorn's blood is the answer," the cleric replied.
"What does unicorn's blood have to do with this?"....
"The black unicorn has magical qualities in its blood. When you slay the unicorn, pour the blood into a silver cup and drink it, you will be rewarded with eternal life. However, be careful what you wish for," said the cleric wisely. "Sometimes you get what you want. Yet, it may not be what you wanted."
After speaking to the cleric, Sylvan knew he had to hunt for and slay a black unicorn. Then after drinking the blood, he would be able to live forever. He ran back to his room and grabbed what money he had.
"I do not have enough money to buy one of these," Sylvan thought to himself as he looked at the silver cups on the shelf at the marketplace. "Even the smallest one is too expensive." Stroking his chin, he stood there thinking. He had already bought his arrows and was now at the marketplace getting food and supplies. "I know what to do."
He turned to the shopkeeper. "Sir, I just remember. I need to get a drinking flask. Do you have any?" He knew where they were in the market. Luckily, he forgot that he would need to get one.
"Of course, I will get you one."
As soon as the shopkeeper had turned his back, Sylvan reached out his hand, grabbed one of the cups and put it in his sack.
"Here you go sir," the shopkeeper returned with a flask. "Are you going to be traveling far?"
"I am just doing some hunting. I may be gone for a few days."
"May I interest you in a new pair of boots? Yours look like they are getting worn."
"Oh no thank you. Mine will do."
Wanting to get out of the market before the shopkeeper noticed the missing cup; Sylvan quickly paid for his supplies and left the shop.
Now sitting in the shade, Sylvan regretted not buying a new pair of boots. Rubbing his feet, he thought he would be only gone for a couple of days. Still he had seen no signs of the black unicorns. He should have seen at least one by now.
"What am I doing wrong?" Sylvan asked himself, running his fingers through his black curly hair.
He sat and thought some more. A slight breeze was moving through the stillness of the day's heat. It was as if the breeze was singing to him.
"Wait a minute," Sylvan said. "Somebody is singing!"
Sylvan listened and certainly heard somebody singing. Well, it really wasn’t singing; just a person, sounded like a female, going "La, La, La! La, La La!"
The person was singing the words over and over. Sylvan walked through the trees towards the sound of the singing. He came upon a stream and, there filling a water bottle, was a beautiful young woman singing, "La, La, La! La, La, La!"
"Oh," she said jumping up, placing her hand over her heart. "I did not know anyone was here!"
"That is okay," Sylvan said. "Do you live near here?"
"Yes." My parents and I live just down the road. Come and have something to eat."
"I will carry these for you," Sylvan said, picking up the water jugs. After the days traveling in the forest, these felt as heavy as boulders. Yet, he wanted to prove that he was a man to this woman.
"My name is Sylvan."
"I am Leelah."
"How old are you?"
"I am seventeen. And you?"
"I am twenty-one."
"Maybe I should forget about the unicorn quest," Sylvan thought to himself, "and think about a new one. Leelah is beautiful; maybe we can get married."
"So how long have you been traveling in the forest," Leelah interrupted his thoughts.
"Almost three weeks."
"Here we are," said Leelah, when they came up to a small shack. "Come in, my mother is cooking a roast. She always makes extra in case we have visitors."
"Do you get many visitors?"
"We get a few each week. It is just people passing through from one town to the other."
"Why are you living in the forest? There are not other families living nearby, are there?"
"We just want a simple life. We hunt and grow our own produce. We do not like the bustle in the towns. We only go there to sell our produce and buy supplies. Come inside and meet my father."
"So what brings you to this part of the forest," Leelah's father asked.
Sylvan had just finished his second helping of roast. He leaned back in his chair, satisfied. He had not eaten this good in days.
"I have been looking for a black unicorn. So far I have not seen any sign of them."
"Oh I love unicorns!" Leelah exclaimed delightedly. "They always come up to me as I sing when I am fishing."
"Of course!" Sylvan said to himself. "Unicorns only come up to virgin women. Leelah must be a virgin."
"I would like to see a unicorn," Sylvan said. "Maybe you can show me one."
"That will have to wait until morning," Leelah's mother said. "It is getting dark outside. We have an extra room you can spend the night in."
The next morning, after a meal of eggs and ham, Leelah and Sylvan set out. She was carrying a fishing pole.
"Unicorns always come to me when I am fishing. I am not sure why, but when my father is with me, they never show up."
"Maybe they are attracted by your beautiful singing. Then maybe, they just like to approach one person. If I want to see them, I better hide in the trees."
"Are you a hunter?" Leelah asked, indicating Sylvan's bow and arrows.
Sylvan had not told Leelah what he had been planning to do. He was not sure if she would be willing to help him if she knew. Yet, once he got the unicorn's blood, he was going to offer some to her. They both could have eternal marriage bliss. He planned to ask her father as soon as they got back.
"I do a little hunting," Sylvan replied, "mostly for food." In a way he was telling the truth. Unicorn's blood can give him the same amount of nourishment as a piece of meat.
They came to the stream and sat down on a boulder. She cast her line into the water and, while waiting for the fish to bite, Leelah started singing, "La, La, and La! La, La La!"
"How long does it take for a unicorn to show up?" Sylvan asked after a few minutes.
"Usually after I start singing."
Sylvan stood up. "I am going to go over there and see if I can hunt something for your supper; to pay you and your parents back for your hospitality."
He walked away from the stream and hid behind some trees. He watched, waiting in anticipation.
Within minutes, Sylvan heard a rustling of leaves. Could it be? Yes! It was a unicorn. From the tip of its horn to the bottom of its hooves, it was black.
The unicorn cautiously looked around. It slowly approached the singing figure sitting by the stream. Entranced by her voice, it lowered its head into her lap.
Leelah reached out her hand and stroked its neck.
Sylvan slowly fitted an arrow on the bowstring. Making as little noise as possible, he drew back. Being sure that he would not hit Leelah, he let the arrow fly.
"La, La, La! La..."
Leelah's eyes popped open in surprise as the unicorn suddenly jumped up. It ran around wildly for a few seconds, and then collapsed on the ground.
Too surprised to do anything, she watched as Sylvan came running from the trees. He reached into his sack and pulled out the silver cup. He ran up to the fallen unicorn and filled the cup with he blood running from its wound.
Taking a drink, he offered the cup to Leelah.
"Who do you think you are?" she said, striking him across the cheek. "You tricked me!"
"Don't you see," Sylvan said. "We can be together forever."
"I want nothing to do with you!" Leelah screamed at him. "Leave me alone and never speak to me again!" She stormed off.
Shrugging his shoulders, Sylvan finished drinking the unicorn's blood.
100 Years Later
The old man shuffled down the dirt path in the forest. He would walk a few feet, and then he would have to rest. His arthritis would only allow him to go so far.
He had traveled this forest many times and knew where every turn was. It was a good thing, since the slightest stumble would send him falling to the ground. It would be very hard for him to get back up. He came to a clearing where a shack once stood. Leelah, dead for years, never gave him a single thought since he killed the unicorn and drank its blood. While she could have been walking along with him, it was best that she never drank the unicorn's blood.
Sylvan shook his head sadly.
He remembered when he first expressed his wish to have eternal life. The cleric had told him that he had to drink unicorn's blood.
The cleric had said, "Be careful what you wish for. Sometimes you get what you want. Yet, it may not be what you wanted."
How true the cleric's words! Sylvan got the eternal life he wanted. His mind is as alert as ever. He will live forever. However, he body still ages.
Eternal life is not a blessing.
It is a curse!....
Sylvan buried his head in his hands. “What is an old man to do?” he sobbed. “Sylvan cannot die. Sylvan wants to die!”
“If we can help, can you tell us how to get to the caverns?” Eileena asked.
“Do you still have the silver cup?”
“I, I mean Sylvan does!” The old man pulled a cup out of his bag. “Here it is. It looks as new as the day Sylvan got it!” He handed the cup to Eileena. “How can nice people, like you, help Sylvan?”
“Unicorn’s blood will take away the curse.” Eileena sniffed the air. “There is a unicorn nearby. Johanna, I need you to come with me.”
“We are not going to kill a unicorn, are we?” Johanna asked.
“I will explain on the way.”
“I want to go too,” George said. “I have never seen a live unicorn.”
“Unicorns will not come up if a male is nearby. You have to stay here.”
“Oh shoot,” George said, pouting.
“You kind people want to help Sylvan,” said the old man. “Sylvan will tell you how to reach the caverns while the ladies are looking for a unicorn.”
Johanna and Eileena walked away. “It is about a day’s walk from here, Sylvan began. George had taken the parchment from his bag and began to sketch.
Johanna was following the Eileena. Every once in a while Eileena would stop and sniff the air.
“We are not going to kill a unicorn, are we?” she asked again.
“No,” said Eileena. “We are just going to borrow some of its blood.”
“I do not understand.”
“If I can get close enough to a unicorn, I can cut it on its belly and get enough blood to fill Sylvan’s cup. I brought you along so you can heal it after we get enough blood.”
“I see. However, how will we get close enough to a unicorn? Also, doesn’t the blood have to be from a black unicorn?”
“Blood from any type of unicorn will end the curse. Unicorns come to me; I can speak to them with my mind. I will tell it what I have to do, that it might hurt a bit and encourage it that its wound will be healed. I think the unicorn is just ahead.
Johanna and Eileena crested the hill. A white unicorn was drinking from a stream.
“Please do not run,” the Eileena spoke in its mind.
The unicorn did not move, but looked scared.
“Do not be afraid. We are friends. We need to borrow something from you. It may hurt, but my friend will heal you. Please come here if you want to help.”
The unicorn slowly walked towards the Eileena and Johanna. The elf slowly reached out her hand and stroked its sleek body.
“Can I touch him too?”
“Go ahead, he trusts you.”
“I have never touched a unicorn, let alone seen one, before,” Johanna said, excited.
Eileena took a knife and Sylvan’s cup from her bag. “As soon as I get enough blood, heal him.”
In a minute, the cup was filled with blood and the unicorn healed.
“Thank you, friend,” Eileena said.
The unicorn looked at the two females, bowed at them and walked off into the forest.
By the time they got to the others, George was putting his parchment back into his bag.
“He told us how to get there. If we had continued north, we may have missed it. I hope you can help him; he has helped us immensely.
“We got it,” Johanna said.
Eileena approached Sylvan. “We got what you need.”
Sylvan looked at the silver cup. “Sylvan really appreciates this.” He drank the unicorn’s blood. When he was done, he lay on the ground. “This makes Sylvan very happy.” He stopped speaking. His body instantly crumbled into a body of dust. The wind gathered up what was left of Sylvan in her arms and scattered him over the land.