The stars above were a bright and seemed to form a shimmering ring in the air, making the still waters of Muse Lake glitter and dance like fireflies. Below them six unicorns stood, echoing the ring in the stars; they were the Circle of Elders, those Unicorns of Kalidore who had made it their sworn duty to care for the world and all her people, and so they stood now, together, to meet what lay ahead as one.
The first was Odin, eldest of them all, a great stallion the colour of moonlight. He was their rock, their anchor, and the unicorns gathered were concerned by the look of complexity in his eyes. Beside him stood his sister, his twin, Mare Imbrium, herself as dark as he was silver. She was a quiet soul who had journeyed through all the worlds and had seen many things, her eyes burning with an intensity of a newborn star. She was their strength, and those eyes held them strong. To her right was was Falling Star, the Stallion of the Plains, teacher and guide to all creatures, his back spotted and pin-pointed like the sky above. Muse was next, and she was also a teacher, but where Falling Star taught history and lore, she taught people to follow their heart. She was a joyful spirit who’s laughing eyes were curiously silent now, troubled and brooding. Arieon stood beside her, his coat like gleaming pearls against her gold. He almost seemed distracted, but his heart was there with the others; he forced himself to focus. Last was Gypsy, who’s eyes were distant as if still wandering along the many roads of Kalidore she watched over. At the same time she was alert and attuned to the family around her, her family, a family she would do everything to help and protect if they needed her, and she sensed they needed her now.
“Is it true?” Muse spoke, her silver hair shivering with the query.
“I’m afraid so,” the Daiga said. She was a frail shadow beside the great bodies of the unicorns, a small woman, old and ageless, her hair the colour of moonlight and face worn with a wrinkle for each passing year. But her voice was strong and her eyes bright, and unicorns looked to her for guidance and reassurance as they mulled over the news. “Kala said we should not fear, for we are strong and our hearts are pure. But if there are hard times ahead, she did not want us to be without help. We must be ready, should we be called upon. And seeking Companions is the surest way for our children and sisters to meet the challenge.”
“They are so young,” Mare Imbrium whispered softly.
“We were all young once,” Odin chuckled. “That never stopped us from meeting whatever challenge the universe threw at us–”
“Or taking those near you along for the ride,” came a voice from behind. The unicorns turned to see three figures approaching across the pebbled shore. They were human, like the Daiga, but tall and lean in the prime of youth. The one who had spoken had thick, dark hair that fell across his eyes; he pushed it back as he came towards them and threw his arm across the great stallion’s neck. He was Tyden, Odin’s Companion. “As I recall, however, they were good times.”
“There’s no reason why they can’t be good times again,” another of figures spoke. She was dressed in a simple garb, straight hair falling about her shoulders. She was Lilaini, Gypsy’s Companion, and spent much of her time helping the bronze unicorn with her duties throughout the isle. There hadn’t been a new companion since her arrival, and that had been a long, long time ago – centuries, were you to put it into Earthen time. “And we’re there to help them, after all,” she said.
Rhaine, her cloak wrapped around her against the cool night air, nodded eagerly in agreement. She was tanned and fine boned, her long hair pulled from her face, save for a few rogue curls that refused to say put. As Muse’s companion she was gentle and blythe, but like her unruly hair there was a capriciousness about her that dared to flutter just below the brim. “We can take them through the Gates, where ever they need to go. And if they need assistance, we’ll be there – they won’t be alone. After all, soon they’ll have their companions with them, too.”
Rhaine and Lilaini were the Gaurdians of Kalidore. That meant they, like the Circle of Elders, were caretakers, watching over the isle and its people. But not only that – as humans, they were able to tap into the rich magic that streamed through the land. They could use spells and gently manipulate the elements. And they could summon Gates – those mystical portals that bridged between worlds.
The Daiga smiled. “I am proud of you both. You have grown into your responsibilities with grace and dedication, just as a Guardian must. As you know, seeking a companion is a sacred rite, a blessing, and one that we look forward to. But don’t forget, it is not without its hardship, and unexpected pain.” The companions’ head nodded softly, distant dreams flickering across their mind’s eye. She continued, “You will go and help our young unicorns seek their companions, summon the Gates and lead them to where ever destiny whispers. This will not only be a test for them, but for you as well. As Guardian you must be resourceful, thoughtful, and wise, quick to act but never afraid to revisit where you have been. There are more challenges to being Guardian then simply watching over the Isle, and it’s fair time you were part of them. It will do you well, the both of you, and I have no doubt in your abilities to see it through.”
There was a shuffling through the unicorns as they accepted the news; they were quite fond of their Guardians, but sensed the unrest in what the Daiga had left unsaid.
Again it was Odin who spoke first, turning from his brothers and sisters to regard the young women with much tenderness. “Your presence with our sisters and our foals will be a great comfort to us,” his voice was deep and rich like the distant rumble of thunder. “Kala watches over all her children, four legged or two, and she will be with you on your travels.”
“And we will be with you too,” Falling Star came forward, following his brother’s lead. “No matter how far you are from Kalidore, you, companions, are our family too. Whatever you need, we will provide what we can; however we can assist, we will help you along the way. Whatever we can do for you, it will be done–”
“There’s not much left to do but spread the news,” Imbri said pointedly, cutting short her brother with a mock parry of her silvery horn. “So enough of this – let’s go tell the others!” And with brisk wickers of agreement, the unicorns were off, their hooves ringing like bells in nocturne’s symphony.
Chapter One ~
Across the rich meadow the Mares of Kalidore were grazing, their foals – if you could still call them that, for they were tall and lanky now, bursting with independence – froliced over the green with the exuberance of youth, unable to be contained quietly like their mothers. It was they who spotted the others first, six Unicorns coming across the hill, three with riders astride. They recognized them instantly, for they were all family, but the sight of seeing them together added an element of excitement.
“They’re back!” exclaimed Xanthe. She was a golden dun unicorn with serious eyes, and her mother, Muse, was among them. “I wonder what kind of news they have. I hope they tell us. I think, we’re old enough to be told.”
Gypsy was still lost in thought, and had been since the moment the circle had broken. Every few minutes she opened her mind to her companion, but she too seemed to be silent, and lost in thought. Lilaini rode silently, but appreciated the contacted her companion was attempting to make. They both had alot on their mind, but her thoughts were too confusing and disjointed to try and convey. She knew Gypsy would understand that anyways. Her green eyes had lost their sparkle, which had been replaced with a troubled look. Filled with self doubt, she was thinking of what Daiga had said, or more what she had no said rather. And the feeling intensified.
The wind picked up, pulling at the bronze unicorn’s mane and flooding her nostrils, telling her of all the roads in Kalidore. Inhaling deeply, her body relaxed some, the familiar scent helping to clear her mind of vexing thoughts momentarily. As a young voice rang out in front of them, her ears pricked forward. “Your daughter’s eyesight never ceases to amaze me,” she proclaimed, turning to look at the palomino mare next to her.
Muse glowed with motherly pride at Gypsy’s remark, but she replied dryly, “Sometimes it seems the acuity of her sight is directly linked to how interesting she finds the subject she’s looking at. Ask her where she’s put her lesson scrolls….” But she skipped ahead to meet the filly and nuzzled her affectionately with her nose nonetheless.
The commotion penetrated Lilaini’s thoughts, and pulled her back to reality. Looking up she saw Xanthe frolic up to her mother then just as agilely try to avoid the nuzzled kisses. She smiled and turned to Rhaine, “it seems we have arrived much quicker than expected. How shall we tell them?”
“What’s the news?” Xanthe exclaimed, twisting out of reach. “I want to know!”
“I know you do, but you’ll have to wait until everyone is here,” her mother replied.
Xanthe looked back to the other unicorns who were making their way across the meadow and huffed with impatience.
“You’ll know soon enough,” Rhaine assured the Kore, slipping down from Muse’ back. She glanced back and Lilaini but didn’t answer her question, mostly because she was still trying to come up with answer. She secretly hoped that if neither of them said anything Odin might break the news. He was good at that sort of thing, after all. But she knew instantly that wasn’t a very Guardianly thing to do, and had not the Daiga said this would be a test? She sighed deeply, and waited anxiously with Xanthe for the others to arrive.
Fiera had stood watching a group of unicorns who were moving a good distance away. Interested enough in the slight commotion, the chestnut mare gave a toss of her mane before trotting down to meet them. Upon a closer inspection, the group appeared to be made up of a foal, mares and two guardians. Her eyes danced with a playful flicker, despite her age.
“Greetings.” Fiera dipped her head towards Muse, Gypsy, Rhaine and Lilaini before smiling at the adorable little one, Xanthe. “Is there something special happening soon?”
“There must be,” said Xanthe before any of the adults could answer. “They won’t tell me, so it has to be good, interesting, grown up stuff, too.”
“Xanthe,” Muse gave her daughter a look.
“But it’s true…” the foal persisted, before another pointed stare made her settle into subdued silence.
Fiera blinked a few times before talking again, in a quieter tone so only the foal could hear. “Well, not everything in the adult world is that interesting. Enjoy being a foal before you grow and turn out to be someone like me.” She gave little Xanthe a wink.
“Though, I can’t help but wander what news in coming our way.” Fiera said, straightening up before the other’s noticed.
In a nearby knoll, Llamrei released a long yawn, shaking her head as she rose to stretch, waking up from her nap. She looked around, ears twitching at the faint sound not far away. Giving another shake of her mane she started towards the group, but slowed before she arrived. Debating over it with herself, finally she went over and bowed slightly in greeting. “Salutations everyone, may I ask what this small commotion is about?”
Still held under her mother’s iron gaze, Xanthe remained silent, so Rhaine stepped forward to address the two mares. “We have plenty to tell you all, and no one will be left out,” she smiled at Xanthe here, and the dun filly seemed to brighten at that. “Let us all come together so we might hear.”
She gazed over the rolling meadows, pinpointed with the rich browns and bays of the grazing unicorns, and felt herself tremble inside by the sheer beauty of it all – the rich emerald of the Kaledon Forest growing up from the edge of the grassland, the high peaks of the Skyland Mountains crowning the land beneath the quickly warming sky. Morning was rising over the edge of the eastern sea with a flourish, and quality of the light was incredible. She sighed deeply. Kalidore was such a beautiful world. If it was in danger… stray thoughts darkened her mind like a cloud over the sun, and she quickly shook her head to free them.
She returned her focus back to the lands before her and willed her mind relax. With her eyes closed she could feel the ebb and flow of the hidden streams – magic – rippling just out of sight. It was comforting to know it was there, but she didn’t need it for what she was about to do. Focusing again, she reached out with her mind’s eye. All across the dreamlands see could see orbs of light flickering over the world. These represented the unicorns. She let them come to her, curious, questioningly, full of eagerness. She did not address them directly, but instead formed the thought into being for all of them to see. *Come*’ she willed them. *Come to me.*
The message was sent. All across Kalidore the Unicorns would hear; those that felt the need would come, and soon they would be here. The calm, powerful Rhaine who had just sent a thought-casting across the whole reach of the planet crumpled inwardly with a groan at the thought that came next – the inevitability of breaking the new.
Fiera was near Rhaine and recieved the guardian’s messege with such clarity, it made her tremble. Even though the little group was only a few feet apart from each other, the chestnut mare couldn’t help but respond. She took a lively step forward, her tail flicking illuminant as a blaze. A smile played at Fiera’s lips while everyone hushed into a quiet moment. Even the fiesty mare was calm, which wasn’t really normal for her.
All around, the world seemed to hold its breath….
With a twist of her neck she looked just beyond her own rear, to the bushes there, the rustling had her ears perking and her nostrils beginning to flare. However, soon she found that it was the better half to their whole, Lailah. With a snort, the oh-so-serious Ambriel turned back around and found her hooves. “Don’t you have something better to be doing than following–” She’d meant to finish, but was interrupted by the jostle to her body by her twin’s nudge.
It was then that Ambriel looked to her sister, much to the same somewhat startled manner she did before. It was the call that Rhaine sent out to them all. And for the call, the twin Kore (who remained absolutely different) stepped from beyond the tree and edged closer to the small herd that was forming.
‘Pan, it’s time to get up. Arise Pandora.’
‘Mmph…’ With a large yawn and a non to steady few first steps, Pandora turned to her mother to see what was the reason for the interruption of her nap.
‘Hmmm? Mother? Huh?’ Yawning again, the filly tried to gather her thoughts enough to ask her question.
‘Why? Is something wrong?’
‘I am not certain, but Rhaine has called us, and I for one would like to hear what she has to say. Come, for we have a slight distance to travel.’
And with that, the two unicorns started to head in the direction of the gathering of unicorns, the first with a patience honed over time, the second with the exuberance of youth, often cantering ahead, only to turn and race back to her mothers, fully awake and impatient to reach their destination.
Spirit, lifted her head and nodded, deliberately chewing her last mouthful of sweet clover thoroughly before swallowing to reply. “It sounds important.”
Pasiphaë sighed, eyeing the stand of honeysuckle longingly. “Hrgmf.” She huffed again, and flattened her ears against her head. “Leaving now will just let the deer eat all of this.”
“Oh, stop sulking, ‘Phaë.” Spirit tsked, “You’ve already eaten half of that bush as is – at this rate you’ll be fatter than an old pony.”
Pasiphaë stamped her hind foot angrily. “A fat pony?! I’ll have you know I’m as svelte as I was as a yearling! And you know that honeysuckle is perfectly healthy!! And … and…!”
Spirit let out a low chuckle. “You are so easy to rile, ‘Phaë. Calm down, grab a last mouthful of your precious honeysuckle, and lets get moving.” She arched neck and stretched, eyeing the sky thoughtfully. “As it is, it will probably take us almost until morning to reach the others.”
Pasiphaë closed her mouth with an audible snap and flared her nostrils in frustration. “Yes, fine. Of course.”
Spirit, leaning over to nuzzle her neck slightly, smiled. “Oh ‘Phaë, you’re such a sulk. There’s plenty of honeysuckle left in Kalidore besides this single bush…annnnd, I even think I might know where a patch of early blooming buttercup is along the way.”
Smiling wryly, and perking up at the mention of buttercups, Pasiphaë sighed. “Yes, you’re right – sorry.” She nibbled at the base of one of Spirit’s ears, fondly. “Let’s be off then!”
Together, the two turned about and trotted off into the moonlight, heading at a neat clip towards the other unicorns.
“More are coming,” she said, stepping up beside Rhaine after a moment of silence, “I sense them getting closer.” Laying her hand upon Gypsy’s neck, she looked at the small group gathering in front of them and tried to smile encouragingly, but she was still troubled.
Tintavandor didn’t initially pay much attention to the summoning, but more to her mother’s voice. Hearing her call, had Tinta running over, and then keeping pace as they went to the gathering. “Will there be others there?” she asked inquisitively, prancing ahead when her mother nodded. “I can’t wait!”
* Daughter * Sierra said to Namid, using the old ways to talk to her offspring. * I must heed the call. Come if you wish, but I would rather you stayed.*
Namid seemed almost to distracted with the small creature perched between her delicate nostrils to even “hear” her mother, yet the youngster turned, giving her mother a wry grin and a few flicks of her little tail.
The sight alone was enough to make the mare whicker in delight before she trotted off at a steady rhythm. It seemed not long before she arrived where the others had already begun to gather. Hanging back, Sierra decided to wait with a shifting of nervous hooves, waiting to see what this summons was about.
Shifting in place she looked back at her daughter who was eying the other Kore curiously. Quintessence raised her head and looked toward the Guardians. “later you can try to talk to them, we seem to have gotten here just in time”. Dawn looked up at her mother and laughed softly “I wonder if this is everyone” she asked softly in wonder.
Jumping forwards, she dashed towards the group. Trying to get there as fast as she could she was not entirely looking where she was going, and came crashing through a set of twin Kore who were also approaching, Ambriel and Lailah. “Whoops!! Sorry!!” She shouted as she nearly stumbled and then quickly continued on her journey. “My mom’s up there!” she hollered back to them as an apparent explanation. She continued on her flight and while dashing past another few unicorns who had assembled came she came bounding forward and slid nearly underneath a mare named Fiera who was standing at the head of the procession. Blinking with a sheepish grin on her face, she looked up at the others. “Erm…..Hi”.
Gypsy had been leaning into her companions touch, watching thoughtfully as the other unicorns began to approach. Her Kore’s rather dramatic entrance needless to say, caught her attention. Her expression didn’t change, but her eyes lit up at the sight of the filly. Cosmic momentarily thought perhaps she was in trouble, but then her mother’s gaze softened and she nickered in greeting. Gypsy stepped forward to nuzzle her daughter. “I’m sorry Fiera, I hope she didn’t bump into too hard. She has difficultly containing her exuberance sometimes.”
Cosmic’s gaze became more sheepish when she realized she was practically standing underneath of the other mare. “Oh! I’m sorry…..”
Rhaine had to smile at the kore’s antics, then turned her gaze as the unicorns began to flow over the hills. They looked more like a flock of birds in flight then anything with four feet to the earth….She was always happy to see them – they were her family after all, and they had been with her since her first days on Kalidore, and she had never wanted for anything else then to stay here with them. Remembering that gave her the courage she needed to address them now as they came over the hills to meet her.
“Welcome, welcome all!” she called out. Answering whinnies carried on the breeze, filled with excitement and wonder. She was speaking both out load and with her mind’s voice so that everyone might here. “We’ve come from the Circle this day with great news from the Daiga, news passed down from Kala herself. We bring it here to you so that we might all share it together, for it touches each of you, in your own way.”
The unicorns were silent, save the impatient flick of a Korè’s tail, and Unicorns of the Circle now stood with a grave seriousness about them that was enough to quiet even the most ambitious foal. Rhaine continued, “We have been lucky enough to know Kalidore well in this long era of Peace – peace that was won for us by Kala and Kaëdon in the ancient wars. We have been lucky enough to want for nothing and live without worry or fear. As citizens of this world, we value this haven and know in our hearts that we would do whatever it takes to protect it – not just for ourselves, but for all creatures. For that is what we Unicorns are – Keepers of the Peace, The Guardians, Protectors of All.
“Now the time has come, to rise up to this challenge given to us by our ancestors, and I know that for each of us it is a challenge we are eager to meet! But know this – it is a challenge we will never have to meet alone. For it was Kala who went to earth and sought the first Companion, creating the bond between our worlds… through this, the magic of the universe flows like a coursing river. It is said Magic was the Gift unicorns gave to the world, and man was the one who opened the box and set it free. Apart, it is a thing intangible, but when a unicorn and companion meet, there is little that can that can not be done by a learned pair.
“So that is the challenge that Kala has given you this day. For some of you, it is a calling you have been waiting to answer all your lives. It is time to seek your Companion.”
Rhaine looked out over the gathering crowd, and felt the rush of emotion that tumbled from them in a giant swell, a myriad of different thoughts and feelings rising as one in response. It was almost overwhelming, and she felt herself waver slightly, bombarded by the rush on her senses. She felt a hand on her elbow, steadying her just a bit, and Tyden’s voice in her ear, “Well spoken, Guardian,” he said. “Though it’s clear that Kala’s challenge to you was brevity…”
Lilaini was glad that Rhaine had taken the step forwards and decided to be the one to impart the news to everyone. She kept her face calm, not betraying the emotion she was feeling as she read all of the things that her fellow Guardian left unsaid, but implied. Looking at the crowd of Unicorns that were standing before them she tried to discern with quick succession which thoughts were flying in from whom. Unlike Rhaine, who’s telepathy was strongly empathic, the feelings of other flooded her entire body, Lilaini’s telepathy was defiantly thought patterns, and in times like these the thoughts invaded her quickly. Her eyes darted around as the Unicorns digested what her friend had said, and she was quickly able to get the sense that many of the unicorns here had felt the calling for a companion. Many more than she had expected.
She felt Rhaine, who was standing to one side, waver and she reached out for her but Tyden was there first. The emotions must have hit her pretty hard, she thought. She heard Tyden whisper, and shot him a dirty look. “This is not exactly the time to be making fun of her, I would think,” she brushed past him briskly to take her friend’s hand. “Are you ok? Your speech was wonderful, don’t listen to him. I have heard many of the Unicorns, and many have heard the calling, many will be joining us on this journey. ” She tried to smile encouragingly to Rhaine, while darting another warning glance at Tyden. Often times, Lilaini assumed much of Tyden’s joking was serious, or she simply had no patience for it. And this was one of those times. She felt nothing that was going to be occurring in these next few days was a joking matter and his “humorous” comments during a potential crisis annoyed her.
Gypsy had looked up from her daughter when Rhaine began her speech, but she watched her companion more than she watched the crowd. While Lilaini’s face remained unchanged, she felt her companion’s tension. Despite how long her friend had been on Kalidore, she was still young in comparison to herself and Gypsy could feel the tension within her. When Rhaine was finished speaking, she moved closer to the humans, with her Kore at her side. She nipped at Lilaini’s clothing, giving it a tug. “Whatever Tyden said” – for she hadn’t heard, she had only received her companion’s annoyed thoughts about him, which she was used to receiving – “he was surely only joking to make Rhaine feel better.” Settling her muzzle on her companion’s shoulder she allowed her ancient green eyes to meet with Lilaini’s youthful ones. The Guardian’s eyes burned momentarily at this comment, her annoyance with Tyden intensifying, but they quickly smoldering out as she looked into the calming tranquility of her companions eyes. Sighing, her body relaxed and she bent down to give Cosmic a nice ear rub.
Fiera filed in beside her sisters, her ears forward to pick up what Rhaine had to say. Upon hearing the well said speech, a range of emotions flickered across her chestnut face. The first being confusion. Companions? Was it to fill the void in some of these hearts and souls? The thought truly amazed her! To have someone who was as close to her as her own thoughts and fiery heart. Second to be interest. A journey this would be! For so many years, never had she left the haven of Kalidore, the haven in which was her home for so long.
Third was well… excitement. Her body and mind bubbled with impatience to start moving, despite the lowly fears in her chest. What if something bad happened along the way? What would they make of it? She suppressed those thoughts, banishing them to the back of her mind. Safety in numbers. Fiera reined in her urge to go forward or even stomp a hoof. Though she let a whicker escape from her soft chestnut lips, letting her sisters and guardians knows that she was excited. Very, very excited.
It did not please the more spotted of the two, Ambriel, that her sister was coming along on this adventure. And though, as twins, they ought to have been bound at the hip and enjoying it… there was something about her that said quiet the opposite. So, when they both heard the news of what this calling, and gathering, was for… they had mixed reactions.
Lailah seemed to grow tense and that same good-humor shine to her eyes came through as she seemed to fight to stand still in her own excitement. Whether or not it was because she wanted a companion, someone who truly enjoyed the same things she did, unlike her sister, or because she only wanted the adventure, was up for interpretation.
Again, Ambriel seemed uncaring to it all. But there was something in her eyes that had changed, slight… but there all the same. It was the welling of excitement that caused her belly to twist and turn, as if she seemed to bottle it there and keep it from being show.
“Did you hear that, all that?!” It was Lailah’s voice that came through in a chirping manner. Eyes widened, and again her sister would feel the nudge of Lailah’s nose to Ambriel’s flank.
“Of course, sister, it was a little hard… not to.” The excitement in Lailah, though Ambriel tried hard, was not deminished in the least. Instead, she only recieved another nudge and a nip to follow! For that, though, Ambriel stomped a tiny off solidly on the ground and snorted at her sister with what could only be described as a unicorn’s version of a glare.
“Admit it! You are excited, Ambriel. I can see it, feel it, on you.” Said that all-too-happy foal.
“No.” Was the only response that she got from the stubbornness that was Ambriel. But that didn’t detour her. She knew, deep down, that her sister was excited. And truthfully, at this possibility, she was excited for them both. Perhaps, then, her sister could have the counterpart that Lailah couldn’t seem to be for her sister.
*Three* Rhaine replied fondly, and glanced from the golden Unicorn to her friends flanked on either side. They were actually not looking at her but at each other, still glaring, as if she had become a mere by-product of a long-standing tug-of-war. Well, Lilaini was doing most of the glaring; Tyden’s expression might be described as more a smirk. He really could be infuriating sometimes, but at the same time you couldn’t help liking the guy.
The gentle prod of a still-dull horn distracted her as Xanthe pressed through the crowd and made contact with the small of her back. She turned to find the Korè’s serious eyes brimming with a thousand questions. “I want to know–” she began, shoving Tyden completely out of the way so she could get right beside her mother’s companion (Rhaine couldn’t be sure, but she thought she saw a look of smug satisfaction cross the other Guardian’s face for a fraction of a second). “I want to know – do foals have companions?”
That was a good question. One she was not entirely sure the answer for. Rhaine glanced at Muse, who looked perplexed, but this was more at her daughter’s lack of decorum then at the actual questions.
“It depends,” a calm voice smoothed away the pregnant pause. Mare Imbrium’s eyes were the warm brownish-green of first spring. She met the foal on her level, her long dark hair tumbling down her neck as she lowered her head. “Do foals listen to stars in the quiet of night? Do they hear the old songs that whisper there among them?”
“Well,” Xanthe fidgeted somewhat, for the Old Songs were something they learned about from Falling Star, who taught history to all the weanling. It wasn’t that Xanthe found the stories boring themselves — just, that the class itself usually was. So Xanthe tended to neglect her studies. She would much rather be chasing fairy motes across the phases at twilight then listening to any old star (Falling or otherwise) had to say. “I suppose, if a foal wanted to, she could.”
“It’s just like that with Companions,” Imbri smiled at her warmly. “A foal could, if she wanted to. But for the most part a foal is just too busy doing so many other important things – like exploring the existence of phase motes–” she winked mischievously here “–then to bother herself with something like seeking companions. It’s not implausible, just unusual.”
Just to the edge of the little group, Persephone stood motionless as she listened to what the guardians had to say, a pulling in her heart gaining so much momentum that she involuntarily took a step forward. Pandora was also slightly entranced by what was happening around her – but she didn’t listen to all that was said like her mother, more interested in the unicorns in the vicinity, not all known to her.
Coming back to herself Persephone realized that a journey of such importance wasn’t going to be with out trials and possible danger, and no guarantee of success to any involved. Glancing to her foal, she hoped that they would be unscathed when they returned, for she already knew the young filly would never accept being left behind. Pandora herself was already starting to bounce around, picking up on the emotions of those around her – mainly excitement.
The rosey-hued mare bedside her was trembling with excitement too. Sierra’s ears flickered to and fro as her own mind raced with a jumble of thoughts; at long last, a Companion!
She nearly quivered in anticipation. When would they leave, where would they go, and would they all go? Frantically she thought of Namid, her daughter, but quickly her worry passed… her filly would have time to be young and dance with the others, to learn all she could from the Elders, before she would be called upon to find her own.
Unsure if her thoughts would be picked up by those around her, Sierra decided to “speak” the plain language so human and unicorn alike could understand.
“To when and where do we depart?” she asked tentatively, her melodious voice quavering with her emotions. It was obvious she was anxious as she tossed her head, sending ripples through her long mane; Sierra Rose had always desired for this moment. She longed for a Companion… No, she felt she was destined to have one, and the mere knowledge that her own dreams were soon to become a reality made her tremble with her excitement.
At last Lilaini stood up from where she had been stooping next to Cosmic, and moved closer to Rhaine and Gypsy. Feeling she had long been too silent in the proceedings, she moved forwards to address Sierra. “We begin right now. I sense that many of you have heard the calling, so there is no time to be wasted if we are to search out several companions. Those who have not heard the calling may still come with us on this journey, so we will all go as a group.” She paused, the breeze picked up and pulled at her dress, causing it to flutter carelessly in the wind. She relaxed her whole body and cleared her mind. She searched for the magic and began to pull it towards her. Her eyes had involuntarily shut while she did this, and at this point she reopened them and turned to look at Rhaine. She held her friends gaze for a moment and then turned back to the Unicorns again. The magic was strong, they were ready.
“Rhaine and I will open a portal to earth here, and we will all pass through and begin our journey for your companions.” With that she reached out and took Rhaine’s hand. Opening a portal was something that involved such strong magic that the Guardian’s were unable to do it alone; it was something they had to join forces and do together. “The magic is strong,” she whispered to her fellow Guardian as she lead her a few feet away from the group, “I feel we will be successful, are you ready?” Her eyes searched her friends and she was sure she saw it spelled out there that she was ready too.
As the magic built in the air, great ebbs and flows that psychically rustled her thick dark like static energy, Mare Imbrium’s eyes grew very distant, as if her attention was drawn by some half-forgotten memory.
*They will be fine* Odin’s voice echoed in her head. The great stallion stood just to the outside of the gathering, his ears pricked and listening to the wind. *This is something they must do*
*I know,* his twin spoke to him in like. *To me they are all still so young… they don’t realize what awaits beyond the boundaries of the Isle, and like children are caught up in the excitement, unaware of the true meaning of the journey ahead. Nor is it my place to tell them*
*They will know, in their own time.*
*I know,* Mare Imbrium sighed ruefully. *I just wish I could protect them….*
*We will be with them each step of the way*
*But is that enough?*
He gazed at the ebony mare, a reflection of himself in kind. His words were soft, but heavy. “Even we cannot guess what Kal has planned for each of us. The control of destiny is something beyond us mortals.” His blue eyes were deep and reassuring, but Imbri felt her own heart heave with a faint sigh discontent. But she hid it from him, and turned instead to watch the gathering crowd.
“I will go with them,” she said.
Meanwhile, Rhaine had retrieved the satchel of worn scrolls she had strung over Muse’s back. It might surprise some to know that Unicorns had a written language, though it was not widely practiced; the language itself was actually older then they, for it was the First Language, passed down to them by the gods. So too were the Old Tales, and in them the secrets of ancient magics long forgotten by other worlds. With the pack in hand, Rhaine came to stand beside her fellow Guardian, helping Liliani draw the power around them in preparation for the task at hand.
She sensed Muse seemed unfocused, and frowned. “Wait a moment,” she told Lilaini, and turned to the golden unicorn with concern. “What’s wrong?”
“I didn’t mean to distract you,” Muse apologized, and looked genuinely embarrassed. “It is simply… well… are you sure you have all the scrolls you need?”
“I’m sure we can get creative with them if we need to,” Rhaine grinned. “You always said that was my specialty.”
“It is,” she agreed without hesitation. But then she stopped again, uncertainly.
Rhaine took her face in her hands, laying her cheek beside her own. *What’s the matter?* she asked, gently letting her mind flow into that of her companion, to give her strength and reassurance.
Muse sighed inwardly, but she answered. *Forgive me… but I feel like a week old Korè. I have never left Kalidore, never been beyond the Gates of our world. Rarely do I ever leave the sanctuary of the Lake! These thoughts of travel and adventure are uncommon to me, for I spend most of my time buried deep within my books… I am so sorry…*
*Nonsense,* Rhaine stroked the silky forelock and scratched that spot behind her ears. *You have no reason for apologizing, especially to me of all people. What example would you be to the people of Kalidore if to your own heart you were not true?*
*But then what good am I to my Companion?*
*Who says that to be the most good to me you must be by my side?* She noted Muse’s confusion, and smiled cleverly. She spoke out loud. “In your temple, you have all the volumes of the Kalidore, do you not?”
“Why of course,” Muse nodded, still not entirely sure why her companion seemed so high-spirited.
“On our travels, we might come across something that will call for wisdom of those old tomes. If you remain here, can you not thought-cast the spells to me that we might need across the ether?”
Muse’s eyes lit up with amazement. She buried her nose into her companion’s dark hair, wuffling her as she would her own foal. “I could most certainly do that. That way, whatever you need will only be a question away! But, what about you?”
“I’ll look after her,” Mare Imbrium responded, coming to stand beside her. “After all, it’s not like I haven’t done it before.”
The golden unicorn’s eyes lighted on the dark mare for just a moment, a curious, questioning look flickering across her face for a moment. But she smiled warmly, and sighed with the reassurance, casting a heartfelt thanks to the dark mare.
“Then are we ready?” Rhaine turned back to Lilaini, taking her offered hand and squeezing it firmly. Around them the unicorns whickered and pranced in agreement.
Sierra reared at the human’s words; she felt like a filly herself! As the excitement coursed through her she felt unable to contain all her joy, letting out a whinny as she cavorted about as much as some of the foals did.
“An adventure at last!” the mare whickered, her eyes bright and dancing. Enraptured, overjoyed… what would she feel when she found her Companion, for there was no question in the mare’s mind that she wouldn’t find one.
She would find one, wouldn’t she? Certainly she could not be summoned all this way only to fail. Watching curiously she saw the two humans using powerful magic, to create this “portal”. I wonder what it will look like? What is a portal anyway? Is it some type of mushroom?
Fiera danced in pure delight, they were opening the gate soon! Adventures beyond comparison, the butterflies of uncertainty fluttered in her stomach, awaiting the time they could escape. She could see it now, or at least imagine it in the very least, a world beyond Kalidore. No offence, she quietly thought, hoping the Guardians didn’t hear and misunderstood them.
But curiosity tugged at her mind. And written all over with curiosity was Xanthe. Fiera never had her own foals, yet. So she wondered if the little Kore was going to be on her own in a sort. Her eyes flickered to Xanthe, and immediately thought, Sure, she seems like a good girl…
Gypsy moved quickly away and towards Cosmic. “You need to stay here, Earth is not the place for you right now. You will be safe here as always, but I must go with Lilaini. I will return before long.” She nuzzle the little Kore’s next, feeling a swell of emotion. But she was nearly grown, it was time that she learned to take care of herself for awhile. Cosmic nodded ascent, and her mother glance fell upon Xanthe, who’s look of utter rapture was rather unsettling. She paused letting the glance linger, “And you should be staying with your mother too Xanthe, I’m sure she will need your help if we get ourselves into trouble.” She hesitated another moment longer and then went and stood near the Guardians. Ears pricked forward expectantly.
“Let’s begin,” said Lilaini.
Rhaine nodded briskly, and with that look the Gaurdians of Kalidore turned and faced the growing source of magic. As they called to it, in grew, blossoming, like a beautiful, shimmering flower unfurling it’s petals – and this was the beginnings of the Gate. Of all magic throughout the Universe, the ability to control world gates – those portals to another place and time – was a most ancient and coveted magic. Only a few remained who could harness such power, and it was guarded wisely. Imagine what kind of chaos might ensue should that power fall into the wrong hands…!
Steadily, Gate took shape. It still looked organic in nature, with tendrils of energy wrapping around the quickly forming edge. In the centre it had become very calm, like the eye of a hurricane, and as the Guardians worked its surface became smooth like glass. The Unicorns had inevitably backed away when the magic started flying, but now they approached again, peering at the Gate with wonder. Within its mirror-glass surface, shapes had began to appear. They were hazy at first, a glimpse through the mist, but the mist was thinning with every passing moment. Now the image through the portal was nearly clear. Sun shone and birds twittered, and the land before them was wild and untouched, but it was not Kalidore.
“It’s time,” said Rhaine, and she glanced at Lilaini. “Follow quickly, and we will be through.” With that the Guardians stepped through the gate and into the world beyond.
There seemed a moment’s hesitation within the watching Unicorns. Then Gypsy reared up, pawing the air with her hooves. “Come, Sisters of Kalidore, follow me! Have strength and do not fear… your companion awaits you!” Rallied by her call, the Unicorns answered in like, tossing their heads and kicking up their heels. They followed behind Gypsy in a single line, slipping through the portal and becoming immersed. Mare Imbrium stood behind, watching to make sure everyone safely passed through.
“I will send word,” she said, bowing her head towards Odin and Muse. “They will never leave my sight.” She read the worry still lingering in Muse’s eyes, and sent her sister a mental nudge to try and give her strength. It helped, actually, that she had to be strong for the others – it gave her purpose and drive. Like Gypsy, she reared up and jousted her horn playfully in the air before turning and slipping through the Gate beyond.
As soon as she was through, the Gate began to close. Like a plant growing in reverse, the tendrils began to peel away as the mirror-surface flickered with static. Stray motes began to fly as the structure dissolved.
Xanthe’s eyes were wide and very bright, standing beside her mother and watching the Gate entranced. I want to go, she thought again. I have to go, the thought struck her with a pang of desperation. “I’m going!” she cried out loud.
Too late, the other Unicorns realized what was happening. Xanthe took off, slipping nimbly between their bodies, as lithe as a deer as she bounded towards the Gate. Muse turned in horror, watching the motes fly around her daughter’s small form as she neared the deconstructing portal. “Xanthe!” she cried out, “Wait, the portal is closing! Xanthe!” But her voice was torn away by the crackling streams, which had suddenly become hot white sparks of energy, violent and deadly. The air roared around them and the portal collapsed into self, Xanthe scrambling on the rocks to towards its shrinking maw. “Odin! Muse cried, “Your daughter–”
Even if Odin was able to, he was too far away, but someone else had already seen Xanthe’s desperate dash and was moving towards her. Tyden braced against the searing sparks, and threw himself at the golden blur as she streaked passed him. He was a sturdy built man in his prime, but still no real match for a hurdling Korè, well out of foalhood, big-boned and lean, and the bump hardly fazed her; she probably didn’t even notice. Grabbing a handful of short, flaxen mane, Tyden willed himself to hold on. The air around them screamed, and there was nowhere else to go. He closed his eyes, and a bright blue distortion wrapped itself around him and the Korë; as they passed through the last shards of the Gate, the magic collapsed around them, but could not burst the shield even as it sucked the air around them into nothingness.
Then all was still.
The sun rose over the meadow as it had since time immemorial, warming the backs of the unicorns who gathered there, staring at the spot where the bright Gate between worlds and just been. Of the portal now there was no trace, and those who had passed through it were gone…