Jules and the Unicorn (Part 1)

Jules and the Unicorn

A Faerie Story from the Worlds before the Door

By Abby Jones

 

Perfect. Gleaming. The unicorn filly danced just beyond the end of Jules’ reaching fingers. Jules smiled and made a clicking noise with her tongue. The young unicorn’s ears twitched. Hesitantly, she stepped closer. A cool breeze stirred her rainbow mane. The wind frolicked through the orange and red leaves of the forest, lifting, tickling, teasing. It sent shadows dancing over the filly’s dappled fur, and over the girl with out-stretched fingers. The young unicorn gazed at Jules with her dark, wise eyes.

With a small, gilded step, the filly came closer.

She extended her nose and slipped its velvet softness into Jules’ cupped palm.

Jules giggled with delight.

The unicorn danced back, but returned more quickly. She nuzzled the pocket of Jules’ pale pink dress, smelling golden apples. Jules stroked the unicorn’s neck, watching her rainbow mane slip through her fingers. The smart thing sniffed out an apple and ate it whole with noise chomps. Jules giggled again. The filly gave her a gentle nudge with her head. Butterflies fluttered around them. They settled in their hair, like living, bright bows.

With sudden swift destruction, a gun sounded.

Butterflies fluttered away.

The forest stilled.

A net darted through branches and leaves.

The unicorn squeal.

Jules threw her arms around the filly’s neck.

The net settled in a heavy rush across the girl and the unicorn. The unicorn quivered, her eyes wide and rolling. Jules held her close.

Out of the trees bounded three men, who all looked at least half troll or goblin. Wait. One of the three was a particularly hideous women. She bent down eye to eye with Jules. The unicorn tried to prance back, but the net held her fast. Jules clenched her teeth and met the woman’s gaze. Fear flutter all up and down Jules’ spine, but she tried to keep her face brave.

“Ha!” the ugly woman barked a laugh. “Works every time. Use a little girl to catch a ‘corn. Every time.” She straightened. “Come on, boys. Tie ‘em up ‘fore their parents come a-hunting.”

“Yeah…” the uglier of the two men said, picking his nose, “I don’t want nothing to do with no grown ‘corn.”

“‘Urry up then.”

The men reached under the net with manacles for wrist and hoof. Cold iron touched Jules’ skin.

“Don’t you dare take us anywhere!” Jules stamped her foot, fire in her eyes. “My Daddy’s scarier than all three of you. You don’t want him angry with you.”

“Shut it, girl,” said the other man. Mean scars covered his face. His eyes were cold and dark.

Jules clamped her mouth shut. They pulled the net back, rolling it tight. As soon as the weight left her back, the young unicorn shot off for the trees. The manacle pulled her up short, jerking her legs out from under her. She bleated, a frightened animal noise. The forest seemed to lean back from her. Leaves and dirt flew in the air as the unicorn kicked and fought to regain her footing.

“Hold onto her, Toog, you idiot. We don’t want her damaged.”

Toog growled, “I am holding her.”

The woman glared at him and started off into the woods. Toog followed with the filly, who trembled under his rough hands. The mean man grabbed Jules’ free hand. Jules kicked him in the shin. He didn’t flinch, he just slipped another manacle over her wrist. Jules hissed like an angry cat, but the mean man dragged her off into the trees after the others just the same.

Jules’ heart raced. The filly had trusted her, and these people had used that. These people were coming into the forest and taking magical beings and things from it. They were taking Jules away from the magical forest.

“No,” Jules whispered.

The mean man gave the chains a yank.

“No!” Jules planted her feet and stopped. The man tugged the chains again. Jules stumbled. She grabbed a young oak tree and wrapped her arms and legs around it.

“No!”

“Knave,” the woman called from up a ways, “don’t get separated.”

Knave jerked Jules. “Come on, girl.”

Jules pressed her face to the tree, ignoring the sharp pain in her wrists and arms as Knave snapped the manacles. When Jules didn’t let go, Knave came closer. His dull eyes lit up. He raised his hand.

Jules shrank back.

The tree she clung to suddenly batted Knave away like he was nothing more than a pesky fly. Knave flew through the air, crunched against the trunk of a mighty pine, and crumpled to the ground. The forest floor curled up over him, and he disappeared from view.

Butterflies fluttered back down into Jules’ hair.

Mouth agape, Jules stared at the tree. The dryad—who lived in the tree, that lived in the forest, that lived in the world—bent down, cupped Jules’ face in rough hands, kissed her forehead, and said, with a voice like wind in the leaves, “Root and water. Save the young unicorn, save the forest. We will all help you.” The dryad faded back into the tree with a wink.

Jules frowned. Who would help her?

“Hello love.” A tiny man, with a fiery mane, dropped down from the tree. He hovered in front of Jules on flickering wings. “Young Oak here,” he patted the trunk of the tree, “said—”

“Old really,” a voice rumbled from the ground under Jules’ feet. She stepped back, the manacles clanking. Another tiny man, formed from dirt and seemingly always in danger of dribbling away, flew up beside the first.

“Yes, well, Old Oak here,” the fiery man patted the tree again, “says you need help.”

“Of course she does, Fire,” the dirt man said. “Look at them there chains on her pretty little wrists.”

“Right you are, right you are, Earth my love.”

Earth hid his mouth with his hand and whispered loudly to Fire, “Do you think you can work with that iron, Fire?”

Fire also hid his mouth with his hand and loudly whispered, “Well, my dear, I think I can—”

“Please!” Jules interrupted. “We can’t save the unicorn if we just stand here.”

“Rude.” Fire stuck out his tongue at Jules.

Earth scratched at his bald, dirty head. “But not wrong.”

Fire put his hands on his hips, rose in the air, and huffed.

“Don’t mind him,” Earth said to Jules. “He’s melodramatic, he is.”

The dryad reappeared with a sigh. He reached out with two great roots, broke the manacles from Jules’ wrists, and disappeared back into the tree. She rubbed her red skin. The cold, heavy iron had made her wrists ache.

“Thank you.” Jules pressed her hand to the bark of the tree.

It warmed under her fingers. “Root and water.”

Jules nodded and hurried away after the unicorn, sending the butterfly tumbling through the air.

“Come on, Fire! An adventure!”

“Tally ho!” yelled Fire, and the two fey followed after Jules.

Part Two Coming Soon!

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Finley’s First Birthday Faerie Story

 

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Finley’s Birthday Bear
A Faerie Story from the Worlds before the Door
By Abby Jones

Once upon a time, the word went out through all the land that a baby was to be born. It sifted through trees to the Land of the Lost. It reached the Unicorn Woods. The rock dragons heard it and trumpeted for joy. The proclamation twitched the ears of a white fox. Out on the ocean, the word past from ship to dragon-headed ship, and even old bears and white daisies heard it. But the news mattered most to one big family: Great Gran, Grampa and Grammie, their five children, their five children’s spouses, and all the cousins rolling around on the floor. A new baby. A new baby. A new baby! “Nine nieces and nephews isn’t quite enough,” the oldest Auntie said. “I think we could use at least one more.”

Everyone agreed.

Then began the big wait.
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One special, significant morning, a new baby opened her small dark eyes. She blinked up at all the faces leaning in over her. They smiled. The baby frowned. She didn’t know these faces. Tears flooded her eyes and her lip bulged with a cry.

“Finley?” A voice she recognized came from the mouth of a red headed girl. “This is our family!”

The baby searched the faces again. They cooed and said her name. The voices. She recognized all the voices. She’d heard that man boom when he said “Bruce” before. She’d heard those ones singing on Sunday. The faces went with voices she knew well. They were loud, teasing, laughing, long conversations, books being read, and Christmas songs sung. They were love. They were her family.

From the general clamor came the sound of little Remi and Imogene, baby Finley’s sisters. They leaned in close and felt her tiny toes, her little hands, and her nose. They wondered at their new sister, at the magic of having a baby to touch and smell and teach. Their Mama smiled down at them. “She’s here.”

“She’s here!” Imogene shouted.

“She’s here!” Remi mimicked as best she could.

“Remi, let’s go get our gift.” Imogene took Remi’s hand and darted off down the hallway. They tumbled into their room, dug under their bed, in their closet, in their reading tent, and finally found a small package in their doll house. It was wrapped in paper they’d colored, but mostly tape. Brown fur poked out here and there.

With a squeal, they charged back into the crowded, but hushed living room. Poking and prodding their way back to their Mama’s side, they handed the gift to Finley.

“You’ll have to open it for her. She can’t yet,” Mama said.

Imogene handed the present to Remi. “You open it for her.”

Remi tugged and tugged on the tapped paper, but couldn’t rip it. She passed it to Daddy. He made quick work of it with his pocket knife. Oh so gently, Remi spread the paper apart reveling a brown, baby bear. She lifted it out of its sticky bed and presented it to Finley.

Finley’s eyes focused on it. Her little legs kicked. Her tiny fist wiggled.

“I think she likes it, girls.” Mama nestled the bear in next to Finley.

“I think she does!” Imogene crooned.

“Well, she is Finleybear,” Daddy said. “Of course she likes it.”
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The little bear, freshly born from its package, blinked his little eyes and smelled with his nose. He smelled Finley and thought her the best smell in the room full of smells. Happy nestled in beside her, the bear went to sleep. Finley and the bear, both so young, fresh, and new, slept while their family tended to Mama, and their bigger family visited with food and treats. They woke to new days and new abilities until one day they could sit up, grab hold, and even recognize people in the wider world. Each day Finley grew bigger, and her bear grew braver. He was her stuffed animal, and as such, it was his job to keep away bad dreams and make the covers safe. Each night he curled in close to her and watched over her while she slept. Night watching is a big job, but Tock, as they called him, didn’t mind.

Sometimes, when rainbows came out, Tock would take Finley to watch the real bears’ weddings. She would hold him close and peek through the underbrush. He made sure she wasn’t seen. The real bears don’t like people to watch their marriage days.

Over the years, Mama patched Tock up. Once his tail came off. Finley had dragged him through the house by it, screaming and laughing after her sisters. Both his ears and one eye also had to be sown back on. By the time Finley no longer needed Tock, he looked quiet shabby. But Tock smiled. Each worn spot, each miss-matched stitch, each loose limb proved he’d been a good guardian.

One day, Tock slipped away to find a quiet spot. He’d felt the calling of Holiday—the magical place stuff animals go to when their owners no longer need them—for several days, but he wanted to make sure Finely would really be fine without him. He watched her and watched her from the dresser where she’d stuck him months ago. She hadn’t picked him up once since then. He hadn’t slept in her bed or guarded her dreams. They’d had no silly adventures since long before he started sitting on the dresser. Yes, it was time. He was wearily to his bones. It was time to go to Holiday.

Tock slipped away one night, leaving a kiss on his dear, grown Finley’s cheek. He walked through the shadow of the moon to a tiny door that opened on the backside of a waterfall. Tock shook water droplets from his coat as he stepped out into a field. A happy, babbling brook rolled down on his right and wide rolling hills ran away on his left. Holiday. It was a good land. A good place.

“Hello!” called a yellow bear in a red shirt. “Welcome to Holiday. Have you seen my honey pots?”

With one glance back at the door, back at his Finley, Tock tumbled off to help the silly old bear find his breakfast.

The End