November 25th, 2012


No Unicorn

I wrote this in response to aldersprig's second asterisked prompt, " I'd love to see your take on Unicorn/Factory or really any of my settings."  This story belongs to her Unicorn/Factory setting which has landing pages here and here.  Potential trigger warnings:  these unicorns  are not necessarily nice, some stories involve, for instance, impalement and/or adult themes.

Which reminds me, this story does involve adult themes or at least activities which should be confined to consenting adults and, in this story, are.

The grandmothers had sent Philene to the river this year, not that they’d had much choice for she was the only girl the right age in the whole village.  Then, after the lip biting fear, nothing had happened.  She hadn’t seen hide or hair of a unicorn.  She’d come home untouched in any way, the water running past their village hadn’t been purified and so was turning foul.  The grandmothers blamed her and were sending her away to do the other thing she could do to keep the village safe; they were sending her to the Town to work in the Factory.

Philene had snuck away for a last walk by the river, past where the willows grew and the blackberries flourished.  Tomorrow she was going away for ever, everyone knew that anyone who went to the Factory never came back.  She sat on a willow stump near the water’s edge, face on her hands and elbows on her knees, watching the colourful patterns of the oily sheen over the darker brown of the polluted water.  It wasn’t fair, she’d done everything she was supposed to.  How was it her fault if there were no unicorns?

“Hello there,” she didn’t recognise the man’s voice and so rose and turned in one movement to face whoever had come up behind her.  “All alone down here by the river?”  He was tall, the right number of years older than her to be interesting, pale skinned, white blond haired and he stepped carefully over the willow roots like a colt delicately placing its hooves.

“I came for one last look,” she told him sadly.  “They’re sending me to the Factory in the morning.”

“Why are they doing that?”  He sounded sympathetic.

“I was sent to the river this year but there weren’t unicorns so,” she gestured at the river behind her.  “The grandmothers say it must be my fault so I’m being sent to keep the Factory happy instead.”

“That doesn’t seem fair,” he was standing in front of her now, hazel eyes smiling at her.  Then he leaned down and kissed her.

Afterwards, when it was over and their clothes were disarrayed around them he said, “You don’t have to go to the Town, you could marry me instead.  I’ve a cottage down along the river.  I make a good living selling my withy and rush baskets, and if you go to the Town I can never see you again,” he finished in a rush.

“You’d have to speak to my father tonight,” she smiled up at him.  “Now let me up, we have to get dressed again and it’s getting dark.”

“Very well,” he kissed her again and let her up.

She was sitting on the stump doing up her shoes while he knelt by the water’s edge doing up his own when she said, “The grandmothers aren’t going to let me marry you are they?  It’s all about the water…”

“Don’t worry,” he said cheerfully.  “I’ll think of something.  I’m good at that.”  Then he risked a sideways glance at the river where the clear eddy of water was expanding out from where he’d dipped his hand in.  “You never know, come the morning it might not be a problem.”


Luck Spirits

I wrote this to aldersprig's prompt, "Tanuki and other luck-spirits meet the spirits of other lands."

“It’s alright for you,” grumbled the tanuki, “when we go places, no-one wants to put you in a zoo.”  He took a swig of his sake.

“I don’t know about that,” replied the lady, “I’ve been shoved into a mental asylum or two in my time.  Scary places some of them and at least you’ve got a physical existence beyond your attributes.  If you take away luck, I’m nothing, and there are entire religions that don’t believe in luck.”

“Any idea where the black cat is these days?”  The tanuki essayed human form and a stout, round faced, little man took another swig of sake.  “Being shoved in a zoo or even shot for the pot when people are hungry isn’t as bad as being destroyed for being alive.”

“He’s at my place “minding” the refrigerator,” the lady told her companion.  “Apparently he gets a mixed reception these days: some people still want to kill him; some cat fanciers want to breed for his pretty, pure black coat; and some people just want to put him in a pound.  He’s gotten a bit shy about taking his chances.”

“I imagine being burnt alive at the stake would do that to you,” the tanuki commented while looking around.  “So, where are we?  Biarritz?  I like Biarritz.  Good food and wine, beaches and the casinos.  It just needs a thermal spa to be perfect.”

“No, not Biarritz this time.”  The lady smiled down at him, “But I think you will like it.”

“Atlantic City?  It’s got beaches.”  The tanuki’s guise now included sunglasses.

“In the New World but no beaches this time.”  The glance the lady gave him reminded the tanuki that once she had been a full, acknowledged goddess of one of the world’s greatest realms.  “Lots of worshippers though and throngs more willing to be converted.”  She opened the service entrance door, security could make of the footage what they would, and they stepped out into the casino floor.  “Las Vegas is our kind of town.”