It moved, a swift flowing darkness through the patches of short purple-grey heath that brushed its belly then it was a shadow under the trees, but it was no shadow.
Sir Roden no longer felt that he was dressed for the occasion. A unicorn hunt was supposed to be a pleasant way to spend the afternoon with a few friends and a lady, enjoying the outdoors in good weather and fine company. You had a nice picnic lunch and afternoon snack packed for you, chose a good spot and with a judicious choice of bait, preferably someone’s wife or a widow, you could be guaranteed not to see a unicorn the whole afternoon. In the absence of unicorn you could enjoy good conversation, polite dalliance or, if your designated bait was a wealthy widow, actual courtship. The last thing anyone wanted at one of these affairs was a unicorn because then you’d have to deal with it and if you did, even if the king hadn’t let it quietly be known that he was in the market for more unicorn horn, keeping the horn was practically an act of lese-majesty.
There wasn’t supposed to be a unicorn.
Sir Gervais had been returning from a few minutes privacy among the trees when it had run him through from behind. They’d abandoned the picnic and run for the horses, and it had run Sir Rollo down then pigrooted on top of him. While Sir Rollo was being ripped apart by those sharp hooves, Sir Roden had been able to get Lady Elaine up on her horse while Sir Marcel had untied it. When their attacker had screamed in that almost horse-like sound, Lady Elaine had stayed on her horse as it bolted. Sir Alan had been mounting his steed and Sir Roden had last seen him clinging to his stirrup by hand, like a footman gaining a boost into battle with the knights’ charge. The other horses had broken free too leaving the last two knights afoot and too close to the enemy. Sir Roden and Sir Marcel had separated so that it couldn’t come after them both at once.
Sir Roden had heard a man scream in the distance a while ago.
Now he was hiding behind a tree. All the armour, weapons and other gear he would have chosen to wear in a fight for his life against an enemy armed with a bone spear were back at the manor. He had a sword and a knife, but they weren’t the tools he would have chosen for this job.
There was a sound like a horse’s snicker from the other side of the tree. Sir Roden didn’t think it would be a horse. He wondered whether it could put that spike of its through the tree. He feared the answer.