The Prince and the Alicorn
Once upon a time, in a land far away, two kingdoms lay, divided by the very thing that had once sworn to protect all living creatures. The southern kingdom, Luir’n, was ruled by an old king, Akavir, who once ruled beside his beloved queen, Tania, until she had been viciously claimed by the thing sworn to protect the land, by magic. He had long since banned the existence of magic from his kingdom, vowing to protect his son, Alistair, the once and future king of Luir’n from its very dangers.
Because of this, the king despised the northern kingdom, Ka’aniro, knowing that its queen, Myra, embraced the magic surrounding them so completely. Myra and Tania had once been great friends, and their kingdoms had once been united under the rule of magic until Tania had died because of it and King Akavir had never forgiven Queen Myra for still loving what had taken his wife.
Now, years later, the young prince Alistair was grown up, into a handsome young man with sharp, rogue-ish features and hair and eyes that reminded the king too much of his beloved.
It was nearly the prince’s birthday, when he would finally turn twenty one and while he would normally like to go out and explore the forests of their kingdom, his father had other plans for him.
“Alistair, you are nearly of age, almost ready to take over the kingdom,” Akavir said, nodding to his son and Alistair offered a grimace of a smile in return, knowing where this was going as he had been trying to avoid this very conversation for months now. It wasn’t a conversation he was particularly keen on having, especially since he knew his father knew his thoughts on the whole thing.
“Father,” he tried to speak up, fiddling with his red cape, the silver crown atop his head of short, but neat red hair, suddenly feeling uncomfortable with its weight.
“Alistair, please, allow an old man some peace of mind,” Akavir stated and the young prince sighed, nodding for his father to continue. “Thank you. Now then, you know that to become king you will need to find a queen to rule beside you. Lady Quinn and her daughter, Atraiya, will be visiting for your birthday celebrations. I do hope you find them as lovely as I did, and will finally allow me to retire from the throne.”
“I understand Father, but I do not wish to marry a lady or a princess,” Alistair tried once more, only for his words to be waved away by the king.
“Nonsense my boy! You’ll find your queen one day soon, I promise you this,” the king smiled tiredly at Alistair and the young prince no longer had the heart to argue with him. “You can go now, I know how you long to ride through the forests, but do take care, there have been reports of a strange beast roaming around. I fear it may be of magic.”
“Yes Father,” and just like that, he was dismissed from the king’s presence.
Alistair was walking through the forest on his own, sighing and muttering to himself about his father and the ridiculousness that was the ban against all things magic. And while yes, some magic was dangerous if used wrong or by dangerous people, and yes, some magical beasts were very dangerous, it didn’t mean that all magic was evil.
But he knew why his father was like that and he had never found the heart to argue against him on the subject.
Alistair had been so lost in his thoughts that he almost missed the sound of rushing water, telling him that a waterfall was nearby. It took him all of but one second to decide to follow the sound, seeking the calm the water brought with it. And as he made his way into the clearing, he failed to notice his company as he sought the cool feeling of the water that gathered beneath the falls, a light mist bringing a sense of peace to the clearing and to his mind.
“Honestly,” he sighed to himself, brown eyes sad as he gazed into his reflection, “how does Father expect me to marry some lady or princess without even knowing if I might love her?” he asked his reflection, frowning when it didn’t answer back. “It’s not like I can truly say anything to dissuade him, I admit. When he has his heart set on something, he’ll carry it out, but I just wish…” he slumped his shoulders in defeat, “I just wish he would let me marry in my own time. I wish… he would let me marry… for love.”
Later, he’ll refuse to admit that he jumped and squealed like a girl when he had heard the noise behind him: a twig snapping accompanying a snort and a rustle of feathers. He’d turned around so fast that he’d fallen into the water, flailing wildly before landing on his bottom, his clothes now soaked and he cringed, a blush staining his cheeks as he turned to stare at the beast before him, only to freeze as he saw the most beautiful creature he’d ever laid his eyes on.
A pure white horse, with a long white spiral horn atop its head surrounded by bangs that belonged to a beautiful long white mane, its tail long and white and neat to match. On its back were a pair of curious white feathered wings, something Alistair had never seen before in his life on a Unicorn, because that’s what this creature had to have been. And its eyes, staring right at him, were a beautiful angel blue color that seemed to sparkle in the midday sunlight.
“Beautiful…” Alistair breathed out before allowing himself to stand, wringing some of the water from his clothes, moving as slow as he could so as not to scare the creature away. The Unicorn snorted and shifted on its hooves, eyes narrowed as it looked at him, wary it seemed and Alistair didn’t blame it. He even wondered if the Unicorn knew it was in a kingdom that had long since banned magic. “You’re a long way from home,” he started and the Unicorn snorted again, ruffling its wings before it cringed, reacting to some sort of pain from the movement. “What’s wrong?”
Alistair made a move to go towards the creature but the Unicorn only backed away, snorting in warning, tail flicking back and forth and its head rearing up, daring him to come closer. Alistair only paused a moment, before he started moving slower, closer still to the Unicorn and he started talking again.
“You’re hurt, aren’t you?” he asked and didn’t need a verbal answer as the Unicorn’s actions were enough of a yes for the prince. “I’m not going to hurt you, I promise, I only want to look at it. My father’s old physician used to watch over me when he couldn’t, and she taught me many things about healing and stuff like that.” The Unicorn was still watching him warily but it made no further move to back away, much to the prince’s relief though it did circle around him just a bit, shielding its injured wing from the human, he noticed. “Alright, well, how about this, will you accept the word of a loyal knight and kind prince, that I would not hurt you?
I am honorbound by my words and I have always kept them and my promises, I’ll have you know.” Alistair said, smiling now at the Unicorn and he noticed the brief spark of surprise set in blue eyes before the Unicorn finally relented, only instead of letting Alistair reach out, it trotting over to the water and plopped down, bending down to drink from the cool waters the falls provided to it. “Alright then…?” the prince huffed out a small laugh before making his way back over to the Unicorn, kneeling beside the injured wing and he watched, fascinated as they ruffled gently in acknowledgment to his presence.
Smiling once more, Alistair got out a small herbal potion from his pouch, pouring the thick liquid on his fingers before gently taking the wing in his hands, brushing his free hand gently across his feathers before rubbing the ointment on the clearly irritated part of the Unicorn’s wing. He muttered a soft apology when the Unicorn flinched at the touch, making a noise akin to pain, not pausing once in his ministrations.
“You’re a very brave Unicorn,” Alistair stated, not missing the incredulous snort from the horse, looking up only to be met with narrowed eyes. “What? You are. You’re letting me touch what was clearly injured by other humans, and I consider that brave. You… you were injured by others weren’t you? I don’t figure a creature as graceful as you would get an injury like this due to falling, there’s no way,” he added in a teasing voice and the Unicorn rolled its eyes, rumbling softly in answer before turning back to stare at the water. “I’m sorry, by the way… what happened, but I promise you that you’ll get better and you’ll be flying in no time.”
Looking back down at the wing in his hands, he missed what could have possibly been a smile from the Unicorn.
“It’s my birthday soon,” Alistair started, when he saw the Unicorn after having walked into the clearing, “that’s why everything is so hectic in the kingdom. Father thinks the celebrations should be grander than they’ve ever been, since it’s my twenty first birthday. It’ll be the day I have to choose a queen so that Father can announce me king.” he added with a mournful sigh. “I don’t want to be king if it means I’ll marry someone I don’t love.”
The Unicorn made a small noise of sympathy, looking at the prince with sad blue eyes, wings carefully ruffling. They were still healing, but the ointment that the prince had given it yesterday seemed to quell some of the initial pain from before.
“Hey, here’s a thought,” Alistair suddenly grinned, “I’d marry you if you were human. You seem like you’d be a nice girl, despite your strange way to look at me sometimes like I’ve managed to soak myself in rotten fish!” he laughed at the startled look before the Unicorn stamped its hooves on the ground, seemingly upset for some reason. “Aw, don’t be like that, I was only joking,” Alistair grinned, shaking his head when the Unicorn huffed before suddenly frowning again.
The Unicorn made a noise in sudden confusion and worry, but Alistair only waved it off with a sudden, fake smile and then the one-sided conversation was dropped.
“Lady Quinn, it’s lovely to see you again,” King Akavir smiled at the old woman, whose beauty matched her strength and grace, of what the young prince could see, anyway. Beside her was a smiling young woman with sparkling green eyes and long black hair, her eyes suddenly on the prince and they shared a small shy smile and it was clear to the prince then that neither of them wanted to be here.
But still he put on a brave face for his father and bowed, taking the young lady’s hand in his, kissing the back of it, “It’s… it’s lovely to finally meet you, Lady Atraiya,” he whispered and she nodded, curtsying back in greeting.
“The pleasure is all mine, Prince Alistair.”
“I met Lady Atraiya today,” the prince sighed, brushing his finger’s through the Unicorn’s mane. “She’s lovely enough, but it’s clear that neither of us want to do this. At least now that I know this, if Father makes us marry anyway, we’ll be able to work something out so we can both be happy.” he said and the Unicorn rumbled in apology. “It’s not your fault, you’re a Unicorn, you don’t have anything to worry about except for hunters or annoying woodland creatures. And well, I guess my father too. He doesn’t like magical creatures… or anything of magic really.”
The Unicorn for once didn’t react to being called a Unicorn again, but it did react to the sad words of the prince, looking up before bumping its muzzle against the prince’s cheek, earning a little smile from him.
“I should give you a name, you know,” he suddenly started, looking up and he laughed at the snort he received, “well, I should. I don’t like that I have to refer to you as ‘the Unicorn’,” he stated and then hummed as he looked back down at the Unicorn. “I’m no good at names, but… there was something an old maid of mine used to tell me about Unicorns. That they were creatures of magic born of innocence, hope, and love… so, maybe I can call you…” he paused then and blushed, looking away. “Maybe I can call you Hope?” he asked, looking nervous and the Unicorn rumbled in answer, looking forlorn and resigned, but there was amusement and fondness in its eyes that made Alistair smile. “Hope it is then.”
At one point he’d started referring to the Unicorn as a girl, though he had no idea when that happened. “I think you’d like Lady Atraiya, I have a feeling that if you two met you’d be bonding over flowers or cute little fuzzy beasts,” he laughed when Hope snorted at him, looking put-out by the suggestion. “Well, that’s what all girls bond over, isn’t it?” he asked and the Unicorn wacked him with her tail. “Hey! No fair! It was only a question…” Alistair pouted but Hope remained as she was, head tilted away and up, upset by the audacity of the prince and he had no idea why.
“Where have you been going these past few days?” his father asked him one evening when he returned from the forest. Hope’s wing had healed reasonably well and they’d been trying to test it out all day. Hope had given up after her third try, but Alistair believed she could do it eventually.
“The forest,” Alistair smiled, sighing happily at the thought of his Unicorn companion. “I’m only trying to get in time I’ll miss once I become king and marry Lady Atraiya,” he said because it was inevitable, he realized. Once his father had seen him and Atraiya interact, he was convinced they were smitten. Lady Atraiya and the young prince had only gone along with it all once they had seen how both of their parents reacted to their coupling. Neither minded, both wanting to see their parents happy, but they still wished it could be different.
“That’s good,” Akavir smiled tiredly at his son, a hand on the young prince’s shoulder. “I’m glad you’ve finally come around on all of this, and I can’t tell you how proud I am of the man you have become Alistair.”
Ducking his head to hide a frown, Alistair only nodded, before finally managing a small, “Thank you, Father.”
“She sounds lovely, Alistair,” Atraiya smiled at him, as he spoke vividly of Hope, his Unicorn companion. He didn’t tell her that she was a Unicorn, but Atraiya had her suspicions with the way that he often stumbled over his words on how to describe her. “I wish I could meet her one day,” she chuckled when he ducked his head.
“I do too, I told her once that I thought you two would get along quite well,” he sounded put-out by this and Atraiya was amused.
“What did she do?”
“She wacked me in the head with her t- er… she just wacked me in the head. She didn’t seem to happy about the comment,” he sounded embarrassed now and Atraiya laughed, picturing her companion getting wacked in the face by a horse tail. Because that’s what she figured Hope was, but it was obvious that Hope was something more if Alistair wasn’t allowed to bring her to the kingdom.
“And tell me, Alistair, what did you say, exactly?”
“I uh…” he blushed, “I told her you guys could bond over flowers and cute little fuzzy beasts…”
Needless to say, Atraiya was a bit insulted as well, as she cuffed the back of Alistair’s head. “Well no wonder!” she laughed, though, in the end, when Alistair’s blush only darkened. They stayed quiet afterwards for several minutes before she suddenly spoke up, “One day, I wish to meet her. Promise me I can,” she said, looking at the prince with her gaze set in determination and he smiled, kissing her cheek, hesitant as he was.
It was finally the day before Alistair’s birthday and he wasn’t very happy, to say the least. “Tomorrow I… I won’t be able to visit you, Hope,” he admitted quietly, looking down at the ground and the Unicorn rumbled sadly, trotting quietly over to him, nudging his cheek with her muzzle. “I’m sorry, it’s just… my birthday is tomorrow and I won’t be able to get away from my father until too late. He expects Lady Atraiya and I to spend the night in my chambers,” he grumbled, deflating and the Unicorn made a small noise at that, one he couldn’t decipher. “It… it’s not all bad. When I marry Lady Atraiya, and then become king, well… then I can change some things. Atraiya and I can find our own love, and still keep up the appearance of a happy, love-filled marriage to keep our parents happy. I don’t understand why Father can’t just remarry to Lady Quinn, they… they seem like they genuinely love each other.” he smiled then at that and Hope rumbled happily in return, recalling once the tale the prince spun about the king’s late wife. “He deserves to be happy, you know?”
And Hope did know, just like she knew he should be happy too, so without another thought, she nudged his cheek again and dug at the ground, turning so her side was facing him and Alistair stared at her with wide eyes.
“What?” he asked and she jerked her head, wings ruffling. “Are… are you sure?” he asked and she nodded, making a noise akin to excitement and Alistair couldn’t refuse her. Hesitantly, he grabbed ahold of her mane before climbing onto her back, being ever careful of her wings and she did a little dance of happiness before suddenly she took off, into not quite a gallop, through the forest.
Alistair held on tight to her mane, grimacing in slight fear as he had never ridden a horse bareback before, and a Unicorn was definitely considered a horse even if it did have a horn and wings, apparently.
It was several minutes, as she ran through the forest, with her companion on her back, before finally they broke through onto the other side and Alistair had to bite his tongue as he stared in shock, a choked out gasp leaving his lips when he saw the fields before them, beyond the forest that perfectly marked his kingdom’s borders. Beyond the untouched forest, snow covered the ground, despite the air being warm and refreshing, and galloping freely across the fields were Unicorns, without wings, and many, many different horses.
“This… this is incredible!” he shouted, laughing as she slowed to a halt, trotting freely on the snow covered ground and he grinned at her before looking back at the fields, noting how much more vibrant everything look out here than it did back in his kingdom. “Hope, this is amazing!”
She reared back and let out a loud neigh, causing Alistair to scream in terror, gripping onto her mane tighter than before, before she suddenly took off, running faster than she ever had before, as she met with the herds of horses in the fields and they all suddenly took off beside her, all running freely across the snow covered plains, and Alistair finally let out a whoop of glee, throwing one hand up in the air as Hope ran and ran and then, all of a sudden, her wings had spread and they were in the air.
And it was the best feeling Alistair had ever felt in his whole life.
They were resting now, just outside the forest borders, far enough they could enjoy the land of magic but close enough that Alistair could return without hinderance to his kingdom. Hope was laying on the ground, Alistair beside her, brushing his fingers over the surprisingly warm ground. “If only father could see this place…” he whispered and then suddenly choked on his breath, closing his eyes tightly.
Hope made a small noise of sadness, nudging the young prince and he looked back at her with a sad smile on his face.
“I wish… I wish you could see the castle. Just once.” he whispered and she rumbled in answer, nudging him once more before looking back out at the open fields.
Somehow she would make this right and then, somehow the prince would get his wish, one way or another.
“Happy birthday, my boy,” the king whispered, sounding so proud of his son, that Alistair couldn’t help but smile before watching his father go off, disappearing with Lady Quinn on the dance floor. Surrounding him were guests from all sorts of kingdoms, including his own, and they were all having fun, but even though he put up a smile for everyone else, only Atraiya saw through it.
“Things will get better, one day, you’ll see,” she promised him, taking his hand and leading him to the dance floor. “And until then, I will be honored to stay by your side as your queen for as long as you need me to.”
“Thank you…” he whispered back, clutching her tight in his arms. “Believe me when I say, Atraiya, that you are the most amazing woman in the whole kingdom… and I couldn’t have asked for a better queen or a better friend.” he added, kissing her lips for the first time since they met and she only smiled sadly at him in return.
It was a few days after his birthday, after he’d been crowned king and Atraiya queen at his side, after they married, when Alistair went back to the clearing. He had been disappointed, to say the least, when he saw Hope not there. He’d stayed for all of two hours before finally returning back home, a little worried and a bit upset she hadn’t been there.
It didn’t stop him from trying to return every day that he could, and finally, after three weeks of never seeing Hope back in that clearing, he’d given up. He had a duty to perform as king, after all, and his father had been getting suspicious enough as it was.
“I don’t understand where she is,” Alistair whispered, one night to his queen and Atraiya sighed, brushing her hand through his hair. “I promised her I’d return… why didn’t she wait for me?”
“Maybe she finally had to move on,” Atraiya said in answer, because she had long since revealed that she’d suspected his Hope was a horse, and he’d finally admitted that Hope was a Unicorn. “She had been staying within a kingdom that has banned magic, and she’s a creature of magic, Alistair. You can’t hope for her to stay when her life is in danger.” she pleaded for him to understand and he only nodded sadly.
“I wish I can lift the ban on magic,” he murmured and she smiled then, bringing his chin up so he could look into her eyes.
“You are king now, Alistair, you have the power to bring a better age to this kingdom,” she offered and he finally smiled back, gaze setting in determination.
It had taken months, but Alistair had finally managed to convince his father, with the help of Lady Quinn and Queen Atraiya to agree to lift the ban on magic.
And for the first time in years, the kingdom felt the whispers of the magic running deep within the land’s core around them when King Alistair finally made his royal decree.
Akavir had finally admitted how wrong he had been when Queen Myra had finally visited his son’s kingdom for the first time since Tania died. Myra and Quinn had hit it off upon immediately meeting one another and soon after Akavir and Quinn had married, their son and daughter by their side and Queen Myra overseeing the entire thing.
Alistair was in the throne room, with his Queen by his side, settling a minor land dispute when a guard suddenly walked into the room, a knight, looking grim and on edge, following him before addressing his king. Alistair sat up straighter and nodded in acknowledgment, “Sir Adwaine,” he stated and even Atraiya looked on edge now, “what news do you bring?”
“Sire,” the knight bowed his head, “there is a hooded stranger here that demands your presence. We can’t get him to leave, no matter how many times we insist you are busy.” he said and Alistair frowned, before nodding once more, flicking his hand in dismissal.
“Let him in then, and please show Mister Knauwer out, I was just about to dismiss him anyway,” he replied, looking down at the farmer before him and the farmer nodded his head.
“Thank you, Sire,” he said before standing and he allowed the knight to lead him out.
Alistair and Atraiya both shared worried looks, and before long the doors opened again, a stranger wearing a pure white hooded cloak that shielded his face, but not his figure, small and lithe as it was. “You have demanded my presence, and here you are,” King Alistair started, looking on edge, “so state your business before I lose my patience.”
It was quiet for a few minutes after the stranger had finally stopped, only a few steps from the thrones that sat his king and his queen. “Alistair…” he finally said, a little smile playing at his lips, “I know it’s been a while and I’m not what you remember, but you can’t have forgotten me already.” He added, finally, before removing his hood when the king made a noise of confusion and incredulousness.
It was then that Alistair froze, seeing the man before him, the neat snow white hair cut messily, barely hiding the pure white ears of a horse, but what had caught his attention the most, was those beautiful angel blue eyes that had always been stuck in his head from the moment he had laid his eyes on the Unicorn. “I… I don’t understand…” he choked out, standing shakily and Atraiya frowned, confused and curious, at the way her husband was acting.
And then the boy suddenly giggled, and he twirled around, “I can hardly believe it myself but it’s true Alistair! It’s me, Hope!” he shouted, sounding like he could barely contain his excitement and Alistair choked on his breath, eyes impossibly wide, especially when he caught the sight of the other’s tail, hidden beneath the cloak, when he spun around excitedly.
“Hope…? No, i-impossible… Hope’s not… w-what…?” Alistair couldn’t wrap his head around it, even as the boy explained, as Hope… explained.
“I saw how sad you had been when you said that you wished I could see the kingdom you lived in, so I thought that maybe I could just not in the form I was. So I sought out help, from an old witch I once knew, when I was a colt, and she helped me out. She granted me a human form so I may be with you, so I could live here with you, but… she couldn’t get rid of some things, like my tail or ears. I also kind of had to cut my hair because it was hard to deal with but-”
“Hope’s a girl!” Alistair blurted out and then suddenly Hope was laughing, the sound loud and bright, before doubling over as he clutched at his stomach. It took all of a minute before he was sobering up and with a cheeky smirk, he looked at his king.
“You should really never assume things, Alistair,” he said and then suddenly Alistair was hugging him, tight enough to squeeze the breath out of him and the boy cried out. “O-ow!”
“Sorry…!” Alistair flinched, jerking back and then it was like a dam had broken, “It’s just, I’m so happy to see you after all these months and I looked for you, I swear I did, I waited Hope but you never showed up and I got worried something bad happened!” he rushed out and Hope grinned, finally hugging back.
Atraiya cleared her throat, causing Alistair to jerk back from the hug a second time, his eyes wide as Hope just looked adorably confused. “So this is the infamous Hope I’ve heard so much about?” she then smirked, as if the situation was all too terribly amusing. “Well no wonder you hit him with your tail when he assumed you were a girl!” and then she was laughing and Alistair was blushing and Hope was giggling.
“Oh…” Alistair said because it all actually made a lot more sense now and then he was feeling a bit stupid because of how he acted, but Hope didn’t seem to mind, in fact, his earlier excitement had bled back through and he hugged Alistair again.
“I missed you,” he said and Alistair smiled, hugging back.
“I missed you too.” he admitted, sharing a smile with Atraiya. And then suddenly that smile was gone when Hope spoke back up.
“And by the way, I’m an Alicorn, not a Unicorn.”
Atraiya and Hope were both laughing by the time Alistair managed to stutter out an apology for all the things he’d said and had gotten wrong all those months ago, but if they were honest, none of them would change a single thing. Because finally, all was right within the kingdom and Alistair couldn’t be happier.