This story is intended to be just a fun story. But it will include some intimate relationships between young males. If you don't approve or are offended, then how come you're reading this? Go to some other Internet Site.
If, for some legal reason, you are not allowed to read this in your area of the world because of illogical laws, again I will not condone (publicly) anyone breaking the law, so either move or read sentence four. I definitely don't want the thought police after either of our butts.
Please, this story is the product of my imagination, so if you ever want to quote some of it, please e-mail me and also give proper attribution. As of now no one has permission to put this story on another Internet Site.
This story is entirely fictional, and no character is fashioned after any living being. Except perhaps the Brown Unicorn.
Note that an author enjoys feedback. It will be appreciated and all e-mails will be answered.
"Can you sense it, Merrick? The draining of the life force from the forest?"
Merrick would have sworn that he had approached Ariambalee soundlessly. He smiled as he reached the side of his long time friend. "You always were better at sensing what and who is around you. Of course you know why I'm here."
Merrick was hoping that their past close friendship could be renewed. They had spent so much of their growing years together, and Merrick had been both perplexed and a bit hurt when Ariambalee seemed to distance himself from him lately.
Ariambalee gave out a long sigh. His mother again. "The August Queen herself, no doubt requests my presence."
"Sorry, but this time I have been given direct orders. Since I've never been here before she had to transport me. I am to conduct you to her immediately. No passing GO, no collecting 200 dollars."
Ariambalee frowned at the allusion to the childhood game that became the rage a number of years ago. He thought it strange since almost all the things alluded to in the game were so far from most of the kid's experience. Some translator from the human town of Little Jump had not long past been able to translate more of the archived files recently found in one of the old original shuttle unearthed just 22 years before.
He then smiled mischievously, grabbed his friend's hand, and suddenly both he and Merrick found themselves miles away, standing on the top of a bald dome of a small mountain overlooking a spectacular part of the beautiful Forest of Knor. Across from them fell the graceful Filigree Falls plummeting almost 200 feet into the valley below. The trees surrounding them were in their riotous beautiful fall colors of reds, oranges, and yellows. Knor contained the most extensive deciduous forest on the entire continent, stretching along the eastern coast as far north as Ice Land of nearly perpetual winter, to the marshes of the Galiampus Swamp 400 miles to the south. It also stretched mostly from the coast all the way to the Marble Mountains in the north, to the northeastern slopes of the Needle Mountains in the central climes, and then to the Serendipitous Plains in the south.
"I never tire of seeing this place Mer. But even here I am starting to feel the draining! Do you not feel it?"
Ariambalee was referring to the unprecedented draining of magical life force contained within the very forests themselves. That very despoliation of the Six Forests which Queen Maginde had recognized and was so concerned about.
Merrick tried but was unable to sense the loss of life force of which his friend had spoken, but Ariambalee was one of the most sensitive to magic of any elf that Merrick could think of. Except for Ariambalee's mother the Queen. "Sorry Ari, but I do believe you. In fact that is why we must get back to your mother. She has in fact called for a general council. The first in the past 30 years. Leaders and elf magicians are coming from all five clans. She has even commissioned with the Guard of the Dragonkeep above Big Wood near the human settlement of Little Jump, to use their dragons for transport for those who can not get there by magic. She is using a sizeable portion of the clan treasury.
Although Queen Maginde was technically only the head of the Sequoia Clan, on matters that appeared to involve all the clans, many of the other leaders deferred to her, thus her titular title of `Queen of the Five Clans,' in times like this, carried more than symbolic authority.
"But Mer, she is wrong. This is so beyond anything we have ever experienced before, that I do not believe that the marshalling of our entire magical realm can avert the looming catastrophe. We need something entirely new. I have been trying to see into the possible futures, and although I can only progress to the second major divergence, all possible safe futures involves another interstellar ship from earth. One that I have even recently discovered."
Merrick looked at this friend with surprise, and not a little shock. Even the best of the known elfin prognosticators have ever been able to view beyond the first major divergence. "Ariambalee! Does your mother know you can `see' that far? And how can mere technology help us with this magical assault?" And then Merrick suddenly took in the full meaning of what his close friend had just stated so nonchalantly. "A new ship! A ship is coming to our planet! From earth?"
Merrick saw a very grim-faced and somber Ariambalee turn and face him. "Merrick, until several weeks ago, I myself did not know I could see that far. And as to how this ship may help I am not too sure. But yes, there is a ship. And I have even been able to contact someone aboard that very ship so that he might be able to bring it here. But my contact was abruptly cut off. Some very powerful magic was involved of a nature I have never felt before. In fact that was what I have been trying to do for the past couple days -- reestablish some kind of link."
A very excited Merrick and a very frustrated Ariambalee lost all immediate thought of Ariambalee's mother in their speculation about the coming ship.
Ariambalee spoke of his abruptly terminated connection with his newly found friend aboard the ship. He became more animated as he spoke of Chong, and the details of their previous bonding. "We were able to merge minds to a small extent. We were able to share some thoughts and even emotions. And we are even alike!"
Merrick was now puzzled. "You mean this Chong is an elf?"
Ariambalee sighed deeply. Perhaps it was time to tell his best friend the truth. "Merrick I love you dearly. More than you may be able to understand."
Merrick looked at his friend and frowned at this apparent non sequitor. With a lump of emotion he rejoined: "But Ariambalee, if that is so, then why have you avoided me so much lately?"
"Dear Mer. I have been in love with you for quite some time. Now do you understand?"
Merrick was still puzzled. So why hadn't his friend just told him so? "But Ari, why not just say so? We could have at least talked about this. In fact I'm flattered. Of course I'm sorry that I can not love you the same way."
Ariambalee had already known this for months. In fact his friend was practically engaged -- to a beautiful girl. "Mer, thank you. But it's hard for me because I am supposed to be the heir apparent to the clan's leadership. Don't you see? You know very well how my mother will react. She's been not very subtle about my getting married to provide an heir, for months now. She's afraid that if I wait too long I will not be able to have heirs. For some reason the stronger one's magic, the fewer the offspring. I'm not an only child for Mom's lack of trying."
Merrick exclaimed: "Holy shit! I didn't think of that." Then another thought occurred to him. "But Ari, you could still have a consort for providing heirs. Couldn't you?"
"No Mer, for a number of reasons. I'm sure neither would any consort enjoy a union with me nor would I be even able to perform very well. And even if I could, it wouldn't be fair to her, to me, or to anyone I'd finally have as my life partner."
The two friends talked about this in depth and that brought the conversation back to the ship and more specifically to Chong. Merrick could see his friend's face light up whenever he spoke of this boy.
Ariambalee was describing everything he had gleaned from the encounter. "And Chong is apparently a very strong magician in his own right! At such a distance, and he was still able to wield some powerful magic. I was even able to show him how to wield the seventh magic. Don't tell my mother I did this. She'd have a conniption."
Merrick looked at his friend in surprise. "Ari, I didn't know even you could do that?"
"Yes. But I don't like to make it known. For obvious reasons it can make people nervous."
Merrick kept pondering all that he had just heard and then remembered that Ari had mentioned that the coming ship would cause the second major divergence.
"Ari, if the ship is the possible cause of the second divergence, then what is the first one?"
Ariambalee was a little wondering about this himself. "In almost all variants right now it involves a male unicorn and his bond-mate. Only there's something definitely strange about his boy. As if it will be his choice rather than that of the unicorn that causes the divergence. As I said, very strange. And it is soon, very soon."
"But what now?" Merrick asked. "What are we doing here? Or more to the point, what are you doing here?"
"As for being in Knor, I just happen to think better here. But later this morning Loveglow will soon be solidly eclipsed from the sun by the blue moon. In fact, there will be a full eclipse of the sun further to the south. But that doesn't matter. With Loveglow uninfluenced by the sun, I am hoping to use it to enhance my ability to counter this strange magic that has been thwarting me and to re-contact my friend aboard his ship."
"But I thought that was just some long lost fable. Magic comes from the planet itself."
Ariambalee shrugged and replied: "Well, right now I suppose I will try anything. So Mer, how about waiting another thirty minutes before reporting back to our August sovereign?"
Merrick smiled and joined into the minor conspiracy.
At this very moment, a short distance away, (in relative terms of the vast distances of interstellar space), First Officer Blake, along with Chong, Baual, and the ship's leading science officer, Conrad Harper, were preparing the same shuttle that Chong had previously tried to commandeer, for a small but potentially history making flight. After hours of discussion and then planning, it was finally decided to allow the scout ship to proceed to this `nonexistent' planet. It was argued that IF the planet did not exist, no harm and they would at least discover the truth. But IF it did exist, they could certainly not pass up this opportunity of major discovery. After all, was this not the shop's mission? It took a lot of further persuasion the part of Chong, however, to allow both he and Baual be two persons in the four man crew.
"But Dad, it was me who this Ariambalee was able to contact. Baual and I HAVE to be aboard this shuttle. If I am right, and magic does exist on this planet, then I must be there."
Though logically flawed, his argument finally persuaded his father. After all, logic would have argued against the existence of magic. And what his own eyes had beheld. It was also decided that Vanguard IV would make its way in a more conservative manner toward the same destination.
Aboard the shuttle, all systems were checked, the solution viable set of coordinates for 11 dimensional space were entered into the computer and, after taking a heavy breath, First Officer Blake initiated the anti-mater drive which was contained within a sophisticated gravitational bubble, that when initiated, simulated a infinitesimally small singularity that existed in several dimensions at the very same time. The effect in this dimension was to bend space and form a temporary miniature worm hole. Almost instantaneously the shuttle maneuvered through this worm hole and found itself orbiting a planet with two moons, two suns (even if one was so distant it was barely visible), and a beautifully brown, green and blue world, along with a very heavy sprinkling of clouds. There was a single main continent running from about 60 degrees north to about 45 degrees south, in the very rough shape of the letter `g'. There was an astonishingly high range of mountains running from the northeast through the narrow middle and tapering down along the southwestern coast. A much lower and softer range of mountains rose in the far north central region and there was a large flat plain that stretched well inland from the eastern coast in the south. The rest of the world was mostly ocean and ice caps, interspersed with many smaller islands. The four members of the crew were so awed by the shear beauty of the planet below them that Captain Yew spent a few very nervous minutes before his call was noted and answered.
"All is well captain," replied the first officer. "And there IS a planet as your son claimed. It is quite beautiful. Harper still has no idea why our instruments had not detected its existence. He is just now getting a reading from our own instrument package aboard the shuttle." There was a long pause before Blake finally stammered out. "Ah, Captain Yew, our instruments aboard the shuttle shows the same readings. I mean they too do not detect the presence of any planet. Yet there must be some gravity since we are being held in orbit. None of this makes sense captain."
There started a long discussion and more test as scientists tried to make sense out of non-sense.
Meanwhile, Baual stared at his friend anxiously as Chong appeared to be in some kind of trance. At about that same time all kinds of alarms started sounding as there seemed to be some kind of malfunction in the primary computer, and several other systems aboard the shuttle. Finally Chong sat up in a mixture of panic and excitement. "Officer Blake, we must land immediately before all systems fail. I have just learned from Ariambalee that the magic of the planet can interfere with all our technological systems. He unfortunately had not known that it could so affect us this far from the surface of the planet."
Blake was anxiously trying to bring the main computer back on line, but to no avail. He sent a quick message to Vanguard IV describing their predicament and advised Captain to keep the Vanguard well away from the planet. He also realized that reengaging their interstellar drive without the assistence of the main computer, was far too risky. He would have to land on the planet. Chong tried to argue that they needed to put down at a specific spot on a certain bald mountain top where Ariambalee was waiting for him. But Blake had no time for finding any exact landing spot. He quickly engaged the remote navigational computer while it, and hopefully the gravitational drive, still functioned, and started the landing approach.
Fortunately (from Chong's point of view), they were indeed going to make land fall somewhere on the northeastern area of the continent. Chong thought that as long as he and Ariambalee could reestablish contact, they would eventually find each other. But unfortunately, they were still perhaps 40,000 feet above the ground when the gravitational drive started to malfunction. And they were about 30,000 feet up when they began a nearly freefall descent. The vehicle was never designed for non-powered landings.
At about that same time, a very VERY disturbed magician angrily threw a scroll of power across the room in which he had been performing the weightiest magic of his life. He then threw a power-stone across the room but was totally unaware that it had crashed into a 200 year old water-clock assembled by none other than Abigail Smith, one of the most renowned glassblowers and artisans of the her century. His thoughts were elsewhere. How could this have happened? With all the extra magic channeled through him by his new friends, he still failed to eliminate one insignificant perfidious unicorn! And that slip of a boy! Until it happened, he had been totally unaware of this child's mere presence! And that boy should have been turned into photons and plasma! And then they simply disappeared! And none of the mighty magic now under his control had been able to ferret out their location. Perhaps he could still take care of that green-tinted, donkey-eared elf.
He looked across the room and his gaze fell upon his cowering slave. He decided right then that this slave's very existence was provoking him. With a wave of his hand he banished the miscreant to the very depths of a dungeon that he had only now brought into existence for that very purpose. That will rid him finally of that embarrassment. Too bad he had to allow the waif continued existence, or he would loose that magic that he had already wrested from him.
In the depths of this newly formed dungeon the magician's slave cried. How could his master have so thoroughly changed? There was now only one escape available. The small amount of his own magic that he had held back was all that he needed. There was the final escape that so terrified him just a few short weeks ago. Now it lured him into its embrace. Who knows -- perhaps he will return to find a new master who will always cherish him. It's what he wished for with his whole being. (It did not occur to him to come back as other than a slave). He stopped his own heart. And was horrified to realize that his master knew what he was about do and was now forever holding him in a state of `betweenness' -- between life and death -- where he could not participate in existence but still provide his master with his own share of magical ability. With one last magical effort the unfortunate slave was able to invite his own final magical death. It would not be consummated while his master still held him in this state of `betweeness' but at the slightest moment when his master had to solely concentrate elsewhere, he would be free. That was his last fully conscious thought.
Peter bathed fully in the emotions emanating from his Brown Unicorn. His own feeling of joy so very filled his heart. He was reunited with his Brown Unicorn. He had a million questions, not the least of which was about his newly discovered ability to wield magic. Even his ability to stay on the very back of such a mighty being seemed magical. The Brown Unicorn turned back toward Geral, and Peter was astounded to see that the slave appeared frozen in place, totally unmoving. As he looked up he was even more astonished; the very birds were standing still in mid air. Before he had barely formed it, his Brown Unicorn answered his question.
"I am able to change the flow of small pockets of time. I have put us into such a pocket. I have slowed down time for us so that we will be across this range of mountains before Geral returns to his master and even before that bird alights in a tree. And as long as this eclipse last, no one at all will be able to disturb us. While we have the time, I want to show you my world."
And so in a leisurely pace, the Brown Unicorn, along with Peter, started moving eastward along the trail that led to Tiresome Pass (elevation 14, 800 feet) and thus across the southern end of the Needle Mountains. There was so much that he wanted to show Peter. His boy. The one he believed destined to become his life partner. They had been moving ever upwards along the switchbacks of the wide and well maintained trail. They had momentarily left behind Thunder River, which, after leaving these mountains just south of Little Jump, travels another 80 miles all the way to the coast. Further upriver, were a couple spectacular additional cascading waterfalls, and one mighty one which dropped a full 500 feet into a cataract below. The reverberating noise could be heard for miles, hence the river's name.
As Peter and his unicorn made their easy way up the trail, Peter saw a lot of evidence that this way was frequently used by large caravans of horses, mules, and even specially made wagons. It had been explained to him that this was a major land route connecting the east and west coasts of the continent since this pass occurred where the continent was pinched into an isthmus only 200 miles wide. By now the towering redwood, fir and spruce were giving way to shorter varieties including tamarack and pine. There was in addition, a healthy blend of smaller maple, ash, and aspen to delight the eye with their range of color and form. Peter was also struck by the width and evenness of the trail. Countless hours of work and great effort must have gone into the building of this trail through the wilderness. During this time both Peter and the Brown Unicorn were not only engaged in a sort of outdoor classroom for Peter, but also found themselves exchanging details of their life histories. There were long explanations involved since Peter was so unused to magic and its application, whereas the Brown Unicorn was as equally perplexed by notions of science and technology. During this process, each creature could not help but show ever increasing portions of their likes, dislikes, hopes, dreams, understanding sand beliefs. And because of the nature of their dialogue, through thought transfer, real insights into the very souls of their beings were being bared.
Several hours later (their time), Peter had dismounted his Brown Unicorn to obtain a drink from the small stream cascading down the magnificent mountainside to the right of their trail. He was fascinated as he approached the small stream. While he was still about 20 feet away, the cascading stream was totally motionless, yet one more step and the motion and the roar of the foaming water made itself very well known. The Brown Unicorn trumpeted a snickering note as he watched the antics of this so impetuous and curious boy as he stepped back and forth, watching the cascade freeze and unfreeze. Then he remembered doing the exact thing himself about a year ago.
Eventually his boy tired of the novelty and returned suggesting that they take a break here since the view was so unparalleled. They both sat down on the grassy verge next to the yawning chasm to take both a rest (though barely needed) and to drink in the fantastic view. The Brown Unicorn dropped onto his side so to be closer proximity to his boy who was now leaning against his tannish brown flank. The longest hair of his much darker brown mane just touching the top of the boy's head. He had been through this area several times but each time was amazed all over again with its spectral mountain vistas and almost unparalleled beauty. It was almost as if it were so great that it could not all be held in complete memory.
Peter was surprised how well he had been able to dredge back those fleeting images of Yosemite National Park back in his own world. This place so reminded him of that place he had only seen on TV. It seemed so long ago. And he wondered how could such a distant and alien world be so like the earth he had just left? He smiled realizing he had lifetime to explore and learn. He felt so immensely reassured and safe in the company of his new mentor/tutor/special friend.
A short while later the Brown Unicorn noted several merle-goats that had apparently been playing along the sheer face of the cliff to their immediate left. They were just far enough away that their playful prancing was held in seeming petrifaction. He pointed this out to Peter who immediately had to approach the small black creatures. They stood no more than a foot high at the shoulders where shimmering black feathered wings extended merely a foot to each side. They were ever enticing but never allowed anyone to approach too closely. That was why the Brown Unicorn made special note when two cute merle-goats skittered delicately over to his boy and started butting him lightly in the legs in playful fun. Peter laughed and engaged in their own play, butting them back with his hands. Never before had the Brown Unicorn beheld merle-goats allowing any other creature such familiar camaraderie. He could now detect that his boy `smode' of magic as the goats pranced about. And ever in the back of his mind was the image of his boy so easily deflecting and making harmless that magical black bolt. To his knowledge, no non-magical being had been able to wield more than class one magic without elaborate preparation and ritual. He would definitely have to investigate the nature of his boy's magic. He hoped he would have the leisure before more weighty topics were not only discussed but necessarily faced.
The Brown Unicorn wondered what other surprises his boy might hold for him. And he then thought of the few surprises he had in store yet for his boy. Yes, the nest couple weeks were definitely going to be fun.