Here’s Part 1 if you haven’t started this short serial story yet. Otherwise, read on!
Trina caught a glimpse of something white through the trees. It was just a flash between trunks and then it was gone. Then she caught another flash out of the corner of her eye, but she moved too slowly to see what it was.
“Oriella?” she called again. No answer.
She heard footsteps behind her, but no, they weren’t quite footsteps. It sounded more like…horses? She turned around and gasped. Behind her stood a trio of pure white unicorns. They gazed at her with their huge brown eyes, looking eerily more intelligent than any horse she had ever come across. Their horns spiraled out of their foreheads, white and shining in the sun. She had never seen a unicorn before. She knew a herd lived in the Whispering Woods, but it was rare for them to come near humans.
“Hello?” she said tentatively as two more unicorns came to join the first three.
“Great gryphons!” she heard Oriella say, and Trina turned to see her friend with leaves and twigs stuck in her hair.
“Are you okay?” Trina asked her and then turned back to look at the unicorns.
“Yeah. You?” Oriella asked, also staring at the unicorns.
“I’m fine. I’m sorry…about the sneezing. Do you know what happened?” Trina asked.
“No idea,” Oriella said. “I’ve never had a tree-travel interrupted like that before.”
“Um…” Trina said, nodding toward the unicorns. “Do you think they’re friendly?”
“I think so,” Oriella said and reached out a hand toward the closest unicorn.
The unicorn whinnied and backed up, shaking its head. Oriella quickly dropped her hand as two unicorns circled round the girls, looking fierce and pointing their horns at them.
“I’m sorry,” Oriella said. “I…I won’t pet you.”
“They’re not horses,” Trina said. “They’re highly intelligent, like other mystical creatures.”
“I know,” Oriella said and then gasped. “Did you…hear that? Or…I mean…feel that? I can’t tell…”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Trina said, glancing back at the unicorns behind them.
“We don’t mean to hurt you,” Oriella said, addressing the unicorn she had tried to pet. “We just want to get home.”
The unicorn shook its mane and started walking in the opposite direction. The other four unicorns followed, with two of them moving behind Trina and Oriella to coax them forward. The unicorns led them to a small pond and circled it, leaving room for the two girls.
Trina watched as Oriella locked eyes with the lead unicorn. The elf mage furrowed her brow.
“He’s saying…they’ll let us go…but only if…” Oriella began but then shook her head. “I’m sorry…what? I didn’t catch that last part?”
“What are you doing? Can you talk to them?” Trina asked.
“Sort of…it’s like…hearing snippets of conversation mixed with pictures all at once. It’s kind of confusing,” Oriella said to Trina and then turned back to the unicorn.
“He says I can understand because I’m one with the trees, because I’m…because I’m an elf mage,” Oriella said. “He says you have fire inside and are not one with trees. No kidding.”
“Are they going to let us go?” Trina asked.
“He says…he says he needs our blood…we must swear to not tell anyone where they live,” Oriella said.
“We don’t even know where we are,” Trina said.
“Yeah, we don’t know where you live. We won’t tell anyone,” Oriella said, but then furrowed her brow again, looking as if she was listening.
“He says it’s not enough…he needs our blood?” Oriella said.
“Great gryphons,” Trina whispered. “That doesn’t sound good.”
“Just a drop,” Oriella said, “and to let it drop into the pool.”
“Just a drop?” Trina said. “I guess that doesn’t sound that bad.”
“He says…our blood in the pool will show him whether we can be trusted and the pool will answer a question,” Oriella said. “It sounds like…if we ask something specific, we might get an answer.”
“We could ask about the golden feather,” Trina suggested.
“Good idea,” Oriella said. “He says we can go at the same time.”
Trina watched as Oriella held her index finger out to the unicorn next to her. Trina did the same to the unicorn closest to her. The unicorn bent the sharp tip of its horn toward her finger and used it to make a tiny puncture. Trina squeezed a single drop of blood into the pool at the same time as Oriella and they watched as their blood mixed in the water.
The surface of the pool flashed red and then Trina saw a huge dragon fly in the sky. But no, she was supposed to be thinking about the golden feather! She focused on an image of the golden feather and the dragon faded to reveal a blurry image of the blue-haired pixie mage Chantelle in what appeared to be the Mage Academy’s greenhouse. And then the image was gone.
“Did you see her?” Trina asked excitedly. “It is Chantelle!”
But Oriella seemed to be listening to the unicorn again. She nodded. “Thank you,” she said, and turned to smile at Trina. “He says they trust us. We can go.”
“Thank you!” Trina said to the unicorns.
“Now…I just need to find the right tree out of here,” Oriella said.
Trina and the unicorns watched as Oriella walked around the woods, putting her palm up to several trees until she found one she could use and then called Trina over.
“No sneezing!” Oriella said sternly before opening the portal in the tree.
“Goodbye! Thank you!” the girls called to the unicorns as they entered the darkness of the tree.
Trina held her breath. She saw the light of a doorway opening up at the other end of the dark tunnel. Oriella stepped through and Trina quickly followed, relieved to have made it through sneeze-free.
“Did you see the same thing I saw in the water?” Trina asked. “Chantelle hiding the golden feather in the greenhouse?”
Oriella nodded. “To the greenhouse!”