Once upon a time two silly girls, KT and Niqqi by name, were wandering through a nondescript forest. Their intention was simply to find the best tree to climb. In that pursuit, they found something completely different….
“Hrumph.” Groaning, Niqqi pulled her face out of the soft soil where she had fallen. KT laughed behind her.
“Did you have a nice trip?” KT managed between giggle-snorts, offering Niqqi a hand.
Niqqi grabbed the proffered hand – and yanked. Rather than pull herself up, she jerked KT to the ground beside her.
“Traveling is much better with a friend along.” She flashed a mischievous grin at KT. “Thanks for joining me!”
“As if I had a choice.” KT rolled her eyes.
They regained their feet and were brushing grass and dirt from their knees when Niqqi froze, eyes locked on the tree before her. KT glanced from Niqqi to the tree and back again.
“What are you staring at?”
“I’m not sure,” Niqqi murmured. “This tree…it’s peculiar.”
“Your face is peculiar!”
“So your mom told me. Seriously, though, look at this tree. Look!”
“It’s only a tree –“
“Just LOOK!” Niqqi shouted.
“All right, all right,” KT said as she bent for a look. “Don’t you talk to me like –“ Her sentence hung unfinished in the air as she saw what had drawn Niqqi’s attention.
“I told you it was peculiar!”
“Still not as peculiar as your face,” KT retorted. “It is strange, though, you’re right.”
A section of the tree’s base contained a slight, arch-shaped depression. Around this depression, the bark had grown to overlap it a bit. Both girls spent the next few minutes feeling every inch of the indentation and its surrounding area. There was a loud cracking sound. KT squeaked and ducked, covering her head. Niqqi looked up. An acorn fell, hitting her between the eyes.
Peeking beneath her arms, KT gasped. “It’s a door!”
“No way!” Niqqi exclaimed. She nudged the door and it swung open. “How cool is that!?”
“It’s like something from a fairy tale.” KT stuck her head into the cavernous belly of the tree. Withdrawing again, she said, “It looks like it’s much bigger than it should be –“
“That’s what she said!”
Brows lowered, KT glared at Niqqi before going on, choosing to ignore her comment. “We could both fit inside.” She arched a brow at Niqqi as if daring her to make another crude joke.
Instead, Niqqi returned a blank gaze. Simultaneously, they lunged through the door. Or attempted such; both lunged and both became tightly lodged in the doorway.
They dislodged themselves and caught their breath. Sunlight outside shone through the entrance, yet the rear of the space remained shadowed, belying its depth and size. They stood and felt up as high as they could reach; the bark seemed to be just a shell. Then they started from either side of the door and worked their way around to the back. Or where the rear “wall” should have been. A few seconds later:
A momentary silence followed by a gulp and a deep breath. They sidled up to each other, clasping hands. By unspoken agreement, they each took another breath and, holding it, stepped forward. Shadows turned into blazing light. Another step and breaths escaped through slack jaws.
They had stepped into a forest that was identical to the one they had left. It was also wonderfully different. This forest floor’s plush grass was blanketed in multitudes of huge, purple blossoms. Nearly every tree was adorned with scarves of gauzy moss; the moss had tiny white flowers through it. The air felt heavy, and the heady aromas of many flowers permeated it.
“It’s a dream world,” KT sighed.
Niqqi nodded her agreement. “It’s beautiful.”
They turned a few circles as they gazed at trees bedecked with flowers, each display unique. They made another round, gazes down on the flowers that continued out of sight in all directions. Ending faced the same direction, a semblance of composure regained, they spied the sunlight brightly reflected off a hidden object.
“SHINY!” they yelled in unison.
Diving as one, knocking heads together, each grabbed the shiny culprit.
“What have we –“ Niqqi began.
Once again, they were shocked. Niqqi’s thought terminated when the shiny began to rise. Soon they dangled, toes brushing flower petals. Attached to the shiny was a purple horse! At that sight, they lost their grips and fell. Astonished, KT and Niqqi gaped at the beast above them.
“It has a horn!” KT squealed.
“Some sort of horse-goat hybrid, I guess,” Niqqi mused, more to herself than to KT. The beast stamped and snorted.
“Horse?!” it cried indignantly. “Goat! Nay, ye ignorant fools! I am Unicorn!”
“It speaks!” Niqqi was dumbfounded.
“Ohhh, a mythical horse!” KT bounced with glee. The Unicorn glared at her.
“I, madam, am no myth. Nor am I a horse; I am Unicorn!”
“The myths never mentioned that Unicorns were snobbish prigs.” Niqqi frowned at the Unicorn.
Angrily, he replied, “Pray tell, how wouldst thou feel if thine slumber were rudely interrupted by a pair of impolite human-children?”
Niqqi shrugged. “I don’t know. It’s not my problem at the moment; it’s yours.” The Unicorn stamped again and tossed its head.
KT, then, piped up. “What is your name, Mr. Unicorn?”
Glaring at her, he replied, “Unicorns have no need of names. We simply are.”
“That’s unacceptable! I won’t refer to you as ‘Mr. Unicorn’ or just ‘Unicorn’.” Now it was KT’s turn to frown.
“Hmm. So what do we call him?” Niqqi asked. Crossing one arm across her torso, she cupped her chin in the opposite hand. “Do you have any ideas?”
Thinking for a moment, KT responded, “How about ‘Shiny’?”
“Nah, too obvious.” Niqqi’s brows furrowed. “We should think of something unexpected.”
“I told thee, Unicorns do not need names!”
Niqqi yelped, “I’ve got it!” She grinned at KT. “Let’s call him ‘Stabby’!”
“I lurve it!” KT applauded the idea.
“Thou shan’t call me any such thing!”
“We can, and we shall,” KT laughed. “It’s perfect!”
A gentle breeze rustled vibrant leaves, freeing several flowers from the moss draping every branch. As they drifted down, an agitated Stabby skewered three in succession and shook them loose to drift away on the breeze.
“You certainly live up to your name, Stabby,” Niqqi giggled.
“I, for one, am surprised,” KT said, “considering how opposed to it he claimed to be. I guess ‘if you can’t change it, embrace it’, right?” She giggled along with Niqqi while Stabby snorted, looking away. She continued, “I thought a Unicorn’s horn was supposed to be magical? Shouldn’t you use it for something more mystical than stabbing flowers?”
“For what greater magic couldst thou wish than a living, mythical beast?” Stabby retorted.
“Hmm. I suppose,” KT replied, “that you’re right.”
Niqqi grinned. “You’re our best fucking friend now, Stabby! Ohhh, take us for a ride!” Hands clasped and fingers laced, she hopped from foot to foot.
Affronted by the notion, Stabby reared. “One doest not ride a Unicorn! And one certainly doest not tell a Unicorn what it shouldst do or not do.” At KT’s and Niqqi’s sour expressions, he relented slightly. “However, I suppose it wouldst not be amiss if, perchance, I befriended thee…” He sighed and gazed dubiously at the two girls. “Come, walk with me.”
“Yippee!” KT and Niqqi danced around the mysterious woods in his wake.
“However,” Stabby neighed over their gleeful displays, “ye shalt perform a deed, thus proving both thine merit and thine desire for intended friendship.”
Niqqi and KT glanced at each other, each wondering what sort of task this could be. Silently, they studied Stabby. In return, he watched them as KT chewed on her bottom lip and Niqqi tapped her chin. His amusement and irritation were palpable.
“What do you think?” Niqqi asked. “Should we do this task?”
KT nodded. “It’s not every day we get the chance to befriend a Unicorn.”
“Quite right,” Niqqi agreed, “I hoped you’d say that. Besides, Unicorns are good creatures, not evil, so of course he wouldn’t send us into danger.”
Ominously, Stabby chuckled softly, as to himself. Though the girls were not soothed by that sound, still they consented to do this task and thereby prove themselves worthy of his friendship. (Secretly, they both thought this rude, forcing them to prove something rather than trusting their word; but, Unicorns being foreign to them, they decided to ignore the slight.)
Their trek had brought them from the forest to the edge of a small clearing.
“Doest ye see yonder pinnacle?” Stabby indicated, with his horn, which he meant. When they nodded, he continued, solemn. “Atop that peak lies a bed of flowers. Thou shalt climb thither and pluck the perfect one. Thou shalt know it when thou see it. Be wary! Thine path is fraught with tribulation.”
Niqqi groaned, “We want no part of anything dangerous.”
“Maybe we shouldn’t do this,” KT chimed in. “That mountain looks pretty tall too…I don’t know if we have the time.”
“Nay!” Stabby neighed and speared a butterfly fluttering past, shiny horn sparkling in the sunlight (between the impaled flowers and carcasses). “If thou wish to befriend me, thou must succeed! True friends shan’t be deterred by threat of hardships, dangerous or no.” He lowered his horn, menacingly, pointing first to KT, then Niqqi.
Scrambling backwards, they quickly agreed and ran until Stabby was out of sight. When they were out of breath, they collapsed to catch a moment’s rest.
“I never thought I’d meet a Unicorn only to find out they’re mean,” KT muttered between gasps.
“He’s such a jerk!” Niqqi panted. “And violent. For not wanting a name, he really embraced it. Quickly and violently.”
“I’m not so sure I really want to be BFFs with him anymore.”
“Neither am I, but I’m afraid it’s too late. We’re committed now.” Niqqi gazed at the mountain. “Well, what do you say?”
KT grunted. “I suppose we may as well get to it since we can’t avoid it.” She looked wistfully back the way they had come.
They clasped hands again, and they were off.
Their journey to the mountain’s base was uninhibited. They crossed glittering streams where they splashed each other. They frolicked through fields of wildflowers, which they picked and wove necklaces and crowns. However much they regretted their decision, they had to admit it was enjoyable. So far, anyway. This other world they had found shimmered with beauty, stealing their breath with every new vista. Even the air was beautiful, permeated with pleasing aromas: the rich soil, dozens of flower varieties and growing things. Nearer and nearer, however, their pleasure and play drew them toward the peak. It loomed, always before them.
When finally they reached its foot, they stopped with the setting sun at their backs casting their shadows long on the mountain’s sheer face.
“How do you suppose we’re to get up there?” Niqqi asked.
KT glanced around and pointed toward the right. “Look, over there.”
There was an overgrown path wending into the ancient forest that grew there against the side of the mountain. Niqqi looked from the path to the sinking sun.
“Do you think we should sleep here and start in the morning?”
“That’s probably a good idea,” KT agreed, nodding.
Exploring the area, they discovered a berry patch. They gathered some to make a small supper, and plucked more for the morning. Unable to build a fire with no flammable substances to hand, they were forced to pass the night without. Instead, they spooned beneath the boughs at the forest’s edge. The ground there, like that in the wood they had originally entered, was spongy and plush with thick, soft grass. They slumbered peacefully despite odd dreams about the journey ahead.
Next morning, they awoke to singing birds in dawn’s grey light. Niqqi, never a lover of mornings, groaned and peered through one half-opened eye into the branches above.
“No chance of sleeping late when you invade the wild, I guess. If one of those obnoxious birds decides to poop on me…I’m going home.”
KT was already awake. She munched the last of her berries and laughed at Niqqi. “Oh, you’ll be alright! It’s going to be a beautiful day for adventuring, I think.” She smiled up at pink skies and fluffy clouds framing the mountain they would climb.
Niqqi sat up and stretched. “Nothing is beautiful before noon, and no one should be as cheerful as you this early.” Grabbing her berries, she got to her feet and crammed them all into her mouth. “Leph’s gahh, huenn.”
KT looked perplexed; Niqqi rolled her eyes and motioned for KT to follow her. The forest path was not so overgrown to greatly inhibit their movements and was more annoying (briars and thorns snagged their clothes, camouflaged sticks and roots tripped them) than inconvenient. Nor was it very long. They followed it a short way before it turned back toward the mountain, gradually rising.
The rocky path, once they reached the mountain true, became rather steep rather quickly. KT wished she had worn hiking boots instead of her old tennies; Niqqi wished she had brought snacks along. Endless, their course seemed. More so because they could not tell any longer how far yet the summit was.
Eventually, they reached a treed plateau. By that time, the sun had reached its zenith, and due to how the path had wended around the mountain, the side they were on was cast in shadows. High in the trees, melding with the shadows, crows called and cawed at one another.
“I hate birds.” KT shuddered.
Behind her, Niqqi grinned and picked a fallen feather from the side of the path and tickled KT behind the ear.
“NO, STOP THAT!” KT shrieked while Niqqi laughed at her fear.
“You didn’t mind the songbirds this morning, thilly goothe,” she reminded.
KT rubbed the back of her neck. “They sounded happy and were out of sight; crows sound as if they’re wishing for a meal. A me meal.” She grimaced.
“The crows are out of sight too!”
KT shook her head. “For now, yes.”
As she followed KT into the dimness of the tree-lined path, Niqqi began to whisper a parody of Poe. “Once upon a mountain looming, as we traveled lost and lonely…”
“Under many a drooping and dying bough we heard frightening caws echo loud,….”
“You can stop now, thanks.”
“On we plodded, nearly tripping, and our heartbeats almost stopping,….”
“There came a sound loudly croaking, croaking ever overhead,” Niqqi paused as a crow punctuated the silence. “‘’Tis only a crow,’ I stammered, ‘cawing for its final feast –‘….”
“Ughh, Niqqi!” KT growled.
“’Your death its meal, your corpse enshroud.’”
“Oh my god, are you done yet?”
“Yep!” Niqqi grinned while KT shuddered again.
KT kept looking from one side to the other, as if she expected to see some gruesome vision (Niqqi could only imagine what KT herself imagined lying in the shadows). At every sound she froze a moment. Only when the silence seemed innocuous did she continue. Niqqi made sure to step on as many crunchy leaves and sticks as appeared in her path, which was every single one KT had so carefully avoided.
Their path began to rise again, gently, and soon they came out of the crow-infested trees in possession of their lives and faculties. KT heaved a huge sigh, visibly relieved.
Niqqi chuckled. “Was that really so bad?”
“Yes,” KT breathed. “That was awful.”
So they continued on. Gradually rising ever higher, the air began to cool while the sun seemed warmer. After a seeming eternity, they could look up and no longer see a looming mountainside. Their destination was in sight!
Alas, they encountered another obstacle before they could reach that end. They came to a section of the path that was nearly completely blocked by an apparent, past landslide. However, it still appeared to be passable, if with some difficulty. The rocky slabs that had broken free from the mountain had formed a tunnel through which they could see only a speck of light from the other side. What the morning light showed in the tunnel’s entrance was less than heartening: spider webs. Many, many spider webs.
Niqqi made a sound somewhere between a groan and a sigh. “We have to go through there.”
KT, unsure if that was a question or statement, simply nodded and pushed Niqqi a couple steps closer. Niqqi, deathly afraid of spiders, balked. Exasperated, KT pointed out, “They’re only spiders, woman!”
“’Only spiders’ my ass!” She shook her head in disbelief. “If there’s this many so close to the entrance, imagine how many more lie between here and the other side…” She whimpered at the thought.
“A lot more!” KT grinned at Niqqi’s visage of crestfallen misery.
“In a world of complete beauty, why are there spiders?!”
“Oh, just to terrify you, I’d think.” Niqqi glared at KT’s glib response.
“….You’re terrible, you know that, right?”
“No, horses are terrible people!”
Niqqi sighed. “I don’t want to play this game anymore, but I suppose we should get on with it.” With that, she crouched and took her first step into the tunnel, KT following.
It was slow progress. Though their eyes adjusted quickly to the darkness, once they left the area near the entrance, they were forced to feel their way along. The result brought moans and sounds of disgust as they placed their hands in spongy…things they could only assume were spider nests. Unable to see, Niqqi was the first to bump her head on a low-lying rock. Forced to abandon her crouched walk, Niqqi dropped to hands and knees. She didn’t warn KT of the impending cranial danger that lurked in the darkness. She too hit her head.
“OUCH! Damn it, Niqqi,” KT muttered. “Why didn’t you warn me?”
“Consider it payback for your discouraging remarks about the presence of an unfathomable number of spiders and their creations before we got in here.” KT just sighed.
Silently they crept on.
Until Niqqi shrieked.
“Now what, Niqqi?”
“Ugh, my face.” There was a pause as she spluttered and spat. “It’s covered in spider web! I crawled right into it. Oh, god, this is terrible!”
KT shook her head as the echo of Niqqi’s scream died away. There followed in its wake a soft, rustling sound, like whispers in the stillness. “What is that?” Apprehension was unmistakable in KT’s voice.
“I really don’t want to find out.”
But find out they did. The light at the end of the tunnel was eclipsed as hundreds of furry bodies swarmed around them. Wingtips brushed cheeks and arms, dissipating only to give rise to more. Agonizing moments stretched as they both cried, waiting for it to end.
When finally the swarm ended and silence returned, KT asked, “What kind of furry birds live in here?”
“Those weren’t birds, silly. They were bats.” Niqqi chuckled, but sobered immediately at a thought. “At least, I think they were. In this world, who knows?”
KT just groaned. “I’m going with bats. Worse than birds, but better than the unknown.”
“Better than spiders, for sure. Oooh, god! I just want out of here.”
“Again, now what is the problem?”
“I think a spider just ran across my hand!”
“I think that’s spiffy!” KT thought for a moment. Then, “Hey, Niqqi?”
KT began to sing an original rendition, with new lyrics, of “Itsy Bitsy Spider”. “A giant, hairy spider crawled up Niqqi’s leg. Underneath her shorts, then bit her on the ass –“
“Please, no,” Niqqi whimpered. “I can’t take it! This situation is bad enough.”
“Well, well. Now who’s not being a good sport?”
“Me! I’m sorry for teasing you about the crows, but please stop!”
KT relented. “Oh, fine. It’s no fun, but I suppose I’ll be nicer than you were.”
Niqqi’s relief was an audible sigh. “Thank you! I lurve joo, Lovahh.”
“All things considered,…I lurve joo, too. Mostly.”
After maybe an hour of scraping and sliding through the tunnel’s narrow confines, the end of the tunnel inched closer and closer until finally they emerged. The afternoon’s sinking sun wept its joy upon their triumphal reentry into the daylight world. Happiest sight of all was the path’s end. A few paces from the end of that horrid tunnel, they were greeted by the otherworld’s plush grass once again.
“Thank goodness!” They cried as one and fell to the loamy embrace of the mountain’s summit. When they had recuperated from their travails, they sat up.
“That is a happy sight,” KT said.
Around them tall grass swayed with the breeze, speckled with tiny flowers. The sky was spotted with puffy clouds. The center of the clearing was a sea of flowers, every color and shape they could have imagined. After hours of climbing and crawling through fear and horror, they were most pleased to see a handful of apple trees, limbs bending under the weight of their succulent fruits. They skipped over to the trees, wary of the precipice at the clearing’s edge.
Juices dripped down her chin as KT marveled, “This seems a feast after the day we’ve had.”
“Agreed,” Niqqi replied around her own mouthful. “I disapprove of missing meals.”
“Most hobbits do.”
Stretched out beneath an apple tree, apples finished, they enjoyed in the sunshine that peeked between the clouds. Niqqi was dozing when KT elbow-jabbed her in the shoulder.
“Shh! Look, behind that bush,” KT whispered.
Behind the indicated bush, Niqqi saw a small grey and brown mottled rabbit hiding, staring at them. Intently so. The girls stilled and stared back. The rabbit stood, nose quivering. To their surprise, he hopped toward them, rather than away.
“I don’t believe it,” Niqqi said softly.
“Well, hello there,” the rabbit called as it got nearer. KT’s eyes nearly popped.
“You talk, too?!” she exclaimed.
“Many creatures here can speak,” the rabbit replied matter-of-factly. He hopped between them and flopped onto his back, head on KT’s knee, rear-legs across Niqqi’s thigh. “Most humans who visit us seem quite shocked to discover that.” He seemed quite at his ease with human-girls.
“I see. So we aren’t the first to stumble into this realm.” Niqqi was secretly disappointed to realize they weren’t the first to find this enchanted world.
“Do you have a name?” KT asked, “or do we have to name you as well?”
The rabbit replied, “I’m Little Bunny Foo-Foo, but you can just call me ‘Foo-Foo’. To whom have you given a name?”
Niqqi answered, “A purple unicorn. We named him ‘Stabby’. He’s not the friendliest, is he?”
Foo-Foo hopped up, one ear straight up, the other slightly crooked. “Oh! I’m sure he was thrilled at that!” he chortled. “And, no, he’s certainly not inclined toward human friendships. Too many young girls with yellow ribbons trying to catch him and ride him, too many fool boys trying to steal his horn.”
KT grimaced. “I suppose his….animosity….makes sense now.”
“Especially since we caught him by the horn,” Niqqi giggled. At Foo-Foo’s confused look, she launched into the tale of how they discovered that unicorns did in fact exist, and how he had set them on a quest to win his friendship.
“He really said he’d be your friend? What quest did he give you?”
“He wants a flower,” KT sighed. “The ‘perfect’ one. But he didn’t say how we would know the perfect one when we found it.”
Niqqi looked around the mountaintop pasture. “There are so many flowers in this place. They all look perfect to me. How can we decide which to take him?”
“Oh, that stinker,” Foo-Foo said. “Follow me.”
He bounded through the grass and blossoms with KT and Niqqi beside him. On the way, he explained that in the center of the meadow, there grew a single flower that Stabby loved above all others. However, since the landslide that had formed the spider-infested tunnel through which they had crawled, he had no longer been able to traverse the mountain path to visit it. When they three arrived at the center of the meadow, KT and Niqqi immediately saw the ‘perfect’ flower and understood why it was perfect: its long petals were the exact shininess of Stabby’s horn, and its center the same purple hue of his coat. KT plucked the flower and gazed at it, getting lost in its iridescence.
Niqqi looked to the sky and said, “The sun is starting to set. Maybe we should spend the night here.”
Peeling her eyes from the flower, KT looked up too. “And those clouds look heavy. They’ll rain any minute now. I really don’t want to travel all the way back, in the dark and rain; through spider and bird infested areas right this moment. I’m tired.”
Foo-Foo’s ears flicked back and forth a couple times and he thumped his foot while he studied them. He appeared to ponder something.
“Well,….there is another way down, I suppose.”
Together KT and Niqqi squeaked, “There is!? Yessss!”
“Yes, there is,” Foo-Foo answered, “and it’s much quicker than the path that brought you here.”
“Where do we find this other way?”
“You promise not to tell the Unicorn?” Foo-Foo demanded. “I’ve had quite the pleasant life since he’s been unable to invade my garden and trample my flowers.”
“We promise!” Niqqi jumped for pure joy.
KT nodded, solemn, and replied, “We’d never do that.”
Foo-Foo stared at them, measuring the truth of their pledges. Satisfied, he nodded. “Good enough, I suppose. Come along.” His acquiescence was none too soon, either, for at that moment the clouds began to leak, fat drops of sparkling rain plummeting to splatter on hair and faces.
He took them back to where they had originally met. He stood in front of the same bush and twitched his right ear twice, thumped his left foot thrice then bounced from foot to foot a couple times, completed an impressive back-flip, and concluded by wiggling his nose. With that strange sequence complete, the bush shimmered and evaporated; both girls gasped, boggled. In its place was a large hole, a tunnel like a rabbit warren. It sloped gently down before leveling off, where there was another hole leading into what was, presumably, Foo-Foo’s den. Beyond the mini-plateau, the tunnel seemed to drop away into nothingness.
Niqqi stared in disbelief, again, and KT asked, “You have magic too?”
“Of course,” Foo-Foo sniffed, “almost everyone and everything in this world has some sort of magic.”
“That’s….incredible,” Niqqi breathed, having somewhat found her voice once more.
“Another question: how will this get us off the mountain? All I can see is the door to your den and a drop off.”
“No, no,” Foo-Foo shook his head, ears wobbling, “not an abyss as you imply, but a…chute? I don’t know what word you humans would call it.”
“A slide?” Niqqi offered.
“Yes, that’s it. A slide.”
“Whee!” KT squealed. “This will be fun!”
And they clambered into the hole, sat on the edge of the chute, KT in front with Niqqi behind, legs wrapped around KT’s waist. Foo-Foo decided to join; just to make sure Stabby didn’t get them into a “mess”, so he jumped on KT’s lap. Niqqi shoved off and down they slid.
A journey of several hours was, via the “slide”, shortened to minutes. Niqqi and KT, thrilled to finish their mini-adventure in such short shrift, eagerly hurried back to Stabby. They found him still near the wood. He looked slightly bedraggled as he stood and watched through the veil of rain as they approached as if he had anticipated their return.
They sauntered up to him, Niqqi strutting more than “sauntering”, and flourished a bow and presented the flower upon straightening.
“Ye retrieved it!” Stabby goggled. “And how art thou returned so swiftly?” Foo-Foo stepped out from behind KT, at which Stabby exclaimed, “Little Bunny!”
Affecting dignity, or perhaps sophistication, he stilled ears and nose, refrained from hopping, and sat up on his haunches to be on level with Stabby’s lowered head.
“How many times,” Foo-Foo sighed, whiskers bristling with exasperation, “must I remind you to call me ‘Foo-Foo’, Stabby?” He failed to completely hide his amusement, ear twitching twice and nose crinkling.
Stabby neighed, shrill and loud. “I shan’t abide such nonsense from you, Little Bunny. I am above this!”
Finally, Foo-Foo gave into amusement and loosed a chuckle. “It’s high time someone brought you down a couple notches. I fully support these human-girls and their decision to name you.”
Stabby snorted. “Ye wouldst align thyself with them. Hrmph.”
“Enough, you two.”
“Stop it! Quit antagonizing each other.”
Niqqi and KT adopted similar stances, hands on hips, and glared at the beasts. When they seemed sufficiently cowed, KT went on.
“We’ve brought your silly flower. We fulfilled our part of the bargain.”
“Bargain! Nay, Unicorns doest n–“
“Damn it, Stabby,” Niqqi interrupted, “we are best fucking friends now!”
“And it is time for us to adventure,” KT agreed.
Sunlight reappeared between the dissipating clouds and glinted through the drizzle. Prismatic raindrops dissected its rays into their individual colors, and a vibrant rainbow arced across the sky.
“Aw, what a pretty display,” Niqqi murmured. “Now you have to honor your promise, Stabby. The rainbow is an omen.” He just glared at her.
“I wonder,” KT mused, “if the Unicorn myth is true here, and rabbits speak,….is there a leprechaun and a pot of gold at the end of this rainbow?”
Foo-Foo pondered, and replied, “There may be, I don’t know. Have you heard or seen such a thing, Stabby?”
“Never have I ever thought upon such a thing,” he stated. “Unicorns doest not bother themselves with such trivial affairs; what need have we for leprechauns or their gold? Naught!”
KT and Niqqi looked at each other; KT grinned and Niqqi nodded.
“Well, it looks like we have our adventure!” Niqqi exclaimed.
Foo-Foo hopped enthusiastically, “Woooo, we’re going on an adventure!”
Stabby eyed them all skeptically. “And what, pray, doest ye propose we do when yonder rainbow dissipates with the rain and clouds?”
KT stared at Stabby for a moment, thinking of an argument. She found none, and asked, “You’re a Unicorn, don’t you, at least, have an innate sense of direction?”
“Verily, I do.”
“Well, we’ll just adventure our way in that direction.”
“That is the entirety of thy plan?”
“Sure. If there is a pot of gold or leprechauns to be found, we’ll come across it eventually as long as we adventure in that direction.”
And, once again, off they went. Their path was much easier than the mountain one. They encountered more rivers and brooks, babbling and straining at their banks with the recent rain. Occasionally, there were waterfalls. They traversed fields and meadows clothed in strange flowers, bordered by odd trees. Everywhere, everything was lush, green, and healthily growing. No matter where they trod, that great, ominous mountain KT and Niqqi had climbed loomed. They never seemed to escape its sight. They decided to ignore that disconcerting fact and wrote it off to some obscure effect of the land’s enchantment.
Abruptly, their journey ended – at a sea. It stretched, shining under the golden sun, endless before them. Small waves crested and fell until their foamy fingers broke upon a stony shore, welling between them before trailing foam drifted back out to sea just to be met by another breaking wave. Even the rocks at sea’s edge shone in the sunlight, glinting as precious gems. Away from shore, shiny, beastly bodies broke surface, again and again. At sight of one of these beasts releasing a spray of water, KT and Niqqi stopped in their steps.
Giggling, they exclaimed, “Whales!” Foo-Foo grinned at their excitement, ears twitching furiously.
“Nay,” Stabby shook his head in denial. “Yonder ‘whales’ ye see art actually Sea Unicorns.”
Niqqi asked, “Like narwhals?”
“I know not these ‘narwhals’ of which you speak,” Stabby said. He bugled a neigh, loud and clear; presently a pair of the shining, smooth bodies swam toward the rocky beach. Niqqi and KT waded into the shallows as the pair submerged once more before skimming the nearby surface. They raised up, out of the water, and protruding from the center of their snouts, were twisted horns of pure glitter, much as Stabby’s.
“Yon,” called Stabby from the shore, “are thy ‘narwhals’, the Unicorns of the Sea.”
“Way cooler than pictures ever showed,” Niqqi said.
“Maybe that’s why there are no myths about them?” KT joined her musing. “Not cool enough for stories?”
The Sea Unicorns seemed to lack verbal ability as the human-girls’ comrades possessed. Instead, they flipped and flopped around the shallows near KT and Niqqi, splashing and spraying them. Upon a closer inspection, these Sea Unicorns seemed to be of much smaller size than an actual narwhal would be. Or so the girls imagined, never having actually seen a narwhal in real life. As the sea beasts cavorted, casting ripples outward, KT thought they were trying to tell the girls something. She noted this to Niqqi.
“Watch them,” she said, “when they roll to their sides and flip their fins, it looks to me as if they are beckoning us out farther into the sea.” Her brows were furrowed in thought.
Niqqi nodded. “I see what you mean. Maybe they want us to swim with them? Ohhh, or maybe they want to take us for a swim!”
Shaking his shiny mane, Stabby interjected, “By ‘take’, I deduce that ye mean ye wouldst ride this humble beast as well? Never hast I heard of such nonsense. Doest there exist any creature thee wouldst not subdue to thy base whims?”
KT replied, “Well, they are offering, I think, so,….why not?”
“There’s only one way to find out!” And with that, Niqqi dove (which was more of a belly-flop) into an oncoming breaker and doggy-paddled out to the Sea Unicorns. KT was quick to follow, while Stabby stamped and snorted irritably, and Foo-Foo’s whiskers twitched in jealousy.
When they reached the creatures, the beasts leapt from the water, spraying droplets in their wake. They then submerged, crested, and slapped their tails against the water’s surface splashing the girls. First KT, then Niqqi also, gasped when the mighty blast of salty water hit them, blinding them in their surprise. While they were still gasping and spluttering, the pair of Sea Unicorns rose up underneath them; KT and Niqqi, each straddled across a beast with a leg and arm on either side. They gripped with feet and knees, and with hands grasped the flippers of the narwhal-unicorns. Not a moment too soon, for the spunky creatures heaved their tails, and they sped out to the open sea.
The Sea Unicorns gave them one crazy ride. One moment they were leaping to soar above the water as if they were flying or suspended. Then they would plunge into the water, its cool temperature shocking the girls to gasp, which filled their mouths with the terrible taste of saltwater. The beasts were conscientious, however, and never stayed below surface long and never endangered the girls – though they often feared they were near death.
Stabby was already irritated, and Foo-Foo jealous, before the KT and Niqqi had even reached the open water upon their slippery steeds. Thus, quite shortly, Stabby and Foo-Foo grew impatient. Ready to continue the adventure, they whinnied and called to the human-children, beckoning them back to shore. Disappointed, the girls complied. Even so, they were excited to continue the search for leprechauns and gold as well.
Grinning and waving at the departing Sea Unicorns, Niqqi and KT dropped to the ground with a sigh and a thud.
“That was so exciting!” KT laughed.
“Exhilarating, and so fun,” Niqqi agreed, then cut a glare at Stabby and Foo-Foo, “even though two grumpy companions cut it too short by half. Hmph.”
Foo-Foo slouched with guilt at disgracing himself with such selfish, jealous motivation. Stabby, however, simply rolled his purple eyes and whisked his glittering, tufted tail, lashing one flank then the other.
“Doest thou not care to search out yonder leprechauns, about which ye were so adamant earlier this day? Hast ye forgotten the rainbow and the purported gold its end, ye claim, promises?”
“Yes, yes,” KT replied.
“Well, yes,” Niqqi said, and asked, “Can’t we dry off a bit first?”
“’Tis proven that sloths dry more quickly if they doest keep moving.”
“’Tis it?” Niqqi mimicked with a sneer.
Stabby lowered his horn over her chest, menacingly, as she lied in the sun. “’Tis.”
KT groaned and found her feet. “Come on, Niq,” she sighed. “We may as well be on with it.”
“Alright, alright.” Niqqi heaved herself up. “Sheesh, no rest for the wicked. I never thought adventuring would be so tiring.”
“What ‘twas it ye expected, pray tell,” Stabby inquired, feigning actual interest.
“Unicorns,” Niqqi answered.
“Rainbows,” KT added, “just not like….not –“
“Not anything like this,” Niqqi finished.
“’Beware for what ye wish’, hast thee never heard such wisdom?”
KT nodded as they followed Stabby back the way they had come. “We have. Just didn’t really see there being much room for error in wishing for an ‘adventure with unicorns and rainbows’.”
“Especially,” Niqqi chimed in, “since not one of the stories even implied that Unicorns could be so….disgruntled.” Here, she eyed Stabby askance.
“Perhaps our mistake was wishing for an ‘adventure’ rather than simply ‘Unicorns and rainbows’,” KT offered. At this, Foo-Foo chuckled; he seemed to often find great amusement in the girls’ surprise at the Unicorn’s surliness.
Stabby shook his mane. “Whatsoever else may be said of thee, ye are foolish human-girls.”
Hours and hours their journey took them simply to return to the shadow of the great mountain. The rainbow had long since vanished, but Stabby was confident of their direction. On and on they progressed, quickly as they could, and on some more. KT and Niqqi began to take the beauty of this place for granted, passing incredible views and stunning sights, barely raising their eyes from tired feet and weary steps long enough to register such things. Around them, everything became a blur as they focused on the ground before them.
Some time later, Foo-Foo let out a yelp that jerked everyone out of their personal thoughts and reveries. Stabby halted, and KT clambered into his rear, and Niqqi into hers.
“What happened?” KT asked.
“This,” Foo-Foo replied, tossing a pebble at her forehead.
“Ouch!” KT cried and clutched both hands to her face.
“Hmm,” Stabby mused. “I presume we art near where the end of the rainbow once dwelt.”
“Oh, fabulous,” Niqqi whined. “Let me guess, the leprechauns are not going to be as we imagined either?”
As if on command, when Niqqi uttered the word “leprechauns”, half a dozen appeared. They seemed to arise out of nothing from the grass around them. Bright green waistcoats and britches, frilly lace cravats, black belts and shoes with huge, shiny gold buckles, they at least looked exactly as the girls expected. Two of them pretended disinterest as they focused on golden coins they danced back and forth across their knuckles; the other four bounced stones on their palms, expressions of enmity upon their little brows. Steadily, they advanced on the mismatched party of humans and beasts before them.
“Is it coddlin’ me ye are?” the first of the little leprechauns said, eyes wide with surprise, his head no higher than Stabby’s chest or the girls’ waists.
“Nah,” the second answered the first, “ye are seeing true, me thinks.”
The third bounced his stone and spoke around the stem of the shamrock he held between his teeth. “Sure, me thinks me two eyes are seeing four blagards before us.”
The other three agreed with the first three, shouting a chorus of “Aye”, “Me thinks ye’re right”, and “Oi, oi, what’s become o’ our hidden land?”
Niqqi moaned at the emanating hostility of the leprechauns and their attempts to intimidate them. “Ugh, no. I assumed leprechauns to be as nice as the Irish are said to be.” That remark brought a group of glaring green eyes to bear upon her, singling her out.
The third leprechaun, who had dubbed them blagards (scoundrels), shouted up at her, “Shet yer feckin’ gob, you Yank!”
The first leprechaun stepped forward and said, “Sure, you’re a bold eejit, are ya, Brody? Be nice an’ show some respect to the Yanks and their beasts.” He smacked Brody on the back of his head.
Brody folded his arms, looking subdued, if only slightly. “Ah, sure you’re a boot, Paddy. Fine, fine. I’ll try me best.”
Paddy nodded in satisfaction. “See that ya do.” He turned his attention back to the mismatched group before him. “Now. Tell me, ‘tis it ye be wanting of us?”
“Begging pardon, Sir Leprechaun,” Stabby replied, “yon human-girls were taken by desire of adventure. Specifically, to search out rainbow’s end and the pot of gold they chanced to think might there lie.”
“Oi!” the last, and shortest, leprechaun exclaimed, splitting his gaze between KT and Niqqi. “How do ye know about our pot o’ gold?”
This leprechaun now received a smack from Paddy, who said, “’Tis ye who’ll be shutting yer gob this time, Donal. ‘Tis I who’ll be asking the questions” Brows furrowed in bewilderment, Paddy directed his attention to the girls. “How do ye know of the hidden gold?”
KT explained, “It’s a legend, or myth, so we thought. As children we were told tales of the leprechauns and their pot of gold they kept at the end of the rainbow.”
“Oi no, oi me,” cried another flame-haired leprechaun, and his reflection mirrored expression if not words: “Oi, bleedin’ bad, ‘tis!”
“Hush, now,” Paddy said. “They be the tiring twins, Scully and Seamus.” With a sigh, Paddy indicated first one then the other of the look-alikes. He crossed his arms, turned back to KT and Niqqi as he tapped his shiny little shoe. “Still, ‘tis a troublin’ tale ye tell. Are all ye humans in the know of our gold?”
The girls looked at each other and shrugged, but it was Niqqi who answered. “Sort of. Maybe?”
The fifth leprechaun, freckled of face, who had been silent until now and preoccupied with the coin he danced across his knuckles, now flicked that coin to sting a sharp blow on Niqqi’s cheek. “What kind o’ answer is that?” he shouted at her.
At yet another such rude comment, Paddy grabbed the shamrock from between Brody’s lips and whipped freckle-face with it. “Sure you’re no ‘little king’ here, Regan, an’ you can shut yer gob and mind yer coin before I stuff yer gob with it. Now, I’ll be toleratin’ no more of ye’re tomfoolery, ya eejits.” This last Paddy directed at each of his companions in turn before he once more turned to address Niqqi and KT. “Please explain how you mean ‘sort of’ and ‘maybe’.”
“She only meant,” KT replied before Niqqi could open her mouth, “that, in a way, everyone ‘knows’ of it….It’s a popular story among children. But as they grow up, they realize it’s impossible to actually reach the end of a rainbow.”
“Hmm.” Paddy rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “Well, then. How did ye four manage to find it, if ‘tis ‘impossible’?”
KT gave a start, darted eyes quickly at Stabby then back to Niqqi before Paddy became suspicious. “Well, we didn’t really believe we would, or that there would actually be leprechauns or gold here.”
“Then why would ya waste the time to search it out?”
“We just wanted an adventure, and it sounded silly and fun. Besides, who knew? Unicorns are real here, after all. Why not leprechauns? We’d never have found you, though, if not for Sta –“ KT’s words left in a huff as Niqqi elbowed her in attempt to keep her from saying too much. It was too late however.
Paddy rounded on Stabby, face growing red as his hair. “You blagard!” he screamed, spittle flying from his lips. “Devil take ya, you betrayed us! Was it a culchie ye took me for, thinkin’ I wouldn’t find out aboot this?!” Behind him, Scully and Seamus folded their arms as one; Regan clenched his fingers into a fist around the coin; Donal and Brody looked ready to let their stones fly any moment.
Stabby lowered his horn at Paddy. “Peace, little one. Calm yourself. I myself knew not ye were here, or that we wouldst find you. I reside in the shadow of the Mountain, seldom venturing further than nearby forest. Had I known, I wouldst have made sure ye remained unmolested.”
Paddy mustered all his height and stood straight beneath Stabby’s warning eyes. He pressed his chest into Stabby’s horn til the tip broke skin and a single blood drop welled up and stained his green coat. “But ye did, and we have been ‘molested’!” His emerald eyes glinted with anger.
His attempt to deflect the leprechaun’s anger shunned, Stabby snorted, “Nay, we art the ones first molested by thine stones! Ye assaulted our peaceful party, and each moment since hath been a defense of ourselves against harmful deeds. And wounding words!”
Paddy’s chest swelled as he took a deep breath to give retort, but as he held it a moment, his fists relaxed at his sides. Eventually he deflated and slouched back into a careless stance, one thumb behind his cummerbund. “Sure,” he sighed, “’tis bleedin’ right ya are. My apologies to each o’ ye on behalf o’ my brothers. Eejits and rough they are, but there’s good in ‘em, me thinks. Once ya get past the thick skulls and quick tempers, anyway.” He glanced behind him at his brothers who all had the decency to blush, looking sheepish and abashed.
“We shall accept thine apology,” Stabby said, though his swishing tail betrayed his agitation. “In keeping with this new good will, I shall disclose certain…. delicate…. information to thee, of which ye can make what use ye will.”
That remark drew stares from all the leprechauns in addition to Foo-Foo and the girls; by expression, each was wondering what possibly he could mean to impart.
Paddy looked at his puzzled companions and arched a questioning brow; his brothers simply shrugged in reply. “Okay, Unicorn. Ye’ve aroused me interest. ‘Tis it ye wish to tell us?”
“’Tis only this: even here in this fair realm, many are yet unaware of mine own kith, they which reside in the sea –“
Seamus and Scully interrupted together with, “Unicorn fish?” and “Sea Unicorns?”, while Donal and Brody whispered together, and Paddy thought; Regan frowned of course. Stabby could be heard grinding his teeth in frustration over the interruption. Eventually, Paddy silenced the murmurs and motioned Stabby to return to his tale.
Stabby snorted. “Ah. Yes, as I was attempting to say,” here he glared at the twins who were indeed proving to be both tiring and troublesome, “in the sea reside many of my kith. They are an abomination: ugly creatures no better than beasts, unintelligent and without powers of speech. Yea, I swear it true,” he nodded solemnly at the doubtful looks the leprechauns gave him, ignored the indignant glares from KT and Niqqi. Stabby continued, “Wealthy they are in many of the sea’s treasures: valuable shells, pearls, gold and gems long hidden beneath water’s surface. All these they have claimed and stockpiled, yet for them the stupid beasts have no use.”
Paddy still looked puzzled. “….And? ‘Tis it we need such information for?” he prompted.
Regan sniveled, “Why are ye tellin’ us o’ this?”
Stabby blinked with an expression (and tone) of pure innocence as he replied. “For they doest not have need of it, and I am offended by them. As well, I know of thy love of gold and wealth, indeed I see thine eyes shine already. Before me I see thee six, strong and clever all. Ye couldst easily increase thine earnings, for such treasures they have lie only a short swim from shore and a shallow dive.”
Brody muttered a nearly inaudible “Oi”, the glow of greed in his eyes. Donal cracked his knuckles while the twins, Scully and Seamus, adjusted their waistcoats. Regan shifted his weight back and forth and scuffed the ground with his foot. They all seemed impatient, waiting for Paddy to make a decision. KT and Niqqi fidgeted with anxiety until a glare from Stabby pinned them to stillness.
“Aye, that’s a fine tale ye tell, to be sure.” Paddy paced as he spoke and planned. “Aye, we could get it, easy enough. One thing be a-troublin’ me, though. We can’t be leavin’ our pot unguarded ‘ere, for we’d be needin’ every one o’ us for all this swimmin’ and divin’, not to mention of carryin’ it all back ‘ere. I’m not seein’ a solution for us.” He frowned and gazed wistfully past Stabby and the girls.
Foo-Foo, who to this moment had been reclining against one of Stabby’s fetlocks, hopped up and peered around at all assembled. “The solution is simple and stands in front of you.”
“What’s that you’re a’jabberin’ about, Fuzzy One?” Donal asked, frowning. Paddy glared at him, but this time said nothing.
Foo-Foo scurried over to Paddy and sat back on his haunches, front paws on Paddy’s knees. “Now that our disagreement is over and we’re fast friends, why, we could, and would gladly, watch your treasure while you go to the sea to retrieve what the Sea Unicorns have hidden.”
The leprechauns made sounds of protests at that suggestion, but Paddy quickly hushed them. His head bent to the side, he scratched his chin and peered contemplatively from leprechauns to the party of mismatched misfits. Finally, he nodded. To his companions he said, “I do believe there be some merit to this plan o’ theirs.” With a pat on the head for Foo-Foo, Paddy nudged him aside and stood before Stabby and the girls. “I do accept yer offer. However, know this: if I come back and find even a single coin missing, ye shall be bludgeoned to death as the right eejits ye are. Understood?”
Stabby lowered his head in acquiescence while KT and Niqqi gulped before frantically nodding. Foo-Foo, being disregarded, simply glared from whence he sat upon KT’s foot.
Satisfied with their reactions, Paddy continued, “Excellent! We shall gather our supplies and be off then. You shall find our pot o’ gold just over there, beyond the knoll with the tree; the pot is at the tree’s base.”
Quickly, and seemingly appearing out of nowhere, the leprechauns produced a cart piled high with tools, ropes, and packs. Paddy simply stood and supervised them as they went about their tasks, hustling to and fro. Feeling guilty for Stabby’s dishonesty and eager to be away from the little green men, Niqqi led the way up the knoll and down the other side.
Sure enough, at the bottom stood a tree, tall and strong, in midst of a large shamrock patch. The girls released twin gasps of wonder. At tree’s base stood the pot, which was huge and black and looked similar to a witch’s cauldron, brimming over with gold that twinkled in the afternoon sunlight, more twinkling in the clover beneath, where it had fallen.
“They really are greedy little buggers, aren’t they?” KT breathed.
“And rich as hell,” Niqqi noted.
“Aye, to be sure,” Paddy agreed as he descended the hill to join them, “and soon more the richer, if rumor be true.” He eyed them skeptically as if still unsure, doubting the veracity of Stabby’s tale; perhaps he had noticed KT’s and Niqqi’s guilt-induced fidgeting. “Well, we shall be on our sea bound way now. Be vigilant and sure to mind yer hands and that shine in yer own eyes, now. I shall be countin’ every coin when I return. Farewell!”
With that, he climbed the knoll again and disappeared down the other side to sound of whoops and hollers. To that joyous din, they marched off to the sea.
After the leprechauns’ departure, Niqqi and KT rounded on Stabby in red-faced irritation.
“What the hell, Stabby?” Niqqi fumed.
“Why did you lie to them?” KT chided. “Now we must stay here guarding against nothing, and awaiting their return!”
“When they will then be pissed, and you caught in your lie,” Niqqi added.
Stabby stood serene under their tirade. “The dwarfs were rude to my companions and disrespectful to me. One doest not disrespect a Unicorn. Doest ye not wish to procure some of their wealth as thine own?” If he had had eyebrows, they would have been raised quizzically, up to his forelock, at the human girls.
Looking uncomfortable, the girls shrugged and nodded.
“We had hoped to retain some honor in the process, though,” KT added.
Niqqi nodded, adding, “As in being given the gold, not taking it. And certainly not under false pretense of friendship and assistance.”
Stabby rolled his eyes and lashed his tail. “Ye are certainly finicky creatures, if nothing else could be said of thee. Now,” he said, accenting it with a stomp of hoof, “take what gold ye desire, and we shall be on our way.”
“What if, on our way back to the enchanted forest,” KT asked, “we run into the leprechauns again?” She wrung her hands, and Niqqi looked longingly at the pot o’ gold.
Foo-Foo hopped before them; crinkling his nose with a look of concentration, he twitched one ear then the other and wiggled his bunny butt. The air shimmered and resolved itself into an image of the enchanted forest, of the very tree through which the girls had fallen.
Boggled, Niqqi gaped at Foo-Foo. “Is this really a gate we can step through, a portal? Why did you not do this earlier, to bring us here to the gold?”
Sniffing, Foo-Foo replied, “I can only produce such a portal if I know the area of the destination well. I had no clue where the gold was, so I couldn’t do as you suggest. Trust me, if I could have, I would have.” He eyed them critically. “Why do you seem so surprised? I told you most creatures have magic, and you’ve seen mine before.”
KT, still stunned, shrugged. “What you did before was simply an illusion; you altered what was there.” She shook her head in disbelief and continued, “That was somewhat more believable and, though astonishing, less so than this. This is the creation of something that doesn’t exist, and a scientific breakthrough. On earth, you would be famous for such an ability.”
“Oh, pish posh!” Foo-Foo responded. “It’s only magic.”
Whinnying, Stabby interrupted: “Enough dithering! Attend! Grasp what gold ye wish, and let us away. I quickly tire of this adventure and thine simpleminded-ness.” In irritation, he thrust his horn at a low-hanging branch and poked through a couple of its leaves.
Grabbing handfuls of the shiny coins, KT and Niqqi began stuffing pockets, socks, and even bras. They grinned and giggled as the coins slipped through their fingers. Occasionally they would find a particularly pretty one, and holding it just so, admired the sunlight reflecting on its surface.
“I think this is the best ‘get rich quick’ scheme ever,” Niqqi laughed, and KT nodded agreement.
Foo-Foo twitched an ear and asked, “What happened to your guilt over dishonesty and deception?”
The girls frowned, and KT said, “Ugh, don’t remind us,” and went back to hiding gold about herself. Foo-Foo just chuckled, and Stabby rolled his eyes. Again.
“This also gives a new meaning to ‘stuffing’,” Niqqi cackled.
KT groaned then snickered. “I guess it does, but at least I have more room to stuff than you! My itty bitties will make me richer than you!”
“Congratulations, Lovahh!” Niqqi giggled.
Stabby grumbled, “Wouldst thou hurry up?”
Coins spilling and popping out with every movement, the girls stood and stepped away from the cauldron. “We’re ready now,” KT confirmed.
“At long last,” Stabby sighed, and stepped through the gateway. The girls followed on his heels with Foo-Foo behind them. Once more surrounded by the forest’s ancient, enchanted beauty, the girls sighed and breathed in the heady aroma of the blossoms raining down in the breeze. Stabby skewered one with each fall of cloven hoof.. They stood before the tree and gazed at each other, knowing this was the last they would see one another. In such short time, their mismatched little group had become close knit, if highly irregular.
Feigning irritated relief, Stabby snapped, “Be off with ye now! This adventure hath come to an end.” But KT noticed a shine in his eyes and thought that, if Unicorns could cry, he would be shedding at least a single tear.
“Oh, but Stabby!” Niqqi whined. “We had so much fun! And we never did get a ride from you, you know.”
He snorted. “I, for one, hath had enough of thine whining, and I know not of what fun ye speak. I experienced no such thing.” Here, he glared at them each in turn. “Also, I suppose ye will have to find satisfaction in that ye were able to swim with my kin, abominable though they are.” Niqqi and KT just smiled and shook their heads in resignation.
Foo-Foo hopped onto their feet and affectionately nuzzled their shins. The girls dropped to their knees and kissed him between the ears, at which his whiskers fanned and nose twitched.
“Thank you for your help, Little Bunny,” KT said.
Niqqi added, “And your company. You definitely made dealing with Mr. Sour Horn a lot more bearable.”
“Not a single word of thanks to the Unicorn without whom the whole adventure wouldst not have been possible,” Stabby fussed, “only name calling. Spoiled human-girls.”
KT and Niqqi curtsied (and surprisingly managed to keep their balance) with a flourish. “We most graciously thank you, kind Unicorn, for all your assistance and tolerance of our imbecilic ways,” Niqqi intoned with just a hint of sarcasm.
“Hmph,” he snorted, and turned away, stamping as he went.
“Farewell, Foo-Foo,” Niqqi said. She and KT waved and, with one last wistful look around, spilling more gold, ducked into the tree that would take them back to their proper place. The last thing they saw was Little Bunny Foo-Foo’s whiskers quivering and ears drooping, and Stabby’s slender hiney diminishing into the forest.
Stepping out into the mundane, earthly wood, the girls sighed simultaneously. Looking around at a world that suddenly seemed much duller, drearier than before, they sat side by side and silently contemplated everything that had happened.
Finally KT roused herself. “Well, that was certainly a tale worth telling.”
“And an adventure worth having,” Niqqi nodded in agreement.
A few more minutes passed in silence but for the sounds of birds and branches creaking in the wind.
Suddenly, Niqqi gave a start. “What happened to our gold?!” she moaned.
KT felt herself up in bewilderment. “It…..it’s gone! So much for getting rich quick, I guess.”
“Nooo, that’s terrible! I guess money doesn’t traverse planes of existence and magic as well as humans do.” Niqqi flopped onto her back with a heavy sigh.
KT mirrored the movement and said, “Easy come, easy go.”
Turning their heads to face each other, they began to giggle and simultaneously stated the obvious:
“That’s our luck!”