Emelia Jones was a precocious young girl. She often skipped out on her lessons, getting bored easily as she picked things up quicker than her siblings. Her home, Klintok Manor, was situated in the midst of the most beautiful scenery. Through the wrought iron gate, she could make out the wildlife in the deep green foliage. There were your ordinary animals; magenta flying squirrels, orange day-bats, silver night-bats, time hounds with an undefinable smokey pattern, metallic green twitter bugs that mocked the songbirds, and of course the iridescent rainbow-colored songbirds themselves. Emilia even had a few of her own songbirds for a while, only to let them out once she thought they sounded sad to be caged. The one animal Emelia wanted to see, however, was the most elusive.
The midnight blue unicorn.
She saw it for the first time when she was nine years old. The magnificent creature had walked right up to the gate and bobbed its head at her, as if to say “hello”. The coat on it was enthralling. Up close she could see different shades of deep blue, indigo, and plum so dark it was almost black, all swirling together. The hind end of the creature was dappled with starlight, deep silver and white spots standing out against the dark hide. The horn was a gnarled, twisted thing that looked carved from the steel grey bone of a giant. The fierce gaze was made even more intimidating by its eyes. They shimmered a green deeper than the darkest leaves and when it looked at Emelia, she could feel it skimming her mind, reading her thoughts and emotions.
Nearly every day Emelia searched for another glimpse of the unicorn. There were others that crossed her path, more common colors of orange, purple, and teal, but she rarely saw the midnight unicorn.
As the years passed on it seemed the walls around Klintok Manor grew taller. Emelia always kept an eye on the wilderness, hoping for a glimpse, but the older she got, the more her hope dimmed. The gates at the front and back of the property were sealed with vines that started to hide away the wild, having never been opened in Emelia’s lifetime. Eventually Emelia came of marrying age. Her two older brothers and four younger were all ecstatic, as this meant they would have to travel beyond the gates.
Emelia, was less excited. She had excelled in her studies and surpassed what her tutors could teach nearly four years before. Having exhausted the library, she pursued arts such as painting and writing. She wanted to leave the Manor to explore and learn, not to be married off to some rich snooze with the biggest purse. But she had no power to fight it. Such was the way of her people.
The morning of the big day Emelia got ready. Instead of the ridiculous ‘travel dress’ her maid had lain out at her mother’s request, she pulled on her favorite pair of trousers and a loose tunic. The trousers clung to her hips and had many pockets – pockets she would use along the way for trinkets of her journey. The tunic was airy and comfortable. She added a vest for a bit of warmth and proceeded to tie up her hair. Her long ebony locks had been braided the night before and she used several pins to hold the mass in place at the base of her skull. Traditionally, the braids would have been piled high, hiding the four sharp horns atop her head, but Emelia was proud of her heritage and would not hide the horns for anyone’s sake.
After dodging her mother and father, Emelia went to her youngest brother and gave him a small gem. “For luck, young one. We have a long way to walk.”
He shook his head at her, “I’m not walking. Father has the carriage ready for us.”
“For me I’m sure, not for you strong boys.” Emelia teased. A look of fright crossed his face and he peered down the path they were taking to the Gathering Place.
The youngest boy ran off in search of their parents. His pleas to ride in the carriage made Emelia chuckle. Mother would give in eventually. Finally, they were off. The grounds staff had cleared the vines from the front gate and the carriage led the way, moving at a slow enough pace the children could follow at a leisurely walk.
Emelia was in awe. It was one thing to see the wilderness from the other side of a gate, but to be in it. To be underneath the trees and have the tangerine light of the suns filter through the emerald green leaves, painting moving pictures on the sparse trail. It was amazing. Emelia was enamored with the scenery, taking in every sound and smell. Every movement caught her eye as she began to search again.
Truthfully, she wanted one last look at the midnight blue beast. One good up-close, last look, to cement it in her memory before the doldrum life of marriage ensued.
Two days passed with no sightings. Emelia started to wonder if she had ever truly seen the unicorn. It was surely not a figment of her imagination, for she was certain she couldn’t have come up with it on her own. She knew better than to ask her brothers about it. When she first saw it, they didn’t believe her. In fact, they had often teased her about it, saying she was going mad like their cousin Lucielle.
The final night of their journey to the Gathering Place started early. The pairing festivities didn’t commence until nightfall the next day, so they stopped mid-afternoon to make camp. After the camp was built and a fire started, Emelia decided to explore.
Slipping away from the camp was easy. Her parents were distracted by her brothers, as they often were, and likely wouldn’t even notice she’d been gone once she returned. Picking a small animal trail as her starting place, Emelia delved into the wild. She inspected insects and berries she had never seen before and slipped small treasures into her pockets. A stone in the shape of a crescent moon, a small leaf the color of crystal, a blossom that matched the silvery-grey color of her skin. The longer she walked the more she found.
Emelia moved deeper and deeper into the wilderness, marking her path with small ribbons tied to low branches. She kept moving, kept observing, until she came across a small pond. It was truly more of a puddle than a pond and was fed by a spring of crystal-clear water spouting from a small outcropping of rock. She stopped to wet her tongue and splashed some water on her face as well. The pool was so refreshing Emelia decided to sit by it for a while and ponder the reflection of the trees in its still surface. The longer she looked, the more she felt she needed to stay.
The suns started to set and Emelia was still at the pond. She had wanted to be back to camp by now, but she couldn’t figure out why she wanted to leave. There was nothing special waiting for her. Not at the camp, and especially not at the Gathering Place. Why would she want to go? All effort and though had been sapped out of her, and as the world darkened, the pond started to glow.
Suddenly, the perfect reflection of the pond was disrupted. Instead of a reflection of starlight and trees, Emelia found herself gazing dazedly at a set of hooves that shone like polished alabaster. She blinked a couple of times, trying to right herself as her wits returned to her. The midnight blue unicorn stood before her, head bowed low so it was level with her face.
“I have been waiting for you.” Its voice rang out in her mind, and soon it was all she could hear. The sounds of the wilderness at night dimmed until they were long forgotten.
“Why me?” She asked. Her voice felt loud as she spoke and she cringed.
“You felt the need, the pull of the wilderness. I felt it in you, the day we first met. You will come with me, young one.”
Emelia blinked up at the unicorn, unable to keep the surprise out of her voice as she replied, “Come with you? Where would we go? I cannot survive in the wild by myself.”
“You would not be by yourself. I will teach you the ways of your people, the ways long forgotten by the clans finally at peace.”
Emelia’s breath caught in her chest. This was more than she could have hoped for. More than she could have dreamed.
“Come with me, young one, and master the Wild Hunt.”
Without one thought for her family, or her potential intended waiting at the Gathering Place, she followed the midnight blue unicorn deep into the wild, never to be heard from again.