At the sight of the Terror Raptor’s return, with reinforcements, mom got right to her feet and took a protective stance over her foal. The movement caught Don’s eye and his trigger finger began to tighten until he saw it was her and not me. “Tell her to stay still!” he shouted, keeping the business end of his gun pointed at me.
Obviously, he had figured out that I had some influence over my charges. At that same moment, my ‘moles’ broke ground. Immediately, I had several of them leap up inside the legs of his thick snow pants. I was mindful to have them cling to the inside of the fabric instead of his leg, to avoid startling him into accidentally firing.
Meanwhile, I gestured for Momma to calm down, while keeping an eye on our two sets of ‘friends’. The raptors were silently closing the distance between us. It was amazing how such huge creatures could move so stealthily.
However, Eric must’ve sensed something was wrong because he turned and froze for a second. Then he quietly backed up towards his brother muttering, “Donnie… Don… oh Don…”
Immediately I thought of Abbott and Costello Meets Frankenstein, only this was real life and clearly lacked the true comedic timing of those great men. Still, it was pretty funny, in an unnerving kind of way.
“What?” snarled his brother, refusing to tear his eyes away from us for even a second, “I’m trying to keep these three…”
Eric was right next to him, but too terrified to speak. Instead he grabbed his brother’s shoulder and spun him around to face the approaching danger.
Immediately, I had my ‘moles’ sink their teeth into both brothers’ legs. Within the space between seconds I saw into both their minds and tried to wipe all thoughts and memories of having seen the two unicorns from their memories. Now they should only remember my original lie of meeting a Norwegian farmer who had been looking for a lost pregnant horse and that we were under attack from wolves and they had the only weapons.
Unfortunately, wolves are a lot lower to the ground than our opponents, which meant my two mind-slaves they aimed their guns a lot lower than I needed them to be when they opened fire.
Their first volley wound up hitting the snow at the birds’ feet, which was effective enough to alarm them into scattering in a wide loop around and past us. Eventually they regrouped some fifty yards away at the edge of the woods. Eyeing us warily, the largest of the three glanced at his compatriots and then in unison they let loose with a threatening cry. It was the same cry that had thrown me before, only this time it was in triple stereo.
Luckily, I had seen what was coming and managed to close my ears up completely, but my charges, and our ‘protectors’, were not so fortunate. All of them began to struggle just to keep their balance, while our opponents seized their chance. The sound also broke my hold on the brothers’ minds and once more they could see things as they were. But instead of raising their guns, the pair dropped their weapons and dove for cover behind a nearby fallen tree. This left mom, foal and me as the only targets for the birds who ceased their vocal assault and began racing straight towards us at an alarming speed.
Immediately I stopped protecting my ears, while my mind raced for to figure out the best way to protect everyone, when I realized the sound of the birds approach sounded more like hoofbeats. Which of course made no sense whatsoever.
Just then I noticed the mare tossing her head as she glanced towards the spot where the portal to her world stood. From the oddly bright patch burst forth a long, stripped… branch hovering in the air? As I stood there staring, the branch seemed to stretch to a good feet length and was still growing when a horn, attached to a night-black unicorn’s head emerged through opening, followed by the animal’s body.
As magnificent and welcome a sight as the beast was, the figure sitting astride its back holding the make-shift lance was even more impressive. Otto looked taller and more commanding than I’d ever seen him before. Mind you this was not simply because of the elevation from his being seated on such a magnificent animal, but his posture was erect, and his face was stern and determined in a way I’ve rarely seen.
As he caught sight of the Terror Raptors, my old friend cried out, “For God and Charlemagne!” Then bending forward, he wrapped his left arm around the unicorn and braced the huge branch he was holding as a weapon. For a second I had to wonder to myself how many times he had uttered that particular battle cry. To this day I have no idea how much older Otto is than me, and he’s always telling me, “I’ve given you enough hints over the decades, you should’ve figured it by now. Don’t you like puzzles?”
Meanwhile, to my surprise, a second unicorn appeared through the unseen entry. This one was followed by yet another. I quickly realized that Otto had not only shown up in the nick of time, but that he was bringing a small cavalry with him.
Now all of this took place within seconds, with a fourth unicorn arriving just as Otto and his steed leapt over me and my two charges.
The Terror Raptors swiveled aside upon seeing the approaching threat, but two of them collided with each other slowing their evasion tactics, long enough for my friend’s make-shift lance to catch one of them in the side of the neck. The bird squawked and stumbled from the blow, while crashing into its companion yet again and nearly tripping him up. Alas, only one of them went down while the other struggled to stay upright, but at least it veered away from momma, baby and me. Which was wise, since the fourth unicorn took up a protective stance in front of the three of us. He too was a formidable beast, who pawed the ground in a very protective manner.
This left only the last of the trio who was now confronted by at least two of the unicorns Otto had brought with him. Both were impressive specimens, powerful, determined, and fearsome all at the same time. The pair shot past me as they raced to intercept the last of the raptors who had not been involved in the collision. This one, the largest of the three, had taken advantage of Otto’s breaking up their original charge to try and outflank us. Only now he found himself facing the formidable unicorn team who were galloping at him with horns lowered.
Seeing the danger the Terror Raptor changed course once more and veered to the left allowing it to pass through the opening through which it had entered. He was followed moments later by his one of his compatriots who was desperately trying to outrun Otto’s lance.
To my surprise, Otto his steed, and the pair of unicorns, who had come to the aid of me and my charges, halted before the portal instead of passing through. But no sooner had I started to wonder why they’d ended their pursuit a pair of terrifying cries erupted through the opening, which had no doubt come from the same throats I’d heard earlier. Only this time, instead of sounding threatening, the sounds were that of terror and pain.
Once again my sharp ears caught the sound of snorting and stomping coming from a large group of enraged equines. Obviously, Otto had kept more unicorns in reserve on the other side of the portal.
Before my imagination could form an image of what was probably happening, a similar scene began to unfold much closer to me. The Terror Raptor that had fallen from the collision struggled to its feet and tried to make a sneak attack from behind on the black steed my friend was still astride. But before I could cry out a warning, the great stallion reared and then planted both front hooves on the ground, while unleashing a mighty kick with his hind legs.
The blow caught the menacing fowl under the chin sending the would-be attacker head over talons several feet away. Before the raptor could even try to recover, the remaining unicorns were upon him, kicking savagely until the bird ceased to move.
As I stared in shock, Otto drew up next to me saying, “Nature has its ways. These birds are quite dangerous predators and the unicorns cannot have them be a threat to their families. Homo sapiens would have been no more gentle with a pride of lions attacking a newborn and mother. Their battle plays by their rules. I imagine with time the birds will learn to be more wary of the unicorns and the ones who do will not be hunted.” Here he paused to stroke the mane of the unicorn he had been riding and added with a smile, “They have ways of communicating, even beyond their species.”
Before I could comment, I watched as the black stallion moved towards mother and foal who greeted him in a manner I could only describe as more than friendly. Nodding to myself I thought, ‘Yup, he was definitely worth it.’
Meanwhile, Otto dismounted. “Don’t you think we should give them a moment?” he said.
Nodding I turned away and then realized there was no sign of the Ding-a-Ling brothers. In fact, neither one had reappeared from behind the fallen tree I had last seen them diving behind. There was however some growling accompanied by yelps.
Otto raised an eyebrow. “Is there something else I should know about here?”
Unable to resist a smile I answered, “Well, I did have some other visitors show up while you were gone and…”
At that point Don and Eric popped up from behind the dead tree, screaming loudly and looking more and a little worse for wear. Their nice thick winter garments were now partly in tatters and covered in all kinds of filth. Both were screaming their heads off and whirling around like a pair of lunatics. As they spun Otto and I saw the source of their unusual condition… a very grumpy wolverine had attached itself to Don’s back. Apparently it had not appreciated their unwelcome intrusion into its den located beneath the fallen tree.
“Tsk. Evidently they entered without knocking. They must not have seen the ‘No Soliciting’ sign. But perhaps you can calm our mustilidae friend down before one of them does him a mischief?”
“Agreed,” I said and unleashed some of my mist. Within seconds it reached the wolverine who quickly it released its hold on Don and scurried over to me and Otto. Then, using my ‘moles’ I put both brothers to sleep, while ‘accidentally’ forgetting to make them lie down first. Unfortunately, with this latest trauma their minds had recovered somewhat from the altered memories. I quickly informed Otto of the problem and he took it from there.
After ordering me to hide our friends and myself behind a wall of fog which I promptly did. Then he stepped over to the brothers and began slapping each one of them on both cheeks, while yelling at them in Swedish to wake up.
“Knock it off, man,” said Eric after a few more slaps.
“Oh, English. You speak English. You fell asleep out here. You are terribly ill. You look like you have snow shock!”
“It is like heat stroke… but different. You fall asleep in the cold and your mind plays terrible tricks on you.”
“You mean that horse wasn’t real?”
“In this wilderness. No, no horses.”
“Or the… weird ostrich?” said Donnie.
“Ostriches in Sweden?” Otto shook his head and tsked. “You have it bad. Here, you must drink this to warm you up!” He pulled out a flask of vodka and poured some into Don’s mouth. “You, too,” he turned his attention to Eric. I could see through the mist, since it was my own creation, and noted how my friend spilled some of the vodka on their clothes, while still getting a few ounces down their throats. ‘Oh they are going to smell like a distillery,’ I thought with a smile.
As we watched, Otto then pulled each of the brother’s to their feet saying, “I can get you on a train soon and back into town. It’s a matter of safety, you should see a doctor as soon as you get there.”
“How do you know all about snow shock, anyway?” asked Don, who seemed marginally smarter than his brother.
“I am a Fjord Ranger,” Otto bluffed.
Eric said, “My sister used to drive one of those.”
I smiled inwardly, knowing that neither that, nor the snow shock story, would hold up once the boys talked to anyone. But of course Otto didn’t expect it to. He was simply doing his usual thing of bamboozling people long enough to get them out of the way.
As he led the two brothers away from the rest of us and back down the hill, I glanced over at the only remaining evidence, of what had truly transpired, namely the carcass of the Terror Raptor.
The sound of our new wolverine friend snuffling around at my feet gave me an idea. “I guess you wouldn’t mind having a nice cache of bird meat under the snow, would you, Stripy?” I asked him.
Since my mists were still inside him, he readily understood my thoughts if not my words, as he became very excited. A second later he scurried back to the log and within a few seconds reappeared with a female and two white kits. As Otto later informed me, usually the male does not hang around after mating with several females, but they do visit. So apparently, the brothers had caught him during a family visit which had really made him annoyed.
The kits from what I could see had only recently opened their eyes and after a quick look around scurried back into the den while mom and dad headed for the carcass. By the time Otto returned, I had been permitted to swipe a drumstick from our former foe, for our dinner. When morning came, there was no sign of the raptor having ever entered our world. Even a thin layer of snow covered any remaining blood stains on the ground.
It was another day or two before we took our leave. For one thing we wanted to make sure no other Terror Raptors appeared, which they did not. The second reason we stayed was so Otto could explore the other side of the opening a bit more. I joined him when night fell on the other side and… well that’s a story for another time.
In the end, we finally said goodbye to our unicorn friends, who it turned out were telepathic as Otto informed me. This of course was the real reason why Mama came to me for help in the first place. She’d sensed the kind of person I was and knew I’d do my best to keep her and the little one safe. She and her mate also picked up on a little wish of mine which they both kindly acquiesced to. And what was that wish? A lock of hair from each of their manes, which is how I will make nice with Lisa who is a tremendous Harry Potter fan. According to the books, unicorn hair makes a wonderful core to a wand.
“So, am I clever or not?” I asked my audience of one.
Alas I received no answer, because little Geoffrey who I had been telling this story to had fallen asleep shortly after I had begun my recitation. But that’s what happens when you tell an eighteen month old a long story.
Luckily, my tale was not wasted. As I suspected would happen, Lisa was listening in from the open doorway. She’d given me the cold shoulder routine the whole evening, but had obviously been attracted to my storytelling, as well as watching what I was doing. Especially when I held up the two locks of unicorn hair, one white, the other golden.
In the next instant found myself feeling like Wile E. Coyote in a Roadrunner cartoon. A black-haired blur shot into the room gave me a peck on the cheek followed by words, “Okay you’re forgiven,” and vanished again leaving me empty-handed and alone with little Geoffrey once more.
Glancing at the sleeping boy, I tucked a blanket around him and quietly exited the room. But no before allowing a little of my mist to escape from my sleeve so he could have some wondrous dreams about unicorns.