I perched myself upon the rock
Where only hours before,
I’d hollowed a spot just large enough
For my backside to fit, although snugly.
I peered down the mountainside, in the direction from which I’d come.
I was filled with conviction for my cause; I was here to save Gideon, the Magistrate’s love, from the elusive and legendary creature known as
I’d been trapping in the day, and moonlighting as a mercenary-for-hire at the time.
In my travels to those ends, I’d overheard locals describing the Magistrate’s recent misfortune, and the reward he’d pledged
For the return of his fair, blue-eyed beloved.
And I also heard of Qirin, whose hooves trample quarries to rubble, and whose cry stirs the peaks to avalanche.
Doubtless, the lady has fallen into the beast’s domain, and if not dead, would soon be.
From what I could gather reliably by way of eavesdropping, it was generally assumed that Gentle Gideon had taken into the mountains in an act of rebellion
Against the claustrophobic, and often bland life that is customary of the nobility in this region.
The reason why she was missing was of course truly undetermined, but my only concern at the time was managing my newfound drinking habit and collecting this bounty.
I also expected if I were able to somehow slay this… Qirin,
The local farmers would be very grateful and possibly add to the pot.
I had bear traps. I had poison darts, I had… no clue what this animal even was. Hooves and horns. Hooves and horns. All I could tell.
My ass was going numb, to match my mind. I needed to get up and get my blood traveling.
I had just started to my feet, when I felt it. Before I saw it, believe me, I felt it…
The mountain trembled beneath me, as the galloping grew closer…
I heard the shrill, dry cry of
It leapt toward me, and landed with maybe 10 inches between our faces.
It was somehow… graceful in its movements. Like a betta fish masterfully maneuvers in still water.
It had a head like a stallion had given its love to a lioness… Its brow was folded many times over, and its horse-like muzzle was soaked with strands of thick drool.
Its short fur was a purple-ish white, And long, gnarled mane of aquamarine hair was strewn along its back.
Its eyes were such a pale blue as to rival the snowfall for their faintness. But blue, nonetheless.
But by far, the most signature and perilous feature of this monster’s truly abominable physiology, was the rod-like horn that extended from its forehead, like a true unicorn of legend.
But it was in front of me… I had to react;
With my poison darts tucked safely in my satchel, and my satchel two fatal feet away from me,
I saw no recourse but to kick up a volley of snow and dirt toward the beast’s maw. It reared up, and came down again with unbelievable quickness, as a Smith’s hammer to the block.
At this, I saw my opportunity to reach for my straightrazor, it was all I could do… The Qirin bucked forward, and I swear to you, its devil horn pierced the shoulder of my coat like a needle into a peach.
Certainly, this monster had swallowed whole the Lady Gideon.
And only for the swiftest second’s hesitation would I be next… I started up to my feet again, and lunged toward the demon horse with my straightrazor open and ready to slice it into a mess of bloody fur.
The monster seemed, for a moment to look frightened. It reared back again and opened its maw, and I was sure I’d be dead if I didn’t move and strike.
I swung. White snow was flying up from its hooves. I swiped. And I felt as though I’d struck metal with the blade… I swung it again. The Qirin kicked up brown snow. Then red. Then it fell.
Then I fell.
Exhausted, though victorious, I crawled over and atop the corpse of this unbelievable creature…
And that’s when I felt it. I felt it before I saw it. A chain was nestled around and under the bloodied hair of the Qirin’s lifeless neck…
Obviously the chain left behind after a previously failed capture… To a less skilled soul.
Now, I was going to be rich. And happy. And I was going to drink! Until my heart stopped like this poor, unlucky monstrosity before me…
And I believe my heart stopped too.
When I saw an engraved name, on a tag that was fastened to the chain:
“OUR ROYAL GIDEON.”