"Look, Mommy, looook!" Kate squealed, as a diamond of light darted across the night sky, past their second-story window, "a shootin' star!" She hugged her little stuffed bunny and beamed with childish glee--and displayed a gaping hole in the front of her mouth where she'd just lost a tooth recently. The little girl was growin' up.
"Oh sweetie, why don't ya make a wish?" her mother Cadenza suggested, sharing her smile. She smoothed back the girl's soft, auburn hair, done up in two little pigtails after her bathtime, and after she'd gotten into new pink bunny jammies. The woman sat comfortably by her on the cushioned, built-in bench that took the place of a smaller windowsill, nestled amongst soft pink pillows, wearing a simple blue nightgown that often got used as a safety blanket by her daughter.
Kate was thrilled by this idea, "Oh... oh...!" she began to cry out, "oh, I--I wish... I wish a unicorn would come to my birthday!"
Her mother chuckled at this, "A uniiicorn...? Really?" she chuckled more when the girl nodded eagerly, "but you knooow, cutiepie... you're not supposed ta say the wish out loud..." she tickled her daughter under the chin, earning a giggle, "or... it gets lost in the air sometimes, and no one can make it come true!"
"Oh no!" Kate looked as if she'd just been told the Easter bunny would never leave any more chocolate eggs. Her little mouth went into a perfect "o".
"Ohhh yes! A little wish-imp snaps them up and hides them away for himself! Because he looooves little girls' wishes... buuuut..." here Cadenza leaned in, as if about to impart a great and valuable secret of the world, "if you wish real hard to yourself... and just hope... and think of it before bed... then sometimes... on special days... your wish might come true," she winked, and the spell was complete. Kate's face was awash in amazement.
"Ooooh... Mommy, Mommy, can I go to bed right now!?"
Her mother laughed--a jolly, wholehearted laugh. "Gonna start hopin'...? Okay baby girl..." she kissed her daughter's cheek, scooping her and her bunny up, "it's off to dreamland for you... are you excited for your birthday in a few days...?"
"Oh yes, yees!"
"It's gonna be the beeest birthday ever, I promise..." Cadenza snuggled the girl before setting her down in her big, soft bed, and tucking her and Mr. Bunny under the sheets, "with all our family, and frieeends..."
"And preseeents...?" Kate asked hopefully, her big blue eyes bright.
Her mother grinned, "We'll seeee... off to dreamland with you now," she winked again, and Kate giggled with excitement. "Night night... sleep tight. Have sweet dreams, honey..."
"Night Mommy... love you..."
"...I love you too, honey..." Cadenza turned out the little lamp, leaving only a princess-themed nightlight on, "I love you too..."
More than you could ever know...
Six AM the next morning, and Cadenza was already up and about. She'd checked out two dozen books from the Dome libraries, some maps, charts, and even a collection of short fantasy stories and poems that some people were still unsure of what portion was fictional or not--tales like the Faerie Queene, and newer, more comprehensive works. If someone could see her, she joked that she probably looked crazy--like some loon on a fairy-hunt. And that was, essentially, what she was on--finding a unicorn might've sounded impossible, even laughable to a normal person of her modern world--but she had seen worlds where the "impossible" existed, where bears could run about on human-like hands, and elves and nymphs and angels existed, and magic was the norm. As a retired teacher, she had all the resources of the Dome to find these worlds within her reach--and with them, she almost felt confident that she could find a world where even the Tooth Fairy really existed.
As crazy as that sounds...
But today, her search was for a unicorn. Now, just because the woman knew it was possible, didn't mean she didn't feel ridiculous. How the hell do you dress up for a unicorn hunt, anyway? Flak jacket? Safari vest? Do I pretend like I'm the special mystic edition of the Crocodile Hunter? What's the protocol here? she chuckled to herself, as she straightened gypsy charms and a short, dark gray-blue mage cloak over her clothes and boots in the mirror. She figured she should have her usual magical effects about her, but a staff instead of a sword or gun, a bit of herbs and potions instead of a well-used knife. She tied back her long black hair, braided through with the best of her protective, channeling, and catalyst charms, the heirlooms of the old Navarre tribe, and her own creations. Normally, the tales agreed that you had to be a virginal and pure maiden to meet a unicorn.
Well, nothin' much I can do about that, Cadenza smirked. Little late for the warning. Hell, I'll be happy if my "sinful", vile aura doesn't scare the thing at a hundred paces' away. How many men do ya have to be with before it starts calling you a slut? What a b**chy horse, the idea was hilarious to her, Think the thing's up with twenty-first century attitudes of womanhood? she chuckled again, collecting up her satchel with her supplies and water, fat chance. Little uppity puta.
Before her, set in the Dome wall, came a silvery door etched in runes and sigils of forest life. She'd summoned up the door to this world as her best and first bet at finding a mythical unicorn in the flesh. She'd encountered fairies, trolls, and pixies here, many months ago, when searching for some rare herbs a new healing spell she had been trying with her niece Fabricia had needed. If her luck failed here... --then try, try again. I won't go home empty-handed for Kate's birthday coming up without trying every last damn world I can. Presents are great and all, and sure, we've gotten her some... but this would be the birthday surprise to end all birthday surprises. She'd never forget this first birthday with her new mommy if I pull this one off. And she wished so much...
I'm going to make my little girl happy.
With that resolve grasped tight in her mind, Cadenza opened the door, and entered the enchanted Wood of the Fae.
OoC: Hope Sakume doesn't mind me usin' Kate just for this intro, she wasn't online but she usually approves and allows the small scenes I need her for. ^^; Will edit anything she doesn't like.
Also, I know I said I was thinking of writing this in first-person, but inspiration just naturally came in third-person for this, and I think I could still make the comedy work with showing Denza's thoughts this way. x3 I've done a lot of first-person already recently. Might be too much cursin' in this later for first-person. xD
EDIT--Sakume said the Kate part I wrote was juuust fine. ^^
Ilyena picked at the sparse covering of grass that grew beneath the forest canopy, wandering slowly between the ancient trees. She had been there for a few days now, taking advantage of the peace and calm that her kind enjoyed in such unspoilt places. Nothing sought her here, no hunters with their greed or scholars with their thirst for knowledge. It was quiet. It was safe.
After three days, it was also boring. Ilyena had never been content to simply wander in circles grazing for days on end. It had always seemed to be a waste of her life.
So when Ilyena noticed a door that hadn't been there a few minutes earlier, she trotted briskly towards it without a second thought.
Unicorns are supposed to be elusive creatures, Cadenza thought.
They were supposed to only appear by pure lakes, or to beings of virtue or goodness or some other such bullcrap. There should've been lyre and flute music, or a mystic breeze, or fairydust, or maybe even a bloody rainbow. Something should've glittered.
But what she got, instead, when she turned around to survey the forest, was a face-full of white snout. And she could not have reacted fast enough.
Got you...! she cried in her mind, no sooner did the shock wear off and the fact that the horn was naturally attached to the creature's head sink in--she threw a magically woven rope she'd brought along to loop around the unicorn's neck and hoped to hell it didn't kick or bolt before it could pacify her. The herbs and spells crafted into the lasso were meant to soothe the beast into a state of utter calm and cooperativeness--ten to one, the gypsy thought cynically, something would go wrong.
Ilyena looked between the woman and the rope for a moment, then nosed the offending item thoughtfully. The unicorn honestly couldn't remember the last time someone had managed to catch her like that. Most humans spent at least a few minutes gaping before they gathered enough wits to try and use a rope on her - and a magical rope, too! Ilyena couldn't help but feel cheated.
Of course, there was no way that Ilyena was going to let that stand.
A small group of squirrels leapt down from the trees onto the unicorn's back and immediately went to work. By the time the human even realised the squirrels were there, they were almost done; and as the small mammals with their sharp teeth leapt back into the trees, the rope fell away from Ilyena's neck.
Snickering, the unicorn trotted past her would-be capturer, lingering for a moment just close enough for the human to reach out and touch her. No unicorn would allow herself to be caught that easily.
It was like something out of a cartoon. There was a delay before frustrated thought rushed in to replace blank surprise and disbelief.
Godsdamnit! I did NOT see that one coming! For a moment annoyance and defeat flared in Cadenza’s eyes, and then she clenched her hands, and counted to ten, until she was sure she wasn’t going to lash out at the tricky creature.
There went the friggin’ direct approach. And it was such a good damn rope too… hours of work, wasted.
She clenched her teeth and found she needed to count again. Un, dos…
Unlike pretty much every target Cadenza had ever had to trace in her life, this was one time where she couldn’t use violence to take her quarry down. Kate would be heartbroken if the unicorn had so much as a scratch, and the gypsy very much doubted that the unicorn would stand for it much either. They were some very magically potent beings. So with a surprise attack out of the way, and brute force out of the question, bargaining and reasoning was next.
And thanks to Omen’s totem and rings, which allowed her to play nature goddess a bit at the cost of blocking out her shadow magic while in use, she could—hopefully—speak to this unicorn. Tell her the sob story. Even if the totem powers didn’t work on mystic animals like it did normal ones, unicorns were supposed to be smart. And this one definitely was. She felt the odds were good that it could understand.
“Hey… okay… I’m… not here to hunt you, or capture you for sale or anything…" the woman started, watching carefully to make sure the beast didn't dart right away, "I just… I just need you to come back to my home so my little daughter can see you… it was her birthday wish. Maybe play with her a little, let her pet you… I’ll try to make sure she doesn’t try to ride you like a pony. I figure you wouldn’t like the whole saddle thing. But… I’m just a mom trying to do something special for her kid. The rope—supposed to have calming spells. Not… not hurt, so…” tentatively, Cadenza reached out to try and pet the white beast, her words trailing off.
Ilyena nosed the woman's hand once and pulled back, snorting. The woman's request sounded like an interesting change of pace, and it was nice that she had actually thought to ask the unicorn, even if the magic rope had been her first resort. But Ilyena didn't want to simply give this woman what she wanted just because of that. Especially not when the human was very obviously outfitted for a slightly more...traditional approach.
Ilyena walked forwards and brushed her flank against the woman's shoulder. "Catch me," she whispered, and cantered swiftly away.
OoC: Okay, that was a terrible post. :/ Didn't want to leave it any longer, though.
The unicorn's voice was the barest whisper, a soft rustling of sound felt more in the ears than heard. Countless souls would've thrilled just to hear that voice, let alone be invited to play with the creature--countless souls had searched their whole lives, just to make even the smallest sighting of such a being. And yet here Cadenza was, being prompted to play--and it wasn't enough. She didn't have time to traipse endlessly around this enchanted forest. She needed to bring this thing home to her girl--and she had very little patience to play the fae's sort of games first.
"Catch you...?" the gypsy woman answered into the wind, "Wait, wait...! I don't want to play!"
Her words were lost in the forest however, the creature long gone without hardly a sound. Everything was birdsong and sunlight and impossibly beautiful and pastel colors, like a dream too good to be true. Faerie glamour, she thought. Crap that has led humans into traps for gods know how long.
Out loud, she simply grumbled, "...bloody hell," and thought it must have been a curse uttered in that forest a thousand times before then. She felt as if she could feel the frustration of every human ever outsmarted by fae here, felt it like a festering heat rising in her gut now. It only served to make her crankier and more impatient--and the woman had a temper of her own to start with.
"...Well this bites," Cadenza continued speaking to the wind, as if unwilling to admit to herself that her target was nowhere around to hear, "She'll have me running around these woods for hours. Unlessss..." a glint of inner light came on in the woman's clever blue eyes, a light perhaps seen in many human eyes here before, but sharper in this one, "unless she can be tracked... here's to hoping this wacky forest doesn't screw with my magic..." the woman took a breath and tried to clear her mind to focus. This would take some work--she hadn't flexed her metaphorical muscles in the use of her new toys from Omentus much. This playing Nature Goddess thing--or Snow White, as she often downplayed it--was still very new and overwhelming to the shadow mage.
One by one, she began to tap into the rings on her fingers, feeling their energy link and grow together. A warmth began to surge in her, unfamiliar power, power outside herself, quite unlike the gypsy magic that ran in her veins naturally--and then once she called upon the energy of the totem, the chain was complete, and the goddess' blood powering the artifacts flooded her with its power, from the very tips of her toes to her fingertips, and up through to the top of her head, filling her petite body with the vitality of a long-dead goddess. Ironic, that, but the effect wasn't lessened in the least by the fact that the original source of the powers was long gone. Suddenly, awareness of the whole forest rushed into her senses, and Cadenza staggered back, dizzied and overpowered by it all.
A dewdrop trickles down a wide maple leaf, and then... --bright sunlight cascades down on a thicket of orchids-- a butterfly settles on a golden petal, little feet tasting, a tiny tingling sweetness--the heartbeat of a red fox, beating, small, but steady, the beat of a tracking predator--the scent of wet grass, by a gurgling stream--
The world hurled upside down and Cadenza fell flat on her back. Ugh...! The canopy of trees and sky swirled in her vision as blood pounded in her ears, and off somewhere, a dryad giggled. Her head ached. She'd caught her foot on a large tree root, and as soon as she'd hit the ground, she was jolted out of her rush of forest sensations as unceremoniously as a car wreck throws an unbelted passenger out of the windshield.
Somewhere, she heard a squeaky, tinny voice laugh again and shout, "Stupid human!" to another chorus of similar giggles.
"...Oh yeah...?" Cadenza drawled groggily--the sensation as she sat up was worse than any hangover she could ever remember from before--quickly she eased herself back down, until her head stopped spinning and she could settle her stomach and thoughts. Had an invisible bus rammed into her sinuses? That was sure what it felt like. "Think you're smart, huh...?" she called to the small voices, challenging and defiant as she could manage when she had a sharp twig sticking up into her back--thank the gods for mythril armor. She could play human bravado well.
The gypsy groaned and winced and rolled aside, brushing leaves off herself before struggling to her feet. Calling out a dryad in its forest was probably not the best idea--but annoyance and frustration and the after-effects of her sensory rush were clouding her better judgment. No... her reason tried to assert itself again, no... you're supposed to be finding the damn unicorn... this little pentelho is just a distraction... sure you know you could kick its ass, but where's the point in that...? It'll see... when you catch the unicorn, all these little fae things will see.
Focus... she thought, and then repeated her recently adopted--and probably soon to become lifelong--mantra to herself, for Kate...
She took in a deep, meditative breath and held it, and tried to feel the patter of hooves on dewy grass, the sweet smell of the unicorn opposed to a horse amidst the more plant-like smells of the woods and its dryads. She felt the goddess' power seep into her, calmer, more controlled than before, riding on that long, measured breath like the exhalation of the whole forest.
"...Two paces..." she murmured, translating the knowledge of the land as best she could into human directions for herself, "near the river... under the pink willow..." Her focus went from the earth to the animal surroundings next, "Lots of birds around... look for a cluster of songbirds..."
Her eyes opened, clear and blue and as crisp as cold, deep water behind the long dark lashes. Human reasoning turned back on to make sense of natural feeling and magic. "She's getting a drink... she must think I'm far behind." Cadenza smiled a little to herself, and took off, travelling in a series of leaps and bounds that covered the wooded terrain as quickly as she could, avoiding long contact with the ground out of caution for more roots or other obstacles, careful to watch for lower branches near her head. Flowers budded and blossomed up from her steps.
There by the river. The unicorn was near--now she could only hope she didn't flee before she arrived. There was no doubt the creature could probably detect her, but maybe the mystical being's overconfidence would give her a chance. She wants to play, right? Where's the fun if you run before there's even a sporting threat from the other side?
Ilyena felt it before she heard it - a whisper on the wind, the slightest reaction from the trees of the forest, animals briefly turning quiet or directing their attention towards the same spot...all signs that the woman from the door was pursuing her. That she had accepted the terms of the unicorn hunt.
Ilyena hoped very much that this woman would not be one of those who quit the chase before it was over. She did plan on granting the human's request, after all.
A moment later, the unicorn's ears swivelled towards the sound of her pursuer's approach. It was incredibly faint to the point of almost being silent, but almost was not enough to fool the senses of any being as steeped in ancient magics as a unicorn.
Still, the human woman possessed magic of her own, and so it would not do to simply give her a clear run so early in the game. Ilyena bade one of the trees to bar the woman's path, and it performed the supposedly impossible feat - except the woman had chosen that moment to leap above the ground and begin travelling in the trees themselves, and so the barrier failed to impede her.
Ilyena looked up from the river, surprised that this woman had known to leap just then - or had it been luck? A rising flock of birds would have given away her position even if Ilyena had not been able to sense the woman, and so the unicorn decided to test the idea. If it was not simple luck...
Of course, from the sudden string of curses carried on the light breeze, it evidently was simple luck.
Ilyena snickered and trotted over to where the woman hung from one arm.
"Hijo de puta…" Cadenza groaned after a far louder series of startled and even less polite words, her free hand rubbing her head where the branch had lightly struck. If the sudden branch had come any faster she would've gone down altogether from where she now dangled from the tree.
As it stood now her head just smarted and a unicorn was laughing at her.
Rather than also be amused, a squirrel living in said tree didn't appreciate her grumbled, foul words too much and came down to chitter at her and give her a piece of its mind. Apparently the nature powers her totem and rings afforded her also meant that animals could understand her even when she was not trying. Cadenza thanked the gods you couldn't get reported for disturbing the peace in a fae wood, because the furry little squirrel sure looked like some neighbors she'd had in the past that were none too fond of her noise-making. The woman thought she could almost see the figure of a short old lady she'd once lived by superimposed on the little critter, wagging her finger at her.
"Now Signora Valentia, you know I need to wake up by five to let the cat out..."
The comparison from the memory made her wrinkle up her nose and groan. "Awfully uptight little critters here..." she muttered, not necessarily thinking just of the creatures there. That's when she heard hooves lightly trodding on grass, and glanced down. Ilyena was there, plain as day.
"There you are!" the gypsy cried, and dropped down as quick as impulse would allow.
That, of course, was the moment Ilyena snickered and chose to bolt away.
"Wait...! Damn it..." Cadenza groaned again, shaking her head in frustration, "This is getting nowhere fast..." She remembered the squirrel in the tree. She could speak to it. Possibly command it--a nature goddess should be able to beckon the animals, right? Have them do her will? Her eyes trailed up and glared at the fuzzy animal perched on the branch.
The squirrel just laughed at her and turned to go continue its perpetual search for nuts. But it wouldn't get far.
"Oh no you don't..." she said sharply, and arched a finger at the creature. It drew up straight and froze, staring intently at her with little black eyes, as if entranced at first. "You laughed at me... now you're gonna work."
Her rings gleamed and the squirrel seemed to listen closer when she spoke, "Follow the unicorn. Take it easy. Lead me," --she blinked as the words came out, her voice carrying a resonant undertone she had never heard before, an ethereal, ageless, motherly tone she could only later pin as a remnant of the goddess whose blood powered her tokens of nature magic now.
The squirrel, even under her command, chittered something that she understood somewhere in her mind to mean that unicorns were far faster and more elusive than normal animals, even little ones that lived their lives in the trees. He was careful not to make it sound too much like a criticism of the strangely empowered human he felt somehow compelled to obey.
Cadenza rolled a shoulder in a shrug that dismissed the concern. It was still better than no help at all. "Then do your damndest," she ordered, "and maybe bring some of your friends to help.
The squirrel returned her shrug in a remarkably humanlike gesture and went off bounding from tree to tree, expecting her to follow.
"...That works," the woman thought, and then started to follow, still tracking the unicorn on her own in case the snippy squirrel tried to lead her astray.
OoC: Bleh, this post kinda sucks, I'm too tired to write very well, but here it is. I didn't want to make you wait too long.
Ilyena slowed to a brisk trot once she was out of view - after all, it wouldn't do to so horribly outpace the woman that she had no chance at all of catching up. Or, for that matter, to make her pull out the powers that she so obviously had just to keep up.
The slower pace also meant that Ilyena could keep more attention focussed on whatt he human was up to, which meant that the unicorn noticed when her pursuer started ordering the undergrowth to move out of her pathway. Ilyena stopped and turned her head towards where she felt the woman and her magic - although it didn't seem quite right to call it her magic, for some reason - and decided to just throw in a little obstacle to see what she would do.
The woman promptly slid straight under it, which wasn't exactly what Ilyena had been expecting.
It didn't stop the unicorn from having a branch just at the woman's head-height when she straightened, though. Ilyena snickered at her brief cry of frustration. The latest bit of the chase had brought the two very close again, though, so Ilyena used a little bit of illusion magic to suggest that there was no unicorn in the area.
Of course, she reflected as a squirrel that had apparently taken up residence on the woman's head pointed her out, that little trick doesn't work on animals in a fae wood.
A tangled mass of tree roots rose up around Ilyena to block off her escape, but the unicorn just shook her head in disappointment. While this human could apparently bend the forest to her bidding, Ilyena herself was both child and master of all forests everywhere. Was she really foolish enough to think a fae wood of all things could be used against such a creature?
OoC: Not my best writing by far, but I've left this too long already. :/ Feel free to backtrack some here if you want - actually, considering the situation, you probably should.
How long could this go on for? It seemed no matter what progress the woman made, the unicorn was always countless steps ahead, prepared for any chance of an encounter. It was her wood. Cadenza was only playing in it--she had known that from the start.
But damn it if she didn't still have to try. Just think of how happy Kate would be...
As if greater speed wasn't enough, the unicorn was also throwing a slew of traps into the mix--like a massive vine that resisted the gypsy's totem magic to stay at waist height, just waiting to clip off her advance as she bounded through the forest. A step a second slower gave the petite woman just enough time to recognize the thing before it clotheslined her and let her dip right under the wiry growth into a baseball slide.
"Ahh...! Heellooo..." she breathed, slipping through the wet turf, passing just centimeters below it. A close call, and she knew it.
But as luck--or the unicorn--would have it, a branch was right there to meet her when she straightened up, smacking right into her head.
"Ugh!" she groaned, stumbling back, full of frustrated swears, "Gods damn it! I can't win!"
A loud snickering came from a little further into the forest.
Snarling, Cadenza grabbed the branch a bit harder than she needed to and hefted herself to her feet. Little laughing unicorns danced in dizzy circles before her eyes. "...I'm going to get a concussion pretty darn soon if this keeps up."
Her little squirrel helper took the initiative at this moment to be her watchful eyes, leaping onto her head to point out the amused unicorn. It seemed impatient to get its duty with this human over with, no matter what.
"Huh...?" the gypsy shook her head just slightly, noticing the direction of the critter's arm when she looked up, and following it across to a slight clearing, "Oh!" There was the unicorn! Fail as it probably would, just like all the other attempts, she called up vines and brambles to block the creature's path, almost like a cage.
And as she'd guessed, the unicorn just told the wilderness to obey otherwise and shook her head in disappointment. Silly human, it seemed to say, tricks are for the fae.
That's it, Cadenza growled, tearing off her totem and stashing it away. Her squirrel helper abandoned her as soon as her magical hold faded. Big deal. If nature would not help her, shadow was her next best bet. Any magic could go screwy in an enchanted wood, but simple human tactics wouldn't work with a unicorn...
Now let's see...
After a directed stirring of will, the mare's shadow sprung off the ground, as if suddenly come to life at Cadenza's command, and as the creature blinked, so did its copy, matching her every movement. Now all the gypsy could hope was that the confusion would last long enough for her to get the upper hand...
OoC: This is an AWFUL and badly flowing post, but I didn't want to make you wait any longer. I haven't been able to write almost at all recently. :<
OoC: This is probably gonna suck, but it's about time I posted something. :/
BiC: Ilyena stared at the shadow-unicorn - or, rather, the thing that was most definitely not a shadow-unicorn because they didn't exist, but looked very much like a unicorn and was certainly a shadow. So a shadow-unicorn. But not, because there was no such thing. Except it was standing right there.
The point was, the human woman had just done something with Ilyena's shadow, and the unicorn was very, very confused by the results. Which was unusual in and of itself, even without the thing that most definitely did not exist staring her in the face.
The mare twitched slightly when her playmate pressed a hand against her flank - she'd been too pre-occupied to even notice the woman's approach, or the departure of the squirrel that had been riding on the human's head. It had been a while since she'd been taken by surprise.
"...tag. You're it." With those words, the shadow-unicorn that really shouldn't exist but apparently did seemed to lose cohesion for a moment, before reforming into a band that encircled Ilyena's body, holding her in place. It was actually quite a smart thing to do, if you wanted to catch a unicorn. Or much of anything else, really.
Not that Ilyena was going to let her win that easily.
Ilyena created an illusion of herself and had it step out of the forests behind the human woman. The illusion stamped one hoof on the ground, making the would-be huntress turn and stare in surprise. "...whuh?"
Ilyena couldn't resist snickering at the woman's reaction - in concert with the illusion, of course. It was always fun to pull that little trick.
But it didn't work for long this time. The human did something with her magic - and this time, it felt much more like her own magic, not something that had been borrowed - and turned away from the illusion. "I'm staying right here," she said, patting Ilyena on her flank again. "Now how's about we go back to my home and have a nice bit of sweet hay and oats...? We've got honey, too..."
Ilyena just snorted at the suggestion. Evidently, the woman had forgotten exactly what she was dealing with here, and so Ilyena decided to remind her...by having a nearby tree pluck her from the ground.
OoC: Huh, didn't come out as bad as I thought it would. Did you want to IMRP the next parts, or just run with it?
"Oh come on...!" Cadenza shouted out as she thrashed in the air, the tree whisking her away dozens of feet from the ground. "You're not even trying to make this competitive! Isn't it boring for you if the ch--is that a hornet!?"
Buzzing droned out a flurry of very impolite words as the boughs of the tree rustled and shook, raining down leaves, and soon after, a few motionless hornet bodies. They burned with a dark violet energy that seemed to have seared their wings right off their backs. A shield up above thrummed, and then died back down, before boots could be heard upon the trunk, climbing, their owner grumbling. Whether or not her frustrations were falling upon absent ears, the gypsy couldn't be sure until she got down.
Standing on the other side of the tree that the would-be huntress was climbing down, Ilyena began to spin her illusions once again - only this time, she awas going to do things a little differently. The unicorn dampened her magical presence as much as she could, presenting the smallest possible target for the woman's magic to locate - hopefully, it would be enough to fool her - and conjured up three separate, independantly moving copies of herself. All, of course, with exactly the same magical presence as Ilyena herself had. It should be interesting to see how the human decided to find out which was the real unicorn.
Of course, it was also entirely possible that she would decide the presence was too different and conclude that all four were illusions, in which case Ilyena intended to have some fun. Of the oh-my-god-an-entire-herd-of-unicorns-is-going-to-run-me-over-somebody-HELP variety.
It was all a little unfair to the human woman, but anyone who expected a unicorn to play fair during a unicorn hunt - even a relatively friendly one - wasn't thinking straight.
Cadenza dropped down with another colorful word and an offended pixie tsked at her and dropped a overripe fruit on her head.
"Hey, ow! I f***ing hate this place... f***ing forest... f***ing fae..." she grumbled, searching around for the little pest. The pixie was already long gone, having left a trail of glittering dust in her wake. All these creatures are out to make me look stupid... to get rid of the human...
That was when she heard hooves on the grass, graceful and light like the unicorn's, and looked up.
THREE of them?
They seemed to notice her presence and all scampered off in scattered directions, their tails swishing, teasing her to dare come and chase them. But something felt wrong about these creatures. It wasn't something concerning nature. They sure all looked like the unicorn had. And it wasn't raw magical presence. They felt like her too.
But there was a giveaway. Maybe something the real unicorn hadn't realized she could do yet. Where the real deal had a shadow to match her true shape, an equine, almost divine form, complete with her horn, light compared to other shades, these three other unicorns, if you could really call them that, were simply blobs. Their shadows were vaguely horse-shaped, but nothing could hide their true shades to her. These were copies. The real unicorn was somewhere else.
Then she felt a constant stillness that had been there in the back of her mind, a presence behind the tree, separate from the wood, that she had written off the shadow of before. The unicorn. She had to approach this carefully.
Disappointingly - and perhaps a little worryingly - the human woman chose not chase any of the three illusions as they went galloping through the forest. She stood there, silently watching the trees and searching for something.
Puzzled, Ilyena backed a step, then two. The illusions had been some of her best work, so why hadn't the woman chased one or done anything to discover which was the real unicorn? Had she made a mistake? This human wielded magic, after all, and Ilyena knew little of it, least of all any methods that she might have for detecting a unicorn's presence. It was entirely possible that there was simply some flaw in Ilyena's illusions that the unicorn couldn't detect but the human woman could.
Of course, it that was the case, then Ilyena's illusions were useless - but if it wasn't, then simply dismissing them would practically scream "I'm right behind you, turn around already!" Which would be a very unsporting thing to do on a unicorn hunt unless her opponent was a complete imbecile, in which case the chase wouldn't be any fun anyway.
The upshot was that Ilyena needed to bring out a new trick, either to get the hunt moving again if the woman was stumped, or to prolong it if she had seen through the illusions.
A nearby bear umbled gurmpily, and Ilyena decided that the animal would serve as a distraction while she thought of something better.
OoC: This post is terrible, but it's already been a week. :/ The bear won't be agressive or attack Cadenza, but it will lumber right up to her with no regard for things like personal space. Which Ilyena will find amusing, provided Cadenza doesn't react violently.
It was the unicorn for sure. She had felt her move when Cadenza didn't pursue the illusions; a small retreat, a backing up and regrouping of just two steps. Steps she took to think. What was she going to send after her next? The gypsy was sure she wouldn't allow it to be as easy as turning around and running up to the creature. Some root would shoot out or some other pixie would show up.
Or a grumpy, slathering bear would approach. What the hell was the method again? The gypsy was no woodland child. Shake a can of pennies at it and it would get agitated and leave? Even if that wasn't a folk myth, it probably wouldn't work as well when said bear was under the compulsion of a unicorn's powers, no doubt. Running probably presented you as a target. Fighting it was stupid. The bear was getting closer and closer and while the forest was all open escapes, there was no telling what waited behind any bush.
Come on now--don't let paranoia cripple you. Think simply. She's right in the area behind that tree. You haven't got to run. If she's got a trap for you, it'll hit you walking the same as it would running. And the bear won't be as tempted to charge after you. Might follow. But not charge.
"Hey there, Yogi..." she murmured as the furry beast came close enough for her to start wishing she could offer it a breathmint. "No picnic baskets here... okaaay, yes, that is my shoe..."
The bear sniffed at her leather boot with great intakes of breath, its slabs of muscle under its coat of fur rippling as its ears twitched curiously. No doubt the unicorn was having a giggle fit at this. Cadenza began a slow, steady backward retreat from the clearing.
"Look, there was a stream back that way... probably some fish..." she tried to put a soothing note in her voice. Music soothes the savage beast, right? If the can of pennies was gonna be a no-go, then keeping him placid...
Her boot struck the base of the tree trunk behind her. There was nature magic all around to be sensed, but only once place where that still equine shadow had been. She ducked around the tree as the bear slobbered and continued to sniff. Then her fingers grazed her totem, and the rings on her fingers came to life, putting power into her words.
"There should be food over by the stream. Tasty fish."
The beast looked up at this.
"To the west of here," she nodded her head, "you should go, before others beat you there."
The bear might not have been convinced, but it was distracted enough by this. As soon as its gaze wandered off at her words, Cadenza released her grasp on her totem and felt her shadow magic unfettered again, allowing her to drop into the shadows at the base of the tree. When the furry beast looked back, its new acquaintance was gone.
And she was re-emerging behind Ilyena, to tag her on the flank again as she had before.
Ilyena blinked in surprise when the woman vanished. Had she done that before? The unicorn was fairly sure that the human had followed on foot throughout the entire chase so far. But why had she done that when she could teleport right out from under the nose of an unnaturally curious bear?
"Hide and seek's over. Tag."
Or, for that matter, when she could re-appear standing right next to the unicorn she had spent her time chasing?
Snorting, Ilyena let the confused bear amble off with directions to a good fishing spot - it had provided some amusement, even if the woman hadn't been distracted for as long as Ilyena had hoped. Which just left the human standing next to her, one hand on the unicorn's flank.
But not for long.
As Ilyena dropped to her knees, a tree branch shot out and knocked the human woman over. She landed with a startled yelp on the unicorn's back, and Ilyena surged back to her feet before her passenger could object. It was time to take the huntress for a ride.
Hide and seek might be over, but the fun certainly wasn't.
She had been worried about leaping into the shadows of a fae wood earlier because of danger. But she had never predicted that a single short leap into them would've lead to this!
"Ay! Puta de h--!"
Her voice was lost in the wind, and the wind was being knocked out of her as her toned abs and thin mythril suit hit hard horseback without hardly a bit of fat or padding to cushion the blows. It was like being pummeled repeatedly by someone with very large knuckles, again and again, the fine but strong bones of the unicorn felt as hard, curved shapes under her glossy coat. Cadenza felt like a sack of potatoes, rattling around as the creature only picked up speed through the forest. All she could do was cling for dear life and hope to keep her teeth and her wits about her as she struggled. Sitting upright seemed a distant and desperate goal.
Every time the unicorn surged into a jump, she scrabbled to hook her feet under and cling on with her hands, lest she learn a lot about projectile physics very fast. And somehow luckily, she always managed to stay on, just within inches of being thrown. She was just starting to get the hang of things, having climbed up into a sloppy hunched position sitting on the unicorn's back, when the game seemed about to change again.
Was that a twinkle of a laugh in the creature's eyes?
Running, leaping, weeving between the trees, never stumbling, moving as fast as her legs would allow - this was no horse's sprint at the command of a human master, nor was it a panicked gallop fuelled by the fear of pain and death. The wind raced beside her, its laughter in her ears, before peeling off and going its own way through the forest.
Swift and sure, the unicorn took her unwilling passenger through the trees faster than any horse or human contraption could manage. Ilyena leapt fallen logs and splashed through shallow streams without pausing or slowing, leaving barely the smallest hint of her passage behind.
And then the unicorn found what she had been looking for - a waterfall some sevnty feet high. Without a change in her pace, Ilyena ran for the edge and leapt over it.
The long seconds of free-fall were wonderfully exhilerating.
Ilyena slipped into the waters of the pool below with barely a ripple and touched her front hooves to the bottom before swiftly moving towards the bank. Water cascaded off both the unicorn and the human on her back as she pulled them both back onto dry land.
Coming to a stop at last, Ilyena allowed her pursuer to slip down onto the ground - gently; the woman likely had more than enough bruises already - and nosed the human's face. "You're better at tag than rodeo."