"And this here," said the guide, "is a unicorn's horn," she giggled, "we don't know what it really is, but people used such objects for...healing the sick, or it could be used for causing plagues, when used for evil. Many sorcerers sought objects like this, or so the legends say. They have great power."

"Miss...what happened to the unicorn afterwards?"

"Nobody really knows, they were thought to become little more than dumb animals. Horses, I suppose, some say they died."

"That's cruel." said Mike

"It's only a legend. We suspect it's just a narwhal horn, they have two when they're small but one breaks off before it's fully grown, leaving them one and us one."

"A narwhal? I thought they were as mythical as unicorns." said John

"They may be mythical, but that doesn't mean they're not real," she turned away, handing out the horn, "careful with that, the last one of you to hold it, could you put it back please? Now if you would follow me, we'll be going on to learn more about ancient wizards and the spells they used."

"Is this cool or what?" asked Mike

"Big whoop. None of this stuff is real!"

"Well...it could be, you know. Besides," he added thoughtfully, "it shouldn't matter one way or the other, it's like voodoo."

"What? What kind of crap is that?"

"Well...voodoo actually works, curses and all that. Don't ask me why, I know only slightly more than you do," said Mike at Shawn's face, "this stuff's kinda interesting, but anyway, the 'spells' could work without them being...well real."

"You serious?"

"Yeah. Just by belief, I think."

"No shit?"

"True. Anyhow, check this out..." he put the unicorn's born to his head and grinned, "look at me, I'm a unicorn!"


It was to be a deciding moment in his future, although he didn't know it. Mike had what some called the Glamour, again a fact he didn't know. What he did know, however, was that not all 'spells' were based around 'magic words'. Many were, but a great many more were not. He knew that even a few meaningless sounds could be a powerful aide against evil. Unfortunately the horn was real, he had the Power within him and his spell, however unconsciously cast, worked. The horn stuck onto his head with a barely-audible click.


"Ha ha, very funny. Quit it now, or we'll miss out on the talk."

"I...I can't." said Mike, "it's...stuck."

"Look, he told you to cut it out!" said Shawn, "we'll get knackered if we piss around in here, I mean this is a real magic shop!"

"I thought you don't believe in all this?" asked a startled John

"I don't, but it does mean that enough people do to make all this stuff really expensive. Put it down."

"I told you," said a worried Mike, "I really can't!" he dropped both his hands, and the horn stayed resolutely stuck into his head as he shrugged, John came a step closer, "you know, it looks like that bloody thing is actually a part of him!"

"No way! Woah, you're right!" said Shawn

"I'm getting a closer look at this...tell them I've gone to the toilet, or something, I mean that's where I'm headed. They've got to have some sort of mirror in there..." he ran for it back through the shop as fast as he could, most of the single-floored semi-warehouse was empty for the tour. He reached the four doors that led to the male and female toilets, the baby-change and the disabled toilet. He headed for the toilets, and then thought better of it, likely to be a lot of people in there. The disabled toilet, an easily-locked single room, was already in use. There was nothing for it, he looked about him and opened the baby-changing room and slipped inside. He locked the door quickly.

"For a room full of dirty nappies, it doesn't smell too bad." he said, wafting a hand in front of his face, narrowly missing the shining three-foot long horn sticking out of his forehead. He looked in the mirror, from the other side of the room. The horn in front of him was no longer the greying, brown, worn-out lump it had been; it was now a shining pearl-white and as sharp as a rapier. It was about two inches thick at the base and went to an perfect needle-point at the other end. It practically glowed. Come to think of it, he thought perversely, he looked pretty good as well. If you ignored the horn. Not very easy, it was so damn big.

"Now what the hell am I going to do? It's...stuck." he gave it an experimental tug, it did indeed feel like it was a part of him. As he looked in the mirror, it looked like the skin had grown around it right from the start.

"Excuse me?" came a voice from outside, "can I come in?"

"Erm...no!" he quickly grabbed one of the free nappies from off of the wall, and began to open and close the tapes, as loudly as possible, "my mum said I had to do this a few times, as she aint gonna do it all the time and I better learn how to change my baby sister's nappies."

"That won't take you too long, will it? I want to have someone to talk to while I work, my little treasure takes a lot of looking after."

"No, no, that won't take too long but...it's..."

"I think you'll find the room big enough for another two people, only one of them an adult." it was the same voice, but Mike could hear something different in it, "I happen to know that your sister is not in there, your sister's too big for nappies. But I could change that, for the right price. Youth potions work on the young as well, you know."

"What the hell? Madame Curio?"

"That isn't my real name, but it'll do for now. Can I come in? I felt something very strange going on not long ago. I think you and I need a talk."

"Well...okay, just be careful. Mind your head." he opened the door and almost pulled the woman in, she was in fact carrying a baby of her own, she explained that it was her daughter Amanita.

"Well now, what have you got yourself into?"

"I...I don't know how it happened, but I somehow managed to get this...horn stuck on my head. Won't my friends or my teacher miss us both?"

"No no, I made sure of that. Well...it certainly is stuck. it's a real horn. Well...I certainly made a good buy."

"You did?"

"Well...I brought it for five thousand, but now I could sell it for millions."

"Then could you get it off me?"

"Well...I don't know how it got there in the first place, but I can try." she muttered words about his head and pulled, the horn stayed resolutely stuck.

"That," she said, "was some of my most powerful magic. Are you sure that's my horn? Mine was...older-looking. Though I have never seen magic like yours before."

"I'm pretty sure it's yours, it must have started looking like this when it...stuck onto my head."

"Are you sure you're not a unicorn? They have been known to take human shape you know."

"My parents always looked human, and I'm sure I would have known about any tendencies to eat grass. Surely somebody would have noticed a horse being born in a hospital to human parents?" he said derogatorily

"Indeed, you would not have been born to them in human shape. However, you could have been changed seconds after being born."

"This is silly...we're talking about a most powerful magic being performed in the middle of the twentieth century!"

"Hmm...I know of a few hospitals where your parents could manage it...but your dam and sire would have to be very powerful and I'm sure I would have known about a pair of unicorns in this world...I had thought none of enough power left..."

"That's not what I meant, magic isn't real, not any more at any rate."

"Then what is a shop like mine doing even existing? I could turn you or myself into any animal you care to name, I'm a white witch."

"Go on then."

"Can't...the horn's in the way."


"Honestly! They can interfere with magic performed by others when at close range, and that is a powerful horn. You had better come with me."

"I can't go out there!"

"Relax, no-one will see you. I told you, I made sure of it."

"Magic? Come on..."

"Listen, that horn is proof of magic, or it would be to any open-minded human. You may be neither, and at least one of the answers means an extremely odd past. If you will not come by your own free will, I shall make you come."

"You can't! You said so yourself."

"This I can, as it is harmless. I am truthfully telling you that I shall take you to my office, and none in my shop will be able to tell that you are a unicorn. Doubt me and you may test me, doubt not or if I pass the test, you are forced to come with me."

"I...I don't know how to test people."

"You must plunge your horn into my heart. If I am telling the truth, I will not be harmed." she bared her breast

"I...I can't do that."

"Then you will have to come with me."

Mike nodded reluctantly, and followed the witch as she walked out the door.


After walking a for few minutes through the eerily silent crowd of his school-friends and the other people buying, or at least looking, at various spells and medallions, Mike was feeling decidedly nervous. It didn't seem right, he could wave his hands in front of them and they wouldn't even show a glimmer of seeing him.

"Come on, leave them be."

"But...are they all right?"

"Of course. They're...well basically it's like sleeping." the woman led the way into her 'office', it was basically a room fenced off with what looked like high pinboards. Objects of power lay scattered around them all. In one corner were several filing cabinets.

"What's in them?"

"None of your business, and all of mine."

"Oh. Well then, are you going to help me, or what?"

"I...I don't know if I can."

"Ha! I'm sitting here with a unicorn's horn stuck on my head, in the middle of a witch's abode. If I didn't know better, I'd swear I was either sleeping, under the influence of various illegal drugs or just plain mad."

"My boy," she said, "you are none of those things. This is serious."

"How so? I mean, all I have to do is hide until it falls off."

"Not so, I'm afraid. You may not believe it, but you are technically a unicorn. There are many about who would kill to get hold of you. That horn cannot come off, there are very few about now who even know about the ceremony that is needed to wrest the horn from your head, and even fewer who could perform the magic."

"No way."

"It is a part of you. Don't ask me how or why. You must protect yourself."

"I...I can't! I don't know anything about magic!"

"Not so, you know very little."

"What? All those half-felt dreams? They might work?"

"Have you ever tried?"

"What? Jump out a window?"

"Well...that may work..."

"Are you serious?"


"As are we, Madame." said a new voice, it had muscle

"Lothar! How dare you enter my demesnes!"

"Lothar? What kind of a name is that?" asked Mike

"You will be quiet!" said the man who had managed to sneak up on them

Mike felt an...almost a slap across the face, he gritted his teeth, "you don't tell me what to do!"

Lothar was surprised, "you have power? I was told this would be true, but fear not, little one, you are not a match for me." Lothar gestured, and it felt to Mike like he was being held down by at least twelve elephants, and smothered in chloroform. He was getting sleepy, Madame Curio was almost horizontal. He couldn't look much better but he fought on, he didn't know how but he was going to damn well try. He gritted his teeth again, they ground against each other and he stood upright. Beads of sweat glistened from his forehead, his horn was incandescent. Lothar gave a little cry and almost folded, he was slowly being forced to the ground. Madame Curio was breathing heavily, but recovering.

"How?" gasped Lothar, "How can this be? You are but a boy!"

"He has the Glamour, my old enemy, the Power! And with that horn neither your magic, nor mine, can stand a chance!"

"Then I will not use magic." Lothar took out of his pocket a small handgun. He fired five shots straight at Mike, they all hit him, forming the shape of a star. Mike crumpled to the floor, his lifeblood flowing almost like water.

"How...how can you?" he croaked

"You will not die. Not yet. You, however, 'Madame Curio', whatever you call yourself now, Adriana..."

"You will not get me, Lothar!" said Adriana, and gestured. All the medallions in her shop glowed white, and Lothar swore heavily. By the time he could see again, only him and his two henchmen were left.

"Bring the 'corn." said Lothar, "I came expecting just the horn, but now I am doubly rewarded for my vigilance."

"Will he live, Boss?"

"If he doesn't, it will be no great loss."

"Sir." said the other, and helped the first pick up the prone body


Unicorns recover quickly, but the five iron bullets were not just ordinary metal. They were engraved with evil sigils, and were like silver to a were-wolf. They couldn't kill Mike, but he would not recover for some time. The three took him to a hidden installation, far from prying eyes. He was laid onto a stone alter, and left.

"Boss...I don't like seeing him like that. you said I'd never have to kill no-one when I took this job."

"You haven't."

"Well...I helped, didn't I?"

"I told you I would not kill him."

"You...you're leaving him, though. He...I don't think he'll live. I don't like that."

"Then I will heal him. Is that enough?"

"All right." the man nodded, he hadn't liked the idea of any of this, but when you haven't got much money and too many kids, what can you do?

Lothar walked up to the body, and passed his hands over the wounds. He mumbled words of Power, and as his hands passed over the bullet holes, they disappeared. As he finished, he opened his hand and five bullets fell out onto the floor. He walked away, sweat again glistening from his forehead, it would not have been so difficult but the bitch was right; unicorns had very powerful magical fields about them. He closed the door, and marked a sigil on it. It glowed red, "he will not awaken for a time. The doors have been sealed. Only I can open them." he said, and walked away, "come, we must all prepare."


Inside the room, the horn was glowing faintly. It suddenly glowed brighter and Mike coughed loudly as he sat up. He rolled off the slab. As soon as he was away from it he felt better, the iron in both the stone and the bullets seemed to be...hurting him somehow. He inspected his chests, there was nothing there now but five neat holes in his clothes, not a single mark on his chest. Even a few older scars had, he found out, disappeared. He coughed again, he had no idea where he was but he wanted to get the hell out of here. He stumbled along until he met a wall. This he followed until he met a door. Something felt right, he had...information...flowing into his brain from various sources, and he was sure they numbered more than just five. He shook his head; on the other side of the door, he was sure, was an outside-place. He looked for a handle but could not find one. He pushed on the door, it felt odd.

"Open!" he said to himself, pushing on the door, when it didn't he got slightly annoyed, and as the door still refused to budge he got more and more annoyed. Finally he slammed both his fists and his head against it, forgetting just what he had coming our of the centre of his forehead. he gasped, seconds too late to stop the horn plunging straight through the metal.

He pulled it out, a weak light shone through the metal sheet, though compared to the relative darkness inside the room, it was blinding. It was also definitely from the sun.

"That's it?" he thought, "I'm in a big metal box?" he kicked and punched at the door after carefully lancing the bolts. He gave it one final kick and the door fell outwards. He stepped through the cloud of dust and swore,

"What the hell? A horse?" on closer inspection, he found that it was a very young foal, he wouldn't have said more than a few weeks old. She looked decidedly ill, with a strange mark on her head.

"No, it can't be. That's...that's the cruelty that...what did he call her? Adriana? Yeah, that's it. It's the kind of cruelty she said about. You poor little thing, you must be feeling bloody awful." the unicorn nuzzled his hands weakly, "what kind of bastard could do this to an animal? To anyone?" he looked about him and smashed the locked cabinets with his bare hands. Something white fell out, "is that what I think that is? Why the hell would anyone be stupid enough to leave that kind of thing here?" he picked up the horn, read the label attached to it: 'too little power to be useful. What we need is an ancient, or at least powerful, unicorn horn'.

"If it was no use, why the hell would he..." Mike snorted, understanding, "why should he bother to put it back on? Life means nothing to him. Except his own, obviously. Well, I am not going to take it. I have the Power, Adriana said it herself, I stood up to that bully of a wizard and beat him. I can put back a horn." Mike carefully held the head of the unicorn, and placed the horn to the strange mark. Then he closed his eyes, he concentrated on the horn and the fact that it belonged to the animal he was currently holding it against. Something clicked, like electric down his arm. He cried out, and was shot back by a bolt of pure energy.

"Woah, it wasn't like that when I got this damn thing stuck onto me. At least I've done some good." for the animal seemed completely different, she suddenly seemed to glow with an inner light. She walked carefully up to Mike and licked his face where he sat sprawled on the floor,

"Thank you." she said, the voice echoed in his head

"You...you talk?"

"So do you." she said, a giggle in his head

"How did you get here?" Mike had given up on trying to understand or discount the unusual, and was currently just accepting what was around him, he found it refreshingly easy.

"I was born here. The bad man took me away from my Dam a few days ago. He left me here. Don't leave me here again." the unicorn was scared, incredibly scared. All children are scared of the dark, this one just happened to have four legs. She was chained to the floor by one of them.

"No, no fear of that. I'm here to save you, I think." Mike took the chain in his hand and broke it. Then he pulled apart the anklet. The unicorn jumped into his arms, he caught her easily, "you know, either I'm getting stronger or everything else around here is falling apart."

"Thank you, Daddy."

"Daddy? I'm not your Daddy."

The unicorn looked at him, "you are not my Sire," she said, "but you are my Daddy. Take me to...Mummy."

"You took those words right out my head, didn't you? And how did you know I didn't get the right picture about...your Sire?"

"You listen with your ears," she giggled, "but you should be listening with you heart."

"I haven't been a unicorn long, you know."

"Three days."

"What? They...shot me...three days ago? Anyhow, I can't be your Daddy."

"Why not?"

"I...I'm a human. And...I..." he struggled to find any more reasons

"You are more a unicorn than me." she said, giggling again, "any more reasons? This is fun."

Mike gave up, "Oh I give in. Where is your...Dam?"

"Follow." she jumped down and lead the way out through the little doorway across a field of brown grass populated with what looked like normal horses and into another little doorway. As he ducked into the darkness, he could feel straw beneath him. There was something big in front of him, "I have brought him." said the little unicorn

"Who...who are you?" asked Mike of the shape in front of him

"Who are you? Who are you who saves my...daughter...from death?"

"I'm called Mike. I think I'm here to help you. Are there many more?"

"Three hundred head in the field outside," she said, "and you must save them all."

"Three hundred unicorns?"

"They are only half unicorns, genetically speaking."

"How come you know about that? And how come you speak English?"

"I learnt it from your head," she said, "just as you learnt our language."

"Then how come you and your foal are fully unicorn?"

"My sire and dam were both half-unicorn. I am fully unicorn."

"The little one said something about me being more a unicorn than she is, what the hell is that about?"

"The horn you have is from an ancient unicorn, taken many many years ago, I feel it's power. We are only weak echoes of that power. My foal will be more than I, but even she is not as powerful as you."

"This just gets weirder and weirder. And how come she's more powerful than you are?"

"Her Sire was also my Sire. And I cannot allow that to happen again."

"Why can't you get out of here? I mean, she's only little, any power she has at the moment will be limited. You are fully grown, surely you can break free?"

"I had no need. My foal was captured, and then they took my horn too." the unicorn came into the light; she was still strong, but seemed more grey than white.

"That's about the most evil thing I could ever imagine, that's a part of you. Without it, you'll die, won't you?"

"Maybe, we are enough horse so that we may just fade into normality."

"Well..." Mike came to a decision, "I don't need this. And I'm betting your horn was powerful enough for that damn Lothar to use, so it won't be around here." Mike put his hands to his head, and grasped the three-foot long horn, "I don't know who to call on about this, but whatever Gods listen to creatures like me and the unicorns here, please answer my call. I wish to save the life of one who needs this horn far more than I do. I'm human, she's a unicorn. I'm sure she can use it far better than I ever could, and will probably die without it. I won't, so please let me place this horn upon her head." Mike pulled the horn gently from his forehead, and placed it onto the lowered head of the mare. Then a wave of nausea swept over him, and he passed out to the words, "he must know what he gives up, surely?"

"No, he is human, although I know he would do it anyway. Come we must take ourselves out of here."

"What about the others?"

"We will come back, when we have found the one who can help him help us."


Mike slowly opened his eyes, he felt terrible. He lifted up his arms and looked at his hands, they looked...grey. It seemed to be a part of loosing your horn...everything turned grey, even your skin. He shook himself awake, it wasn't his horn. He was a human, not a unicorn. He didn't need a horn. Even if he did feel terrible without it. He tried to sit up, and found that he could barely move. Everything seemed such a trial, even breathing was more difficult. "Hey? Anybody there? I can't see too well."

"Mikey, you look like shit, man."

"I feel like it too." Mike coughed heavily, rubbing his eyes. They cleared, he was lying on the unicorn from the...from wherever Lothar had taken him.

"What the hell are you doing here? Last we heard they'd arrested you for stealing that damn horn."

"That's bullshit. Adriana tried to help me, but it wouldn't come off. This guy called Lothar, he comes in here and shoots me. When I wake up, I was in this huge dark room..." Mike continued to tell of the adventure he had had so far, up to the point where he had blacked out, "and now I'm here. And so are you. Shawn, where the hell am I? And how the hell did we get out?"

"You're at Madame Curio's, and we do not know how you came back."

"You mean Adriana. I don't think she likes 'Madame Curio' much."

"Whatever. Anyway, I had to come here again, I don't know why. Something didn't ring true about what I'd been told."

"And he found me," said a voice, Mike looked around to see Adriana walking into the room, "I was out cold from Lothar's spell. He somehow managed to wake me, I think some of your powers have rubbed off on your friends." she grinned, "who is this that you bring to see me?"

"A unicorn."

"No shit?" said Shawn sarcastically

"That's...your horn on her head." said Mike, he cursed himself for wanting to say his horn.

"What do the two of them want?"

"Her foal's not here as well, is she?"

"Daddy!" came the cry

"Bugger." said Mike

"What?" asked Shawn

"Don't you...no of course you can't hear them. I'm sorry if anything I say appears to be a one-sided conversation, but you can't hear them, or so it seems."

"Hear them? That Lothar must have hit you harder than I thought."

"Don't worry about it," Mike coughed again and slowly sat up, "I can talk to them. And the thing is, they understand me and can talk back. In my head, like."

"Are you sure you're okay?"

"Just shut up. I've got one hell of a headache. Adriana, we need you to help us defeat Lothar, I've got to get the rest of them out of there. I promised."

"Then I will aid you in whatever way I can. My powers are at your disposal, besides, I've been wanting to get than son of a bitch for ages."

"You what? You really believe in all this?" said Shawn

"Of course." said Adriana, "I've been fighting that Lothar for many years now. I'm a witch."

"Are you serious?"


"Yeah," said Mike weakly, "and if you don't want to help us, just get out our way." the unicorn lowered her horn and stamped her foot

"Woah, I believe you. I mean, that's a real unicorn isn't it?"

"Yes. Now, are you going to help us?"

"I guess so."

"Test him." said Mike grimly to the unicorn

"Are you sure?"

"Yes. This Lothar is evil, we need people we can trust."

"What?" said Shawn, the unicorn lowered her head again and lunged. The horn went into his chest and came out again. Shawn gasped and put his hand to his chest; there was not a mark on him except for a neat hole in his T-shirt, "what the hell? That did go into me, didn't it?"

"Yes and no," Adriana was not amused, "I wish they hadn't done that, it was too much of a risk. You were telling the truth, and therefore were not harmed."

"I had to do it." said Mike, "we can't trust too many people. This is serious, I've never really had much conviction in anything before. This...matters."

"Phew, that scared the hell out of me. Well, I take it you believe me now?" Shawn was shaken, and decided that not thinking about exactly what had happened was the easiest way to forget it.

"Of course, you passed the test." said Mike simply, coughing again, "I've no idea where I was, but she knows how to get there," Mike patted the unicorn, "and she says she will take us there."


The journey took two days, the unicorn galloping as fast as she could, with her foal in the hands of Mike. His two friends were riding on horses, Mike found he could speak to horses as well as unicorns although they didn't have much to say. He managed to calm them down enough to talk, they had always been hurt by humans, who had broken their spirit to make them manageable. Mike found that he didn't like that much. They had agreed to take the group if Mike would keep them in 'his herd'. he didn't know quite what they meant until he realised that they just wanted to be free of whips, bridles and bits, something they could achieve if they stayed with him. Adriana packed supplies, and every night put protective spells around them to hide them while she slept. Shawn didn't quite know what to make of it, but when he had realised that the unicorn was real...well spells didn't seem to be so make-believe.


"So, have you got any idea where this place is?" asked Shawn

"No," said Mike, "all I know is that we're heading towards it in a straight line, roughly. It's got high walls, the unicorn managed to jump it, somehow, with me on her back, and she tells me she used the horn to get her foal out as well."

"But...I get the picture from the way that you tell it that it's some kind of fortress. How could anyone hide something like that?"

"I have no idea, I suppose it either looks like something else, some kind of mansion, or he has put spells around it to stop anyone coming close enough to see anything. I really don't know. Up until about a week ago, my world was perfectly normal and boring. Now...I'm lying here on this unicorn feeling like death because somebody took..." he gave in, "took my horn."

"You may have it back." said the unicorn

"No, no, you'll die without it. I just want...I guess I want a horn back, I suppose it had better be your one. I'll be okay, I think, though I must admit I thought I'd be feeling better by now, but at least I don't feel any worse," he started shivering slightly, "maybe this is what rape feels like, though don't quote me on that, I really have no comparison." he coughed, "I think we're getting nearer. I feel all the...iron. It hurts me."

the unicorn turned her head around as far as she could, "But you say you are human, iron should not hurt your kind."

"I know," said Mike, silently agreeing with her, "iron doesn't hurt humans. maybe what you said was right."

"What? I take it all that was another conversation with her? What about?" asked Shawn

"Nothing, I may be wrong, if not I shall tell you later."

"If there is a later," said Adriana, "I think we are there." she dismounted from her horse and walked forwards.

Shawn could see nothing but trees, "what is it? I don't see anything."

"Mike? what do you see?" asked Adriana

"I...I don't know. I see trees but..."

"You don't only look with your eyes, Daddy."

"Indeed," said Mike, baffling the other two, "but I sense the fact that there is a path through those pines that you could drive a truck through." Mike got down slowly from the unicorn, leaning on her for support he walked slowly up to the trees. Then he put out a hand and closed his eyes, "magic," he said, "relies not only on true words of power, wherever they originate, but also on simple ordinary words wielded by those who have the power, much as metal can be extracted from the rocks and cast into swords, or shields, engine parts, whatever. Therefore, I call upon the power which I know to be within me to banish this illusion, and unveil our eyes." he swept his hand across the space in front of him, and with a puff of wind the image drifted away like smoke.

"How the hell did he do that?"

"Don't ask me," said Adriana, "that goes against most of what I have been taught, and he has just defeated one who even I find hard to best, and without even trying."

"Come, we should be heading for the main complex." Mike led the way down the darkened path, not many birds sang here and there were very few woodland creatures. Even Shawn could feel the difference, the silence. After walking for some distance through the forest, they entered a huge clearing. Within it stood four towers, facing the four compass directions. They were linked by stone walls, within the complex were buildings, one of which was the metal box he had been kept in.

"So, how the hell do we get in there? Knock?" asked Shawn

"I think you may be right. I need your help." he said to the mare as he turned away from them, when he saw the other two starting to follow him he shook his head, "not you two yet. Shawn, you and Adriana stand back. You need her to shield you from what I am about to do."

"What? Is he going to do what I think he's going to do? I mean how? Can you do that?" asked Shawn, running

"No, I wouldn't even try it. I have never seen anyone blow a hole in the side of a building using magic. Dynamite maybe, but not magic."

Mike walked calmly up to the walls, leaning on the unicorn, he touched her horn and closed his eyes. He started humming and pushing lightly on the walls, he pushed harder and harder and they started to bulge inwards, the humming got louder and the stones began to glow first red hot, and then white. He gritted his teeth and slammed his shoulders into them, they imploded. Stones went flying into the air, knocking pieces out of most of the other towers. When the dust cleared, Mike could see three hundred horses waiting on the other side of the courtyard, he called to them and they came out, slowly at first and then with increasing speed. Shawn, Adriana and the foal made their way towards Mike and the unicorn, "how the hell did you do that?" asked Shawn, "last week you were just an ordinary kid, now you're beating the shit out of wizards who have far more power than I thought possible, and you have even more!"

"I really don't understand it all, but what I know is that the horn opened something up in my brain, and with her help, I have kept it."

"Well young mage, do you think we knocked loud enough?"

"Maybe. He protected those walls you know, if we move fast he will still be reeling from the collapse of his spells. I have to get my horn back!" Mike turned, and told the horses to stay there, he would be back, "and Daughter," he said to the foal, "if you want me to be your Daddy, you had better stay here too. I don't want you hurt."

"Okay, I don't want to meet the bad man again anyway."


The small group of Mike, Shawn, Adriana and the unicorn walked in through the walls of the decimated keep. Mike homed in on the horn, he said something about it giving off a definite energy signal. It was almost directly across the courtyard, in the huge four-storey building lining the Northwest wall. The double doors didn't want to open, but Mike managed to get them to force them apart, "you're making me feel useless!" complained Adriana,

"I'm sorry, you get to fight Lothar, you see, whilst I am free to retrieve the horn."

"Oh I see, I'm just a distraction."

Mike grinned, "a bit more than that, I know that you can defeat him. If I did it for you, as would surely happen, you would then feel even worse."

"Well...that may be true, but I don't like being a distraction."

"You are honestly more than that." said Mike, "I could not easily defeat him in my weakened state, I need the support of the unicorn to wield as much power as I do, until I get back my horn. You are the only other person I know with enough power to challenge him and defeat him. This is what you have wanted since he broke into your shop and shot me?"

"In that, you are right. Lets get him."

"Wait a sec, what the hell am I here for?" asked Shawn

"Well...for the moment you are here to help Adriana, as you have pledged your help she can use your energy, and besides you can fight the other two whilst she fights Lothar."

"Other two? You didn't say anything about any other two."

"No? Oh well. There are two other people there."

"Cheers for telling me. I suppose I'll just have to fight them." He didn't have long to wait, as soon as they were within the walls of the main building, they could see across the hall three people. One of them was slumped near an altar, the other two spun around as they heard the approaching footsteps,

"I want that horn back, this horn is nothing compared to the one now on that damn mare. Get them!" snarled Lothar weakly as he struggled to get up, his two employees turned to see a witch in a very bad mood, a unicorn and two humans, one of which, they recognised him from when they had taken him from the shop, whilst looking very ill also seemed to radiate some sort of strength that told them they would end up a part of the scenery if they were stupid enough to challenge him. The other human however, a boy, seemed an easy target. What they didn't know was that Shawn never fought much. Others thought it was because he was just weak, whilst those that knew him knew that he didn't fight because he was just too good at it, and he just didn't want to get into trouble. Anybody he fought would end up looking a lot worse than he did. This was likely to apply to the two heavies that Lothar had bought as well, for Shawn was running very high on adrenaline and now didn't give a shit about any consequences, this was Good against Evil in a place where no-one would care what he did, whether he lived or died. He grinned nastily, "come on then. Come and have a go, if you think you're hard enough." he put up his fists, not so much in a boxing pose as one that made sure they were where he needed them.

"Adriana, come with me, we need to get the horn I know he has up there, and we need you to get past him."

"Then I shall do as you ask." the trio advanced on the staggering Lothar, who looked up at them and cursed loudly, he threw a spell that Adriana blocked easily. She drew a circle on the floor with a piece of chalk she had in her pocket, "magic circle." she explained, "I'm following your advice, that's all this is. A circle of chalk. One of the most powerful forms of protection known to the Arts."

"Good," agreed Mike, "you must know exactly what it is, and know exactly what it needs to be. Make them one and the same, if you know who you are, you can do anything you need to to be that person." he coughed, "now I need to get to the horn, stop him from stopping me, for I will be vulnerable for an instant as I use my powers to heal myself with it." there was a flash of light that flared up as Mike and the unicorn stepped out of the circle, Lothar snarled again at them and attacked them with a fireball spell, it was strange but a weapon that would have overpowered him and amazed him but a few days ago now seemed of less importance than a fly buzzing around his head. With the raw magic flowing from the unicorn's horn into the ether around him, he had more power than most of the mages had had in the ancient times, the power now around was weak at best when collected from all other sources.

"Lothar, I challenge you!" cried Adriana, slamming her own spell into him

"No!" he cried, "it is forbidden! We must not fight a duel."

"Why not? All who are here know about our powers, and most of them possess them. We must settle this, when mages were dwindling it was necessary to band together to survive, but we must have this out. One of us must become Master to the other, or our conflict will continue ad infinitum. We have been fighting for years, just not an official Duel. Or is it that the mighty Lothar has weakened? Then I heal you, my enemy, so that the contest may be fair." she started humming words, words from spells written in ages past. The stone around Lothar flashed as it ran molten in a circle around him, and a column of magefire sprang up around both the circles,

"now, it shall end." she said as she struck up a summoning pose, Lothar stood up and nodded. The duel began, they hurled spell after spell at each other, light twisted and bent, images of creatures that shouldn't exist appeared in the flux of raw energy settling out of the already-saturated atmosphere, for Mike was building up a charge of energy within him that would not be fully earthed until he was healed. Strange beasts wailed and sang and screeched in the meeting of the spells, in the ripples that followed. Chattering demons were heard, those that tried to come closer, drawn by the battle, were destroyed by the flames like moths, those that came no closer were mercifully only seen for an instant. Pieces of spells altered the room around them all, most of it became something inanimate, the pieces that moved were mainly normal beasts though a few mythical creatures slithered away into the rapidly-falling night before the battle drew to a close. During all of this, Mike and the ever-faithful unicorn mare headed resolutely for the stone altar. Upon it was an white object, nothing that Lothar had managed to do to it had stained it yet, though he must have been getting close when his spells around the castle were destroyed.

"Thank the Gods, it is here. Mike reached out and picked it up, he cradled it in his arms, drawing strength from it. He stood free from the unicorn and placed it against his head, "whatever Gods are out there, listening to me, please I ask again to hear my call. I need this to become once again a part of me. That is all I ask, I offer nothing but myself to give to you to serve your will. Whatever God rules over unicorns, you shall become my God. I do not think I can survive without this any more, as I would have returned to normal had it not become truly a part of me. Why let me die? You must know of the truth of my words, why else would I save the herd, and help to destroy the one who captured them?" Mike became silent, he felt no change within himself...but surely something must happen?

there was a feeling of silence around him, the real world filtered out. He found himself standing on a grassy plain. All around him were...unicorns. The sun shone, rivers flowed, they tasted sweeter and more pure than he had ever thought possible, even the air was considerably clearer. A huge unicorn approached him, he glowed with an inner light and was several times larger than the biggest horse on Earth,

"I heard you when you called to save one, nay two, of my children. I heard you when you called to save but yourself. I do not need another among my people, and you are human. Justify your request."

"I...I..." stammered Mike, at a loss for words, he started crying, he placed the horn on the ground before him and fell to his knees, bereft of the help from the mare, he was feeling very weak and hurt, "I cannot. All that I have would be yours, all you have to do is let me become one of your kind, that is all I can offer. Refuse it and I shall surely die without it."

The god thought it over, "that is a very human statement, a want for one's self. It is to be expected, from a human."

"Then...what? I am to be denied? If that is so, then so be it. I cannot fight a god. Just promise me one thing."

"A promise? To a human? Name it, I wish to hear what is so important that you feel it must be put to a god."

"All I ask then is that you save the herd, without the power from the horns I cannot take them out of my world, nor protect them within it. And...make the foal forget me, she calls me Daddy." he added with a slight grin, almost to himself

"What you ask, human, is not what I expected."

"Please, all that has been done will be for nothing is someone else were to try what Lothar has already tried."

"I did not say I would not honour your promise. It will just be difficult. Do you feel you are up to it?"

"Sire, I cannot do anything without the horns."

"But with one? Could you do it then?"

"Indeed I could, but I thought..."

"You thought wrong. Your final request was truly from the heart, and embodies what it is to be a unicorn, you thought about the Herd. You have justified yourself, that was all that I requested, and that one requisite has been fulfilled. You will get your wish."

"Yes? You are giving me my wish?"

"Indeed, and now you must go, your herd is waiting." the god's world popped out of his current space-time frame and he reappeared back in his own, the horn touched to his head,

"No! The horn is mine!" called Lothar, and turned away from Adriana, who with barely a whisper dispelled his shields, and struck home. he was enveloped with a boiling mass of energy, and his agonised cries faded and shrunk until they could barely be heard. When the flames had cleared, what was left was a hare, "go, familiar, but remember who your mistress is!" called Adriana, and the animal fled. Mike held the horn to his head and it clicked into place. Strength flooded back into him, his hands and arms seemed once again to be filled with colour. "Yes!" he said, and turned a back-flip in the air. He wandered over to Shawn and touched his horn to his friend's head, healing him. The black eyes and the broken arm were mended almost immediately. He even healed the two who had been fighting Shawn, they got up and nodded their heads before running away, "come, it is over. We need to get the herd home."


Once they were all out of the castle, it seemed to somehow fold in on itself, it collapsed within minutes into rubble, and then into dust which blew away on the wind. Nothing was left but a small circle of standing stones that had formed the foundations, with Lothar's magic gone the unwilling centre pieces were rebelling.

"My word, I haven't cast spells like that my entire life."

"I think it was the stones," said Mike, "they fuelled Lothar's power, and the horn fuelled yours, however our help was willing, those stones may not be strictly alive, but it doesn't mean they want to be part of a castle. And now, I must get my herd home."

"One thing remains before that, Sire," said the unicorn mare, "you must become herd leader or they will not follow you."

"Then I challenge! I will be herd stallion!" said Mike, taking up the correct stance, the sire of the mare reared his head, "I herd stallion!" he said, simply, "I leader!" he charged straight for Mike, the two humans scattered but Mike stood his ground, he set his shoulders and planted his feet, the amazed horse ran full tilt into him and cannoned off, without so much as budging Mike an inch.

"I herd leader! I herd stallion!" none of the horses challenged him, he may look like a human, they decided, but he spoke their language and knew the rules of the herd. He had won. They bowed their heads.

"please, is he okay?" Mike asked the mare

"He is just bruised and shaken."

"I forbid him to leave, yet, make sure he doesn't. We need to get everyone home. But first, they must be healed. They must all become like you." he said. He closed his eyes, and leaned on the mare again, he needed more power than was in the horn on his head alone. He mentally reached out and Looked at the unicorn's blood, right into her genes. He spotted the codes that made up the unicorn traits, and altered what he found in the rest of the herd, including the two horses that had joined them, into mirroring what he found there, making the necessary dual copies for them to become active. The change spread throughout the herd, in every cell in their bodies. Horns sprouted from their foreheads in seconds, becoming fully grown within a minute.

"Oh my god." said Shawn, "this is...impossible!"

"Compared to what, do you think?" said Adriana mildly

"Now, there is one more thing for you to do. If you keep that horn, you will lose your place as leader, and I fear we need your guidance. One will challenge before we are safe, before you have fully completed your tasks. This must not happen. You need more power than my horn, on your head, can bestow. You need the horn resting on my head."

"Then we exchange. Touch horns, I am sure our God will help." the two unicorns touched their horns together, there was a glow of light that enveloped the pair. It expanded to the sound of tearing clothing as Mike's body altered shape. Unsurprisingly, maybe, it gained an extra pair of legs whilst losing arms, a tail was added along with a whole lot more hair.

"Mike? Is that you?"

the black unicorn nodded, "indeed, my friend. Now we have but one task to complete, we must go home."

"Mike? Home? You can't take that lot to your home."

"My home," he said, "is their home. You are going to your home, a place that does not belong to me now. I cannot return, I made a promise and I have to keep it, besides I would die without this horn. This is the only way."

"You...you can't leave me. We're mates! I can't lose you. Don't go."

"I have to. I will not be dead, you know, only gone from this world."

"Can you...you can come back, can't you?"

"Of course. I can take on human form again, and one day I think I may come back, but for now I have to go."

"Then...then it's not good-bye, but just...I'll be seeing you."

"I'll be seeing you, friend. Thank you too, Adriana." Mike turned away from the humans and headed into the circle of stones, the herd followed.

"I told you that you were my Daddy." said the foal, as the glowing light enveloped them, it opened up a wall like a mirror, only three dimensional, onto another world, a grassy plain bordered on one side by mountains and on another by the sea, a lake on the third. To the fourth lay...more than just plains, Shawn knew that.

"You may come too, all of you." called Mike, and threw out a small gem from the remains of his clothes, something he had been carrying in a pocket of his jeans, in his mouth, "to invoke it, simply say so. You may need it to survive if you stay here, for it will become cold at night and many nights will pass before you see home again."

"I can't come with you, I'm human. I have a life I can't leave. But if I need that gem, then I may use it, thanks."

"Use it, and we will meet all the quicker, friend. Know that for whoever invokes it, your fate will be similar to mine, just remember that 'you' is plural, you will need the singular. If you do not use it, though, you may die. I am sorry for that, but again you may live with it unused, come with me and you will surely live in the utmost luxury."

"Again, we cannot, we have people who must be told what has happened, whether they believe us or not is another matter." said Adriana

"Then I will see you later, maybe. Shawn, Adriana." and the window on another world closed as if it had never been, with a tiny thunder-clap as the air flooded into the empty night, leaving only the echoes of Mike's last conversation with the foal and her dam,

"You meant Daddy as in herd leader, didn't you?"

"Of course. What else?" asked the foal

"Never mind, I see I've still got some way to go with this whole translation thing, haven't I?"

"We've got time." said Myst


"They will never believe us, you know, but at least they will not be able to charge us with murder. Nothing's left to prove anything was here, and as far as they are concerned, we went missing many days after Mike disappeared, they will probably think we were captured and probably tortured, so we made it all up to protect our sanity, or something."

"Could be," mused Adriana, looking at the gem, "you know, I really never did find out if this damn thing worked. I never tried to use it because I never exactly knew what it would do."

"What do you know about it?"

"Legend says it contains the powers of a great sorcerer, a dragon-worshipper who was meant to be somehow either whole or partly dragon himself, although born human. He just disappeared, he gave up his powers after accomplishing everything he wanted, and then faded out of the picture."

"Plural 'you', eh? And so all I would have to say is..." Shawn took the jewel from her unresisting hands

"Erm, I suggest you don't..." she was too late

"'I invoke thee'." there was a thunder clap as the jewel lit up the night sky, it spat and flared magic as it worked it's way into Shawn's system.

"Well...he did say we would be cold without it, and I'm certainly not cold now. How about you?"

"It's funny," said Shawn, his voice sounding strangely deeper, and anybody watching would have sworn they saw little jets of flame shoot from his nostrils, of course they would then have spotted that the reason his shadowy figure didn't look quite human was that it was really wholly dragon. He was a coppery-red colour, "it's funny, but I really don't feel cold. Let's get some sleep, I'll think about just what to do in the morning, maybe we should head back to the stones, see if I can get into that other world along with Mike, he said we'd meet again."

"Good idea. Light the fire, will you?"

"Easy said as done."