Tas don a tria pountra.
The lilting, soft voice was such a contrast to the dark words. Fallon waited for Tieve to finish her spell, and out of the corner of his eye, he noticed the flames of the candles began to flicker.
Tas don a tria puntra.
Repetition was a key element of magic; this was a known thing. It was often one of the first lessons. Power came in numbers like three. Fallon had learned this long ago, so long that he almost didn’t remember when. He vaguely wondered when Tieve might have learned it. She was just a hedge witch after all.
Again, he felt the pang of doubt and worry in his gut. He could not perform this spell, but to trust a relative stranger with it seemed a fool’s errand.
Fallon was not known as a fool, but he was wise enough to know that fools came in all forms, including wise old sorcerers.
Tas don a tria puntra valos ascenta.
Tieve raised her arms and brought them down again as she ended the spell. Fallon’s breath caught as he waited. The runes that had appeared at the beginning of the spell had vanished and the candles had blown out at Tieve’s final words. Fallon could see nothing in the darkness, but he could hear the hedge witch’s breath. He had thought they were still alone.
Until a low whisper disabused him of that notion, “Who disturbs my slumber?”
The voice caused a shiver to roll up Fallon’s spine though he did his best to suppress the physical effect. He heard Tieve gasp from her spot and guessed her to be looking desperately for the source of the voice. Fallon had only given the young lass the basics when he asked for her assistance. She’d been satisfied enough with the sparse information once she confirmed his silver pieces weren’t fake.
Fallon answered, his own voice steady and strong, “I do. We require your assistance.”
A braying sound like laughter answered him. “I do not assist anyone, child. I do as I please, summons or no.”
It took Fallon a moment to recognize that he was the one being called a child. At 73 years old, it had been decades since he’d actually been one. But to an immortal being, he supposed almost anyone could be called a child. His eyes scanned the room, looking for the presence he’d brought forth. But he saw nothing in the darkness, not even Tieve.
“Yes, but we need your tears to banish the plague of the land.”
The strange laugh answered him once more. “Why should I cry? I care nothing for the lives of humans. All you know is greed, lust and your own desires. You know nothing of what is good in this world.”
Fallon still didn’t know where the voice was coming from. It seemed impossible in such a small space, but he supposed he should know better. Creatures like the one he summoned didn’t abide by such arbitrary rules that humanity and nature might provide. “Humans do know good. We know love and caring and virtue.”
“Love,” the word almost seemed mocking. “Love did not call me here. It was coin. Tell me wizard, do you even know the girl’s name?”
Tieve finally found her voice again, her fear gone, “I am Tieve. And what do you know of humanity? Coin helps living.”
Fallon almost thought he saw a head move, turning from him to the young woman. But he wasn’t sure if it was a trick of his imagination. He did not know Tieve, but he wanted no harm to come to her either. She had summoned the creature, but he assumed the responsibility of it. “Leave Tieve alone, I am the one who summoned you.”
“Old men cannot summon me; only maidens may do so. It was her will, her words, her way.” Fallon felt dismissed and bridled under the implication.
But Tieve answered, “The old man spoke true. Our village is dying, only you can help us.”
“What does a maid care? You are young and strong.”
“The illness is taking the old and young alike. And I may be young and strong, but my grandmother is not.”
Fallon knew nothing of Tieve’s grandmother. He knew little of Tieve other than he was told that she could perform as he needed, but she was surprising him. He’d expect her to bolt when the creature had been summoned and anticipated dealing with the problems that might be caused by himself. But the young woman proved to be more resilient than he’d expected.
The presence, which had seemed to be pacing, stopped. The voice came strong, “You care for your grandmother?”
“Of course I do. She taught me the witching ways.”
“I don’t care much for witches.” The pacing seemed to be back again though Fallon could still see nothing in the darkness.
Fallon’s baritone answered, “You don’t seem to care much for anything at all.”
The pacing stopped. “I will not speak to you. Answer again and I shall leave.”
Fallon’s mouth closed and he looked to where Tieve stood. He felt frustrated by such powerlessness, but it relied on her now. She asked, “Why should you not answer to the truth?”
The pacing returned. “I answer to who and what I will.”
“You speak of truth and love, yet you seem to know neither.”
“I know more than you shall, child.”
Fallon could almost see the twinkle in Tieve’s eyes. He remembered that they were green, he’d thought them lovely combined with her auburn hair. “Then why do I have the power to summon you?”
The pacing stopped again. He could only see it in his mind, but Fallon imagined the creature facing Tieve. “I have countless years of wisdom and power…”
“Yet you answer a maid’s call. It’s common knowledge that all of your kind do.”
Fallon could hear the bristling at such an accusation, probably because it was true. “What do you want from me?”
“Why should I cry?”
“Cry for yourself if you must. Cry for my grandmother, who might die of illness. Who will certainly die someday. Cry for the old man here, who can do nothing but watch as we negotiate what might save the village. Cry for whatever your heart desires. I care not.”
“What do you care for, maid?”
Fallon waited for her answer. How he wished he could advise her. She hesitated but then said, “I care for my grandmother. I care for my mama and papa. I care for my brothers and sister. I care for all those suffering.”
“If you care so much, why take payment?” The voice was sharp and biting.
“Caring does not mean foolishness.”
Silence reigned and Fallon longed to end it. He had so many points to raise. So many things to say. This whole operation had been his plan in the first place, yet he knew the threat to leave hadn’t been an idle one. So he remained quiet, letting it reign.
Finally the flames of the candles reignited and for the first time, Fallon saw what he’d summoned in full form. The creature faced Tieve, its chocolate brown eyes connecting with hers. Its coat of pure white shone in the light, almost so bright as to blind.
Unicorns were truly as beautiful as the legends said.
“Alright, I shall cry for you, maid.”
“Tieve,” the young woman smiled in response.
“Tieve,” the unicorn answered.