Melissa was surprised. “There are truly unicorns in this world?”
Leander nodded and hopped up and down merrily. “They migrate back from the sea to the woods at this time of the year.”
“What are unicorns doing by the sea?” Melissa was confused.
Leander clicked impatiently with his mandibles. “They have their eggs hatched by the sun. When the foals are big enough, they go back to the woods again.”
Melissa raised her eyebrows. “They are hatched from eggs?”
“Don’t you know anything at all about unicorns?”
She shook her head. “In my world, unicorns only exist in the fantasy of peoples. No one truly believes in them.”
Leander cocked his head. “No wonder you don’t have any. They are very touchy when it comes to the attention of people. You’ll see.” He stretched himself and looked around. “After I got you some food, I’ll look for a good place where to build a net.” He buzzed off, back to the valley of his mother.
Melissa wanted to call after him that she wouldn’t eat any raw meat but refrained from it. She feared to draw the attention of Leander’s mother.
A little later, the little spider returned. On his back, he balanced a violet fruit that reminded Melissa of a pear. “The rabbits always eat this, so it can’t be poisonous. I could bring you nothing of our food or my family wouldn’t have enough.”
Melissa assured Leander that the fruit was exactly the right food for her. Warily, she took a bite. Sweet juice shot out off the fruit and filled her mouth. She swallowed and chewed with pleasure while Leander ran to and fro to get more fruits. When Melissa was full, she ripped a stripe from her summer dress and wrapped up the leftovers. She yawned.
Leander looked at her and cocked his head. “Rest a little. We need you as bait later. Nothing seems so attract a unicorn better than a virgin. Meanwhile, I will build a net.”
Melissa nodded gratefully, closed her eyes and leaned back.
Doubtingly, Melissa stared at the unicorn they had caught in the net. The snow-white stallion thrashed with his hooves tangling himself up more tightly in the sticky threads. He wasn’t much bigger than a Shetland pony.
“Oh, help me, fair Maiden, before the Unnamed Fright comes and devours me.” His voice made Melissa think of silvery sparkling rivulets. The fear in his eyes became panic when he saw Leander. He thrashed about so wild that he could hardly breathe. When the spider approached his head, he stiffened. Melissa could see the white of his eyes.
“What a beauty.” Leander bit a thread that had wrapped around the unicorn’s throat.
Melissa looked at him. “Isn’t he a bit small?”
“No. Actually, he is rather big for a unicorn. He will be able carry you without difficulties.”
When the unicorn understood that it was to be ridden it became more courageous and protested. “I cannot carry anyone. I am weak, my health is precious. Also, my neat fur would suffer. Something like that cannot be asked of me.” With his thin legs, the slim body and the daintily twisted horn, the unicorn seemed hardly strong enough to defy a breeze.
Melissa believed him. “You heard it. He can’t carry me.”
Furious, Leander clicked with his mandibles. He climbed the neck of the unicorn till he was at eye level with Melissa. “You don’t understand, human! Unicorns aren’t just strong, they are magical. As long as he doesn’t leave the Unicorn Paths, no animal of this world can catch up with him, not even if he’s heavily loaded.”
Melissa understood what Leander had in mind. “That means that neither your mother nor the Rocs could follow me. What are Unicorn Paths?”
“Traditional migration trails of the unicorns.” Leander clicked his mandibles and leant over the stallion. “If you don’t want to help, we will just catch another unicorn. My family will like you a lot.”
The stallion’s whole body trembled. “I will do anything but please spare me! I will carry the fair Maiden wherever her heart desires but please promise not to consume me.”
As fast as he could, Leander nibbled through the silken threads. A little later, the stallion stood with the back to the rock. He still trembled. Leander catapulted himself up. Frightened, the stallion jumped aside but the little spider landed exactly on his back.
“I will come along so that you won’t deceive Melissa.”
“Leander, where are you? Leander, darling!” The mother spider’s voice boomed through the ravine as she shoved her body from the spider’s valley.