“The Talking Trees aren’t like any other trees.” Reginald nodded his head repeatedly. It took Melissa a while to understand that he wanted to cheer her up.
“Till we find them, you are welcome at my pond but without the spider please. I might even allow you to comb my mane and sing for me and …”
“No way.” Melissa shook her head . “I won’t sit beside a pond as a unicorn’s hairdresser.”
“My pond is the crown of all unicorn ponds. It might have escaped your attention how difficult it is these days to find your own pond.” Reginald pouted again. The sound of his hooves rang on the rocky path like a drum-roll. He whipped his tail.
I wish he would not be so easily offended. Melissa did not ponder long on how to distract the unicorn. There was so much she wanted to know about this world. She asked him the first thing that came to mind. “Why don’t you stay at the sea? You’d have more than enough water there.”
“My presence isn’t convenient for the mares as long as they teach the foals, and the sea wind spoils my mane. In the past, when the girls from the village still came by to comb my hair, I had the most beautiful mane.” Reginald breathed deeply. “Oh, those were the days. But I am hard to please. Only for a virgin, I will lay my head in her lap …” His voice changed in the middle of the sentence. It became sharper, and he shot a furious look at Melissa. “… or let her ride on me.”
She simply ignored his mood. “I wonder why the girls don’t come visiting any more. Do they prefer the mares?”
“Never. The mares aren’t interested in humans. Also, they are hard to find. I do not know a single one with a fur as purely white as mine. If I consider it properly, no stallion has such a beautiful fur either. No matter what color I select, I always look fantastic.”
Melissa tried to memorize everything Reginald told her about unicorns but his bragging made it hard to believe him. She dug deeper. “Does this mean you can change the color of your fur?”
“Sure. Look. How do you like midnight blue?”
With wide open eyes, Melissa watched the fur change color from the tail to the nostrils. Where just a moment ago a white mane had blown in the wind, her fingers now clasped dark hair studded with as many sparkling stars as the sky.
“This is black,” she said.
“Midnight blue sounds much more romantic, and I am an enormously romantic person.” Reginald’s bell-like voice became softer, more seductive. It lulled Melissa. “Do you want to comb my mane? I know a delightful place nearby where we can rest. You owe me for the ride.”
Leander extended a leg as if to threaten Reginald. “No way. I spared your life. That is more than enough.”
Reginald snorted. To reconcile him, Melissa patted his neck. “Having a rest really sounds nice. Unfortunately, I still am not fully recovered.”
Reginald shook his mane and spoke with his gentlest voice. “Your hand is so soft. Could you pat me a little more?”
Suddenly, Melissa felt like in a dream. The rising sun filled the sky with colors more brilliant than ever. The flowers in the meadows they rode through opened their blossoms and smelled sweeter than anything she had ever smelled, and the song of the birds in the distant woods sounded charming. But to her, the most splendid thing was the unicorn. The stars in his black fur sparkled like distant Galaxies. Bewitched, she extended her hand toward Reginald’s mane.
Pain as from an electric shock flashed along her arm. Astonished, she stared at her hand. A drop of blood welled up from a tiny wound, and her fingers tickled from the poison that had entered her bloodstream through the bite.
Leander looked at her furiously. There was blood at his mandibles. “Never, ever stroke a unicorn. He almost had you. Then, you would have spent the rest of your life combing his hair.”
Melissa stared at him with wide open eyes and massaged her sore hand. She swallowed. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know.”
Abruptly, Leander was no longer furious. “My fault. I should have warned you.”
“It has not been my intention to harm you. My nature forced me. Please, fair maiden – eh, damsel Melissa, forgive a beautiful stallion.” Reginald hung his ears.
Leander clicked his mandibles and jumped from Melissa’s shoulder to Reginald’s neck.