Once upon a time in a land not so far away, there was a queen.
Which isn’t that surprising.
After all, this world is filled with kings and queens.
This particular queen sat by the side of the long pool, dipping her fingers in the water to watch the ripples spread across the water. There was rarely anyone else at the pool, other than the lifeguard. From what she had observed, his time as a “lifeguard” was mostly spent cleaning out the leaves that had fallen into the water. She wondered if this weighed on him. It would have weighed on her. Maybe he should offer swim lessons to people. People might be less afraid of the water if they knew how to swim.
Maybe she should figure out her own life before she offered advice to others she chided herself silently. After all she was a queen who had received an order to stay in the castle. She was told the order was for her benefit, to keep her safe.
But laws were not enough to keep people safe, they never had been. All the stories she had read, in different ways, pointed to this truth. She had yet, however, been able to figure out how to convince other people of this truth. She sighed deeply and lulled more ripples across the water with her fingertips. Watching the water shimmering in the sunlight, she noticed in it the reflection of a unicorn behind her.
To ensure the integrity of the water’s reflection (and her sanity) she turned, finding the magnificent animal standing a few feet behind where she was sitting.
“Good morning,” said the unicorn.
“Good morning” replied the queen. “Though it isn’t actually morning” she realized aloud.
The unicorn neighed in a manner that sounded like a laugh.
“I said good morning to indicate the start of a new beginning,” he said.
“Ahhh. And what is beginning?” she asked.
“Your journey of course,” he replied in a matter-of-fact tone.
“Ohhh. Well…. I hadn’t quite decided what to do yet. If, if I was going to take a journey. Or if I was just going to…” the queen’s voice trailed off. She was ashamed to admit aloud the other option she had been considering.
Luckily for her, the unicorn didn’t seem to notice.
“Of course you’re going on your journey. You’re a daughter of Nobility. Royal blood flows through you does it not?”
At this acknowledgment the queen’s posture to return to its upright position, a silent acknowledgment of noble roots.
“I see it does.” said the unicorn. “You can choose to lay by the pool as long as you like my queen. But know this, by design noble blood is thick; it will not let you shrink.”
The queen bit her bottom lip and averted her gaze from the unicorn to the sway of trees behind the pool. She did not want him to see the tears that were filling her eyes. “It’s…..I am so tired,” she whispered. Her acknowledgment broke the floodgates and streams began to flow down her cheeks. “And I do not know the way”.
Most of the time when crying, it is immensely beneficial to have a shoulder to cry on. But unicorns are not known for having these types of shoulders.
“You are tired because of what you have let weigh you down. Such weight would kill nearly anyone. When you refuse to act on what you know, all that you do not know paralyzes you. Do not make excuses for your lack of action.” The unicorn’s rebuke was firm but his tone was kind.
Wiping the tears from her eyes she shot the unicorn a sharp incredulous look. She rose to her feet to look him square in the eyes, finding she still had to look up in order to do so.
“Who sent you here?’ She demanded, planting her hands on her hips in a firm power stance.
“My queen, do not ask questions to which you already know the answer.” The unicorn stepped towards her and bowed his gold-flaked ivory horn between her arm and rib cage. Then, with a swift lift of his head, he broke her stance.
She stumbled back to catch her footing and caught his meaning as well.
Unicorns had only ever followed the King.
A wave of relief rushed over her. “The King… Is she coming??”
“Are you prepared for the King’s arrival?”
“Of course! I’ve been waiting for her. I need her to fix things!
I don’t…I don’t know what to do. I’ve had everything taken away.
I don’t have resources to start my journey” she said.
The unicorn looked down at the firm quad muscles that formed the queen’s legs.
“Seems to me like you do” he noted.
The queen’s eyes widened.
“I am to start my journey with nothing?” she asked her chinned dropping slightly.
“According to the stories of old my queen, starting with nothing has quite a grand tradition.” reminded the Unicorn.
A smile brushed her lips. “You are right” she whispered.
But a deep groan shattered out of her chest and crumbled her to the ground. “Why do I feel so heavy then? Where is justice!!!! How can this be right?!? It doesn’t feel fair. Why…why must it be this way?!?! How can..”
The unicorn interrupted her lamenting.
“Close your eyes, my queen. Recall some of the great stories. Within all of them, there is a search. A longing that pulses through each heart for justice. For wrongs to be made right. Tasting injustice causes one’s longing for justice to deepen. But justice alone is not enough.
A forensic view of suffering is long on justice, but short on love. And without love…”
“It is nothing” the queen replied, her tone barely above a whisper.
“Correct,” said the unicorn.
His pace of speech slowed;
“Sometimes, righting a single injustice isn’t enough. If that single injustice is the least wrong thing in the entire system. Sometimes, to undo all the wrongs, you have to undo the system.”
The queen sighed deeply, her forehead wrinkled in thought.
Nothing he said was untrue, though she didn’t know exactly what he meant.
She did know that none of it eased the weight that bore down on her chest.
But the King loved her, so she would act. Wouldn’t she?
She also knew better than to tell the King what she was going to do.
The queen’s heart billowed with sorrow, anger, and longing. She hugged her legs to her chest, rested the side of her cheek atop her knees, and closed her eyes.
The unicorn studied her face, noting the tears silently sneaking out of her shut gates.
“May I smell you, my queen? I would like to better understand your pain.”
According to the stories of old, to be smelled by a unicorn was an honor. To her, it seemed slightly terrifying. She thought back to the rhyme she had learned as a child:
‘Dead things will lay where they are placed; Nursery or morgue, you decide what to create.’
Had she tended the wounds she’d been given over the years so that life could grow? She had tried.
“You may” she granted, her voice quivering. She returned to her feet and opened her arms to the sides. Her eyelids embracing, she swept warm summer air into her lungs, filling them to the brim. Slowly, she exhaled and let a soft midst drift out from between her lips.
The unicorn stepped through the midst and pressed his nose against her chest. His nostrils flared wide as took a deep inhale. The warmth of his exhale blew through her chest. Pools of tears began to form in his eyes. The wind from his breath stirred her heart. It began to glow, each pulse illuminating brighter and brighter till sun-like rays were shooting through her veins and her entire body was radiant. He lifted his nose to her head, his warm lips moved in a crescent shape atop it. His tears, warm glowing stars, splashed off her head and shoulders, giving off a faint campfire sent as they fell to her feet.
“Mmmmmmmhhhhmmmmm. Thank you.”
The unicorn’s tone had changed. Or perhaps she had changed. She wasn’t sure which was true but she knew his words moved her deeper than before. She felt like she had stumbled into a beautiful memory and never wanted to leave.
“A great multitude of people have seen you and read ‘woman’ and gleaned impressionable, pretty, and docile.”
Tears filled the queen’s eyes in acknowledgment of this truth.
“But they misread you!”
His front hoofs struck the ground as he said this; his words drenched in deep rich anger, the kind that arises from understanding the pain of another.
“You have the heart of a strong forest and the bones of noble cathedrals. Your blood is like the sap of a heartnut tree. I do not know what all lies ahead for you. But I smell within you a story of courage so strong that it will topple all obstacles foolish enough to get in your way.”
His words were ones she had unknowingly longed to hear for her entire life. They sealed in the light that now pulsed through her veins. She felt fuller, freer than she had ever felt before.
Without thinking to ask, she sprung forward and embraced as much of his body as she could. “Thank you,” she said. Her words, though slightly muffled by her face pressed against his neck, held a dauntless genuineness.
As unicorns never mind any actions or expressions driven by a pure intention, he did not mind hers.
“Of course my Queen” he snickered. He leaned his head against hers, returning her embrace.
“Know the strength you need to complete your journey, can only be found in the battles you face along the way.
But not every battle that beckons is worthy of your blood.
Do not run from battle, but do be cunning. If the battle is unavoidable, it will come to you.” he said solemnly.
She rested the side of her head on his neck, taking in all he had said. A mischievous grin slid onto her face. “Well…… I guess it’s good running has never been my strong suit,” she said in a matter-of-fact manner.
A deep belly laugh poured out of the unicorn. “Indeed it is. Very good indeed,” he confirmed.
She ran her fingers through the shimmering silk-like hair of his mane. “May I ask for a gift?” she said after a few minutes.
The unicorn smiled at the gentleness with which she made such a bold request.
“What would you ask?” he replied.
“On my journey, I would like not to see what I don’t need too” said the queen. She took a step back so he could see her eyes and the intention of her heart.
“You wish to play the role of a fool?” he questioned sternly.
“I wish to play the role of one who is foolish enough to believe the fairytale to be true” she corrected.
The confidence and simplicity of her response made him chuckle and his hoofs give small, joyful prance (known to dancers as a hoofrance).
“You may have your gift. Close your eyes, look up”.
As she did he lowered his head to the ground. He gently picked up one of his fallen tears by her feet with his mouth, tenderly setting the bundle of stars atop her eyelid. Like a wisp of cotton candy on a tongue, it vanished. He repeated the same with her other eye.
“There. This will help you to see things from a higher viewpoint. And blur that which will not aid you.” he said.
Opening her eyes, she blinked quickly several times, helping the stars to nestle in. Once they had, she embraced the unicorn again.
“Thank you,” she said, her face pressed to his forehead.
“I have lingered long enough. I will begin.”
“Go,” he said, his voice full of warmth and blessing.
Her eyes twinkling, she set off.
At the gate she didn’t think to look back for a last look, there was too much she was looking forward to. Over the next years, there were moments she found herself longing for comforts from the castle.
But she never regretted leaving it behind.
Because after all, she was the daughter of Nobility.
And her blood was not designed to shrink.