Part one, by Stephanie Ayers
He stands stoic and strong along the edge of the forest, his perch chosen carefully at the top of the mountain. His nostrils pulse as he breathes in the wind flowing from the south. The forest is quiet for a midsummer afternoon. Too quiet. He was used to the sound of the chickadees and wood thrushes battling it out in a cacophony of song competition, waiting for the nuthatches and warblers to join in. The small creatures of the forest would cheer them on from under the green canopy. White tails would decorate the open field, polka dots in the ocean of ambers and greens, grazing contentedly in the long grain.
There is an absence of movement, as if a great void has filled the world and sucked away the living. Only the wind breathes, subtly, each gust cooler than the last, until the hairs in his nose feel thick from the cold. He snorts, the air from his nostrils creating smoke that billows like cirrus clouds along each side of his body. Muscles flex, he lifts a hoof, extending it, bending, and scratching the earth with it before returning next to its twin. The crystalline sky turns ebony as the air chills, bringing with it a sense of defeat he can only smell. Chival’s horn feels feverish, the heat creeping slowly upwards with increased intensity as butterflies take flight in his intestines. The spark in the air spills its secret that something is happening.
The sky ushers a deafening roar, the lightning crackling impatiently on its heels. The afternoon becomes midnight and a waterfall descends from the sky. The lightning flickers again, striking a tree branch in its wake. A flock of cardinals takes to the air as the branch plummets to the earth, and the tree mourns its loss. The rain is scorching on his hide, choking the air. He nickers in surprise as hailstones land on his back, sending him leaping for cover in the forest, his tail waving a pale goodbye to the field.
The earth shudders beneath his hooves and he stops. A familiar malodor desecrates the air. No! He screams as the wind becomes an echo bouncing from tree to tree. He is here. His neck lifts, his legs straighten, his back arches smoothly in pride. This is my forest. I am the King here and there can only be one King. I will have patience, and he will see. He will see.
The white stuff under his hooves does nothing to abate his temper. The snow comes down quickly as the storm leaves. All the creatures in the forest flee to their dens, sensing that something is not right. The snow continues falling and sticks, turning the viridian landscape white. His horn glows with a yellow haze easily seen from the other side of the planet. It is a warning to the intruder already shaking the earth with his footfalls.
Yellow flashes between the trees are seen intermittently, a reminder that there is an alien in their midst. Chival nickers loudly from within the forest in warning, daring the intruder to come closer. More heavy footfalls and the repulsive stench is closer. The alien remains hidden. He is disappointed.
Patience, he again reminds himself. He knows the longer it takes to encounter his enemy, the better he will know him. He has issues that are more pressing anyway. His nostrils flare in disgust as he turns away. Water spills from his eyes as he beholds the world beneath him. Where once stood a field is nothing but blackness, smoke; the land once teeming with life is charred and barren. Not a stalk of grain remains and the animals that once lived in the field have moved on to begin their next afterlife.
This is what concerns him most. Stars do not just drop from the sky; at least they never have before in his one hundred fifty years on this world. He can feel it shifting beneath his hooves, steel on ice now, and Winter seemingly comfortable in her new home. He must protect his forest from the evil now lurking within it. There is no other choice.
He moves down the mountain to take a closer look, choosing his steps carefully lest he fall. Small shoots have started rising up from the singed earth though no water has fallen since the Great Storm swept by. His hair rises and a chill runs through him. A vileness fills the air, and though the shoots represent new birth, the stench tells otherwise. A flash of yellow darts through the trees, revealing more of the intruder to Chival’s watching eyes.
The great cat! Chival’s mind races. His forest is in greater danger than he thought. A carnivore has invaded. Run, children, run!
Part two, by Chelle of A Writer is Born
Chival’s fluorescent eyes narrow, watching trees waver, resembling fine puffs of mist. Muscles constricting, his stance signals he is prepared to defend his kingdom. Wisps of lavender escape from the forest, competing against the overpowering reminders of despair and decay. The familiar scent of lavender taunts a memory banished long ago into the depths of disbelief. Tentacles of whispers rise from the crevasses of his pain, pushing, prodding him to face his greatest denial. Snorting in despair, he rises on hind legs, conveying his intentions.
Long before Chival’s reign, it was deemed a mirror image of him would undo all of which was known to the kingdom. The elders placed staunch predictions within his mind of the prophecy. Warnings he’d chosen to ignore, confident blood lines held stronger legions of loyalty than words written hundreds of years prior. He’d refused to take under advisement words which held little to no truth. It mattered not the objective guidance of the elders carefully selected to advise Chival. Mendacious arrogance may have cost him far more than he’d anticipated.
His senses cause him to move forward, slowly, eyes fixated on the intermittent yellow hue flickering through the trees. Head lifted, nostrils detect a subtle shift of essence in the air. His hoof stumbles on a loose rock, awkwardly launching his body forward. Madness propels itself into his mind’s eye, blinding him with fragmented memories of another. Gaining control of his footing quickly, nausea plunges through his heart as the familiar scent transforms into a peculiar mixture of freshly plowed earth tempered with murky undertones. The enemy was far more powerful than he’d anticipated.
Sadness competes with rage as Chival heedfully approaches the yellow hue beckoning him. It is written in the scrolls what is to take place. Resistance mars his thoughts as distant resplendent eyes flicker across the whiteness. He wonders if those who have penned his destiny have accounted for unexpected changes. Grievously, he realizes all were blinded by the depths of resentment.
His steps falter as his eyes drink in the sight before him. His mind races to catch up with what is captured in his vision. Disbelief courses through his veins, as he resists the urge to disintegrate into flames of torment. The one element, which had sustained him for the last one hundred years shattered before his very eyes. Instantaneously, loyalty ceases to be an option for Chival.
Part Three, by Shannon of thesqueakywheelblog
For a millisecond, Chival’s gnarled horn flashed with a brilliance of light and heat so intense it seemed that he could have set the sky itself on fire with a passing thought.
The future borne of the prophecy flashed across his inner vision –the great and evil cat, rolling shoulders stalking a land torn asunder, Chival at his side, his right hand. Eyes that had gleamed with strength and pride now scanned the horizon, flat and black. The revulsion that speared Chival to his core was deep enough to shake the dregs of the prophecy’s weight from his mind.
Muscles honed over a century bunched, the spark returned to his eyes, beaming lamps in the murk of his desolate forest. His neck elongated, he threw his head back, and opened his mouth. From a place that he hadn’t known existed came a roar the likes of which no creature had ever heard before. The insouciance of the enemy faltered, yellow flickering through the tree trunks halted.
“Come to me, coward!” Chival bellowed. “I am the only rightful king of this place! You will come forward, and you will pay the price of the interloper!”
Scarred and filthy paws the size of a warrior’s shield padded from the broken tree line of their own accord. The cat’s huge head shook back and forth with agitation, dried blood and twigs falling from his wild mane.
Charred grass crackled into ash under their feet with little pfft sounds as the two mightiest creatures in creation circled each other. The cat eyed Chival with a manic amber glint, and the unicorn blazed right back in shades not found anywhere else in nature. The shoots who had prematurely begun their quest for the sun rustled under hooves and paws, wakening to the quickening air around them.
It was allegory come to life, a showdown of good versus evil, of shadow against light. Chival knew in his heart that one would never eradicate the other, it was an impossibility. All he could do was fight to have the upper-hand. In that moment, he realized his enemy’s weakness. The cat did not have a purpose to fight for; he didn’t stand for anyone, even himself. He fought only for the descent of darkness, the amusement of destruction.
Chival stopped pacing and stood, head and shoulders above the cat, proud and calm. He leaned forward slowly, watched a lip curl over teeth as sharp as razor blades and long as a man’s forearm. “Charge me” he whispered, and danced backwards.
Two mammoth front legs came off the ground into a fighting stance and Sicara loosed a big cat’s feral snarl, pounced. A claw tore through pearlescent grey hide before a hoof collided with his jaw, snapping his head backwards. He growled, circled around low, and tried to come from the side to grab a leg and hobble his ancient enemy.
Chival laughed even as dull gold fluid oozed from his wound. Soot stirred into the air and into Sicara’s eyes as the unicorn dug in his hooves to spin around and face the cat again. “There is no victory here for you today, Sicara.”
The cat stopped his search for a weakness and snuffled out a laugh of his own. In a voice like a falling mountain of gravel he said, “I am not the one who bleeds, Chival.”
“I am the one who bleeds, you’re right. I bleed for my land.” So saying, Chival bent his back legs until he sat, looking both ridiculous and regal. A single drop of blood fell from his flank to the ground. A flash so bright it reversed black and white on the color spectrum destroyed their vision.
As it cleared, Sicara had done with talking and lunged forward. He went nowhere. Startled, he yanked his legs up and back as hard as he could and still went nowhere. Clarity returning, he blinked and tried to focus on his feet. Vines, roots and flowers wrapped his legs from toes to belly and held him immobile.
Chival stood, unfolding to his full height, and stepped closer until he could feel the cat’s breath huffing against his chest, fetid and heated. “My land can defend itself, you see. My responsibility this day is ensuring that this is something you can never forget.”
Death was not what Chival was dealing out. So hot that it slid in like it was melted wax, the horn cleanly took out the great cat’s left eye.
“You are now marked trespasser and the stink of your evil will never taint this land again.”