A Unicorn Is Born by Trinie Dalton
A Unicorn Is Born by Trinie Dalton
My mother told me that to honor our species, firstborn unicorns should bear names that begin with the letter “U.” It’s exciting to imagine names for one’s own baby! I find myself eavesdropping on the conversations of others, just listening for names. My name is Ursula. While I am a unicorn named after a bear — I am, indeed, strong and hairy like a bear — my mother named my astrologically, after the constellation: she saw Ursula major the night I was born, shimmering despite the full moon.
Quinn, my squirrel friend, is teaching me his method for brewing magical tea. I spent six dusks gathering herbs and roots. We’ve stashed pine needles, deerweed blossoms, blue-eyed grass bulbs, and white sage in the blackberry brambles where I like to sit out hot afternoons. I shoveled all of the forest’s offerings into neat piles so that Quinn could choose what to infuse. I also gathered juniper berries, as I understand that they guard against theft, ghosts, and sickness, and keep snakes away. I always keep an abundance of them.
“Juniperus communis can be fatal to an unborn child,” Quinn clicked angrily. He kicked the berries away, rejecting them from his recipe.
“But they smell so good. Besides,” I reminded, ” I can take the poison out.”
Quinn lit up when he saw me piercing each juniper berry with my horn. Little golden sparks flew off the berries as if they were flint.
The story of my horn powers is long. Unicorns are famous for water-conning, and we’re commonly spotted with out heads tilted down, horn to water, purifying streams. I refuse to sip any liquid unless my horn has touched it. Purification is a skill that has taken hundred of years to perfect. Overdoing it can distill the goodness out of something: I could leach out nutritious minerals or deplete the oxygen supply on which fish depend if I were to keep my horn in the stream for too long. Unicorns can cleanse anything with their horns. This purification process is homeopathic — my horn contains a protein that, when combined with poisons, neutralizes them on the spot.The juniper berries are drained of tannins that are too acidic for pregnant unicorns. Quinn understood because he extracts a similar tannin from his acorns. Quinn gathered my cured berries, and felt a little embarrassed that he’d forgotten I could put anything I desired into our tea.
Standing back from Quinn’s medicinal blend, now in a tidy pile ready to scoop into the pot, I relaxed my neck by leaning my head against the wall of our giant bramble den. I ruminated on “U” names. I thought of elders I knew as a child: Ula (or Sea Jewel); Una (All One); Uberto (Bright Heart); Utina (Country Woman); and Uther (Dragonmaster). Then, I started mentally compiling a list to choose from: Unica, Ulysses, Ulivia…
As night fell, Quinn built a little campfire and boiled water over it in a cauldron. He tossed the tea mix in, I gave the water a quick stir with my horn, and we watched it simmer. The tea bubbled, and steam wafted up into my nostrils. The pine-juniper-sage tea has powerful nutty, sugary, and bitter flavors. When the coals had burned down into crackling orange embers, we poised our faces over the pot and lapped up the luxurious drink. Immediately, I felt my coat thicken and grow, just as Quinn has predicted. My coat, mane, forelock, and tail suddenly felt luminous and delicate after the drink. Quinn’s sorcery always works.
“Celestial!” I praised Quinn and scratched my hoof on the dirt in applause.
“So it is. The blend’s called ‘Unusually Musical.’ It encourages poetic language. What, then, will you name the baby?” Quinn chirped, reminding me of our goals this evening. He leaned against the rounded wall opposite me, and tapped his paws on the dandelion flower-covered floor.
“Don’t worry, Ursula. It will come to you…” Quinn looked deep into my eyes.
At that very moment, I yelped, “Uma.”
Quinn smiled. “It’s a girl!”
A Unicorn Is Born by Trinie Dalton is available from Abrams Image.