The wise man says these animals
Lust greatly after pretty girls.
This way to catch them is the best,
A youth in woman’s clothes is dressed
And then with dainty steps he flaunts
About the Unicorn’s bright haunts.
For when this creature spies a maid
Straight in her lap he lays his head.
The huntsman, doffing his disguise
Saws off the horn and wins the prize.
16th century, author unknown

Leo, Rummy, Adriana, Sandara, and Ratline stumbled back into the camp, exhausted from their flight, half a day after they had left to follow Caddis. Leo, Adriana, and Sandara stumbled off to their bunks, while Rummy, still mostly awake, sought out Thaduk and filled him in on what had happened with the Captain.

As Rummy and Thaduk chatted, Rummy spotted Ratline out of the corner of his eye, animatedly talking to the crewmen working on the ship. Suspecting the worst, the two half-orc officers steered their own conversation closer to the rat. Sure enough, Ratline was explaining, in great—if largely inaccurate—detail about how they had all been captured by a foul, cannibalistic swamp witch-demon-thing, and how Captain Caddis bravely and futilely held her off so that the others could escape, and, thus, was surely very much dead and they needed to hold elections for a new captain as soon as possible.

“Ratline, get over here, we need to talk…” Rummy yelled. The eager little rat scurried over and Rummy, perhaps to subtly for Thaduk, suggested that Thaduk and Ratline needed to “go share a drink”. Thaduk scooped him up under his arm, giving him a full nose of orcish armpit and they wandered off to where the wine crates had been stacked. A cheerily shared bottle of plum wine later, and Ratline was passed out under a tree.

Rummy, meanwhile, wandered off to find Wunorse, who was overseeing the ship’s repairs and explained that Captain Caddis was not dead, nor captured, but rather was “negotiating” with some locals who might be able to help them deal with the erratic day-night cycles in this place and thus speed up their work, and that the captain would be back as soon as the negotiations were completed. Rummy then suggested that Ratline had been hitting the bottle on the hike back, and was thus, not reliable—pointing to the little rat passed out under a tree hugging an empty bottle of wine as evidence. The workers bought his excuses and spread the word.

Rummy and Thaduk then got some shut eye as best they could through a “day” that, by this time had lasted 29 turns of the glass before growing dark again. Once rested they asked around for Zarina, soon learning that she had set up her bunk in one of the lanterns in the captain’s cabin—rather inaccessible due to the ship being heaved down.

Undeterred, Thaduk slung Rummy over his shoulder, walked over to the ship, and leaped, grabbing the railing of the aft-castle and climbing it like a ladder. Once parallel with the captain’s door, he jumped again, sideways, grabbed the door frame (one-handed) and swung into the room, landing on what had been the starboard wall of the cabin.

The aft lanterns in the cabin were hanging askew, and one was opened, with the oil pan and wick out lying in a corner of the wall-cum-floor. Inside, Zarina had pinned up a hammock, tiny curtains, and other accouterments to turn the large lantern into a very tiny apartment. Rummy, still hanging over Thaduk’s shoulder, banged on the wall until the faerie was roused. When they heard the telltale tinkling-bell sound of her trying to speak, and saw her tiny form stretching and yawning as she flitted out of the lantern, Thaduk finally set Rummy down.

The two of them grilled Zarina on what she knew about unicorns—where to find them, how to catch them, how many she needed. While she was able to give sufficient answers to these questions, it became clear that she was a short of “city pixie” and tended to think of unicorns as dumb herd animals and thus knew little about their actual behavior, habits, or proclivities than was told in the stories of mortals. She did, at least, provide them with a drawing so that they could better tell a unicorn from a skunkalope (multi-talented as she is, an artist she is not).

“Oh!” said Rummy, “I like how you emphasized the horns.”

“Oh! Not one horn,” said Thaduk, “two horns. Fore and aft.”

“Yeah…sure, that works. I’ll take both if you can get ’em. But just the one horn, with one point on the head. No antlers.”

She explained that the herd kept by the Faerie Courts were guarded by ‘herdsmen’, giant flaming fairy creatures, which had driven her off the last time she had tried to steal a couple of unicorns on her own. In order for the ‘flying ship’ plan to work, she said, she would need a lot of unicorn horns in order to sustain flight. Rummy asked if there were any unicorns that might not be protected by herdsmen, or ones that they could buy, to which she replied that they might find some in the cities or towns in Faerie. When asked if the horns would grow back if they just cut them off of a live unicorn, she said, “Yes. It doesn’t take long either. Only twenty or thirty of your years I would guess…”

Armed with what they considered enough information, the two half-orcs grabbed one of the ship’s boats, outfitted it, loaded the long-nine and a few rounds of ordinance in the bow, and readied to head out and go unicorn hunting. They drafted Zarina, Tilly, and Sandara to accompany them, and brought along Fishguts for good measure, figuring the cold, watery ooze-monster would be good in a fight against giant, flaming guardians.

They sailed around the western edge of the peninsula where the Dümplom was careened, and then turned east, following the southern coast of the island, staying just in sight of land. As they rounded the south-western end of the peninsula, Rummy spotted beautiful, white-marble ruins of ancient Grecian design lying on the bottom of the sea, fully submerged, but clearly visible through the sparklingly-clear green water. Along the southern edge of the peninsula, they noted several villages, ranging in size from a handful of huts to towns large enough for several thousand people. These they carefully avoided, lowering their sails and going rowing slowly to avoid being seen or making too much noise.

Finally, after nine hours of sailing, Zarina consulted their charts and pointed out that they were nearing the first likely spot for the migratory unicorn herds, which tended to congregate in the few low-lying grasslands around the island. Rummy spotted a stone breakwater, jutting out into the water next to a long, white-sand beach. Standing at the end of the breakwater was a life-sized red-stone statue of a bearded viking warrior, complete with horned helm, round shield, and broadsword, and draped with a suit of blood-red scale armor which was clearly not part of the carving.

Red_Bull.JPGZarina flew up a bit to get a view of the land and suggested that the unicorns, if present, would most likely be to the north-west, where the ground was lower and flatter, and the floodplain of the river would make the soil more fertile. They pulled the boat up onto shore on the eastern side of the breakwater and lowered the mast to make it easier to conceal, then circled around to investigate the immediate area. Rummy found numerous tracks, most apparently from the same barefoot human(oid), beating a muddy path leading from the woods to the north down to and out onto the breakwater and back, some as recently as only a few hours ago. Thaduk, pointed out an area of the beach to the west, where the otherwise white sand gave way to a wide, glossy-black strip, almost like a road of obsidian leading down to the water. Wondering at the strange road, and tired from the long sail, the unicorn-hunters settled in to rest and watch for a bit before setting out.

They were all jolted awake from their brief doze by the crack of something very heavy striking a hard surface, followed by a loud trumpeting sound. They peaked over the breakwater and saw a massive, fifteen-foot tall flaming bull tromping along the blackened road towards the water. The giant red bull walked down to the water and stuck its head half in, drinking deeply. When it withdrew, it blew great gouts of steam from its nostrils.

In its wake trailed a long line of short equines, each no more than three-feet tall at the shoulder and perhaps four feet in length, and all brightly coloured in various shades of yellow, red, pink, blue, and purple, with overly large eyes and a single short, twisted horn in the center of their foreheads. The unicorns hung back from the bull, clustering in a tight pack, but laughing and chatting loudly in a language unknown to our heroes.


Thaduk stared at the bull, wracking his brain as to why it seemed familiar, then pointed out a folk tale he had heard as a child growing up in Moonplum, about a great bull that chased unicorns. He suggested that if they could force the bull into the water it would be somehow neutralized—though he was very unclear on whether it would kill the beast or just put out the fire. Rummy agreed that that seemed like a decent idea and ordered Fishguts into the water, figuring that if they could get the bull in, the ooze-demon could finish it off.

As Fishguts got close, the bull spotted it, and, snorting, blew a ball of flame out of its nostrils strait into the water, which exploded in a massive gout of steam, scorching Fishguts and halting his advance.

Proceeding with the plan, Tilly conjured a sheet of ice onto the glassy path under the bull’s feet. Sandara conjured a wave, drawing the moisture out of the wet sand behind the bull into a small wave to try to push it in, but the water boiled off and vaporized as it neared the bull’s fiery aura. Seeing the ice starting to melt, Zarina threw a fire resistance spell on Thaduk. The big orc then leaped up, raged out, and charged the bull at full speed. The bull, however, was quick, and turned lowering its head to intercept Thaduk, and impaled Thaduk with its horns.

Seeing the enraged orc charging in, the unicorns panicked, scattering and running away from the beach. The bull reacted to their flight by charging strait over Thaduk, trampling him into the sand to catch its charges. Then one of the unicorns, a good bit taller and thinner in build than the others, stepped forward. There was a flash of light from its horn—which was nearly two feet in length—and the unicorns immediately calmed down and began an organized, orderly withdraw back the way they had come along the black road.

Zarina chimed in Rummy’s ear, “They’re getting away!” She then turned invisible and flew off after the escaping unicorns, tossing bombs filled with sleep-inducing pixie dust after them. Rummy, Tilly, and Sandara meanwhile got the cannon from their boat into firing position and let fly at the bull. The shot hit the Red Bull in the shoulder, sending it staggering off the black road and into the sand, where its red-hot hooves immediately began to melt the sand, binding up its feet in the viscous glaze.

As the Red Bull struggled to get back onto the road, Fishguts emerged from the water and began hammering at the bull with its icy-cold pseudopods. Thaduk, meanwhile, pulled himself up from the dirt, chugged a couple of healing potions, and pulled out a spear. He then charged the bull full tilt from behind. Distracted by Fishguts and the melting sand around its feet, the bull was caught completely unawares by the Thaduk and impaled by seven feet of sharpened timber strait up the ass.

The bull tried to turn to attack this new threat, but Thaduk dug in his heels and, using the spear as a lever and the bull’s own momentum, tipped the bull head-first into Fishgut’s mass. The bull’s flames went out, but Thaduk could see faint flickers running along its flesh, mending its wounds. Thaduk yanked out the spear, leaped on the bull’s head, and stabbed it strait in the spine, almost completely severing the head. A few yanks made the decapitation complete and he stood, holding the half-ton bull head aloft and yelling, “Look! I got two horns for you!”

By then, a score of unicorns lay unconscious on the ground from Zarina’s sleep-bombs. Stepping out of the herd, the slender unicorn lowered her horn towards the party and unleashed a blinding flash of light. Thaduk blinked against the brightness, but sure that he saw, not a unicorn standing there, but a beautiful woman, tall and slender like the unicorn, with ankle-length white-blonde hair. Unfazed by the flash thanks to the distance between them, Rummy and the crew reloaded the cannon and fired at the unicorn, sending it sprawling into the sand with the sound of breaking bones.

When it stood up again, it was entirely humanoid, much as Thaduk had seen, with a brilliant, jeweled bindi in the center of her forehead where the horn would be. One arm of the unicorn-woman hung lifeless, the other waved a hand above her head and shouted something at them in the same unknown tongue the other unicorns had been using. “Non mittet in eam. Nos dedite!”

To be continued…