4th Place – Evan Guilford-Blake

The Tale of the Unicorn

 

Come gather ye round and listen ye well

        To the tale of the Unicorn.

Surely you’ve wondered as you’ve slipped toward your dreams

        How this glorious creature was born.

Well, this is the story; and truly it’s true —

        ’Twas told to me by a Gnome

One day as we lunched upon cloverleaf pie

        ’Neath the mushroom that he called home.

“Seems that once on a time — this is long, long ago”

        Said the Gnome as he poured snowball tea,

“There were beasts that you’ll see only rarely today

        Like the One-Dimpled Blonde Kimberly.”

Now the Kimberly’s coat was as black as the night

        “And its mane tawny blonde” (so he claimed),

And on each one’s cheek — us’l’y the right —

        Was the dimple for which it was named.

They frolicked and played with the fairies “(and Gnomes!)”

        In a mountainous land known as Kana.

“And happy we were, for the land was at peace

        Under rule of the Fairy Queen, Hana.”

But alas, in those days near the peak of one mount

        Lived an Ogre named Max Terra Tremens.

And oh! he was grouchy, for he lived all alone

        And dined mainly on cactus and lemons.

“’Twas the first day of summer of that long-ago year

        And Queen Hana was gathering dew

With the help of a Kimberly — Kimbers by name —

        And luckily I was there too.

“It’s lucky, I tell you, for had I not been

        There would be no Unicorn’s tale.”

For just then, down his mountain came Max Terra Tremens

        With a roar that would turn Goblins pale.

“Well, things happened so quickly we scarce knew what had

        For his hand made a sweep, then came back

And the next that I knew, there was Queen Hana flailing

        As the Ogre dropped her in his sack.

“With an Ogre-ish laugh he drew the sack closed

        And bound the top tight with a twine.

Then he bellowed: ‘This evening on fine fairy stew

        With fresh ground black pepper I’ll dine.’

“Then back up the mountain he raced with the Queen

        And his footsteps, they made the ground shiver.

And I looked at Kimbers and she looked at me

        And all we could do, friend, was shiver.”

And just at that moment the Gnome shook his head,

        Then he said with a terrible sigh:

“I’ll tell you, my friend, it didn’t look good.

        Will you have some more cloverleaf pie?”

“Yes, thank you” I said, and we each took another

        For it had a most delicate flavor.

Then again he began: “Well, an Ogre is big

        But a Kimberly’s many times braver.

“Hardly a moment had passed by when Kimbers

        Pawed the ground and shook her blonde mane.

‘Quickly’ she said to me ‘Climb on, we’ll rescue

        The Queen from the Ogre’s domain.’

“So climb on I did; and as fast as she could

        O’er those steep, craggy rocks Kimbers hurried.

But with each step she took, the afternoon sun

        Fell lower, and friend, we were worried.

“Then at last we arrived at the mouth of a cave;

        It was his, there could be no doubt

For a sign said: ‘In this cave dwells Max Terra Tremens

        And if you’re wise you’ll KEEP OUT!’

“Now no one you’ll meet dares say Gnomes are not wise;

        Still I climbed down and tiptoed on through

And we crept till we came to a room where a table

        Held a great steaming pot — full of stew!

“‘Alas!’ we both cried and we stared at the pot

        For it surely seemed we were too late.

And we both began weeping. ‘Oh, Kimbers,’ I said

        Poor Queen Hana is probably —

                                                          ‘Wait!’

 

“For just then we heard a soft flapping of wings

        And a soft, tiny fairy voice cried:

‘Let me out!’ –

                      ‘Look’

                                    said Kimbers

               ‘On the wall, o’er the mantel –

        There’s a cage with Queen Hana inside.’

“Well, that mantel was taller than nine or ten Gnomes

        (For a Gnome is just not very tall);

But the Kimberly reared and stretched far as she could

        And her nose tipped the cage from the wall.

“I climbed to the table as it fell; and I caught it,

        Turned the latch, and she flew from the cage.

Then we all turned to leave and right there in our path

        Stood the Ogre, his eyes filled with rage.

“‘You’ve stolen my dinner!’ he roared; then he laughed

        And the sound shook his whole mountain home.

‘But there’s one meal that’s finer than plain Fairy stew:

        Stew of Kimberly, Fairy and Gnome!’

“‘Uh-oh’ I murmured, and ran ’cross the table

        But one step and the Ogre kept pace;

Then my foot brushed a bowl and I grabbed it and hurled

        Whatever it was in his face

“And he stopped; and he blinked; then his eyes filled with tears

        And wider and wider they grew;

Then he drew back his head … and he opened his mouth …

        And out with a roar came: ‘AH-CHOO!

 

“‘Ah-ah-choo’ roared the Ogre. ‘Ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-choo!’

        And again and again, ‘Ah-ah-choo!’”

For you see, in the bowl that the Gnome had thrown at him

        Was the fresh ground black pepper for his stew.

“Well, we left him there sneezing and ran down the mountain

        Though we heard him half-way to the ground.

And for all I know, friend, he is still there this morning

        Ah-choo-ing that terrible sound.”

Well, the story seemed finished; and I was quite full

        So I thanked him and bid him good morn

And I started to leave; but as quickly I stopped and asked

        “What of the Unicorn?”

 

“Ah, yes” he replied, and he seated himself

        Once again. “Well, if you’re not bored

Then I’ll tell you the rest — ’tis about what the Queen

        Gave the Kimberly as her reward.

“She called Kimbers to her and plucked from her mane

        A single blonde hair, long and sleek.

Then she said: ‘For your brav’ry, my Kimberly, you shall

        Be known at a glance as unique.’

“And with Fairy magic she spun that fine hair

        To a golden and glorious horn.

Then upon Kimbers forehead she placed it and said:

        ‘From this day you’ll be called Unicorn.’

“And so Kimbers was, for there’s no higher law

        Than the word of a Fairy Queen;

And since, every Kimberly’s born with a horn

        Though it’s true that most cannot be seen.”

“And what about you — what was your reward?”

        I asked; and a gleam sparked his eye.

“Oh, a Gnome doesn’t need much — a mushroom or two

        And now and then cloverleaf pie.

“But you see, it’s a recipe known just to Fairies;

        I’m a Gnome — she couldn’t tell me.”

But he smiled and said: “Look underneath that large mushroom.

        I’m sure that you’ll like what you see.”

 

So I looked — and saw thousands of cloverleaf pies

        In neat stacks, each high as my knee.

“Take a few for the road” said the Gnome; then he whispered:

        “The Queen made them all, just for me.”

Well, that is the story, and truly it’s true,

        Of how Unicorns came to be.

And if you should ever have cloverleaf pie?

        Please — save just a little for me.

The end

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