“The Black Unicorn”

by Joe Helfrich and Merric Blackman

“The Black Unicorn” is copyright 1994 by Joe Helfrich and Merric Blackman. Permission is granted to distribute and copy this document for non-profit purposes.


This story occurs just before the Fall of the Forest Cycle.

Morgan sat staring at the page in front of him, waiting for the ink to dry before placing it in its binding The young scribe sat alone in the tower, as Canticle had left some hours ago and had taken that blasted Nettling Imp with him. Morgan rose, mulling over Canticle’s latest lesson as he placed the latest page of the tome on a pile, when a sudden gust of wind scattered the pages around the room.

Morgan thought this was rather strange, as there was only one small window in the room, and it was securely shut against the storm outside.

“Morgan Half-Elven?”

The young mage turned to face the source of the deep bass voice. Behind him was the unmistakable form of an Ifh-Biff Efreet, a torso rising out of a cloud of green smoke, surrounded by a swirling wind.

“I am Morgan,” he said quietly, “Who are you, who trespasses in this tower?”

“You are to come with me, Half-Elven,” the Efreet boomed. “There is one who would speak with you!”

“And if I choose not to choose to go?”

“Who said you had a choice, young Spellweaver?” And at once the Efreet was upon him, its winds buffeting him, but doing no serious harm. Morgan’s anger flared, the ring on his finger flaring in response. But the young mage let the energies fade slowly, rather than blasting the Efreet from existence. Only one person could have summoned him so, and there was no way he could avoid this meeting forever.

In short order, the Efreet dropped him softly on a pile of leaves, in a grove that was all too familiar. Morgan stood, brushing himself off, and magically conjuring a cloak–black with silver trim, like his other garments–which settled quickly upon his shoulders.

“There was a day, Morgan, when you wore brighter colors, and were less pretentious with your magic.”

“I wear black out of mourning for my lady. And the methods by which I practice my art are no concern of yours. What is the reason for this summons? What does the ELF want of me?” Morgan said the words as half name, half title, and all sneer.

The ELF stepped from the shadows, staring at the other man.

“Why have you gone to study with Canticle?”

“He is a master of the arts, and I had learned all I would from my former teacher.”

“Surely, Spellweaver, you do not claim mastery of Plains’ magic? Or even of the Forests’ art?”

“I claim mastery of nothing. I said I would learn no more from my former teacher.”

The ELF locked gazes with a black-clad mage. Silence hung like a shroud over the grove. “So you did,” the ELF said finally. “This path you walk is folly, Morgan.”

Try as he might, Morgan could not hold his anger. “What other choice have I? What would you have me do?”

“I would have you do nothing, for there is nothing to be done.”

“How can you say that? How can you ask that of me? I swore an oath to her! We swore it to each other!”

“A child’s oath, which is provoking a child’s folly. What you seek to do cannot be done, Morgan! Think about what you do!”

“It can! It has been!”

“Oh, by Urza, certainly, or so the legends say. But time has a way of distorting the facts to make legends. They often fall far short of what truly happened. But even if it was possible, once, you are not Urza, nor is Canticle. Nor am I.”

The ELF looked away for a moment, shadow falling across his youthful features. A hint of old sadness crept into his voice.

“I would help you, nephew, if I could. You must know that. If not for the oaths I made to Illyanna on her deathbed then for–”

“MY MOTHER,” Morgan yelled, “does not enter into this. And I find it strange, uncle, that you would keep your oath by counseling me to forsake my own!”

The ELF gazed at Morgan, who was al but quaking with anger. “Morgan, you never should have made that oath. You knew it, I knew it. I felt the whispers of despair upon my soul when you first told me of it, all happy and delighted with the world and your place in it. Now look at yourself–ready to forsake the light for darkness eternal!

“Leave this place, Morgan. I cannot stop you with force, and it is obvious that my words will have little effect on you. Go, Morgan! Return to your dark master!”

The ELF turned and began to depart.

“Will you return me to where I came from?”

That is what I am trying to do, nephew, he thought. But he said, “You are perfectly capable of doing so yourself.”

“So I am,” came the barely heard response. And although the ELF did not see or hear him go, the faint odour of rain-soaked swamp that floated on the breeze a moment later was unmistakable.

So it begins, thought the ELF, alone once more in the glade. I strove to avoid this, but doom is upon us. Perhaps Canticle will see the folly of Morgan’s actions. I must speak to him.

The ELF stood in the glade for a time, trying to recapture the sense of peace which it had always held for him. But now that peace was gone, shattered by the knowledge of what had happened and what was still to come.

“Lords of Light, preserve us all,” murmured the ELF, and was gone from the glade.