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Earth has many legends concerning Dragons, Unicorns, bold knights, and mighty wizards that raised young men up to be kings that forever left their mark on history. Or perhaps there were not many stories at all. Perhaps there were only two, and then dozens of versions were made up of them.
Strangely enough those stories stopped cropping up not long after Dragons and Unicorns, if they ever existed at all, were hunted to extinction. Now magic is believed to be nothing more than ignorant Humans' excuses for that which could not be explained. Oddly enough, the Bible itself makes brief mention of Unicorns, and several countries have multiple legends of dragons, though they differ in form and ability: Chinese Dragons were serpentine, possessing either four or two legs, and were very wise. English Dragons could be either wise and admired, or cruel and hated. They usually sat like a dog would. That is, they sat on their haunches. They also usually had smaller front legs, or perhaps even arms. They hoarded gold and gems and devoured young maidens and fought against those bold, or stupid enough to challenge them.
However, even though there was a valid reason for Dragons becoming extinct (greed), the extinction of Unicorns never was made clear. That is, until I received a box of my great-grandfather's things that had been lost in the mail for over thirty years...
I don't recall much of my grandfather. He died before I turned six years old. I have but three memories of him and all of them were of him talking about our family heritage. Usually they involved him relating how his own grandfather told him stories from the days when mighty wizards supposedly roamed the world and shaped the world as we know it today. At the time I believed every word simply because I was a child and thought he was the coolest man in the world next to my own father. As I grew older I ceased believing that any of my ancestors used magic and concluded that they had used what was at the time called Alchemy and in modern times called Chemistry. But I had no way of knowing that for certain. I still don't, to be honest. I mean, how many people claim that they can see the future and are proven frauds in one way or another? Some of my relatives probably were frauds, I have no doubt about that, but after I got that package I knew for certain that Jacob P. Lighthand the sixth, my great-grandfather, was no fraud.
It started out like any other day: Wake up, have breakfast, brush teeth, say hi to my folks and head out the door to work. Yeah, that's right: I lived with my parents even up to the age of twenty three. I know some of you are laughing at me for that, but things aren't as easy for a guy to move out when the only job you can get involves helping people about as smart as a thumbtack and just as charming find something to wear that 'won't make them look fat' even when a Left 4 Dead fan would yell “BOOMER!” as they walked by. In short, I was not poor, but I was pretty dang close. If not for the generosity (or maybe pity) of my mother and father I would have had to crash at my best friend's place, which would have made me feel guilty as heck, even though he's told me several times that I could if I needed to.
So anyway, after work I was minding my own business when the old postman that had been working for the postal service for as far back as anyone in town could remember saw me and pulled over into the wrong lane (fortunately for him there was no one coming) and hailed me.
“Yo! Jacob!” He called. Like my great-grandfather, and my grandpa, and my father, I also was named Jacob P. Lighthand. The ninth, of course. “Jacob! I got a package for you! It looks really old, too!” I looked up from the sidewalk that I had been blindly gazing at with yet more thoughts of annoyance at stupid people running through my mind.
“Yeah, Thomas? How old?”
“Well, judging by the faded labels, roughly about 32 years.” I stared at him in disbelief, giving him a 'Oh, really? What do you take me for' expression. “No, really! It looks weird, too. It looks like one of those clothing chests you'd see at those Knightly Fairs that roll through here from time to time.”
“Well just drop it off at our place. I'll haul it inside when I get home.” I shrugged, it was probably just some old rotten box that nobody in our family wanted and kept mailing to someone else. I'd probably do the same thing after I looked through it. My folks wouldn't really care about it. My father thought my grandfather was crazy, and my mother- well, she wasn't Atheist, but she didn't believe in anything she couldn't witness. How does that make her NOT Atheist, you ask? Because she believes in Aliens. She doesn't go nuts over them like some people do, though (thank God).
The weather was mild, though it would quickly grow colder. It was late autumn now, and the leaves and cold breezes proved it. Once the sun had fully set I was sure to freeze if I stayed outside. But fortunately that was not going to be a problem. Or so I thought.
Sure enough, Thomas had put the box next to our mailbox and sure enough, the thing looks positively ancient. I went indoors to drop my stuff off and change into more comfortable clothing (sweat pants and a sweat shirt) and then headed back outside to get the box and bring it inside. To my dismay, it would not fit through the door and I had to put it in our single-car garage (which we only used for storage) instead. After getting the key to its lock I lifted the shutter door and dragged it inside before shutting it again. The box, whatever was inside, was locked. I rolled my eyes and began looking for a crowbar. Or maybe a hammer. There was probably nothing of any real value in it anyway. Of course, I found nothing useful. I frowned.
“No wonder you've been bounced around so much! You don't open!” Suddenly realizing the ridiculousness of mine yelling at a box, I laughed. And then stopped when I heard the click of a heavy lock. “No way.” Curiosity piqued, I knelt down in front of it and gripped the lid with my hands and lifted it open. And got a face-full of old dust. I hacked and coughed and wiped at my eyes until it floated out to one side or another and was finally able to breathe again. When I could I had to turn on the single light bulb hanging from the ceiling because too little light was coming in through the two windows on either side of the garage. I looked down into the box to see almost nothing. Just three items. There was an old book that looked like it had been made by hand rather than produced in a factory. The cover felt like leather, and just running a hand over it made me feel as if I had stepped into another time. The other two were a red cape with what looked like tarnished copper rings, and an ivory horn that had a spiral cut all along its shaft up to the point. Ignoring the cape, I picked up the horn and felt a static charge zap my hand. I jumped, but the pain quickly faded and was replaced with a warmth like placing cold fingers on a cup of hot cocoa. The feeling spread from my fingers to the rest of my hands and then my arms. Little by little, it spread throughout my entire body.
“What-” I quickly put the ivory horn down and the feeling faded the same way that it came. Now as curious as a child looking at his gifts on Christmas morning I picked the book up and opened it. The words were complete gibberish. “Lovely.” Without closing it again I set it down and picked the horn back up. The same warmth spread through my body once more. My mind puzzled over it for six minutes and then I realized I had to use the bathroom. Still holding the horn, I went indoors and started through the kitchen when the phone rang. It was out of my reach, yet I still turned and reached out a hand. I felt a tingly sensation in my open hand and to my shock the phone lifted off its base and began to fly towards me.
“What the heck?!” I yelled. The phone dropped and swung (our kitchen phone has a cord) back and slammed the cabinet that it sat upon. The loud jolt surprised me and temporarily forgetting what I just saw I ran to the phone and picked it up. “Hello?”
“Jacob P. Lighthand! Did you just drop the telephone?!” I sighed.
“Yeah mom, sorry about that. I lost my grip on it.” Not that I had a grip on it in the first place! My mother proceeded to berate me for possibly damaging our telephone and of course threatened to make me pay for a new one if I had broken it. I told her that I knew that and would replace it if I had to.
I asked her if she needed anything.
“Oh, no. I was just making sure that you got home safely.” I smiled. I was 23, but she still treated me like I was nine.
“I'm fine, mom. When are you going to be home?”
“I'm afraid I'm not going to be, sweetie. Your father just received an award for being the best employee of the year and won a trip to Hawaii with all expenses paid and he's taking me with him!” My eyes widened with shock and pleasure. My father was the hardest-working man I knew and it was about dang time he got recognized for it. “Would you like to come with us? He only won two tickets, but we'd buy you one if you like.” And they would too, if I said yes. I loved my parents, and I did want to go to Hawaii someday, but there was just one problem: I was terrified of heights, and there was no way I was getting onboard an airplane while conscious. Besides that, I had to work.
“Nah. You two go ahead without me. I have to work anyway.”
“Are you sure? It's only for a month. You have that much vacation saved up, you know.”
“I know, but I'm saving that for an emergency. I'll be okay, you two go ahead and have fun without me.”
“Well, if that's how you feel, then we'll see you in a month, Jake. We love you.”
“I love you and dad too, mom.” I made a kissing sound. “Goodbye.”
“Bye! We''ll send you a postcard.” She hung up, and so did I. I then put the phone back on its base and looked out the window at the setting sun. It was then I remembered I had to pee and ran to the bathroom.
When I came back down I looked at the phone again, recalling my earlier magic trick. I reached out my free hand again and thought about the phone lifting off the base and floating into my hand. Nothing happened and I lowered my arm. I supposed that I had been imagining it for a moment, but then remembered my conversation with my mother and reached out again, this time with a different mindset: the telephone will come to me. My eyebrows shot to the top of my skull as the phone practically leaped from the base and flew to my hand. A thrill ran through my body. I set the horn down and willed a half emptied cup of water to my hand. It slid across the table, but stopped when the warm feeling left my fingertips. My eyes narrowed a little at the realization that, whatever that horn was from, it was what was granting me this telekinetic ability. I picked it up again and set the phone back on its base and willed the cup to come to me again. I got splashed with water, but the cup came to me. So then. Belief is what makes this...power...work. If only I could read that book, maybe- then it occurred to me that if the horn was next to the book, that probably held some significance.
I raced out the door and down the front steps...then raced back ad shut the door because I'd left it open. Ugh! I then, feeling like an idiot, walked back into the garage and picked up the book again and looked at the symbols. Before my eyes they changed shape until they formed the only language I could read: the one you're reading now. That on its own was enough to enthrall me, but when I saw the date, I spoke it aloud. “Five hundred thirty four? But...How could this book still be intact after all this time?” Only two explanations came to me, and one of them, given the era, was impossible. Vacuum sealing, and magic. But magic isn't real. I looked at the horn in my hand. Or is it? I looked back to the ancient pages in my hand, and began reading. Most of it was of little to no interest. It spoke of day to day activities, and idiocy of peasants obsessed with their looks. So not much has changed since then. I skipped a few pages and started reading again. Here it was on page seven that I found something interesting...
Today I have finally found a new Unicorn's horn for my personal use. It has taken me literally months of tracking and much money and some white hairs. But I'd do it again. Sadly, when King Uther decided to crack down on magic-users, he also began hunting down Unicorns and Dragons. While the demise of Dragons is of lesser concern to me, the loss of the Unicorn species is a dire problem. Without any more horns to be found soon all magic users shall become little more than common people and our way of life will be no more. I can only hope that his son, Arthur will be less ruthless. It is a good thing that I saw this coming and have stored away five more horns. I suspect I shall need them in the coming years...
So this horn is what is giving me this power! But I must wonder how much is left in it if he needed to stock up on them. I turned the page as the rest of it was blank. The next entry was written a year later.
Calamity! My horns, save for the one that I hid in the family graveyard have all been seized by that cursed wretch Uther and his knights! It seems he knew more about magic's workings than any of us feared and is now making it his personal mission in life to make all of ours miserable! I shall have to stop using magic from now on I suppose if I am going to keep our legacy alive for future generations. Though where they are going to get their horns from is anyone's guess. Perhaps if I went to the Equine forest I could find my way into their fabled place of origin. I shall entrust this journal to my grandson. His father is a knight and so cannot be trusted, but young Mink can be. If I should never return, to whom it may concern, use you inheritance wisely. For there shall not be another source of it unless I succeed and return.
My ancestor, whatever his name had been, had not made another entry which probably meant that he had either made it where he was headed and had been unable to return, or he died on the way to his destination. Either way, At least I now knew what I held in my hand: A Unicorn's horn. Unless this was some sort of elaborate joke. I looked to the next entry, which seemed to have been written by Mink.
I've been waiting for Granddad to return for over twenty years now. I am beginning to think that he may never come back. I miss him terribly now that father is dead and so is mother. But I will keep my promise no matter what happens. And I will make sure that my children know that their great-grandfather was a mighty wizard that taught me the few tricks that I know. I will also keep his horn safe and, if need be, pass it on to my second-born due to my firstborn hating magic-users from what the knights that used to serve Uther have told him. Even though Uther is dead now, all too many people fear magic and are still hunting dragons. It's sad.
Mink never wrote in the diary again, but his second-born, Bunt, had. What he wrote was poorly spelled and seemed to be about him having girl-problems and wishing his brother had not gone witch-hunting with some friends of his. A later entry had him being at the rare age (at that time) of eighty nine. The hand writing was better, but his spelling was not. He was giving advice on life to his eldest daughter, and wishing her all the happiness in the world. From him came his daughter Savina, and her eldest son Richard, and then over a dozen more inheritors and last-name changes. From time to time the last name of Lighthand popped up again. Sooner or later, just when it seemed that his family name would disappear someone would marry one of them again. Apparently even Robin Hood himself briefly possessed the book after stealing it from one of my ancestors, though he was not even close to the hero judging by his entries that legends made him out to be. He wrote in the book six times within two years, and then it was passed on to... the bearer of his children. She herself never wrote in it, nor did her children or grandchildren. But the ones after wrote in it, and apparently even used the horn a few times themselves. Then for over six hundred years the journal was not written in at all and I began to wonder what had happened to it. A few pages seemed to have been torn or smudged out or even burned as if someone had tried to destroy the book.
Then someone named Shageesh had apparently mistaken the journal for a cookbook and added a recipe for roast goose that made my mouth water. He also added one for fried pig intestines, which made me want to vomit. I paged through his other works and skimmed other uninteresting entries until my eyes caught sight of something I remembered from history class: The Salem Witch Hunts.
My brother, mother, father, and uncle have all been accused of witchcraft and were hung last week. How ironic it is that it was I myself that was using magic and not my family. I suppose I'm just that good at leaving false evidence. Or perhaps those overzealous people that call themselves Christians are simply too eager to believe themselves on the righteous path. So much for 'Never allowing a sorceress to live.' all those girls that claimed to have performed magic that were allowed to live while those that swore innocence died. Fools, all. I, fortunately, was out of town and staying with other relatives at the time of the trials, so I was able to escape. Some of the girls that earlier declared themselves practitioners of magic have been stoned or shot by others who, like me, believed the trial's form of punishment to be reversed. I shall have to put the horn away for now lest suspicion fall upon me.
I stopped reading, feeling sick. One of my ancestors made it look like her family was performing magic so that she herself could escape? To my grim satisfaction, she later died of cholera and both the horn, and the journal passed on to someone else. Someone who apparently couldn't read. Instead he or she drew pictures on several blank pages. Pictures of plants, people, styles of clothing, weapons, and the horn itself. A short explanation from a school teacher explained who and what each drawing was, and the name of the person who drew them. Another Lighthand. Wow. We've been around for a long time! I thought, amazed.
Finally, after flipping through more pages than logic allowed for how slim the journal was, I came to my great-grandfather.
September 9'th, 1979
I've done it! I've finally found the old forest that original writer in this journal spoke about! Equine Forest is located in what is now known as-
I cursed. Loudly. Whatever had once been the next word had been smudged up. I tried touching the horn to it in hopes that it had only been altered, but no. I read on, hoping for a clue.
I do not dare leave the actual location written here though, in fear that someone with a cruel heart might extort the locals on the other side of the Stone Arch Gate. I will journey there to the Welsh lands myself as my ancient ancestor did and put the journal, the horn, and a little gift of my own, a red silk magician's cape for the next bearer of the horn and journal into my father's clothing chest. To whom it may concern, I wish you good luck, and pray that you are as gentle and kind hearted as my dear, departed wife. I shall tell my son about our heritage, as most of our ancestors have in hopes that the truth of the past not be forgotten. To my son, I pray this journal finds its way into your hands, but if not, then the power of the horn shall keep it safe as it always has.
P.S. That cape was once worn by myself when I saw the Magician Houdini perform in person. I'm not sure for certain on this point, but I believe that he too once bore a Unicorn's horn of his own carved into pieces small enough to swallow but large enough that they would not go through his digestive tract, enabling him to escape from anything. I suspect the day he died was the day his horn finally failed as one day ours too will.
Welsh lands...that's in the U.K., isn't it? An idea suddenly occurred to me. It was a bit risky, but I thought it worth checking out, if only to see the land where our family originated. I stuffed the journal into the cape, rolled it up, and stuck the horn awkwardly into a pocket. I shut the crate and left and locked up the garage. It was fully night now, and nearing eleven o'clock at night. And, of course, it was freaking cold!! Shivering, I went into my house and called my mother back. Fortunately she and dad weren't going to be able to leave the US until tomorrow when the soonest flight arrived. I waited briefly. Mom had a favorite show that came on every night at ten, and then she'd watch the news until roughly about eleven twenty. Then she'd turn the TV off and go to sleep.
“Hello Jacob. Why are you calling so late? You change your mind?” she asked, yawning.
“In a way. I just remembered something Granddad used to tell me when I was a kid. Would you mind if I took a trip to visit the land of my ancestors?”