Corin opened one eye, saw all the white outside the cave and sighed. So it was still here, this stupid stuff the others called snow. Corin hated it. He was born in the early days of spring and his life so far had been full of all colors of the rainbow, just like himself. He missed the flowers, the green trees, the warmth of the sun, and he wondered if they would ever return.
This one morning when he had woken up to the Valley fully buried under snow he panicked like a foolish little foal. Mum and Dad had to promise him that this was only temporarily during the winter season to calm him down. He felt ashamed when he thought about his reaction and was just happy none of the other foals had been around to hear him scream in fear.
At first he had believed his parents, but then he remembered they had also sworn that he would be their only child and that this would be okay and they would love him forever, but now Mom’s belly got bigger each day and Dad had told him he was going to have a sibling. So why should he believe them anything anymore? They had lied to him once, why not lie about the snow as well?
The young Alicorn opened his other eye and took a peek at the back of the cave where his parents had spend the night huddled up to one another. All through his young life he had a place there too, cozily nestled between them, but lately he prefered to sleep on his own, close to the cave entrance. He pretended he wanted to be the first to check the weather in the morning, but the true reason was that growing belly of his mother. He didn’t want to get close to it.
The dark silhouette of his father got up, careful not to disturb his sleeping mate. Dad was the lead stallion of their herd, him and Mom being of black shadow color it had been a wonder their foal was born so colorful. Corin had always felt very special, being the only child of the herd’s leader and also being the only rainbow colored Alicorn around. He was used to the prying eyes of the other foals, some admiring, some jealous. He enjoyed being rare.
This would all come to an end now, he would have a sibling like all the others too and somehow he knew that new foal would be a rainbow colored one as well.
Corin saw his father approaching and quickly jumped to his hooves. He was definately not in the mood to hear any news about the baby foal again. Dad seemed so thrilled about the situation you never knew when his next happily raving would start.
„Gotta go“, he hurried to tell his father. „I will have breakfast over at Buck’s place!“
„Good Morning“, Dad said and smiled at him. „So you’re meeting with your friends? That is great to hear!“
Pegasus colt Buck was a jolly fellow with lots of friends among all the Unicorn foals, so when one was with him it seemed as if all of them were buddies, but actually Buck was Corin‘s only friend. Since Mom and Dad had been concerned about him being a loner he felt no need to tell them the truth. He managed to put a smile on his face and just nodded at his dad.
Dad lowered his head and softly rubbed his nose at Corin‘s neck. „Just don’t forget it is a special day today and be back before it is getting dark, okay?“
„Sure will“, Corin answered lightly and off he galloped.
„Be careful!“, he heard his father calling after him, a moment before he slipped on the icy ground and fell. Luckily the thick snow prevented any harm. Dad’s warm laughter caught up to him. „The ground might be frozen under the snow was what I was about to say. Are you okay?“
Corin struggled to get back on his hooves and gave a calming whicker. „I‘m fine!“, he shouted and hasted onwards, blushing in shame. He didn’t look left or right, he just concentrated on not falling again. How he hated that stupid white stuff and all that came with it! Like the hidden mean ice, the greyish clouded sky, the freezing temperatures. Even the air smelled snowy. Yuck.
Today is a special day, he remembered his Dad’s words. And he knew what it meant. The whole Valley had been talking about it for weeks now. There were these strange creatures that walked on only two legs, which they called Humans. He was told that they lived outside the Valley and rarely showed up, but always had a caring eye on all the herds living around here. As soon as it got cold and snow-white they brought huge bales of straw and covered the caves‘ floor with it, Corin had watched them from a distance. He had to admit that the straw was nice and warm to sleep on. Those Humans also provided them with food, fresh greens of all kinds and funny red balls called Apples that tasted quite sweet. Even though the Humans kept their distance and approached carefully, Corin didn’t like them. They were something that had come with the snow and everything that came with the snow was bad in his opinion.
Dad had told him that there was one day in the winter time when the Humans came visiting to decorate the biggest ancient fir tree of the Valley with sparkling lights and lots of treats. They also spread tons of delicate food on the ground beneath it. Dad didn’t know the reason for their behavior, but he had figured it was some special day for the Humans and he didn’t mind at all.
Today was that day, but Corin wasn’t even curious to see the tree – it was just another thing that came with the snow. But the worst thing of all was the fact that Dad had not meant the tree at all when he was talking of a special day this morning. It was also the day when the new baby foal was expected and that was the only reason Dad had called that day a special one, Corin was well aware of that.
His stomach turned into a hard, hurting rock when he thought about the changes laying ahead. Obviously he had not been good enough for his parents. Perhaps they had really meant him to be their only child in the beginning, but over time, he must have proven worthless or done something wrong. He felt so useless.
He had been trotting without thinking about the direction, but when he looked up he noticed he had reached the outskirts of the huge forest that his parents had forbidden him to enter. The trees were heavy with snow and it looked kind of dark and scary in there, but there was a voice inside of him saying „So what? Nobody will miss you. Nobody cares. You may just as well enter!“ Corin threw a glance back over his shoulder, but of course he was alone. There was no reason to conform to his parents‘ will. Stubbornly he walked forward and entered the woods.
When it suddenly started to snow he was aware of the snowflakes that melted on his face and mixed with his tears, but he didn’t care. He thought so hard about what he might have done to upset his parents that his head started to hurt. If he could find out the reason, perhaps he could make up for it somehow. Perhaps it was not too late. If he did something super cool, maybe his parents would realize how awesome he was and give away the new foal. But however much he tried, he could just not come up with an idea for something super cool.
The snowfall got heavier, but Corin ignored it and just continued walking and thinking. At some point he not only realized that he was getting hungry and thirsty but also that he had traveled very deep into the forest without caring to memorize the trail he had taken. Looking around all he was able to see were trees – full of snow and icicles. Naturally he hated icicles as much as he hated snow but he now remembered his Dad explaining to him that both was just frozen water. If it had been summer, the snowfall would have been rain and he could have drunk it.
Perhaps if he just ate some snow, it would melt in his mouth? But as much as he tried, he could not bring himself to take a bite. Instead he lifted his head and tried to reach one of the icicles, but they were hanging up too high. He walked around a bit until he found a branch with icicles in his range, then started to carefully suck at them. It worked! After a while he got more confident and took bites and finally the melting ice quenched his thirst.
Finding something to eat was a lot more difficult and he grumbled about the snow and the Winter taking away all the grass, leaves and flowers he used to snack on in Summer. Corin managed to scrape free a tree trunk and nibbled off some bark, but it tasted quite bad. He started shivering and wondered why he had not felt cold before. His anger had probably kept him warm. He wondered if he should go back home, retracing his footsteps in the snow, to the place where food and warmth was, but then he remembered there would also be a baby foal soon, taking his place. He felt a wave of heat running through his veins and panted with rage.
„Nope“, he told the trees. „I won’t be going home. Not yet. And maybe never again.“ The trees seemed to listen carefully, however there was no answer but silence.
Feeling warm again, Corin headed deeper into the forest. There were icicles to drink and bark to eat and he could always lay down and wrap his wings around his body for warmth. He was absolutely fine. He didn’t need anything. Or anyone. If that stupid snowfall would just stop.
Corin pictured Buck and wondered if his friend at least would miss him when he didn’t return home. He had always felt sorry for the Pegasus colt having four siblings of different ages, all of them colored in boring brown shades just like their parents. Having so many foals could only mean the parents had not yet found the one child that was worth their love. He had never said a word since Buck seemed to mind neither his many brothers and sisters nor their lame color, but he was sure his friend was only pretending. There was this Unicorn by the name Misty, a filly of such a greyish color that she could hide in the fog that sometimes covered the Valley’s ground in the morning. She always used to roll her eyes about her little brother being a pain in her neck. But her parents had forced her to keep an eye on the younger one and she had to obey. Or Derhe, a lilac Alicorn, who had two older sisters that made fun of him whenever they could. Even though he ignored them, Corin was sure they didn’t like each other at all. Siblings were just a pest, his own life was so much better without. Had been better, he corrected himself. But not anymore.
Crack! Corin jumped and fled. He ran a while before he realized there was nothing hunting him. He came to a halt and tried to calm his over beating heart and heavy breathing. Again he had reacted like a foolish little foal and he was ashamed of it. Perhaps that was the reason his parents got tired of him? His being a coward or a fool in so many situations. His dad would never panic just because of the sound of a cracking branch. The sudden certainty burdened him with bitter grief. Feeling awfully confused, upset, tired, freezing and exhausted all at once, he was not able to take another step. Corin laid down where he stood, wrapped his wings around his shivering body and hid himself under their feathers while the snow fell in silent heavyness.
All of a sudden it was summer again and Corin found himself running over the flowery meadow, chasing butterflies and playing hide and seek with his friend Buck. It felt so good to feel the warmth of the sun again! All day long they played and laughed, it was such a joy! When the evening came closer, Buck turned to him and said: „I have to go now, my family is waiting for me. Will you be okay?“
„Well, yes of course“, Corin answered, a bit startled. „I’ll just go home to my family as well. See you tomorrow?“
Buck looked at him oddly.
„What is it?“, Corin asked.
„Errm… you do remember your family is gone, don’t you?“
Corin stared at the Pegasus colt in disbelief. „What do you mean they are gone?“
„Gone. Vanished. Left the Valley.“
Corin snorted. „Why would they do that?“
„Well, you sent them away“, Buck replied, his voice full of surprise. „Don’t you remember? You told both your parents and siblings they were not good enough for you. Your parents and your siblings. They were very sad, but they accepted your wish and moved to another place.“
„My … siblings?“, Corin repeated confused. „I have siblings?“
Buck gave him a puzzled look. „I guess the sun was too hot today, do you feel sick perhaps?“
„I am NOT sick! And you are telling lies!“, Corin had not meant to yell, but the words came out loud and angry.
Buck shrugged, he seemed not affected at all. „Well, head over to your cave and see for yourself. It did not bother you before, so why does it now?“
The Pegasus just ditched him and walked off, somehow Corin felt that he did not care at all. This was weird, not his friends‘ usual behavior at all, he seemed like a stranger to him. He decided to think about this at a later point and galloped home as fast as he could.
When he entered the cave he found it empty. He could not smell his parents anymore and this meant they had been gone for a long time. The sleeping place, where he had nestled up with his parents at night, was still covered with grass, but it had dried out and turned to a dirty brownish color. The sight made him give up on the idea to search the Valley for his parents. He knew now they were really gone, because otherwise they would have cared for a clean and fresh ground to sleep on.
He remembered Buck’s words and hung his head in shame. Could it really be true? Did he tell his family they were not good enough for him? But that thought had never come up his mind! Only the other way around, him not being good enough for them. Yet what was the meaning of „good enough“ anyway? He thought of his mother, her warm body close to his, her soft and loving voice, her muzzle caressing him. He thought of his father, always being patient and understanding, teaching him all the little things he needed for life, showing him the wonders of nature. They had been the best parents he could have wished for.
Heavy-hearted the colt lay down on the spot that had been his sleeping place for such a long time and the loneliness hurt so bad that it was difficult to breath. Once more Corin hid away under his wings, not knowing how he could go on living this way.
The next time he opened his eyes winter was back and also the snow. It was getting dark. He was buried under a thick white blanket and since it felt kind of warm he only moved carefully, knowing he would freeze badly once the snow fell off his body. As he looked around he recognized the forest and suddenly he got clear about the situation. He had fallen asleep and that summer day with Buck and his parents gone had only been a dream. A very bad dream actually. Then it struck him. It had just been a DREAM! Nothing real! His family was still living in the Valley, he had NOT lost them! With the awareness came a wonderful feeling that warmed him from inside. Tears filled his eyes again, but this time they were tears of joy. Home, he wanted to go home! Sibling or not, it didn’t matter anymore, he wanted to be back with his parents, he missed them so much, he could not bear it any longer.
He hauled himself out of the snow, got on his hooves and shook the snow off his wings. Immediately he felt badly cold and started to shiver. It was so dark now he could hardly see the trees around. He thought about flying home, but the forest was too dense with no chance to get him through the treetops. Where should he go? His footprints had long snowed under and he had no idea which direction was the one leading him home. He quivered with cold, even his teeth started to clatter.
„Do they miss me by now?“, he questioned the dark forest in a doubtful whisper.
„Not only do they miss you, they are worried sick by now“, a gentle voice answered him. „It is about time you‘d go home, my dear little one.“
A blue shimmering light raised where the voice had come from and Corin speechlessly watched as the tree in front of him turned into a graceful creature he had never seen before. It reminded him of a deer, but there was a long curved horn on its forehead, much longer than his own or a Unicorn’s, and a thick fluffy crest around its neck. Its fur was a shiny snow-white, covered with sparkling ice-blue speckles, the slender legs ended in sky-blue feathery hooves, a long skinny tail with a bushy tip wagged happily. The creature wiggled its big ears and faced Corin with shiny turquoise blue eyes, which seemed to look right into his soul. There was a fragile miniature tree wrapped around one of the creature’s legs, just as if the branches wanted to hold on to the memory of the true shape of that being.
„Who are you?“, the young Alicorn finally dared to ask, although his voice was weak with fear.
„I am whatever you need me to be“, the Grace replied with a sweet smile.
„I don’t understand“, Corin whispered.
„Don’t worry about it. It will just happen.“
„But what is your name?“
„You tell me.“
„How am I to know your name?“
„Listen to your heart. Isn‘ t there something on your mind already that you want to call me?“
„Winter Fairy“, Corin breathed the words.
The creature gave a high, clear laugh. „See?“
Corin just stared, utterly amazed.
„You should still your hunger before we start out“, the creature named Winter Fairy said and out of nowhere a basket filled with grass and leaves and fruits appeared in front of Corin and made him gasp. He started eating at once, he was starving! But after a few bites he realized what the creature had said and so he asked: „Where are we going?“
Winter Fairy smiled her mysterious smile. „Where do you want to go?“
„Home!“, Corin answered at once. „I want to go home!“
The delicate creature nodded. „Then home we go.“
The colt ate some more, but all of a sudden he could not take another bite. His doubts haunted him again. Did his parents really want him to return?
„They love you. Why would they not want you to return?“
Corin jerked. How did she know?
The Grace giggled. „Are you seriously asking me this question?“
Corin looked at the sparkling creature, the fragile branches growing on its leg, the food-basket before him. He lifted his head and gave a shy smile. „No.“
Winter Fairy laughed. Then she said: „I forgot to apologize.“
„Apologize? For what?“
„For the way I look. Did you not hate everything that comes with the winter season? Even the colors of snow and ice?“
„Oh.“ Corin didn’t know what to say. So he just stood there and felt his face redden. Perhaps he should change the subject. „My Mom and Dad just arranged for a new baby foal“, he said in a very low voice.
„Once they swore I would be their only child. But they changed their mind. Because I did not live up to their expectations.“
„Is that so.“ Winter Fairy regarded him with curiosity and then compassionately asked: „Do you truly believe your own words, little one?“
Corin looked in her clear blue eyes and suddenly felt unsure. „I … I don’t know…“
„Listen to your heart“, the Graceful softly spoke. „What does it tell you?“
Corin‘s eyes filled with tears. „That they do love me. But still…“
Winter Fairy smiled at him encouraging. „Well, I might be able to clarify things“, she said. „Care to hear it?“
The young Alicorn nodded, wondering what she was about to tell.
„You see“, Winter Fairy said, „among the Unicorns of the Valley there are some that can have children easily and others that can not. Your mother is one of the latter. It took your parents a very, very long time to have their first baby – you. And the chances were odd that they ever could have another child. When they told you that you were their only child, which they would love forever, they actually wanted to apologize and make up for never being able to have more children in the future. They reckoned you would love to have siblings, so they tried to comfort you and make it less harder. It was like a wonder for them when they came to know your mother was with child again.“
„You mean“, Corin said weakly and his eyes widened, „I just misunderstood their words?“
„Indeed“, Winter Fairy affirmed.
Corin thought about this for a good while. „But I won’t be special anymore“, he finally said. „Not the only child of our herd’s leader, not the only Rainbow Alicorn. In case my sibling will be one as well.“
„You have never been the only one“, Winter Fairy told him kindly. „You just haven’t met the others yet that live further afar in the Valley.“
Corin stared at her perplexed. So not even Rainbow color was something special anymore. In those other parts of the Valley it probably was as ordinary as Buckskin color.
„Beauty is only skin deep, sweetheart“, Winter Fairy said and then asked him: „Do you hate me?“
„What? Why, no!“, Corin replied with a shocked expression on his face.
„But I come with frosty Winter and I am snow and ice from head to toe“, the graceful creature stated. „Didn’t you hate all that?“
This time there was no way to change the subject. „I … no … not really“, he muttered. „You are different.“
„In which way?“
„You only look wintery. But inside you are …“
„Summer?“, the Graceful asked laughing.
Corin bowed his head. „Something like that … yes … I guess.“
„So you don‘t judge me by my looks?“
„No“, Corin whispered.
„And don’t you think it would be a good idea to never judge anyone by the looks?“
„Yes“, Corin answered, even quieter.
„Good“, Winter Fairy said and darted a satisfied glance at him. „Your looks do not matter at all“, she added, „ and most certainly not to your parents. They love you just like you are and always will. May you be their only child or one of many. Have you taken that in your head by now? “
Corin nodded awkwardly.
„Well, then I think it is time to make tracks home.“
„But …“, Corin began, about to ask how he was supposed to find the way, when he realized they had already made it back to the outskirts of the forest. Ahead of him lay the snow-covered meadow, glistening in the moonlight. The snow had stopped falling. He could not even remember ever having taken a step forward. It must have been Winter Fairy’s magic that had brought them here. He turned to her and asked: „Will you come with me?“
„No, sweetie“, the Graceful said softly. „You have to go on all by yourself now.“
Her words made Corin feel sad. He was looking forward to return home, but he was also afraid at the same time, although he didn’t quite know what he feared.
„I have one more thing to say to you, little one“, Winter Fairy said.
Corin lifted his head and listened carefully.
„You should know, you are still very special.“
Winter Fairy smiled. „Every creature is. None is like the other. Each is an individual beauty just by existing. There is only one YOU and there will never be another like you. Don’t you ever forget that.“
„I won’t“, the young Alicorn whispered awestruck.
„Take this gift“, Winter Fairy said and something fell into the snow.
„What is it?“, Corin asked.
„You will know“, was the answer and then, in a blink of an eye, the graceful creature was gone.
Corin looked around startled, but he was all alone. He bowed his head to the ground and carefully picked up Winter Fairy’s gift. It was a delicate little ornament that looked like a snow crystal. He casted a last look back to the forest, then started on his way home.
The snow scrunched under his hooves, the air was clear and full of promises. He came by the place where the ancient tree stood in all its decorated glory, full of sparkling fairy lights, a breathtaking sight. There was Buck on the other side and he came running over when he sighted Corin.
„Gosh, buddy, so good to see you! We’ve been missing you, where have you been?“, the Pegasus colt jabbered in excitement.
Corin felt so pleased to see his friend, he rubbed his nose at his shoulder. „Silly me got lost in the woods“, he told him.
„Wow, you’ve been to the forest?“, Buck gasped. „Well I am happy you made it back! You should hurry home, there’s a surprise waiting for you!“
Corin already figured what kind of surprise he meant and it made him feel a bit shaky. „Can we meet up later?“, he asked his friend.
„We sure can“, Buck replied with a happy nod.
„Okay, see you later then!“, Corin said and trotted on.
When he approached his family’s cave he saw a small bonfire near the entrance and remembered the stories about the Humans using to lit one whenever a new foal was born in the Valley in the times of winter. It kept the cold out of the cave, where the newborn needed warmth.
His Dad was standing at the entrance and gave a joyful neigh when he recognized Corin. „He is back!“, he shouted backwards into the cave. „He is here!“ Corin heard the happy sound of Mom’s voice when she nickered in answer.
„I am sorry“, he blurted out before Dad could say a word. „I know you have forbidden it, but I was so curious, I entered the forest. And then I got lost.“
„Oh, don’t you worry“, Dad chuckled. „It’s common courtesy to disobey your parents once in a while. I am just happy you made it home safely. Come on in, we have something to show you.“
Dad led him over to the place where his mother was resting on fresh thick straw and welcomed him with a loving snort. At her side was a small pile of snow with some blueish pieces of ice. Corin was wondering if this was some kind of medicine, cooling her body or something like that, when Mom nudged the small heap and whispered: „Look who is here. This is your brother. Corin – meet your little sister.“
The small bundle moved a bit and then a tiny little head appeared and two big blue eyes curiously stared at Corin. Only for a moment, then it sank back on tiny legs as if it were too heavy and the eyes closed again.
Corin kneeled down beside it and stared at the baby foal, his heart seeming to burst of sudden overwhelming feelings of love. This cute little one was his sister? He had never seen anything amazing like her. She probably was the most beautiful foal ever born.
„I love her colors“, he whispered and then laughed as he realized his words. „All snowy and icy and frosty. So beautiful!“
His Mom smiled at him, but there was a sad look in her eyes. „I am so happy you see it that way“, she said. „And we are so very sorry having to tell you that she might not make it.“
„What?“, Corin asked, suddenly terrified. „What is wrong with her?“
„She is very weak“, his Dad told him softly. „Your mother’s health was not really strong enough for another baby. We knew it would be a risk, but we couldn’t help but try it.“
Corin looked at his Dad, his Mom, his little sister. He didn’t want to believe it. This could just not be true. After all he had been through. All that had finally opened his eyes. Now that he knew.
„This is just not fair“, he said faint-hearted.
„I am so sorry“, Mom whispered.
Corin brought his face close to the little bundle that was his sister and closed his eyes. She felt and smelled so warm and cuddly, he could hear her tiny heart beating, light as the wings of a butterfly.
„Isn’t there anything we can do?“, he asked desperately. „What about the Humans? Couldn’t we ask them for help?“
„They don’t interfere in nature“, Dad told him gently.
„How much longer does she have until…“, Corin was not able to end the sentence.
Dad touched him softly. „You will know“, he said in a low voice.
Corin grew stiff. You will know. These words. He had heard them before. They reminded him of something. He brought out the gift that had been given to him and showed his parents the snow crystal ornament.
„Could this help?“, he asked.
Both his parents gasped.
„Where did you get this?“, his father asked overanxious.
„It was a gift.“
„Someone I met in the forest.“
„How did that someone look like?“
Corin described it. His parents looked at each other.
„A Heraldic Unicorn“, Mom breathed awestricken.
„A what?“, Corin asked.
„They are legendary creatures“, his father told him. „We all heard of them, but none has ever been seen. It is said there is one for every season. The one you have met must have been what they call the Snowy Solitude.“
Actually Corin didn’t care. There was only one thing he was interested in. „So this ornament will help?“, he asked his father.
„The gift of a Heraldic Unicorn works magic they say“, Dad nodded. „We will see. Give it to her.“
Corin carefully placed the snow crystal before his sister’s tiny muzzle and nudged her softly. „Open your eyes, sweetie“, he whispered. „Please. For me?“
The baby moved and its eyes opened just a bit. It nosed the snow crystal and then its tiny pink tongue whipped out and licked at the ornament. The snow crystal melted some. The baby licked again and the crystal melted some more. So it continued until the ornament was fully gone. The baby girl lifted her small head and gave a sulky little neigh as if she was disappointed that the treat had vanished.
Corin and his parents laughed themselves to tears.
About an hour later the frosty colored filly had managed to get up on her tiny hooves and took her first steps. Mom was at her side to catch her if she fell, while Corin and Dad stood aside, watching the little one with pride and happiness.
„Merry Christmas“, Dad whispered in Corin’s ear.
„What does that mean?“, he asked.
Dad shrugged. „I have no idea. But that is what the Humans wish us every year when they are finished with decorating the tree. This day is special to them and I think they cherish it with this saying.“
„It’s a special day for us too“, Corin said with a bright smile. „Merry Christmas!“
„Darling“, Mom called over to him, „would you like to pick a name for your sister?“
Dad smiled at him and nodded. „What shall we call her?“
Corin looked at his sister and was overwhelmed by the feelings she evoked in him. I will never forget, he thought. I promise. Thank you.
He turned to his parents and with a happy smile on his face he announced:
© Susann Ulshöfer
Winter Fairy hieß im Original Merry Christmas und war mein Beitrag zum 2014 Winter Contest, einem Schreibwettbewerb von -> Valley of Unicorns, einer englischsprachigen Cyberadoptions-Seite. Die Geschichte musste in Englisch verfasst sein, mindestens 3500 Wörter umfassen, im Valley of Unicorns spielen und einen VoU Charakter als Protagonisten haben – sprich, ein Pferd (wobei die Pferde bei VoU Alicorns, Pegasi oder Uncicorns sind). Und so kam es, dass ich – Mystik auf VoU – meine erste englische Geschichte verfasste ;-) Es gab keine Gewinner, dafür aber einen schönen Teilnahmepreis in Form eines Pets mit Schreibfeder.