The unicorn sat in the sand while the man treated his back in the dying light.
“I wasn’t ready yet. I didn’t feel like a horse yet. Until I could be the best even with the sandbags, I wouldn’t take them off. But I was a fool,” he said.
The man said nothing as he helped the beast.
“The horses were sending their best to race up this mountain. I was about to go with them and considered taking the bags off then, but the moment I tried…” The man’s hands hung mid-reach for more salve.
“I could barely stand,” said the unicorn. “The herd had no choice but to leave me behind.”
“Then I found you,” said the man.
“No, you didn’t,” said the unicorn. “After the horses had gone, I let my horn glow. I couldn’t heal everything, but I was well enough to canter.
“I ran through the night when the others would be resting and caught up with them by morning. We reached the summit a few nights ago. I completed my training, I was one with the herd,” he said.
“You can heal…” said the man.
“When I said you were skilled you didn’t think I was just saying so, did you?” asked the unicorn. “When the horses would sleep, I’d heal their sick and weary. It was the least I could do.”
“And who healed you?” asked the man. The unicorn didn’t have to reply.
“Perhaps,” he started. “Could it be that,” said the unicorn. “Could that be my purpose? To heal?”
The man brought the unicorn back on dry sand and they started a fire while the stars emerged.
“Something tells me that your gifts go beyond mere healing, it’s just that no one’s noticed ’til now,” said the man. The unicorn was amazed. Who was this man that he saw what no one else could?
The man did not keep the silence this time. After hearing more of the unicorn’s tale, he saw in him a familiar longing, one that had been turned to pain.
“Why did you leave the herd then?” he asked. The unicorn took his time answering. He knew he was being drawn out.
“I was lonely,” said the unicorn. “Even with those I thought of as brothers, even with those I could compete against, even when there weren’t many who still thought I could never belong… I was alone. Accepted but not known, loved but not understood,” said the unicorn.
“I will never fully leave the herd, but by now it was clear that I needed to look for my own kind, and make my own mark, follow my own gifts. I had just returned to my life of wandering when you met me,” he said.
“How timely,” said the man. He poked at the kindling in the fire. “You enjoyed running, but you had to train for it. So what is it that you would really like to do, what comes naturally to you?”
The unicorn smiled. He looked up at the stars and closed his eyes. His horn glowed and a beautiful song resonated from his being. The man could not tell where exactly it was coming from.
It was like it came from everywhere and inside him, as though he were listening with his mind and not his ears. As if the instrument the unicorn was playing were his very heartstrings.
The melodies were pure, but haunting. They were hopeful but sad. They were just as unicorn was: lonely.
“I am on a quest to have this question answered,” said the unicorn. “I will pursue it with everything I have.”