Owien did not move. He could not believe seeing a real unicorn, and when he saw the fairies, he almost fainted. They were holding hands and dancing in a circle about five feet from the ground, chanting.
“Hurry, hurry Avalon
Under moon and under sun
Make a way to Kairos hold
Make a door for travelers bold.”
The children imagined listening to a bear thrash through the woods, the growl of the cat and the serpent slithering through the leaves, but with that chant, Margueritte perked up. “How many miles to Avalon?” she asked.
“Three score miles and ten.” The fairies answered in unison.
“Can I get there by candlelight?”
“Yes, and back again.” The fairies, oblivious to the danger they were in, fell back and laughed and laughed, an enchanting, infectious laughter, and it cheered them all. And then the door opened. A mere shimmer in the air at first, it quickly became an arch, high and wide, that touched the ground. The children saw another world altogether, with a carefully manicured lawn so richly green it nearly hurt the eyes to look at it, and a sky so blue that Owien claimed after that he never really saw a blue sky again. On a hill in the distance stood the greatest castle any of them had ever imagined, with more towers and pinnacles than they would have guessed possible. Near at hand stood the most beautiful woman any had ever seen, and she glowed all around, ever so slightly, like a true, angelic vision. The woman stepped into this world, looked around and took in the whole scene with one sweep of her eyes. The fairies bowed and backed away. Margueritte just had to step forward.
“Lady Alice,” she said, for she knew who it was. “Is it time for me to come home now?”
“No, my little self,” Alice said. “You have much yet to do here, but soon enough, and you may come.” She turned to Elsbeth who thought it only right to curtsey. “Do not be afraid, child. Your days, too, will be long and happy. And what do you say Owien son of Bedwin. Will Sir Owien and Sir Tomberlain, the best of friends, not come into this high adventure?” She stepped aside first for the unicorn and invited the beast to enter in. The unicorn did not hesitate. It reared up once, the earth shook, and lightening pierced across the sky. Then it dashed through the door and quickly became lost in the distance as it raced across that sea of green. “And my children,” Alice said to the fee who fluttered passed the door.
“Yes, hurry.” Little White flower added. Margueritte started and that got everyone’s feet moving. Tomberlain came last with his horse. When they turned, they could not see a door at all, and Alice was also not with them. Looking out across the pasture, they saw great fields of perfect, golden grain not far from a river which ran deep and wide, and which seemed to come from the castle on the hill. Behind them was the sea. Indeed, they were almost on the golden shore and it seemed as if the drab world from which they had come must be buried beneath the waves. Beyond the pasture in one direction and beyond the fields and river in the other, there were deep forests. The one past the pasture looked like pine and fir and rose in great procession to where it undoubtedly became cliffs fallen off into the sea. The one past the fields looked like oak, birch, maple, elm, and a thousand species they could hardly name, and it seemed to stretch off into the distance without end.
They felt reluctant to go too far for fear of disturbing the pristine perfection that they saw. Even the fairies, who seemed at home, hardly dared move from the moorings of the children. Then they saw someone come from the fields and river. They waited, because they felt they could hardly do anything else. At last he arrived, a man, deep bearded and hard to look upon, but with a kindly face and a warm demeanor. He came barely clothed, wore only the least cloth such as the Romans once wore, and in his hands, he held a sword.
“Caliburn,” Alice said. They all spun around and saw that she had somehow come up behind them. “It was made for a princess by the gods of old, but it has been carried by others since.”
“Would that I could carry a weapon like that someday,” Tomberlain said with a sigh. Owien nodded, but Alice laughed.
“You gentlemen will have swords a plenty,” she said. “But true and proper will be the swords carried by you men. Even Arthur, who once pulled this sword from the stone, later gained another sword from the Lady of the Lake that he could bear with honor. I said this sword was made for a woman, but there is a man who will bear it. Margueritte, dear, you will know him when you find him. Now you must go home.”
“Oh, Lady, must we?” Little White Flower whined.
“Of course. Your father will miss you. But you may come again.”
“Promises?” Goldenrod asked.
“Promises, my sweet,” Alice said, and she waved her hand to open a door to another place. Tomberlain and Owien stepped out first with the horse. The girls took hands and followed with the fairies. The door vanished. They stood in the triangle and their mother ran to hug and cry over her children, before she sent a man to find their father. The man did not have to go far.
The king left without his tents, and only sent men back to fetch them. Lord Bartholomew told the story that evening.
“There we were, racing for the site where the girls had been left. I was obliged to follow, not knowing the location. Fortunately, I had sent Tomberlain ahead to search as soon as I knew of Urbon’s foolish plan. And, I must say, when I explained to Urbon what he had done, he was most reluctant to let the girls be harmed by whatever beasts might be driven to the center of that circle. He did not say he was sorry, but I could tell he hadn’t thought things through very well. So, we raced ahead of the people and arrived in time to see a rather incredible and unexpected sight. If I say she was the most beautiful woman my eyes have ever beheld, you must forgive me, dear wife. She was angelic, glowing even in the daylight and floating some two feet above the ground. Neither would I have had those dainty sandaled feet muddied by the grime of this world to which she obviously does not belong.”
“Poor Urbon fairly fell to his face and trembled before her, and Duredain the druid went right with him. I kept to horse, but only because I was so astounded at the sight of her. The Irishman also stayed up, but I believe it was shock that froze him. He is like a man who uses words for his advantage but does not actually believe in anything but himself. I am sure he never believed there was a unicorn. The woman fairly froze him in his saddle.”
“The children are safe,” the woman said. “And I will see them safely home. Do not be too hard on yourself for putting their innocence in harm’s way. The unicorn is out of this world now and out of your reach. Alas, the old ways have gone and the new has come. Embrace the new, but also remember you must show grace to those who still see things differently. This universe is bigger than you think, and always remember there is more you do not know than there is that is known to you.” And she vanished. It’s true. She utterly vanished off the face of the earth.”
“Alice,” Tomberlain said.
“Her name is Alice,” Tomberlain said.
“And she was most very beautiful,” Elsbeth added.
The years go by, but finally some questions just need to be asked, and Margueritte has to answer them, if she can. Until Monday