The Finding

A Fantasy Short Story by R.E. Joyce

The Finding

by R.E. Joyce

Ariah, from the moment of her transformation to Unicorn, is given a mission to find and stop the evil that has covered her valley in darkness.  Leaving the only home she knows she bands with an elf maiden Dariel, a leopard, a grumpy wolf and even the young man Tarran for a journey of discovery seeking the Light of Savron that can stand up against The Darkness.  As they seek, her horn changes color until in battle it turns crystal revealing her to be the Light of Savron.  Yet it is in the love of Dariel and Tarran that the true light is made complete.  While the world holds back the evil hordes, Ariah brings her precious friends before The Darkness and returns the world to the light of love.

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The Mists of Valinor
The valley spread for many miles, protected by three mountain ranges and the Great Sea to the west.  The mountains to the north, known as The Blackened Heights, stood like dark, cold shadows seemingly without life.  They had always been so, yet in the last few years, the wolves came from this dark land.  The Blackened Heights ceased being a protective wall and became an issuer of death.
The land now remained covered by the mists.  Each year, the fog and darkness had grown, the life-giving sun all but forgotten.  No one seemed to remember the days when peace and beauty reigned supreme.  They just went about their business and accepted the coming darkness.
This was the world for Trinnya and the realm of her herd.  This is where the story begins, and where many things come together to create a new reality.


Trinnya, not unlike the rest of the young ponies within the herd, accepted the darkness as life.  She had known nothing else throughout her first year in the world.  She moved with the others and grazed on the meager soggy grasses in the valley of mists.  Trinnya, taller than most of the ponies, hid her height as best she could.  She tried mightily to blend in.
Her stepmother, Arinnya, made no objection to the jeers and taunts Trinnya received from the others and counseled her to try harder to be like those around her.  This was not a world for the weak, and she strove to make Trinnya hard and strong for the struggle ahead.
Trinnya did not know her origin; just that she had been taken in one stormy night last year by Arinnya and made part of the heard.  Her circumstance was accepted without question by the leaders and forgotten in the day-to-day struggles.
This was the world of the ancient Valley of Valinor in the youth of Trinnya.  This was the end of the age – this was the life she was forced to endure.

The Truth

It had not always been so.  Trinnya listened intently to the stories of the elders remembering the beauty of the valley.  How it had once been a world of wonderful peace and joy, how each day became a dance of happiness and abundance.
The week of chores and schooling ended, and the ponies broke for the fields and home.  Three began their normal taunts of the “overlarge” and “gangly” pony.  Trinnya felt the piercing of the words, and with a hidden tear, ran across the fields as fast as she could.
They all gave chase and, hearing their continuing taunts, she put all her will into running.  Within moments, the taunts faded, and in minutes, she could not even hear the beat of their hooves.  She felt a new freedom and a new something she could not understand.  What was she feeling?
The run was magical.  She did not see the look on the faces of the ponies left in her dust.  No one could keep up with her.  None could even dream of running that fast.  The great stallion could never run this fast.  But for Trinnya, it was a time of pure joy and confusion.  Then like the surprise appearance of a butterfly, she knew what to do.  She would go ask Tragort—he would know what she felt.
She giggled because it only took her a few moments to reach the forest before the Green Plateau where Tragort stayed.  Coming to a stop, she looked around but seemed to know that Tragort had already seen her.  Calmly, she walked up to him, and he bowed, causing more confusion.
Tragort,” she started, “I have these feelings, and this wonderful joy and this scary sense, and I don’t know if this is …
Slow down Little One.” His deep and gentle voice quelled her words.  “Take a breath after such a run.  We have all afternoon to delve into the mysteries of this day.
But I am not winded and I am not even tired from my run and …
Gently Little One, gently.
She could see the love and the smile in his eyes, and she took a deep breath and let it out slowly.  “Tragort, what is happening to me?
It is time to speak of things in the past and things to come, Little One.  Walk with me by the river.  And know this one thing for sure—what is happening is something very wonderful, and your life will be filled with many adventures.  Many will talk of your life for years to come.  The days of not fitting in and the confusion are almost over.
She drank in his words, and they seemed to fill a hidden part of her soul that she had longed to fill—the truth.
Tragort, watching her closely, saw her recognition and knew his journey had come to an end.  He had been given the task of finding the one by his father, and his father before him, and now he stood in her presence.
You, Little One, have been chosen throughout the ages to help the Valley of Valinor and its people.” Tragort had dreamt of this day for many years, and he too had to control his desire to tell all in a moment.  “There is a need to restore this valley with peace and love, and in doing so, help the whole world continue to know joy and happiness.
This darkness is not natural, and you will need to begin a journey to find the light necessary to combat this darkness.  But do not fear because I can already see the changes in you.  You will be ready for this journey and you will be strong enough to meet the challenge.  Look here.”  He pointed to the still waters of the river.
Trinnya bent her head to the spot in the water Tragort indicated and saw a reflection.  There before her eyes was a beautiful filly, and on the bridge of her forehead, a white bump.  Not a malady, but something special—it quickly brought to mind the fairytales of her youth.  As she watched, the bump grew, and she knew—why she was taller—why she dreamed differently—why she … Trinnya looked at her reflection and knew she was a Unicorn.

The Wolf, the Cat and the Woodland Creature

Trinnya took the name Princess Ariah for her people, and she accepted her journey.  Ariah began her climb and started her adventure into the outer world.  The cliff face took two days to surmount.  Ariah finally crested the top and moved out into a mountain forest where darkness and her need for rest brought her to a group of tall pines.  She collapsed onto the soft needle bed, sleeping peacefully.
A wind gust and a shaft of sunlight breaking through the trees brought her out of her slumber.  Startled, she stood quickly and looked around.  Her breathing stopped.  There, in the path to the east, sitting motionless on its haunches, a great silver wolf gazed in her direction.  It seemed completely confident in its next meal.  Ariah’s only thought was why it waited until she awoke.  A journey of a thousand dreams and a hundred lives had ended in her first feeble steps.  Ariah bowed her head and accepted fate.  The wolf stood and took one step forward.
Stand still, you big mutt,” the voice, strong but filled with music, broke the wolf’s stride.  “I will not allow you to touch this creature.
From the trees above, a slight girl dressed in what looked like an outfit which could have been leather or leaves, lightly jumped down to land between Ariah and the wolf.  The girl, no more than five foot three inches, and so slight a small wind would carry her away, stood her ground. “You dare to enter my forest, beast.  You had better have a good reason, or you will not see the full dawn.
The beast stepped back and started to snarl.
 “Must I be the one to end your life, or would you rather play with my kitty?”  At this, a piercing primal scream came from the woods.
This put an end to the movement of the wolf.  The wolf snorted, “So we finally meet, elf kind.  I bow to your protection of this wood.  The one behind you is not of our world.  Why do you protect her?”  He sat back on his haunches.
The elf was Dariel, and her bow too swift for him to evade.  The primal cry came from Currell, the black cat.  Together they were death to any who stood against them.
As the elf turned to Ariah, a thought crossed Ariah’s mind.  “Interesting—the mist seems only to cover the valley.  I believe I see real sunlight above.
The girl and the wolf stood motionless.  The great cat came to the girl’s side.  The horse had talked.
Ariah had been hidden in shadows by tree branches.
The cat broke the silence.  “Come forward, Little One, so that we may see you.
At this, Ariah took on an indignant tone and marched out to stand before the three of them.  “Know this, cat.  Only Tragort will address me as “Little One”—all others will call me Princess Ariah.  I do not expect homage, yet I will demand civility!
The cat stood startled, the girl silent, while the wolf reacted with a laugh.  “Bless my soul, the legends are true!  You are one of the ancients—the horned horses!  May I bow to your ladyship?  I am the Great Silver Wolf.  I have no name because all who look on me die and become my evening meal.”  The wolf bowed low before Ariah and laughed.  “What a dilemma I face this day.”  He looked at the girl and big cat.  “Bested by an Elf, intimidated by a kitten, and now bowing to a princess—what is a great wolf to do?”  Mischief sparkled in his eyes, and he turned again to Ariah.  “I know!  I’ve got it!  I will make this girl and this kitten join your quest!
The black cat snarled ominously, holding its position.  The girl looked from Ariah to the wolf.
Yes, that is it,” the wolf shouted.  “I pronounce that this journey will be undertaken with four unusual friends.  The beast of the north (that’s me), the lady of the woodlands, the feline horror from the east and the ancient horse of love!  SO IT SHALL BE!
With the tension broken, formal introductions began.  “I am Dariel and this is my companion Currell.  Together, we watch this forest and protect it from many enemies.”  The woodland elf spoke confidently and had a sense of immediate connection with Ariah.
Ariah’s response formed deep within her heart.  The words, while hers, came from long-lost memory.  “I have stood side by side with your people to battle evil, and once again profess my love for your forest.
Upon hearing the ancient vow, Dariel bowed, allowing Ariah to touch her with her horn.
The cat remained silent.  After a few moments of conversation between Ariah and Dariel, Currell became bored and walked back into the shadows of the forest.
Currell will hold her own council.  She has accepted you, or you would never have touched me.”  Dariel watched the cat go.  “A few winters ago when we first met, I saved her life.  She will stay by my side until she saves mine.
During the conversation, the wolf had sat motionless.  “E-hem—have you two silly girls forgotten me?” Ariah turned towards the rude remark.  “Oh don’t fuss, or I will call Tragort to come and re-teach you humility.
Dariel snickered, and Ariah first turned red, and then burst out in laughter.  They both faced the wolf.  “I, Ariah, Princess of the Unicorns, set upon a special quest to bring peace and love back to the valley, do hereby decree that Dariel and Currell will accompany me on this journey.”  Her official sounding edict could not hide her laughter. “Great Wolf, mocker of protocol and blasphemer of propriety—you will be allowed to tag along.  I shall name you Furor, for that is the feeling I have when your mouth opens.” She bowed and added, “I accept your humility lesson, silver one.
They all burst into laughter and the black cat walked past, ignoring them.
That one is going to take time to get used to,” the wolf whispered to no one in particular.  “I wonder why cats and wolves do not get along …

Tarran’s Start

Tarran had spent his life in the mountain woods, far from civilization.  Oh, he knew the people in the valleys.  Their suspicion of his mountain ways never bothered him.  But their shunning of his mother, unless they were in trouble and needed her care, built a rift he chose not to cross.
Tarran spit on the knife and continued to hone the blade.  It was one of eight he carried in the hidden folds of his leather garment.  Dawn would bring time for hunting, and his bow still needed a new string.  He did not farm.  Hunting was his passion, and he had become a marksman beyond reproach.  Knife, bow, sword, lance—all felt comfortable in his hand and he knew he could make his way in the world without the toil of farming.
With bow strung and knives sharpened, he completed the task of filling his pack and turned west towards his future.

A wizard’s inability to mind his manners

The easy pace through the valley and foothills allowed Tarran to make good time.  He continued walking through the first night, reveling in the excitement of the new adventure.  Many travelers would be more cautious, but Tarran’s ability with weapons and his unusually good eyesight made travel in the dark easy.
As he crested the last of the rolling hills before the Arched Mountains, he saw a fire just off the path.  Approaching cautiously, he circled the fire, getting closer.  The camp looked empty and he was just about to turn, when a blade touched the back of his neck.
Be a gentle soul and do not attempt to turn,” a steady and firm voice instructed.  “Who are you and why do you approach my camp like a thief?
I am no thief but a traveler, and did not want to disturb you unnecessarily.”  Tarran had never been in this situation.  He had approached a hunting leopard and not been spotted.  His uneasiness was most likely showing.
You must have missed your mother’s lessons on manners,” the voice remarked as he lowered his blade.
The instant rage exploded, and Tarran reached for the knife by his waist.  His hand came away empty.  Without hesitation, he grabbed for his sleeve knife and that hand also came away empty.  He patted the back of his neck and ducked to reach in his boot—nothing—NOTHING.
The voice behind him—now in front of him—laughed.  “Your dear mother warned me of your temper, Tarran.”  Moving to the fire he continued.  “You can sit by the fire and listen to me, or go on uselessly looking for a way to dispatch me.  In the end, I will fulfill your mother’s wish.”  The man sat by the fire.
Tarran stood in the shadows, filled with rage.  The sun behind the mountains began to lighten the sky, but Tarran did not see the beauty.  He felt only the pain of his humiliation.  He came to the fire and there on the ground before him were his weapons, eight knives, each gleaming in the merry light of the campfire rather than in his garment’s secret places.  The old man did not even touch him and there the knives lay, prizes of a master thief playing with his prey.
Oh sit down, you obstinate boy.  I am no thief!”  The command showed powers beyond fliching—he stole thoughts, too.
Tarran sat down.
The old man looked across the fire and pondered.  The silence continued as the fire diminished to ash and the rise of the cloudy day appeared.
Many years ago, in your mother’s youth, she was given a special mission in life.
Tarran sat and listened.  He was captured without one binding to hold him.  This old man knew his mother and the reason for her existence, which had always haunted Tarran.
We both thought this adventure would be ours and we prepared.  I became a wizard and your mother became a healer.  We practiced throughout the land and awaited the calling that never came.  I stayed away longer and longer, trying to find the source of our adventure with no success.”  The old man seemed lost in thought.
One spring, I returned and your mother was chasing a two-year-old around the cottage.  I looked into her eyes and saw her pain.  As I turned to leave, she called out to me.  ‘You will promise me one thing.  When his time comes, you will guide him.’  I left and never returned until the date of her death.
Tarran’s head spun.  Is he my father?  Who does he think he is leaving my mother to fend for herself!  If I reach for the knives can I best him?
Quiet Tarran!” he commanded.  “And no, you are not fast enough—yet.
I left because I am a wizard and I have a calling.  Your mother knew this and while we were both sad, I could not give up the quest we had chosen.  My search would continue and I would have to take up the burden of your mother’s loneliness as well.  I loved your mother deeply, Tarran.  But we both knew the quest must come first.”  He grew pensive.  He seemed to be hesitating on sharing the next thought.  Picking up a stick, he absently poked at the fading fire.
I have journeyed far and seen many things.  I have communed with nature and the heavens and even the darkness.  I have learned many secrets and found many treasures.  But I have not been able to find the reason for my quest.”  He paused and then looked directly at Tarran.  “I now must turn this quest over to you, Tarran.  You must complete this journey your mother began.
Tarran sat stunned.  And yet, he seemed to know that the old man’s words rang true.  Since his mother’s death, he had been held by an unanswered need.  Now this old man, maybe his father who abandoned him, uttered the only words that made sense.  He was to join his mother’s quest and find her magnificent treasure.
Stories of his distant childhood flashed before his eyes and he began to see the pattern of her teachings.  His skill with weapons never seemed to fit with a healer but now they were a natural extension of his preparation.  The healing arts were never ignored in his youth and he knew every plant and every ointment required for his journey.
The old man seemed to sense his recognition, and Tarran turned his eyes away from the prying stranger.
You may not come to love me or even like me, Tarran.  I do not ask for this.  But let me provide a fortnight’s worth of training to help you on your journey and hone your skills a little more.”  The old man did not plead.  He offered, and Tarran found no reason not to learn from the stranger.
We will continue to travel west,” Tarran announced.  “You may follow and provide training as you like.

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