Last One
I am floating through the air
the effortless motion, the fluid flight
The wind whispering fiercely
kissing my burning face, soothing my tired body
Cooling me with its
Healing, ethereal touch.

My legs are pumping
my feet churning the soft earth
A world which I find so unfamiliar
the strange terrain, the endless flat plain
So far away from
My beloved forest.

I find myself flying.

My muscles no longer screaming
the pain is gone, no longer there
The shouts behind me fade to nothingness
the gasps of the weary yet eager men
And it is only me and the sky
In an endless race against time.

Then I stumble
a single misplaced rock beneath my unsteady hooves
Jarring me back down to earth
my reign of the sky ended after only a few minutes
The horrors behind me swamp me again
And I try to run as I had before, try to escape.

But I am too late.

They close around me
spears a-bristle, shining armor reflecting the dying sun into my eyes
Half blind I blunder once more
the glittering golden net flung over my once-proud head
They grab me by my horn and by the net
And lead me away like an untrained slave.

My hoofbeats fall heavily
the beating of a death drum
My head bowed low
their jeers sting more than the jabs from their swords
I do not resist;
I take my capture like the lord that I am.

For I am the Lord of my forest.

The cage is no wider than two of my kind
a single movement can slam my bruised body into the iron bars
I am placed by the other caged immortal animals
their sad, blank gazes look as if their souls have fled
I am shamed like I have never been shamed before
I suddenly understand the looks of my brethren.

The crowds push closer
pointing, boasting of successful hunts
The others preen when shown
unnecessary grooming, proud stances
But I stand averted
Unyielding to the spirit-breaking treatment.

I endure this suffering for over a century.

A young girl pauses one day near my confining cage
her laughter shining through the mire around us
I try to shield myself from her, bring up my shield of anger
my horn gently pulling me nearer as if drawn by a magnet
But I nicker instead, bringing forth a smile.
By the end of the day I have gained a sympathetic friend.

Too soon she is gone
no more sunshine in my world of darkness
Cursed by the mortality which the human race bears
I am once more alone, friendless
I long to run in the welcoming forest
And weep pearly tears for the friend I have lost.

I am overwhelmed with despair.

Then the day comes
sunlight breaks through my dreams
And the chance is offered me
the spear so carelessly set beside my cage, dipping inwards
I back up as far as I can
And plunge myself onto the eternal shaft of peace.

The pain slices through me
life-sapping, welcoming pain
I lower my head
bright red blood spreading over my matted white coat
I gasp a last prayer to my ancestors above
And thrust myself farther onto the splintering shaft.

I remember my past.

My friends and family slash before my eyes
golden horns glinting in the midday sun
My last glimpse of my peaceful kingdom
only the occasional songs of birds piercing the silence
Then the bitter anger
I feel from so long ago...

The hunters' warlike cries
jangling harnesses, baying dogs
They surround my home like a hungry pack of wolves
the slaughtering, the gory horn-gathering
I shield my breaking heart from the harsh, painful memory
And let myself slip into the deep, bottomless well.

So ends the life of the last Unicorn, the Heart and Lord of the Forest.