Crow and The Unicorn
“Crow, get in here!”
Crow sighed, teetering across the heaving deck to the hatch. He descended into the reeking hold of the frigate “Miranda Kate”. The Captain stood, hands on hips, a huge frown on his scarred forehead.
“Yes, Cap’n?” Crow asked.
“What in Satan’s arse is this?”
Uh-oh. The Captain had noticed. Crow prevaricated. He coughed. He shuffled. He took out his glass eye and polished it on his grimy neckerchief. Spitting on the back, he slid it back into its socket with a soft fup.
“Unicorn, Cap’n. Obtained this very morn. By me. As ordered. By you,” he bluffed. Maybe in the dim light of the hold…
“Its horn’s wonky, Mr. Crow. You have provided a wonky-horned unicorn.”
“You’re bloody lucky to get any unicorn at all,” thought Crow, while saying out loud “Really?”
He leaned forward and affected to peer over the rope which separated them from the creature. Mostly it looked like a horse, but from its forehead protruded a crooked horn, spiralled, and, it has to be said, wobbling slightly as the unicorn moved.
“Optical illusion,” tried Crow, “Like when you wobble your spare leg for the lads.”
“That’s no illusion. That, Mr. Crow, is a loose horn. Look, it’s drooping!”
The horn was looking a bit precarious. The unicorn tilted its head to one side, and the horn tipped back into a more central position.
“Our client specifically stated,” the Captain extracted a crumpled paper from his pocket, dislodging copious gobbets of fluff which drifted to the floor. He held the paper close to his eyes and read. “One perfect unicorn, pristine white, with golden horn so that my new bride might toss her bouquet thereupon, ensuring a lifetime of happiness and fat children, as told by legend.”
The Captain fixed Crow with his steely gaze, known across the Seven Seas to be the fiercest piercing gaze in at least five of them.
“What colour is this unicorn, Crow?” he spat, taking his tricorn hat from his greasy head.
“Mucky grey, sir.”
“Mucky grey!” shouted the Captain, giving Crow a whack on the scalp with his chapeau. “And its horn? What colour do you call that?”
“LEMON-CHIFFON?” Another whack. “IT’S WAZZ-COLOURED, YOU NONCE!”
“Wazz-coloured, sir. Yes, sir.”
Crow whimpered, scuffing his feet in the sawdust. The unicorn watched them, its liquid blue eyes sparkling with dream-dust and magic. It raised its beautiful tail and did a massive dump on the deck.
“See? Even the unicorn knows what you are, Crow. This will not do. The client will never accept it. We’ll have to think of something.”
“Paint, sir?” suggested Crow, fully expecting another painful hat attack. Before the blow could be struck however, they were interrupted.
“Cap’n!” came a frantic shriek from above, “Tis the Revenue! Their boat’s alongside!”
“Bum,” growled the Captain. He stumped over to the ladder, wooden leg striking a catchy rhythm. Crow followed. By the hatch stood a tall woman, fully six feet tall, in the purple uniform of the King’s Revenue. Her shoulder length hair whipped about her face.
“Captain Bliss?” she inquired, in a light musical voice. The Captain nodded.
“Magic Inspector Laura James.” She looked down on the Captain, continuing in a bored tone. She had said these same words hundreds of times.
“Do you carry Spellbeans, Dreamwhisky, arcane jewellery, or mind-enhancing Leafchew?”
“No,” answered the Captain, peering anxiously upward.
There was a whinny from below.
“Except for that horse,” the Captain flailed, “Horses are allowed, obviously, normal horses are. Being most mundane and not at all magical like unicorns are, which that isn’t.”
“Hmmm,” said their interrogator, dubiously. She threw out her dragonskin boot and strode to the hatch. Crow and the Captain panicked as she lowered herself into the darkness below. They heard nothing for several seconds. Then the blond head reappeared, followed by the rest of the Inspector.
“Bit of a stench down there,” she advised, clambering into the Revenue boat, “Better get that horseshit cleaned up.”
The Revenue boat sloshed away, the steershaman in the rear chanting water-repelling incantations. Crow and the Captain stared at each other for a beat, then ran to the hatch and down the ladder. Beyond the rope, the unicorn looked bored. There was a dark patch on its forehead, but no horn. The two men were bewildered.
The unicorn looked exasperated, and tapped its hoof on the floor. Crow and the Captain looked down. There, in a dark corner, lay the horn.
“Crow, fetch that paint,” ordered the Captain, “And while you’re at it, bring some glue.”
“Those whom Gods have joined let none sunder,” sang the minister, “Michael, you may kiss your bride.” The handsome groom embraced his new wife happily as the guests cheered. Crow crossed his fingers.
“Anna,” the minister continued, “You may fling.”
The beautiful bride turned and threw her bouquet of winterpoppies towards an extremely patchily-painted unicorn, whose horn was curiously off-centre. The bouquet landed directly on the horn, hanging there for a tantalising moment. Then the horn fell off. The unicorn did another dump.
Michael and Anna did not notice, smiling and hugging and lost in each other’s eyes. Crow polished his own eye.
“It’s true, Captain,” he said, “Love is truly blind.”