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The Gray Walker and The Unicorn

or, How the Scathach Acquired Their Boon

by Mark W. Maybray

Once upon a time, in what is now known as Hibernia, there was a hunter who was descended from the great mother Scathach. He was a fine example of the sidhe; swift, intelligent, wise, humble, and brave. He was skilled with the bow, and an excellent tracker. But his most valued asset was his kindness and generosity. He aided any Kithain in need, regardless of kith, be they Seelie or Unseelie, noble or commoner. He may have hunted for food, but never killed for sport, and chastised those who did. He would wander the breadth of the wilderness, for he had no lands or title. Some fae claimed it was because he was unfit to rule, but the truth was he had no care for it . He had two great loves: protecting his fellow fae and traveling the lands.

He did have his faults, however. He was a very proud sidhe, and took offense when he heard his "noble" kinsmen of the other Houses snicker at their "poor country cousin". Once, while traveling the forest, he spotted a black unicorn drinking from a pond. "If I managed to capture such a fine creature, and made it my personal riding mount," he thought to himself, "then those mincing fops might look at me in a new light." So, as carefully as he could, he fashioned a bit of rope into a lariat, and crept slowly towards the unicorn. However, before he could get to close, he stepped on a fallen branch, and the noise alerted the Mythic creature. The huntsman leapt towards the unicorn, but it was too fast for him, and the sidhe fell into the pond. The hunter rose up from the water, and saw the unicorn staring at him wide eyed. He then took a look at himself, and saw a fool, dripping wet and covered in leaves. Realizing his folly, he laughed out loud. "My apologies, noble unicorn! You see before you a woodsman defeated by his own proud nature. If there is anything I can do to make amends for my transgression, let me know!" The unicorn nodded and said, "If I or any of my kind ever require assistance, may I count on your aid?"

"Of course. I do swear this in the name of my mother Scathach."

The unicorn nodded, and bolted off into the forest, leaving the hunter to laugh at his own misguided ego. Time passed, and the wilder resumed to his routine, aiding those in need, and exploring the wilds. One day, he happened upon a vicious sight: a group of Unseelie fae had captured a white unicorn and were tormenting the hapless creature.

"Ye'll make a fine meal at m'lord's Samhain feast," taunted a redcap.

"Aye, and that horn'll make me a fine dagger," snickered a goblin.

Of the lot, there were two goblins, a satyr, and a redcap, but most terrible of all was their sidhe lord. With a wicked grin he oversaw the travesty.

The huntsman's rage seethed. Remembering his promise, he crept as quietly as he could, trying to gain the element of surprise, but again, the woods themselves seemed to betray his approach, and soon, the Unseelie were upon him. Outnumbered, he surely would've been killed, had not the dark elf raised his hand.

"Leave him be. He have what we came for." And with that, the capricious fae were off.

Though injured, the hunter struggled to his feet, for even in that ancient day and age those of the Scathach line would not back away from a fight until they were dead or their enemies were. After healing himself with some herbs and a bit of Primal, he was after his quarry. He soon found them, but again, he could not get close enough for a sneak attack before the fae were alerted to his presence. Twice more this happened, and as always the end was the same: the Unseelie brigands left the woodsman broken and bleeding but, still alive.

The huntsman was discouraged, but he had made an oath, and he would be damned if he'd break it. The huntsman sat in the woods, trying to figure out a solution to his predicament, when the black unicorn appeared.

"Hunter, my mate has been captured a band of dark fae. Have you forgotten your oath to me?"

"I have not," replied the hunter, "but they have the superior numbers. I have tried to sneak up on them. But always something betrays my presence."

"Then," replied the unicorn, "I shall teach you how to move without sound, so that you may bring death on swift wings to those who have hurt my mate."

And the Scathach listened to the words of the unicorn, of the secrets of the glen and the Dreaming, of the mysteries not commonly known to the fae.

And he smiled.

Later that night, the Unseelie fae had made camp. They were listening to the redcap tell tales of previous atrocities, as well as the nightmares he had planned for the unicorn, and the woodsman if he tried to cross their path again. "Aye if I see that pointy-eared runt again, I grind his bones into bread," he began to stand up so his words had greater effect. "I use his blood to make my wine." And he stopped, as if to listen to the silence of his audience, held in rapt awe. He then threw his head back and laughed. "And he shall know the strength of the Unseelie court."

And, as if to refute his point, an arrow flew through the redcap's eye and into his brain, killing him instantly. The rest of the fae were immediately on their feet. The two goblins stood back to back, crossbows drawn, ready to fend of attackers from both sides. It wouldn't do them any good, because a split second later, a arrow went into their necks, joining them together in death.

The satyr's response was typically Unseelie. "The unicorn's not worth my skin. I'm out of here." Though the sidhe tried to stop him, the satyr bounded off. The dark noble briefly considered going after his comrade, but soon changed his mind after the screaming started.

Undaunted, the sidhe stood in the center of the campsite, sword at the unicorn's neck.

"Show yourself, or the beast gets it!"

An arrow flew off from some bushes, but fell short of the dark elf.

"Ahhh. So that's where you're hiding." The smug lord sheathed his sword and walked over to the shrub the arrow had come from. The Unseelie parted the leaves and the branches to find...


He then screamed out loud when he felt a hand on his shoulder. He spun around to find the Scathach, smiling. The dark elf, backed away, but fell back into the shrubs. He waved his hands in front of his face, begging for mercy. The huntsman seemed to consider his words for the moment, then faster than the eye could see, he plunged his dagger through each of the sidhe's hands. He then leaned down, so that the sidhe and the Scathach were face to face.

"Run away. And if you ever bring harm to another creature again, you might not be as luck as you were today." And with those words, the Unseelie lord ran off into to the woods.

The Scathach then went over to the bound unicorn and freed the gentle creature. The unicorn nodded at him, then bounded off into the forest. The Scathach, his oath fulfilled, decided to make good use of the campsite and went to sleep.

Word soon spread of a sidhe descended from the Gray Mother, who could move without sound. Soon, fae from all over the kingdom were seeking the huntsman out, trying to persuade him into revealing his secret. However, whether it be a mighty Gwydion lord to a humble boggan traveler, the hunter turned them all down, figuring it was not his secret to share.

But one day, when the hunter had returned from one of his journey's, he stopped in his tracks as he saw the most beautiful creature he had ever seen. She was a Gray Walker, like himself, with long silver hair and ice blue eyes. He had fallen in love at the sight of her, and the hunter made an oath to himself right then and there that he would reveal his secret to her, but only if she could prove herself.

A fortnight later, the sidhe lady was walking through the woods, when she came upon a wounded gray unicorn. She immediately started to care for the creature. She tore her clothing into strips to bind the creature's wound, and removed her cloak to use it as a blanket. She spent her days searching for food and herbal remedies, and her nights trying to heal the creature with Primal Arts. Though she tended the creature with the utmost care, the unicorn seemed to make no progress. Still, the daughter of Scathach stayed. Even when she took ill herself, she was determined to see the unicorn returned to full health. Only when her strength had nearly left her did she finally sleep.

He had had enough. The form of the unicorn melted away to reveal the huntsman, and as she had cared for him, so too did he care for her. When her eyes finally fluttered open, she saw a handsome sidhe woodsman standing over her. They were married soon after, and his wedding gift to her was the secret the black unicorn had given him. Together, the wandered the forests, aiding those in need, and when the ran across a worthy sidhe, usually a descendant of Scathach, they would teach him the art of stealth. Those they taught would go on to teach other Scathach the art, and those the Gray Walkers gained renown in the Kingdom of Hibernia and beyond. Soon, their legend had grown so much that the High King deemed to recognize the children of Scathach a noble house unto themselves. However, they cared not for ruling land, but preferred to wander the lands as they did, protecting the fae from threats far and wide.

And the Scathach always paid tribute to the unicorn whom they owed so much.

Original text copyright 2000 by Mark W. Maybray. Reprinted here with permission. All rights belong to the author.
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