|Fresco from the Great Temple of Pavis depicting a Unicorn|
Here they dwelt amongst the forests of the Spike, as yet untainted by war or strife. They were said to pull the chariots of gods, and were the favoured amongst all wild animals.
But paradise cannot last forever, and when strife came to the world, nature was inevitably separated from the worlds of gods and men. The unicorns stayed with nature, to be their protectors. Led by Sorza, their king, the unicorns acted as guardians when man or other creatures attacked wild beasts, slaying any who wished harm on the natural world.
During the Great Darkness, chaos horrors and creatures from the Underworld emerged, the unicorns suffered greatly. They alone could not protect the wilderness, and their wives were devoured by Chaos. The remaining male unicorns would have perished after this, but Sorza showed them how they could join with the animals they protected, to produce new unicorns. These new unicorns were less noble than their ancestors, but they survived.
Eventually, the great forest of the world was destroyed, separating many beasts from one another, and the unicorns were no exception. Their once great forces were now many smaller bands, eventually dwindling into solitary figures, each guarding a small portion of nature.
Yet still they fought on, with whatever allies they could find against monsters and Chaos, even allying with Aldryami or humans for added strength. When the dawn came, unicorns were almost extinct. Still, they survived, and have so far proven immune to the grasp of time, with no unicorn dying from old age since the sun returned to the sky.
From a distance unicorns appear to be nearly identical to horses, with only their legendary horn proving the difference. But when studied, several notable differences appear. Firstly, their toes are cloven, like that of a deer, with two toes and two smaller dewclaws behind them; and secondly, unicorns possess a long tail that ends with a tuft of fur concealing a small bone spur. Despite this armament, the tail is not used in combat, and instead the tail seems to be used mainly to balance the Unicorn.
The unicorn's coat is made of soft, downy fur, like that of a rabbit, this provides the beast with great protection from the weather, although it has made it a target for hunters.
The infamous horn of the unicorn is unlike that of other creatures, for it does not curve or bend, but rises straight out of the beast's forehead, with a spiral ridge around it.
The God Learner Ocran Everseer called the Unicorn "Unicornis sylvanus" in his records, classing specimins under the same species and taxonomic name. Later investigation reveals that although this is the most common type, others do exist.
- The Fronelan Unicorn (Unicornis valindus) lives in the Winterwood, on the edge of the glacier. Larger than the pony-sized common unicorn, the Fronelan unicorn is equal in size of larger warhorses, such as the Daron or Sered. Its pelt is also much thicker than that of other unicorns, resembling the Mastodons and Kunkorns of the region, leading to its other name of "Woolly Unicorn."
- In the Wastelands there exists a small population of desert adapted unicorns. commonly named the Praxian Unicorn (Unicornis generti), who are are leaner and more agile than their kin. Their coats, unlike the simple snow white of the Fronelan and common unicorns, are marked with darker patches, often appearing as stripes or rosettes, especially on the legs and face. The presence of facial markings, combined with their shaggy and unkempt manes, has given them the appearance of being in mourning. Alone among the other unicorns, the Praxian unicorn's dewclaws are enlarged, even touching the ground when the beast jumps or is in soft sand. This makes it more sure-footed in the wastelands, where there are no trees to hide behind, and speed is even more important.
- The Monoceros, or Greater Unicorn (Unicornis regina), are the last remaining of the original noble unicorns from before the great darkness. They are now native to the otherworld, and only rarely enter the world of mortals, and even then do so reluctantly. They stand nearly as large as a Rhinoceros, with a coal black coat, and a golden mane. Few beings have ever seen a monoceros, and they are believed by most to be extinct.
- Although not a true unicorn, the Praxian Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros praxianis) was believed to be descended from them by early Malkioni scholars. They claimed that the Rhinoceros was the result of a unicorn who became too cowardly, and retreated from the forests, into the wastelands. In doing so, they became monstrous beings, ugly and unnatural. The God Learner Ocron Everseer dismissed these claims, pointing out, amongst other things, bore five toes upon its foot, marking it as completely unrelated to the even-toed unicorns.
|Mosaic of a Monoceros from the Great Temple in Voi|
Unicorns are browsers, preferring to eat leaves, berries, flowers, and other tender parts of trees and similar plants. Unusually, their diet consists predominantly of poisonous plants, seeking out wolfsbane, nightshade, hemlock and similar plants. This stems from a natural immunity to such toxins, and it also proves an effective defence, for their body absorbs many of these toxins, making the flesh poisonous to any who might try to prey on them.
So powerful are a unicorn's digestive systems that even their dung has proven to be anathema to the forces of Mallia. Elves and Yelornan cultists have been known to follow unicorns around to collect this dung to form into healing poultices. This practice seems to amuse the unicorns to no end.
Lacking any females, unicorns reproduce with other animals, typically deer, horses, or goats. This is a rare occurrence, for unicorns live long lives, and would view any other unicorn, even their own offspring, as a rival. Still, when such matings do occur, the unicorn protects the mother, even at the risk of its own life. If the offspring is male, it is another unicorn. If female, it is a perfect example of the mother's species. These does, hinds, or mares are sought after by hunters for their beauty, and a unicorn-fathered mare, if caught early and tamed, makes an excellent steed.
The young unicorn foal resembles its father in all respects, save the horn, which takes several years to grow from a small nub on its forehead. Until the horn is grown, the foal cannot use magic, and is near defenceless, requiring the foal to stay close to its father for protection.
Like all other sentient beings, unicorns know of the otherworld, and possess a connection with it. When in the wild, a unicorn will often spend its time in a trance-like state, meditating on the power of the natural world. From this meditation, unicorns are able to work magic, which acts much as wizardry does, manipulating the magical nature of the world.
Most of the magic used by unicorns involve healing, cleansing diseases and closing wounds. Even wild animals know that unicorns possess this gift, and a unicorn's home is often filled with wildlife, each waiting, almost unnaturally still, for the unicorn to heal them. This calming power has led wizards to claim that unicorns are a combination of the Beast and Harmony Runes, and the unicorn was one of the Forty Ancient Beasts of Danmalastan.
Unicorns and Others
Unicorns have ever been wary of creatures of the Man Rune, even viewing many of the Elder Races with the same distrust. Only amongst the elves have they found long standing allies, with them regarding each other as near kin. Still, the elves sometimes find unicorns as pests, for they devour many of the warding plants of the elves, to feast on their toxins.
Many elf groves will instead present tribute to a nearby unicorn, in the form of poisonous fruit, to avoid the unicorn destroying their defences when hungry.
|Yelornan Silver Star coin|
This goddess is native to Vanch, where she is said to be the daughter of the Sun God and the Green Lady. They say that during the darkness, Yelorna acted as a protector of the unicorn king, and the unicorns seem to agree (or at least do not care enough to denounce this).
During the Bright Empire of Nysalor, Yelornan worshippers spread as guardians of the Sun Dome temples, along side the Yelmalians. They acted as cavalry, riding horses and other steeds when there were not enough unicorns to carry them all. When the empire collapsed, the cult of Yelorna fragmented, and now many of them have been wiped out.
Of the groups who are still known to exist, the following are well recorded:
- In the wastes of Prax exists the Unicorn Tribe, who claim to follow their own, older traditions, the God Learners claim that the Sun Daughter they worship to be another form of the goddess Yelorna. Certainly the Unicorn maidens of the city of Pavis do not see a difference, and are strongly allied with the Yelmalians of the city, and each of their temples bears shrines to the other's deity.
- The guardians of the Karia March Sun Dome temple are still allied to a small tribe of unicorn riding Yelornans. With the collapse of the Bright Empire in the first age, this tribe has become far more insular than the surrounding peoples, having retreated to the woods to live in harmony with their unicorns and wild animals. Because of this self-imposed isolation, when they do appear in the cities of Delela, they have been mistaken for a band of unicorn Hsunchen.
- Amongst the cavalry forces of Mirin's Cross is a small group of unicorn riders, made from the remnants of the protectors of the Sun Dome Temple, these warriors first fought against the Lunar heroine Hwarin Dalthippa, but when she came amongst them astride her own war unicorn, they became her loyal followers. Reformed as some of her elite warriors, these unicorn riders are also followers of the Lunar Way, and worship Hwarin Dalthippa alongside Yelorna.
- In Seshnela, the soldiers of the land are organized into many martial beast societies. One of these is the Unicorn Society, which dates his history back to the first age, when Arkat attacked the Tanisorian allies of the Bright Empire. The Yelornans were amongst the forces the Empire sent against Arkat, but when he defeated them, the Yelornans were convinced that the Bright Empire was corrupt. The unicorn riders became absorbed by the Seshnegi, and became another one of the martial beast societies, their pagan origins almost entirely forgotten.