Birmire, a simple little town that rarely showed up on the maps. It had all the comforts a person could want: a market place, a tavern, a blacksmith, a brothel. Dozens of families called Birmire their home and they received a fair share of business from travelers. However it's only claim to fame is that it's more commonly known as "that one one village before the Lord's estate" or "the town where the knights go on holiday".
A single road passed through the village leading directly toward the Lord's estate. That road lead to the densely wooded forests. The road was beaten by the foot traffic of merchants and travelers, seeking an audience with the lord or the merchants in town. Yet to the keen eye there was a scant pathway marked by wagon tracks and hoofmarks leading adjacent to the woods. This was path was used only by one family that lived on the edge of the land.
In fact, one member of that family happened to be riding down that path using the rhythm of his steed's clopping to stay in beat while serenading the wilderness with a song.
The lords and kings stay up at night
Until their necks get sore
Counting their coins and asking us
If they can have some more
While all I need to be happy
After I've worked so hard
Is a roof and uh… uhh…
It was at this point Elliott had hit a mental block. He wracked his brain for lyrics like he was trying to grasp that last potato at the bottom of a barrel but came up empty handed. Thankfully no one was there to critique him except for the birds resting in the beech trees above. They sang their song as if to flaunt their natural talen while his four-legged friend pulling the cart.
"Ugh, how do those bards compose those ditties? I can't imagine how they get their work done, the way do. Can you, Bernard?"
While Bernard was good at pulling carts and listening to conversations, he wasn't so good at responding to them. That neutral look of his made it hard for Elliott to get a read off the stallion, and his unkempt, sandy white mane made it worse by obscuring most of his face, much like his owner. Whenever they rode into town, most of people got a chuckle seeing the similarities when the two were side by side. Elliott too had a messy mop of hair but whereas Bernard had a blonde mane, Elliott's was fiery red that he picked up from his father's lineage. Bernard merely nickered, which was good enough for the rider.
"Exactly, they're missing out," he chuckled, mussing up the equine's shaggy hair. Elliott wiped his hand off on his tunic. He went back to composing lyrics for his song and took in the beauty of the nature like a flower basking in the sunlight. Elliott couldn't have asked for a better afternoon.
Of all the days that he could have broken out, why today?
That, along with several choice words, wafted through Trent's mind like dandelion seeds. He didn't have the time to take in the picturesque delights of nature that day. Most people who wandered in this neck of the woods were either lost or hunting, and he happened to be a mix of both, but he refused to admit the former. Trent was confident that he was heading in the right direction, wherever it may lead him.
Before a sliver of doubt could embed itself in Trent's head, he came to a halt. His attention turned to the ground. Imprinted in the soil was a hoofprint, a fresh one at that. The tracks were leading forward, shifting a bit to the right.
Finally, his hard work was paying off. The only way this could have been better was if he found a spring to quench his thirst. With his water skin back at the barracks, he hadn't had a drink since the sun went up. It was one of the many regrets that he had to deal with and he hoped to make things right once this was over.
As the sun began its journey towards the horizon, Elliott was finishing his own. His family's cottage was coming into view and dinner was on his mind. He didn't notice it earlier when he left that morning but he saw the hole in the straw roof that his mother told him needed thatching. For now, he directed Bernard to the right and lead him towards a shabby-looking stable. It was an eyesore but it's withstood numerous storms and provided shelter for Bernard when it was too hot to bring him indoors.
They came to a stop out front and Elliott reined in his companion. While Bernard helped himself to the trough, Elliott hopped off and unhitched his buddy from the wagon. He liked Bernard's thinking and wanted to get some water too but he had to unload the wagon first. Business was slow that day. Few travelers passed through town and fewer stopped to buy anything. His stock was good for another day or two so he could still make use of the unsold products. He opened up a little gate in the back of the wagon to reach the containers more easily. As he reached for a nearby bin, Bernard had finished his drink and was wandering off. Elliott caught up to him in time and directed him toward the stable.
He shut the door behind him and brought the trusty quadruped over to his station. A bed of hay was laid down and a bucket of water for drinking was set aside. Elliott tied a rope around his harness and patted him on the neck. "Now you stay put and don't get any ideas. I'll let you go once I finish unloading the wagon." In lieu of a verbal response, Bernard snorted and sat down until his owner was finished.
There was just one thing stopping him from finishing his last chore before he could whip a meal for himself and get some sleep. One very large thing to be precise.
Just before he left, an apple rolled through the open door. Looking down at it, he furrowed his brow wondering how it got off the wagon. As he stepped outside, he found more of his wares scattered on the ground. Aside from a few bruised apples, he could salvage the lot but those were the least of his concerns. He was more focused on the cause behind this. A unicorn.
Not just any unicorn, like the kind from tall tales. This one did have a glossy violet mane with an ivory horn curved like a crescent moon. Hanging off the the end of it was the handle of a bin that previously held Elliott's produce that rested on the ground for the beast to nibble. Elliott would be impressed by the creature's ingenuity if he wasn't flabbergasted by the sight of this rare creature. It's coat was as dark as a blackberry and its tail resembled that of a lion's, thin and ending with a tuft of hair. Yet what stood out the most out the most to Elliott was the size of it.
To claim that it was pudgy would be an understatement. Its stomach was twice the size of an average horse and hung low to its resilient knees. Which made it hard to determine if it was a boy or girl, from Elliott's point of view, but he had no intention of checking any time soon. What baffled Elliott the most was how such a creature managed to remain elusive for so long from predators and humans.
That thought would have to wait. He had more pressing matters to attend to, as the unicorn raised its head and stared down Elliot. The creature snorted and the bucket swung slowly from side to side like keys on a key ring. The farmer was worried what the creature would do next. He was defenseless and doubted he could outrun the overweight equine. It wasn't the first time a wild animal had ventured onto his family's land and his father prepared him well for most situations, but unicorns were not one of them.
Lucky for him, the unicorn was more focused on shaking off the basin stuck on its horn. The container spun around but kept sliding back down. If he wasn't worried about his own well-being Elliott would find the unicorn's frustrated flailing amusing. It eventually stopped whipping its head and panted raggedly. The bucket dangled in front of the unicorn's face. It was the perfect opportunity for Elliott to back away into his house or even to the stables.
Instead, he gingerly crept forward avoiding any sudden movements that might startle the horned animal along with the alarms going off in his head that warned him that this was a terrible idea. Once he was close enough to the basin that he could hear the air snorting from its nostrils, he reached for the handle. In one swift motion, he pulled the basin off and backed away as quickly as he could. No longer was it irritated by the bin but now this corpulent creature could see him and run him through. Elliott backed away quickly and maintained eye contact making sure that it wouldn't charge him. In doing so, he didn't watch where he was going or notice the lone apple that his foot fell upon.
Elliott slipped and landed harshly on his back. He leaned up and rubbed his roughed-up shoulder. The unicorn stepped forward at a steady trot towards him. The first thought that popped into his mind was to play dead but he questioned if that applied to unicorns or not. His next thought was to get up and run but his muscles were still sore from the fall and stalled him from rising up to his feet. The last thought that popped into his mind as the beast stood before him was if its added bulk would make being trampled and stomped on more agonizing or kill him instantly and painlessly.
There was a crunch but not of bones. But from an apple lying next to the frantic farm boy as the creature took a bite. Elliott saw his opportunity and crawled back towards the front door and watched as it continued to clean up the mess it made. If losing a few fruits and veggies would placate the beast, Elliott could live with that. As he slowly stood back up, he chose to play with fire and dared to approach his wagon. He circled around the idle creature, and climbed into the wagon to grab a crate of produce. Not once did the unicorn lift its head or bat an eye at him as he brought the goods inside without a hitch. Just to make sure the first time wasn't a fluke he made another trip.
He managed to secure the remaining bins without being threatened by the equine. It became clear the unicorn posed no threat to Elliott or his home, so he decided the best course was for him to leave it be and wait for it to wander off back into the forest. Until then, Elliott went inside and got a fire going for his dinner. While he got the fire going, his thoughts returned to mystical being lingering outside.
For a "wild" animal, it was remarkably tame. Elliot wondered if this could possibly belong to someone. It would explain where all the extra weight came from. There's no way a regular animal, unicorn or otherwise, could build up that much bulk in the wilderness. What didn't make sense to him was why this creature was allowed to roam so far unsupervised. It's rare for anyone to come across a unicorn, and even more so to capture one. If it escaped, then whoever owned it would either offer a hefty sum for its return or hunt it down at any cost.
Then again, no one with that kind of power lived out here. The lord of the land lived miles away and would likely send out his men to apprehend the unicorn. He reassured himself that if it did belong to the crown, he would have seen droves of knights in the market searching hi and lo earlier that day. Plus, he paid close attention to the local gossip and hadn't heard anything about a unicorn in months. He was confident that once it had its fill of food, it would leave before anyone could find it.
So he got started preparing his meal while the unicorn finished its meal. Aside from their tense encounter, it looked like it was going to be a quiet night.
After hours of tracking hoofprints through the forests fretting about his mission, he finally came across a cottage far from the local village he had never seen before. Not that he ever had any business this far from the castle but it stuck him as odd. He didn't dwell on the matter for long since he was exhausted from trekking for miles on foot without stopping for food or water. His body had begged him to stop but he knew that finding his target mattered more than his own self-care. Trent feared that he would return empty handed but then his eyes locked on to quadruped in front of the homestead.
Initially a wave of relief washed over him when he saw the unicorn was unharmed but that mood soured instantly when he saw the beast casually munching on an onion off the ground. Reinvigorated with rage, Trent marched up towards the unicorn .
"DUSK!" Trent shouted, catching the attention of the unicorn. "I cannot believe the nerve of you!" In his anger he forgot to keep his volume in check, or even scout the area of anyone that might hear him. "I have been worried sick about you all day. I feared that you were captured or killed. I spent the better half of the day searching for you and what do I find? You stuffing your muzzle with ill-gotten goods. I have half a mind to leave you for dead!"
Trent took a moment to cool down and get everything out of his system. Once that was over, he reached into his satchel and pulled out a harness and reins. "Now enough of this mischief. Let's be off before Sir Kildred takes notice of my absence." Just as he was about to slip on the harness, the equine swung its head and walked away. Trent was not in the mood for games. He refused to return without Dusk. He ran ahead of the stubborn stallion but Dusk turned again and trotted away.
Trent was fed up with this insubordination. He dropped the reins and broke into a sprint. Foregoing all rationality and safety, he leapt onto Dusk's back and clung for dear life. Trent pulled himself up and shouted, "You listen to me, you fat oaf! You are coming home and going back to your-GAH!"
Dusk didn't take kindly to Trent and attempted to buck him off. For a quadruped of this size, Dusk was energetic and managed to put up a fight. Trent hung on for dear life but without proper riding equipment, he lost his grip and slid off. Before he even hit the ground, he received a blow from Dusk's hind leg straight to the stomach. He was launched to the ground while the unicorn scampered off to the edge of the land stopping short of the trail as if waiting to see if Trent would get up and follow.
He did not.
Elliott didn't expect any more surprises that night after his initial encounter with the strange unicorn. It would have been just an interesting footnote in his otherwise bland life that he would never get to share with anyone. But then, while chopping carrots, he heard an exclamation outside that gave him a good scare. He nearly took off one of his fingers by an inch.
He placed the knife down and moved towards the window. He took a peek outside, hoping that he was just hearing things. The view was extraordinary, with the sun resting on the horizon splitting the skies into beautiful yellow, orange, and blue. Yet Elliott couldn't enjoy it because his eyes were on the lone figure stomping towards the unicorn.
A chill ran through Elliott's body as his fears were confirmed. Someone had come in search of the unicorn and they were not peaceful. He couldn't get a good look at the intruder but he most certainly heard him.
From what he picked up, the unicorn was named Dusk and this man, who didn't sound much older than Elliott, was their owner. While he didn't approve of this man's approach to such a gentle albeit gargantuan creature, Elliott was in no position to interject. If this unicorn did belong to this fellow than he had the right to reclaim his property. It didn't sound like anyone Elliott knew from town but he surmised that whoever this was, they outclassed the farm boy. All he could do was listen and wait for them to leave, and pray they don't notice him or Bernard.
As the confrontation went on, Elliott's fear of this new intruder waned with each passing second much like it did with his initial encounter with Dusk. Unlike before, this wasn't as amusing. This noble must have received Dusk as a gift because it was difficult for Elliott to imagine him successfully subduing this gentle giant single-handedly. In fact, he didn't have to imagine it because the fool was attempting to mount the galloping giant. Elliott wanted to shout at him to not to leap on but the words remained locked up in mind. He watched mesmerized by the bizarre show being put on and wondered if this was all some strange dream.
Reality soon kicked in as the stranger took a blow from Dusk and crumpled to the ground. At that point, Elliott stopped being a bystander and made haste outside. While he didn't know who this person was or whether they deserved his help or not, Elliott couldn't leave him unattended.
Elliott knelt down beside the body. The kick only knocked him out but he hit his head on the way down. For all he knew, this man could have broken something. Elliott grabbed an arm and carefully dragged his body over to the stables. The door creaked open as Elliott nudged it open with his hip. Bernard raised his head when Elliott hauled the body over to the next stall over. Once his patient was propped up in an empty stall next to Bernard's, Elliott went to fetch a light. Darkness would fall soon and he needed a lantern. He returned with a flame and hurried to the victim. Before he could start his examination, he noticed Bernard staring blankly at him.
"Don't give me that look. What was I supposed to do? Leave him out there?"
Elliott returned his attention to the subject and got a better look at his body. Strapped to his hips were a sheathed sword and satchel, with the reins and rope outside where he dropped them. Elliott didn't care about the weapon but he recognized the purple colors and crest of the local lord on his clothing. Whoever this was had a higher standing in the land. Not too high though, if they had to track down a unicorn alone.
There would be a time for questions later. His wound still needed attendance.
Even though it would look incriminating if this man woke up and saw Elliott standing over him lifting his shirt up, there was no other way to examine him. He removed the shirt carefully and took a closer look at the body. The bruise was easy to identify on his well-toned body. Which wasn't far-fetched since the upper class were set on looking beautiful. If this was a noble, he was an active one that clearly didn't spend his days lounging about. He even saw a few faint scars along his biceps.
His breathing was steady and even, but his lips looked dry. Elliott reached out to softly press on the injury to assess how badly it hurt but then stopped. There was a strange trepidation that prevented him from doing anything. It was already bad enough that he was inspecting this stranger without permission but it almost felt like a crime to even place a finger on him. To even graze his athletic build felt like defiling sacred land. It was hard to believe someone with his looks could store so much anger.
Immediately, Elliott turned around and tried to silence these invasive thoughts.
"Get it together Elliott. Now is not the time to be admiring this stranger." Once Elliott finished reprimanding himself, he wondered how he would treat the wound. Living as far away as his family did, they needed to be prepared for serious injuries. There was a stash of supplies for such an occasion back in the cottage. If he could get his hands on that, he'd finish what he started, let this young man take the unicorn, and pray that be the end of it. Leaving his guest shirtless, he rushed out the door and tried to get the supplies before his unconscious, unwelcome guest came to.
Trent groaned as he struggled to open his eyes. He was greeted by the familiar stench of hay and manure, along with an aching sensation in his side. His head throbbed where it met the dirt earlier, but his pride was hurt most of all.
If he was to be beaten in battle, Trent would have preferred it be done by a worthy opponent, not a burdensome beast weighing more than the gold its worth. He hadn't experienced a more humiliating defeat since his first joust against the training dummy. No one would let up about that for weeks, and it still popped up from time to time. His lone comfort was that this time no one was around to see him bested lying on the ground shirtless.
At least, it did until it dawned on him that he was shirtless.
Once that clicked, he slowly sat up and looked around his new surroundings. It was clear that someone had moved him and removed his shirt. Thankfully they only removed his shirt, but Trent still demanded to know who was responsible. His initial suspicion was that he had been robbed but that fell apart when he noticed his belongings still attached to his person and his tunic hung over the railing of the stall. At the very least he didn't have to worry about reporting his missing attire.
Then he was struck with a realization so hard he swore it could have been an arrow piercing him. Dusk was still loose and whoever had rescued him was sure to have seen his unicorn. He pushed himself off the ground but stopped and winced as a stabbing sensation coursed through his side. Trent tried to brush it off and rise again but seized up and clutched his side. It's as if an invisible dagger was jabbed into his ribs and when he moved the dagger twisted. Trying his hardest not to collapse, he focused his efforts on breathing and returning to his sitting position. If he was going to reclaim Dusk and escape, he would have to be patient and take things slowly.
Gripping the side of the wall, he bit down on his lower lip and pulled up, careful not to agitate his injury further. His legs wobbled as he propped himself up against the stall next to him. Through labored breaths, he took one step forward and then another. It felt like he was back at the barracks sneaking past the night watch. Only instead of an incompetent, unenthusiastic man in his early 40's, Trent was trying to not agitate his injury and crumble to the floor. He let go of the gate and felt confident that he could make it to the door with no support but then he heard a door slam outside.
Trent stopped in his tracks and listened carefully. He heard gravel crunch underneath footsteps. Through the gaps in the boards, he could just barely make out a figure approaching. Unwilling to take any chances, he reached for his sheathe and gripped the handle of his sword. He cringed from the swift movement but forced his body slowly rotated to face the doorway.
As the door opened, Trent narrowed his brow, took a defensive stance, and pulled out his weapon. Hiding the pain behind a mask of confidence and nobility, he announced to his incarcerator with a deepened voice, "Not another step, fiend."
The red-headed jailor froze in the doorway. Trent fought the urge to smirk after successfully intimidating his opponent. Which wasn't very hard considering that this peasant was unarmed. And roughly the same age and height. In fact despite this fellow having a little bit more muscle on his arms than Trent he seemed petrified with fear. Speaking of those arms, he may not have a weapon but he was holding a pail of water, a rag, and some wine. If Trent didn't know better, it almost looked like the tools one would use to treat a wound. As the seconds ticked by, Trent was beginning to feel less like a prisoner defending himself and more like a trespasser scaring a meek farmer.
Or was that a façade? Maybe he was just trying to trick Trent into lowering his guard and strike once he relinquished his sword. As these thoughts raced through his mind, Trent had to act soon.
And he did, once Bernard let out a soft snort.
Up until now Trent had no idea that something was in the neighboring stall. So when he heard that noise he jerked to the side to see what that was. It wasn't until it was too late that he remembered that he was supposed to be avoiding sudden movements and received a shooting pain in his abdomen. Trent's façade collapsed and so did he as he fell to his knees, clutched his side, and groaned through gritted teeth.
His weapon landed with a thud on the ground. He heard it and figured his captor could easily grab the sword and end him with it. If that was the case, he was glad that no one would be able to tell how he met his demise. Although he didn't look happy by the pained look on his face.
His assailant rushed toward him but instead of picking up the sword, he placed his hands on Trent's shoulders keeping him steady. "Easy there, you took a pretty bad kick to the ribs. I'd be careful if I were you."
Trent was painfully aware of that bit of advice, it was just unclear if he ignored or forgot it. He would have resisted but the tone this man used was oddly calming. There wasn't a hint of malice in his voice. If this was a trick it was a convincing one. This, along with the paralyzing pain he was in, kept him from making any further rash decisions. Since Trent was in no condition to fight, he sat back down and propped himself against the wall.
The larger man backed away giving his guest some space. His heel tapped the sword that had been dropped and he looked down at it. Rather than pick it up, he kicked it back over to Trent who reluctantly accepted.
"Thank you," Trent muttered.
Elliot was about to say "your welcome" but then he noticed something was off. "What happened to your voice?"
"What do you mean?" Trent asked, sheathing his weapon.
"Wasn't your voice deeper a second ago?"
Trent's eyes widened and he cleared his throat. "Uhhhh I don't know what you are-" Before he continued, he broke into a coughing fit. Almost at once he remembered how dangerously dehydrated he was. His throat was as dry as the dirt he lied in.
His captor jumped to attention and brought the pail over. He grabbed the ladle bobbing in the water and scooped up the water offering it to the thirsty traveler. Trent was reluctant at first, since he had no idea what was in the water but gave in to his thirst and insistence. The water hydrated his parched throat. It brought great relief to him as if he hadn't touched a drop in weeks. He was offered another scoop and this time he was more willing. He continued to drink until he raised a hand to stop.
"Much better. Tell me, what is your name?" If he was going to speak with him Trent wanted a name
"Elliott, sir." As soon as the words passed his lips, Trent saw him cringe. It wasn't the smartest thing to give your name away so easily but it was polite. Either way, Trent couldn't help but smile at being called sir.
"Well Elliott, I thank you for your hospitality but I must be off." Trent didn't want to overstay his welcome.
Trent tried to rise but Elliott was quick to stop him. "Just a moment, you aren't in any condition to leave. You need to rest." His body painfully reminded him that Elliott was right but he ignored them both.
"I don't have time to rest, I have urgent business to attend to."
"The only thing that needs attendance is you. It's better to get some rest and wait until morning."
"By morning he will be gone and in grave danger. Now get out of my way!"
Perhaps he could have chosen his words better but Trent did not have time to be courteous. Trent pushed him aside and hobbled to the doorway. Trent almost made it outside but then Elliott said, "You won't catch Dusk like that."
Trent twisted his body to face him and said, "What did you-AGH!"
He fell to his knees and muttered some curses he picked up from his superiors. He felt foolish for falling for such a dirty trick but he was also impressed by Elliott's ingenuity, assuming that this was what he planned.
"Even unicorns have to rest. Yours is no exception. Just let me take care of that wound, and then you're free to go." He pushed open the door and allowed Trent to peek outside. Sure enough, Dusk was asleep and within view, nearly blending in with the shadows.
The wounded warrior exhaled heavily, this time in relief. He looked back up at Elliott, who was extending a hand for him to grab. It was abundantly clear that this commoner had witnessed his defeat earlie. Yet despite the fact that a unicorn, well worth a fortune to the right buyer, was on his land, Elliott was spending his efforts treating his wounds. Making it that much harder to tell if he was kind or foolish. At the very least Trent could trust him not to kill him.
"Fine, but make it quick." He grabbed his hand and rose to his feet.
"I'll do my best, sir," Elliott said, helping Trent back over to the stall. Trent sat back down on the ground, less enthused about being called "sir" this time. His wounded pride reminding him that he was not worthy of the honorific.
"Trent will do. I have not earned the honor of being knighted yet."
Once he was in a comfortable position, Elliott got to work disinfecting the wound with a dab of wine. This time he averted his gaze so he wouldn't get distracted this time around. Trent didn't make a sound but out of the corner of his eye, he noticed Trent's lips purse as he held back even the smallest of whines. There was no point in him holding it in but Elliott could tell Trent wouldn't listen.
With the wound cleaned, Elliott placed a damp cloth cooled by the night air over the purpling bruise. Trent's face tightened briefly from the chilling cloth. As his expression softened, Trent asked "You seem to know a good deal about medicine. Where did you learn this craft?"
"Nowhere really. My dad used to get into some nasty scrapes and my mum would have to fix him up so he could still work."
"Hmmm, I'm sure under different circumstances you would be a great help on the battlefield."
"Me? On a battlefield?" Elliott scoffed. "Now that would be the day. I can't stand the sight of blood. I can handle cleaning a wound but not taking a life."
"Nonsense, all men should be prepared for a fight. What if you need to protect yourself? Or those that you care about from some sort of foe?"
Elliott hesitated to answer. He's heard rumors and tales of bloodthirsty bandits that roam the countryside and was aware of the creatures that lurked in the wilderness. Yet Birmire was a fairly peaceful place where the only real fights were the occasional bar brawl. Under the protection of the local lord and his knights, Elliott hadn't any reason to defend himself except from maybe wolves. As for his family, he would be devastated if anything happened to them. Yet to kill another person just to protect them placed his morals into question. "Well then I…I suppose I'd have to save them without killing."
"You aim to talk your way out?" Trent doubted.
"If I can, then yes." He answered, plain and simple.
"I stopped you from rushing out with only my words."
Try as he might, Trent couldn't form a proper comeback to that. The farmboy's lips curved into a smirk, while Trent's curved into a scowl. "Be that as it may, that won't always work. All self-respecting men should be able to fend for themselves and their home."
Rather than let the discussion devolve further, he handed Trent his shirt and tried to shift the conversation in a less hostile direction. "You sure you aren't a knight? You speak as nobly as one would." Or at least, how Elliott imagined a fancy noble to talk.
"As much as I would like to be, I'm afraid not. At least, for the time being." Trent answered wistfully. He placed his tunic back on and leaned against the wall.
"So you're a squire then?" At least, that's what Elliott as assumed anyway. Sometimes the hierarchy got a little confusing and he couldn't tell who reported to who.
Trent nodded as if the position wasn't a noble profession that most doe-eyed boys in the village would give anything to have. Anyone would get used to working the same job given enough time yet Elliott found it baffling that Trent could grow accustomed to it and treat it like no big deal.
"I always wondered what it would be like to work up at the manor. I know a few lads that make deliveries up there but never took them up on their offers to join them. I uh…I never really had the time to go visit." While technically not a lie, he did have other reasons he chose not to make any trips up there.
Trent didn't press him on the matter and continued, "You aren't missing much. I'm honored to serve my mentor but the work is not as glorious as you would think."
Up until that point, Elliott had believed everything Trent had told him. This however, was difficult for him to swallow. "How is working for the knights not the most spectacular opportunity you could have? Only way you can get in is if your family are nobles."
Almost immediately Trent's mood soured the moment his family was mentioned. Before he could change the topic, Trent responded, "My father does serve the crown as an advisor. When I was younger he managed to convince one of his colleagues to grant me an apprenticeship with Sir Kildred. For more than half my life, I've been by his side tending to his every need."
It sounded like this was a touchy subject for him. Ever the optimist, Elliott tried to put it in a positive spin. "Well not many people can say that they've had the pleasure of working alongside a knight."
Trent let out a startling 'HA!' that took Elliott by surprise. He wanted to cheer his guest up but that wasn't the reaction he expected. "I wouldn't consider it a "pleasure" to work with Kildred. He might have been an honorable man at some point but that time has long since passed. He lives off his former glory and treats me like a servant. Fetching his ale, prepping his mount, shining his armor, paying off his mistresses." As the last word passed his lips, he shuddered like the word itself was rotten and foul.
"And then there's his training. His lessons are nothing more than the ramblings of a man that has forgotten the sounds of battle and has let his sword collect dust. He'll berate my technique but never demonstrate his own." Elliott tried to get a word in but Trent wouldn't listen and got himself worked up. "He's never offered me a kind word in his life. Compared to other squires, he considers a failure. That I lack a man's conviction! I doubt he ever plans to help me become a knight. I swear he's making my life a living hell just so I can quit!"
In his anger, he swung his fist and knocked over the bucket spilling water all over the ground. Elliott up until then was frozen with fear but then he quickly propped the bucket back up before any more water got out. Trent hadn't realized how riled up he was becoming. All of that anger brewing inside him just erupted out of nowhere.
Well, not nowhere. He just laid out what the cause was.
"I'll…..I'll go get you some fresh water." Elliott said, using it as an excuse to leave. Trent nodded without saying a word and the red head left him to simmer down.
Now that Kildred was on his mind, Trent was left to worry about what his superior was doing right now and what he would do if he discovered what his ward was doing. It was going to be hard for him to talk his way out of that. That is, assuming Kildred even gave a damn about Trent coming back or not. Knowing him, he'd probably sob some crocodile tears to his father but secretly relish in getting a new squire.
Maybe it would be better off that way. To take Dusk, run away, and never look back. It would certainly teach Kildred a lesson for not appreciating him. Dusk would surely love running freely again and he wouldn't have to worry about impressing anyone. He could just be himself and wouldn't have to hide at all.
But then what would happen if Kildred actually went looking for him. The pompous windbag would never let a squire of his humiliate him like that. He dreaded thinking about what the consequences would be if he actually caught him. Or what about his father? If word got out his son had abandoned his position, what would happen to their family? The shame alone would cost them dearly.
No, the choice was obvious. He had to return, one way or the other. With or without Dusk. Though Trent aimed to bring that stallion back one way or another.
Elliott stumbled through the darkness back to his house with only a torch in his hand and the moon to illuminate the way for him. Thanks to Dusk he didn't have to worry about slipping on any discarded fruit. It was tricky to actually see the unicorn. Its coat blended with the darkness almost perfectly. Its heavy breathing gave it away though and let him know it wasn't far. Whether that was a good thing or not, he had yet to determine.
Once inside, Elliott searched for his family's barrels of reserved water. With the well a good four miles away, it made sense for them to stock up on well water whenever they could. Once he found a barrel, he placed the flame down and uncorked the container letting the water spout forth. The water trickled into the bucket at a gradual rate and would take a minute or two to fill up. He tried to pass the time and silence the fears by concocting a plan to help Trent reclaim Dusk but he couldn't think of anything that wouldn't lead to another swift kick or scaring the creature off into the woods. His mind returned to the question of how Trent managed to tame the unicorn in the first place.
In fact, Elliott's mind began to fill with questions much like the bucket was filling with water. He wondered how Trent even found Dusk in the first place. Then his mind began crafting stories about what could have happened. Did he inherit it? Was it by chance or perhaps fate? Or was it through unsavory means? Considering what Trent said of Kildred, it would make sense that his mentor would want to show off to the other knights that he had a unicorn. Then there was the matter of how Trent got it to listen to him in the first place, if it ever did. And if so, what did Trent do to lose its favor?
The possibilities were endless and his head was overflowing with questions. So too was the bucket, and the brisk cold water snapped him to attention. Elliott stuck the cork back in before any more water could spill out and hoisted the pail up. He hustled back over to the stables doing what he could to not lose any more water or lose track of the burning questions he had.
When Elliott returned, Trent perked up as if awakened from a trance. Or maybe it was his ever growing need to sleep. Elliott placed the bucket beside Trent close enough for him to reach. Trent was going to thank him but then he noticed Elliott inspecting him as if he were a puzzle. "Is there something I can help you with?"
Elliott unfurrowed his brow once he was confronted and smiled sheepishly. "I apologize, I couldn't help myself. I just can't figure out how you tamed Dusk in the first place." As soon as he said that, Elliott corrected himself, "What I mean is, taming something like a unicorn is difficult even for the most hardened of warriors."
Trent gave him a knowing smirk. In the short time that he was gone, Trent prepared himself for the inevitable. "I was wondering when you were going to ask. I suppose it's the least I can do given the hospitality that you've provided for me. And it's not like I can humiliate myself any further." Elliott pulled up a chair and listened intensively.
"I should start by letting you know that this is not a grand tale, by any means. There are no battles or quests to be found. It all started several months ago, after I brought Sir Kildred's steed back from the Blacksmith and found myself with time to spare. One of the benefits of having a careless caretaker is that you can get away with just about anything. For me, I have been taking lessons with the local bard and practicing the lute.
"Are you any good?" Elliott asked, wishing he had a lute to offer.
"I'm not fit to entertain a court but I know a few songs." He humbly answered. "Anyway, whenever I am certain that Kildred will be out and not needing my assistance, there's…..a field not too far off." He paused, hesitating to go forward. One look at Elliott and it was he was invested in the story and would not let him stop there. He sighed, "A field filled with the most dazzling, opulent daisies that you've ever seen. When the days become too much for me to handle and I have a moments reprieve, I like to take a moment and just lay down among the golden flowers, listening to the breeze and the birds sing their song. Sometimes I'll borrow a lute and go down there just to…to sing."
Elliott listened closely to every word he had to offer. What was odd about all this wasn't Trent's hobbies or how he liked to unwind, but rather how bashful he seemed. Then again most men their age don't talk about lying in fields of flowers or singing to themselves so he could understand why it would be difficult for Trent to come forward with this. Trent himself expected Elliott to burst out into laughter at any moment.
"One day, I happened to be practicing my lute and was particularly enthralled with this little song that I had been working on. So much so that when I did notice Dusk he was right at my feet looming over me."
"That must have been terrifying," Elliott guessed.
"It was surprising. Even back then he was still a hefty creature that crush me under his hooves if he so chose. Fortunately, he did not and went about grazing as if I wasn't there. I fled back to the manor as quickly as I could and searched for anyone that would dare listen to me. No one was around and by the time the men returned, the sun was setting and I was sure that the beast was long gone. So I held my tongue and said nothing, looking to put the encounter behind me and move on."
"But you didn't."
"I did not," Trent nodded. "For you see, the next time I visited the field, the unicorn was there once more, oblivious to the compound nearby. I thought about running back and alerting someone but then I realized there was no point in it. Even if I could convince someone to come with me, there was no way of knowing the beast would still be there and if it was I would have to help capture it. If we did capture it Kildred would surely take all the credit and leave it to me to tend to it. It was simpler to just let the creature be and continue practicing."
Elliott nodded, almost as if he understood firsthand what that would be like.
"We had a mutual understanding of one another. I practiced and it grazed. Sometimes I would humor it and offer it some grass. That is, until it tried to follow me back to the barracks one day. I stopped before anyone spotted him. In order to distract it, I left behind my rations to occupy it while I took my leave. All that did was endear it to me further. It did allow me to stroke its mane and muzzle. It was flawed but it kept Dusk out of harm's way." Before he continued, he stopped when he noticed Elliott's small smile. He folded his arms and said, "Why do you look at me like that?"
"Hmmm? Oh sorry, it's nothing. Please, go on."
Trent had half a mind to stop telling the story right then and there but he hated leaving a story unfinished. "Anyway, things were going well until I received word that a hunting party was planned to scout my field and I had to make sure that Dusk wouldn't be caught. With him being a wild animal, I had to lure him out of harm's way with a trail of sugar that I obtained from the kitchen. I lead the creature back to an abandoned cottage where Kildred likes to sleep off his hangovers. He's usually so drunk he never ties up his horse in the stables so I knew he'd never look there. I locked Dusk in the stables with plenty of food to tide him over until the hunt was over. It wasn't easy redirecting the hunting party at first, but once I told Kildred that the other knights might make use the cottage if they discovered it, he was willing to help shift their focus elsewhere."
He stopped his story only to chuckle at his own cleverness, wincing as his laughter aggravated his side. The pain passed quickly and he cleared his throat to resume. "Once the hunt was over and Kildred was appeased, I dashed away to the stables and freed Dusk. I threw open the doors only to find Dusk laying down on some hay. I've never felt more relieved in my entire life. I couldn't bear to wake him up nor could I stay by his side. So I left behind some food and went back to the barracks, thinking that he would eat his fill and then wander back into the woods."
"But instead he stayed and waited for you?" Elliott guessed.
"That seemed to be the case. More likely he knew that I would continue to feed him if he stayed. Either way, I was stuck with looking after him so I brought it upon myself to name the beast and train it. Dusk seemed like a fitting name given how naturally he blends in with the darkness. As for training….he was not very cooperative."
"Yeah they don't like it when you stick a saddle on or strap on a set of reins."
"I suppose that is true for horses and unicorns. They can be quite stubborn either way. Dusk put up a fight for several days but submitted to me eventually and gave me control. It took time and patience teaching Dusk how to follow orders when I wasn't in servitude to Kildred. On the nights where Kildred made trips to cottage, I offered to watch his horse and use the opportunity to keep watch over Dusk. More often than not I fell asleep in the stables next to him until Kildred called for me the next day."
"I know the feeling," Elliott said while reaching to rub his neck remembering how sore his he used to get. "Sometimes I wonder how any creature can get a wink of sleep around here."
"Those nights weren't so bad. While I waited, I would take the time to brush Dusk's mane and brush the dirt off his coat. Some nights I just told him whatever was on my mind. As bothersome as he can be, I don't have to fear his judgment or expect any retaliation with speaking to him. It's like I can just be….me." All this time a longing, reminiscent smile grew on his face as if recounting childhood memories.
"Then what happened?"
With that, his face fell faster than a house of cards. "I was getting reckless. I was shirking my duties and spending too much time with Dusk. It was becoming clear that my attention was focused elsewhere. Rumors spread that I was helping myself to Kildred's whores and one callous individual dared to claim that was off propositioning travelers for a night of thrills. I was so careless that one night I almost didn't notice a group of pages follow me to the cottage. I caught on and chased them off but if I hadn't seen them that time, they would have seen Dusk grazing the land. If word spread that was secretly harboring a unicorn it would spell my end." Trent hesitated to continue. The sheer idea of being found out terrified him but even more so the guilt he felt was eating away like a leech.
"I had to take precautions. Dusk couldn't be left alone. So I locked him in the stables whenever I left. I made sure that he would always enough food to last him a week. He would always finish it before I got back which made it troublesome to tell if it was enough. I used to visit daily but I had to play the part of an obedient squire and couldn't make the trip. When I could I barely had time to refill his trough and water, let alone brush his mane or clean out the stables or let him outside. As if that weren't bad enough, he was being difficult with me, after everything I did for him." With every line he spoke, Trent sounded like he was trying to shift the blame away from him.
"Dusk was trying to force his way out of the stables whenever I unlocked the door. I had to tie him up just so he wouldn't try to rush out as soon as I arrived. If he wasn't gaining so much weight, he might have posed an actual threat to me. Some nights I would lose my voice shouting at him to obey me. To make matters worse I was losing sleep travelling at night to visit Dusk and barely got enough before I had to serve Kildred. Eventually, my hard work paid off. I earned back Kildred's trust and loosened his grip on me. My fellow squires stopped suspecting me and following me. At the first chance I had I went to release Dusk and even considered letting Dusk out more frequently but when I arrived…. and he was gone." He voice waivered momentarily as he uttered those words. "The door was broken down and a trail of hoofprints lead into the woods. I made haste, grabbed what supplies I had, and went after him following his tracks to your homestead. The rest you already know."
With his story done, the room fell silent. Only the crickets chirping and Bernard's breathing was heard. Trent looked to Elliottt expecting him to weigh in on the situation, positive that he had some choice words for Trent's behavior. When he reached the end, even he had some thoughts on the events that lead up to this that were not kind. Much like a prisoner waiting to be executed, the longer he waited for the inevitable the more unbearable it became. To the point that Trent couldn't wait any longer. "Well? Don't you have anything to say?"
Elliott was pulled out of his deep thinking by Trent and let out a weary sigh. "I certainly do, but I don't know where to start." Trent nodded realizing that this wasn't a matter to be taken lightly. To embarrassed to apologize, he let Elliott take his time to process the situation.
"What you did to Dusk was terrible. There's no denying that. You locked him up like a prisoner, neglected him, and denied him his freedom. Those majestic creatures should be allowed to roam freely." His words cut deep but Trent knew that he was right. Perhaps he always knew but was too scared to address it.
"However," Elliott added, "I can understand why you would go through the trouble. I know I would do anything to keep Bernard safe and out of the hands of any miscreants that would dare harm him. The world can be an unforgiving place."
"Exactly! If I hadn't, Dusk would surely have been killed or auctioned off!"
"But is it any better to lock him up and make the both of you miserable?"
Trent opened his mouth but nothing came out. He wanted to say yes and no, but it felt like the two words were lodged in his throat and neither could pass. He had to choose but it proved too great a challenge for him. It would have been easier for him to climb the tallest tree in the woods with his arms tied behind his back. At least then he could give a definitive answer, and he was certain it would have been half as exhausting. All he could do was ask Elliott, "Then what should I do?"
Again, Elliott didn't respond immediately. When he did, all he said was, "I don't know."
"That's it? That's all you have to offer?"
"What more do you want from me?"
"Anything would be more helpful! I realize now that this might be too much for your feeble mind to comprehend but my future is at stake here!"
"Hey! I'm trying my best to help you after you abused-"
"I did not abuse him!" Trent roared. "What was I supposed to do? Show that bloated sack of fat to Kildred? If he didn't kill me for hiding that, I would be made a mockery by my peers for even associating with it. You have no idea the perils I've endured, the pressure I've been under, the expectations placed on me! But what would you know? You're just a farmer who only has to worry about is this miserable little farm and your mangy jackass."
Without saying a word, Elliott rose from his seat with his fists clenched standing over his presumptuous guest. From the ground, Trent finally realized just how large Elliott was compared to him. In his current position he was helpless to stop Elliott from throttling him for his rude behavior and by the stance he took and the sneer on his face, he looked like he was about to start. Trent flinched in fear at what was to come next.
"You're right. I am a farmer. A good one at that."
There wasn't a hint of his jolly demeanor to be found in Elliott's voice.
"I sell my wares, I sometimes work the fields with my parents, and on occasion, I too like to sing. I may not be very good at it, but I like it. I like tending to Bernard and coming home to eat a nice meal. I know I'll never probably be anything more than that and that's fine by me. Because I have a family that cares for me and a stallion that is the greatest companion anyone can ask for. I know who I am, and I like who I am. Now what about you?"
Trent was completely baffled by this point. Elliott cut him off before he could even give a response. "You claim to be a knight in training yet complain that you'll always be a squire. You want to be respected but also pitied. You act like a friend but then treat me like swill. If this is how you treated Dusk, then I can understand why they left." When Trent winced that time, the sting didn't come from his wound.
"You want to know what you should do? Face the truth! Stop pretending that you need to be this-this perfect warrior. It's fine to sing when you're alone, and there is no shame in caring for one of the most legendary creatures in the world. The only thing you should be embarrassed about is how you neglected him. If you're going to judge others for who they are, you first need to address and accept who you are. Instead of living in fear and hurting and taking your anger out on those trying to help!"
Elliott not only managed to stun Trent, but he looked just as shocked. He was huffing more than a stallion after a swift gallop. In fact, his shouting actually woke up Bernard from his slumber. Trent wanted to lash out as well and tell him that everything that he said was wrong but he couldn't. Harsh as it might have been, it was the truth. However the truth made the rest of the evening uncomfortable for the two of them. Elliott turned and headed outside. But not before stopping and looking back saying, "But what do I know? I'm just a farmer."
On that note, he stormed off and slammed the door behind him. Leaving Trent to dwell on the situation, fight back tears, and ponder what Elliott told him.
When morning finally came, Elliott stretched his arms up into the air and greeted the day with a yawn. With one hand he rubbed the crust from his eyelids and with the other rubbed his aching neck. He must have slept on it wrong because it was stiff and sore. His body begged him to settle down and return to his slumber but he denied it that luxury. He had work to do and his body knew it too since he was always up this time.
The torch from the night before had gone out and through the cracks in the boards came the faintest beams of sunlight as the glow on the horizon signaled the sun's arrival. Which meant that he had to get his breakfast ready, then Bernard's, and then get set to go to market. He rose to his feet and reached for the door when he noticed the vacant space before him, save for a pail of water and a rag.
As if a fog was lifting over his memories, the events from last night returned to him. Elliott questioned if he just had a vivid dream yet even dreams faded from his mind shortly after waking up. These memories were still clear to him, especially of his time with Trent. How he winced and groaned, shared his troubles, lashed out at Elliott, and how he retaliated back to him. Then after storming off, he returned to apologize but found Trent asleep so he sat down in his chair and dozed off.
Once that came back to him, he wished it had been all a dream. He was usually slow to anger but Trent found a way to rile him up somehow. He'd been picked on before for lesser things but the two of them discussed something he never covered with anyone else, including his own family. While it felt good to just express himself like that, the moment was bittersweet. He understood what Trent was going through, more than he could ever realize, but at the same time the squire came from a different background. Of course he wouldn't realize what Elliott went through and vice versa. Only the stakes were higher for Trent given his social standing and Elliott didn't take that into consideration. He stepped outside and looked for any signs of Trent.
Resting where he was last night was Dusk. Trent was nowhere to be seen, which was a bit of a disappointment for Elliott. He was disappointed that he wouldn't get a chance to apologize for how he acted. Not only that, but Trent abandoned the steed he worked diligently to protect and left Elliott to deal with the aftermath. It wasn't going to be easy explaining to his parents where this second stallion came from, let alone hide the horn piercing out of its head.
With the sun peaking over the horizon, the valley became illuminated and Elliott could make out another problem. Smoke was rising out of the chimney. His initial thought was that he left the fire going last night and bolted to the door. But then he stopped short of the door.
He heard something. Dusk did too and lifted his head off the ground. Usually Elliott would be woken up by the songs of the birds nearby. Except this singing wasn't coming from the birds. It was coming from inside his house. It was a song of sadness and longing, of regret and dismay. More importantly, it was sung by a person. Someone whose pain and sorrow was palpable.
And then, the singer stepped out of the household, finishing his song. He carried with him a bowel of porridge, steam wafting off the top, and a carrot. If he wasn't in awe Elliott would asked how and why did Trent get into his pantry. In his condition, Elliott imagined it wasn't easy hobbling into his household and making breakfast.
When Trent's gaze fell back onto Elliott, the farmer stiffened, fearing that Trent might be upset after his rant last night. Except there was no resentment in his eyes, just bags underneath them. With a small smile, Trent extended his hand offering the bowl. "I hope you don't mind that I let myself in. I wanted to show my gratitude, and while I'm no chef, I know how to make a simple bowl of porridge."
He looked at the bowl and then back at the squire. Elliott suspected that he wasn't going to be reaching the market on time. Not that his parents would know. Elliott accepted the bowl and gave it a taste. True to his word, Trent's cooking skills were lacking but then again so was Elliott's pantry. So he continued to eat it as Trent kept talking.
"I want to apologize for my behavior. I was horrid. I had no right to judge you or your lifestyle, considering that you were kind enough to take me in and tend to me at my lowest. I shouldn't have lashed out at you."
Elliott swallowed the food, grateful that he got an apology but not free of the guilt that lingered. "Thank you but I should have been more patient with you. You're clearly under duress and I cannot begin to imagine the pressure you are under."
"And I didn't realize the burden I placed onto you. We each have our duties and matters to attend to and I shouldn't have forced you to fix mine."
"Maybe so, but there's no shame in asking for assistance. Wars aren't won by a single soldier, and fields aren't tilled by a single farmer."
Trotting up behind him came Dusk who seemed to be eyeing the carrot Trent was holding. Trent held it out but the unicorn backed away, as if he was holding a dagger out to him. Elliott feared that it was too soon for Trent to make a move. If this turned out poorly, they could have a repeat of last night's incident. Or worse. Before he could deter him, Trent took a knee and made the offer once more. Trent looked away as if unworthy to look upon the majesty of his steed. He was not demanding Dusk to eat but he was making a humble offer. His hand shook as he held the carrot aloft. And then…
Trent exhaled heavily as Dusk nibbled on the carrot and dared to take a step forward. Elliott sighed too, only just realizing he had his breath held too. Trent went a step further reached out his hand. He stopped, as if it were a boiling pot that would burn him. Then, he reached out and placed it on the unicorn. Gently running his fingers down his neck brushing away the debris caught in his mane as his lip trembled.
With the sun returning to its mantle in the sky, Trent helped Elliott load the last bushel of barley into the cart while Dusk grazed with Bernard nearby. They managed to get a rope on Dusk for Trent to lead the unicorn back but no saddle. It was too soon for that. "Thank you for the help." Elliott said, wiping the sweat from his brow.
"Same goes to you. I am in your debt, Elliott. One day I hope to repay it." Elliott was about to turn him down but Trent defiantly held a hand up to silence the farmer. Seeing as Trent refused to let this go, Elliott submitted.
"You sure I can't give you a ride into town? There's room on the wagon and it's nice to see Bernard interact with other equines." Speaking of, he whistled for his steed and the shaggy haired stallion answered and cantered over. Trent returned to his unicorn's side and shook his head.
"That won't be necessary. I can't risk having him be seen just yet. I'll take him back to the woods and find a nice field for him. Whether he stays or leaves is up to him."
"Either way I'm sure he'll be happy to slim down to his old self."
"Actually he was always a large one. I still can't fathom what he was eating before I got to him. Still, some riding sessions are a step in the right direction but like you said I shouldn't worry about how he looks."
"And your mentor?"
His brow furrowed at the notion of Kildred. "One day, the truth will be known. When it's safe for us that is. Until then I'll have to keep him hidden." Elliott finished hitching Bernard to the wagon and hopped up into the driver's seat. Before he could say farewell, Trent asked, "You mentioned yesterday about some lads that delivered to the barracks, yes?"
"That's right. I'm surprised you remembered after everything that happened."
"I have my moments." He shrugged. "Perhaps you should accompany them. It would be nice to see a familiar face that isn't barking orders at me. I'm sure Dusk would feel the same way."
"Hmmm, I'll have to put in a good word and see if they'll allow it. You think they'll let me in?"
"I don't see why not. Maybe trim those locks of yours and you might even be welcome in the court." He approached Dusk carefully and gently took the makeshift leash. Elliott brushed his hair back and asked.
"Well maybe…" He stopped and for the first time, looked at Elliott eye to eye and was at a loss for words. "Is it that bad?"
"Uh, no. No! I just…never mind. Perhaps it is best to come as you are. Until we meet again, safe travels."
On that strange note, Elliott shrugged and let his hair fall back over his face, wishing his new friend safe travels too. Elliott made a click and Bernard went off. He gave one final look at Trent and said to Bernard. "Strange fellow, but a nice one too. Maybe one day we'll tell him our little secret."
With that, Elliott rode down the road already composing a new song in his head and Trent left with Dusk, setting a new plan in motion that would make up for his past misdeeds. Neither of them aware of the secrets they kept from one another. Trent hoped one day he might be able to work up the courage to tell Elliott that he had the most beautiful eyes he'd ever seen. As for Elliott, he just worked on composing the first verse and gave Bernard a pat on the head, right near the base of his horn hidden under that messy mane.
Thanks to everyone that took the time to read this, I hope you all enjoyed it. I meant to publish this around June for Twitter's Junicorn but I kept putting this off partly out of laziness but also I wanted to take my time and make sure I did the story justice. The next story I put out will definitely be more light hearted and not so dire. If you like it please share and leave a review. I appreciate feedback so that I can improve my craft.