Thursday, 19 September 2013

The Bull's Eye

The Red Bull blazed with fire as he tried to drive the sea-white unicorn towards the water, but she paid him little attention for Prince Lír had fallen. His twisted body lay motionless on the sand, the tide creeping in under a sky that was scarlet, and it was then that the unicorn screamed and charged into battle with her anger. King Haggard watching from the castle's highest tower shrank back as he knew the Red Bull was beaten. The Bull was hunted by the unicorn's horn, and as she had done, he retreated until he pawed the ground at the water's edge and refused to go no further. The Red Bull knew he was defeated, but wanted this final moment: you think I have lost, but I win, before he turned and walked slowly into the surf and began to swim. The waves crashed over him, quenching his fire and submerging his humped shoulders from view. Legend says he sank to the bottom of the ocean, but this is not true.
The unicorns were freed from the rolls of the sea, Prince Lír was resurrected from the dead, and no trace remained of King Haggard and his castle. The last unicorn, having tasted mortal life, took her leave and returned to her enchanted forest, and all this occurred because of the unicorn's courage and the Bull's obstinacy. As Schmendrick the Magician would say the Red Bull never fought, he always conquered; and although he had not captured the last unicorn, this loss had released him from King Haggard, and he would conquer the sea. His pride was wounded, but he was not hurt physically. The water washed over his great bulk, but did not draw him down; he swam against the tide until he passed out, and in this comatose state dreamt a beautiful mermaid with long golden hair and a shimmering blue-green tail rescued him. She guided him to another shore and watched over him while he was sleeping, sitting on a rock and combing her locks until her sweet song wakened him. All the Red Bull remembered was hearing a splash and a glimpse of a tail disappearing; he never knew how he touched the shore and assumed the tide had dragged him.
The shore he lay on was a line of white sand with scuttling crabs, buried shells and seaweed; just like home except the sun was high and the air was incredibly hot and humid. The Red Bull snorted as he clambered to his feet, his large body swaying as he thought he saw unicorns dancing in front of him. The affects of Haggard's bidding, after so many years, still held him, but if he shook his head the white horned mares vanished. He needed to find a lair, but from overhead there came a furious screeching and a bronze bird of prey suddenly fell like a star from the sky and plucked out his right eye. The harpy knew the Bull would not run from her strike and laughed with delight, her breath warm and stinking and, on wings turned red by the sun's rays, flew away. She had got what she came for: half the Bull's sight for letting a mortal possess him. The harpy had never succumbed to Mommy Fortuna, whereas the Bull had willingly let King Haggard's desires ensnare him. The harpy was as ruthless as the King: an eye for losing sight of your power.
The Red Bull with one remaining eye wandered aimlessly until a merchant with swarthy skin captured him and led him to his village, where his nose was pierced with a copper ring and he was made to wear a blindfold, and ordered to walk in circles to turn their waterwheel. As before, without his sight, he gave away his strength, but this time he stayed humble.
In a distant land a riddling butterfly told the Bull's peoples: “The Red Bull pushed and freed all the unicorns from the sea, then lost his eye to a harpy and became a one-eyed steer. On this shore, people trade in Bulls' eyes for peppermints.”

*Inspired from and based on The Last Unicorn by Peter Beagle