A princess meets a unicorn.
There are no fairy-tales in the great realm of Lynden. The last of its dragons was slain a hundred years and more ago, and the last bridge-troll was sent on its way long before that. And as there are no dragons and no bridge-trolls, nor cackling witches, nor vicious ogres, there are no quests. And there are no heroes. The great age of heroes died with the dragons, because they were no longer needed then. They exist now only in history books and bedtime tales for children.
These are the things that the people of Lynden know. They have a good king, a kindly queen, and a princess who shows all the signs of one day being as fair and just a monarch as her parents. She is young, and something of a daydreamer, but her mind is quick and she understands the things she will someday have to do.
She will never tell anyone, but there is yet a legend in the realm. Or can it be a legend, if it lives and breathes and is real? She decides -- no, it must not be, if it exists the same as she does.
She knows it exists because she saw it come into the woods. There is a unicorn in Lynden now, or perhaps again; she thinks it left, and now it is home.
She goes into those same woods, and feels the magic of the unicorn almost immediately. There’s a kind of charge in the air, something ancient and nameless, and it sends a shiver down her spine.
She waits. The unicorn comes along, in time, and she has never seen anything so beautiful -- for all that she is a princess, and could order anyone to fetch for her the most beautiful things in the world. There is no describing the unicorn’s beauty; it is old and new at the same time, and she feels herself begin to weep.
It looks at her, and for a moment time hangs between them heavy as gold. She senses the warmth of a long forgotten spring, or many springs; this unicorn has come home, and there will never be another winter in these woods again.
“Where have you come from?” she asks.
“The past, I think,” it says. “But I am now again, am I not?”
“Yes, you are,” she replies. “And now is nowhere for unicorns to be.”
“The world will always have need of me, and of my people. Even if only in the dreams of the young.”
“And the young will always dream,” she murmurs. Later, she will remember saying it, but she will not quite know why. Magic-out-of-time works in strange ways, for those who have always believed there is such a thing.
The unicorn studies her for a few minutes more, and then silently turns to go. So does she. The world is no place for unicorns, not yet, but she will make it be.
She knows there must be dragons, and heroes, and cackling witches somewhere. The realm of Lynden will become a place of legends again; she’ll make sure of it.