Saturday, February 23, 2013

The last unicorn

Master Jing Shu was in an especially elated mood today. "Anything special, O Master?" asked the disciples.

"Today we are going to deviate from our usual routine. Today I am going to tell you a tale of valour, a tale of splendour, a tale of majesty, a tale of dreams."

"No one remembers how long ago it was. Some say thousands of years ago, some say tens of thousands of years ago. The land of Madror was a beautiful one. Lush green grass adorned the land as far as one's sight went. Soothing cool breeze made intricate wave patterns on the grass, carrying the fragrance of various flowers with it. In this corner and that nook, was a rivulet or a brook. The water was clear as glass, flowing unhindered on its own whims and fancy to the lands far and beyond. Madror had something magical to it.

Trees were numerous, not as thick as a jungle, not so sparse as a meadow. There were mango trees, apple trees, juicy strawberries and ripe cherries. In the land so sublime, there were trees of lime, trees of orange and trees very strange. Each and every kind of tree found it very comfortable to grow there. Madror had something magical to it.

On the distant horizon, there were mountains. Misty mountains, snow-capped mountains. In the mornings sun would shine on them turning their peaks pinkish orange. How far the mountains were, no one knew. Far enough that whichever direction you go, they would never approach, never recede, never grow, never shrink. Madror had something magical to it.

In this very land of Madror, there lived Xoror the unicorn. He was stronger than the strongest of the horses. His skin had a sheen matched only by the purest of pearls. His horn was sharper than even the sharpest of swords. Tales of his might and strength were known far and wide. All animals admired and respected him. With a single blow, Xoror could uproot trees. With a mighty roar, he could shake the whole of Madror!

With his strength, Xoror had a gentle heart and a dreamy mind. Jolly and happy he was kind. He danced, he pranced and sang with the wind. But there was more to Xoror and more to his life. On the horizon, on the opposite side of the mountains, there was something he adored. It was the thing he felt strangely attracted to. It was something he felt he had a connection with. It was something so inviting, so enticing that he could hardly not think of it.

It was the fabled carrot of Madror. The carrot proved that Madror had something magical to it. A very strange thing indeed. The carrot was as large as an average tree. It hovered just a foot above the ground, slowly rotating about itself. The carrot glowed with bright orange radiance. In nights, it would shine brighter than the brightest of stars. It never lost its aura, never grew stale, never faded. The carrot never stopped rotating. One wondered whether it was real, for sure, it looked surreal. What a strange carrot it was, if that's what it was... a carrot!

With each day that passed, Xoror thought more and more of the carrot. He could spot the carrot glow a notch more everytime he did something good, something noble. He could sense the carrot inviting him everytime he achieved something of significance, everytime he saved some animal or other from the foul creatures that lurked. He drew his motivation from the carrot. An inanimate object became his source of inspiration. He felt that the carrot gave him strength. The carrot seemed to make his horn stay sharp and his skin glowing. Xoror believed that the carrot was the source of ultimate happiness and the goal of his life. For Xoror, the carrot meant everything.

Like the mountains, the carrot was magical too. Not growing, not shrinking, no matter for how long and to how far one approached it. One day, Xoror decided that instead of sauntering and wandering bit by bit everyday, he would steadily and swiftly move in one direction - the direction of the carrot.

No sooner did he decide to aim for the carrot, than the truth spirits arrived. The truth spirits were the ancient beings of the land of Madror. They spoke the truth and foretold the inevitable. Their mere appearance meant that something significant was afoot. They circled Xoror and danced around him. With their peculiar sing-song voice they went on with their usual business of warning and cautioning.
We are concerned, it worries us
it is the goal that you seek.

We see future of this land
dark and sombre, oh so bleak.

Try as harder as you might
it is you who'll end up weak.

With foul odours and pungent fumes
shall the land forever reek.
Xoror was aware of the truth spirits but this was the first time he had seen one, leave alone that they were actually talking to him. He was also aware of the legend of the carrot, telling all kinds of things about the carrot. It talked of how it is not the carrot, but one's own mind that is the source of inspiration, strength and happiness. How the carrot is that motivation, which should not be taken in all its seriousness. Xoror knew, but the glory, the splendour and the majesty of the carrot made him not believe in the tales of the old and truth spirits so bold. How could the carrot be anything but real, anything but the ultimate inspiration, anything but the end of it all? He decided to not pay heed to the truth spirits and continue on his quest... his ultimate quest for the ultimate salvation.

Days went by and his journey continued, unobstructed and steady. He was happy and jolly as always. A look at the carrot would fill him with enthusiasm and a sense of purpose. He admired the flowers and the beautiful butterflies. Flying from flower to flower, adding an extra dimension of beauty to the ever so beautiful land of Madror. Colourful butterflies, butterflies free, flying carelessly, flying with glee. These butterflies made his heart flood with warmth and that, invariably, made him think of the carrot.

Finally, his efforts seemed to pay up for the carrot no longer was constant in size. Each day it looked bigger and closer.

One afternoon, a shadow passed over him. And again, and again. Each time, it took more time to pass as if growing bigger. Annoyed, Xoror looked up. Whoa! That was the Mighty Dragon of the Dark Tower. The tales of the evil Dark Tower and its even more evil guardian, the Dragon were told and re-told countless number of times. Sheer, pure, simple evil, that was what the Dragon was. As huge as a mountain, as ferocious as thousand lions and more evil than the devil himself, the Dragon was feared all over. Each tooth of his was as precise as the finest of elven-made knives. His black scales glistened brilliantly and with dazzling malice. His breath smelled of the most pungent fumes and death itself. His eyes were burning amber, giving a glimpse of the seething anger.

With a mighty swoop of his gigantic wings, the Dragon descended, plunging toward Xoror. As he approached, he opened his mouth and belched out his infernal fire, right at Xoror. But Xoror was ready, agilely he jumped aside, evading the yellow-violet evil flames. The Dragon landed with a thud on his strong and fierce legs. He circled around himself and fell the trees all around him with a casual sweep of his powerful tail. His deafening roar made the birds fly as away as they could and all animals run for their lives. But Xoror didn't cower. He faced the Dragon of the Dark Tower squarely in eyes and leaped away just in time to avoid his gnawing jaws. The Dragon soared in the sky again and descended in a great loop, a steady stream of fire flowing out of his mouth and nostrils. Xoror suffered some burns despite all his nimbleness and the Dragon was back in the sky again.

On his way back down, the Dragon saw that the unicorn was nowhere to be seen. What a coward! he thought. He landed in triumph, there sprang Xoror from behind a tree, raising a battle cry and charging at him with speed of light! Before the Dragon knew it, Xoror's horn was deep inside his right eye. He howled in pain and agony. That did not stop Xoror from completely blinding him, attacking the left eye. The Dragon managed to take to the skies again.

"Fool" he thought, "I can bear much more pain. Little does he know that my sense of smell is as strong as my sight, if not more. I can still pinpoint him."

Guided by the smell, the Dragon plunged - to crush the unicorn for once and forever. Splash! An agonizing shriek, tearing the heavens apart followed the loud hiss that was caused when the Dragon dived right into the Bluegreen Lake. He, with all his evil and dark fire and fury was quickly destroyed by the purifying water of the Bluegreen Lake. Xoror knew it very well and that's why he had dove into the lake after blinding the Dragon, relying on his arrogance about his sense of smell.

The birds sang of his valour, they praised his intellect and Xoror was conferred the title of "The Madror icon". Xoror knew it wouldn't have been if not for the carrot and the constant motivation. He knew it all too well that the carrot shone all the brighter since the fall of the Dragon of the Dark Tower. He put more enthusiasm and more vigour into the journey - into the ultimate quest of his. Now it seemed that the carrot was brighter like never before, bigger than ever and he could feel its proximity.

It was now that only a couple of days separated Xoror form the carrot. Only forty-eight hours before the grand unification. But fate had some old tricks up her sleeve. The sky grew darker and the wind stronger. Black, ominous clouds were raging in the sky. Soon it started thundering, a mad dance of lightening began. As if the menacing thunder and the blinding and dizzying lightening were not enough, the Witch of Goglatrix was upon him. The sly, crooked and cunning witch that she was, the Witch of Goglatrix was well known for her mastery of the dark arts and arcane spells.

It took Xoror no time to realize that the ominous weather was all her doing. And before he could spot her, a shrill, cold voice broke - a voice tinged with deceit and trickery. "Ssss... there you are, Xoror. My son! Come, meet mommy. Ssss..." and the Witch of Goglatrix descended from amidst the clouds, slow and graceful - inspiring fear of the purest form. Her white, slender hands outstretched, as if to embrace Xoror. He knew better. He charged into the apparition, the tip of his horn first. Sure, it vanished into a puff of white smoke and a hideous laughter broke out... "Charging horn first, clever!"

Xoror turned to face the real Witch of Goglatrix. Her silver white hair flying in all directions, her cold-blue eyes burning in a blue flame, her wrinkled white face betraying the countless years of her age, she was fear incarnate. Not for Xoror though. He thought of the carrot, of his strength, his wit and his destiny - which was again, the carrot! Her lips parted for an inaudible utterance of a deadly spell, The Spell. A red beam, thousand times brighter than a thousand suns combined together, thousand times thinner than a thousandth of a hair's width emanated from her forefinger that was pointed at him, for she did not need any wand. Xoror took it on the tip of his horn. Concentrating solely on the carrot, its brilliance, its majesty, his devotion and infatuation toward it. He bore through the immense pressure and heat of the beam, with the additional reserve of strength the carrot had opened up in his mind. Finally with a mighty flick of his horn, he deflected the beam back on the witch, who smiled before shattering into a thousand white, brightly glittering specks.

It was at that time that the skies cleared, the cool breeze blew again and all seemed well, just minutes after the menace of the Witch of Goglatrix was over, that the truth spirits were heard again, invisible this time. Their voice was much more serious this time and it had an edge of pleading to it...
The carrot spell is strong on you,
oh we knew! oh we knew!

To convince you, we will go lengths,
within you lies the source of the strengths

It is not the carrot, you must understand
it's your conviction that makes you so grand

What motivates you? The carrot? Nay!
Be strong, have faith, come what may
And with that, the truth spirits were gone, never to be heard again. Xoror could not make much sense of the warning and soon his mind was back on the carrot - the oh so shiny carrot!

It looked like by dusk, he would reach the carrot. With maddening strength, enthusiasm and yearning, Xoror ran. He ran and galloped, faster and faster, not caring for anything else. He was so close of his goal that he could hardly even think of slowing down. A hundred feet... Run on and on... Now a mere thirty feet... run harder... ten feet from the carrot and Xoror leaped toward it, with all his might and vigour. The time seemed to freeze, he was approaching the carrot, he could see the blissful orange glow, getting all the more stronger each passing moment. And his mouth opened, all eager to take a bite. His teeth sank in, his horn was already in it. Bam! His teeth snapped. The metallic taste of blood was in his mouth. He had landed hard on his face and... the carrot was gone!

The carrot was gone, his horn was broken, he had bitten his tongue and he looked up - the grass and the trees were on fire. The sun was eclipsed and the darkness pervaded everywhere, only to be illuminated with the fire of doom itself. The air was filled with the stench of burning carcasses. The rivulets and brooks were red and stank of blood. He saw the butterflies trying to fly away, with their burning wings, only to be reduced to ashes as they strove harder.

And the truth dawned upon him "I was never a unicorn, I am a donkey with a fake horn!"

The wise songs of the truth spirits he forgot, with all the self-confidence lost, he wished that he wasn't!

And thus, my disciples, it came to be that Xoror the unicorn was never heard of again."

Master Jing Shu looked at the grief stricken and shocked faces of his disciples. "They need time" he thought.

"O Master, pray tell us, what was the donkey's crime for which he was punished thus?" said a disciple, angry at the ending.

Keeping his calm, Jing Shu replied "Why, he was a donkey and still he dreamed, he hoped."

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