Award winners Peter S. Beagle and Jacob Weisman’s THE UNICORN ANTHOLOGY preview: “A Thousand Flowers” by Margo Lanagan
In celebration for the release of THE UNICORN ANTHOLOGY, from the World Fantasy Award-winning tandem Peter S. Beagle and Jacob Weisman.
a pure white stallion, the finest conformed you have ever seen, so
balanced, so smooth, so long-necked, you could picture how he would
gallop, easy-curved and rippling as water, with the mane and tail
foaming on him. He was muscled for swiftness, he was big
around the heart, and his legs were straight and sound, firm and
fine. He’d a grand head, a king’s among horses, such as is
stitched upon banners, or painted on shields in a baron’s banquet
hall. The finest pale velvet upholstered it, with the veins tracing
their paths beneath, running his good blood about, warming and
enlivening every neat-made corner of him.
imagine that out of that fine forehead, just as on a shield, spears a
battle-spike—of narwhal-horn, say, spiraling like that. Then take
away the spike’s straps and buckles, so that the tusk grows
straight from the horse’s brow—grows,
yes, from the skull, sprouts from the velvet brow as if naturally,
like a stag-antler, like the horn of a rhinockerous.
add magic. I don’t know how you will do this if you have not seen
it; I myself only saw it the once and bugger me if I can describe it,
the quality that tells you a thing is bespelled, or sorcerous itself.
It is luminosity of a kind, cool but strong. All-encompassing and yet
very delicate, it trickles in your bones; slowly it lifts the hairs
on your legs, your arms, your chest, in waves like fields of
high-grown grass under a gentle wind. And it thins and hollows the
sounds of the world, owl hoots and rabbit scutters, and beyond them
it rumors of vast rustlings and seethings, the tangling and
untangling of the workings of the universe, this giant nest of
something like this appears before you, let me tell you, you must
look at it; you must look at nothing else; your eyes are pulled to it
like a falcon to the lure. Twinned to that compulsion is a terror,
swimming with the magic up and down your bones, of being seen
yourself, of having the creature turn and lock you to its slavery
forever, or freeze you with its gaze; whatever it wishes, it might
do. It has the power, and you yourself have nothing, and are
did not look at me. It turned its fine white head just a touch my
way, then tossed its mane, as if to say, How
foolish of me, even to notice such a drab being! And
then it moved off, into the trees at the far side of the clearing.
rhythm of its walking beat in my muscles, and I followed; the sight
of it drew me like pennants and tent-tops on a tourney-field, and I
could not but go after. Its tail, at times, braided flowers into
itself, then plaited silver threads down its strands, then lost those
also and streamed out like weed in brook-water. Its haunches were
pearly and moony and muscular. I wanted to catch up to its head and
ask it, ask it … What impossible thing could I ask? And what if
it should turn and answer—how terrible would that be? So, all
confusion, I stumbled after, between the flowers of the forest,
across their carpet and among their curtains and beneath their
ribbons and festoons.
came to a streamside; the creature led me into the water, stirring
the stars on the surface. And while I watched a trail of them spin
around a dimple left by his passing, he vanished—whether by walking
away, or by leaping up and becoming stars himself, or by melting into
the air, I could not say, but I was standing alone, in only
starlight, my feet numb and my ankles aching with the water’s
stepped out onto the muddy bank; it was churned with many
hoof-prints, all unshod that I could distinguish. There was no magic
anywhere, only the smell of the mud and of wet rock, and behind that,
like a tapestry behind a table, of the forest and its flowers.
lay higher up the bank, which the horse had fetched me to see. It was
a person’s body; I thought it must be dead, so still did it lie.
For more info about THE UNICORN ANTHOLOGY, visit the Tachyon page.
Cover by Thomas Canty
Design by Elizabeth Story