Rhiannon was an orphan and lived with her grandmother in a village at the edge of the dark forest. The forest was enormous nobody knew how big, or what lay deep inside it. Some said that strange beasts laired there, dragons and unicorns, which could turn you to stone by looking at you.
Her job was to hunt in the forest for truffles . Truffles are a leathery black fungus that grows underground on the roots of certain trees, and for those who like rich food they add a particularly delicious taste and smell. One day Rhiannon went off to the forest as usual. But, not at all as usual, she was followed back that evening by a small white horse, pure silvery white with a silky mane and tail.
The villagers were amazed. They tried to catch it but then they found that Rhiannon’s basket was full of truffles. “My little horse showed me where to dig,” she said.
This seemed very good news because the tax clerk will come in few days, truffles were rare and expensive, and perhaps they could pay all their taxes in truffles. The clerk was a monk, who could read and write. When he asked how it happened that the village had so many truffles to send, the headman told him.
That evening, the clerk sent for a huntsman. He had followed Rhiannon up to the forest and saw the white horse. “And sure, it is a fabulous silvery white horse with a single spiral horn growing from its forehead, your honor,” he said to the clerk. Next morning Sir Brangwyn’s tax clerk hurried to Castle Grim to tell Sir Brangwyn there was a unicorn in the woods. The great hall of Castle Grim was full of trophies of Sir Brangwyn’s hunting. Hunting was the one thing he cared about in the entire world. So in an hour Sir Brangwyn was on the road to hunt the unicorn. So when Rhiannon went into the forest Sir Brangwyn waited hidden behind the bank of brushwood. Suddenly the unicorn came delicately out looking this way and that, sniffing the wind. Sir Brangwyn broke from his hiding place to hunt the unicorn. At once Rhiannon was lying along the unicorn’s back with her arms around its neck, and the unicorn was darting away under the trees with Sir Brangwyn hallooing behind.
The unicorn entered into forest, into silence. The villagers waiting out of sight beyond the forest heard a voice like a shout and a crash. They found Sir Brangwyn but he died.
Rhiannon came out of the forest at sunset. The villagers were happy because Sir Brangwyn was not there anymore and they could live in peace and harmony forever.
(Unicorn by Peter Dickinson)