With apologies to Peter S. Beagle.
THE UNICORN: This part is to be played by a female.
The Unicorn is truthful, calm, direct, and beautiful in both action and
word, except for those rare moments when she gets funky. On the whole,
she is to be played as a pure creature. Be warned: this is the lead
role in a whopping big script, so don’t take it unless you feel worthy.
THE SALAMEANDER: May be either male or female. An adorable transmutating creature with a healthy dose of spunk, who knows just the right questions to ask.
THE NARRATOR: A good storyteller who plays a small part in the story.
THE AGING VIRGIN: May be either male or female. Strong of spirit and more or less pure of heart.
KING HAGGARD / RED BULL
MABRUK THE MAGICIAN / BIOMANCER 1 / FARMER 1
DRINN / BIOMANCER 2 / FARMER 2
PRINCE LIR / VOICE 1
BUTTERFLY / VOICE 2
ARTIST / CAT
AUTHOR’S NOTE: This is only my fourth Chelsea script, and it’s an awfully
big one. My excuse is that I was told to keep writing, to fill the
void, and to keep writing is something I’ve needed to do, in general, for
quite some time. I hope that the story I chose will be interesting
enough to hold your attention until the end. If so, maybe it will
be as inspiring for you as it was fun for me. If not, just remember
that the magic of words are usually better than nothing.
SCENE 1. The end of immortality.
UNICORN enters and stands center stage. She bears the ‘horn’
on her forehead. During the play, she should use either a piece of
cord or one hand to keep it there whenever possible, or at least make a
token effort. :P
NARRATOR: The unicorn lived in an aspen grove, deep in a valley shielded by hillocks shielded by sprawling downs of which the moonlight grew tired each night before reaching their inner secret. The unicorn was very old, and she lived all alone, dancing with memories she never laid out to the day air, satisfied merely to know that there were others of her kin in the world, and never meeting eyes with another living creature except for an occasional promotional appearance at the local strip mall, at which she gave no autographs. She did not look anything like a horned horse, as unicorns are often pictured. In fact she looked more like a college student with a horn strapped to her head. Or, no—actually she looked a lot like a horned horse. Let’s just accept that appearances are deceptive, and leave it at that.
One day, just before dawn, the unicorn was going through her e-mail address book and discovered that one by one, all her online friends were returning ominous messages of “Recipient Not Found.” It dawned on her that morning with the sun that she might be the very last of her kind. Well, not the very last—there was always that traditionalist lilac-pusher in the Teutonic lands, who never left her woods—but it was possible she was the second-to-last unicorn. And that troubled her.
UNICORN: I am pretty nearly the last unicorn in the world. How strange.
NARRATOR: The unicorn waited until the end of ice-fishing season, and then left her grove and all the peace she knew there. She wandered along roads by day and night, and slept only in the dusky evenings and before the sunrises.
UNICORN wanders about, looking at the audience and the scenery. FARMER 1 and FARMER 2 enter and examine UNICORN from a distance. They amble slowly across stage.
NARRATOR: She met people on the road, but unlike in the days of old, they failed to recognize her true nature.
FARMER 1: It’s a My Little Pony.
FARMER 2: No, it’s a Pokemon.
FARMER 1: No, it’s a My Little Pony.
FARMER 2: I’m telling you, it’s one of the new silver Pokemon.
FARMERS leave. UNICORN hangs her head.
NARRATOR: It seemed that unicorns had left the land, and she heard no word of what had become of them. But one day, a butterfly appeared from the dew and kept her company as she walked…
BUTTERFLY enters and flutters about the UNICORN while delivering his/her lines with great frivolity.
BUTTERFLY: Lightly I fly, though I wish I had a river so long. This I promise you: never never never to let you grow beyond me! Hello, Angelina! Hello my joy!
UNICORN: A butterfly! What are you doing out on such a windy day?
BUTTERFLY: I’ll blame it on the rain, I’ll blame it on the weatherman! Wind is my watchman, and I seek the Rainbow Six, but here comes the sun! I get knocked down, but get up to fly five hundred miles, and I would fly five hundred more, merely to trace the lines of L.A., where all is safe and warm. Don’t eat the yellow brick snow!
UNICORN: Do you know what I am, butterfly?
BUTTERFLY: Flutterby, flutterby, who? I am a fire on Babylon, I am a joker, a stoker, a midnight toker, a colored rebel without claws. You are a flaccid Beanie Baby, a heap of rumpled dreams. You are a sacred moonshadow.
UNICORN (shaking her head): You know only songs and poems, but nothing solid, and nothing real.
BUTTERFLY: I know who, what, where, when and why I must lie, and if I lie two times I love you intermittently. I am what I am, I feel what I feel, and I like pies! Airs and nectars strung on a limb. Silly unicorn, kicks are for skids! Victor forbids! Tupperware lids!
UNICORN: Oh! You do know what I am! Then tell me, butterfly…what has become of the other unicorns?
BUTTERFLY: Is that your final answer? Where have all the icons gone? Antipasta! The Red Dog, I mean the Red Ball, no, the Red Bull, runs smooth over everything. Away have they been driven, from sea to shining croquet. Into the sea with them! So long, unicorns! A world without unicorns is like a rolling pin, down to the sea, and up to the nines. Roll away, Nessy, for the truth is out there!
UNICORN: The Red Ball? Did you say they were driven away by the Red Ball?
BUTTERFLY: Ball them all up, throw them away. Nine out of ten creatures driven to the sea, fear the Red Bull of King Haggard, the bull which is the pollster and the poll. Red Bull gives you wings! Sweet Peter Beagle, the bush has been gored, and I think you’re alone now, there doesn’t seem to be anyone around now. I was a fly-by, and you were alone, you were all by yourself. Good-bye, all by, all buy out!
BUTTERFLY begins to fly away.
UNICORN: Wait! How did the Ball do this? Are the unicorns still alive?
BUTTERFLY (leaving stage): Alive or deadpan, all buy out sale! Sail away, sail away, sail away. Sail away, sail away, sail away…
UNICORN: I have to find the Red Ball. But I’ve been gone so long!
SCENE 2: The ‘Corn Flakes and the Salameander.
The UNICORN wanders across stage. Enter the ARTIST, SALAMEANDER
and the two BIOMANCERS. The ARTIST works on an artwork while the
BIOMANCERS stir the contents of a pot. SALAMEANDER crouches or lies
on the ground and pretends to be the pot.
NARRATOR: The Unicorn went to the only place she could think of to see whether any other unicorns remained—an arts and crafts festival held on the outskirts of a great cornfield near a human city. Because stories, glass cuttings, and embroideries of unicorns were the trademarks of the festival, its participants had been labeled the “Unicorn Flakes”—or the “Corn Flakes” for short. Although she made no effort to conceal herself, the people there did not see her horn; nor did they sense her magical nature.
UNICORN (to ARTIST): It is good to see you this year, artisan. What new marvels have you produced?
ARTIST (looking up): Hm? Oh, I was just working on this new 18 by 15 oil pastel of Yuri the Dragon. Who—who are you?
UNICORN: I am a unicorn.
ARTIST: A—a real unicorn? I thought there weren’t any more unicorns! I thought they’d all gone with the days of knights and heraldry!
UNICORN: Nah, I’ve been hangin’. I haven’t seen any of my kin for a long time, though. I was hoping maybe some news of them had passed through here.
ARTIST: Well, I don’t know about any real unicorns. I just make unicorn paraphernalia. Want a pastel unicorn lunchbox? Or a sheet of stickers from Lisa Frank?
UNICORN: No! I want to know my fate.
ARTIST: Well, I want to give you something. Just to vindicate my life work, in some way, to know I’ve made a real unicorn happy. Can I give you something?
UNICORN: If it is a true gift, with no price attached, then I cannot refuse.
ARTIST: All right, then here, take this shawl I made. It’s got a unicorn’s head stitched in the middle.
ARTIST walks to the UNICORN’s side and wraps the shawl around her forebody.
UNICORN: Uh…thank you. I’m sure it will keep me warm and make me beautiful.
ARTIST: The pleasure’s mine. Thank you. (Low voice): Now then, if you want news you could try asking those two over there. They’re strange sorts. Biomancers, they’re called. I hear they’re trying to create life. Maybe they’re hoping to bring back unicorns, if you all die out someday. But they don’t seem to be having too much luck.
UNICORN: I’ll see if we can help each other. Farewell.
ARTIST leaves. UNICORN approaches the BIOMANCERS.
BIOMANCER 1 (looking up): Whoa, look at that! It’s a white mare wearing a hideous blue shawl!
BIOMANCER 2: Huh!
UNICORN (sighing): Yes, I know it’s hideous. But it was a gift.
BIOMANCER 1: It can talk!
BIOMANCER 2: Do you think…?
BIOMANCER 1: But she doesn’t have a horn!
UNICORN: Yes, I’m a unicorn! Yes, I’ve got a horn! Can’t you see it?
BIOMANCER 2: No… I’m afraid I can’t.
BIOMANCER 2 keeps stirring the pot.
BIOMANCER 1: Sorry. But we’re scientists.
UNICORN: Scientists? Does that mean you know nothing of where the unicorns have gone?
BIOMANCER 1: I’m afraid I can’t help you there. Sorry.
UNICORN: Can you at least tell me the way to King Haggard’s land?
BIOMANCER 1 (pointing toward audience): Oh, yes. He lives to the north, in a desolate land by the sea. Very low housing costs—I may move there someday.
UNICORN: Thank you. That will be of help.
BIOMANCER 1: You’re welcome, ma’am.
BIOMANCER 2 pours something into the pot.
UNICORN: That smells interesting. I was told you are trying to create life. Is that true?
BIOMANCER 1: It’s true. That’s what’s in the pot. But so far all we’ve got is primordial soup. Want some?
UNICORN: No, thank you. (Looks into pot.) What is it supposed to be?
BIOMANCER 2: We’re not sure yet. Anything it wants to be, we imagine.
UNICORN: Hm. I think you’ve left out the most important ingredient.
BIOMANCER 1: You mean salt?
UNICORN: I mean the magic of the alicorn’s touch. Excuse me.
BIOMANCERS stand back as UNICORN touches her horn to the pot. SALAMEANDER emerges slowly from the pot and looks around in quiet, almost smug absorption of the world around itself. The others watch in wonder.
(NOTE: The SALAMEANDER always speaks to the UNICORN, never to anyone else.)
SALAMEANDER (sharply): Why isn’t this the best of all possible worlds?
BIOMANCER 1: Did it do something?
BIOMANCER 2: I think it said something.
BIOMANCER 1: Stay within your senses. It’s only just been created. It hasn’t been given language yet.
BIOMANCER 2: But it has the desire to speak… hasn’t it?
BIOMANCER 1: At this stage, I doubt that—
UNICORN: It has already spoken. And the reason its words do not sound like words to you is that they are directed to me.
BIOMANCER 2: I—I beg your pardon, Miss Unicorn?
UNICORN: The creature is speaking to me.
BIOMANCER 2: Well… can you translate for us?
UNICORN (placid): You should learn to mind your own business.
SALAMEANDER: Well? Why is this not the best of all possible worlds? I can see it isn’t at a glance.
UNICORN: It is not the best of all possible worlds, creature, because we do not have the best of all possible minds. A different mind would view this world as a different possibility.
SALAMEANDER: Basically the same question, then. Why do we not have the best of all possible minds?
UNICORN: Creature, the best of all possible minds would be no mind at all, and mortals or immortals alike would find that rather dull!
SALAMEANDER: Then how could it be the best?
UNICORN: I am doing you the kindness of judging by your own standard. If you take every—
BIOMANCER 1: Excuse me—I’d really like to know what our creature is saying.
SALAMEANDER: Your creature?
UNICORN: I told you, it is speaking only to me!
SALAMEANDER (shrugging): You gave me life. Why should I speak to anyone else?
UNICORN: It seems sensible. But you are asking for too much.
SALAMEANDER: I’m newly created. The first thing for me to do is establish boundaries.
UNICORN: Then I hope you learn quickly.
BIOMANCER 2: Good unicorn, please! It’s important that we be allowed to communicate—
UNICORN (raising a hand): Nuh-uh! Talk to the hoof!
BIOMANCER 2: But—
BIOMANCER 1: We just—
UNICORN: Better luck next time.
BIOMANCERS look at each other.
BIOMANCER 1: I think we’d better be satisfied with our success.
BIOMANCER 2 (looking longingly at SALAMEANDER, then turning away): I—I guess so. Well, if it’ll only talk to you, and if you won’t tell us what it says, I suppose…it ought to stay with you.
UNICORN: To stay with me?
SALAMEANDER: Hmm? To stay with you?
UNICORN: Yes. The men want us to be companions in travel.
SALAMEANDER: Excellent! So I’m a wanderer?
UNICORN: Apparently so.
SALAMEANDER: I’ll call myself, “Salameander!”
UNICORN: You would be wise to do so, if only for the latent humorous content.
The BIOMANCERS leave, mumbling.
SALAMEANDER (looking around): Well, it may not be the best possible world, but it does look interesting.
UNICORN: That you think so means you are well-crafted.
SALAMEANDER: Really? That’s good to know. Are you well-crafted?
UNICORN (walking slowly away): I am an immortal being.
SALAMEANDER (Nervous): Immortal? You say that like it’s something special.
UNICORN: It is quite special. There are ever fewer things like me.
SALAMEANDER: You mean…I am mortal? I will die someday?
UNICORN: Come and walk with me. It will make this talking easier.
UNICORN and SALAMEANDER leave.
Scene 3: The Virgin.
The NARRATOR sits down and starts to pluck out a tune, making ‘Bum
bum de dum’ noises in order to simulate a lyre. After a few moments,
UNICORN and SALAMEANDER enter, as NARRATOR continues to play.
SALAMEANDER: But you said earlier that all energy is conserved. One thing moves, and a week later another thing is moving because of it.
UNICORN: Very different things, Sal.
SALAMEANDER: But then, where am I getting my energy from? Could I accidentally use it up all at once, and not have any left for the rest of my life?
UNICORN: That would be unfortunate. Perhaps you ought to take up eating.
SALAMEANDER: Eating? What’s that? (Hears NARRATOR) And what’s that sound? It’s not natural, is it?
UNICORN: That, Sal, is what mortals know as music. As usual, they have managed to identify only a slice of their object, but it is enough to draw the interest of a unicorn nonetheless. (To NARRATOR): Hey could you give me some accompaniment?
NARRATOR: Sure thing.
UNICORN struts up and down the stage to the sound of the NARRATOR’S instrument. Enter VIRGIN.
SALAMEANDER: Hey Miss Unicorn! There’s someone else over there!
UNICORN: I know it. (To VIRGIN): Who are you?
VIRGIN (approaching humbly and kneeling): I am only a humble young virgin, pure of heart, interested in securing your friendship. I had my friend the lyrist draw you here, so that we might be able to meet.
UNICORN (to SALAMEANDER): Watch me deal with this one. (To VIRGIN): Okay, we’ve met. So what, do you want to touch my horn?
VIRGIN: Well, if that’s the sort of thing that turns you on…
UNICORN: Hey! I’m not the pervert here! Listen, you say you’re a young virgin? How old are you?
VIRGIN: Well, by ‘young’ I mean still in my years of physical fitness… it’s a relative thing—
NARRATOR: (He/She)’s thirty-four.
VIRGIN: Um… yeah.
UNICORN: Thirty-four? And you’re wasting your time with unicorns? Seriously, you’ve got to get you some company.
VIRGIN: Well, why do you think I’m coming to you? Unicorns are (guy/chick) magnets!
UNICORN: Huh? Well, perhaps that’s true, but—
VIRGIN: Come on, I’m a virgin! Don’t you revel in my incipient innocence?
UNICORN: Um…you said you were pure of heart? It takes more than not having sex to be a virgin, you know.
VIRGIN: I know, I know, but I am pure! I don’t eat flesh or eggs, I don’t imbibe alcohol, I stay out of disreputable places, I don’t watch anime, I don’t…uh…Yahoo, and I’ve never even seen the Rocky Horror Picture Show!
NARRATOR: You own the soundtrack, though.
VIRGIN (annoyed): I’m keeping it for someone! (To UNICORN): Please, let me go with you. It would be the crowning experience of my life so far.
UNICORN thinks for a moment.
UNICORN (quietly): Very well, you may come with us. But be warned that my quest is a dangerous one. The Salameander and I are traveling to the land of King Haggard, in order to win back that which he has hoarded.
VIRGIN: And that would be?
UNICORN: Almost all the unicorns in the world.
VIRGIN: Well, he’s certainly a rat-bastard, isn’t he?
NARRATOR (shocked): You were supposed to be a swearing-virgin too!
VIRGIN: Oh. Well, maybe I’m not a swearing-virgin anymore, but there’s a first time for everything.
SALAMEANDER (surprised): There is?
UNICORN (surprised): There is?
VIRGIN: Uh… Yeah. Otherwise how could anything happen? If it’s not happening the first time it must be happening the second time or thirty-fifth time or so on… in which case the first time happened earlier.
UNICORN: I had never thought of that. I think I will enjoy traveling with you more than I had thought. You are wise in the way of mortals.
VIRGIN: I’ve never been called wise before. So who’s your friend? Did you call it Salameander?
UNICORN: You will learn our story as we travel.
VIRGIN: Fair enough. (To NARRATOR): Hey, thanks a lot, this looks like it’ll be fun. Could I borrow your lyre for this trip? We might need music to cheer our souls.
NARRATOR: Well, I guess. Just be sure to bring it back.
The NARRATOR gives the lyre to the VIRGIN.
VIRGIN: No problem, it’ll be fine. See you!
NARRATOR: Take care.
UNICORN, VIRGIN and SALAMEANDER leave stage.
SCENE 4: The approach to Hagsgate.
NARRATOR: The travelers continued north toward Haggard’s castle.
The Virgin worried that conversation would be difficult, since unicorns
on the one hand are not known for discoursing, but rather for simply being,
and the Salameander on the other hand was willing to speak only to the
unicorn who had given it life. But as the budded branches for mile
after mile watched these three companions pass by, the words and the emotions
were no sparser than the forest they traversed. The Unicorn passed
on the Salameander’s words to the Virgin, and she herself was more than
willing to converse with mortals. She admitted that they were a new
and different way of looking at life.
Enter VIRGIN, UNICORN, and SALAMEANDER, walking very slowly across stage.
VIRGIN: But since when have unicorns been interested in new and different things? I thought they were a symbol of what doesn’t change in nature. Of the timeless core that no one can corrupt, even when times are troubled.
UNICORN (gently): Symbol? Mortal, I’ll warn you that I don’t like being called a symbol. My favorite kind of cymbal is the kind that makes music.
VIRGIN: Oh, you like that kind of music? I can play you some on this lyre I borrowed from my friend before we left. I only know how to use it as a percussion instrument, anyway.
SALAMEANDER: Tell (him/her) not to do that, please.
UNICORN: Um, yes. Please don’t do that. Although if you can pluck the strings in any way harmonious, please do.
VIRGIN: I can try, but I think it’ll need tuning now that we’ve been walking a few days. Think we’ve come far enough for the day? Can we make camp?
SALAMEANDER: It does look like a good place.
UNICORN: Yes, let’s.
VIRGIN sits down, and SALAMEANDER lies down. UNICORN remains standing.
VIRGIN: It’s colder tonight. Should I make a fire?
SALAMEANDER: You can tell (him/her) I’ll make one, if (he/she) brings some wood to mix with this brush.
UNICORN: Virgin, if you can find firewood, the Salameander will do the rest.
VIRGIN: Oh! That creature is full of surprises, isn’t it?
SALAMEANDER: To none more than me.
VIRGIN gets up and starts gathering firewood.
SALAMEANDER: Hey, Unicorn? What are you going to do, when you find the Red Ball of King Haggard? Have you decided yet?
UNICORN: I don’t know…but I can’t imagine a ball would be very fearsome.
SALAMEANDER: Well, maybe not, but it did beat all those other unicorns.
UNICORN: I know. I wonder whether I should be preparing in some way.
SALAMEANDER: Are you going to face the ball alone?
UNICORN: I suppose perhaps I should. It would be the natural thing for a unicorn to do.
SALAMEANDER: Hmm. On the other hand, the other unicorns failed. Maybe you should break from what seems natural.
UNICORN: Then would it be myself I was saving? Or someone else?
There is a moment’s silence.
SALAMEANDER: A small sliver of an immortal life is a small price to pay. Am I wrong?
UNICORN (sighing): No, you are right. Very well, then. I will ask for your help against the Red Ball. Can you help?
SALAMEANDER: The only thing that meanders more than a bouncy ball is the Salameander! What do you suppose could stop a ball? A rubber stopper?
UNICORN: Are you able to assume that form?
SALAMEANDER: Well, I can try.
SALAMEANDER sits up and curls into a flat shape.
SALAMEANDER: Looks like it! And while I’ve got the ball waylaid, you can stick your horn into it and toss it out to sea!
UNICORN: That is a wise plan.
VIRGIN finishes gathering firewood and dumps it on the floor.
VIRGIN: There’s your wood.
SALAMEANDER: Tell (him/her) to stand back.
UNICORN: Stand back.
UNICORN and VIRGIN stand back. SALAMEANDER kneels and breathes fire onto the pile of wood, igniting it into a healthy fire.
VIRGIN: You breathed fire!
SALAMEANDER: Just like the salamanders of myth.
UNICORN: Hey, no using the ‘M’ word. Let’s remain where the fire can warm us, and see whether the Virgin can tune that lyre.
VIRGIN: I’ll give it a try.
VIRGIN sits by the fire and starts experimenting with the lyre, making odd noises from time to time. Some time passes.
SALAMEANDER: So. Why are unicorns so precious?
UNICORN: Do not ask me.
SALAMEANDER: Why not?
UNICORN: Because from my point of view, I have no choice. I must be precious to myself.
SALAMEANDER: Good point. All right, ask the Virgin why.
UNICORN: Very well. Virgin, why are my kind precious to such as you?
VIRGIN: Why? You ask why? Well, besides the reason I gave before, because they are beautiful! And they give life. The Salameander is just one example of that! The wood a unicorn lives in is bright and lush all year round! A unicorn can cure poison with its touch and raises spirits merely with its presence! Is that not good enough reason for unicorns to be precious?
SALAMEANDER: I guess so. But are you sure it doesn’t have anything to do with them being hard to get?
UNICORN: It wonders whether we are in part precious because we are hard to obtain.
VIRGIN: Well…maybe just a little.
SALAMEANDER: Aha, so there’s a certain competitive spirit involved.
UNICORN: There is, then, a competitive spirit involved?
VIRGIN: Only a healthy kind of competition. Honestly, humankind reveres the unicorns because they are wondrous things. That above all else.
SALAMEANDER: Well, it seems reasonable…except that if the reason unicorns are so precious is that they give life, then why is this King Haggard destroying them? Is he against life?
UNICORN: The Salameander asks why a king looking for life-givers would destroy them. But perhaps, Salameander, he is simply keeping them somewhere. Perhaps the unicorns live in his own private garden, making it the brightest in the world.
SALAMEANDER: If that’s the case…will you choose to live there?
UNICORN: If there is no way to free the unicorns, I will.
VIRGIN: And leave the rest of the world to be empty of your beauty?
UNICORN: I must not separate myself from my kind!
VIRGIN: But you lived alone all this time!
UNICORN: Yeah, I know. It’s a peer pressure kind of thing, all right?
VIRGIN: Sure, fine. I hope they can be freed.
UNICORN: I hope so too.
Enter DRINN, a knotted and rotting man of middle years.
DRINN: A visitor! How unlikely! What are you doing here, building a fire so close to the town?
VIRGIN: Are we that close to Hagsgate?
DRINN: You’re not a mile off. And the wind’s blowing our way. Did you think we wouldn’t see your blaze?
VIRGIN: I don’t think we worried about it. Is there a problem?
DRINN: Who is ‘we’? You and your horse and hunting dog? No, there’s no problem unless you’re headed townward. But if you are, you’ll be welcomed with stones at your back, and chased off with dogs at your heels. Do you comprehend me?
VIRGIN: Yes, I do. But I must pass through Hagsgate.
DRINN: You must? You must endure scars inside and out? Why is that, young (man/woman)?
VIRGIN: I am on my way to the castle of King Haggard, to confront him.
DRINN: Heh. King Haggard? What does he have to be confronted about? Ever since he had the witch build that crumbling castle of his, our lands have been bountiful! Fifty years, we’ve had good crops and fertile soil. And you want to risk ending it for us, and expect us to let you through?
VIRGIN: Ending it? What do you mean?
DRINN: Haggard didn’t pay the witch when she’d built the castle. So she laid a curse on it, and on us! “Ye whom Haggard holds in thrall, share his feast and share his fall. You shall see your fortune flower, ‘till the torrent takes the tower. Yet none but one of Hagsgate town will bring the castle swirling down.”
VIRGIN: Oh? Well, I’m not from your town. Why can’t I pass?
DRINN: So simple is your head as that? There’s a prince in the castle, a prince named Lír. He’s not Haggard’s son, but comes from this town. I know it, because I found the wretch, abandoned, out in the winter snow. I didn’t dare to take him home, and when I came back the next day, he had been taken by Haggard, who roams the streets and gullies at night, stealing what he can find to bring back to his dark home. Lír is the one who will end the reign of Haggard and bring ruin to us all. And every visitor to the castle is another irritant that may spring the trap. No one knows what may turn Lír against the man he never calls father. Are we to risk letting you be the one?
VIRGIN: Perhaps, old man, you should leave this land. It isn’t good to live under a curse.
DRINN: Do you think you have to tell me that? We live here because we have plenty. Yet we’re bound to lose it, one way or another. Do you think we can enjoy it? Or just walk away? The curse the witch chose was strong indeed.
VIRGIN: Well, I will go to Haggard’s castle. And if stones and dogs are the price of that, I will pay it.
UNICORN: No, actually I think you shan’t.
DRINN: What was that? Is your horse speaking to me?
UNICORN comes up to Drinn and puts her horn against his chest.
UNICORN: Yeah, I’m talking to you, bub. You scram back to your town, and tell them this guy and both his animals are passing through…and they won’t give us any trouble. Or you don’t want to know what we’ll do—to you, or to Haggard, when we reach him. Got it?
DRINN (choking with fear): I—I’ll do as you say. Strange beast.
UNICORN: You’d better.
DRINN backs off and leaves stage.
UNICORN: Well, I think we’d better press on tonight. We’ll make camp again once we reach the other side.
SALAMEANDER: As you say. Let me get the fire.
SALAMEANDER kneels and sucks up the fire.
UNICORN: Indeed. Shall we go?
VIRGIN nods. VIRGIN, SALAMEANDER, UNICORN and even NARRATOR leave stage.
SCENE 5: Haggard’s boredom
Enter HAGGARD, LIR. They are looking into the distance.
LIR: A traveler and (his/her) animal. Bold, yet frightened. As if they have heard of our castle, but not enough.
HAGGARD (peering): What kind of animal is that?
LIR: It? It’s a…a…it’s walking on four legs. Or five…no, four.
HAGGARD: Are your young eyes no good? Every animal has a name.
LIR: That one puzzles me. It seems as if it were trying to decide on its proper place. It glances at the trees and bushes as it passes them, as if deciding what they have to do with it. It seems very young. If I were to learn it had been born yesterday, I would only be surprised that it is so old.
HAGGARD: It will bear watching. But watch now your tongue. They come.
Enter VIRGIN, SALAMEANDER.
HAGGARD: State your name.
VIRGIN: You have done nothing to deserve my name, so I will not give it to you. Take me to King Haggard.
LIR: What business have you with King Haggard?
VIRGIN: I intend to challenge him. (HAGGARD glares at the VIRGIN.) Or, failing that, I will seek to enter his service.
LIR: Indeed? Your plans are flexible, then. Come inside.
They all walk to one side of the stage, then back to center.
HAGGARD: Now tell me, if you will not tell me your name. On what count do you wish to challenge King Haggard?
VIRGIN: On the count of what he has taken. But I will say no more until I am in his presence.
HAGGARD: Speak, then. For I am King Haggard.
VIRGIN-Yo—you? Ah…well then. You have done a very deep wrong, King Haggard. You have stolen a great treasure from the world, with the help of your blood-red tool. Do you deny it?
HAGGARD: I have no reason to deny it.
VIRGIN: Then will you let them go?
HAGGARD: Foolish youth—
VIRGIN: I’m thirty-four!
HAGGARD: And still a virgin! As I was saying—
VIRGIN: How did you know I’m a virgin?
HAGGARD: I can see it in your eyes! As I was saying, you are a fool. You think that the red beast is my tool, but it is not. It is its own, and the unicorns—you might as well name them, for we all know they are what you have come for—they stay of their own will, knowing that if they leave their prison they will be restored there, and will lose nothing but pride—a commodity which they must hoard, for they will never get any more where they are.
VIRGIN: And where are they?
HAGGARD: You have done nothing to earn this answer, nameless one, and so I will not respond.
VIRGIN (humble): Well then, I suppose I must serve you. I will be your cook and your servant, in exchange for knowledge about the unicorns.
LIR: A strange trade you offer!
HAGGARD: Hush, Lír. Nameless virgin, I doubt you will give me anything I have not had before. All the entertainers and courtesans money could buy did not make me happy, so I turned them out. Is there something you possess that they lacked?
VIRGIN (glancing around): Um…there’s my pet. Yes! My brilliant pet, who can do tricks for you.
HAGGARD: Your pet is a strange one. It will require an examination. Mabruk! Mabruk!
MABRUK: I am here, Sire.
HAGGARD: Mabruk, look at this animal, and tell me of what kind it is.
VIRGIN: You could have just asked me that. It’s a—
MABRUK: It is no animal, not yet. At the moment, it is just life. Useless until it knows more, Sire.
VIRGIN: Not useless!
MABRUK: Utterly useless.
VIRGIN: No—no! It can do tricks! It can transform itself.
LIR: It can?
HAGGARD: Hush, Lír! Let’s see these transformations.
SALAMEANDER goes before HAGGARD and transforms itself, standing up, sitting down, standing up, sitting down, and so on.
HAGGARD: Hmm. I stand corrected. You do have something capable of making me happy. Up. Down. Up. Down.
MABRUK: Oh, come on! It’s just a stupid thing.
HAGGARD: Up. Down. Look at it, Lír! Isn’t it cute?
SALAMEANDER starts transforming into other shapes as well, and continues for the rest of the scene.
HAGGARD: I could watch this all day.
MABRUK: Nonsense. Sire, I insist that you throw this piece of metaplasm out at once.
HAGGARD: I will not, Mabruk. You may go. Attend to your duties, and stay out of this creature’s way. And do not make me cross with you again, or I will dismiss you!
MABRUK (snarling): Yes, Sire.
HAGGARD: Now then. Yes, nameless one. You and your pet may stay here as long as you like. You will cook and clean, and your pet will amuse me. Up. Down. Side to side. Up. Down.
VIRGIN (to LIR): You are Prince Lír?
LIR: That’s right. Glad to meet you.
VIRGIN (quiet voice): Do you know about the curse on this place, and what they say about you?
LIR: I do, yes. I don’t really care, though.
VIRGIN (quietly): Where are the unicorns?
LIR: They’re all in the sea. Haggard had them driven into the sea, one by one, for his pleasure.
VIRGIN: But does he get pleasure from them?
HAGGARD (in the background): Left foot in, left foot out. Yes, that’s what it’s all about.
LIR (quietly): No, he doesn’t. But he wishes he did. He watches the sea, hour after hour, at the dawn.
VIRGIN (quietly): Will you help me, Lír? I have a friend who wants to know the way down to the sea.
LIR: A friend?
VIRGIN (quietly): Yes. A unicorn. Nearly the last.
LIR: A unicorn! Really?
VIRGIN (quietly): Really. She’s waiting outside. Can you help us sneak her through, into the cellar, perhaps?
LIR: Yes, I know the way to do that. But will I get…to see her? To touch her?
VIRGIN (quietly): I don’t see why not. We can let it be your reward.
LIR: In that case, I will help you gladly. Go to the door an hour after sunset tonight. I will meet you there.
VIRGIN (quietly): I shall do so.
HAGGARD: Heeeeey, Macarena.
Exit HAGGARD, LIR.
SCENE 6: The way through the clock.
Enter CAT. CAT walks around on all fours, meowing softly in
the background and ignoring the others.
VIRGIN (to SALAMEANDER): I wish you would speak to me. I’m weary of waiting here. Lír said that he’ll bring her here as soon as possible, but I don’t know when that will be. He said that Mabruk magician fellow is prowling around, trying to spot him. I’m worried. What if he finds her? What if we shouldn’t have left her alone? I know, she’s lived on her own for her whole life, but things have changed. We’re in a new place now, and a world without unicorns, for the most part. And the Red Ball is near…I can feel it…bouncing. Why won’t you speak to me?
SALAMEANDER just stares at the VIRGIN. There is a moment of silence. Then LIR and the UNICORN enter.
LIR: We’ve come!
VIRGIN: At last! I was worried sick.
SALAMEANDER: Welcome to the castle. It’s pretty musty here.
UNICORN: There are worse tarnishes than must in this place.
VIRGIN: Oh yes, I’m sure there are…Haggard’s soul, for one. But it’s so nice to hear your voice again!
UNICORN: Do not talk of pleasures now. We have a task remaining. Where is the path down to the sea, with its red guardian?
LIR: I’m afraid I don’t know myself. Haggard keeps his secrets closely guarded. His men-at-arms know nothing. I know nothing, and neither does Mabruk. The only ones that might know are the walls.
VIRGIN: Then what are we to do?
UNICORN: I fear we may be trapped here until Haggard returns.
SALAMEANDER: Think so? You’re scaring me.
UNICORN: I have never caused such emotions in so many, before this quest. Never.
LIR: I am deeply sorry to hear that.
VIRGIN: As am I.
SALAMEANDER: Well, that’s too bad. So why don’t we ask the cat? It might know, if it listens at the walls.
VIRGIN: Ask the cat? That’s ridiculous. Cats don’t talk.
CAT: That’s right. Listen to (him/her).
VIRGIN: See? So it won’t do any good to ask—to ask…umm. Did that cat just say something?
LIR: It said it couldn’t talk. Weren’t you listening?
UNICORN: I think the Salameander’s idea is a good one. (Goes to CAT.) Feline, do you know the way down to the sea, where Haggard keeps the others of my kind?
UNICORN: Are you sure?
CAT: Well, now that you mention it, I suppose I’m not quite so sure as all that…maybe a little scratch under the chin would get me talking.
UNICORN scratches the CAT on the chin.
CAT: Aaah, yes. Oh, more of that, if you will.
UNICORN: Your answer? Have you seen Haggard go to his sea of unicorns? Do you know the way?
CAT: A sea is a sea. It cannot hide, nor is how to see a sea a secret. See?
CAT: Now, if you had asked whether Haggard wishes you for his picture frame of nothing, his collection in a different higher sense, I might have told you to look for the starry sky in each silver plate he never kept in this house. Thinkest you Haggard would give sanction to cats? He’s a hard-eyed one, he is, and knows only the way of the filch.
UNICORN: Was that an answer? Are you talking in riddles?
CAT: Pretty much, yes. So how is a raven like a writing desk?
LIR: Beagle wrote on both.
CAT: Pleeeease. Another scratch.
UNICORN scratches the CAT some more.
CAT: Oooh, yes. Aaarrrrr. Yessss indeedy. Aaaarrrrrrrr.
UNICORN: Why won’t you tell us what you know? Are you on their side?
CAT: I’d love to help you, rare one. But you see, no cat, toothless or kit, tommy or puss, ever gave anyone a straight answer.
UNICORN: Is that so. Well, guess what. (Pins CAT to the ground with her horn.) There’s a first time for everything. Right, Virgin?
VIRGIN: That’s right!
UNICORN: Let’s hear some talking, kitty. How do we get to the sea?
CAT: It’s easy, cornering ‘corn. You go through the clock.
VIRGIN: What, that clock on the wall? The mad clock, that scared me half to death by striking seventeen o’clock at half past five?
CAT: That’s the one. Some things can pass through it, but only the right things.
UNICORN: What are the right things?
CAT: Something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue. That’s the secret you’re looking for. Now get off of me, my fine adversary.
UNICORN: Gladly. (Gets off of CAT.) Now scram, fluffball.
VIRGIN: Well? Have we got the right things? Can we enter the clock?
UNICORN: I fear, Virgin, that we must not only have the right things…but we must be them. Haggard is very old…surely that allows him to pass through, taking only something young, something borrowed, and something blue. But you are none of those things, and you will not be able to come with us. It seems our company parts here, Virgin.
VIRGIN: Oh, no! I won’t get to fight for you against the enemy?
UNICORN (softly): It seems not. And I admit I have been both changed and amused by your presence. You may come and touch my horn now, if you wish.
VIRGIN sadly, cautiously, goes to the Unicorn and touches the tip of her horn, and then bows his/her head and leaves the room quickly. Lír goes after.
LIR: Wait. Let me talk to you.
SALAMEANDER: Something old…you’re plenty old enough, aren’t you? How old are you?
UNICORN (awkwardly): Er… Twenty-two.
SALAMEANDER: Twenty-two? Oh, come on.
UNICORN: Well, twenty-four, then.
SALAMANDER: Don’t make me laugh. I’ve never laughed before and it might destroy me. Normally I would risk it, but now…
UNICORN: You mean my hair cream hasn’t been working.
SALAMEANDER: No, it has! You look young…it’s just I know better. You’re old as the hills, aren’t you?
UNICORN: Well, old as some hills, anyway. Those I call my own.
SALAMEANDER: Right. And I’m as young as they come, only a week old. So we need something borrowed and something blue. And it just so happens that our friend the Virgin let me “borrow” (his/her) lyre that (he/she) borrowed from (his/her) friend in order to help me entertain King Haggard. I’ve got it right here. So that’s a sufficiently borrowed object.
UNICORN: Very resourceful.
SALAMEANDER: So all we need is something blue.
UNICORN: And this hideous shawl I’m wearing will do. It looks like we’re ready to brave the passage.
SALAMEANDER: In that case, let’s try the clock.
They approach the clock cautiously, and slowly pass through off of the stage, one after the other.
SCENE 7: That stupid butterfly.
NARRATOR: And so, equipped with only an ugly blue shawl and my lyre, the Unicorn and the Salameander ventured into the dark and bleary path beyond the clock, where the smell of the sea was strong. Soon, another scent made itself apparent.
Enter UNICORN, SALAMEANDER.
SALAMEANDER: I think we’ve made it to the sea!
UNICORN: Yes, that’s the sea, all right. And the crests are sparkling. Can you see it?
SALAMANDER: I think so. Yes! Are they the horns of unicorns?
UNICORN: They are the eyes of unicorns. Wait, and maybe they will come to us!
SALAMEANDER: You should call to them.
UNICORN (standing forward): Hello, out there! Can you hear me?
VOICES begins to speak from offstage.
VOICE 1: I am here!
VOICE 2: We are here!
SALAMEANDER: I heard them!
UNICORN: Yes. Why do you not leave the sea, my sisters and brothers!? Why do you accept this drastic change you have been burdened with?
VOICE 2: We cannot leave.
VOICE 1: We are frightened.
VOICES: Frightened of the Red Bull!
UNICORN: Frightened? Unicorns, frightened? Who ever heard of such a thing? (Pause.) Wait a minute. Did you say “Bull?”
VOICE 2: The Red Bull!
VOICE 1: The Red Bull!
UNICORN: Bull? Not Ball?
UNICORN: Uh-oh. I don’t like this.
SALAMEANDER: It’s a bull, not a ball? You said it was a giant Red Ball that was herding the unicorns!
UNICORN: I thought the butterfly told me so. Hmmph! That stupid butterfly! Now what are we going to do?
SALAMEANDER: I smell it. I smell the Bull!
UNICORN: I guess you can try turning into a rubber stopper anyway.
SALAMEANDER: I don’t know! Should I?
SALAMEANDER tries out different shapes and positions.
Enter the RED BULL.
BULL: Grooowrrrwrrrrr!!!!! -snort.
UNICORN (shaken): It…it has come. I’m done for.
SALAMEANDER: Don’t give up!
BULL rushes at UNICORN, but SALAMEANDER distracts it. They get into a running match, the BULL roaring and the SALAMEANDER changing shapes. The UNICORN shies away. Eventually, SALAMEANDER grabs the shawl from the neck of the UNICORN and uses it as a foil for the bull!
SALAMEANDER (waving shawl): Toro! Toro!
BULL: Hmmmnn? Roaaaarrr!
The BULL charges at the shawl, missing the SALAMEANDER twice, but on the third try it strikes. The SALAMEANDER falls down, hurt.
UNICORN: It had to be a red cloth, not a blue one! Now my time has come!
Growling, the BULL herds first the UNICORN, and then the SALAMEANDER, off-stage into the sea. Then it leaves.
SCENE 8: Epilogue
Enter LIR, VIRGIN, CAT.
NARRATOR: Prince Lír and the Virgin became good friends in the shadow of the fact that the Unicorn and Salameander failed to return. They waited for days, hoping that some sign of their success would appear, but there was none. At last, sorrowful, the Virgin decided it was time to leave the castle of King Haggard.
LIR: I’ll think of you and of your departed companions often.
VIRGIN: So will I…think of myself, I mean. And them too, of course. Are you sure you won’t come with me?
LIR: My place is here. I have a curse, perhaps, to fulfill.
VIRGIN: True. Well, there’s one thing I can do before I go.
LIR: What’s that?
VIRGIN goes to CAT and holds it by its scruff.
VIRGIN: Our friend told us that there was one unicorn left in the world, a prude who refused to get e-mail, but who might realize that she is the last! If the last unicorn ever comes this way, you are to be nice to her! Understand? Talk in riddles if you want, but give her the riddles that she needs! And make sure you keep up to date on how to get through that crazy clock!
CAT says nothing, but nods enthusiastically. VIRGIN drops it, and it runs away.
LIR: That was a good idea. While you’re at it, maybe you should go find that butterfly and tell it off.
VIRGIN: That’s just what I’m going to do. Farewell, Prince Lír.
LIR: Farewell, friend. I… I no longer resent that it was you who got to touch the unicorn, and not myself.
They hug, and separate.
LIR: Oh, and I wouldn’t worry about being a virgin too much longer, if I were you.
VIRGIN: Thanks, Lír.
Exit VIRGIN and LIR.
NARRATOR: Lír’s words were true. The Virgin did find the butterfly and convinced it to circle about the lilac wood of the last unicorn, and once there to tell all its descendants to tell their descendants to wait for her to emerge, and to send her in the right direction once they did. And the Virgin did find love…and then (he/she) found anime. And then (he/she) came and told me this whole story…which at first I took as a lame excuse for not bringing my lyre back…but I came to believe it, in time. It was so beautiful that I decided to tell it to others, such as yourselves. And I never did get my lyre back. But what happened to the Unicorn?
Exit NARRATOR. Enter Unicorn and Salameander, playing lyre (badly).
SALAMEANDER: Strum. Lum, de dum. Dong, wong, thrum.
UNICORN: Are you ever going to figure out how to play that thing?
SALAMEANDER: It might sound better if we weren’t underwater. I don’t know. Strum de dum.
UNICORN (sighing): I miss the land, and the trees.
SALAMEANDER: I don’t. I like it here.
UNICORN: Do you? Do you think perhaps that you’re a water creature at heart?
SALAMEANDER (shrugging): It suits me well enough. (Swims through the water.) Wheeeee!
UNICORN: Well, I’m glad you’re happy. I just hope someone comes and rescues us soon. Salt water makes my coat sticky.
SALAMEANDER: Them’s the breaks, friend.
UNICORN: I guess so. Oh, have you heard any word from those people from Disney?
SALAMEANDER: About The Little Mermaid 2? Yeah, it’s a no-go. Apparently they don’t need any more extras unless they have fins and scales.
UNICORN: Oh, that’s a pity. I really could use a job.
SALAMEANDER: No kidding.
UNICORN: Maybe you could grow some fins and scales and try out!
SALAMEANDER: You think I could? You know, I can’t change as much as I used to. I think I’m finding my true form.
UNICORN: Huh. Well then, you’d better get started before it’s too late.
SALAMEANDER: I will, then! Thanks!
UNICORN: You’re welcome.
Exit SALAMEANDER. UNICORN stands wistfully, staring after it.
UNICORN: I wonder what I have to be thankful for.
UNICORN turns sadly around and leaves stage.
T H E E N D