Vaughn walked down the main street of the village, trailing an apple vendor who pushed an overfilled cart. As he expected, the cart rolled over a particularly bumpy bit of cobblestone and out fell an apple. He waited a few moments before leaning down, scooping it up, and wiping it on his shirt to get rid of any traces of dirt. Good as new. He took a bite of the apple with a satisfying crunch and perched himself on a nearby ledge. The wall beside him, known to locals simply as “Paper Wall," was covered so thick in various sized papers that its stony surface was nearly hidden. On the papers read words like “Help Wanted," “Missing," and “Urgent!” But, out of all the words scrawled across their surface, there was only one his eyes actively sought out: Reward. Today there was a new addition to the wall, which appeared to be added at least 20 times. On it were the words “PROFESSIONAL HUNTER SOUGHT." He took one of them down and looked over the details. “Lady Featherbottom…” He laughed. “What a name.” Then, he found what he was looking for: the gold, and lots of it. Ten-thousand pieces, to be exact. He wasn’t a hunter, but for that kind of reward he certainly could be. He looked back at the wall and took down all the other matching papers. Definitely cannot have anyone else hearing about this. Especially not that jerk, Humphrey. I hate that guy. I mean, hell, for 10,000 gold pieces the entire town would line up. Not ideal.
The address on the bottom of the page led him to a large, stately home—white with wood beams stationed evenly over the surface. Before he even knocked, a diligent butler opened the door. “Hello, sir. How might I help you?”
He pushed the paper into the butler’s chest, pointing at the words across the top. “I’m here for that.”
“Ah, yes, of course, allow me take you to meet with the lady of the house.”
Vaughn stepped inside and looked around, letting out a low whistle. “Snazzy place. I bet one of those vases is worth more than I am. You ever steal anything? You can tell me.”
The butler looked on, unfazed. “If you’ll just follow me, please, sir.”
“Yes, of course.”
They entered a large sitting room where a lady, dressed lavishly in jewels and a gown, waited.
Before the butler could introduce him, Vaughn had already stepped inside. “Hi there, I’m here about the—uh… thing. The thing that promises 10,000 gold pieces. You know, that thing.”
“Yes, of course. You’re a unicorn hunter?”
“Unicorn hunter?” he said. “Well, I mean, sure…” He trailed off and went quiet for a few seconds. “Are you sure you want a unicorn? Not a pony? Or a cat? I’m a very versatile hunter.”
“A unicorn. I’m quite decided.”
“Right. Well then, it’s your lucky day. For I will catch you your unicorn if my name’s not Vaughn…. Errr...” He paused. “Cornfoot?”
“Vaughn R. Cornfoot.” She smiled. “How splendid. Well, it looks like you’ll have a partner then, Lilith.”
“Partner….” he said quizzically.
The woman motioned to the corner, where a girl stood, arms crossed.
“What? No way!” she said. “I work alone.”
“Yeah, I fly solo,” he agreed.
“Yes, yes, all right.” The woman sighed. “ I suppose I’ll have to hire one of you. But how do I decide…”
Pick me! he mouthed, pointing a finger dramatically at himself.
Lilith looked over to him and rolled her eyes. “If you want to receive a donkey with a cone strapped to its head, then yes, choose him.”
“Excuse me,” he said, raising an eyebrow. "Do I even know you? Because that’s all sorts of rude.”
Lady Featherbottom rubbed her eyes wearily. “Oh heavens me. I don’t know, rock, paper, scissors for it for all I care. Just decide something. This ordeal is giving me a migraine.”
“We can do that.” Lilith shrugged.
Damn it. I always lose at rock, paper, scissors. Curse you, games of chance! “Hey, you know, maybe we were a little hasty. I say this is an opportunity for us to learn from one another…. You know, really bask in the knowledge we both share on unicorns and their capture. I mean, I can’t speak for you… but I know that I—“
“Fine,” she interrupted. “If it gets you to stop talking.”
“That it will.” He nodded. "That it will.”
“So it’s decided,” the woman said. “The two of you will venture forth together, fetch me a unicorn, and evenly divide the rewards? Yes?”
They both hesitantly nodded.
“Good. See that you’re back here in two days' time, with the magical beast in tow. Otherwise, you will have disappointed me and my sweet daughter on her 10th birthday.”
“We won’t disappoint you, ma’am,” Lilith reassured her.
“I certainly hope you don’t.”
“Believe me, no one wants to deal with a crying child less than I do,” Vaughn added.
The butler escorted the two from the house and offered them a detached farewell before closing the heavy wood door behind them. Once outside Vaughn turned to Lilith with a smile. “Whew! Is that woman intense or what?”
“Okay, listen,” she said. “We’re going to follow my rules. Got it?”
“Mmm, I’m going to have to say no to that. But thanks.” He pushed past her and continued walking down the cobblestone path.
“We’re going to need supplies,” she said, rushing up beside him. “We’ll need ropes, traps, maybe a drowsing potion… are you listening?”
“I’ve got a better idea,” he said. He looked up towards a small dingy shop with a twinkle in his eye. The store was called Gary’s Treasure Trove and was known to sell a hodgepodge of odd and occasionally useful things. “I’ll be right back.”
Moments later he emerged from the store, seemingly empty-handed.
“Did you even buy anything?!” she asked.
He patted the satchel swung loosely on his side. “I just got the necessities. Real hunters rely mainly on their instincts, anyhow. We can practically smell our prey from miles away.”
“Oh yeah? And what does your nose tell you right now?”
He drew in a deep breath through his nose, standing tall. “Ah, yes. I’m definitely getting something. It’s either unicorn or squirrel. Come on, follow me.” He took off down the path to their left, which led from the village to the wilds.
“Unbelievable.” She sighed. She ran off after him and eventually caught up just outside the village’s gate. She doubled over, panting.
He was crouched on the ground grabbing fistfuls of dirt that he massaged in his hands.
“What…are you doing?”
He dropped the dirt, stood up, and brushed off his hands. “Just playing with dirt. I was waiting for you.” Before Lilith had even caught her breath, he was already sprinting away once more, this time through trees and brush. “Come on, we need to keep moving!” he yelled back to her.
“Well, at least I’ll get a good workout from this…” she mumbled.
He came to a sudden halt in a field, looking around proudly. “This is definitely the place. I’d bet money on it.”
She came up behind him panting. “It’s just a field,” she said between breaths, taking a seat in the grass.
“Yeah, but if I was a unicorn, I would definitely choose this field to do unicorn things. Just look at it. So green. So lush.” He began to dig in his pockets before pulling out a small black mechanism resembling a pistol.
“What the hell, Vaughn! We’re supposed to bring her a live unicorn, not a dead one!”
“I know what I’m doing,” he said seriously. He aimed the gun into the sky and fired.
Glitter and confetti rained down on them.
“Is that—is that glitter?” she asked. “Did you just use a glitter gun?”
He held out a palm in which the sparkly material collected in a small pile. “It attracts unicorns. And subdues them. It’s multipurpose.”
He blew the glitter pile into Lilith’s face. “...Ways.”
“Is that seriously all you bought from the supplies store? How much did it cost!?”
“Shh! No more questions. You’re distracting me.” He crouched and tiptoed onward, turning his head left and right every couple steps.
She smiled and shook her head. “It’s so obvious…”
He stopped and turned to her, an annoyed look on his face. “What is?”
“That you have absolutely no idea what you’re doing.”
“Oh? And suddenly you’re the expert on catching unicorns? In, what, the last 30 seconds?”
She rolled her eyes. “I don’t have to be an expert to know you don’t attract them with a glitter gun. That’s a myth… and not even a convincing one!”
Their argument came to a halt as a unicorn emerged from the woods to graze on the grass a few feet away.
“You were saying?” he whispered, making an effort to hide his own disbelief.
“Well, congratulations. You’ve really proved me wrong. And now you can prove me wrong even more by going and catching it. I mean, if you’re such an expert.”
“And remember to watch out for the horn. Wouldn’t want to see you get impaled.”
“Pfft…. I’m not afraid of any…. horn.” He looked back over at the unicorn, hovering his eyes over the weapon attached to its head. That sucker does look pretty sharp. But then again… the alternative is letting Lilith be right. He glanced back at Lilith. Look at that smug face. Yup, getting impaled would definitely be worth sparing my pride. Onward!
He walked closer to the unicorn, whose head popped up at his approach. “Uh… come here… little…. Unicorn…” He patted his legs and made kissy noises.
“It’s not a cat, Vaughn!” Lilith called over.
He looked back at her. “Let me do my thing, woman! Geez!” He turned towards the unicorn and slowly raised the glitter gun. “It’s okay, little buddy. In a second, you’re going to get very sleepy.” He pointed the glitter gun close to the unicorn and let forth a blast of glitter and confetti.
The unicorn jumped up on its hind legs and neighed loudly before running off.
“No! Are you kidding me!” Lilith cried. She fell to her knees and punched at the ground.
“Well, that didn’t work.” Vaughn sighed. “And to think I bought 15 of these.” He tossed the glitter gun on the ground. “That guy in the shop is getting an earful when we get back.”
He walked over to Lilith. “You…okay?” He hesitantly patted her on the back. “There, there.” He crouched down beside her. “So, what would you say to hitting the local tavern. All on me. My treat.”
“Honestly?” She sniffled. “That might just be the best idea you’ve had all day.” She got up and brushed herself off. “Of course, that doesn’t say much...”
“Hey! The glitter gun was cool and you know it,” he said.
“Cool enough to cost us 5,000 gold pieces each?”
“Pfft.” He shrugged. “I mean, what’s 5,000 gold pieces anyway? Like, that’s only 1,000 loaves of bread. Or 50 pet cats. And who needs that many cats or loaves of bread?”
He looked down for a few moments, deep in thought. “Do you think if maybe I dressed up as a unicorn—“
“No,” she interjected.
The two walked back into town, the crushing failure of the day’s activities hanging over their heads.
“What do you say to trying again tomorrow?”
“We’ll see…” She smiled.
Meet Allison. When she's not contemplating life or daydreaming of far-off places, you can find her sketching weird faces, listening to indie/alt rock, gaming, and drinking copious amounts of kombucha tea. At the end of the day, all she wants is to live a happy and fulfilling life, and to contribute positively to the world around her.