Friday, July 21, 2017

Unicorns


Arthur Rackham
 
A symbol of royalty, the unicorn is universally recognized. It is a creature of enigma, beauty, and magnificence. Many house crests bear the likeness of a unicorn. It is said that there is only one and that he is the king of Greywood, while others say there are many but only one king sire, or that it is a great mare, a favored shape of the fey queen, it is said– many things.

Unicorns are magic given substance. Sometimes they appear as a horse with a single horn rising from its head; sometimes they are blinding flash of light, and others a deep shadow. Their appearance alters depending on its environment, what’s transpired there, and what past emotions resonate in the fabric of a place.

A glimpse of one is enough to drive a person mad. The good folk tell sad tales about people that have seen one and been broken. The fey are of course unaffected, but they notice the change in us. When a mortal sees a unicorn, they see their entire lives from beginning to end. They see their happiest and saddest moments, most traumatic and memorable. When the vision leaves them, we cannot possibly remember all the moments of our lives, but the memory of death stays with us. The vision of our fate is unavoidable and almost always very near as if proximity to the unicorn has burned away years of life.

There is only one known way to change your fate, kill the unicorn, but how to find one? How to hunt it? No one knows and few have tried. An old story of the vanished king Godric of Storgeard tells of a stag hunt, where he chanced upon a unicorn. Having glimpsed it, he knew his fate, but being strong hearted and stubborn Godric left with a hunting party. This story has many endings, and in all, he never returns. Many say he died, but one says he succeeded and that he still lives, even five hundred years later he walks the forest as an empty, hollowed out creature.

Killing a unicorn rips the fabric of reality, essentially removing its killer from the tapestry of existence and time. The killer becomes immortal, non-dead. The mortal can no longer sleep. He no longer bleeds when stabbed and does not die when chopped into many pieces. Age does not touch him, but he does not heal either. Spells that would mend his body do not work. He can only be fixed. A lost arm can be reattached with a sewing needle and it remains usable. In fact, even unattached he can still control it. What’s more, he sees things in variable states. The emotions of creatures, their shadow selves, past events– all play out before him if he concentrates too long on one thing. It becomes difficult to discern reality from his visions, but the visions can also reveal to him hidden places and mysteries.

When enough time passes he may wish to die. Burns will not heal. Wounds will ever gape without the aid of thread. To die his body must be incinerated, in other words completely destroyed. A spell or violent fire may cleanse him of materiality but every bit of him must be destroyed (damage must exceed his Life total).

Like all magical creatures, a unicorn’s body parts have special properties. Its horn can be used like a wand (all spells cast with it are cast as cantrips). Its hair can be used to produce the most beautiful sounding instrument (song-based spells and abilities are cast without having to spend Power). Its hooves can be ground into powder and added to a potion to make it permanent. Its blood can be used to strengthen an enchantment. And consuming its eyes grants foresight, causing one to permanently glimpse into the future or past at random.

Truth (M): In the presence of a unicorn undead are driven mad. They act as if confused for the remainder of the day. Mindless undead lose animation completely and incorporeal undead fade out of existence. Mortal creatures glimpse the entirety of their lives (as described above). Mindless constructs gain the seed of sentience. Fairy folk and planar creatures are unaffected, but outsiders are struck with an epiphany: killing a unicorn will grant it escape to the Outside.