You Can Find the Weirdest Things on Katahdin

What Miklos is doing in the woods bears little resemblance to hunting or hiking or other usual human-being-in-the-woods activities. He has been wandering around for hours, not sticking to trails, sometimes almost circling back on his own tracks (but managing nevertheless to cover a great deal of ground). He scrambles over logs, investigates puddles and streams, eels his way into bramble thickets, and even climbs a couple of trees. Although he has his short bow with him, it is slung across his back with his small bag, not carried over his arm.

The barest whisper of a sound -- a branch tip being brushed, perhaps -- and the sensation of being watched is all that Miklos has to alert him to a presence.

Miki pauses, one hand resting lightly on the trunk of a tree, and looks around, watching and listening warily.

Something pale moves through the trees, just visible in the late twilight.

Moving as quietly as possible-- which is quite quiet, for a human-- Miki paces after it.

There is no sound from feet, nor sound of wind through wings, but the creature passes onward. It doesn't appear to be fleeing. Just moving. And then there is the flash of long twining white hair, between a pair of birch trees.

Miki moves a little more quickly, trying to catch a clearer glimpse of it.

The trickling sound of a stream carries clearly along a narrow corridor of trees, and the creature stops moving, allowing Miki to catch up. Delicately poised in potential motion, almost like a greyhound, the unicorn pauses at the top of the steep embankment that leads down to the water. It bends its slender neck to peer curiously downward, long mane and tail flowing in the wind.

Ivory watered silk over a lithe, gracile equine shape, this creature moves silently along its ways, its glittering hooves barely touching the ground. The tip of its slender horn glitters as if a star is caught there. Its silver-gray eyes watch the world skittishly.

Miki drifts to a stop, holding his breath. He seems quite stunned.

The unicorn remains still, watching something out of Miki's sight. Then, quicksilver, the horn lashes out and down, then back up and sideways. A heap of bright autumn leaves launches upward, then rain down around the beast, who prances lightly and playfully through the falling vegetation, rearing and bucking.

Miki grins, involuntarily, but otherwise stands quite still. He even breathes quietly, for fear of frightening it away.

The beast manages to rear and twirl on one rear hoof to catch the last, perfect maple leaf on the tip of its horn, setting the leaf to glowing scarlet with captured starlight. Gently, the unicorn lowers itself back to all fours, watching the leaf balance... balance... balance... then slowly slide off and flutter to the ground.

Watching this... performance, Miki would be reduced to speechlessness, if indeed there was any cause for speech. As it is, he continues to stand perfectly still, hoping that his own pale form does not show too visibly through the twilight air.

The unicorn snorts as the leaf touches the earth and does a complicated little skip-hop-bound so that all four feet are in the air. It tosses its head, then its hooves touch the ground soundlessly. There is a sudden, embarrassed pause, and then the slender neck arches slowly toward Miklos, silver eyes going wide.

Miki offers the unicorn a shy smile, not moving from where he stands. Perhaps he is afraid that it will vanish or run away if he makes even the slightest of movements.

The unicorn stares, appalled, for long moments. The wind whisks its mane and tail briskly over neck and back, and a few more leaves blow down from nearby trees.

Miki stares back quite frankly, making the most of this opportunity before the creature runs away.

Recovering some of its poise, the unicorn turns to face Miklos more squarely. The dilated nostrils and wide eyes and the tense, precise placement of each hoof show that it's ready to spring away at any moment, but curiosity seems to be winning out over caution. It paces a few steps closer, sniffing genteely in Miki's direction.

Moving very slowly, so as not to startle it, Miki gently proffers one empty hand. A lock of his hair chooses this moment to fall into his eyes, but he doesn't reach up to push it away just yet.

A lock of pale mane mirrors Miki's straying hair as the unicorn stretches toward Miki, its neat, slightly dished face hovering inches from his hand. Warm breath wafts in small gusts as it smells him carefully.

A look of complete wonder passes over Miki's face. Still moving with the same extreme, slow, care, he reaches up to touch the unicorn along the jaw.

The skin is hot to the touch, and covered in fine, soft, white hairs. The unicorn bears the touch for a moment, its skin along its back shivering briefly, and then it springs backward effortlessly, landing a good ten feet away. ~Who are you?~ it asks in a voice that may just be the wind. Its eyes are wild and its hooves dance restlessly.

Miki blinks. Then he blinks again. "I... I am called Miki," he responds softly, unwilling to raise his voice lest he frighten the beautiful creature further away.

~Miki~ it repeats, dancing in a tight little circle and tossing its head. ~It is not often that I am followed and watched and I do not notice.~

"I... I am sorry," says Miki, with a slightly bewildered air. "I did not mean to be rude. I had never seen a... unicorn before."

~You are a hunter. I can smell the blood on you.~ The unicorn tosses its head and stops dancing, staring squarely at Miki. ~Are you hunting me?~

Miki shakes his head, emphatically, loosening a few more locks of his hair in the process. "No! No, I hunt only for food. I do not hunt... um, I do not hunt things I can talk to."

The unicorn lifts its head and watches him with one eye. The horn sparkles and the light is briefly reflected in that eye. ~You do not?~ It cocks its head slowly. ~You seem familiar somehow. You come from across the sea.~ A long moment of consideration more and then it shakes its head. ~Ah. It is long since I was there. I will not recall.~ It regards him squarely again. ~Did you know before I spoke that you *could* talk to me?~

One corner of Miki's mouth pulls back in a slight smile and he turns his head slightly, so that he is looking at the unicorn through the fall of his own hair. "No. But still I would not hunt you. You are too beautiful."

~Am I?~ the unicorn asks, glancing back along its silvered flank curiously. ~I am told this periodically. I do not know what it is you see, and so I cannot judge whether I am or not.~ Its eyes travel over Miki briefly. ~You are beautiful, by human standards. Some beautiful humans wish to be hunted by their kind. Are you one such?~

Miki looks gobsmacked. There really is no other word for the expression. His mouth opens, then shuts, before he replies. "I do not wish to be stuck full of arrows," he says finally, and firmly. "Is that not what we were speaking of? If you mean other kinds of hunting... perhaps you should speak more clearly."

~You speak of only one kind of stalking~ the unicorn says slyly, scraping lightly at leaves, turning over several until the one it balanced on its horn, still redly phosphorescent, comes to the top. Then -- perhaps Miki blinked, or perhaps it just happened between seconds -- a man is standing where the unicorn had been. The wind wraps him in his own hair, and there is a star-like glow on his forehead. ~You *are* beautiful, by many standards~ he says, voice unchanged, mouth not moving except to curve gently at one corner.

You paged Aroc with 'Um, are you wearing any *clothes?*'.
Aroc pages: Um, no. Just his hair.
You paged Aroc with 'Ah.'.

If Miki looked gobsmacked before, he looks utterly flabbergasted now. His mouth sags slightly open again, before he remembers himself, closes it, and swallows. "Um," he says, desperately keeping his gaze on the unicorn-man's face and blushing anyway. "Thank you."

The man watches Miki's struggle with clear amusement, then steps closer. ~You're welcome.~ He leans toward the boy. ~Very. Welcome.~ It is, perhaps, a surprise when he slips forward with the same speed as he did when dancing in the leaves earlier, and very warm lips press Miki's mouth.

Miki makes an absurd little squeaking noise of surprise, but responds anyway, because it is not every day that one is kissed by a unicorn.

The unicorn laughs gently into Miki's mouth, and slides his hands up into the boy's hair. The wind wraps them both in the unicorn's long, long hair for the several moments of the kiss. Then he slides away, lips lingering longest. When Miki's vision clears, the unicorn is standing on a small rise at the edge of the embankment, playing with Miki's hair ribbon -- twining it around and around one hand -- and smiling.

Miki blinks, breathing quickly and raising one hand to his still-reddened cheek, watching the unicorn. "What... what are you called?" he asks finally, his voice barely above a whisper.

The unicorn ties the ribbon around a lock of his hair and smiles sleepily at Miki. ~Some have been known to call me Aroc.~

Miki nods, dropping his hand to his side. "I..." he says, but does not seem to know how to finish the sentence.

The unicorn is four-legged again, a lock of its mane caught in Miki's ribbon. He rears and springs away, over the stream and through the woods. ~I am sure to see you again~ drifts back on the breeze as the pale light of the beast fades away, leaving the softly glowing red leaf as the only evidence of its presence.

Miki kneels down and picks up the leaf. He stares at it for a long moment, then tucks it away in his vest.