The Christmas Unicorn
by Elf Ahearn
Genre: Regency Romantic Fantasy
The greatest gifts aren’t always under the Christmas tree.
Believing herself abandoned by her fiancé in the wilds of Northern Wales, actress Babbie Crispen and her wheelchair-bound son struggle to find shelter on a frigid night before Christmas.
A strange man the locals call the Wicked Scot finds them near death on a snow-covered hillside. He brings them to his castle, a place of both terrifying and wonderful magic so powerful it changes all their lives.
Dreading what she would find, Babbie stepped over the rope and walked several yards until she saw a swirl of river water lapping across the road.
“Retreat,” he said, then imitated a bugle blowing.
With a sigh, she turned the chair around.
“We’ve had worse,” her son said.
“When a pot boy delivered Mercutio a pewter of ale in the middle of Queen Mab, and the audience near pissed itself laughing.”
Chuckling, she gave his shoulder a playful slap. “No cursing.”
To the right, the road branched off. They’d come about half a mile, and there was no use seeking charity from the likes of Mr. Gaenor, so Babbie steered the chair around the corner. Before long, pushing the vehicle grew harder and harder. A cloud skimmed out of the moon’s path, its light revealing huge, steep Pen-y-Bryn Hill looming before them. Carriage wheels and rain had dug deep furrows in the road, exposing rocks that jutted through the snow. A hidden pothole could tip her son’s conveyance.
“I’ll pull myself up the hill,” Franny said, cheery as a duck in water. He tossed himself with a flutter of the blanket into the snowy bank edging the road.
“It’s a very long, steep one.”
“I’ve crawled up worse.” He dug a mitten deep into the snow and hauled himself forward.
“Aye, at Keswick. Now, that was a terror.”
“True terror was the night the stagehands didn’t finish the set and had to hold it up during the performance,” said Babbie, trying to lighten their spirits. “There’s the worst night for ya.”
“Oh, we’ve had worse.”
“Not possible,” she replied, yanking the heavy chair over a rock as she passed him.
“When you went up on your lines, remember? And stood there staring at the—”
“Don’t remind me.”
“Or the night Sarah Siddons came to All’s Well That End’s Well and you tripped over the—”
“Oh Franny, stop,” Babbie said laughing. “I’ve no wind to defend myself.”