pentamerone <% /!UseJournal %>
The Morning After [Narrative]
Molly was trembling in her sleep. Whatever she was dreaming, she had dreamed it before. There had been other nights like this, though they had grown more and more infrequent as time had passed. The further they drew from the waste of Hagsmeade, the more nights Molly had been able to sleep peacefully.

He had wondered. Were her nightly terrors of the Red Bull? The ferocity with which he had given chase? The brutality of Lir's demise? The way the unicorn had screamed in rage upon the beach? He had wondered, but when the morning came, and Molly would wake and smile upon him, the questions he had thought to ask remained still upon his tongue.

Until this night, when she had wept. Had she wept before? Guilt stole at Schmendrick's heart, wondering if he had missed her tears on other nights. The trembling he could take - tears were too much. Schmendrick put his hands upon Molly's shoulders, and held on to her.

"Molly," he said gently, repeating her name with the soft caress of a lover until she was startled out of her nightmare.

And startled, she was. Blinking hard at the minor light provided by the campfire, her face was pale, eyes wide. It was several heartbeats before she recognized him, but when she did, Molly Grue threw her arms about the magicians neck. "Oh, Schmendrick!" she cried, and sobbed into his shoulder.

Confused, he held onto her, making soft sounds with his lips and rubbing her back. After a few moments, her sobs subsided, and her heartbeat returned to normal. Schmendrick waited. It would do no good to rush her - Molly spoke in her own time, and nothing could ever change that. But speak, she did, after a time, once her tears had dried and Schmendrick was braiding her hair.

"How can you stand it?" she asked suddenly, turning to look at him with a sudden flare of anger.

Schmendrick paused, slowly dropped his hands from her hair, and looked back at her. "Stand what, Molly?" There were a thousand things she could be asking about. The one she chose surprised him.

"You saw them all, same as me. You saw them coming out of the surf. Waves of them. Hundreds. Thousands. You
saw them!" She seemed desperate for the acknowledgement. So he gave it to her.

"Yes," he said. "I saw them." The unicorns. Why would she be so upset by it? She'd been thrilled that they were free, in the world once again. Confusion made his brow furrow, deepening a line between his eyebrows.

Molly was shaking her head. "She may well have been the last. Oh, Schmendrick, when I saw them coming out from the waves, I thought I would burst. It was so... so beautiful, I thought I would die. Die, right there on that beach." She covered her hands with her face. "But I saw so happy. Because... I'd lost faith, you know? I never thought I'd get to see a unicorn. I thought..." She caught her breath, and the magician knew that she was holding in another sob. "But then... you came. With her. And I thought, well. Maybe there is some magic left in the world."

Schmendrick didn't know what to say, and so he said nothing. But he gently drew her hands away from her face, and wiped the tears away himself.

Molly tried to give him a smile, but it was weak. Still, he thought it was radiant. "She may well have been the last," Molly repeated. Her face turned downwards. "They won't let themselves be seen any longer. They won't go to maids or matrons. Or washed-up women, old before their time." Another small smile at that, but this one was hard and bitter. She looked up at him, and her eyes were hard. "So what good have we done, Schmendrick? How can you stand it, that the world will never remember them?"

He was quiet for a moment, to gather his thoughts. "Because they have no use for us, Molly. All mankind has done is imprison them, and forget them. One day, they may forget the hurts and remember the innocent ones, but that day will not come in our lifetimes." He pressed his hand to her cheek. "The world will know them again. They are in the world again. They cannot be so and not shape it under their feet."

Molly leaned into his hand, shutting her eyes. Silent tears slid down her cheek, and he brushed them gently away with his thumb. "If Molly Grue, the maid, had seen her unicorn... would Molly Grue the matron be by my side tonight?"

Her eyes opened, and found his. Her lips followed suit, finding their match, and together they returned to sleep, she curled into his chest like a child needing comfort.
Schmendrick woke slowly, gradually becoming aware of the tears drying on his cheeks. He had dreamed, then? Had he dreamed it all? He wasn't certain. The unicorn and the girl, thoughts of Molly Grue, her tears and his. Schmendrick's arms were empty now, where he seemed to recall holding a girl called Amalthea.

No. That had not been a dream. Schmendrick could still taste the sweet scent of the unicorn upon the air. There was his cloak, crumpled to the ground just beside him. Long white hairs, two of them, lingered on the cloak, shimmering faintly in the sunrise. Two hairs from the head of the Lady Amalthea. These the magician took and carefully stowed in his cloak, amidst the small shards of glass and empowered stones he carried. Each had their own magic. Schmendrick couldn't allow himself to leave behind any evidence of her. Such a creature as the unicorn... even something so simple as a hair could be her downfall.

There was no more reason to linger in these woods. Schmendrick had fulfilled his duty to Titania, and had met with the unicorn again. However brief the meeting, however sad the conversation, his heart felt lightened. He had seen her.

Oh, Molly, he thought. I hope you could see her from where you are.

With a final glance around the pleasant glade, Schmendrick smiled to himself. Then he began to walk, steps leading him to the road that would take him away from the Sleeping Forest, and into the world.

Tags: schmendrick

Community: [info]pentamerone
<% /!UseJournal %>