The smell of fear was rife in the air. Three Kings had been found dead in their beds. The new Kings ruled in fear, wary of their own shadows. There was talk that the land was cursed; something was killing the kings.

 

          On the outskirt of the Gaul jungle, a beautiful girl swam in a sapphire blue river by the waterfalls. Her long silky hair floated on the water and a serene expression outlined her face and placed her to be in her early twenties. The ease at which she glided over the heavy currents portrayed a strong athletic body hidden underneath the water.

          Suddenly, a twig cracked in the bushes and the girl stopped swimming. She sunk lower into the water and narrowed her eyes at the brushes in anticipation of trouble. She was in the middle of a belligerent forest and very much conscious of her vulnerability.  

          Trouble came in the form of a man: 6’2 tall with a pale skin that appeared to be more brown than white. The man looked towards the river, saw her and for a moment, held eye contact as they both sized each other up. The next few seconds felt like an eternity up until the moment when the man broke into a beautiful reassuring smile that said that he meant no harm.

          Her body still buried under water, she suspiciously appraised him and wondered what parts of the land he had come from: the long curly hair, a huge chest and the biceps of a warrior; a sleeveless white shirt and dirty brown pants … all defined him as a drifter. He was a handsome and mysterious looking man.

          The appraisal complete, she slowly swam towards the shore, stood up on shallow water and casually walked onto the land. She was totally naked and he stared mouth agape at her perfectly curved body. And then quickly, face flashing red, he turned away and waited for her to dress up. She took her time and seemed very much at ease with her nude.

          “My name is Gius,” the big man said with an outstretched hand and an accent, “and you are?”

          “Cleo,” she replied with a teasing smile as her hand vanished into his huge palm. Standing next to him made her realize how tall he was. Her blue eyes twinkled at him playfully.

          “I’m sorry to interrupt your swim,” he blurted out for lack of anything better to say.

          “It’s okay. I was almost done. Nobody ever comes here. Where are you from?”

          “From far lands on the other side of the mountain.” His reply did nothing to erase the wrinkles on her forehead. She looked baffled as they both sat on the grass and watched the waterfall in the near distance. The birds sang and the insects chirped.

          “You looked scared when you saw me,” he said. “Why?”

          She pursed her lips. “The land is cursed. Three Kings are dead. My father doesn’t like me wondering out by myself.”

          “But you still do?” He was curious about her.

          She pointed at the waterfall. “Look at that Gius. How can you resist such beauty? This is my safe haven: a place where I can escape from my life and just be me.”

          He smiled. That much he understood. A scratching noise suddenly cut into the air behind them. At first it wasn’t so audible but slowly it grew and Gius threw his hands up in exasperation.

          “What’s that noise?” she asked as she turned her head towards the bushes. 

          “It’s my friend,” Gius said. “He doesn’t like to be ignored.” Gius jumped to his feet and led her towards the trees. “Come and say halo.”  And when they arrived, she stared in disbelief at …

          “Oh my gosh! Where did you get him?”  She was staring at a unicorn: a white horse with a large, pointed, spiraling horn projecting from its forehead. “They are supposed to be a myth?”

          He shook his head. “I guess not.”

The white unicorn stomped the ground restlessly at her presence.

          “He’s not used to other people,” he explained as he took her hand and guided it softly over the unicorn’s forehead.

          “Halo beautiful. What do they call you?” she asked.

          “His name is Spirit and he rides like the wind.”

          “This is unbelievable,” she exclaimed. “Where did you guys come from?”

          He laughed at her excitement. A dark cloud covered the sun and she looked up with a concerned expression in her eyes. “I have to run before my father gets worried. “Goodbye Gius! Goodbye Spirit!” she yelled and then took off running. He didn’t get the chance to find out more about her.

          The following day, Cleo came to the river and searched for him, but he wasn’t there. She idled by the water for a while until he appeared. They smiled knowingly at each other and sat down on the grass to talk. She told him about her village and the rigid traditions.

          “My father has given me to another,” she explained.

          “But you don’t want to marry him?” he asked sensing it in her tone.

          “No. I want to make my own choices in life. I want to fall in love and be happy!”

          He smiled at her and told her not to give up on her dreams.

          “What about you Gius? Don’t you have dreams? Kids? A family?”

          He sighed and gazed into the water. “I did once. Now, all I do is wonder the lands and take it a day at a time.”

          She thought he sounded sad but didn’t want to pry. She walked over to the unicorn and this time Spirit seemed to recognize her.

          “He likes you,” Gius pointed out. “Maybe one day you can ride him.”

          Her eyes lit up at his words. “Without a saddle or harness?” she asked.

          “Only if he trusts you.”

          She smiled. “Is it true that unicorns have healing powers?”

          He shrugged. “Maybe, I don’t know.”

          They met again the following day, took off their clothes and jumped into the river. “Do you see them?” she asked.

          He followed her pointing finger. “The caves?”

          “Yes. I will race you there!” she replied as she cast off into the currents. She was the better swimmer of the two and he struggled to keep pace.

          The caves were near the waterfall and on arrival, they heaved their naked bodies onto the huge boulders and lay down under the hot sun, gasping for breath.

          “You are the first person I ever brought here,” she said with a tinge of emotion.

          “It’s beautiful,” he replied as he moved closer, “so are you.”

          Being together felt natural and when his face appeared above her, she gave him the approval with her eyes and he leaned down and kissed her on the lips. She reached up with both her hands and pulled him in, their lips exploding onto each other with raw passion. He hadn’t kissed a woman in a long time. She had never kissed a man before. The caves echoed with the sound of their passionate lovemaking, and bats flew out in protest of the intrusion. Her soft body felt great on his muscles. Her moans excited and turned him into an animal. She seemed to like that. And when they were done, she lay her head peacefully on his chest and put her arms around him. He stared at the blue sky and tried to stop his head from spinning… the realization that he was the first man she had ever been with! Fate had brought them together and there was no doubt in his mind that they belonged to each other.

          A few hours later, they swam back to the shore and dressed up in silence while making an extra effort to avoid eye contact. There were a lot of questions that needed to be asked and answered, but neither knew where to start.

          Suddenly, Gius froze and stared into the trees.

          “What is it?” she asked as she edged near him in fear.

          Twigs begun to crack and footsteps became audible. A man dressed in a red cloak with a golden crown on his head stepped into the open. Flanking him on all sides were ten mean looking soldiers dressed in tunic looking brown uniform. Gius knew that it was the King of the Gauls and his face hardened in defiance.

          The King approached slowly and stared the strange man down. “Who are you?” he asked in a condescending tone. The King’s age was starting to show around the middle and the red cloak made him look like a fat man in a nightgown.

          “My name is Gius.”

          A big soldier suddenly stepped forward and yelled, “Kneel down drifter when you speak to the King…!” He looked to be the leader of the others.

          But before he could say anything further and to the astonishment of the other soldiers, Gius grabbed his neck and head butted him. The man’s body went limp and he fell down with a thud. The King stepped back in fear and nine angry soldiers suddenly stepped forward with swords in their hands. They did not ask the big man to kneel before the King, they were past that.

          Gius laughed heartily as though he was enjoying himself and then narrowed his eyes and watched them. Two men rushed forward with pointed swords. Gius let the first one pass then quickly relieved the second man off his sword with a big fist to his face. When the first man span around, Gius sliced the sword holding hand forcing the man to drop the weapon with a scream. The seven remaining soldiers quickly surrounded him, this time, hesitation written over their faces.

          “Come on!” Gius yelled provocatively. He dropped on one knee and blocked one sword after another as the men rushed him. He rose up occasionally to punch or slap the head of a soldier with the flat side of his blade. The soldiers got mad when they realized that he was toying with them. He could have killed them all if he wanted to.

          Gius laughed. “Is that all you got!” He grabbed two soldiers and hauled them against a tree. The two men hit the tree with their backs and slowly slid to the ground where they sat dazed.

          Gius turned to the surprised King. “You were saying?”

          The King stared speechless. “You are an incredible man Gius.”

          “So they tell me.”

          A pensive look appeared on the King’s face. “Fight for me Gius and I will make you rich.” He paced around the big man as he envisioned him by his side. It was a great image that warmed his heart. He could see the fear in the enemies’ eyes, the confidence growing in his own men. “Fight for me Gius. What say you?”

          “I fight for no one,” Gius replied. “I fight for no King!”

          The contempt tone took the King by surprise and he looked shaken. He wasn’t used to people saying no to him and it clearly showed on his face.

          “You refuse this great honor?” he asked in disbelief.

          Gius walked over and picked up a sword. Suddenly, the trees came alive and hundreds of soldiers appeared with bows and arrows. Gius didn’t flinch or acknowledge them. He had known all along that they were there.

          He raised the sword and touched the blade lightly with his free hand. “I could kill you before those arrows reach me,” he said and the King took another step back and raised his right hand, ready to give the order. “So, drifter, you are not afraid of death?”

          “Death smiles on us all, and all we can do is smile back,” Gius replied as he took a step forward. The King raised his hand higher.

          “No father!” A voice suddenly yelled and both men looked up in surprise. It was Cleo. She had been standing to the side all along observing the proceedings. And now, she ran forward and stood between Gius and the arrows.

          “Move, you silly girl,” the King yelled. “You would give up your life for him?”

          “You don’t have to kill him father. Just arrest him and convince him to fight for you. A warrior like Gius comes once in a lifetime!” she said defiantly.

          The King pondered this for a moment and then ordered twenty men to arrest the strange drifter. Gius dropped his sword and stretched out his hands with a smile. The men clapped the chains around his wrists and walked him back to the little town.

          They locked him in a dungeon in the Gaul Village with other men accused of treason or speaking ill against the King. The guard kicked him inside a cage and the gates were locked behind his despondent face. Cleo came down to see him a few hours later.

          “Why are you here?” Gius asked in an angry tone. “You lied to me!”

          “I didn’t lie to you Gius,” she answered in desperation. “You never asked and I never volunteered.” A sin of omission.

          “You should have told me that the King is your father!”

          “And that would have made a difference?” She moved closer to the gate. “I fell in love with you Gius. Just me, not the daughter of a King. And that has always been my dream.” Pause. “Look at me when am talking to you!” she screamed.

          He turned and stared into her eyes. “What would you have me do my lady?” he said sarcastically and a look of pain crossed her eyes. He seemed to enjoy watching her squirm. She didn’t know how to reach him and so she decided to move on to the reason for her visit.

          “I’m getting married in a few days Gius,” she said. “I’m getting married to Prince Sharum.”

          He sat down on the creaking bed and stared at the tiny window. “Then go get married Princess Cleo. Get married and be happy.” The nonchalant in his tone tore her heart into two and she winced.

          “That’s all you can say?” She looked appalled. “Why are you behaving like this Gius? What happened to the Gius who made passionate love to me?”

          He stood up suddenly, walked over to the gate and grabbed her throat with one hand. “He’s not behind a gate. He’s not locked up in a dungeon!” He pushed her off and turned his back on her. She fell to the ground and lay there for a moment, stunned by the animosity in his eyes. And then she jumped to her feet and ran up the stairs and into the forest. There was only one place that could give her solace and when she arrived, she sat by the river and cried over lost love as her tears fell into the water.

         

A noise behind made her turn. Pounding on the ground. It was Spirit the unicorn. She had forgotten all about her. She quickly wiped her tears and turned to face the huge horse. “Hi Spirit, you miss your master?”

          The animal stomped the ground in acknowledgment.

          “It’s okay. I’m here now. You don’t have to be alone.”

 

          That night, Princess Cleo lay in her bed and tossed restlessly in the moat-protected castle. Prince Sharum would be coming soon to take her away to his home. But tonight, it wasn’t Prince Sharum that she was worried about. It was Gius, the strange man locked in the dungeon. It was amazing how his attitude towards her had changed. At one moment, they were in love and the next he couldn’t even look at her. The reason being …  she sat up suddenly as a cold fear crept down the nape of her neck. The reason being that she was the daughter of a King! King!

          Princess Cleo leaped from her bed and quickly dressed up. Could it be? Was it possible? She didn’t want to believe it but the alarms going off in her head were too loud to ignore. You should have told me that you were the daughter of a King! Gius hadn’t been arrested: he had offered to be arrested; he had wanted to be brought it!

          Cleo took two steps at a time down the castle stairs and then ran across the hall and up again towards her father’s bedroom. The first thing that caught her eye when she opened the door was the shiny glint of a blade as it moved in an arc through the air.

          “No Gius!” she screamed.

          The knife came down and stopped a few inches from the King’s throat. The King woke up and found himself pinned in his own bed, a few inches from death.

          “No Gius. Don’t kill my father. He’s a good King!”

          “He’s not a good King!” Gius replied in a cold tone. “There are no good Kings. All they do is plot and manipulate people to their own benefit.”

          “But the men love and respect him!”

          “They do not respect him, they fear him!” The knife shook in his hand and the King trembled in fear.

          She took in a deep breath to calm the panic within. “Why Gius? Why do you have to kill him?”

          “Not him!” Gius growled. “All of them. I will kill them all!”

          The King tried to move, but the soft touch of cold steel prevented even the slightest movement. He lay on his back, eyes dilated, mouth open in anticipation of death.

          Gius looked at her and then into the near distance. “He didn’t do anything,” he said in a small voice.

          “Who are you talking about?” she asked cautiously.

          “My father,” he explained with a vacant expression as he drifted down memory lane. “They came for him when I was sixteen years old. Said that he was late on his taxes. The King ordered for his death.” Gius shook his head in disbelief. “What kind of a King kills people for taxes?”

          “Is that why you have been killing the Kings? Listen to me Gius.” She threw his father a desperate glance then took a few steps forward. “Listen to me Gius. Your father is gone. I’m sorry, but he’s not coming back. Why do you want to take mine away from me? How will that help even the scores?”

          He looked at her as though seeing her for the first time. “Take your father away from you?” he asked with a puzzled expression. Her personification of the crown seemed to catch his attention and the glaze left his eyes. The man on the bed was no longer a King, but her father, and suddenly Gius pulled the knife back and dropped it to the ground. He couldn’t do anything to hurt her.

          The sound of boots cut into the air and almost twenty soldiers ran into the room and grabbed him. The King rose to his feet and ran the palm of his hand over his neck as though checking for blood. “Put him in chains and parade him in the open air court!” the King commanded. “Send word to every home and valley, across the rivers and mountains, that the King slayer has been captured!”

          They strapped him to a pole in the market square with his hands behind his back for two days without food or water. The smell of roast meat drifted into his nostrils and he couldn’t remember his last meal. Women walked over and admired his masculine frame: girls called him handsome; the druids cut off pieces of his long curly hair for research and children threw rotten tomatoes at his face. He searched the crowd for Princess Cleo, but she was nowhere to be found. Melancholy settled into his heart and he readied himself for the inevitable hand of fate.

          On the second day, the King with his entourage came to see him.

          “The Romans are crossing the river Gius,” the King said as he studied the big man. Gius’ head was limp and his eyes stared the ground, tired and hungry. But he had been in this position before: there were days in the forest when he had gone without food or water for a long time … without a village in sight and he had learned to abstain and survive.

          The King walked around him and searched for signs of weakness. “The Romans want the King slayer handed over or they will declare war on us.” The King continued talking in the same monotone. Gius raised his head and looked at the leader. “What do you think Gius? Should I hand you over? Do you know what the Roman torture chambers look like? Mmmmm. You will look back at our times together with fond memories when they get their hands on you.”

          Gius said nothing. His face was one of indifference. A soft breeze ruffled his hair and with it came the smell of raw fish from the market place.

          “Fight for me Gius! And I will give you anything you want; land, women, power. What say you?” The King’s face was too close and a garlic smell from his mouth made Gius cringe.

          “I fight for no King!” Gius repeated. His body was weak but his voice rang strong.

          The King looked disappointed and motioned a man forward. “Do it!” he commanded.

          Folks jammed doorways and windows in the square to witness the proceedings. They lay Gius on the ground facing the sky and placed a wet towel over his face. Water from a jug was poured down his nose and mouth forcing its way into his breathing passages thus cutting off any chance of breathing. Thirty seconds later, they took the cloth off and allowed for Gius to gag for air and then immediately repeated the procedure. The water entered Gius’ sinuses and collected in a pool. The concept of the torture was to trigger the brain into thinking that the body was drowning thus creating panic into the victim. The results were: an explosive feeling inside the brain due to denied air, convulsing lungs and sometimes death.

          But Gius knew all these and every time they brought him up, the only satisfaction they got were his gagging noises. Ten procedures later, the crowd begun to boo and the King’s eyes burned a hole through the torturer. The torturer feeling threatened held Gius down much longer than the required time and when they brought him up, the pressure proved to be too much even for the big man and Gius passed out.

          “Bring him back!” the King yelled. The torturer gave Gius a couple of slaps on the face and the big man woke up gasping for air and looking rattled.

          “I could have killed you if it wasn’t for your daughter,” Gius growled and the King seemed to ponder this for a moment.

          “Let him be!” he ordered and then walked away. The crowd booed and screamed for Gius’ blood. They felt cheated by a poor performance. Gius’ weak body slumped downwards as he endured the pain of the fruits thrown by the departing crowd. Mingy dogs came and sniffed at his wet body.

          On the third day, the King sent for him and when he was standing inside the palace, ordered everybody out of the room. Gius looked around and wondered what was happening.

          “The crown is a lonely position sometimes Gius,” the King begun. “I’m surrounded by fools who want something from me. You, on the other hand are very refreshing. You want nothing.”

          Gius was impatient. “Why did you bring me here?”

          The King leaned forward on his throne and stared at the ground. “They took her,” he said, and then, catching Gius by surprise, he put his face into his hands and wept. “They took my little girl this morning!”

          Gius felt himself stir. “Who took her?”

          “The Romans Gius. They are asking for you in exchange.” The King looked up and wiped his moist eyes.

          “Then do it!” Gius barked. “Hand me over and get her back!”

          The King shrugged. “You don’t understand do you? As a father I would, but as a King I can’t. The people of Gaul will never succumb to the tyranny of the Roman Empire.” The King shrugged. “You see Gius. We have no choice but to fight for her, if it’s the last thing we have to do in this world.” The Gauls were a people full of pride … a sternness in their eyes.

          Gius felt a pounding in his heart and before he could stop himself, he blurted out. “Then I will fight!” Pause. “I will get her back safely.”

          The King broke into an impish smile and rose to his feet. These were the words that he had been hoping to hear for days.

          “Fantastic! You will ride by my side Gius and together we will face the Roman army and teach them a lesson that will last throughout a generation.” A lesson was the only word that the King could use. The Roman Empire extended throughout modern day Europe, Africa and Asia. Conquering them was not within the realm of possibility and even the Gauls knew that it was only a matter of time before the Roman Empire overran their lands.

          The King walked over to the big man and untied his shackles in a show of trust. He then called his servants and asked them to feed and cloth him. “Get some rest Gius, we ride at dawn.”

          With the first glow of light in the horizon, Gius and the King rode side by side through regiments of soldiers, with Gius decked in the same drifter clothes that outlined his big physique. The King liked it that way as he wanted his soldiers to draw strength from the stranger. Word in the camp was that Gius had bested ten of the King’s men without breaking a sweat. And he had been laughing the whole time too. A man like that needed to be feared and respected.

          “This is Gius the Great!” the King yelled as he tried to juice up his name. “Today he leads us in battle against the Romans. What he says, you do!”

          “Hail Gius!” the soldiers intoned and raised their spears. Gius raised his sword and turned to face them. “Triple columns!” he ordered in a resonate voice and the infantry unit transformed into formation. “Forward … march!” The pounding of feet and horses erupted through the morning air as the soldiers and their horses followed the two leaders.

          Along the way, the King gave the strange man all the information he needed about the ongoing conflict although Gius knew about most of it already.

          They arrived at the river the following day at noon and watched from the top of the hill as Roman legions clashed with the Gauls below.

          “There are too many of them,” Gius stated the obvious. “At this rate, our walls will break before dusk.” He motioned for a horse-mounted soldier to come forward. “Take the cavalry unit around in an arc. Do not attack until I give my command!” The man’s horse beat a hurried retreat and a minute later, Gius and the King watched as hundreds of mounted units drove away in an arc.

          “What’s the plan Gius?” the King asked.

          “The plan is to win a day at a time. Our front wall is weak, we have to support them.”

          “A head on attack?” The King asked.

          Gius pointed with his sword. “The Roman strength is concentrated in the middle. We smash into their middle before their auxiliary crosses the river. That’s the plan.” The King liked it. “You stay back with the archers your highness,” Gius added. “I will lead the charge.” The King didn’t seem to have a problem with that suggestion.

          With the wind whizzing by his ears, Gius’ black horse led the soldiers down the hill on a full run. The other Gauls looked back and drew strength from the back up and efforts were redoubled. Soldiers parted way as Gius’ horse zigzagged through to the front of the battle and blundered into the open. The horse suddenly reared when a Roman soldier planted his spear in its path and the rider was thrown off landing with both hands outstretched on top of five Romans. Slightly dazed, Gius quickly rolled off, blocked an approaching blade and cut through a man’s leg. The big man jumped to his feet and yelled at the top of his voice. “Attack!”

With Gaul soldiers flanking him, Gius plunged his sword through chests, guts and necks. He sliced and diced with innate skills through Roman soldiers like they were not there. And when they planted a wall of shields on the ground, Gius leaped into the air and broke them apart with a dancing sword, paving way for the Gaul soldiers to cut through.

          The terrain was rough and bloody. Mutilated bodies carpeted the ground and the smell of death wafted through the air: screams and persistent clanking of metal cut a gloomy ambience. The sun beat down hard on the men and compounded the harsh realities of war.

          The presence of the strange warrior turned out to be a distraction for the Romans and it didn’t help when word spread out that he was the King slayer, the reason for the conflict. Roman soldiers broke out of formation in a patriotic fervor and closed in on the big man in an effort to take the price. It was a big mistake on their part because in so doing, they turned their backs on the Gauls and made easy targets.

          “Forward!” Gius yelled as he grabbed a second sword. Sensing movement to his left, he swiftly turned and hugged the swords around a neck, and then crossed the weapons. A head flew into the air and blood jetted like a sprinkler. More Roman soldiers engulfed him and Gius dropped to one knee and swung both swords in an arch, slicing throw Roman belly and legs in a sickly noise. The Romans screamed and fell.

          “Forward!” Gius screamed as salty sweat ran into his eyes. The thought of rescuing Princess Cleo tilted delicately at the back of his mind and turned him into a monster. He moved with poise and strength.

          There was blood on Gius’ face, but it wasn’t his. The big man pushed deep into the Roman wall of defense and the Gaul’s followed in his wake, picking up bits and pieces of wounded men. In the distance, the King smiled.

          Gius looked up suddenly and saw Roman horses crossing the river to support its ground regiment.

          “Cover me!” he yelled and for the first time prudently moved back into safety. Gaul soldiers quickly took up his position while he grabbed a flag and waved it frantically to signal the Gaul horses. A few minutes later, he saw them headed towards the river and a look of satisfaction crossed his face. The Romans were stronger and more in numbers, but the river took away that advantage because they couldn’t all cross at once.

          With the threat of the horses neutralized, Gius raised his sword and hauled himself back into battle. He ducked a feeble blow and plunged a sword through a gut; he left the weapon there and picked up another sword from the ground. A few hours later, the fatigue begun to show on the men’s faces, but Gius looked as cool as a cucumber. He moved faster than any human being the soldiers had ever witnessed. He cut, span, thrust... balled up a fist and drove it into a face. He never stopped moving… he never slowed down. In his mind, he thought of Princess Cleo, in the hands of the Romans … and it was all the inspiration that he needed.

          But Gius was moving too fast for his wingmen to keep up. It was easy for him to attack forward but at one point, his wingmen fell back and he found himself surrounded by Roman frenzy. Five Roman spears drove towards him and he twisted his body like an acrobat ending with some of the spears under his armpit. He spun around with a roar and threw off the men holding the ends of the spears; but quickly, they were replaced with others. He was a giant of a target as he scrambled to evade one spear after another.

          A sword finally made it through and drove into Gius’ back. A scream escaped his lips as he turned and cut the man’s hand off. He pulled out the sword and blood gushed out like a stream. And as the excruciating pain stitched through his body, his mother’s words flashed through his mind.  You will be a great fighter Gius, but like all great warriors, your name will live longer than your body. And now, in the midst of dust and the scream of dying men, he knew that his mother’s words were about to come true. Fate had finally come knocking and there was no running away from his predicament. The future was now. Another sword plunged into Gius’ chest and his eyes turned moist from the pain and blurred his vision. The sky begun to dance above him.

 “Finish him!” A voice yelled.

          

Gius looked up and saw ten spears heading for his heart and this time, the big man dropped to his knees. The spears formed a roof over his head and stifled his movements. He rose up with a roar through the sticks and grabbed the spears, pulling and pushing as he tried to rid the men on the ends, but more Romans joined in and firmly held the weapons while simultaneously trying to pierce his body from underneath. They could smell blood and it was only a matter of time now before the big man went down.

          Suddenly, a bright light appeared in the horizon. The Romans loosened their grip on the spears and Gius turned to look. At first he thought that it was the King’s horsemen, but on taking a closer look, he realized that it was not. The light moved fast and grew brighter as it approached. The Gauls and Romans froze in astonishment and stared, and it was only at a closer range that they realized what they were looking at. A woman on a white unicorn! An animal slightly larger than a horse, that moved at the speed of lightning.

          Gius stared in shock. The woman on top was none other than Cleo the Princess he was trying to rescue. “How? What? …” Gius whistled and the Unicorn suddenly recognized the sound and gallantly pranced forward.

          Roman soldiers were kicked out of the way like bowling pins and the ones surrounding Gius dropped their spears and fled. The sight of a unicorn was too much for them to take and especially so when they realized that the imposing creature was not on their side.

          “Jump up!” Cleo yelled as the unicorn came to a screeching halt. Gius limped over with a bewildered expression.

          “I thought I lost you,” he said. “I thought they took you? Your father…”

          “My father lied to protect his people. It was the only way he could get to you,” she said. “I came as soon as I found out. Look ahead Gius.”

          Gius raised his head and scanned the battleground. All around him, Roman soldiers were fleeing with Gauls hot on their heels. “You just made history Gius. The Romans have never once retreated from us!” she sounded excited.

          “They will regroup and come back stronger. “Gius pointed out the obvious.

          “Yes they will.” She jumped down from the unicorn. “But today, we feast, celebrate and savor our victory!” Her voice was full of conviction. Gius pulled her into his arms and held her for a long time.

          “I thought I lost you,” he repeated as he pulled back. The sound of her laughter was a relief to his taut nerves.

          Gius placed a soft hand on the unicorn’s neck and stared into the animal’s eyes. “He has never been ridden by anybody else,” he said in astonishment. “He has never allowed anybody else to ride him.” He softly brushed his hand over the unicorn’s neck.

          “He found me by the river and we became friends,” Cleo explained and Gius nodded. And at that moment he knew the truth: she was pure. The legend of the unicorn stated that the animals were docile around pure women, especially virgins.

          The sound of a horse made them turn and look up. It was the King. “Well done Gius! What you have done here today will go down in the history of our land. It’s a debt we owe you and one that am willing to repay.”

          Gius looked exhausted as he walked over to the mounting side of the unicorn. 

          “You are wounded!” Cleo exclaimed as she saw the red soaking through his shirt.

          “I will be okay,” he lied. He had lost too much blood and didn’t have the strength to get up on the unicorn’s back. The King made a hand signal and men ran over and helped the big man up. Gius sat with a limp and mumbled a curse of pain under his breath. The huge unicorn dwarfed the King’s horse.

          All around, Gaul soldiers raised their swords in the air and saluted loudly.

          “They honor you Gius,” the King said. “They acknowledge you as their leader. What say you?” 

          “It’s an honor I can’t accept,” Gius replied with a wince of pain. “I fought for selfish reasons. And now that the Princess is safe, I have no dog in the fight.”

          “You drove them to victory!” the King said with a clenched fist.

          The unicorn begun trotting through the mass of bowing soldiers and Gius nodded at a few.

          “Where will you go Gius?” the King asked as he followed him. Princess Cleo jumped on a brown horse and galloped next to the wounded man.

          “Where will you go?” she repeated the question.

          “I go where the music plays,” Gius replied.

          “And where is that Gius?” she asked with tears in her eyes. “Another strange land, another village, another dead King? Where does it all end Gius? When do you stop avenging your father’s death?” Pause. “Stay here. This is your home! The music is playing here.”

          Gius’ eye lids dropped and he struggled to keep them open. He leaned forward and whispered into the unicorn’s ears. “Spirit my old friend. Today, I will need your eyes and ears. Please take me home!”

          She screamed out in panic. “Wait!” and he raised his head and looked at her. Tears cascaded down her face like a stream. “Wait,” she almost whispered. “Will I see you again?”

          He managed a thin smile but he didn’t have the energy to speak. She moved closer and whispered to him. “Stay Gius. I love you!”

          He didn’t answer, nor did he respond. The big man slumped over the unicorn and his world went black.

          Princess Cleo rode over and touched his bruised face with her hand. She wanted to take him down and run him over to the King’s doctors. But she also understood that there was very little that the King’s doctors could do to save the big man. There was only one hope left for Gius… the Unicorn.

          Princess Cleo dismounted and walked over to the unicorn. She ran a soft hand around the animal’s neck and whispered wistfully into the creature’s ears.

          “Take him home Spirit, and bring him back to me.” She sobbed uncontrollably. “Tell him that I love him and that…I … I’m pregnant." A woman's intuition. "I’m carrying his child.”

           The End

     

The curse is gone from the land, the King slayer is dead. The Roman soldiers have retreated and the Gauls have hankered down for the winter. The birds migrate to warmer climates and the lone wolf freezes in the forest.     

But spring will be here soon and the people of Gaul are anxiously marking their calendars, for they know that the power of the unicorn is the strongest in the spring.

News

Off to AFRICA

 

My book A Whisper in the Jungle has been picked by a publishing company and approved by the board. It has been scheduled for release soon.

 

The music is all around you, all you have to do is listen

 

Contact

 

mrobertto@yahoo.com

Without God, what are we? What do we have? What is life...