“Wish people would take their rubbish home. It’s getting to be like a rubbish dump up here.” The muffled voice said from the sleeping bag. Ben appeared to be looking at the glass pop bottle that Craig had brought into the two man tent, two days ago. Both man wore snow goggles and were so wrapped up that no skin was visible.
Ben had barely spoken from the time they had been together. So Craig decided to push the point. “How old do you think it is?”
“Thirty or forty years old. Who climbs in the Himalayas with glass bottles and packs of cheese and pickle sandwiches now a days?” Ben observed in a slow laboured voice.
Craig, a medical student, had felt elated that he had got further than base camp. Ben, an experienced climber, on the other hand, had expected to get to the top. The slip had left Ben with a minor injury, a cracked rib. The group leader had decided that Ben and Craig should go no further. The thin air at high altitude would be dangerous for Ben. Ben and Craig would wait for the group to came back down. The weather had closed in. For two days Craig had not been able to leave the tent. Craig had made Ben do breathing and limited exercises in the confined space. Ben was not happy.
The wind blew and the sides of the flimsy tent rocked in and out.
“I felt like something was watching me, when I was outside. Perhaps it’s the abominable snowman.” Commented Craig. “It felts like a giant hand is pushing me through the tent.”
“Abominable Snowmen don’t exist, now if you said unicorns, I might have believed you.” Ben said as he struggled to breathe.
“Unicorns don’t exist.”
“Don’t you know the Legion of the the Unicorns?”
“No.” Said a puzzled Craig
Ben was silent for a time, then he told the story slowly as his breathing was difficult. The frequent long breaks giving emphasis to the story.
“Back in the distant past, this area of the Himalayas was very magical. Perhaps its the altitude that gave the water that flows down special powers. It created lots of strange and unique creatures. Not all were beautiful, one was the Winter Dragon, a vicious creature, which breathed out an icy breath that froze all that it came in contact with. It lived in a cave and came out to hunt as the sun set.
On one special day, two horses, a white colt and a bay mare were in the meadows when there was a solar eclipse. As the moon passed in front of the sun, so only the sun’s corona was visible, the sky went black. The dragon thought it was evening and came out to hunt. He saw the horses and swooped down. He chased the frightened horses driving them ever higher up the mountain. They slipped along the dangerous slopes until that came to a rocky outcrop and hid beneath it. The dragon’s breath froze the horses tails. As the dragon circled above, ready for the next onslaught, the horses saw a waterfall and beyond it a pass twisting downwards.
They raced towards it. As they entered the magical water, cascading from above, they were momentally blinded by the spray. It was at this moment the moon’s passage across the sky began to reveal the sun. The sun’s rays fell down onto the waterfall in a brilliant shaft of light. It struck the horses transforming them into unicorns. The white horse turned into a magnificent stallion with a horn of silver. The mare was golden with a horn of gold. Neither unicorn knew it but now they had incredible powers.
They emerged into the pass. The dragon launched another attack. The stallion stamped his hooves on the ground and icy splinters fell into the dragon’s eyes blinding it. The mare stamped her hooves and an avalanche fell on to the dragon crushing it and sending it spiralling down on to the jagged rocks below. They were finally free.
Over the next months the unicorns discovered their powers. It was these two unicorns that created the seven types of unicorns. A group of unicorns are called a blessing you know.”
Ben stopped exhausted as breathing was both difficult and painful.
“It happened because of a solar eclipse. Isn’t there a solar eclipse tomorrow?” Craig asked.
Ben nodded, he was exhausted and was soon asleep.
On the following morning, as Craig lay in his sleeping bag, the blizzard outside seemed to have abated. Sunlight shone on the tent. Craig crawled out of the tent and moved to stand in the light. He looked up through his protective lensed goggles, to see the sun. The moon was crossing in front of it, so that the sun’s`corona could be seen. It was a moving sight seen at the high altitude.
The sky went dark. As Craig stood in awe, he felt that something was behind him, so he slowly turned. Standing in front of him was a brilliant white unicorn stallion. The snow around looked grey in comparison. The mighty silver horn shone as the sun’s rays touched it. The unicorns tail sparkled with diamonds where the dragon’s breath had frozen it.
Craig stood transfixed. Slowly he held out his right hand as a sign that he meant it no harm. The stallion bent forward and licked his gloved hand. The silver horn rested on his shoulder. Then another unicorn came forward, so he held out his left hand. The mare, like the stallion also licked his hand.
Craig felt blessed and he suddenly remembered Ben’s words, that a group of unicorns was a blessing.
The moon finally passed from in front of the sun. Craig had not at first noticed that the unicorns had begun to disappear, tail first. Finally only their disappearing tongues were left. The sun’s rays became engulfed by cloud and the blizzard raged again. Craig was alone and had to crawl back to the safety of the tent.
Would he tell anyone how he had seen unicorns? He thought not. After all he doubted that anyone even Ben would believe he had seen a solar eclipse during a blizzard.
The cold chill that Craig let into the tent disturbed Ben. He was struggling to breathe. Craig knelt beside him, one hand on Ben’s arm, the other on his chest he talked Ben through the breathing exercises. Gradually Ben’s breathing became easier. Ben sat up and took a deep breathe.
“Never thought your exercises would work but I can’t feel any pain now.”
Craig just sat back on his sleeping bag looking at his gloved hands and wondered.