Here be Unicorns and Dragons.

I’ll be telling some rollicking tales of medieval magic and mayhem throughout the day.

Rhiannon and the Unicorn

A toad of a man was Sir Brangwen.
Squat neck
Runny eyes
Belly so large
He never spied his boots as he waddled through the castle.
Couldn’t close mouth for tongue too big
Jaws ever moving like a cow chewing cud
Showers of spittle sputtered with every word uttered.

Simon Widsith? – detained in the dungeon.
Widsith’s wife? – a slave in the kitchen
Their daughter, Rhiannon? – more or less an orphan.

Rhiannon, sweet Rhiannon
As pretty as a daisy, as brave as a lion.
Wolves, bears, boars roamed the forests
Dragons and basilisks once had too.
The Fat Toad King of the Castle sent Rhiannon to search for truffles.
(An explanation of truffles, I sense you deem necessary, for those unfamiliar blah,blah,blah … .)

Digging like a badger, clawing the soil, she unearthed bugs and slugs and broken jugs but not a single tasty truffle.
Beneath oak, beech and birch, hazel and ash she toiled to no avail.
Until, a ghost, a white shadow trotted from the dark woods.
A pony? A horse?
It pawed at the ground and then looked at the girl.
It nickered and neighed, swung its head and shook its mane
And beckoned her over.

She saw the top of a truffle the size of a baby’s head.
Rhiannon grubbed it from the ground
Then stroked the creature’s long white nose.
Between the ears she saw a bump
There was a little lump
The beginnings of a horn.

It was a baby unicorn.
It nuzzled her shoulder
She patted its warm white neck.
They sank down to the forest floor
Its head resting in her lap
And she began to sing:

Oh, my baby, baby unicorn,
With your little bumpity bumpity bumpity bump
With your little lumpity lumpity lumpity lump
With your little humpity humpity humpity hump.
Oh, my baby, baby unicorn,
Your bumpity bump, your lumpity lump, your humpity hump
Will one day be a long sharp horn.

The lullaby sent them slumbering.
Rhiannon awoke alone but the truffle was beside her.
She skipped back to the castle and presented it to Sir Brangwen.
But did he praise her for the truffle treasure?
He drooled and he slobbered and he sent a spray of spittle showering Rhiannon with the command to bring a larger one tomorrow.
Which she did.

For same as before, the unicorn appeared and revealed a truffle the size of a cannonball, before listening to the lullaby and slipping off to sleep.
When Rhiannon skipped back to the castle and presented the truffle to Sir Brangwen he wondered how it was she’d found the largest truffle he’d ever seen and she replied, by chance.

But his suspicions aroused and after commanding her with a shower of spittle to bring an even bigger one tomorrow and curtly dismissing her, he called Cuthbert from the shadows and ordered him to follow her tomorrow.

And the next day Cuthbert reported that at first he’d thought it was a little horse that had found a truffle the size of a rabbit, but when it reclined with Rhiannon in the forest glade and she sang a lullaby, he’d realised it was not a little horse at all … but a baby unicorn.

The news of this made Sir Brangwen almost choke on his oversized tongue.

He looked at the wall above the fireplace.
The head of a wolf next to the head of a boar.
The head of a boar next to the head of a dragon.
The head of a dragon next to the head of a basilisk.
The head of a basilisk next to the head of a cockatrice.
The head of a cockatrice next to the head of a … unicorn?
Yes, there was room for one of those.

Saddle my steed! He croaked.
Black stallion, red eyes, nostrils billowing steam.
Cuthbert knelt on all fours and Sir Brangwen stepped on his back and clambered onto the charger.
Hunting spear aloft, he galloped from the cobbled courtyard across the drawbridge into the wildwood.

Rhiannon and the unicorn are woken from sylvan reveries by the screeches of birds, the howls of wolves and the growls of bears. Crashing trees thunder in their ears. A great toad of a man bearing a spear atop a jet black stallion greets their eyes.

Run little unicorn. Run we all say.
But Rhiannon will not flee – our hero brave,
Will not leave, she’ll stay.

The young unicorn flees
But Rhiannon, pretty as a daisy, brave as a lion
Stands before the charging tempest.

Stop! Toes into earth
Halt! Her heart tough as oak
Cease! Her will strong as iron
Desist! Her body like a mountain

He does not stop
He does not halt.
He does not cease
He does not desist.

He charges straight at Rhiannon
and knocks her aside.
Onwards he thunders into the darkness into the darkness into the darkness
And then,

Then the trees begin to sway,
the leaves begin to dance
and the birds of the forest sing
as on the first day of spring.

Rhiannon picks herself up from the floor
And turns to sound of a horse’s hooves.
A white charger bears Sir Ivor
Son of Brangwen.

Straight and true as an arrow
As kind as his father is wicked.
‘Rhiannon is it?
I have returned and heard of the evil deeds of my father.
Where is the scoundrel?’

She points into the deep forest and Sir Ivor rides onwards finding his fallen father on his back with eyes closed and a gaping wound in his belly.

And so we have the death of a tyrant, the end of an era.

Later that day, Simon Widsith is freed from the dungeon and his wife released from the castle kitchen.

Rhiannon and her parents are re-united at last. All three wrap their arms around each other and her mother wonders what happened to Sir Brangwen.

Rhiannon looks up and says just these four words,

‘ Unicorns have parents too.’


Tiverton’s Medieval Fayre – The Feast of St James – Saturday 14th July 2018