Mounted by the unchaste princess, the unicorn's demeanor changed. Gone was the flowing white mane and the flowery perfume that clung to sparkling fur and in it's place was a nightmare, a creature of death with burning red eyes and a horn dripping with blood. It reared up and then plunged into the Dark Forest, never to be seen again. Even today, the screams of the betraying princess can be heard when the wind blows.
— Kastil dea Gorbil, The Unicorn Triumphant
The cold and wet air tore at Beauty's face as they race along the slick dirt path. She led the way, her boots splashing through the puddles and casting off flecks of ice in all directions. Her shirt gave her little protection and the flurries of wind cut against her bare thighs.
Daman held onto her hand, his grip tight as he stumbled after her. She winced with every groan he made as he tried to keep up with her without a shred of protection against the wind or anything to protect his feet.
Distracted, she tripped and lost her balance. With a yelp, she swung her other hand to catch herself. Her sword splattered blood into the air before she landed on her knuckles. The impact drove the hilt in her grip tight against her bones and a burst of pain tore up her arm.
Daman slipped his hand around her and helped her up. “Keep going, love.”
Beauty whimpered and stumbled with him until she could take the lead. “W-What about you?”
“Less talk, keep going.”
They gathered speed along the trail leading back to the main road. They had taken it before and she remembered where they could sprint and where they had to be careful; she only hoped that Rizen's men wouldn't have an immediate knowledge of their surroundings and they could get ahead.
Coming over a hill, they came up to a fork in the trail. One way continued down the slope and to the road. It was a straight path the entire way and she could see the gravel marking the way back to Fires Down Below. The other way was an overgrown trail that led further along the curve, trailing away from the road and the town.
Daman stopped her at the junction. He shivered as rivulets of drizzle and sleet ran down his nude form. He groaned and wiped the moisture from his face. “Which way?”
There was a yell in the distance.
Beauty worried her lip as she looked between her choices. Going down would get them to the town and shelter for Daman. There was also a risk because of the unknown enemies waiting for them. The other way would be risky with only a shirt and a pair of boots between the two of them.
He cocked his head and looked back. “Only a few chains behind us. Maybe ten seconds before they see us.”
Beauty tightened her grip. “Are you—?”
“Choose, I will follow.”
She cringed but then pointed away from both of the choices, up the slope to a thick cluster of rocks. She could see mist and fog seeping between the boulders and a thicker bank of shifting mists beyond it. “Up there, if we can—”
Daman didn't want for the rest of her sentence. He gripped her tightly and tugged her along as he forged through the wet underbrush toward her choice.
Beauty grimaced and followed. She could feel him shivering through his hand. Ice clung to his hair and the icy water ran rivulets down his bare back. Bright lines of fresh scratches scored his sides and shoulders. She regretted her choice but they couldn't afford to second guess anymore.
They made it just as the men came rushing down the path after them.
Beauty pulled Daman down into the shadows of the rocks. The swirls of the fog tickled her skin as the world grew hazy. It would hopefully shield them from their attackers but it also meant that she wouldn't have any warning if they approached. She cocked her head and strained to listen to the words that drifted up.
Daman shivered violently.
Beauty looked at him, concerned.
“I'm fine,” he mouthed but his teeth were clattering. They had only been running for a minute, but he had nothing to shield him from the cold and rain.
She glared at him and inched closer. She set down her sword and started to unbutton her shirt to give it to him. Her boots wouldn't fit him and he needed something against the cold.
He pressed his hand against hers, pinning her. His eyes were adamant as he shook his head.
Beauty frowned and gestured angrily to his shaking form.
Daman glanced around and then pointed to a gap between two boulders. There was a narrow but clear gap between them and the fog bank beyond.
Unhappy but desperate to keep moving, Beauty pushed herself up to her knees and crawled between the rocks. Every step caused rocks to scrape against each other and she winced.
Daman kissed her ass as she passed. His lips were icy against her bare skin.
She stopped and glared at him. “Really? Now?” she mouthed back.
“I'm not dead,” he responded silently with a grin. Even though he was shivering, he kissed it again.
Rolling her eyes, she crawled away from the men who were at the fork in the road. Their yells and orders were muted through the mist and distorted by the echoes. Only vague words could be understood, none of them kind or calm. Glad to be moving away from them, she only hoped Daman and herself could find shelter before exposure killed them.
On the other side of the boulders, she remained on her hands and knees as she worked the boulders between them and the path before delving deeper into the thicker parts of the mist. The air around her grew even colder and ice clung to her bare skin; she was moving too slowly to generate heat and shivers began to course along her limbs.
It felt like a hundred years had passed before they were deep enough into the fog to stand up safely. A blast of icy wind slammed into her and she clutched her sword arm against her chest stomach to try keeping the wind from billowing out her shirt.
Daman stood up and then swayed.
She gasped and reached out with her other hand. “Daman,” she said in a worried voice.
He slumped against her and groaned. “You're s-so hot.” His voice was broken and cracked.
The cold wind blew underneath her shirt and she shivered. It did not look good for either of them. “We need to find shelter,” she whispered. Looking around didn't help, she couldn't see through the fog that was protecting them. Only vague shapes loomed around her: a mound of snow, a vertical darkness that may be a tree, or an unsteady ridge of darkness.
“Kind of wish we had a t-talking lion right n-now,” he said with chattering teeth. With a groan, he slipped his arms around her and held her tight.
Beauty's heart broke feeling how cold he was. She made sure her sword was safe before hugging him back. He was so cold and her heart broke to feel him shivering in her group.
“W-We b-better get g-g-going,” Daman said. He took a deep breath and then picked her off the ground.
“Quiet,” he grunted as he shifted her across his arms and then staggered deeper into the mist.
“What are you doing?” Beauty flailed in an effort to escape and get back on her own feet. “I have the boots. A-And you're naked!”
“I'm the p-prince,” he said. He made no effort to put her down.
“What does that have to mean with anything?” It was getting hard not to whisper.
“Like mud, s-slugs, and that broken chair, I will be fine. No frostbite, no broken toes. Nothing in this world will harm me as long as you love me.” He grinned and tried to kiss her but missed. “You, on the other hand, are my beautiful rose who doesn't have all those benefits because I can n-never love you as much as you love me.”
Beauty sniffed as tears burned in her eyes. She stopped struggling and leaned into his cold chest in hopes that her own body warmth would help. “You aren't going to put me down, are you?”
“N-No,” he said with a smile.
“Just hurry, okay? I'll keep a lookout.”
Around her, looming branches rose out of the fog, passed over them, and then disappeared. He shook underneath her, but he held her firmly to his chest as he walked.
Beauty allowed herself a brief smile. “I do love you.”
“And I you—” He stumbled. He gripped her tighter to keep her close, then he straightened. “I love you… oh, warm?”
Beauty looked up. “W-What?” Her teeth clicked from her own shivering. She glanced around her but only saw the dense fog and vague shapes.
Daman stepped back and looked around. “There is s-something… warm… here.” A smile crossed his face and then he knelt down.
She felt it before her boots touched the ground, a warmth radiating from a bank of snow or a rock. Without thinking, she reached out to touch it. It was velvety but solid. It was also very warm, searing hot compared to her own freezing body.
Then it shifted underneath her. “Excuse me,” asked a deep, masculine voice that shook the surface underneath her hand.
Beauty snatched her hand back.
“What the shit are you doing groping my stomach?” A groan. “Oh… why am I up? Where in the dark am—”
A belch interrupted the words and a wave of fetid air blew past her carrying the stench of vomit and alcohol. When it passed, the icy wind came back with a vengeance. All she wanted to do was plaster herself against whoever was talking but she couldn't; a whimper slipped out of her lips as she drew back into the cold.
“S-Sorry,” Daman said as he dropped to his knee. “We were caught out here and you were so warm when I bumped into it. We are desperate and need shelter.”
“So you though groping me was an answer? Do you have shit for brains?” Another belch.
Beauty shook her head and held up her hand. “We didn't—”
Daman interrupted her with a hand on her shoulder. “We're freezing. I-I would love to continue, but could we do it while leaning against you? Please?”
A slash of wind plucked at Beauty's shirt, pulling it up. She shook at the icy claws that ran up her spine. She tried to push it down but her fingers were numb and the effort futile.
A sudden white light blinded her.
She drew back. She tried to hold her sword but her fingers wouldn't work. She looked down to forced herself but her brightly-lit hand was empty. She had dropped her weapon without realizing it.
They were defenseless.
Nervous, Beauty looked up at the brilliant light shining down on her. The fog and mist created a glare but she made out a horse-like face with rainbow-colored eyes. When the creature turned to one side, the light moved and she could see it was a single glowing horn sprouting from the unicorn's head.
The unicorn peered at her and then at human. “Um, I'm pretty sure you are both human, right?”
Daman said, “Yes, of course.”
“You seem… very naked for prancing around in the middle of winter.”
The prince chuckled. “Wasn't our intent.”
“You were doing something with sex, right? I've heard humans were always fucking.” The unicorn shook his mane and groaned. “Oh, too much berry wine last night…,” he muttered.
“Well,” Daman said. “It was suppose to be a night of cuddling and enjoying ourselves but then someone tried to kill us.”
The unicorn scoffed. “I don't care, not interested. Humans are nothing but trouble.”
A shiver tore through Beauty. She clutched her arms tight to her body as she tried to stop her teeth from chattering. Glancing over, she noticed that there was a clear symbol on the unicorn's flanks: it looked like a bucket with waves rising up from it. Around the base of the pail were circles. She frowned in confusion because her first impression was that it looked like a bucket of shit.
Daman pulled her tight to his body as he spoke to the unicorn. “Please? Just for a few minutes? As soon as we can, we will be gone.”
Beauty looked up at him and then to the creature.
Another belch. “Fine… just… try not keep your filthy human parts rubbing against me. It's bad enough I'm going to need a bath after this.”
Daman guided Beauty against the unicorn.
The unicorn was warm but foul-smelling, the smell of stale wine and shit clung to the creature's hair. But she wasn't going to leave for a smell. Groaning, she pressed her body against the heat and shivered.
Daman slipped up behind her, cradling her body as he settled into place. “Thank you. My name is–”
“Don't care any more than a pile of shit on the ground.”
Daman continued as if nothing was said. “Daman and this is Beauty.”
The unicorn snorted. Then he groaned.
“Hangover?” Daman said. He slipped his arm around Beauty's waist and held her tight before settling against the unicorn's stomach.
“Yes, thank you for reminding me. Though I could use a bucket of molly berry wine right now. And a decent hunk of roast meat.”
“I wasn't aware—”
Beauty elbowed Daman before he continued. “Be nice to our host. We might survive to find shelter because of him.”
“Yes, the fat human female appreciates me.”
Daman started to response but Beauty interrupted him. “And you,” she kicked him, “what was this about carrying me across the ground? I have boots, that was one of the few things I could handle. And, I might mention, I'm the only one who even has a shred of clothing on right now?”
“I told you, I'm a—”
“Yes, a prince. But what makes you think you're immune to frostbite? Just because mud and leeches don't stick to you doesn't mean you can't lose your toes from the code, or slip and fall. You aren't immortal, Daman, and I don't want to find out how to live without you.”
He chuckled. “I know, but that's it. As long as you are in my story, then I will come out.”
“Yes, but you could be scarred for life.”
He kissed her neck. “Only if that is what would turn you on.”
She squirmed at the touch. With the heat and their near death experience, his incorrigible nature was hard to resist. “Not now.”
“Fine, but only if you acknowledge that I'm going to carry a torch for you as long as I have fingers to hold it and feet to raise it high.”
Beauty sighed. “Fine, you love me.”
“I do and you love me. And soon, we're going back home and being happy every after.” He chuckled and kissed her again. His fingers snaked up to cup her breast.
She giggled and pushed his hand down. “Daman, no filthy human parts, remember? We need to be gracious to our host.”
“Fine….” He hugged her tighter. “But when we get back, I'm going to bring you to a proper room and ravish you behind a locked door.”
The unicorn groaned. “You two are really disturbing, aren't you? Like two monkeys rutting in a puddle of mud. Like every other human I know.” He belched again. “At least you aren't trying to kill anyone.”
Beauty ducked her head and wondered if losing her sword was a blessing in disguise.
Daman shrugged. “Thank you, Bucket.”
The body underneath her tensed.
He gestured back toward the unicorn's flanks. “I assumed your name is Bucket, right? Syrup Bucket? Mud Pail?”
The unicorn let out a huff. “Is that what you really think my name is?”
“Well, I haven't had a good chance, but I'll call you whatever you want me to call you.”
The unicorn sighed. “Pail is fine. Just… don't need to add anything more to that.”
Daman grinned and saluted. “Well, a pleasure to meet you, Pail, and I thank you from both of our hearts that you were willing to give us shelter. As soon as we can, we will make our leave.”
A cold wind tickled Beauty's bare legs. She curled up tighter to the unicorn but then the cold wind blew up against her buttocks. She squirmed and then shifted back until she had one leg nestled between Daman's with his body protecting her privates and her feet underneath the unicorn's legs.
It was uncomfortable but at least she stopped shivering. With a sigh, she rested her head against Pail's belly and closed her eyes.
“Is this love?,” asked Pail after a few minutes.
She looked up, surprised. “What?”
“I can sense he used to be cursed by a fae.”
Daman chuckled. “Yes. I was a self-centered prick and pissed off the wrong woman. She cursed me to be a monster.” He kissed Beauty's shoulder. “At least until she taught me to care for someone other than myself.”
Pail's body tensed. “And it was True Love that broke the curse?”
“Apparently. At least that is what Lanier said.”
“You talked to the blue mage?”
At Daman's nod, Pail glanced around. “Then he's probably right about surviving.”
“Really?” Beauty drew closer to the unicorn. It was almost like sleeping in her bedroll, except for the smell.
“True Love doesn't stop after the curse is broken. It replaces it, creating a connection between the two of you. I don't really understand how, but I know that her love will change him to fit her expectations.”
Daman chuckled. “You mean, I don't have to worry about washing my hair because she thinks princes always look good?”
Beauty blushed and smiled to herself. She never thought about it, but Daman was exactly what she expected with a prince. She leaned back against him and sighed.
He squeezed her and kissed her shoulder.
Pail tossed his head and the light grew brighter. “Why are you out here? You found love and broke the curse, shouldn't you be staying enjoying your Ever After?”
Daman's arm squeezed Beauty but he said nothing.
She thought about their decision to return home. She was tired of adventures and freezing and crawling through swamps, but they were talking to a unicorn and she wouldn't have a chance to do that again. “W-We were on a quest to turn him back but… we had just given up after talking to Lanier. But, then we were attacked—”
“Excuse me,” Pail said sharply. “You were on a quest to get him cursed again?”
Beauty giggled. “Yes.”
“W-Why, in the every flowing sewer of shit, are you trying to get cursed!?”
Damar kissed her. “Because we wanted to go back to the way it was. I was a beast, huge and hulking. I had claws. I had height and strength. I had a huge dick.”
“You are doing this just to rut even more? Oh, for the powers that be, you humans are disgusting!”
“At first, yes, but not after.” Daman's voice was sad and quiet.
Beauty froze, she had never heard Daman speak of anything else.
“But then it was something else. I've been feeling like I'm just wearing this suit. It's pretty and handsome, but it also isn't mine. As the years go on, it gets more uncomfortable like… like I need to get out of it but I can't.”
Beauty turned her head to look into his sad eyes.
Daman wiped a tear from his face and then kissed her nose. “I'm sorry.”
“Never be sorry,” she said. “How long?”
“I don't know, I didn't realize it until I was talking to Lanier about her… zirs body. Then it just clicked. A suit that didn't fit, that made sense to me. I want to be the Beast again, not just for sex and fun, but because it feels right. I don't want to wear my Daman suit anymore.”
“Then why did you want to go home?”
He sighed. “We've been trying so long. So many fights and struggles. I'm tired and it looks like it can't happen as long as you love me.”
Daman kissed her on the lips. “Every second of every day is a lifetime of joy for me, and I won't risk anything if it meant I might lose you.”
She smiled and kissed him back. “I love you, my beast.”
“And you will always be my beauty.”
Pail groaned. “And I'm going to be sick.”
Daman chuckled. “It isn't—” but his words were interrupted as Pail surged to his feet.
Beauty and Daman slumped to the ground as the unicorn lurched out of the warm spot on the grass and vomited loudly. The cold air quickly returned and she clung to the still warm ground as she steeled herself against the weather.
Pail's horn flickered and then went dark. He vomited again. It sounded like a huge bucket being emptied out on the ground and the stench surrounded her in a choking cloud. He staggered back and then did it a third time.
When he finally came back, the heat was fading from the ground. “Come on,” he said with a foul breath. “Get on.”
Daman got to his knees, then helped Beauty up before standing. “What do you mean?”
“Get on me. It's some distance to the ring and you can't walk there like that.”
Beauty blushed. “I'm not… a virgin.”
Pail stared at her and then huffed. “Why would I care? We aren't having sex! I'm just giving you a ride, you daft human! WHy is it always rutting with you humans!?”
She squirmed in discomfort. “The legends say I have to be one. I just assumed… that is was important.”
“Well, screw those legends. I want to go home and I might as well take you to somewhere you can get cleaned up and maybe some answers. So that means both of you need to get on because I have no intent in slow-walking a mile in this weather.”
It took them a few moments to get up on Pail. Beauty leaned against the warmth and sighed. She hated how even a few seconds away from the unicorn's warmth felt like like hell. She wasn't going to question their luck, she was just happy that she wasn't going to die of exposure in the mountain.
“Where are we going? Back to Lanier's?”
Pail shook his head and his horn began to glow again. “The Fairy Realm. I figured between True Love and your curse, we might as well find an expert on curses.”