Everyone knew there were no unicorns.

And they were right. Saeed knew that as well as anyone else, and not in the lazy, “everyone knows” sense. The sabrecat had travelled the land for three whole years, searching for some true signs amidst the folklore and assumptions. Because what everyone knew was not always right. Everyone knew there never had been unicorns either, that they were nothing but a tall tale, and there they’d be wrong.

Even among the most unlikely legends, there was just too much in common for it to be pure talk or even exaggeration. Missing, or largely so, was the immense variety of rumour and retelling. Oh, the exact powers of, say, powdered unicorn horn were far from agreed upon – but there were too many things that all the old accounts he found did agree on for him to dismiss them altogether. Too many common accounts of what various parts or extracts from the creatures did, and, perhaps more compelling, of what they did not.

Oh, there had been unicorns all right; of that he was certain. And in a less enlightened age, the healing powers that the gods had granted to them had been abused by the other races. Unicorns had been imprisoned, harvested from in what amounted to death by torture, and, where that wasn’t enough, hunted. They had dispersed into isolated communities in the wilderness, and still they had been pursued, with great hunts wherein a single horn could fetch a king’s ransom.

And in time… they had simply ceased to be. Whether they’d been hunted to extinction or the last of them had died of time in seclusion, it didn’t matter. There were no unicorns now, and rather than admit to their grievous folly, the great and mighty had insisted that unicorns had never been plentiful, and, in more recent generations, that they had never existed at all. And they’d come to believe it themselves.

But to one with eyes that would see, the signs were there. And to one who could reach back through the mists of time, as Saeed could, greater glimpses of the miracle that once was awaited him. He’d gone to ancient temples and places of healing, some still in use, some long fallen into ruin; and in their holiest of holies, he’d found echoes. Echoes that had given him a point to reach back to – and in so doing, he had found wonders. The vials of blood, blessed though it was, he had quietly destroyed; he had no wish to encourage that sort of blasphemy again. But the wisps of hair, hoof trimmings, and the like – those had potency, even yanked out of time. Such tiny things could be brought forward in truth, and he’d made a respectable living selling them, or things made from them. Enough to furnish greater works of his age-spanning art, and bring forth things far too precious to sell.

Most of those had come from the ancient city he now called home. Many knew that Whitecliff had long been a place of healing; none but Saeed knew, anymore, that it had become such because it had been a city of unicorns, who had offered their healing gifts to all who came in need. He’d found ancient, long-eroded carvings, and his art had given him renditions of the inscriptions back in all their detail; he’d pored over the rubbings, and deciphered the language within them, and learned the depth of sacrifice these people had lived by. Not all of them – some of them merely lived their lives from day to day, as did people of any race. But the greatest of their weavers had used their own manes to weave the likes of the cloak Saeed had recovered, beautiful beyond belief, that shielded its wearer from eyes that wished him harm. Many among their healers had given their own blood to their art to heal the gravest of sicknesses and mend what should have been mortal wounds. One among them, since acclaimed as something very like a saint, had given her own horn for the making of a mighty talisman, crafted as well with silver and diamonds, which had had the power to restore life and health to the recently slain.

He’d recovered that, too – depleted of most of its power, with the diamonds prized out of their sockets; but with lesser gems placed in the fittings it was a thing of beauty again, and it still had enough residual force to protect him from sickness.

His studies had brought him to one house in particular, a humble stone dwelling – old, certainly, but plain and unremarkable, and well away from the market thoroughfare; he’d have counted himself lucky to acquire it for five times the price he did. It was his home, now, and that was all anyone else knew; that the wizard who produced such wondrous cures and talismans of health lived in this simple stone house. He’d warded the place well against thieves, and those wards had caught a half dozen before the word got around and they learned to leave him be; not once had they recovered so much as a strand of hair.

But Saeed’s choice of home wasn’t so random, nor so motivated by the affordable price, as his neighbours might think. For here had dwelt one of the last unicorns to live in Whitecliff – one whose fate was unknown in the wake of the city’s bloody purge. One who had vanished a day before that purge took place, and sign of whom had never been found.

Such could have happened by mere chance, or due to a timely word from someone who knew what was to come – a lover, perhaps. But sometimes, such close calls with fate were the mark of intervention from the future. Saeed had found no evidence of such in this case prior to his own arrival; not until he’d undertaken the mightiest work of his craft to date, and reached into the distant past to contact a living soul, to bring that soul to the present for a short time.

Unicorns had existed, certainly. And the one who had lived here had been stunning – tall, graceful, pure white of fur, his spiral horn brighter than fine pearl, his eyes blue as the summer sky. He’d been stunned by the transition, sceptical of Saeed’s claims – but a few written records of those bloody days had been enough to convince Davarim to take a chance with him. He’d pledged to pack lightly and leave that very night, and slip away into the wilderness, making for a refuge that had long been ready but that none had known would be needed so soon.

They’d both sliced their palms, and with a handshake, they’d linked themselves together; reaching back to him would be a much simpler thing, so long as he lived, counting days in parallel to Saeed’s own life. The next time the sabrecat had tried to make contact, Davarim had not been willing to respond; three days later, though, the unicorn had taken form in his study once again, haggard with grief and loss, but safe.

“Why did you do this?” Davarim had asked through his tears. “If you can save one life, why not more?”

“My power in your time is fleeting,” Saeed had answered, his heart heavy. “I cannot change the course of history. I can only work at the fringe, where things are forgotten.”

The alarm flags had been raised at Whitecliff, but in the intervening days, not one other had joined Davarim at the sanctuary. Saeed had reached as far back as he could, and even that had only been to the day before the attack; there’d been no time to warn anyone else.

Saeed had taken the grieving legend into his arms, and offered what scant comfort he could.

The next time, the rawest edge of Davarim’s grief had dulled, and he was grateful, he said, for the company as much for his continued life. He’d taught Saeed some techniques used by healers of his day – nothing Saeed could replicate on his own, but they would allow him to use his recovered relics that much more effectively. They’d forged an unlikely friendship – Davarim quite likely the last living unicorn, Saeed himself a member of a dying race. The unicorn had supplied him with fresh material – trimmings of fur and hoof and tail-hair, a few strands of his mane; even small vials of blood, not taken by force, but freely given, and at Davarim’s own offer, for Saeed had never had the nerve to ask for such a thing.

“Bring our legacy to your time,” the unicorn sighed, capping one such vial, “and who knows? Perhaps we’ll live again someday.”

“Can such a thing be?” Saeed asked, feeling a thrill of hope – not just for Davarim’s sake, but for his own. Could a long-dead people rise again somehow? Could his own race, so rare he’d not seen another of his kind in twelve years since his mother’s death, yet be replenished?

Davarim smiled, then – not an expression he’d often had call to show, but when he did, that smile alone made all the effort and expense of contacting him worthwhile. “You asked me, once, why your scraps and snippets told of my kind being drawn to virgins…”

The sudden shift to such fragmentary lore made Saeed blink, but he resisted the urge to steer Davarim back to the subject at hand. “Yes…?” The unicorn hadn’t answered then, but perhaps now he was feeling more communicative.

Davarim reached out to touch Saeed’s jaw. “My kind are not born, Saeed, we are made. I was once as you… yes,” his smile grew as he touched the base of one of Saeed’s sabre fangs, “right down to these. I was full of hopes and bright dreams and a longing to do good in the world. And it was the proudest day of my life when I was taken to the temple, a youth of fifteen summers, and a priestess gave herself to me as my first lover.” His hand turned over, stroking one of Saeed’s ears. “When I rose from her bed, I was as you see me.”

The man’s touch was distracting; when Saeed did manage to piece together what he’d said, the revelation was profound. “Wait, so if you bed a virgin…”

“They will become one of my kind,” Davarim finished.

That fond smile was such a precious thing… and yet Saeed couldn’t meet the man’s gaze. He looked down, biting his lip. The time was years past when he might fill such a demand… He kept that thought to himself; such presumption was unseemly.

But Davarim didn’t let it go. He leaned in close, and whispered into the cat’s ear, “Do you desire me, Saeed?”

The wizard trembled, but he couldn’t dismiss that query. “Y-yes,” he admitted in a whisper. “But I’m not…”

“I’d not have raised the subject,” the unicorn purred, “if I didn’t already desire you. Perpetuating my race would have been,” he sighed, “a wonderful reassurance. But it’s been months since I knew a lover’s touch, Saeed… and you remind me so very much of what was.”

Saeed had never bedded a man before, but Davarim was gentle and kind and quickly put him at ease. It was tender and mild as lovemaking went, but not so much so that his stroking fingers failed to coax Saeed to arousal, then to shivering climax; not so much so that he was unwilling to thrust into Saeed’s clumsy but eager grasp, to buck against the cat’s fist and groan out loud as his seed spilled over Saeed’s fingers.

“You know,” said Davarim as those breathless moments passed, “that’s a potent curative itself. Do you think you could make there be more of it… wizard?”

Saeed laughed. “Fertility charms, now? I’m reminded of my apprentice days.” He grinned. “I’m sure I can outdo them now. I’ll make some preparations for next time.” For now, he counted himself lucky the summons had lasted as long as it did; it was already starting to fade.

“I’ll look forward to it,” Davarim whispered over his ear. Then he faded into the mists of time, leaving Saeed alone in his bed, panting softly, with what might have been a lord’s ransom drying on his fingers.

There wasn’t time to salvage it. But he did lift his hand and lick the stuff off his fur. It was sticky and pungent, but the moment he swallowed it down he felt a surge of vigour. And need. Need enough to take his newly-rising manhood in hand and squeeze a fresh orgasm out of it before he subsided, panting, his black-striped brown pelt streaked from hip to chin with white.

Oh, yes, that stuff had potential. Even if it lost its potency quickly – such things often did, and he saw nothing in the magic affecting him to suggest that this was different – some of the subtler aspects might be easier to preserve and harness in a controllable manner. Fertility, flagging libido, and even a more general sort of vigour…

Come to think of it, it gave him a few ideas.

His preparations took three full days. Shortly after noon on the fourth, Davarim once more stood in his study – and he greeted Saeed not with a bow or a handshake, but with a lover’s embrace. It took the cat only a moment’s hesitation before he returned it in kind.

“Tell me, Saeed,” the unicorn murmured into his ear, “do you think you could bring me to your time? For good?”

Saeed blinked. The notion had occurred to him, certainly, but even if he hadn’t thought it presumptuous to air, there were other concerns. “Davarim, I’m… honestly not sure that’s wise. I think my time is a kinder, better one than yours, but most people want to believe they live in the best of times. We haven’t forgotten greed, certainly…”

“Greed I can live with. But you’ve said even bound servitude must be entered by choice, and only under fixed terms…”

“And less than what happened to Whitecliff has been denounced as atrocity, in more recent times,” Saeed granted. “But too late for those that suffered it – and you would be a potent prize for the unscrupulous. I…” He closed his eyes, leaning his cheek against the unicorn’s shoulder, and sighed. “I don’t want to put you through that.”

Davarim nuzzled at his ear. “Better to face that uncertainty,” he whispered into it, “and spend the nights in your arms, than to be alone at night with the certain terror I face now.”

The cat trembled, clutching the taller man a bit tighter. He’d known there was a growing friendship between them, a fondness, but this…

…felt right.

“I’ll… look into it,” he granted, sighing over Davarim’s chest. “Everyone is different, more or less anchored to the events of their time. It’d take me some weeks to know if it can be done,” he hazarded, “and if so, I could only accomplish it at equinox, two and a half months hence. But if I can, and if you still wish it then…”

“I can bide another season,” Davarim said, and squeezed his shoulders. “For now, though, I believe we had plans of another sort?”

And instantly back to business… truly, this was a remarkable man. Saeed had never fancied men before, but if there was to be an exception, certainly Davarim was a fine exception. He drew back, offering a smile. “Yes, I… think I could enhance matters a great deal. Enough to fill a jar – it’d be somewhat weaker, I think, but enough for me to experiment with more possibilities, and better know how I could apply it in earnest. I… think the effects would fade in a few hours, though I can’t be sure how that might differ with… you. But if they haven’t lapsed within a day I could break it deliberately, and no lasting effect on you thereafter.”

“There’s the meticulous and thoughtful wizard I’ve come to know,” Davarim laughed. “That sounds reasonable, Saeed. In fact, I’m quite curious. Do carry on.”

So Saeed set out the bowl of special dye he’d prepared, and the fine brush with which to apply it, and a basin of warm water. They set their clothing aside, and Saeed carefully dampened the short fur on the unicorn’s pouch; then he set to work painting the designs he’d looked up,complete with the tweaks he’d estimated would let them work in better harmony with this particular subject. He tried to ignore, at least for now, Davarim’s groans overhead, and the rising swell of the unicorn’s manhood. There’d be time for that later. Soon now. Just a few more strokes…

“And…” He closed the last swirling design, and drew the brush away. “Done.” Sitting back, the sabrecat took a deep breath. “How do you feel?”

“…Close,” was the unicorn’s tense reply. A few moments of panting, and he added, “As though I’m a few light strokes away…”

The cat swallowed. Stronger than he’d intended – or was that just because Davarim viewed him as a lover, not just a wizard? If he was letting the feelings have freer reign than a patient might… But now was not the time to speculate. “Let’s… let the worst of that off, then,” he managed, fumbling for the jar he’d prepared. It wasn’t a large jar, but it was too large to disappear in his fist, and that made it quite large indeed for what it was intended to collect. A few brisk shakes, and the preservative fluid he’d prepared coated the glass walls. He rose, removed the stopper, and set it on his workbench, then directed the unicorn to lean on that bench. Once Davarim was in place, Saeed slid in behind him, nestling close, savouring the warmth of his body – but not forgetting to keep the mouth of the jar in front of the crown of Davarim’s manhood as he started stroking.

The unicorn wasn’t quite so thoroughly primed as he’d said, but within half a minute he shoved back against Saeed, snorting, tossing his head, mane waving. The first jet of his essence was much stronger than the cat had predicted, and almost tore the jar out of his grasp, but he tightened his grip and kept stroking, coaxing more and more of the unicorn’s seed into it. At some point, a dozen pulses or so in, it splashed out of the jar and flowed down over the cat’s fingers; he shivered, anxious to see the fruits of the unicorn’s climax, but stayed where he was, tilting the jar upright to catch what more of it he could.

Which was plenty. By the time Davarim subsided, panting and trembling, and his flesh grew still under Saeed’s fingers, there was a small puddle of sticky white soaking into the rug, Saeed’s fingers were thoroughly matted, and the jar was full to the brim; he actually had to scoop some of it out on a finger to get the stopper in place.

“Goodness,” the unicorn chuckled, observing his own bounty. Almost absently, he caught Saeed’s wrist, pulling the cat’s hand in close and suckling on his fingers, cleaning them of his own essence.

Saeed shivered, and not just from the intimacy of the gesture. “When I got far less of a taste than that…”

“Oh, I know,” Davarim murmured, slightly muffled; he grinned, letting the cat’s fingers free, damp but clean. “It loses most of those effects within minutes, and nobody in my time could work out how to preserve them. But once for work, then once for play, as the saying goes…”

“Not one I’ve heard,” Saeed laughed, “but I can see the value of it in this case.”

“Quite so.” Davarim gave a stroke to one of the cat’s sabre fangs. “Now, I think I fancy a better feel of what I felt pressing against my leg, there…”

“I, ah… prepared a little better for such matters,” Saeed confessed. A few discreet enquiries had led him to some suitable supplies, and now he indicated the flask of clear oil on his nightstand. “So… how do you want me… lover?”

Davarim picked up that flask, tilting it, watching the oil shift inside. For a moment he seemed not to have heard the query. But just as Saeed’s nerve came near to breaking and he opened his mouth to ask again, the unicorn turned his head and fixed the cat with a gaze that made his heart skip a beat. “I think,” the taller man said, “like… this.

The last word was accompanied by a calculated shove to Saeed’s shoulder. The cat stumbled and fell onto the bed, but Davarim wasn’t finished; his hand moved to Saeed’s chest, splaying there, pushing him flat. Saeed’s fingers clenched on the sheets as Davarim’s fingers slid down, curling around the cat’s rigid manhood, giving it a squeeze, starting to stroke it slowly.

And then, with motions as smooth as a veteran alchemist’s, the unicorn pulled the stopper from the flask one-handed, and tilted the mouth over Saeed’s length, dribbling some oil into the path of his stroking fingers.

The cat had just enough sense to glean what it was his new lover intended before Davarim straddled him, fixing him with that same sizzling gaze, and sank onto him.

The snug heat under the unicorn’s tail was silken delight; Saeed cried out, arching up off the bed, only for Davarim’s hand to push him flat again. The unicorn kept him pinned there, evidently determined to do all the work himself – rising and falling along Saeed’s length like it was what he’d been born to do, each stroke sending the cat’s pleasure soaring a little higher. So strong was the sensation that Saeed wasn’t quite sure when his climax hit; just that he was panting, trembling from one end to the other, his balls aching from the force of it.

And just as he was settling from that high, it was Davarim’s turn, and the unicorn’s orgasm was anything but subtle. Even aside from the toss of his head and the hoarse bellow he let out – the first squirt of his seed struck Saeed’s chin hard enough to sting; the next half-dozen cleared the cat’s shoulders, spattering the wall and leaving wet streaks over his pelt. And still there was more, jet after jet pumping out of him, soaking much of Saeed’s chest and leaving his belly absolutely sodden.

Finally, the torrent came to an end. Davarim stared down at him, grinning, still panting hard, and pressed one trembling hand against Saeed’s cheek; with a breathless grin of his own, Saeed slid a hand behind Davarim’s neck, fingers twining in the unicorn’s silky mane.

And in that tender moment, there was a gasp across the room. The shutters on one window flew open, letting in both the afternoon sun and a tumbling form – the body of a young feline with dusty black fur, green eyes wide, fixed on the pair despite his tumble.

The moment broke, and the young cat started to scramble away. A quick effort of will, focused by a sharp word and a pointing finger, and a compulsion rooted the intruder in place.

Davarim was laughing. “I thought you said you laid wards around this place, Saeed.”

“I did,” the sabrecat grumbled. “I didn’t think I’d need to arm them when I was in it still.”

Gingerly, the unicorn lifted off of him and stood beside the bed, giving him a hand up to rise in turn, and he curled an arm around Saeed’s shoulders as they looked over their uninvited guest, trembling on his knees on the stone floor. “Well,” Davarim mused, “unless you’re far more ruthless than I thought, I suppose the secret of where you’re getting your components is out.”

Saeed clapped a hand over his eyes. “Gods help me,” he groaned. Of all times for the unicorn to show a keen sense of humour…

Now, what in the world was he to do with the youth who’d stumbled in on them?

That would bear some careful thought.