The Unicorn's Mare (Monsterly Yours #5) - S.J. Sanders
“Unicorns are born all male, my heart. They look for females among other races. These they often entrap within their groves and seduce. Only after they mate, when the female turns into a unicorn mare and is bonded to him for life, does he venture from his hidden grove with her.”
-Orgath (The Orc Wife)
I frown at the cup in my hand. I shouldn’t be in the human world. My kind doesn’t do well away from the magic pools deep within the hidden groves of Lehamenin. We can only manage short visits to Fahal, and those have always been prone to danger. While it seems unlikely that I will find myself hunted here as I would have in the past, there is still the risk of being absent too long and returning to find myself cut off from the magic of our wells.
So why am I risking it?
My reflection in the cup stares back at me silently, offering no commentary. Not that I need it. I know why I am here. It’s the same painful truth that has haunted me for centuries since the novelty of being an adult, with all of Lehamenin to explore and indulge in, wore off. The same truth that made me, in a moment of weakness, sneak into an orc’s keep years ago to make my offer to a human woman kept there, even though she didn’t call to my magic the way my true mate would.
In all of Lehamenin, I haven’t found one born yet who calls to my magic, and so I’ve been making excursions throughout the human Fahal in search of her.
It would have been madness just a few years ago, before the elvish portals reopened. Not that we can’t open our own wild portals that will send us to random places in this world. We have just chosen not to, for our safety. No doubt some of my kin would still think me mad, although with all manner of species visiting and living in Fahal, a unicorn is less conspicuous.
Most, even among the fae, do not know what they’re looking at when I am in this form. Even if they did, it wouldn’t matter. With all manner of species here, it isn’t like a human can walk up and murder me for my horn. There are laws, thank the gods. Here, I blend in among all the other beings, and I am not forced to use precious stores of magic and weaken my connection to the wells just to hide my ears, horn, and tail unless I really need to. It’s both safer and more convenient.
I sigh and set my cup down.
Not that it has helped me my find my mare. Not just any female, but my perfect mate.
I let my eyes roam the little café. There are several unmated females nearby, if I were less selective. They smell clean and sweet, rather than possessing the layered musk that accompanies long-term intimacy with a male. The scent of a mated human is subtler than other species, but still discernible.
I know that some among my brethren would see this as an ideal hunting ground, and they would whisk their chosen mates away as soon as the opportunity arises, even if she’s already mated or doesn’t call to their magic. An opening where a male might be alone with his chosen female is often all it takes to lure her in to touch him. After that, it’s just a matter of encouraging her to mount and carrying her away. In that way, we have a lot in common with our waterhorse cousins, although we fancy ourselves as a more ethical race.
Just the thought of it, however, leaves me feeling cold.
I want the sort of bond that comes with the ahandral, the magic-born mate, as my mother was for my father for centuries. I held out, waiting for that special magic, but after two centuries alone, and my magic showing the first signs of waning, I nearly gave up hope. It was only a matter of time until I seized an alhema mate before my magic disappeared entirely and I returned to the well with it.
That’s something I am no longer in danger of doing, since my hope has been restored. These females sitting casually around me, sipping their drinks as they talk or work, are in no danger of being stolen away by me. None of them have any idea just how vulnerable they potentially are. Even if they knew I’m a unicorn,