By Julia E. Moser
One night, near the base of a tall, tall mountain, a girl and a unicorn lay snuggled together, fast asleep. The girl’s name was Rebecca. She and the unicorn, Goldenmane, had just succeeded in retrieving a golden apple from a maybe-not-so-fearsome-after-all dragon and were resting before another tiring day tomorrow. Finally the sun rose, and Rebecca yawned and sat up. She reached sleepily for her bag, intending to get herself breakfast--then stopped, remembering that she’d left all the pancakes with the dragon back in the clearing. Rebecca sighed, beginning to regret that she hadn’t at least saved one or two, and got up to look for berries or nuts.
When she got back, Goldenmane was awake and ready to start climbing the mountain. Rebecca had started noticing that he was a little thinner than usual, but the only apple she had was the golden one in her bag, and she couldn’t give him that. Besides, she reassured herself, his energy level didn’t seem to have been affected; the unicorns she really needed to worry about were the ones back at the school. Rebecca started to walk up the trail that ran down the side of the mountain. Goldenmane followed, but reluctantly, causing Rebecca to look down. “Oh, no! I forgot the apple!” she gasped, rushing back down. After all this time, she couldn’t afford to leave it behind. Finally, they started climbing again and Rebecca struggled to hold up the bag containing the golden apple, which had been so light before. The journey was much rougher than their trip to the clearing, and Rebecca wished she could make the bag lighter. Finally, after hours of climbing what had taken mere minutes before, Rebecca and Goldenmane sat down to rest. She decided it couldn’t hurt to get some sleep for a few hours, and propped her head up on the bag. It was uncomfortable, but it kept the apple safe from hungry animals. Who knew what creatures lived up on top of a mountain? The only thing that worried her was that if she rolled too much in her sleep, she could topple straight off the mountain. However, Rebecca decided that Goldenmane would keep that from happening, and soon fell fast asleep.
When Rebecca woke up, she was surprised to find her head resting on the ground and Goldenmane’s nose in the bag. “Oh, no! You can’t eat the apple!” Rebecca cried. Goldenmane, looking ashamed, backed up from the bag. “You poor thing.” Rebecca murmured. “We need to get you home.” They began to descend the mountain, Goldenmane stumbling along and barely making it to the bottom. Rebecca desperately hoped that they would be able to make it back to the school, because Goldenmane didn’t seem very energetic anymore.
Finally, after hours of Rebecca being terrified that Goldenmane would trip and fall, they made it to the ground. Rebecca set down her bag, yawned, and muttered, “Let’s go a tiny bit farther, and then we can rest for a moment. Not for long, though, because I really want to make it to the school.” They walked about half up mile forward, then lay down to rest. Rebecca thought she could just about see the woods surrounding the school in the distance. She wondered what Miss Meretell, her teacher was doing right now. She wondered if she missed her. She wondered... and then Rebecca fell fast asleep. So exhausted was she, that she had failed to notice one very important thing. Over to her left, looking extremely unpleasant, was a swamp. In that swamp were pixies. And those pixies were set on mischief. As Rebecca and Goldenmane slept, two tiny, delicate pixies were slipping out of the swamp and flitting silently across the grass to the two sleeping adventurers, and landing lightly on their bag. One pixie strained to open the bag, and then they both dived in. Squeaky exclamations of “Ooh, sparkly,” and “Pretty gold,” could be heard coming from the bag, and the two mischief-makers began fluttering away, giggling. It was these giggles that woke Rebecca up. She opened her eyes, saw the pixies already three fourths of the way to the swamp, and, without thinking, began to run. She ran as fast as she could after those pixies, she had almost caught up, she was reaching out a hand to grab the apple, but the pixies vanished into the swamp, leaving Rebecca standing there alone. Rebecca thought of the unicorns. She thought of their long, exhausting trip. She thought of the school. And then she thought of Goldenmane. Rebecca’s eyes felt wet, and she sat down. Goldenmane, awake by now, trotted over and lay down next to Rebecca. He nuzzled up close to her and Rebecca, who had been holding back tears, felt his soft, white fur, and began to cry. All this work, and they were robbed by a couple of troublemaking pixies. Rebecca’s cheeks felt hot. She buried her face in Goldenmane’s warm, silky fur- and then there was a loud rumbling sound, coming from the Gem Mountains. Rebecca looked up. A huge, scaly, majestic dragon was rising over the mountains and soaring towards them. “Oh, no,” Rebecca breathed. “He finished the pancakes and wants his apple back.” The dragon rose higher and higher; then dove straight for the swamp. There were high-pitched shrieks as he plunged into the pixies’ lair, and after a few terrifying moments, he emerged victorious from the swamp. He was clutching the golden apple in his long, curled, ivory talons, and gracefully landed in front of Goldenmane and Rebecca. Rebecca started backing off, but the dragon let the apple gently fall off his talons into her hands. Rebecca looked unbelieving for a moment; then the dragon picked the two of them up, placed them on his back, and flew them home with the most amazing ride ever. Rebecca spent the first part of the trip in shock, but she and Goldenmane acclimated quickly, just in time to see the gorgeous sunrise from up high.
When the dragon dropped them off, Miss Meretell, who seemed to have been waiting there, rushed over to her. “Oh, Rebecca-“ “Wait.” Goldenmane quickly dug a hole with his hoof, and Rebecca dropped the apple in and covered it up. The three of them stared at the spot for a few minutes, and for one awful moment, it seemed like nothing was going to happen. Then there was a low rumbling sound, and all over the ground tiny green shoots were popping, up, growing bark and leaves, and finally a thick tangle of golden apples. Goldenmane happily leaped up and grabbed an apple, and all the other starving looking unicorns joined in. Rebecca sighed with happiness. Now this was a happy ending.