The Age of Gold
The Age of Bronze
The Age of Lead

In emerald Brocileande a Balance here was drawn,
But this was smashed assunder by a heart-sick Unicorn!

The Age of Silver was a reflection of the preceding Age, and like a reflection, losing something of its brilliance and beauty. It was fair but it was not perfect. Humans found themselves coarsened and clumsy: not quite the angelic creatures they had been before they were Cast Out. Worse, there was Time here, as there had not been in the Garden, and Time brought Death with it: the Age of Silver stripped Humankind of its immortality.

But the Unicorns were there, for though they had not been exiled, many chose not to lose their ties with their kindred race, and in them the primal beauty still burned as it it ever had. In them lay the perfect grace and timeless youth and highmost magic they had always had. The Dragons too, for all they had been Cast Out with the Humans, seemed to have lost little in the transition.

The world was still young; still bright with the magical forces that had brought it into being. Magic was still a power that gleamed from every spring, sparkled from ever vein of quartz, breathed through every leaf.

The Creator knew the Silver Age could not endure long as things stood: there was enmity between the Dragons and the Unicorns. Humankind stood dangerously unbalanced and unpredictable between them. And seeing it thus, the Creator acted. In a massive, ancient forest named Brocileande, He made a nexus of all the world's Powers. He balanced them once against another into a stable and enduring whole, subtly bound into the vast demesnes of the Forest. To preserve this Balance, He appointed a single representative from each of the three sovereign races. On the side of Harmony and Light, He placed a Unicorn, and opposite her He appointed a Dragon; Sentinel and Guardian. As Arbitor He placed a single Human Man of just heart and gentle wisdom.

The arrangement appeared to work. Though Human and Dragon and Unicorn spread throughout the world, the crux of all things was the Forest of Brocileande, first and foremost among Enchanted Forests. The triad of protectors was sworn to uphold the Balance, above and beyond the needs and greeds of their respective races, for as Brocileande faired, so faired the world.

And the Balance was held, year after year, decade after decade. The Sentinel and the Guardian were yet immortal, but the Arbitor, who settled at the edge of the Forest with his people, grew old and eventually died, passing on his legacy to his son. This son took his father's name, and ruled just as wisely. In truth, the Balance required little attention, for so long as the Sentinel and the Guardian observed their roles, came to no harm, and did not conflict, the Balance was secure.

Decade followed decade, and century followed century, and son succeeded son. The Sentinel and the Guardian took stewardship over half of the forest each and seldom left their demesnes. The Arbitors, generation after generation, peaceably occupied themselves with the leadership of their own people, and established a prosperous Estate at the Forest's edge. Rare indeed was the need for them to enter the Forest itself, and hazardous too, for Humankind possessed no inate magic of their own, while the Forest was home to legions of Faerie and other magic folk.

And in just such a way was the solemn duty forgotten by its Human heirs. Legacy became seemingly empty tradition, then empty legend, told as a child's tale on winter eves.

The thirteenth successor of that family knew nothing of his true rank. He was a duke in the service of a distant King, seperated from that seldom-seen monarch by barriers of sharp mountains that ringed the Forest and his Estate. His time was his own, and his needs seen to by his people: he grew bored, and took to hunting to relieve his boredom. He grew skilled at it, and sent his trackers in to the Forest to seek trace of ever more challenging quarry. Hart and boar gave way to wyvern and wraith; a small hydra and a gorgon. And then, one day, he glimpsed a Unicorn, far off. He saw its beauty and the incredible speed with which it ran. Here, he knew, was the ultimate hunt.

The Sentinel was not the only Unicorn in the land, just as the Guardian was not the only Dragon: Brocileande spanned three hundred leagues at its narrowest. A young male Unicorn, a wanderer, one day chanced upon the Sentinel, and found himself smitten. To a Human, all Unicorns possess unearthly beauty, but amongst themselves there are degrees and considerable diversity of appearance. He himself was somewhat equine in appearance, though no mortal stallion was ever so favoured. She was more delicate: ethereal almost, with a grace that could wound a mortal heart and eyes to swallow one.

Even the solitary Unicorn prefers company some times.

With two thirds of the triad so distracted, how could the Guardian help but prevail? She had no need to even act: the pieces moved themselves, swift in their headlong folly. One of the Duke's trackers found trace of the Sentinel and brought word of it to the Duke's ears. The Sentinel, careless, hovered near the edge of the Forest, instead of the dark emerald depths where no Human ever trod.

It happened that the Sentinel's lover was not nearby on the day of the first Unicorn Hunt. If things had stood otherwise, he would have willingly given himself over in her place, and the Second Great Evil would have been avoided, at least for then. But she was there and he was not, and what followed, followed.

There were many who refused to take part in the Hunt, for Unicorns still held a special place in Humankinds' hearts. But then as now there was an element that cared not for beauty, save in acquiring it for personal wealth; who cared not for life, save their own. Less than usual it may have been , but it was still a mighty company set out that day to hunt the Unicorn. Numbers enough that her speed could not entirely save her, for her pursuers seemed to be everywhere. Still, for half a day, she eluded them and left them nothing for their troubles. The Duke, recognising that normal means would not capture this beast, sought hurried council with his men and those ladies who had accompanied them. Old tales of a better Age were aired, and the Duke's young daughter was sent for.

The Sentinel was puzzled and curious, and more than a little alarmed when she sensed the girl sitting in a clearing picking flowers. She could sense men all around, concealed within the surrounding bushes. She sensed the cold presence of iron weapons. Acting on impulse, she dashed to warn the girl of her supposed peril, oblivious to the irony of the trap she sprang.

At once the men surged forth with spear and net and hound. She fought with hooves and teeth and very nearly won free, but as she flung herself from the clearing, more men rose before her bearing crossbows. She was fast -unbelievably so- and bolts streaked past her... all but one that buried itself to the flight in her breast.

All movement in the Forest seemed to cease. An unnatural silence fell, into which a dreadful cry was heard: a haunting, dying, falling song to melt the heart of the hardest creature; a cry of pain and anguish.

Her lover heard it, his heart and horn turning to ice even as he sped to the source of that hideously beautiful sound.

He arrived too late, finding her lying at the edge of a still pool some half a league from the clearing where she had been ambushed. Her eyes were closed and her horn dull. A single ribbon of scarlet trickled from the wound on her breast. The Balance was broken, tilting wildly, and all the Powers of the world spun free, uncontrolled and tuned to the events below. The sky churned and thundered: the Forest heaved and roared, and through this scene of chaos came the Duke to claim his prize, sword drawn to cut his trophy from the Sentinel's brow. Instead he found her lover, enraged beyond all hope of reason. The Unicorn ran the Duke through with his horn, staining it crimson with the man's blood.

It was done and regretted in an instant, but the damage was done.
The Creator looked on aghast as His work was again threatened with destruction. The Age could not be saved. Again it was necessary to recast His work, and bring into being the Third Age: the Age of Bronze, called also the Age of Romance.

The Age of Gold Return to the Age of Gold

Descend to the Age of Bronze The Age of Bronze


Back to index