Secret of the Unicorn, Chapter 15: The Way Back

(If you’re reading the original edition, this is Chapter 12.)

The party emerges from the portal and finds themselves in a wintry wonderland of some sort. It’s not a cold wintry place, however, because all the snow feels warm to the touch. The party doesn’t have much time to soak in the sights — not that there’s much to see — because they have to save Lorelei from one very pissed off harpy.

You see, the harpy’s none too pleased that this snowbound place is not Avalon. She starts threatening the unicorn with her irradiated horn, which is starting to fizzle out of power. I guess you know what that means….

Boss: Harpy (take three!)
Seriously, I’m not repeating myself. Oh, but she reflects spells this time around.
Attacks: Reflect (does radiation damage)

Of course, Adriane didn’t read the boss description above, so when she fires a Wolf Whirl it’s immediately reflected back. Are you starting to see a pattern here? Offensive magic is totally useless in the Avalon universe, apparently.

So the party tries what worked the last time: singing. Lorelei starts by singing her song; Emily joins in, followed by the rest of the party. Adriane and Emily’s jewels start glowing, and Kara touches them, which causes them to fire a Lightning Bolt that shatters the harpy’s horn.

And then, instead of killing the harpy, Lorelei creates a portal and sends the harpy off elsewhere because it’s no longer a threat. At least the harpy is repentant and wonders why she lost control of the horn during the last stage of the battle. Still, I’m noticing another pattern here: nobody ever kills a boss. You just know all these surviving bosses are going to return as more annoying and powerful enemies later! (Actually, this is the last we’ll see of the harpy. So I guess the trope doesn’t apply here.)

Now that crisis has been averted, Lorelei spends some time explaining everything that happened before the party met her:

“So, the harpy tried to use your horn to force you to find Avalon,” Adriane said.

“The Sorceress took my horn, but she could not harness its power. She gave it to the harpy, because like unicorns, harpies use musical magic. But my magic could not work for the harpy, and its attempts to use it damaged the web.

“What would happen if the web wasn’t repaired?” Kara asked.

The web connects everything. If it were to fail, the very fabric of life would be in jeopardy. All worlds on the web would drift apart, no longer connected, and the magic would fade away, gone forever.”

Wow, no wonder it’s so important for Lorelei to return to the web. It sounds a lot worse in the original edition: all life would cease to be if the portal network failed? Damn, that’s harsh. In the new edition, it just sounds like the age of magic would end, and the worlds would no longer be connected — which doesn’t sound as bad until you realize that all the magical creatures need magic to live, and they would die if they were cut off from it.

Anyway, the party wonders where Avalon is, since the harpy was assigned to find it. In the original edition, Lorelei tells the party that Avalon is her home — which would make no sense if you’ve read the new edition. This has been rectified in the new edition, where she tells the party that Avalon has been lost for centuries. But wait — Kara realizes (in the new edition) that:

“…the other unicorn I met took me there, to Avalon.”

“A unicorn could surely take you somewhere to aid you on your quest, but no one has seen Avalon in centuries.”

“So how come everyone thinks we can find it?” Kara wanted to know.

“You are mages.” Lorelei’s eyes sparkled. “It is your destiny to find Avalon. Surely such wondrous magic can renew the web.”

“You could come back to Ravenswood,” Emily suggested hopefully.

“I will return to my home, Dalriada. There are young unicorns who must learn everything you have taught me.” Lorelei lowered her head and nuzzled Emily affectionately. “About the power of healing — and friendship.”

The excerpt from the new edition also explains where unicorns come from. Fun fact: Dalriada is the name of an old Pictish kingdom. So unicorns are Scottish?

Afterwards, Lorelei opens a portal that will lead the party to a nexus containing a portal to Ravenswood. Unfortunately, the party can’t navigate the Magic Web on their own, so Lorelei offers her horn to the party. You see, cutting off a unicorn’s horn doesn’t grant access to unicorn magic, but giving a horn away freely does. Again, you see another pattern here? Giving away magic items freely is generally a Good Idea.

The party debates whether to take the horn or not. Kara remarks that she had to give back her Sparkly Horn (now officially called the Unicorn Jewel) because it wasn’t given to her. In the old edition, Adriane states that the party has to return to Ravenswood to help Aldenmor and the refugees. After listening to her friends, Emily decides to take Lorelei’s horn, which grants the party the power to do pretty much anything. Lorelei leaves, and the party jumps through the portal.

Unfortunately, it’s pitch black on the other side. Emily asks that the party be kept safe on their way back, which causes the horn to glow and collect strands of the Magic Web. I’m reminded of this sequence from Star Ocean: The Last Hope (not my favorite game, mind), in which the characters have to navigate a dark dimension, in which only one of them can actually see the exit:

(Fast-forward to the 7-minute mark if you don’t want to deal with the battle and the EXCRUCIATINGLY LONG CUTSCENE.)

And eventually the party reaches the nexus, and jumps through a portal that will hopefully lead them home. Yay.

Status Update!
The party learned Triple Tech: Lorelei’s Song!
Kara’s old Sparkly Horn is renamed: Unicorn Jewel! (Not that it matters now.)
The party obtains: Lorelei’s Horn!

EDIT: Changes in the e-book edition

  • Emily and Lorelei tell each other lyrics from “Friend in Me” instead of from Lorelei’s song.
  • Apparently a unicorn’s ability to freely give its horn to others isn’t a secret anymore.

Next time: The party discovers what Ghyll really is.

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11 comments

  1. The blackness felt almost solid, as if it were pressing against Emily’s skin.

    Summer nights in Tokyo feel kind of like that because of the oppressive humidity.

    I like that Ghyll was the one to get rid of the harpy. Maybe it’s because I like rubbery, elastic frog-like characters.

      1. A friend of mine says that Texas is the same, and I heard Massachusetts is too. Yet other people tell me Massachusetts has cool summers.

        1. Take it from someone who’s lived in Boston for the past two years: it gets very hot and humid over the summer. This summer looks like it’ll be more of the same.

          1. I will be in Massachusetts, but outside of Boston. Close enough to drive to Boston, but it will be a more rural area.

          2. You should tell me what it’s like outside Boston. I haven’t had the chance to explore outside the city at all. Grad school will do that to you.

  2. All right then. I will be in other places in New England, so I can talk about those areas too. I will certainly be in Boston at some point though. Anyplace you really like?

    1. There’s an interesting samurai armor exhibit at the Boston MFA, if you want to see that. I just saw it this weekend and it was pretty cool.

      If the weather is pleasant, you can take the Freedom Trail and see some important historical sites. The trail is free, but some of the sites on the trail require you to pay to get in.

      If touristy tours are your thing, take a Duck Tour. You ride in an amphibious vehicle throughout downtown Boston and down the Charles River. I took my parents on it a couple of months ago and they loved it.

      There’s a bunch of stuff I haven’t seen yet, but I hear are fun. You could take a tour of Fenway Park, you can visit the New England Aquarium, or you can take a ride on the swan boats at the Public Garden.

      And if the Bruins are still playing when you’re visiting, I’d suggest trying to get tickets to a game. Watching games at TD Garden is FREAKING AMAZING.

      /end free Boston tourism ad

      1. Thank you very much. Freedom Trail was the only thing known to me so far. New England Aquarium sounds like it would be the most fun for me. I would probably want to see the Museum of Fine Arts too. I will pour over the rest as well and figure out what the schedule is.

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