Secret of the Unicorn

Secret of the Unicorn, Chapter 17: All Is Forgiven

(If you’re reading the original edition, this is Chapter 14.)

Emily returns to the Pet Palace after her little adventure, and finds Dr. Fletcher playing with Ozzie. After being entertained by the ferret’s juggling act, Emily and her mother both apologize for saying hurtful things and not understanding each other several chapters back. Then Dr. Fletcher takes Ozzie out to sample some vegetarian lasagna (yuck!) while Emily meets up with the rest of the party outside.

Kara’s psyched about the musical act she hired for the upcoming (read: next book’s) Ravenswood fundraiser: Be*Tween. They’re Kara’s favorite band, even though she hasn’t mentioned them until now. Emily thinks they’re okay, but Adriane isn’t too thrilled. (I’m with Adriane on this — I can’t stand Be*Tween’s music.)

While Kara and Adriane discuss the fundraiser, Emily steps back and thinks about everything she learned over her adventure. She realizes that, like Lorelei, Emily needed to face her emotional problems — the aftermath of her parents’ divorce — and move on as a stronger person. Emily also discovers that, even though Lorelei had to leave her, they will always be connected — just like Emily and her family. The new edition expands on this significantly:

Even though her [Emily’s] father didn’t live with her, it didn’t mean he loved her any less. She would always carry the lessons he had taught her — and those still to teach — in her heart. Her mother’s love would always be there, no matter how far from home Emily might journey. And her friends. Her wonderful friends who cared about her and supported her. That was stronger than any magic spell.

And then Emily thinks that maybe — just maybe — she can hear Lorelei’s song in the night. The original edition closes the book out with the lyrics to Lorelei’s song, which is kinda cheesy.

EDIT: Changes in the e-book edition

  • The chapter ends with the lyrics to “Friend in You”.

Next time: the conclusion to Dragonfly Wrangling! Edit: just scanned the story, and it takes place after Trial by Fire, meaning that I’ll recap it then. So I guess that next time is either my first impressions on Spellsinger or a brief article on the music of Avalon. I’ll leave the choice up to you.

Secret of the Unicorn, Chapter 16: Kisses Make Everything Better

(If you’re reading the original edition, this is Chapter 13.)

The party arrives at Ravenswood safely with a gigantic wad of magic thread in tow. As Kara and Adriane reunite with Lyra and Stormbringer, the dragonflies show up and weave a new Protection from Evil dreamcatcher over the portal.

Afterwards, the girls realize that Ghyll is moping alone. They ask him what’s wrong, and discover that the Dark Sorceress turned Ghyll into a flobbin in order to track Lorelei. However, Ghyll realized that the Sorceress is a heartless bitch, and so he wanted to use Lorelei’s magic to change back into whatever he originally was. The party, being a forgiving group of pre-teen (teenage?) girls, link hands while Kara gives Ghyll a kiss.

And then Ghyll was a spriggle.

Back to his tiny purple humanoid self, Ghyll enters the portal — which Emily calibrates so it leads to Aldenmor — and leaves the story permanently. Seriously, even though Ghyll says he’s going to be working with the mistwolves, we never see him again. I guess he was eaten or something.

Status Update!
The party learns: Greater Dispel!

Next time: The party learns that Kara has no taste in music.

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.

Secret of the Unicorn, Chapter 14: The Shout

(If you’re reading the original edition, this is Chapter 11.)

In the aftermath of the Unwinnable Boss Battle, Emily — with the help of some refugees — dispels the rest of the party. At least Emily’s smart about who she dispels first: she snaps Kara out of her trance, then uses an amplified Dispel to aid everyone else. With everyone back to normal, Emily suggests that the party follow Lorelei and the harpy through the now-closing portal in order to save their new unicorn friend. The party is skeptical about the whole venture, but they eventually agree to follow Emily through the portal. As Adriane succinctly puts it: “One jumps, we all jump!”

And so Emily, Adriane, Kara, Ozzie, and Ghyll jump into the portal, and find themselves on the Magic Web.

Okay, a quick digression here: this is the first time we get to see the mechanics of traveling on the Magic Web without direct portals. In the Avalon series, magic users can follow strands of the web, usually by floating around in protective magic bubbles. Later on in the series, the girls figure out how to calibrate portals so they can reach their exact destination without all the floating around. The method is similar to that in Jewel Riders, in which the main characters wear magical armor to protect themselves when riding in the Wild Magic. However, in that series the characters use Travel Trees (similar to the portals in Avalon in that they’re marked by natural features) to reach certain locations on the portal network; it isn’t until the second half the series that they learn to glide around freely.

Anyway, the party find Lorelei and the harpy on a nexus, a location on the Magic Web where many strands (and thus portals) meet. The harpy is forcing Lorelei to open a new portal, but gets distracted by the party’s arrival. She takes the opportunity to reveal a secret: Ghyll isn’t a flobbin, and he wants Lorelei’s magic. This pisses off the party enough to resume their Boss Battle!

Boss: Harpy (take two!)
Do I need to repeat myself here? Oh, this time her spells do radiation damage, too.

Emily remembers that Lorelei was able to break the harpy’s spell by singing, so she tells the party to do the same. Ozzie and Ghyll chime in, Adriane sings a Wolfsong, and Kara … well, just watch the clip below.

Apparently Kara’s utter lack of singing ability is Super Effective, because it stuns the harpy — but not before the harpy counters with a radioactive shout of her own and disintegrates the strands of web under Kara’s feet. Before Kara falls into nothingness, Ghyll manages to save her — thus redeeming him of whatever wrongs the harpy accused him of.

Lorelei is freed from the harpy’s spell by Kara’s singing, and interrupts the battle by agreeing to take the harpy to some secret location (her home in the original edition). The harpy’s all like, “Yay, at last I’ll reach Avalon, where all dreams come true!” Lorelei opens a new portal, and the two enter.

But the boss battle can’t end this way, so the party follows them.

Status Update!
Emily learned Dispel!
Kara learned a new spellsong that I need a name for!

Next time: Let’s bring this singing battle to a close!

Secret of the Unicorn, Chapter 13: Totally Unexpected Unwinnable Boss Battle!

(If you’re reading the original edition, this is Chapter 10.)

The next day, while Kara, Adriane, and Ozzie are sorting through e-mails, Emily decides to go into the forest yet again to find Lorelei. The unicorn’s figured out that Emily (and the reader) is tired of all the random hiking through the woods, because she sends out a signal — which Emily detects as Good — for her to follow. Once they meet, we are treated to some serious exposition.

Lorelei, like all other unicorns in this series, uses her magic — a musical type of magic that she focuses through her horn — to weave the strands of the Magic Web. However, the Magic Web is disintegrating just as fast as Lorelei weaves it. Since Lorelei has been neglecting her duties (for justifiable reasons), she’s afraid that she has failed her task. She insists on returning to the Magic Web (or “the circle”, as she calls it in the original edition) in order to prevent further damage.

Lorelei also explains how she lost her horn and why she was a Technicolor Dream Horse when Emily first met her. The Dark Sorceress (wow, we haven’t seen her in a while) captured Lorelei and cut off her horn, presumably to take her magic. Lorelei got poisoned by Black Fire in the process, and started shifting colors in response (this is only mentioned in the new edition). I guess unicorns are naturally immune to radiation poisoning or something.

An interesting thing to note is that, in the new edition, Emily makes this remark about Lorelei’s web-weaving:

“You heal the web. I can almost see the magic fitting together in patterns, like when I use my healing magic. It’s so beautiful.”

This foreshadows Emily’s level two powers (oops, spoilers, I guess), which include seeing magic and weaving (or unraveling) their patterns.

Anyway, after the conversation, Lorelei opens a portal. Before leaving, she reassures Emily that they will always find each other. However … the harpy shows up, and she’s all like, “Thanks for the unicorn, healbot!”

Luckily, Kara Stormbringer detected the portal opening on the nifty magitech computer, so the rest of the party and Ghyll arrive just in time to back Emily up. And you all know what that means….

Boss: Harpy
A ghoulish birdlike creature that uses spellsinging to charm its enemies. Oddly, it lacks avian features and wears a cloak, but whatever. It has a freaking irradiated unicorn horn.
Abilities: Charm

Did I forget to mention that the harpy has Lorelei’s horn? No? Well, I’ll say it again. The harpy has Lorelei’s horn, and it’s irradiated.

Anyway, the party tries to attack the harpy, but the harpy charms everybody with its music. That is, everyone except Emily, who now has a much higher resistance to Charm than the rest of the party due to her bond (I guess it’s a bond? Healer mages are odd because they’re technically bonded to everyone — oh, whoops, spoilers again) with Lorelei. Lorelei manages to dispel Emily, but the harpy escapes through the portal with the unicorn.

Yeah, I hate unwinnable boss battles, too.

Status Update!
Emily gains a higher resistance to Charm and similar spells! (For now….)

Next time: it’s time to ride the wild magic Magic Web with the party! (Damn, I need a new name for our heroes.)

Secret of the Unicorn, Chapter 12: We Wait….

(If you’re reading the original edition, this is Chapter 9.)

Back at Ravenswood, Emily finally recaps her misadventures with Lorelei and the mysterious ghoulish face for Kara and Adriane. They’re a little miffed that Emily didn’t tell them about the ghoul thing, but they decide to hold a meeting with the refugees to figure out what’s up. After much discussion, the party learns a few rather disconcerting things:

a) the ghoulish creature is a harpy, a birdlike humanoid that charms its victims with music. (This explains why Emily’s been feeling off when she hears that weird melody.)
b) harpies can create visions with their music, effectively hiding themselves. (Which is probably why nobody else has noticed it.)
c) particularly powerful harpies can shapeshift.

Then all the refugees panic, because they think that Lorelei is a harpy in disguise. Emily doesn’t believe so; the rest of the party decide to stand by her and wait for Lorelei’s next move.

Meanwhile, Ozzie thinks there’s something suspicious about Ghyll. His suspicions are apparently confirmed when Ghyll mentions seeing a certain painting in an elven settlement.

God, I hate these chapters where nothing really happens.

EDIT: Changes in the e-book edition

  • Kara calls for a meeting of the Ravenswood Wildlife Preservation Society.

Next time: Emily finally discovers what’s up with Lorelei and the harpy.