Janni Lee Simner

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Unicorn Seasons
Four magical unicorn tales





A unicorn for every season.

From a mythical time before the winds were fixed to the corners of the earth to a present-day forest where unicorns are not—quite—extinct, this ebook collection by acclaimed fantasy writer Janni Lee Simner brings together four magical tales about unicorns and the humans who are forever changed by them.

In Lost or Forgotten, a unicorn sacrifices his mortality for the woman he loves, leaving their descendants to mourn the loss. When sisters Sara and Amelia hear the trees calling to them one spring night, they have to decide whether to take on an ancient sorrow—or accept an ancient magic.

In Unicorn Season, Megan's small-town summer turns more interesting when a local boy offers to help her find unicorns in the nearby mountains. But why is Josh so interested in the elusive creatures? Megan may not know as much about unicorns—or Josh's motives—as she thinks.

In Tearing Down the Unicorns, Stacey is furious when her older sister tears the unicorn posters from their walls. Then she sees a real unicorn dancing in the autumn night, and she discovers there's more to the mythical creatures than those rainbow-and-butterfly bedecked pictures show—and more to herself, as well.

In Windwood Rose, Miranda has been haunted all her life by strange music and uneasy dreams. When a unicorn appears in the snow one winter afternoon, it may have the answers she longs for. But will it be willing to give her all that she seeks?



Excerpts

From Lost or Forgotten

The year she turned sixteen, Amelia stole out into the night. She waited shivering beneath the trees, at the edge between forest and town, for a boy who didn't show.

As she waited the trees whispered, “Nothing is ever forgotten. Nothing is truly lost.” For the first time, Amelia understood their words. She laughed with joy, all thoughts of the boy gone. From the corners of the earth the winds reached out, tugging at her ankles, urging her to run. Amelia lifted a foot, feeling as if she were balanced between earth and air, light enough to fly away.

A hand gripped her shoulder, pushing her down.

“What are you doing?” Sara demanded.

“Nothing,” Amelia lied, as the wind died and the trees fell silent.

“Good. Let's go home.”

Amelia heard the fear in her sister's words, and because she loved her sister—because she didn't want to frighten her sister—she followed Sara away.

Back in their room Sara shut all the windows, drew all the shades, turned her music so loud Amelia couldn't hear the trees.

Sara relaxed a little then, for with the windows closed and the music on, she couldn't hear them, either.


From Unicorn Season

“So where'd a city kid like you learn to shoot like that?” Josh's green eyes were bright, amused—but there was a challenge in them, too.

“At school. I placed second on the rifle team last year.”

More laughter. “Oh, that explains it. Up here we shoot things that move.”

Maybe he wasn't so cute after all. “Do you have something against getting your meat from a supermarket like normal people?”

“What, can't handle knowing where your dinner really comes from?” Josh shook his head. “Of course, deer aren't in season now anyway.”

Great, he wanted to shoot Bambi. “I saw a deer yesterday,” Megan said defensively. “A white one.”

All at once, Josh stopped laughing, and his eyes went large. “Deer are brown,” he said. “Maybe gray. That was a unicorn.”

“Yeah, right.” Megan just stared at him. “How stupid do you think I am? Everyone knows unicorns are extinct. Died out during the Civil War.”

“Don't believe everything your downstate history books tell you.” Josh's own disdain matched hers. “There aren't many unicorns left, but they're here all right. And if you saw one at all ...” His voice drifted off, and his eyes went languid ... “You ever want to see a unicorn,” Josh said, his voice strange and low, “You just let me know. I'll go unicorn hunting with you.”


From Tearing Down the Unicorns

Flickers of flame trailed behind it, leaving gold sparks in the air where it passed. Dry leaves crackled beneath its feet. My palm still burned. Any moment I expected the leaves to catch fire and burn, too. My heart pounded hard in my chest.

Yet I kept watching. The unicorn was the wildest, most frightening thing I'd ever seen—but also the most beautiful. Soon I realized there was a pattern to its running, one that kept it from ever taking the same path twice. It wasn't just running. It was dancing, a fiery dance like nothing I'd ever seen before.

The burning in my hand spread through the rest of my body, dulling to a smoldering ache as it did. Something about that ache urged me forward. I wanted, more than anything, to follow, to dance with the unicorn.

I watched it for a few seconds more, memorizing its pattern, learning the steps of its dance.

Then I took a deep breath and ran after it.


From Windwood Rose

No horn sprang from the animal's forehead, but you'll have to believe me when I say it was a unicorn. I know no other word for a creature that steps so lightly on the crystal snow, not for lack of weight, but because somehow both creature and snow are bound by the same magic.

Miranda had never seen anything so beautiful, in her dreams or out of them. She stared at the creature, not daring to breathe, afraid she'd scare it away. Then she shivered and all her breath rushed from her at once. Instead of running the unicorn let out a high silver laugh, a laugh which held the same music as the grey branch, as her mother's singing, as her father's guitar. At the sound of the music Miranda forgot the creature's beauty and grew angry all over again.

The unicorn dropped its eyes, then raised them again, looking Miranda over from her grey boots to her dark hair. “Miranda Windwood Rose,” it said, in a serious voice that didn't match its laugh at all.

The air grew even stiller then, as if holding its breath and waiting for the answer to some question. Very far away, Miranda heard a sound like whispering leaves.



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