Passing Fair

by Kathryn A

Challenge: B7 Ficathon
Writing for: mistraltoes

Further notes are at the end.

Soolin thought that it must have been the blood that did it. In the stories her Nana had told her, blood was powerful, blood was life, blood was used by dark things for their dark doings. There had surely been enough of it, even with the bandages. And no doubt she and Vila had contributed some of it also, what with stumbling blindly through the great forest at night. It certainly felt like the branches and roots were out to get them, though compared to what happened later, that forest was as friendly as a summer's day.

Green and young are the plantations
The plantations of Gauda Prime
Dark and old are the native woods
Hoary with secrets, not all of them burned...

If she'd known they'd blundered into the Old Woods... but then, who can outrun Fate? They certainly weren't going to be able to outrun the squad of troopers behind them, somewhere out there in the darkness; certainly not with Avon an almost dead weight between them. They should have left him behind. Between the torture and the shock, there was nothing left in Avon's eyes; he'd crawled into a hole and pulled it in after him. And he'd never use his right hand again. He was better off dead, if he wasn't dying on them already. But when she'd pointed this out, Vila had still insisted on taking him with them. Whether it was out of loyalty or bitterness she couldn't tell. They were the only ones left. Tarrant had died of internal bleeding. Dayna had avenged her father at last, but didn't live a minute past Servalan.

Why the interrogators had concentrated on Avon and not on the rest of them, Soolin didn't know. With Servalan dead, her minions didn't even know the right questions to ask, didn't know who they were.

Which left her and Vila and a dead weight running through the forest. She should have noticed when the pine smell disappeared. She should have noticed when the trees were no longer straight and tall. She should have noticed the stones -- but by then it was too late.

They slipped on the muddy ground, she put her hand out and touched something cold and hard -- and then they were inside the ring, too late. A flash of light, whether lightning or blaster fire, she couldn't tell, and then they were falling, falling into nothingness.


Green. Verdant. Vividly vert; exquisitely emerald; virescent verdure. There weren't enough words to describe it, so he had to fall back on plain, old, green. He was lying face-down on something green that smelled of growing things and cool earth but looked as if someone had poured emerald velvet on the ground. Velvet or fur. The change from night to day had been as abrupt as someone switching on a light, but he could tell by the quality of the light that they were outside, and by the lack of shadows that it was either twilight or overcast.

Vila blinked at the green moss, and did an inventory of his bones. After a fall like that, surely he'd broken every bone in his body -- except that he hadn't. Except that he didn't remember landing. He lurched to his knees. Avon was a couple of feet away, on his back; Soolin a few feet further on. They were in a clearing, a circular clearing bordered by tall stones with moss and lichen growing on them. Regularly spaced stones, like pillars without anything to hold up, rough yet rectangular. Made by hands, yet old, so old.

Beyond that lay a thick forest, brown and green -- such pallid words to describe the shades that met his eyes -- with moss and grass and fern, with bushes and brush and trees, such trees he'd never seen outside furtive glances in Alpha historical books. He'd never envisaged anything so old, so strong, so... untamed. Forests on ravaged Earth were stunted, and those on colony planets always felt cultivated; even the older ones had the likeness of some ragged garden. But this, this was wild.

There was a light in the forest. No, no it was something white, moving in the trees, but a white so bright it seemed to be glowing. Or maybe it was glowing. But whatever it was, it was moving towards them. Fast.

Vila realized suddenly that it wasn't the artificial glow of a machine. It was an animal, with an animal's gait and agility, dodging back and forth among the trees. Vila caught glimpses of it; four tall legs, a body, a long neck, and there was something odd about the head. All white.

It burst into the circle and came to an abrupt halt. Vila realized what had been so odd about it -- it had a horn on its head. Long, tapering, spiralled, like a picture he'd seen once of a sea-shell, as white and nacreous as pearl. What animal was it that was supposed to have a horn? A rhinoceros? But weren't they supposed to be grey? And have a really bad temper?

Vila froze.

The beast seemed to be regarding them, assessing them, looking at them with long-lashed almost intelligent blue eyes. Its nostrils flared.

It's smelling the blood Vila thought in panic. Don't some animals go into a frenzy at the scent of blood? His heart pounded in fear and he wondered, briefly, if he should try to do something, or if there was anything he could do anyway.

Before Vila could move, either towards Avon or away from the wild beast, it stepped up to Avon, and plunged its horn straight towards Avon's heart.


He had tried to make the world go away, but it was still out there, behind the glass wall. But if he didn't pay attention, maybe it wouldn't hurt so much. Pain was only pain, after all. Ignore it, and it will go away. His will was clenched in a knot of refusal; refusal to heed, refusal to acknowledge, refusal to react.

When the others dragged him out into the night, it was too hard to untie the knot; he couldn't react, even if he wanted to. But did he even want to? It was easier to hide behind the wall, not have to think any more.

When the night turned to day, he hardly blinked. When the creature stepped up to him, he roused a little more.

Yes, he thought, as the horn lowered. Kill me.

When the horn touched his chest, the glass wall melted away. His right hand was a ball of agony, his body ached where it wasn't screaming, and it hurt to breathe. But in the next breath, the pain was gone. The next breath, he felt something loosen inside his heart, a shift of balance, a weight lifted, a relief. All his painful memories were still there, but it was if they didn't matter. No, not that they didn't matter, but that he didn't mind any more.

He blinked, and looked up at the creature still pressing its horn to his breast, and saw that it was beautiful. He was filled with an inarticulate longing for something he couldn't name. It wasn't that he wanted the creature, or wanted to gaze at it, but that somehow, he knew, deep in his gut, that this beauty before him was just a reflection of a greater beauty, one that he might never see.

He lifted up his hand to touch the horn, but the creature danced backwards, as if it were startled, or shy. He sat up and stared at it, knowing that it understood him.

"Thank you," he said softly.

It bobbed its head once, and ran back into the trees.


"That was a unicorn!" Soolin exclaimed, standing up and staring where the unicorn had gone. She seemed less than delighted at the prospect.

"Ah," Avon said. "Yes, of course. A unicorn. Said to resemble a horse with a long pointed horn on its head."

"Avon!" Vila exclaimed, leaping to his feet. "You're all right! I thought it was going to kill you!"

"You're more than all right," Soolin said with a frown. "It healed you."

"Yes," Avon said quietly. "It healed me. Another attribute of the mythical unicorn." He flexed the fingers of his completely healthy right hand, and got to his feet. He, too, gazed in the direction the unicorn had gone. There appeared to be a faint path through the trees. "The seemingly not-so-mythical unicorn."

"Things are not always what they seem," Soolin said darkly, pacing around the edge of the clearing like a restless tiger.

"But... what happened?" Vila said. "Where are we?" He looked around again. "It's so green," he said dreamily.

Soolin snapped her fingers. "Of course! How stupid of me." She glared at the stone she happened to be standing in front of. "We fell through the Circle."

"The circle of what?" Vila asked.

Avon swept an arm around. "The circle of stones, obviously," he said. "But that doesn't tell us where we are."

"Yes, it does," Soolin said. "Somewhere very... perilous." She glared at the stone again. "Don't eat anything," she added, "or we won't be able to leave."

"What, not even six pomegranate seeds?" Avon said. "This is hardly the Underworld."

"No, it's Faery," Soolin said.

"Fairy?" Vila said. "Well, it's certainly fair!"

"Not fairy, Faery," Soolin said. "The realm of the Fair Folk, Fairyland, the door into the Green, the uttermost west, Tir Na Nog, Avalon, Faery."

"Are you sure we didn't just die and go to Heaven?" Vila said.

"No, Vila, we are not in Heaven," Avon said. "Nor are we in Paradise, Valhalla or the Elysian Fields."

"I thought you didn't believe in an afterlife?" Soolin said.

"Exactly," Avon said with a wintry smile. "Logically, if there were such thing as an afterlife, this would be somewhere far less pleasant." He regarded her steadily. "That still doesn't explain why you think we're in... Faery."

"Oh, the unicorn wasn't enough to convince you?"

"I should like to know what it was that convinced you," Avon said mildly, sidestepping her question.

"When I was a girl, on GP, there were... stories," Soolin said. "This fits."

"Why can't we eat anything?" Vila complained.

"They that sup of the Faery bread can nae leave," Soolin quoted.

"I don't see any bread around here," Vila said.

"Just don't eat anything," Soolin sighed.

"Perhaps," Avon said.


He gave her a wry smile. "What makes you think I would want to leave?"

Author's Notes

Thanks to AstroGirl2 for beta-reading.

Here is the full text of the challenge:

Characters: no pairing, but please use at least three of: Avon,

              Soolin, Vila, Jarriere (OTOH, if you wanted to pair Soolin
              with one of the others, I wouldn't object, but I'd still
              like at least three people in the story).
Requests:     (1) gen, please; (2) something original added in, whether
              it be a character, a setting, a striking AU in which they
              are all postal clerks... pretty much anything.

Restriction: no canon characters other than the ones listed.

Being asked to come up with "something original" was definitely a challenge!