The day after her thirteenth Birth Day, Merlyn had taken her and Cedwyn deep into the old magical forest surrounding the castle. They came upon a herd of red deer. Mixed in the middle of the herd were fawns and baby unicorns playing and jumping. When a fawn or unicorn escaped from the center, the harts nipped it on the neck or hindquarters. Squealing, the youngsters raced back into the herd.
Merlyn explained the reason behind the harts’ behavior with his story:
When the forest was young, unicorns roamed over the entire island that is Britain. One day in a terrible storm, a red deer lost its way and was carried across the water to these shores. Not knowing the land, the deer became lost and unable to find fresh water. When the unicorns found it, the deer was dying of thirst. They nudged and pushed the deer to fresh water and later led it to the best grazing grounds and the safest places to bed down. A few years later another deer was discovered on that same shore, and the unicorns saved its life also. The two deer mated, started a herd, and promised to protect the unicorns should they ever be in danger.
As the years came and went, the population of the red deer increased while the population of the unicorns—constantly hunted as their horns were considered magical—dwindled to almost nothing. And so when asked, the red deer kept the vow made hundreds of years ago and protected the remaining unicorns forever.
Guinevere learned that day there was little difference between what the red deer promised the unicorns and what kings promised their people. Guinevere, as a queen, would be expected to protect her people in exchange for their loyalty.
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