Magic Animal Rescue 3: Maggie and the Unicorn, page 1
Also by E.D. Baker
The Frog Princess
The Dragon Princess
Tales of the Wide-Awake Princess:
The Wide-Awake Princess, Unlocking the Spell The Bravest Princess, Princess in Disguise Princess between Worlds
A Question of Magic
Magic Animal Rescue:
Maggie and the Flying Horse
Maggie and the Wish Fish
Maggie and the Flying Pigs
This book is dedicated to all the fans of unicorns, and to Kim, who first introduced me to Bob.
About the Author
‘Maggie, I need help!’ Bob called from just outside the stable. ‘We have a new patient!’
After Maggie’s stepmother had kicked her out the week before, Maggie had moved in with Bob and his wife, Nora. Bob had been teaching Maggie how to care for the sick and injured animals he brought to the stable. She loved the work and was always eager to learn more.
Tucking her journal in her pocket, Maggie hurried out of the door. Bob was waiting outside holding an unhappy-looking winged horse by a rope halter. The horse’s head drooped, and so did her cream-coloured wings.
‘She’s beautiful!’ Maggie exclaimed. ‘But what’s wrong with her?’
The flying horse raised her head to look at Maggie. A nasty gash was still bleeding in the middle of the animal’s forehead. ‘She hit her head, and her depth perception is off,’ said Bob. ‘She can’t judge distances very well. After I treat her wound, I’m going to put her in a stall so I can keep an eye on her. Could you please get a stall ready?’
Maggie nodded and hurried to the well for water. After filling the buckets in the stall, she spread fresh straw on the floor. Bob was struggling to clean the horse’s wound when Maggie joined him.
‘I could hold the halter for you if it would help,’ said Maggie.
‘This is a wild animal,’ Bob told her. ‘I don’t want you to get hurt.’
Maggie stayed back while Bob gently patted the wound with a wet cloth. When the horse jerked her head away, Maggie took a step forward. Moving slowly, she reached up and stroked the horse’s neck, murmuring, ‘Beautiful girl, we just want to help you.’
The horse nudged Maggie’s hand and wuffled into her hair.
‘I guess she likes you,’ said Bob.
Maggie stroked the horse’s neck while Bob cleaned the wound. The horse tried to pull away when Bob started to spread a sticky salve, but Maggie held on and continued to reassure her. When Bob was finished, he let Maggie lead the horse into the stall she’d prepared. The horse was about to bump her head on the doorframe until Maggie steered her through the opening.
‘I must admit, you have a real way with the animals,’ Bob said as he removed the horse’s halter.
Maggie shrugged. ‘I just try to treat them the way I’d want to be treated if I was hurt and scared.’
‘Well, whatever you’re doing, keep it up!’ said Bob.
Maggie was closing the door when her friend Stella walked into the stable with her goose, Eglantine.
‘Hi!’ said Maggie. ‘You’re awfully early.’ Although Stella stopped by the stable nearly every day, she usually didn’t come until after lunch.
‘I was hoping I could help you feed the tiny horses,’ Stella replied. ‘You haven’t fed them already, have you?’
‘I was just about to start,’ Maggie said. ‘I got up extra early to pick raspberries for them.’
‘So did I!’ said Stella, holding up a small basket filled with berries. ‘Eglantine chased bugs while I picked these.’
Leonard, the talking horse, stuck his head over his door. Dribbling grain from his mouth, he said, ‘Hey, Stella! Bring any carrots for me today?’
‘Of course!’ she said, and held out a carrot so he could take a bite.
Eglantine hurried over to gobble up the grain that Leonard had dropped. When the goose had cleaned it all up, Maggie spread some on the floor of an empty stall. ‘Eglantine can stay in here while we feed the tiny horses.’
Stella laughed. ‘All she’s done this morning is eat! If she eats much more, she’ll be too fat to walk.’
‘There’s nothing wrong with that!’ said Leonard.
Maggie opened the door to the tiny horses’ stall. The horses were smaller than bumblebees; some had wings like butterflies, while others had wings like flies or beetles or dragonflies folded across their backs. As the girls walked in, the horses galloped to the far side of their puddle-sized lake. The moment Maggie and Stella set berries on the floor, Tickles, one of the bravest of the horses, trotted back. He came within centimetres of Maggie and didn’t budge when she set another berry in front of him.
‘He’s not afraid of you any more,’ Bob said from the doorway.
‘Do you think he’s forgiven me for accidentally breaking his wing?’ Maggie asked.
‘I’m positive about it!’ said Bob. ‘He’ll forgive anything as long as you keep bringing him berries!’
The girls were still in the stall, playing with the tiny horses, when Nora came by carrying a covered basket. ‘I saw that Stella was here, so I packed you girls a picnic lunch,’ said Nora. ‘Why don’t you take a break, Maggie? I know you’ve been up since dawn. I’m sure Bob can spare you for a little while, can’t you, dear?’
‘I suppose I can if I have to,’ he replied, but he was smiling when Maggie glanced his way.
‘If you follow the stream behind the stable, you’ll find a pretty little waterfall just inside the woods,’ said Nora. ‘Bob and I used to take our daughter there for picnics when she was young.’
‘I love waterfalls!’ exclaimed Stella. ‘So does Eglantine!’
Maggie laughed. ‘Then I suppose we’ll have to go!’
Maggie had never had a friend like Stella before. They got along so easily, and Maggie didn’t need to worry that Stella might criticise her or telltale to get her in trouble. True, Maggie had fun when she was with Bob and Nora and the animals, but she had a different kind of fun when she was with Stella. They enjoyed a lot of the same things and always had plenty to talk about. It helped that both of them were eager to try new things, too. A trip to a waterfall that would have been pleasant on her own sounded like a lot more fun with Stella.
As they followed the stream, the two girls chatted about the tiny horses. Maggie was still careful to keep an eye on what was going on around them, since the Enchanted Forest was full of dangerous creatures, while Stella watched over Eglantine.
The goose was tied to a long, pink ribbon with the other end wrapped around Stella’s wrist. The ribbon gave the goose enough room to hunt for bugs on the faint path that ran beside the stream. She was chasing a butterfly down the path when the girls heard the waterfall. After that, it was a race to see who could get there first. Eglantine was the winner.
It was a pretty spot, with the waterfall, only a few feet high, tumbling into a pool edged with delicate blue flowers. The girls found a large, flat, sun-warmed rock just past the reach of the mist. Eglantine plopped into the water while the girls sat down on the rock and opened the basket.
Although Maggie hadn’t felt hungry before, that changed as soon as she saw the food. Warm, crusty bread, savoury sausage and crumbling white cheese were extra delicious at the edge of a waterfall afte
Once Eglantine saw that they were eating, she came over to beg for bread crusts. Stella tossed her one now and then, so they finished the bread before anything else. The girls were starting on the apples they’d found in the bottom of the basket when Maggie smelled something awful. She and Stella looked up at the same time. Three goblins were arguing as they approached the other side of the pool.
‘I so thirsty, I could drink all water in world!’ declared one goblin.
‘That not fair! I thirsty too!’ cried another. ‘You got to share!’
‘I don’t got to do nothin’!’ the first goblin shouted. ‘Hey, stop drinkin’ my water, Geebo!’
While the two goblins argued, the third had knelt beside the pool and started lapping the water like a dog.
‘Are those goblins?’ Stella whispered to Maggie.
‘Shh!’ Maggie told her friend.
It was too late. The goblins had heard them. All three heads turned their way.
Eglantine honked, eyeing the girls’ apples.
‘Look! Food!’ declared one of the goblins.
‘They don’t mean our apples, do they?’ Stella whispered to Maggie again.
The three goblins had already started to run around the pool. There was no way two girls and a goose could outrun them.
‘No, they don’t,’ said Maggie. ‘Stay where you are. I can handle this.’
Maggie stood and reached into her pocket. She pulled out a small triangle that glittered in the sunlight. The goblins were only metres away when she held the triangle over her head. All three goblins stumbled to a stop.
‘Unicorn!’ they screeched and turned to run the other way.
‘That was amazing!’ Stella said, her eyes wide.
‘I know,’ Maggie said as she sat down again and smiled. ‘And it works every time.’
Stella kept her gaze fixed on the spot where the goblins had run into the forest. Their shrieking was still loud enough to hear, even though they were a long way off. When Stella finally turned back to Maggie, she said, ‘Do you think they’ll come back?’
‘Not anytime soon,’ Maggie told her.
‘I’ve never seen goblins before,’ said Stella. ‘They smell awful, don’t they?’
Maggie nodded. ‘Sometimes that’s the first thing you’ll notice about them. My father told me that if you ever smell them, but don’t see them yet, run the other way.’
‘Does your father know a lot about creatures like goblins?’ Stella asked her.
Maggie nodded. ‘He has to. He works in the Enchanted Forest.’
There was a sharp crack! as a branch broke in the forest. Birds shot from the trees to the sound of nasty laughter.
‘Is that another horrible creature coming this way?’ Stella asked, her face turning pale.
‘Yes, but not the kind you think,’ said Maggie. ‘I’d recognise that laugh anywhere. It’s my stepbrother Peter. Listen, you’d better take Eglantine and hide until he’s gone. He’ll try to steal her from you if he has the chance.’
Eglantine was one of those wonderful geese that could lay golden eggs. Maggie knew that her stepmother, Zelia, and Zelia’s son Peter would do anything to get her for themselves.
While Stella picked up Eglantine and hurried into the forest, Maggie put everything in the picnic basket so that it looked as if she’d been eating by herself. Just as she picked up the apple she’d dropped, Peter came out of the trees, swinging a long stick.
‘Well, if it isn’t Little Miss Maggie!’ he declared, wearing a familiar smirk. ‘Still scrounging off the old man and his wife, I hear. And look at you now – stealing food and hiding in the woods so you can eat it all yourself!’
‘I’ve never scrounged off anyone,’ Maggie replied. She immediately wished she hadn’t said anything when Peter’s eyes lit up. She had learned shortly after his mother married her father that responding to his taunts only made him keep going.
‘That’s not true, and you know it,’ said Peter. ‘You were scrounging the entire time you lived with us! We worked day and night to give you the best food and most comfortable bed, while you daydreamed and did nothing to help us. We are so much happier with you gone. Now we all have plenty to eat and we’re not nearly so cramped in the cottage. The day you left was a great day for everyone! Too bad the old man has to suffer now. But I’m sure he’ll come around and realise his mistake soon enough. Then he’ll kick you out and you’ll have to find someone else to scrounge off.’
Maggie clenched her teeth so she wouldn’t say anything. She worked hard now and had worked just as hard when she lived with her father’s new wife and all her children. Even so, Zelia had often sent her to bed without supper. Zelia had even made Maggie give Peter the bed that her father had built for her when she was little. Everything Peter said was a lie, but it still made Maggie angry to hear it.
‘Why are you here?’ Maggie asked as she picked up the picnic basket. ‘This is a long way from the cottage. Did you lose your sheep again?’
Peter’s face turned red and he opened his mouth only to shut it. Maggie was sure he had come to spy on her, but he wasn’t about to tell her that. Instead of saying anything, he walked off, whacking the stick at whatever he could reach. Maggie was careful to stay out of his way.
Waiting until long after she was sure that Peter was gone, she finally called, ‘Stella, you can come out now.’
A moment later, her friend emerged from the undergrowth, carrying Eglantine. ‘I heard what he said to you,’ Stella told her. ‘He’s such a horrible boy!’
‘I know,’ Maggie replied. ‘If only I had something useful to scare him off with, the way I can scare off goblins!’
Maggie got up early the next morning to pick more raspberries for the tiny horses. Yesterday she’d seen a berry patch on the way to the waterfall, and she thought she’d go there for a change. The berries were ripe and juicy, and in minutes her basket was almost full.
She had just popped a berry into her mouth when she saw a green-skinned girl with water lilies tucked in her long green hair stepping out of the woods. Maggie knew right away that the girl was a water nymph.
‘You’re the girl who visited my waterfall yesterday, aren’t you?’ said the nymph. ‘You’re the one who chased off the goblins with something you held in your hand.’
‘Yes,’ Maggie said slowly.
‘What was that? I ask only because I need something to chase the goblins off, too,’ the nymph continued.
‘It was the tip of a unicorn’s horn,’ Maggie told her. ‘Goblins are afraid of unicorns because they can get rid of poison. There’s a lot of poison in goblins.’
‘I didn’t know that,’ said the nymph. ‘I have to ask, do you have an extra piece of unicorn horn that I could use? I’d be happy to give you something in exchange.’
‘I don’t have any extras,’ Maggie confessed. ‘But even if I did, you wouldn’t have to pay me for it.’
‘Oh,’ the nymph said, looking distressed. ‘I was so hoping you had something you could give me. Those goblins come by every day, and I have to hide underwater until they leave. I really wish I had a way to scare them off like you did.’
Maggie dropped one last berry in her basket before saying, ‘I’ll see what I can do. The tips of unicorn horns grow back after they break off. There’s always a chance I’ll find another.’
Hurrying back to the stable, Maggie began looking for Bob. She found him in the kitchen with Nora, finishing a last cup of tea before starting his morning chores.
‘I saw a water nymph in the woods today,’ Maggie said as she set the basket filled with berries on the kitchen table. ‘She wanted to know if we had any more pieces of unicorn horns. She’s afraid of the goblins and they keep going back to her pool under the waterfall.’
‘I’m sorry,’ Bob said, shaking his head. ‘I don’t have any to spare.’
‘Go right ahead,’ said Bob. ‘You might want to tie Randal in the aisle of the stable while you look, though. He can be very grumpy.’
‘Thanks!’ Maggie said and gave him a kiss on the cheek. As she turned to go back to the stable, she caught a glimpse of the look Bob gave Nora. It was a pleased smile that made Maggie smile too.
Randal was the only unicorn living in the stable at the moment. Years before, Bob had found him caught in a hunter’s trap, with his leg too badly injured to save. Bob had made him a peg leg, which helped the unicorn get around but gave him a very odd gait. When Maggie led Randal out of his stall, the clop, clop, thump!, clop made Leonard stick his head over his own stall door.
‘What are you doing?’ he asked. ‘You should be feeding me, not fooling around with old Twinkle Toes.’
‘I’ll get your food in a minute,’ Maggie told him as she tied the unicorn’s lead line to a hook on the wall. ‘I’m just looking for something.’
Leonard watched as Maggie returned to the stall with a pitchfork to sift through the straw. ‘Hey, if you’re looking for something, I’ve got plenty for you to find in my stall!’
Maggie laughed. ‘I’ll clean your stall later. I’m trying to see if there are any broken-off tips of Randal’s horn in the straw. I met a water nymph who could really use one. What’s this?’ she asked, picking up something hard and curved. ‘Do you think the trimmings from unicorn hooves might work to scare off goblins?’
Leonard’s head disappeared from above the stall as he returned to check his still-empty feed pan. ‘If I say “yes”, will you feed me now?’
‘Never mind,’ she said, tucking it in her pocket. ‘I’ll ask Bob.’
Other author's books:
- The Fairy-Tale MatchmakerThe Magical MatchMaggie and the Flying HorseWings: A Fairy TaleDragon's BreathThe Frog PrincessOnce Upon a CurseA Question of Magic
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