The Last Unicorn
The November sky was gray with clouds. Jack sat reading in front of the living room fire.
“Who wants hot chocolate?” his dad called from the kitchen.
“Me, please!” said Jack.
The front door burst open, and with a gust of cold wind, Annie rushed inside. “Jack! Guess what!” she whispered. “It’s back!”
“How do you know?” said Jack.
“I was walking home from the library”— Annie paused to catch her breath—“and I saw a flash in the sky above the woods. The last time that happened—”
Before she could finish the sentence, Jack jumped up. “Dad, Annie and I are going to go outside for a while!” he shouted. “Can the hot chocolate wait till we get back?”
“Sure, have fun!” their dad called from the kitchen.
“I have to get my pack,” Jack said to Annie. “Meet you on the porch.”
“Don’t forget the rhyme book!” said Annie.
Annie slipped outside and Jack ran up to his room. He grabbed his backpack. He checked to make sure their book of magic rhymes was inside. Good
, there it was.
Jack charged back downstairs. He pulled on his boots, put on his jacket, tied a scarf around his neck, grabbed his mittens, and headed out the door.
“Come on!” said Annie.
Jack could see his breath in the cold air. “Brrr,” he said. “Let’s hurry!”
Jack and Annie ran down the street and into the Frog Creek woods. They wove between the trees, their boots crunching through the fallen leaves.
Jack stopped. The magic tree house was back. High in a tall oak tree, it was silhouetted against the gray November sky. “You were right,” he said to Annie. “Good work.”
“Thanks,” Annie said. She ran to the rope ladder and started up. Jack followed her.
When they climbed inside the tree house, Jack and Annie saw a book and a scroll of parchment paper lying on the floor. Annie picked up the scroll, unrolled it, and read aloud. Dear Jack and Annie of Frog Creek, I am sending you on one more mission to prove that you can use magic wisely. This poem will guide you. —M. The very last unicorn Is now hidden well By those who have put him Under a spell. Four centuries, four decades From that afternoon, At the end of November, Before the blue moon, He will wake once more And be free to go home If you call out his name: Divine Flower of Rome. You must coax him to stand Once his name is spoken. His chain will break And the spell, too, be broken. Then a young girl must love him And show him the way, Lest he be trapped forever On public display. If he loses this chance To rise and depart, All magic will fade From his horn and his heart.
“A unicorn!” breathed Annie. “I love him already. I’ll
show him the way!”
“But this poem is really hard to understand,” said Jack. “What kind of research book did Morgan send us?”
He picked up the book that had been left for them by Morgan le Fay, the librarian of Camelot. The cover showed a row of skyscrapers. The title was New York City Guide Book, 1938
“New York City?” said Annie. “I love New York City! Remember the great time we had there with Aunt Mallory?”
“Yeah, I love it, too,” said Jack. “But why would there be a unicorn in New York City in 1938? A unicorn is an ancient fantasy creature. New York City’s a real place, and 1938 is not even that long ago.”
“You’re right,” said Annie. “It sounds like a hard mission. But don’t forget we have Teddy and Kathleen’s magic rhymes to help us.”
“Yeah,” said Jack. He pulled out the book given to them by their friends Teddy and Kathleen, two young enchanters of Camelot. “The problem is, we can only use each rhyme once, and we’ve already used seven out of the ten.”
“Which means we still have three left,” said Annie. “What are they?”
“Pull a Cloud from the Sky
,” said Jack.
“Cool,” said Annie.
“Yeah, it is,” said Jack. “But I’m not sure it will be much use.” He looked back at the book. “Find a Treasure You Must Never Lose
,” he said.
“Hey, that’s a really good one!” said Annie. “The unicorn’s a treasure. So that rhyme could
take care of our whole mission.”
“But it only partly fits,” said Jack. “You could call the unicorn a treasure. But once we find him, we have to lose him. He has to go back home.”
“Oh, right... ,” said Annie. “What else?”
“Your favorite,” said Jack. “Turn into Ducks
Annie laughed. “I can’t wait to use that one!” she said.
“I hope we never
use that one,” said Jack. He didn’t want to waddle around and quack like a duck. “These leftover rhymes don’t seem very helpful to me.”
“Well, let’s just wait and see,” said Annie. “But now . . . ” She held up Morgan’s research book and smiled.
Jack nodded. “New York City, here we come,” he said. He pointed at the book’s cover. “I wish we could go there
The wind started to blow.
The tree house started to spin. It spun faster and faster.
Then everything was still. Absolutely still.
Copyright © 2007 by Mary Pope Osborne; illustrated by Sal Murdocca. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.