Kitten for the Kelpiecorn
“You’re a what?” asked the blushing maiden. Her blond
hair was restrained in a tight bun that accentuated
her high cheekbones, creating the illusion of blush
popping off of her cheek.
kelpiecorn,” I replied. “A mix of unicorn and kelpie.
I get the slimy, green scales from Mother, and the
sparkling horn from Dad.”
stunning combination.” Her voice oozed with sarcasm as
she folded her arms across her pink pinafore.
“Watch the attitude,” I said, suppressing the urge to
pull her into the lake and drown her. It would only
take a few seconds, and then her squeaky voice would
be silenced forever.
giggled. It was painfully shrill and bouncy. I bared
my teeth, slowly moving out of the water. My horn was
itching to pierce her smooth skin. Her scream would be
music and the silence bliss.
come on, Mr. Kelpiecorn, if you attack me now, you’ll
never get a kitten.”
hissed, easing my way back into the water. I did want
a kitten very badly, and I needed to stop hunting
humans or I’d attract the knights that slew Mother.
“That’s better,” she smiled. “Now, were you interested
in a male or female?”
male,” I said. “His fur needs to be white.”
batted her lashes at me, and then she made some notes
on a glittering scroll that reminded me of Dad’s dung:
cylindrical, rainbow, and covered in so much glitter
that you’d sparkle even if you touched it with a
“Alright – we have several whites available. Are there
any other, um, requirements?” she asked, staring down
at the brown water I was wading in.
needs to be snuggly and playful,” I said. “There are
plenty of trees for him to climb, birds to hunt and
reeds to play with, but when he’s tired, I want him to
sit on my back and purr. Purring is so calming.
Nothing else makes me forget about drowning people.”
“I’ll make a note of that.” Her lip twitched. She took
a careful step back from the water and looked around.
“And where do you plan to keep this kitten? They
generally don’t like water and certainly can’t breathe
narrowed my eyes. “My cottage. Only purebred kelpies
have gills. I can’t live underwater any more than the
where is this cottage?” asked the girl with a smug
I told you that, I’d have to drown you.”
“Right.” She pursed her lips and took another step
back. “While the United Empire’s Animal Rescue Society
promises not to discriminate based on species, it is
mandated that adoption agents inspect the home of the
prospective pet parents. I cannot allow you to adopt a
kitten without first inspecting your home.”
the letter said my application was approved.” I stood
up, letting her see all four of my massive legs and
the weeds dangling from my belly. A kitten would have
such fun playing with me. My stomach could shelter him
while he batted the milfoil and bladderwort.
“Your application was approved pending an interview
and home inspection. While you proved very
knowledgeable about the nutritional and exercise
requirements, you have been very vague about your
living situation. I cannot allow you to take a feline
to a home I have not deemed suitable.” She kept
backing up without breaking eye contact.
suspected she was getting ready to bolt. I stepped out
of the lake and stomped my hooves. I’d butcher the
little brat if she didn’t let me have a kitten. “My
home is suitable. My test scores prove I am qualified
to make that decision.”
girl stopped moving when her back hit a tree. I could
smell panic pouring out of her, yet even as she
trembled at the terror of being my next meal, she
mustered the courage to stand tall and square her
shoulders saying, “My opinion is the only one that
matters. If I do not approve your home, then you do
not get a kitten.”
stared into her eyes. They were blue like the kind of
shallow water Mother said was terrible for hiding in,
like the kind Dad would have lounged by if he were
looking for scantily-clad maidens to groom his coat or
purchase his glitter. This girl possessed the valiant
virtuousness Dad admired in women. If Mother hadn’t
murdered him, he would’ve liked this girl. He wouldn’t
have wanted me to harm her.
inhaled. Below the fear, I could smell faith in her
ability to survive and trust in the terrible monster
that was tempted to eat her. I breathed until my
blood ceased boiling and I no longer wanted to pin her
tiny body to the bottom of the tarn. I didn’t speak
until I was as calm as I could get without a visit
from one the feral felines who hunted in the fen.
will provide you with safe passage to and from my home
if you are accompanied by kittens. Bring three white
ones for me to meet. You and the fuzzy fur balls will
ride me to the cottage. If you do not find it
suitable, I will return you and the kittens safely to
land. If you approve, one kitten will stay with me.”
would not be a violation to delay the inspection a few
more days, especially since you did so well on your
exams. I need to confirm with my master, but I believe
we should be able to hold the meet-n-greet and
inspection simultaneously.” As the girl spoke, her
words got stronger and her shaking ceased. She held
her hand out palm up. “Do we have a deal?”
“Yes, we do indeed.” I licked her palm to confirm the
accord. My saliva was as murky as the swamp, but I was
pleased to see it sparkle in the sunlight.
“I’ll meet you here in three days,” she said, gazing
at the murky glitter on her palm.
backed far enough away so she could walk by me without
being afraid, and watched her swiftly skip away from
Three days later, the young maiden returned. This
time, she was wearing a burnt orange smock over a pale
yellow shirt and navy trousers. Three purring kittens
accompanied her. Their fur was same pure white that
Dad’s mane had been. They were beautiful creatures
that chilled the fire in my blood and softened the
stones in my heart.
Kelpiecorn!” called the girl. “I have returned as
Grinning, I rose out of the lake and trotted to meet
her on the road. “They are purrrrfect!”
beamed up at me. “Time for the inspection.”
kitten, with a fluffy mane that made its neck
indiscernible from the rest of its body, leapt from
her head to mine. He purred like a little engine, and
he rolled around between my ears.
think Snowball likes you,” said the girl.
like Snowball,” I whinnied as his whiskers tickled my
ear. “Why don’t you and the other kittens hop on my
back? I’ll give you a ride over to my home. If you sit
cross-legged, you shouldn’t get wet.
“Alright.” The girl removed two sleeping kittens from
her smock’s deep pockets and placed them near their
fluffy brother. She was about to climb on too when she
paused. “And you promise not to drown me?”
course. I will not drown you on the way to or from my
cottage. Safe passage was included in our deal.”
there are stories,” she said, taking a step back. “A
kelpie offers safe passage to a knight, but the kelpie
breaks his promise and drowns the knight or eats him,
I forget which.”
is both.” My silver mane pricked. Snowball pounced,
wrapping his body around the hair and kicking it. His
claws tickled my scales so much that I laughed,
causing him to pounce and kick until he got himself so
tangled that it was as if he were resting in a
Kelpiecorn? Are you going to drown me if I get on your
Catching my breath, I grinned at her. “Not as long as
the kittens are there. It was in my mother’s nature to
be a lying, man-eating monster, but I have my father’s
“Seducing virgins?” she asked with one eyebrow arched.
“Protecting them,” I said. “As you can see, I am not
suited for seducing anything.”
girl broke out into a fit of giggles and climbed onto
my back. She gathered the kittens into her lap and
grabbed my mane. “I’m trusting you, Mr. Kelpiecorn,
but remember, there are many knights courting me back
home. If you drown me, a host of fearsome warriors in
gleaming armor will cut your scales from your body and
turn you into a purse.”
do not doubt it, fair maiden,” I said, adopting the
formal speech of the gentry. “A rose like you must
have all manner of men trying to woo her skirt off.”
“More like all manner of morons,” she giggled.
knights are morons. That was one thing my parents
agreed on.” I slid into the murky water. The mud
squished under my hoofs, coating them in fresh slime.
The ground sloped downwards until there was nothing
under my feet but water and the feathery tips of lake
your parents both live here?” asked the maiden. “I’ve
always wanted to meet a true unicorn. If one were to
bless me, it would be acceptable for me to remain
“They’re both dead.” I kept my eyes fixed on the
“Mine too. They died of the plague when I was young.
My grandmother raised me for a while, but she died
too. That’s why I work for the adoption agency. I need
to support myself until I marry.”
“Well, it sounds like you have many options.”
snorted. “Many bad options that lead to me spending my
life cooking meals, rubbing a hairy back and scrubbing
muddy floors for some foul—smelling oaf.”
can’t you just keep working for the adoption agency?”
were halfway to the river now, and the lake was at its
deepest. I could feel the bottom pulling. This was
where Mother would murder the people that she offered
safe passage to because she knew that once they got
below a certain depth, they would never rise again. My
body couldn’t withstand the pressure that deep, so I
had always been forced to pin my victims in shallower
one does that,” muttered the girl. “Eventually they’d
fire me – probably when I wasn’t cute anymore, and no
one would want to marry me anyways. I’d be a lonely
old hag. Gods, I’d have to be a Nanny or something.”
didn’t know much about civilization, so I kept silent.
The girl, however, seemed to consider silence an
appalling state. The less I spoke, the more she
rambled about how handsome, stupid, and smelly her
suitors were. At first, her voice irritated me. There
were more than a few moments where I considered
breaking my vow and tossing her off my back.
Fortunately for the girl, the kittens were meowing,
trilling and purring in response to her stories. While
I had never felt even the tiniest drop of guilt over
slaying a human, I would never forgive myself for
killing a kitten.
journey to my cottage was a long one. Over the course
of it, I came to understand that the girl didn’t like
humans any more than I did. By the end of the first
hour, and she had not done anything but complain about
other humans whether they be suitors, co-workers or
Soon, we left the lake behind, entering a windy river.
The water was clear and shallow, a window to a
wondrous world below the surface, which was filled
with fish, rocks and weeds. There was more than one
occasion where a kitten got too excited at the sight
of a fish and leapt off my back in a foolish attempt
to catch it. Snowball proved himself a decent swimmer,
but his shorthaired brothers needed to be rescued
“It’s peaceful out here,” said the girl, sprawled out
across my back while the kittens dried themselves in
the sun. “I love it when work takes me to places free
from other humans.”
you have a name?” I asked. The water was getting
shallow enough for my hoofs to scrape the tops of the
rocks. Soon, we’d be walking again.
“Mirabella Woodsong,” she said with a sigh. “Do you
have a proper name, Mr. Kelpiecorn?”
snorted. “Mother didn’t believe in names. She said
they gave people ‘false notions of importance.’”
Mirabella giggled. “People certainly have those,
especially the knights. Did your father ever try to
hoof landed on solid rock, so I waded towards shore.
“He called me Kelpiecorn, or ‘Corny.’ He tried to take
me away from mother once, but she ended up drowning
suppose Mr. Kelpiecorn is better than Corny,” she
said. “You could have come up with your own name once
your parents were gone. Why didn’t you?”
tried,” I said, climbing up the riverbank. “But I
never thought of a good one.”
I name you?” Mirabella slid off my back. The two
shorthaired kittens followed her, but Snowball
suppose.” My cheeks were warm. I imagined if I were
human, I would be blushing. Mother would be furious,
and Dad would be pleased.
that your home?” Mirabella pointed at a cobblestone
cottage covered in so much moss that if you weren’t
looking for it, you would assume it was just part of
the landscape. I was impressed that she had spotted it
is.” I trotted ahead and pushed the door open with my
nose so she could follow me inside. There was no
furniture save a pile of blankets on the floor, but
there was a sink with a handle big enough for me to
push with my nose if I wanted to get a drink of water
without going outside. There were cabinets and
counters left over from the humans who had once lived
here, but they were dusty and unused since I had no
need for anything but a roof over my head.
wish I lived here. It’s like something out of an old
tale.” Mirabella spun around. “It could be quite cozy
with some furniture – a table, a bed and a big old
it is good enough for you, does that mean it is good
enough for a kitten? Can I keep Snowball?”
course!” she beamed. “Snowball will love it here! He
can climb rafters, hunt bugs and birds, and curl up on
the blanket with you at night. He’s lucky he gets to
stay. His brothers and I have to go back to the
I looked at her golden braids, blushing cheeks and
blue eyes. She brought a light and warmth into the old
cottage that I hadn’t seen since the day my father
showed up with an entourage of maidens meant to spirit
me away while Mother was busy hunting. When she had
dragged them to the depths, I thought I would be cold
and alone for the rest of my life. “You don’t have to
leave just yet. You can spend the afternoon.”
Mirabella’s face lit up like a firefly. “I’d love to!”
spent the rest of the day exploring the marsh around
my cottage while the kittens chased birds and frogs.
Snowball even managed to catch a few, which he
dutifully deposited in Mirabella’s lap. I pulled some
fish out of the small stream, and we had a picnic. The
cats and I ate our meal raw, but Mirabella slowly
roasted hers on the fire. Before I knew it, the sun
suppose we should get going back,” said Mirabella.
glanced up at the red ball of fire slowly sinking
beyond a horizon broken by gnarly trees. I was the
biggest fish in the pond during the day, but after
dark, nightmares roamed both land and lake. “The sun
is setting swiftly. It will be safer to spend the
night at the cottage. We can set out from there at
expected her to argue, but she just agreed with a
shrug and a look of mischief more devilish than the
kittens’ most impish expressions. “Alight. I suppose
there are worse monsters here than you?”
nodded. We watched the sun set for just another moment
before she and the kittens climbed onto my back. I
galloped to my cottage, where the five of us spent the
night all curled up on my pile of blankets.
woke to a shrill screech, followed by giggles and
“What’s wrong?” I roared as I pushed myself upright
and looked around.
Mirabella was curled up on the floor, covering her
face as laughter shook her body. The kittens prowled
around her, occasionally daring to swat her hair or
pounce on her feet.
are you laughing?” I asked looking around to find
nothing amiss. Mirabella was laughing too hard to
felt a swift pressure travel from my belly to my rump.
Recognizing the signs of an upset stomach, I fled
outside just in time to avoid pooping all over the
cottage. When I was done, I turned around to bury it
so Mirabella would not step in it, and that is when I
realized something had changed.
Normally, my dung was as black and foul as swamp muck.
Today, it was a log of glittering rainbows. I looked
down at my legs and saw my scales had turned white. I
twisted my neck, examining my body. I still bore the
scales of a kelpie, but instead of moldy green, they
were unicorn white.
galloped over to the water’s edge and studied my
reflection. Not only had my scales changed color, but
also the whole shape of my body had transformed. My
torso was leaner and longer, my snout was sharper, and
my horn was dusted in sparkling rainbows.
had once told me that unicorn magic was the most
powerful force around, but it was tied to the soul and
hard to control. Before he died, he claimed Mother’s
vile actions were poisoning me, shaping me into a
monster just like her. He believed I’d be more like
him if we lived together. I’d doubted his words then,
but now I couldn’t think of another explanation. I’d
resisted the temptation to harm Mirabella, and I even
sheltered her in my home. Somehow, the good deed had
awakened something deep inside me, and it had set a
mysterious metamorphosis in motion.
“You’re beautiful,” said Mirabella. “When the sun
rose, I watched the white slowly creep over your
scales. The kittens kept swatting the scales as they
changed, and then you farted rainbows. I was laughing
so hard I couldn’t breathe.”
Envisioning the scene, I laughed.
“You’re like real unicorn now, only with scales
instead of fur. It’s magical.” She slowly ran her hand
across my back. “I wonder if you could bless me.”
words evoked a wave of energy that began in my belly
and rolled all the way to the tip of my horn. “I think
I can. Dad told me about his magic. I even watched him
bless a maiden once. She knelt down while he did it.”
“Have faith,” she said, falling to her knees.
magic built inside me until I felt I’d explode if I
didn’t eject it. I touched the tip of my horn to her
head, letting the power flow free. Rainbows and
glitter poured forth until Mirabella was engulfed by
an iridescent cyclone of color.
it was done, we were both lying in the muck exhausted
from the blessing. She looked nearly the same as
before, except her skin had a faint glow, and her brow
was adorned with a radiant rainbow star just like the
ones Dad’s attendants had bourne.
“Thank you,” she whispered as she climbed to her feet.
“Now no one can make me marry.”
“What do you plan to do?” I slowly lifted myself to
all fours. I was a little unsteady from using so much
magic, but I felt stronger with each step forward.
“Return to the Rescue Society to give my notice, I
don’t know. I could go live at the Unicorn Temple.”
“Well, you’re welcome to stay with me as long as you
like. It was good to have company to share a meal
with, instead of having my company become the meal.”
smile melted my soul. “I think I’d like that. Perhaps
we could create a refuge for homeless cats.”
like that too, but I still need to fulfill the second
part of the bargain and return you and the two
short-haired kitties to the spot I found you in.
Snowball is already adapting to life in the wetlands,
but his brothers would be happier in a drier
suppose you’re right. It would be wise for me to make
a few public appearances before I move in permanently
or else the knights will assume you ate me.”
laughed. “Hop on board. I ate a knight once. He tasted
flying fit of giggles, Mirabella leapt onto my back
and wrapped her arms around my neck. After collecting
the two kittens I wasn’t keeping and making sure
Snowball was safely in my cottage, we set off for the
landing we originally met at. Mirabella didn’t stop
talking the whole swim back to the swamp’s border, but
I was never tempted to drown her. In fact, I found her
voice quite pleasing.
arrived at the border around midday. Mirabella hugged
me goodbye and promised to be back in a fortnight with
more longhaired cats and all her belongings.
I call you Charlie?” she placed one hand on my head.
it pleases you.”
“That was my father’s name. I think it will suit you
just fine. Goodbye, Charlie Kelpiecorn.”
“Goodbye, Mirabella Woodsong.” I couldn’t help but
grin as I watched her skip down the path. She had more
bounce in her step now and left a trail of glitter in
inside, I knew more than my appetite had changed. I
was looking forward to the day when Mirabella would
return and help me figure out just how deep my
transformation went. In the meantime, I had Snowball
to keep me company.