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Peter S. Beagle's Immortal Unicorn

Peter S. Beagle's Immortal Unicorn

by Peter S. Beagle, Martin H. Greenberg (Editor), Janet Berliner
Let Your Imagination Run Free

Peter S. Beagle's international classic The Last Unicorn has captivated readers for three decades. Now Beagle is back, with the help of co-editor Janet Berliner, with this magical volume of legendary stories that capture the essence of this best-loved mythical creature of all time and explore its immortal allure.



Let Your Imagination Run Free

Peter S. Beagle's international classic The Last Unicorn has captivated readers for three decades. Now Beagle is back, with the help of co-editor Janet Berliner, with this magical volume of legendary stories that capture the essence of this best-loved mythical creature of all time and explore its immortal allure.

In this second volume of tales from Peter S. Beagle's Immortal Unicorn are fifteen more astonishing, delightful, and breathtaking stories by today's top fantasy authors—including a story original to this paperback edition by Peter S. Beagle himself.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Beagle's 1968 novel, The Last Unicorn, is a benchmark of contemporary mythic fantasy; here, Beagle and Berliner present a noteworthy anthology of original fiction featuring unicorns. In general, the 27 stories are satisfying and often strikingly well-written. Some horror authors are represented (including Lucy Taylor and Melanie Tem), and many stories have grim and horrific elements. Science fiction concepts work well in stories by Judith Tarr (``Dame la Licorne'') and Susan Schwartz (``The Tenth Worthy''). Many of the tales also demonstrate the virtues of realistic fiction, with well-drawn characters in settings from the familiar to exotic cultures-remote Alaska, the Mongolian empire, the Chinese ghetto in post-Gold Rush San Francisco. Yet all are also mythic in the best sense, including Beagle's bravura performance in his own new story, ``Professor Gottesman and the Indian Rhinoceros.'' (Oct.)
Roland Green
Theme anthologies are often mixed bags, and one on that overused fantasy motif, the unicorn, might easily be among the worst. Rest easy. Beagle, author of the contemporary fantasy classic "The Last Unicorn" (1968), and his collaborator, whom he credits with the lion's share of editorial work, give us what may be the year's best anthology of new stories. None of the unicorns here is cute, some are barely corporeal (e.g., the unicorn tattoo in Dave Smeds' "Survivor" ), others resemble Judith Tarr's beloved Lipizzan horses in "Dame ala Licorne," and the attributes of the rest span a wide gamut. The settings, treatment, and tone of the 27 stories differ widely, too, and not one of them is less than readable--this goes even for pieces from such surprising hands, in this context, as Kevin Anderson and Rebecca Moesta (better known for Star Wars fiction) and martial-arts thriller scribe Eric Lustbader, whose gritty realism somehow fits in well here. A very good choice for fantasy collections.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.46(w) x 9.60(h) x 1.69(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Taken He Cannot Be

THINGS DIE. THIS IS THE LESSON THAT EVERYONE LEARNS. Some do not learn it until the instant before death, but we all learn it. We pass our final exam by dying. Dr. John Henry Holliday earned his diploma from the school of life at a younger age than most. At twenty, he had been told that consumption would kill him in six months, yet at thirty, he still lingered around the campus. He supposed he was a tenured professor of death, which made him laugh, which made him cough, which made him think about the man they had come to meet and kill.

He rode through the midsummer heat beside his best friend, Wyatt Berry Stapp Earp. They had both grown beards to disguise themselves, and they had dressed like cowboys instead of townsmen. No one who saw them pass at a distance would recognize the dentist-turned-gambler or Tombstone's former deputy sheriff, both wanted in Arizona on charges of murder.

They rode to kill John Ringgold, better known as Johnny Ringo. Wyatt had said that Wells Fargo would pay for Ringo's demise, and Doc had always believed in being paid to do what you would do cheerfully for free.

He did not know or care how much Wells Fargo might pay. He was not sure whether Wells Fargo had made an offer, or Wyatt had merely assumed the coach line would show its gratitude for the death of the last leader of the Clanton gang. Doc knew Wyatt had asked him to come kill Johnny Ringo, and that sufficed. Had anyone asked him why he agreed, he would have said he had no prior engagements. The only person who might have asked would have been Big Nose Kate Elder, and she had left him long ago.

The brown hillsstirred frequently as they rode. The two riders always looked at motion-in a land where bandits waited for their piece of wealth from the booming silver mines, you always looked. They never expected more than sunlight on quartz, or dust in a hot puff of wind, or a lizard darting for food or shelter. Vision was simultaneously more powerful and less trustworthy in this dry land. The eye saw far in the parched atmosphere, but it did not always see truthfully.

The unicorn showed itself on a rise. Doc never thought that it might be a wild horse. Though it was the size of a horse, it did not move like a horse, and he had never seen a horse with such white, shaggy fur, and that long, dark spear of its horn left no doubt, at least not in a person who lived by assessing situations instantly, then acting.

Doc acted by not acting: He did not flinch or blink or gasp or look away in order to look back. If this apparition was his private fantasy, he would not trouble Wyatt with its existence. If it was not, Wyatt would say something.

And Wyatt did. "Doc?"


"What's that critter?"



They rode for another minute or two. The unicorn remained on the ridge. Its head moved slightly to follow them as they passed.

Wyatt said, "What's a unicorn?"

"In Araby they call it cartajan.Means 'lord of the desert."'

"I can see that."

"'The cruelest is the unicorn, a monster that belloweth horribly, bodied like a horse, footed like an elephant, tailed like a swine, and headed like a stag. His horn sticketh out of the midst of his forehead, of a wonderful brightness about four foot long, so sharp, that whatsoever he pusheth at, he striketh it through easily. He is never caught alive; killed he may be, but taken he cannot be."'

"Huh. Shakespeare or the Bible?"

"Some old-time Roman named Solinus, translated by some old-time Englishman who might've supped with Master Will and King Jim."

'61 ain't never seen no unicorn before."

"Nor yet. That's a mirage. A will-o'-the-wisp. The product of a fevered brain."

"I reckon you're contagious, then."

Doc laughed, then coughed, then said, "Well, ain't no one known to've seen one before. Not for sure. An that's written down is travelers' tales, 'bout things they heard but never saw."

"We're the first to spot one?"

"In centuries. Far as I know."

"What do you think a circus'd pay for a critter like that?"

Doc laughed and coughed again. "Have to catch it first. It being a bastard of the mind, I reckon it'd race as fleet as a thought."

"Faster 'n horses?"

"S'posed to be."

"We could comer it in a box canyon, maybe."

'That horn ain't s'posed to be for decoration."

"Animal worth anything dead?"

"Depends on die buyer."

"Could stuff and stand it in a penny arcade. I seen a mermaid once. Looked like a monkey and a fish sewed together, but you got to admit, a sight like that's worth a penny!"

"At least." Doc was rarely reluctant to tell anything to Wyatt, but he hesitated before he finally said, "Horn's s'posed to cure most sicknesses." He coughed. 'Turn the horn into a drinking cup, and it takes the power out of poison. You can smear its blood on a wound, and the wound'll heal right up. Some say its whole body's magical. You're s'posed to eat its liver for something, but I forget what. There's folks who say it can make you young again, or live forever, or raise the dead."

"Any o' that true?"

Doc shrugged. 'Three minutes ago, I would'a said it was all proof a lie lives longer than a liar. Now I'm not so sure.

"Let's find out." Wyatt drew on the reins. As his horse halted, he dropped to the ground and pulled his rifle from its boot on his saddle.

Meet the Author

Peter S. Beagle is one of the world's best-loved fantasy authors and screenwriters. His best known book, The Last Unicorn, was published in 1968 and was made into a popular animated film in 1982. Beagle also wrote the screenplay to the 1978 animated The Lord of the Rings movie and others. He has written and contributed to more than 30 novels and story collections, including his first book A Fine and Private Place and well-received The Folk of the Air. In 2011 he was presented with the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement.

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