It was time for the once-a-century meeting between the ruling unicorn and the ruling pegasus. The royal groves were in chaos as everyone prepared for the rare event. Hooves were polished, coats were brushed, and every care was taken to look glossy and shiny and magical and sparkly.
The schools of interpreters sent their most senior leaders for the meeting. The pegasus interpreter arrived early to the royal grove. This time it was the unicorns’ turn to host, and he would be traveling with the royal party.
A young scribe led the elderly interpreter into the mossy waiting area. A gentle stream burbled nearby, and the interpreter ambled over to drink a few swallows of the crystal clear water. The scribe waited nearby, looking nervous.
The interpreter shook the water from his chin and turned to look at the scribe. “Are you nervous about meeting the unicorns?”
“I’ve never seen one before. Is it true that they have long horns poking out of their heads?”
The interpreter nodded. “Yes, but just one, right in the middle of their forehead.”
“Really?” The scribe stomped his foreleg in shock. “And they speak a different language? Why don’t they speak horse, like we do?”
The interpreter whickered. “They are mysterious and secretive. They developed their own language long, long, ago, and we’ve needed interpreters ever since.”
In the unicorn grove, the smallest princess was watching her mother twine flowers around her pearlescent horn. “The red ones look better,” she said.
“The red ones aren’t in bloom,” the queen said. “So pink it is.”
“Pink is boring.”
The queen nudged her child with her nose and the little princess giggled. “So are long meetings.”
“But we’ll get to see pegasuses.”
“Pegasi,” the queen corrected.
“Pegasi. Do they really have wings and fly?”
“They do.” The queen checked her reflection in the still surface of the pond. She nodded.
“But why do we need an interpreter? Don’t they speak horse like us?”
The queen whickered. “They are mysterious and secretive. They developed their own language long, long, ago, and we’ve needed interpreters ever since.”
Finally, the royal pegusus party arrived at the royal unicorn grove. The pegasus king looked around at the silvery birch trees. “This place is a dump,” he neighed.
The elderly unicorn interpreter stepped forward. “He said that he’s grateful for the hospitality.”
“You stink like garlic. I wish you’d stay away,” the unicorn king replied.
The pegasus interpreter turned to his king. “He is delighted to meet you.”
The scribes furiously copied down the official translations, as each group offered increasingly outrageous insults that were interpreted as increasingly effusive compliments. The unicorn king led the group on a tour of his grove, and somehow the smallest princess ended up trotting next to the young pegasus scribe.
“Hello. I guess you don’t understand me,” the princess said sadly.
“I think I do,” the scribe replied, looking confused. “I’m probably wrong, though. Nothing seems to mean what I think it means.”
“Everyone sounded mean, but was really being nice. It didn’t make any sense.” The princess flicked her tail in frustration.
“I thought the same thing. I wish you could speak horse. It would make things a lot easier.” The young scribe shook his mane.
The princess stopped. “But we do speak horse. All unicorns do. It’s pegasi that don’t.”
“Yes we do,” the scribe retorted. “We always have. It’s unicorns that developed their own mysterious language.”
The princess looked at the scribe. “But if we both speak horse, what was everyone else speaking?”
“Grown ups are so confusing.” The scribe snorted and the princess whickered.
“Can you play hopscotch? Flying is cheating.”
The scribe stomped his foreleg. “Of course I can. Who doesn’t play hopscotch?”
The princess and the scribe cantered off to play, leaving the grown ups to their strange game of insults and compliments. Maybe it would make sense when they were older. Or maybe it wouldn’t. Time would tell.