The story you are about to hear is true. The names were changed to protect the innocent.
When Covid-19 hit the United States, I was temporarily cut off from just about everything: I was put on furlough from my job, the library – then my only source of accessing the internet – was shut down so I couldn’t get on the computer, and my weekly game of Dungeons & Dragons was put on hold because the comic store wouldn’t let more than ten people in at a time. My entire life seemed to be in a state of hibernation, and I drearily lived each day in a state of growing depression, with long walks being my only source of enjoyment. Almost everything I used to love was either out of my reach or no longer was able to pull me out of my funk.
Eventually, I could stand the misery no more. I was tired of feeling tired, and I decided to do something about it. My younger sister, M, had always been very interested in D&D, so I asked her if she’d like to play a few games by herself, as no one else in my family was interested. It would just be the two of us playing, but I didn’t care and thankfully neither did M, who rolled up a character with a little help from her big brother.
Her character was a human Warlock of the Archfey named Fianna. Fianna had never known her birth parents, having been raised in the woods by fairies. On her eighteenth birthday, her fey fam had been murdered by a band of warriors who had the sigil of a crimson crown emblazoned on their armor. Orphaned and alone, Fianna set out on a quest to track these villains down to avenge the death of her family, travelling across the realm and meeting other humans for the first time ever.
Whilst travelling through the woods on her way to a small kingdom called Claymore, a random encounter was rolled and Fianna heard the sound of crying echoing through the mist-shrouded forest. She snuck toward the sound with her rod of the pact keeper drawn, fearing that it might be some sort of trick, like a monster that mimicked distressed voices to lure in prey. No fearsome beast was lurking in wait, however, for when Fianna found the source of the wailing it proved to be a pitiful orphan girl who had gotten lost in the woods.
The child’s name was Callista and she was a tiefling who had been abandoned as a baby on the doorsteps of the orphanage in Claymore. As you might imagine, she was an absolute woobie. Callista had never been adopted because of her infernal heritage and was largely shunned by the rest of the townsfolk, if not outright tormented for being a “cursed devil’s child.” She lived alone with the orphanage’s matron, as all of the other children had been adopted over the years. Callista was old enough to know why she had been denied a family and was miserable because of it, truly believing herself to be cursed. The only thing that brought her hope was an old nursery rhyme about unicorns, and how they would visit and befriend good little girls – kind of a child-friendly take on how unicorns in real-world mythology were said to tolerate only the presence of virgins.
That nursery rhyme was why Callista had run away from home and braved the depths of the forest. She had long dreamed of seeing a unicorn, of having undeniable proof that she was a good person and not destined for evil. The poor girl wandered for three days in the wilderness looking for the unicorn who was rumored to live there, but she never found one. When Fianna found Callista, she was malnourished, lost, and nearly hysterical. Fianna, having grown up amongst the fey, had no idea what a tiefling was but knew that a small child such as this wouldn’t survive in the woods long. She fed Callista and escorted her through the wilderness to Claymore, where she was returned to the orphanage, defending her from monsters and bandits along the way.
Fianna felt sorry for Callista and decided to hang out with the girl while she was in Claymore. She slept in the mostly vacant orphanage at the insistence of the elderly matron, who was grateful to Fianna for rescuing Callista. Callista, for her part, was happy to have Fianna around, as the warlock was a fellow orphan and could empathize with her plight. The little tiefling hoped that Fianna would stay forever, as it was sort of like having a big sister who could throw eldritch blasts at monsters. Both Callista and the matron hoped that maybe Fianna would adopt Callista, but Fianna never even considered it, as she had a quest for vengeance to complete as well as no idea of how to raise a child. Still, she was happy to play the part as big sis warlock
Fianna remained at the orphanage for a time until a plot hook came a-calling: the princess of Claymore has been kidnapped from her matchmaking ceremony by a bandit chief, and the king begged Fianna to rescue his daughter. Fianna agreed, as the king had very kindly allowed her to use his private library to study the crimson crown sigil worn by the evil knights she was hunting. She plunged into the misty forest once again and was able to quickly pick up the bandits’ trail.
As Fianna crept through the woods, a random encountered was rolled. She found herself standing in a moonlit glen, shrouded with mists and surrounded by ancient and gnarled oak trees. A babbling brook, its surface shimmering with the lights of the stars above, snaked across the forest floor. Standing at the edge of the brook, with head bent to drink from its crystal-clear waters, was a unicorn with a silvery white coat and ebony mane, its horn gleaming with pearlescent radiance under the moon. Fianna was surprised, but approached the unicorn as a friend, and the celestial steed introduced herself as Sabella, guardian of the forest, who was tracking down the bandits herself so she could drive them away from her sacred ground. Seeing as the two had a common foe, Fianna and Sabella decided to unite to defeat the bandits and rescue the princess.
What followed was a brief but brutal combat encounter in the bandits’ lair. Fianna was built to be an eldritch blasting machine and she had made a few spell scrolls for her hex spell so she could consistently do even more damage to her foes. Sabella had legendary actions that allowed her to heal herself and Fianna, and was just goring bandits left and right in surprisingly brutal fashion. Together, they were able to vanquish the wereboar leader of the bandits and his lieutenants, and drove what rogues who survived out of the forest. The princess was rescued and the day was saved.
When Fianna returned to Claymore with the princess in tow, she was showered with praise and wealth from the grateful king. Sabella didn’t return to Claymore with Fianna, however, as she had no desire for accolades or fortune. She was very grateful to Fianna, however, and told the warlock if she ever needed the aid of a unicorn that all she had to do was ask Sabella. Fianna decided to call in that favor almost immediately, but rather than use it to get a powerful NPC follower with magical attacks, teleportation powers, healing magic, and both lair and legendary actions, she decided to ask the unicorn for something a little less adventurous, but a lot more heartwarming.
That night, Fianna was enjoying supper at the orphanage with Castilla and the matron. Their conversation was interrupted by the sudden sound of trotting hooves coming up the lane, followed by a loud knock on the door. The matron, not knowing who would visit at such a late hour, rose to answer the door, and was shocked into silence by who she saw on the other side.
Sabella the unicorn grandly trotted into the orphanage and said, “I understand that there is a good little girl here who has yet to see a unicorn.”
That night, the peaceful slumber of the townsfolk was interrupted by a strange sound that echoed through the streets: the sound of a horse galloping at full trot down the cobblestone roads, and the shrieking, delighted laughter of a little girl. Few investigated the sound, but those who did were startled to witness the peculiar sight of a small tiefling child riding on the back of a magnificent unicorn under the light of the moon, with tears of joy streaking down her face.
This story is kind of cheesy, I know, but it’s a good kind of cheesy, the kind of cheesy that I think the world could use a little of right now. The real world has a lot of misery in it, and I think one of the advantages of tabletop games is that the horrible things we’re helpless to stop in real life can be faced and conquered in fiction. Callista may have been abandoned by her parents and was living in an orphanage, but that visit from Sabella gave her self-confidence and hope again, as well as a unicorn buddy, and it was all thanks to Fianna. It was a memorable and charming moment from a game I ran for my sister, and remains one of my favorite stories of my time running Dungeons & Dragons.