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Sings-to-Trees had hair the color of sunlight and ashes, delicately pointed ears, and eyes the translucent green of new leaves. His shirt was off, revealing the sort of tanned muscle acquired from years of healthy outdoor living, and you could have sharpened a sword on his cheekbones.

He was saved from being a young maiden’s fantasy—unless she was a very peculiar young maiden—by the fact that he was buried up to the shoulder in the unpleasant end of a heavily pregnant unicorn. Bits of unicorn dung, which was not noticeably more ethereal than horse dung, were sliding down his arm, and every time the mare had a contraction, he lost feeling in his hand.

It had been nearly two hours, the ground was hard and cold and his knees felt like live coals wrapped in ice. She’d kicked him twice, and if Sings-to-Trees hadn’t known that it was impossible, he’d have begun to suspect that the unicorn had arranged a breech birth out of spite.

No, he was being unfair. It couldn’t be any more fun for her than it was for him. Just because he didn’t really like unicorns, he shouldn’t let it cloud his judgment.

He sighed, and tried yet again to get a grip on one of the foal’s legs. Unicorn foals had hooves as delicate as glass bells, naturally, and however adorable they were when tripping lightly ‘cross the meadow, they were pure torture to try and get a grip on in the slippery less-than-hospitable environment inside the unicorn.

If he could just get the little monster turned around, a few good pushes should do it. The problem was getting a good grip. He rode out another contraction with gritted teeth.

Sings-to-Trees loved all living creatures with a broad, impartial love, the sort of love that rescues baby bats and stays up nights feeding them, one drop of milk and mealworms at a time. He splinted the legs of injured deer and picked ticks off the ears of foxes and gave charcoal to colicky wyverns. No beast was too ugly, too monstrous, too troublesome. He had once donned smoked glass goggles and shoulder-length cowhide gloves, and sat up with an eggbound cockatrice for three days, giving it calcium tablets and oiling its cloacal vents every four hours. Since he’d been nursing a pocketful of baby hummingbirds at the time, which had to be fed sugar water every fifteen minutes sixteen hours out of the day, it had been quite an extraordinary three days, and he still had nightmares about it.

But he’d never really warmed to unicorns. Possibly it was because they didn’t need him. Regular elves loved unicorns, as they loved all beautiful creatures, and a unicorn with so much as a stubbed hoof could turn up at the door of any elf in the world and be assured of the royal treatment. Sings-to-Trees hardly ever had to deal with them, and he preferred it that way.

But when somebody needed to actually reach a hand in there and turn a foal around, suddenly the unicorn lovers of the world melted away, and it was down to Sings-to-Trees and a barn and a bucket of soapy water. And the hind end of the unicorn, of course.

As if to punctuate this thought, the unicorn kicked him again. He grunted. He was pretty sure the mare was smart enough to know that he was helping her, he just didn’t think she cared.

He got a grip on something that felt like a wee little hock, and started the tricky process of hauling, coaxing, and generally begging the tiny creature to turn around. Another contraction came along, and he willed his numb fingers to hold on to the foal’s leg. His fingers laughed at him.

Give him trolls any day. A thousand pounds of muscle and bone, froggish goatish creatures the size of grizzly bears, with enormous curling horns that could smash through a concrete wall, and they were ideal patients. They might not be any more talkative than unicorns, but they understood every word you said, and if they had come to you for help, they’d trust you to the ends of the earth. You could saw off a troll’s leg, and it would look at you with huge, tearful eyes the size of dinner plates and hold still while you did it. And if you told them to come back in a week for a check up, they’d be there as soon as the sun went down, squatting patiently in the vegetable patch, ready to be poked and prodded all over again. Sings-to-Trees quite liked trolls. And they were grateful, too—not a month went by when he didn’t wake up to see gigantic cloven hoofprints around the yard, and half a billy-goat left draped across a tree stump. Not like unicorns. As soon as the foal was able to walk, the mare would be gone like a shot, and he’d never see her again.

Come to think of it, maybe that wasn’t a bad thing.

“Okay,” he said to the unicorn, mildly surprised at the weariness in his own voice, “I think I’ve got it presenting right. Let’s give this a try…PUSH!”

The mare pushed. He pulled. There was a brief horrible moment where nothing happened and Sings-to-Trees saw another two hours of internal fumbling ahead of him, and then with almost absurd ease, the foal slid out and hit him in the chest, the mare grunted in triumph, and he fell over backwards with his arms full of slimy baby unicorn.

Its first act was to kick him with its adorable little hooves. He gazed at the barn rafters while it beat a tattoo on his ribs. It hurt, but not as much as his knees did.

Okay. Not much more to go. He could handle this.

He staggered upright, shuffled on his knees to the end of the unicorn he hadn’t seen much of this evening, and dumped the foal in front of her.

She bent down, snuffled at the tiny creature, tapped it delicately with her foot-long horn as if to test it, and then began licking at its damp white hide. The bedraggled foal lifted its muzzle and made a faint squeaky snort of protest.

Sings-to-Trees was aware that at another time, this scene would be pure magic, even to someone who didn’t much care for unicorns, a reaffirmation of everything good and noble in the world. But there was gunk from the hind end of a unicorn plastered clear up the side of his face, delicate hoof prints turning purple across his ribcage, and he felt about a thousand years old.

He got painfully to his feet—-his knees had moved through the on-fire stage and now felt as if tiny lightning storms were raging under the caps—-and staggered to the other end of the barn, where a bucket of water and soap were waiting for him.

The water had been warm a few hours ago. It was icy now. The soap was a tiny yellow iceberg in a frozen sea. His right arm, which had been the one inside the unicorn, was red and white and bruising magnificently where contractions had smacked his bicep repeatedly against the mare’s pelvic bones, and there was unicorn crap and amniotic fluid and bits of straw all over him.

He glanced back at the mother and child, who were arranged in a beautifully domestic scene, as tranquil as the dawn. White hide glowed in the muted lamplight of the barn. You’d never know she’d spent hours in labor. That was unicorns for you.

He looked down into the bucket. The soap winked balefully at him. He sighed and began washing up.

Pausing only to make sure that the afterbirth had gotten passed with no difficulties—he considered patting the foal, but the mare, ingrate that she was, stamped a hoof at him and lowered her horn warningly—Sings-to-Trees limped out of the barn.

The moon glared down like a bar of soap in a bucket of cold sky. The path up to the house was packed earth, washed blue and black in the moonlight, and approximately a thousand miles long. Several ages of the earth passed while he toiled up to the house, punctuated by the bright jangle of pain from his knees.

A coyote with one eye and a ragged ear was stretched out across the porch rug, and when the elf was close enough, it lifted its head, pricked up the good ear, and came down to meet him. A cold nose touched his hand, and the tail made a careless motion that was certainly not a wag—Fleabane had a certain amount of dignity, despite his name—but might conceivably be mistaken for one. Sings-to-Trees wound a cold hand in the coarse hair behind the coyote’s ears and rubbed affectionately. They walked the last few yards up to the house together, and then Fleabane flopped back down on the rug and Sings-to-Trees went inside.

There were animals to be fed yet—a bat hanging upside down in the closet who was thankfully past needing ground mealworms shoved down its throat, an orphaned raccoon who was just starting on solid foods and needed warm milk with a little bread, and of course the gargoyle. He dumped a half handful of mealworms on the closet floor, heard a grumpy chitter in response, and left the bat to its own devices.

There was half a cold chicken left, and he divided it up carefully, a quarter for a sandwich, and three quarters for the gargoyle. He built up the fire, and set milk to warm by the hearth. The warmth was wonderful, if painful on his cold hands, and he started to sink down into the rug in front of the fireplace, caught himself, and lurched to his feet. He didn’t dare stop moving. If he sat down to rest, he wasn’t going to get back up in a hurry.

The back door opened with a wooden groan. Spring was well advanced, and the nights were fairly warm, but it was closer to dawn than midnight, and Sings-to-Trees realized immediately that he had neglected to put a shirt on. He took three steps forward, shivering, turned, and hucked the battered remains of the chicken onto the roof.

A stony chuckling came down to him, followed by the crunch of chicken bones. Satisfied, Sings-to-Trees went back inside to feed the raccoon.

He must have made tea at some point, because when he woke up, there was a stone cold mug of it next to his elbow, and a half-eaten sandwich sliding off his knee towards the floor. The raccoon cub was asleep in his lap, in the wreckage of what had been a saucer full of bread soaked in warm milk. Perhaps it was just as well he hadn’t bothered with a shirt.

It looked like most of the milk had gone into the raccoon, anyway, and his sandwich had a distinctly gnawed look. Some days that was all you could ask for.

He gave up even pretending he was awake, put the raccoon to bed, toweled the remnants of both their dinners off as best he could, and limped to the bedroom. He had just enough energy to remove his shoes, and then sleep crept up and hit him.
A scrap of prose about my favorite elf, the long-suffering tender of magical beasties, Sings-to-Trees--been working on a story and he popped up. I'm not sure if he'll stay there, but for the moment, it's amusing. There's a few paintings of him elsewhere in my gallery--[link] [link] and [link] and I've always had a soft spot for him, somewhere at the unholy crossroads between high fantasy and James Herriot. And hey, since I haven't inflicted any writing on y'all in quite awhile...
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Daily Deviation

Given 2008-04-09
Just when you thought you'd read all there was in fantasy, ~ursulav surprises you by piling clichés in new ways for the brief character sketch, An Evening With Sings-to-Trees. ( Featured by GeneratingHype )
Hakuba Featured By Owner Sep 13, 2006
=D I hope you write more stories about Sings-to-Trees. ^.^ Your sense of humour and his character combine so very well!
3vil-Bunny Featured By Owner Sep 13, 2006
I enjoyed reading this.

By the way, have you help a mare give birth? The description sounded so real.
ursulav Featured By Owner Sep 14, 2006
There was a stretch of my life where practically all the women I knew were large animal vet students. I've never done it myself, but I've heard stories...
Zer05um Featured By Owner Sep 13, 2006  Professional General Artist
I love this one Ursula. Love it.
KatTheGrrreat Featured By Owner Sep 13, 2006  Professional General Artist
aww.. what a sweetheart.. :)

I love your stories! They're such fun to read
tigressinger Featured By Owner Sep 13, 2006  Professional Digital Artist
I love Sings-to-Trees! What a great character. ^^
Skylanth Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2006  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
Yeah, the vet in All Creatures Great and Small was always trying to deliver difficult baby sheep and cows and horses and anything else. This is a wonderful bit of writing, very enjoyable.
spazfroggie Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2006  Hobbyist Photographer
Awesome! Man, I would love to read a full story about this guy, because this is the kind of thing I find extremely amusing. Particularly the ungratefulness of unicorns. :D
AnthroFuz Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2006
He is a very wonderful and unique charater, and I love your stories about him ^.^ Thank you very much!!
AsThingsFadeAway Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2006
I love this story. It was so well done and
couldn't fit his expression better. great jobQ
mysticfox Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2006
What a wonderful story I sure hope that you do more !!!
ImaginaryGoddess Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2006
Hee hee as soon as I read the first few sentences I was like "All Creatures Great and Small :heart: :heart: :heart:!!" I love it!
shadowghost13 Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2006   Writer
lol, before i read the description i was JUST thinking 'wow, this sounds a lot like james herriot' whom i also love. popular section for the win!!!!
Cabres Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2006
This is the FIRST time I ever saw a writing take the "popular" section. Wow
ursulav Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2006
*cough* I gotta admit, that kinda startled me too...
Cabres Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2006
I know. I guess Kudos to you. I'm a "writing-only" deviant. So, maybe one day, I might be as lucky as you. *wishes on a star*
ArwenSol Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2006  Hobbyist General Artist
Loved it! :clap:
Raven-and-Fox Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2006  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
A wonderful story on my favorite character!
tegu Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2006
Sings-To-Trees is probably my favorite of your varied creations. Yay for writings about him!

VioletVampireVixen Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2006  Professional Digital Artist
|3 Those darn unicorns. Very nicely written :D
Jayara Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2006
And I can completely understand why you can't leave this character alone. The character you have set up for this elf is refreshing and your tale is well written. ^-^
Katimazie Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2006
Awww, Sings-To-Trees. He's got such a good heart, even if it gets him into unplesant places. Considering how much work he does, I hope he finds somebody who's willing to help stay up with him for countless hours feeding small creatures and doing all sorts of crazy things for the sake of making animals happy.

Then again, I bet they'd both be dead tired for most of the time.
PigeonCrowz Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2006
Wow, as usual you've written a great story. I'm sometimes afraid to start some of these because I know I won't stop till I've finished!

Sings-to-Trees has certainly captured my heart anyway, and I'll have to check out the other work you've done with him. :)
HobbsEnd Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2006  Professional General Artist
I can just see him havnig to show some nieve little one the truth about being an all loving and caring tender of mystical animals..."Look, it's about to...oh god...OH GOD" Followed by Sings-to-Trees just smirking.
Nikkoish Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2006
Yes! You've no idea how absolutely elated I was at seeing his name in the title. I LOVE this character so much- /so/ glad to see more of him.
But even then, Sings isn't my main love of this. It's just the idea itself- GREAT idea. Never even imagined how unpleasant this would be- no clue where you got the knowledge for this from but admire ya for it. And I like his musings immensely. Unicorns never DO do anything but stand around and look pretty, do they? Heh. Love your insight.
empresskyrav Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2006  Hobbyist General Artist
annelune Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2006  Hobbyist General Artist
Ahh see now *thats* what its all like really, all these magical beasties gotta give birth!
Good on you and Sings-to-Trees!
LaGuillotine Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2006
OMGAWD Sings-to-Trees rocks so very hard:giggle:
WarpedOrbit Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2006
You should definitely be writing a book.
evacorges Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2006
Bewitching! Read it from beginning through finish and I want More!
Please ? :batseyelidssweetly: :)
109cita Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2006  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
I do love Sings-to-Trees!
Can we expect more pictues of him?
He's so adorable!
I thoroughly enjoyed this. I read James Herriot books when I was younger, back when I thought I loved animals (the books themselves may have played a part in my disillusionment with horses and other romanticized animals - that and my first riding lesson) but they definitely instilled in me a great respect for anyone who truly does have that kind of love for animals - that they can be shoulder deep in the most disgusting places and have no hope of gratitude or reward, and yet still be doing it.
IceyArticuno Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2006
...Nope. Still love the man. XD My admiration of him has grown a lot since you first popped him up before my eyes. He comes across as woefully charming and quite the positive thinker. How I adore him. ;)
And you, madame, you write wonderfully. *shakes head* Truthfully, I've no idea as to how you manage to keep yourself from becoming a master at it and selling yards upon yards of books with which to satisfy the masses with your cheeky and most undoubtedly scathingly hysterical writing.
You. Freaking. Rock.
annafantasia Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2006
This made me smile! And it was nice to see you were thinking of James Herriot, because this totally reminded me of him - in a good way. : )
KentuckyFriedBonBon Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2006
the ground were hard and cold

That seems a bit grammatical whoops, but other than that - so awesome. :D
shinigaminoryuu Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2006
That was awesome :) Very inspiring and many a laugh was earned. I would /love/ to see and read more about this guy :)
Cozie Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2006  Hobbyist General Artist
My dad used to be a cattle farmer; I remember seeing this arm-buried-up-to-the shoulder scene.
And I think "poketful of hummingbirds" might just have to become my new favourite saying.
NezumizDarkWish Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2006
Whee~ I'm very grateful you did "inflict" your writing once more on the DevArt community. ^^ I love your style of writing~ =D
Nice job with this; the unsugarcoated fantasy perspective is little used and vastly entertaining. *bounces off happily*
CraigInATin Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2006
Thats magnificent! Right a book!
Razzek Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2006  Professional Traditional Artist
That was rather nasty in a most eloquent way. :D I love your prose style. And I daresay Sings-To-Trees has aquired (another?) fangirl (i.e. me), poor fellow. >D It's delightful to see an elf who isn't a total fop or a horrible Mary Sue. I've always admired your ability to take the chliche and mundane and make it weirdly sensical. :)
Aufiel Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2006
I read the story before I read your author comment/summary thing, and I was gonna -say--- the line about the rock-hard soap and the icy water reminded me of James Herriot. <3 Fantastic.
Project-Eidola Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2006   Writer
i already admired you greatly as an artist, but now i embrace you as a writer as well ^_^
ZaneSama Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2006
Interesting that you mentioned James Herriot in the description, I kept thinking of him while reading this. ^^; Al Creatures Great and Small indeed.

I like Sings to Trees, he's a great character. Nature lover, hot *and* nice. Great combo. :nod:

And I like your take on unicorns too. Bitchiness suits 'em.
Wind-and-Wings Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2006
Ursula, I hate mornings, but you just made this morning special.
planetperth Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2006
very cool......will there be more stories some day?
KJanuary Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2006
Best thing I have read all week... It's good to see Sings-To-Trees in action!
OpalMist Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2006
NarcOfBlyx Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2006
I love it. The side of unicorns we never see in any of the books. :heart:
freerangepenguin Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2006
I love it. Sings-to-Trees has to be one of my favorite characters from your work, and it was nice to get this glimpse of what daily life would be like for him. 'Twas a good read. :thumbsup:
evilstorm Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2006
Oh, I LOVE this. James Herriot was a childhood hero, and I've always loved high fantasy, so--you win at life.
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