In the world of Metamor Unicorns are seen even more rarely than dragons, reclusive creatures which are related to nature spirits though in and of themselves are extremely long-lived mortal beings.
Caprine in general body physique with subtle equine traits, Unicorns are typically somewhat large animals about the size of a mule-deer or elk; or a smallish horse. They stand about thirteen hands at their shoulders and weigh between 700 and 1100 pounds. The coat of a unicorn is a pearlescent white that seems to glow with preturnatural purity, but should they stand still in any environment their coat reflects their surroundings making them extremely difficult to see when they are purposefully remaining still. A long, flowing mane graces the neck of a unicorn in typical equine fasion, while their tail is long and leonine with a pronounced tuft and smaller mane-ridge running along the crest.
The texture of coat and mane is finer than silk and highly prized for its innate magical nature and intrinsic toughness. Possession of a unicorn pelt is grounds for execution in many magically aware kingdoms, in areas with active nature spirits, and Aelves, regardless of the manner in which the pelt was aquired. Likewise with a unicorn's 'alicorn' or horn.
This horn is a hollow spiral generally two to three feet in length coming to a solid point. Coloration of the horn can vary anywhere from mother-of-pearl to black or any other color.
Unicorns are naturally magical creatures but are typically not spellcasters or the like (there have been rumors of Unicorns learning Sorcery, but nothing has ever been proven). They naturally draw ambient magics into themselves and act as vast magical 'batteries' (not that such power can be freely drawn upon, the Unicorn must release it willingly). This persists long after their death making the bodily components of Unicorns extremly potent alchemical ingredients. This magic allows them to exersize many innate magical abilities for their own use or to aid those they choose.
Chiefly and most widely known is the healing and purification properties of the unicorn's horn. A unicorn can purify any consumable (food & water) of poisons, toxins, or decay with a single willing touch. Powdered Unicorn horn also has some of these properties but in far weaker strength and reliability.
The touch of a unicorn's horn, lips, or tears can heal grievious wounds, infirmaties, scars, diseases and poisoning. Essentially any corporeal injury to the flesh, but not magical afflictions such as curses, transformations, or the like.
A unicorn will heal itself naturally by an extremely powerful regenerative ability. The more ambient magic available to them the more potent all of their innate capabilities.
In areas where magic is corrupted it will begin to corrupt the unicorn and some such beasts have been seen in areas where dark magic gathers and lingers.
Where magic is absent a Unicorn will weaken and eventually, after becoming nothing more than a mundane deer-like beast and loosing all of its magical properties, dies.
Of note are the many little-known physiological traits of Unicorns that can prove more dangerous to a would-be Unicorn hunter than the denizens of the forests in which they secret themselves.
Due to having a higher metabolism than other grazing rhuminants of similar size Unicorns are semi-omniverous. While much of the time the larger portion, 80%, of their diet is forrage they are known to hunt small prey to supplement this diet. Unicorns do not consume carrion. The canine teeth of a Unicorn are pronounced but do not extend below the upper lip though a contour of them can be seen under the lip if one looked closely. The edges of their molars and insizers have cutting edges but meat is masticated in the same manner as plants. Their canines are oblate in cross-section, rounded on the leading edge while the rear of the tooth is a cutting edge from gum to tip.
The hooves of the unicorn are bifurcated identically to large deer and the leading points of each hoof are kept dangerously sharp, acting as claws when attacking prey or other dangers. The Unicorn's horn is kept sharp by rubbing on rocks or being drawn between the slot of their hooves.
Mares or Does, depending on the culture referring to them, have considerable differances in temperment and physiological aspectation during their ovulation cycle. They do not follow a set cycle of ovulation but on average enter estrus between three and four times a year when their magical energies and the environment reach a desired balance. Though the frequency of their estrus cycle is high their fertility rate is extremely low meaning that in any given century a pair of unicorns may drop only one or two foals.
Entering estrus is a highly stressful period for a female Unicorn, burning through their magic and body with a highly amplified metabolic process. They become extremely aggressive and entirely predatory, hunting larger prey while their bodies undergo a marked physical change to a more carniverous aspect (teeth becoming fully leonine, hoof edges becoming even more claw-like). After hunting and sharing their kill the Unicorns mate. The frequency of their post-kill mating is not known, but they are not known to hunt aggressively unless no larger prey is available.
While going through estrus a female Unicorn may consume up to her body weight in prey, in the process loose as much as fifteen percent of her body mass through metabolic accelleration. During this time they call in much the same way as felines but there is nothing beauteous about these sounds, intended to frighten away interlopers more than call in prospective mates.
It is hypothesized that, being sentient beings, Unicorns enjoy coitus during non-estrus periods but if this is true it has never been explored due to the reclusive nature of the creatures.
Where reproduction is successful the foal is carried for twenty-seven months. As the Mare reaches the end of her pregnancy she enters an estrus-like period of predatory aggressiveness to secure her birthing area and supplement her metabolism for the birthing process.
Unicorns are indeed sentient beings, due to their magical nature rather than the accrual of known civil centers.
They travel in small groups, typically family or mating creches, from two to ten members spanning large territories typically in or near major forests. The territories of any given gathering of Unicorns, called a Dance, overlap or co-exist with members of groups intermingling freely. Unicorn females choose their mates without any observed monagamous mating relationships though male/female pairs are often seen to remain together for years while there may be no active reproductive actions between them. This seems to be more an aggregation of friends than fixed mating pairs.
Unicorns enjoy singing though cannot perform great feats of voice of their own, looking in on the cultural festivities of civilized sentients in their territories from concealment or intermingling with those nature spirits that employ song or dance. Music is more of an attraction than anything else with individual Unicorns favoring particular instruments or tonal ranges. This is due to the harmonizing effects that music has upon their magic though how this affects the Unicorn is not fully known but suspected to be somewhat, or even extremely, narcotic.
Unicorns will comport with individuals or groups from the established civilizations, but they possess an innate sense of precognition concerning their well being. They know well before hand if those attempting to interract with them have nefarious intentions and react accordingly (varying from merely concealing themselves or becoming dangerously aggressive to defend themselves or any other entity within their territory put under threat).
Unicorn females can force themselves into an estrus-like carniverous aspect when faced with a long-term threat to their safety but if this is sustained they suffer grieviously and in extreme cases can burn themselves out and perish. In such situations the Mare becomes far, far more dangerous than an angry Stallion.
Contrary to popular belief, unicorns can be approached and touched by non-virginal humans or other races without any sort of ill effects. Using a virginal human child as bait to lure in a unicorn can be an extremely dangerous method of attempting to capture one. The few recorded successfull baiting of a Unicorn to such an event was due to the child, in all examples female, humming or singing while waiting. The tonality and purity of the child's voice had the same affect on the Unicorn as an instrument might.
In one case when the trap was sprung the Stallion became aggressive and killed the child, carrying her into the forest before the trappers could react (this was near an area tainted by darker magic). In all other cases the Stallion merely left, though in another instance allowed the child to mount and be carried to safety when the trappers were using an unwillingly taken innocent as bait. Nothing is known concerning what became of that child.
There are no recorded instance of a unicorn being trapped by conscious effort directed at them. They have, however, been caught in static devices not intended to trap them specifically.