How Not to Poach a Unicorn


Kazé, Prag and Cariolta were barely aware of their bodies being dragged. They were far too hurt to stay conscious but in much too much pain to pass out completely. So they wallowed on the edge of awareness retaining just enough of their faculties to process the various reports of distress and discomfort coming from their innards.

It was two days before the Princess could sleep and several more before she could wake up.

When she finally did wake, it was very dark.

She could hear horses.

There were the sounds of people talking.

She considered escape, but her body still wasn’t keen on moving. Her first attempts evoked a deep groan which she felt emanated directly from her liver and had supporting harmonies from her kidneys and intestines.

“What was that?” demanded an unfamiliar voice sharply. “Nothing, constable. Nothing at all,” replied a very calm and soothing female. “It was probably just one of the cart wheels.”

“The cart’ aint moving,” came the first voice again.

“Yes, that’s exactly why it’s groaning like that. They creak when they settle.” The woman’s voice was so smooth it was practically liquid; Cariolta almost believed her. Unfortunately, she didn’t know if she wanted to believe her. She was in a dark, cramped place. She was either being hidden for her safety or kidnapped. The last thing she could remember clearly was sitting in a forest outside of a town wishing that she could sleep in one of the beds in a nearby inn. She quickly concluded that she had been ambushed and was being taken away. She was about to cry out for help when she realized that breathing in deeply hurt rather a lot more than expected and all she got out was a pained whimper.

“There! There was another noise. What was that then, eh?” The constable’s voice didn’t seem particularly interested in what the noise was. It seemed more eager to hold someone accountable for it.

The woman spoke again. “That little squeak? I’m sure it’s just a creaky board. Why don’t we go into your office while your boys search my wagons? I’m sure you’ll be needing to search me thoroughly, yes?” Her voice was so enticing that Cariolta found herself wanting to follow her as well.

“Right, men, give those wagons a look.” The constable’s voice was cracking “I’ll be inside, um, interrogating the lady here.”

There was a pause before another man started giving orders. “You heard him, unload everything so the good men here can go through it all.” Prag’s familiar voice made no small issue out of the trouble involved with unpacking.

“That’s not necessary sir.” A youthful voice chirped out in military beat. “We’ll just have a look for anything suspicious.”

“Let us know if you find that squeaky wheel,” Prag’s deceptively friendly tone shouted out. “If it keeps being noisy, we’ll have to grease it.” Cariolta took the hint and stayed quiet as best she could. Minutes passed by and she could hear feet shuffling about above her. Distant grunts and unrestrained moans began to penetrate her wooden box. Horses shifted in their harnesses. But nobody talked. It was horrible. Minutes ticked by and terror began to grow as the sounds of heavy things being shifted above her grew louder.

“Look here, sir,” another crisp voice shouted out, although the surprise seemed somewhat false.

“This sort of artwork isn’t allowed into Caneria,” stated yet another man authoritatively. “We’ll have to confiscate it.”

“How did that get in there?” an unfamiliar woman questioned angrily. “Tummis! Is that your bag?”

A sharp slap rang out.

“I’m sorry Ma!” cried the unstable voice of a young teenage boy. “I dinin know it’d cause trouble.”

It is impossible to describe the noise made by a boy being hauled off by his mother to be severely punished. It’s really only a series of footsteps and some restrained whimpers. It is, however, a sound that is universally recognized and it makes every sane human as uncomfortable as a live woman in a sealed coffin, a perspective that Cariolta was now having the unique opportunity to compare.

“We’ll have to confiscate these,” said the guard sternly. “Keep searching, boys!” he shouted with enthusiasm as he strode away chuckling as he examined the contraband artwork.

Minutes passed with mounting unease. The feet moving around against the top of Cariolta’s wooden coffin shuffled. The occasional dropped object above startled her. Every organ in her body screamed with pain as she tried not to react or even breathe. Nobody spoke.

The impassioned moans from the captain’s interrogation slowly mounted to a wail and still nobody spoke. The thirsty laughs of the guardsmen examining their confiscated material poured through her claustrophobic confines in harmony but none of them would speak.

The cries of the boy being reprimanded by the back of his mother’s hand added shrill accents to the horrible symphony, but none of the people she knew must be there said a single word. The fear and uncertainty deepened until she felt as though she was going to vomit. She began to gag and writhe, wanting to scream out for help but too terrified that exposing herself would doom her and her companions.

Tears started to stream down her face as she whimpered silently to herself and suddenly, it was over. The concert of noises abruptly ceased and moments later the captain’s voice reappeared. “You’re all free to go. Thank you for your compliance,” he said as though somewhat drunk. A dozen voices began to chatter pleasantly and Cariolta’s box began to move along with the sound of squeaky wheels and horse hooves. She panted feverishly, eyes wide in the blackness of her prison, unsure if she’d just been saved or lost.

The casual chatter above remarking on the good weather and the plans for supper served to ease her worries a little, but after what seemed like an age, the chatter hadn’t stopped and her enclosure felt as though it was getting even smaller and darker. She was about to lose control and scream when the board above her vanished and bright light streamed in, blinding her. As her eyes slowly adjusted to the light, she saw the smiling faces of Prag and Kish looking in at her.

“Great work, Your Majesty,” Prag jeered “You lie there on the verge of death for five days and then decide to wake up just as we’re crossing the border.”

Cariolta managed to choke out a few words through her confusion and pain. “What is happening?”

“You’re being kidnapped,” explained Kish as she gently lifted the frail princess out of the hidden floor compartment in the covered wagon. “and you’re not doing it very graciously.”

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