How Not to Poach a Unicorn

Interlude One

Baron Taimon stirred. He was groggy and disoriented. The bed beneath him was soft and the blankets were warm. He was suddenly overcome with a throbbing pain in his right arm. He clutched at it with his left but found only air. He turned his head to see a mass of bandages covering the place where his right arm should be. Panicked, he tried to climb out of bed but found his legs shackled. There was movement near the door, but his eyes refused to focus.

He frantically tried to free himself and clear his foggy head but the ghost of his right arm was screaming at him for not dying along with it and his last remembered minutes swam through his head. Slowly the haze cleared and he looked around his well-furnished prison. The walls were of clean cut stone. There was a pleasant fire in the corner and a couple of sitting chairs positioned near it. The bed he was on was fit for royalty, except for the chains binding his feet to its posts.

He was forming an escape plan when the large oak door creaked open. A young man in an Ashunian lieutenant’s uniform stepped in and delivered what looked like two cups of hot tea to Taimon’s bedside table. He was followed shortly by what appeared to be a huge, walking stone statue with a severe-looking face and two very large metal arms that didn’t match the rest of the body. The golem had to duck to fit into the room.

There was a pregnant pause as the Baron stared in confused fear at his hospitable captors before another man entered the room. He wore a well-tailored shirt, vest, and trousers, all black with silver buttons. His grey eyes and silver hair made him look older, but his face was uncreased with time. He strode in with the confidence of a thousand year-rule. He was followed by Taimon’s wife, Verena, who looked pale and broken. Taimon tried to rise in anger but the overwhelming presence of the silver-haired man seemed to crush the will to fight out of him.

One of the sitting chairs strode over to meet the man, who then sat politely by Taimon’s bedside, crossed one leg over the other, took a sip of tea with a malicious lack of urgency and smiled.

“I’d like to ask you a few questions…” said the Sorcerer King Ashunar darkly, “about a group of escaped prisoners.”

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