How Not to Poach a Unicorn

Interlude Three

Warlis wasn’t sure how long he’d been there. It had been a brilliant idea at first. They were attacked from the shadows and he’d cleverly hidden in the smuggling container that Cariolta had been stowed in. Unfortunately, there was no way to open it from the inside. He’d kicked, clawed, tinkered and asked very nicely, but he was good and trapped. He thought that maybe three days might have passed, given his sleeping and eating habits, but no light penetrated his accidental coffin and his wineskin and the rations he kept on him had run out. It would only be a couple of days now until he dried out and died.

He had pretty much given up hope by the time he heard movement outside. It was faint through the wooden walls, but someone was definitely wandering around outside. Muffled voices were discussing something. He panicked for a moment, thinking that his assailants had returned to finish the job. Then again, it was probably bandits or maybe even another caravan. He could be saved. Hope rose in his chest as he gathered his strength to call out, but just as he was about to yell, the cart rolled onto its side and the words were knocked out of him along with his breath.

The boards which had previously been his floor tore away and looking in at him was a familiar face. His eyes were a little empty and a little sad, he had gotten a haircut and replaced his vibrant wizard robes with a simple tunic, but it was definitely him. Warlis blinked and choked as his breath came back. “Syd?” he coughed.

“Hey, Warlis,” Syd said in an uncharacteristically calm and friendly tone. “I wasn’t expecting to find you here. How do you feel?”

“Like I’ve been stewing in my own filth waiting to die,” Warlis grumbled as he convinced his stiff limbs to climb out of the cart. He leaned against a nearby rock to get his bearings, which turned out to be much harder to locate that he would have hoped.

Syd was not alone. There was a one-armed man wearing a dress uniform of Haelung rooting through one of the other carts. There was a man in an Ashunian lieutenant’s uniform examining bodies. Also, as if existing only to cause him to question his sanity, there was a silver-haired man sitting at a finely set table sharing morning tea with an oddly familiar woman and her young panther. It was a very unlikely menagerie, but before he could assemble the pieces and make sense of it, the rock he was leaning on spoke up.

“If you’ve caught your breath, we have some questions for you,” came a voice like stirring gravel. Georg dropped the remains of the bottom of the cart from his giant metal hand and leaned down low to meet Warlis’ eyes. “Your cooperation would be appreciated.”
Warlis would later claim that it had been the lack of food or drink, but the cause was somewhat irrelevant. He fainted.

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