How Not to Poach a Unicorn


Kish and Cariolta worked quickly once they were sure that their assailants weren’t going to return immediately. The princess stripped the bodies of three of the men, the fourth being too mauled to salvage much from, while Kish cleaned up the boy and checked on Kazé’s wound.

“This is amazing. I knew the moon would help you heal, Kazé, but there’s hardly even a mark left from where you got cut. Does it hurt anymore?” Kish poked at the stitches, which were the only indication that he’d actually been injured.

“It doesn’t hurt at all. But a gash like that shouldn’t heal that quickly, even under a full moon.” He sniffed at the patch of shaved fur and his brow furrowed. The stitches glowed with a faint purple light under the moon. “What did you use for thread?”

“I think we used some thread from Cailo’s cloak. Why? Does it matter?” Kish was exchanging her stolen short swords for two of the lighter, curved blades that had been considerately donated by their attackers posthumously.

“Because of what that cloak was made of.” Growled Kazé “Was it just chance that you used that material for thread?”

Cariolta joined the conversation as she tied one of the magical cloaks on. “I don’t think so. Prag found the thread for the stitches, he seemed pretty certain that it would work. What was that cloak anyway?”

Kazé was suddenly downcast. An expression neither of the women had ever seen on their friend. “Have either of you heard of starcloth? It’s sometimes called mageweave or witchsilk as well.”

“I have. It’s very rare and very valuable. It’s fabric that can be attuned to a wizard and act as a source instead of a familiar. Is that what the cape was? It must be worth as much as a kingdom. I’ve never heard of anything larger than a belt made of it.” Cariolta was talking like a child who had just discovered a hidden stash of candy.

“Do you know what starcloth is made of ?” Kazé snapped back at her as a father to a child who had overstepped their bounds.

Cariolta was shocked speechless. She sputtered for a moment, but couldn’t conceive of what it was about the cape that could have made Kazé so furious.

“It’s made from the fur of Sun Jackals and High Wolves. My people are hunted for their pelts to make that accursed cloth. Have you ever wondered why there are no jackals or wolves left in your country? It’s because they were hunted to extinction in days already forgotten for their magical fur. That cape would have taken the lives of two hundred of my brethren and the same again of jackal hides to create.” His voice had risen to a shout.

“I… I’m sorry. I… didn’t know.”

“Of course you didn’t” Kazé was livid. “The very few wizards who know the art of weaving starcloth guard that secret very closely. I doubt it would be so prized a possession should the atrocities involved in its creation be made public knowledge. Whole packs have been wiped out at once, cubs and pups included. If you have ever wondered why wolves are distrustful of humans, that is your reason. Now I suppose that mercenary is going to sell it to some very happy wizard for the price of a small castle.” Kazé’s rage dissipated and he slumped, as if defeated.

“Actually.” Cariolta spoke cautiously, expecting to be reprimanded again “Prag didn’t even want to touch it. He treated it as if it was cursed, but he insisted we bring it along. He said that you should be the only one to touch it… I thought it was some kind of insult towards wolves.”

Kazé was puzzled. The only humans that seemed to know what starcloth was made of were the wizards that made it and the mercenaries that they hired to hunt for the pelts. A mercenary that knew of its secrets, yet was unwilling to take advantage of their value, was unheard of. Somehow it made him trust the man even less. “Where is the cape now?”

“It’s in that bag,” replied Kish as she fastened the clasp on a borrowed shadow cloak and very nearly vanished into the night.

Kazé struggled with the bag and pulled out the flowing silky cape. It glimmered and glowed faintly in a variety of purples, blues and greens in the moonlight. He sat and stared at the Lord’s damaged mantle as if staring at a corpse at a wake.

Kish fit the last shadow cloak onto the boy, who fussed and fidgeted with it like a toddler being dressed as she did so. “What do you want to do with it Kazé? Whatever it is, we must to it quickly. We will not be safe here for long.”

“Destroy it. Burn it and scatter the ashes. Let my brother’s souls rest.”

They sparked a flame to it and it refused to light. They attempted to cut it to ribbons with their swords but they couldn’t cut a thread save the few that had frayed from the small slit that the boy had cut. The garment seemed indestructible.

Kish was getting tired of being confused. There were too many questions floating about and all they seemed to come across were more mysteries. “What in the hells? That boy didn’t seem to have any trouble cutting it. Why, now that the magic is gone from it, does it refuse a blade?”

Kish’s outburst made the necessary connections for her and Cariolta laughed with dawning realization. “Because the magic is not gone from it. It’s warded. Heavily warded. I can taste some of them now that I’m listening for it. A wizard wouldn’t let his only source of power be so easily removed from him. A simple cut in mageweave will break the power of the cloth. He must have put every kind of protective spell on this garment that he could find. Those would still be active on every thread not separated from the whole.”

“Then how did that kid cut it so easily?” Kish was annoyed, partly at her own lack of knowledge in the workings of magic, but primarily because of her apparent inferiority to an imbecile.

“Because he used the Lord’s own sword to cut it. He must have been very paranoid, worried that someone might steal his cape, so he made sure that he had a weapon that could pierce it if need be. It was kept in a locked stone chest, hidden beneath his bed, in his private chambers.” The Princess smiled and crossed her arms, content with her own cleverness.

“Then let’s get the sword and cut it into small enough pieces to break the enchantment.” Kazé growled with increasing urgency.

The three looked over to their odd tag-along. He was disassembling the body of one of the deceased attackers with curiosity and glee. The well made curved blade of the unfortunate kidnapper lay on the ground, bent double.

“Perhaps,” Cariolta suggested, somewhat nervously “it would be prudent to hide the cloak away for now and make good our escape. Revisit the issue when we can better explain it to our, um, friend.”

Wishing to remove their gaze from the morbid scene before them, they packed up quickly and began their march south, through the woods.

The boy was fairly certain that he had now tasted every part of the man that he had killed and none of it was at all delicious. Strange, seeing as the four legged fuzzy thing had seemed so eager to eat one. It was disappointing. It seemed as though there were a great many things that weren’t good for eating. He would have to observe the other people… the people that were leaving.

He very quickly decided that he did not want to be alone. It was very scary to be alone. These people were nice to him too. They gave him food and showed him things. He would have to be careful not to break them. People seemed very fragile.

He followed them happily into the night.

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