Chapter 9: The Unicorn

The confining sack was released and the Unicorn was dumped out onto an ornate rug. She was in a strange cave, all stone walls and sharp angles. There were holes in the walls that sunlight streamed through. The Unicorn, still in fox shape, jumped onto the ledge underneath one of the holes. There was an invisible barrier like ice blocking her from going out. 

"Look, she wants to look out the window!" A strange voice spoke behind her, it was more musical than the creatures of the Hunt. This one was more slender with no hair on its face and long hair going down her back, a female. The coat she wore was more fitted to her skin and flowed to the floor. A small one stood beside her, it looked like her, the daughter perhaps.

The young one gazed at the unicorn with eyes like blue pools. She took a step closer to the Unicorn, holding out a small hand.

"Lizette, no! That's a wild animal, let the servants clean it." The mother said the child stopped her advance.

"Houdsman," the mother turned to a man with dark hair on his face that had entered the room behind her. He stepped forward and bent at the waist towards the Mother.  

"I'll take care of it, my lady, get it washed and trained up." He said

"Very well," the Mother. She turned to the Unicorn's captors. "Thank you, sirs, you may go." 

"'Scuse me m'lady, but what about payment for the creature?"

"Houndsman, take care of them." The Mother left with the Daughter and the Houndsman gave something from a sack to the Men from the forest.

"Go now," he said. 

"Thank ye for your kindness," the lead man said, and he led his group away. 

The Unicorn remained on the ledge, crouched with her ears folded back. She saw her forest burning still, a column of smoke rising from the green. The Houndsman reached out and lifted the Unicorn by the Scruff of her neck, hoisting her away from the window. She didn't fight against him, her head hung between her shoulders and tucked her paws and tail against her body. 

She was brought down through a series of passageways into a large cavernous room with long wooden tables in the center and huge, oddly controlled fires along its walls, the fires were fed by small Men running back and forth with wood from a space in the corner. A steaming bucket of water was brought to the table by a large female and the Unicorn was dropped into it.

She gasped and leapt for the edge of the bucket, holding on to keep her head above the water. She was scrubbed with a rough brush then pulled from the water and rubbed with a coarse cloth. She staggered for a moment, her fur sticking out in all directions after the rough wash. She was placed on the floor, where she sat and began to put her fur back to rights. A bowl was placed before her, steam wafting from it. She paused in her preening and sniffed at the contents. It was a type of porridge made of milk and grain. She tried some, it was warm and easy to eat and finding that she was more hungry than she'd ever been, the Unicorn lapped it up. 

"He said it was a wild thing? Seems awful well behaved," the female who'd brought the water ran a hand down the Unicorns back as she ate. It was strangely comforting, this creature looked like the Mother, but softer and rounder. "Must've been bought off a gypsy or something." 

"That would explain the price." The Houndsman said, crouching down. "Looks like it's ready. Little miss Lady can have her new pet. The female nodded and left, taking the empty bowl with her and the Unicorn was scooped up again. 

She was taken to another room with plush rugs and soft surfaces everywhere. The Daughter was in the room with another female. She was playing with a small version of herself carved from wood. 

"Here, miss, it's ready." THe Houndsman dropped the Unicorn on the floor. She immediately jumped to the window. The smoke was dying down, her forest was fighting back, only the dryest parts burning. It might be okay. The child wrapped a peice of leather around the Unicorn's neck. 

"I will call you Princess."

The End

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