Worth Its Weight...

"And what might this be?" questioned the overlord, pausing before the ancient crone and pretty young maiden loitering in the village square.

The girl's eyes were sorrowful, her dirty face streaked with tears. "Stifle that caterwauling, daughter," cautioned the woman, "or you'll rue the day you were born!" Then, exhibiting a toothless grin, she fawningly explained. "An article of much significance, my liege. I'll wager you've seen nothing like it...or will again!"

"Worth its weight in gold?" asked the lord with a smile. The hag was encouraged. She unwrapped the scrap of filthy sacking to display the prize. "An invaluable ward against poison, sire. A person in your position can't be too careful."

She snickered. "Such a treasure, of course, does not come cheap."

"How do I know you're not a charlatan?" asked the baron suspiciously.

The dame cackled. "Begging your pardon, mi'lord, but you wouldn't be asking that if you recognized the item in question!" The nobleman frowned, unaccustomed to being insulted.

"I swear by all that's holy," the old woman hastily declared, "on the head of this virgin child, that I have spoken nothing but the truth!"

She peered at him craftily. "I could let it go at...shall we say...half price?"

"It IS exquisite," mused the baron.

"AND magical," insisted the crone.

She seized her daughter roughly by the hair. "Tell the good gentleman what it is," she commanded.

The girl cried bitterly. It broke her heart to remember how willingly the beautiful, trusting creature had gently laid its head in her lap and how her mother had refused to allow her to shoo away the magnificient beast.

"The horn of the last unicorn," she muttered miserably.

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