"Of course, no one can make a unicorn," Pareth said, in that tone of voice he used when lecturing his students, "but you can take one apart." He stood, and I groaned inwardly.
He took the lecturing posture. "Of course, early giants of the field certainly tried. They glued the horn of a rhino to a horse, as if the mere simulacra of the thing could summon the real thing. Superstitious nonsense.
"Others tried grafting, and in more recent years we have seen specialized breeding, and even genetic manipulation. All abject failures. One cannot make a unicorn."
He smiled. "At least not in the ways that matter. But you can take one apart, and from that we hope to learn their secrets. Now, I know what you are thinking, that if we have unicorns, perhaps we can breed them. But we find so few these days, and they last such a short time in captivity that breeding two together seems impossible. Nor can we crossbreed them with horses, naturally or artificially. The few offspring are horrible mules, and must be killed on sight, as a precaution. There was... unpleasantness."
He clasped his hands behind him. "Given the state we find most in, autopsy is the most common method, but there is so little we can learn, whatever magic there is flees with life. Vivisection is unpleasant, but sometimes necessary. And from that we can learn much."
My face must have registered my horror, because he tsked. "Now now. It is for the greater good, or so I believe. We can learn to harness the magic, in any way. To use every part of the unicorn as it were. More than just the horn. The heart of a unicorn can cure any poison, the bones heal other things. And the hooves. Well, my colleagues in the chemistry department were most interested. It is what we must do, it is only right, to participate in such a sin."